- STL: Appeal Hearing In the Case Prosecutor v. Merhi And Oneissi
- ICC: Confirmation of Charges Hearing in Said Case to be Held on 12 October 2021
- Kosovo Court Sentences Former Serb Paramilitary 20 Years for War Crimes in Kosovo
- CJEU: Advocate General’s Opinion on the Siting of the EMA and ELA
- USA: Supreme Court Hears Case of Guantanamo Detainee Seeking Secret Information About His Torture
- ICC: Prosecutor’s Statement on the Authorization to Commence Investigation into the Situation in Philippines
- ECtHR: Inadmissibility of Decision Concerning France
- ECtHR: Court Gives Notice to France on a Case Involving Compulsory Vaccination
- Kosovo: Veteran Leaders go on Trial in The Hague
- Germany: Trial of Former Nazi Concentration Camp Guard Begins
- ICC: Pre-Trial Chamber II Seeks Information on Identification of the Government in Afghanistan
- Haiti: Currently Undergoing “One of the Most Fraught Periods of Its Recent History”
- DRC: Humanitarian Operations Continuously Hampered by Violence
- Mozambique: UNICEF Worrying Reports on Children Indoctrinated to Fight for Insurgents
- UNSC: Small Arms Remain a Threat to Peace and Security
- UNDP: New Report Reveals Inequalities Between Ethnic Groups are Stark and Multi-dimensional
- UNSC: International Crime Gangs Amass “Staggering” Profits in Conflict Zones
- UNHCR: Cessation of Refugee Status Recommended by the UN Refugee Agency
- WHO: Globally, 2020 Mental Health Targets Not Met
- OHCHR: UN Council Declares Access to a Healthy Environment a Human Right
- Afghanistan: “Horrific” Attack at Kunduz Mosque
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
STL: Appeal Hearing In the Case Prosecutor v. Merhi And Oneissi
On 4 October 2021, the STL announced the start of the appeal hearing in the Public Prosecutor’s case against Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi scheduled from 4 to 8 October 2021. In August last year, the STL Trial Chamber convicted Salim Jamil Ayyash in absentia in the first case before the STL on five counts, including terror and intentional homicide of 22 persons, including former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri. It acquitted three co-accused, including Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi. The Appeals Chamber will hear the arguments of the Public Prosecutor, the defence attorney for Merhi and Oneissi, and the legal representatives of the victims, regarding the appeal filed by the Public Prosecutor, challenging the ruling of the Trial Chamber in the case of Salim Ayyash and others.
ICC: Confirmation of Charges Hearing in Said Case to be Held on 12 October 2021
On 5 October 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) scheduled the confirmation hearing in the case of Prosecutor v. Mahatma Said Abdel Kani to open on 12 October 2021 at 9 am (Hague Time). Mr Said, a national of the Central African Republic is standing trial for crimes committed in 2013 in Bangui, Central African Republic. He is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, as well as, war crimes. He was surrendered to the ICC by the Central African Republic authorities on 24 January 2021 and had his initial appearance before the Court on 29 January 2021. The confirmation of charges hearing will be held by the Pre-Trial Chambers II. Beginning from 12 to 14 October 2021, the Prosecutor, Defence and Office of Public Counsel for the Victims will make oral submissions and present their case. The hearing will be available online on the ICC website with a slight delay- 30 minutes. Access to the courtroom premises, however, will be restricted to promote safety and well-being during the Covid pandemic.
Kosovo: Court Sentences Former Serb Paramilitary 20 Years for War Crimes in Kosovo
On 5 October 2021, a court in Pristina, Kosovo sentenced an ethnic Serb to 20 years in prison for war crimes. The man who is only identified by his initials – G.S, was found guilty of engaging in a massacre during the Kosovo war. He was found to be among the troops who executed 12 Kosovar Albanian men in forced attacks on the villages of Sllovi and Terbovc of the Lipjan commune in 1990, along with other attacks on ethnic Albanians. G.S was subsequently arrested in 2019 and has been found guilty of committing war crimes.
CJEU: Advocate General’s Opinion on the Siting of the EMA and ELA
On 6 October 2021, the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave an opinion in the joined cases of Italy v. Council and Comune di Milano v. Council, and Italy v. Parliament and Council and Comune di Milano v. Parliament and Council. These cases concern the decision of the representatives of the government of the Member States to move the seat of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from London to Amsterdam (Netherlands) and the decision to have the seat of the newly founded European Labour Authority (ELA) in Bratislava, Slovakia. The municipality of Italy and Milan brought separate suits to challenge the decision. The Advocate General gave two separate opinions and stated that the Court has no jurisdiction over the decisions of representatives of Member States locating the new seats of the European Medicines Agency and the European Labour Authority. He stated that, the European Union is a Union based on the rule of law and that ‘acts adopted by representatives of the Member States acting, no in their capacity as members of Council, but as representatives of their governments are … not subjected to judicial review by the EU courts… outside of extraordinary circumstances.’
USA: Supreme Court Hears Case of Guantanamo Detainee Seeking Secret Information About His Torture
On 6 October 2021, the hearing in the case of US v Abu Zubaydah began in the US Supreme Court. The Guantanamo detainee Mr. Abu Zubaydah sought to compel two CIA contractors to testify about the alleged torture he was subjected to at an agency in Poland.
Zubaydah, a stateless, Saudi-born Palestinian man was captured in Pakistan in 2002 with suspected links to al-Qaeda. He has been held at the US-run prison camp in Cuba since 2006 where he remains without charge. Three of the nine justices have asked why he cannot speak for himself. Zubaydah’s lawyers have filed a complaint against Poland in Polish and European courts for its role in the harsh treatment he received from the CIA while detained in the country. As part of the case, Zubaydah is seeking testimonies from James Elmer Mitchell and John Jessen, known as the creators of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation programme. The US government is blocking the request, arguing that questioning Mitchell and Jessen would reveal “state secrets.” In a court filing, Zubaydah’s lawyers said the US government is preventing him from offering his testimony “as the victim of a crime normally would.” His lawyers also allege that he was tortured at secret CIA locations known as “black sites” for years after his capture before being transferred to the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a petition to the Supreme Court backing Zubaydah’s position, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the justices to approve the subpoenas for the former CIA contractors, arguing that much information about the agency’s “torture” programme is already public.
ICC: Prosecutor’s Statement on the Authorization to Commence Investigation into the Situation in Philippines
On 7 October 2021, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A. A. Khan QC released a statement following his authorization to begin an investigation into the situation in the Philippines. On 15 September 2021, the Pre-Trial Chambers II authorized the Prosecutor to begin an investigation into the crimes committed during operation, ‘War on Drugs.’ The Prosecutor stated that his investigation will uncover the truth and aims to bring justice to the victims and affected communities. He further stated that in undertaking this task he will remain “willing to constructively engage with national authorities in accordance with the principle of complementarily and obligations under the statute.” The Prosecutor reiterated that the Office of the Prosecutor is independent and impartial in preliminary examinations and investigations and will seek to uncover the truth and ensure accountability.
ECtHR: Inadmissibility of Decision Concerning France
On 7 October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared that the application in the case of Zambrano v. France was not admissible because the applicant had not exhausted domestic remedies available to him. The court also saw the application as an abuse of the applicant’s right to the application. This case concerns a university lecturer who complained about the “heath pass” introduced in France for travel, international to and from France, and venues hosting large numbers of people. He complained about Law no. 2021-689 and Law no. 2021-1040, which in his opinion, were essentially intended to compel individuals to consent to vaccination. He alleged that the creation of the ‘health pass’ system, these laws amounted to a discriminatory interference with the right to respect for private life. That said the ‘health pass’ has been mandatory for adults wishing to take part in activities in the relevant premises and for staff working in them, since 30 August 2021. The Court declared that the application was inadmissible. The Court also pointed out that Mr Zambrano’s petition did not fulfil the conditions of the law setting out the contents of individual application and was clearly contrary to the right of individual petition as such.”
ECtHR: Court Gives Notice to France on a Case Involving Compulsory Vaccination
On 7 October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) gave notice to the government of France concerning the application in Thevenon v. France. The case involved Pierrick Thevenson who petitioned the France government on grounds of compulsory vaccination imposed on him on account of his work as a firefighter. Certain occupations in France, under the Law of 5 August 2021, impose compulsory Covid vaccinations. As a result, those who do not receive their vaccination and cannot show a certificate of vaccination, are no longer allowed to fulfil their job with failure to comply resulting in their suspension from their job and their pay. Thevenson complains that he is subject to the occupation-based compulsory vaccination and that his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has led to his suspension from work and his salary being stopped since 15 September 2021. The Court accordingly puts 4 questions to the parties asking the French Government to provide its observation on its admissibility and merit.
Kosovo: Veteran Leaders go on Trial in The Hague
On 7 October 2021, The Kosovo Liberation Army war Veterans’ organization leader, Hysni Gucati and his deputy, Nasim Haradinaj appeared at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) at The Hague. They are charged with obstruction of justice and witness intimidation. According to the Prosecutor, the accused, to discredit the work of the KSC, leaked documents from war crimes case files and urged the media to publish confidential information. The case files contained the names of witnesses along with the personal information of potential witnesses. Three press conferences were held by Haradinaj and Gucati, who revealed official information with the intention to cripple the court in the administration of justice. In a video presented to the court by the Prosecutor, Haradinaj is heard bragging about their ability to dissolve the Court in five minutes. No media in Kosovo published any of the leaked documents. The duo was arrested and put into detention in The Hague awaiting trial. They have pleaded not guilty.
Germany: Trial of Former Nazi Concentration Camp Guard Begins
On 7 October 2021, the trial of 100-year-old Joseph S, a former guard of the Nazi concentration camp, began. Joseph S. is facing charges for the deaths of 3,518 persons. He is also accused of being an accessory to murder, for serving as a Nazi SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin during World War II. The suspect is alleged to have worked at Sachsenhausen between 1942 and 1945, as an enlisted member of the Nazi party’s parliamentary wing. For the allegations against the accused, tens of thousands of people died at the concentration camp as a result of starvation, disease, forced labour and other causes, as well as, through medical experiments. The prosecutor told the court that the defendant willingly and knowingly abetted this by performing guard duty which was seemingly incorporated into the killing system.
ICC: Pre-Trial Chamber II Seeks Information on Identification of the Government in Afghanistan
On 8 October 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested the United Nations Secretary-General and the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties of the Court to submit information on the identification of the authorities currently representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan). This was in reaction to the request by the Prosecutor submitted on 27 September 2021, seeking authorization to resume an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan Pursuant to Article 18 (2) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Earlier in 2020, the Afghan government had asked for a deferral of the Prosecutor’s investigation. The Court noted that Article 18 (2) which provides for complementarities sums up the idea of the process of dialogue of legal nature between the Court, the Prosecutor and the relevant State. Accordingly, the court considers that it needs reliable information as to the identification of the authorities currently representing Afghanistan and the United Nations and the Bureau of Assembly of States is in the right place to provide that information due to their mandate. The court noted the need to comply and to urgently take all steps necessary and appropriate to preserve potential evidence of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
Haiti: Currently Undergoing “One of the Most Fraught Periods of Its Recent History”
On 4 October 2021, Helen La Lime, Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) expressed her concern to the UN Security Council (UNSC) concerning the multifaceted crisis the country is facing. Already seriously weakened by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and subsequent deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August, political instability and deep-rooted insecurity are now likely to be galvanised by the postponement of “long-awaited” national and local elections. The Head of BINUH said to the UNSC that “insecurity has become rampant in Port-au-Prince, as kidnappings are once again on the rise and gangs have extended their control over large swaths of the city.” A significant and sudden increase in gang violence has caused the displacement of some 19,000 people from the communes of Cité-Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets, Delmas and the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Martissant. Adding to the equation, Ms La Lime further noted the return of Haitian migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border. The Head of the BINUH also pointed out a positive step taken by Haitian politicians towards reviving democratic institutions, through the 11 September agreement to form a new Provisional Electoral Council with the view of holding elections no later than the second half of 2022. As of October 2021, about 70 per cent of all schools in the Southwestern part of the country are still damaged or destroyed according to UNICEF’s figures. Urging the Member States to contribute to the $187.3 million Flash Appeal launched for those affected by the earthquake and the $235.6 million 2021-2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, Ms La Lime said that “[a]long with the United Nations, the entire international community must continue to steadfastly stand alongside the Haitian people and their Government as they endeavour to forge a path towards stability, security and sustainable development.”
DRC: Humanitarian Operations Continuously Hampered by Violence
On 5 October 2021, Bintou Keita, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) warned the UN Security Council (UNSC) that violence and access constraints in the East of the country continue to constitute a major obstacle to the prompt and safe delivery of humanitarian aid to populations in need of assistance. Along with armed violence, food insecurity – with about 29 per cent of the population impacted –, and cyclical epidemics are major concerns. The country also has the highest number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) on the African continent, with more than five million persons concerned. Ms Keita urged the Council Members to increase their contributions to the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan. The Head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) emphasised two main challenges before the UNSC. First, the security and protection of civilians in the east. Since the declaration of a state of siege by the government in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, MONUSCO has redoubled its efforts to support the Congolese authorities. However, Ms Keita warned that although “joint military operations against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), had dismantled several of the rebel group’s strongholds, […] human rights violations perpetrated by state and non-state actors “remain worrying.” Her concern was supported with figures: between June and August, 367 people were victims of arbitrary and extrajudicial executions, and about 203 people, mostly women and children, suffered sexual violence. The second challenge is the process of democratic consolidation in DRC. Ms Keita acknowledge that the newly formed government represents “an opportunity to advance on critical reforms” and called on Member States for their renewed support to the MONUSCO, as well as, for the renewal of the mandate of the UN Mission in DRC. Indeed, both the democratic consolidation of the country and the “orderly and responsible withdrawal” of the mission must be articulated in synergy, as the success of the latter depends on the success of the former. Accordingly, Ms Keita reiterated the need for “an inclusive and peaceful electoral process founded on dialogue, trust, and transparency.” On 5 October it was also reported by the World Food Programme (WFP) that the food distribution is an equally worryingly challenged in the regions of Afar and Amhara, due to the spread of the armed conflict in northern Ethiopia.
Mozambique: UNICEF Worrying Reports on Children Indoctrinated to Fight for Insurgents
On 5 October 2021, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson, James Elder, building off worrying reports published the same day by the UN agency, said “[u]nverified video material secured by armed forces in an abandoned training camp shows abducted children as young as five handling weapons and being indoctrinated to fight.” Reports came as aid access improved to previously inaccessible areas in Cabo Delgado province. Under the occupation of al-Shabab militia, the gas-rich region witnessed one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises. When fighting broke out in March, humanitarian access to the district was completely blocked, including to tens of thousands of people who had fled the violence. Many were from the coastal town of Palma who were displaced after militants staged a surprise ambush which reportedly left dozens dead. According to WFP, the insurgency in northern Mozambique left at least 730,000 people in Cabo Delgado with no access to their lands and no means of earning a living. Food security data captured before the attacks in Palma town in late March 2021, indicated that nearly 228,000 people were in high food insecurity. “This number is projected to increase to 363,000 during the lean season beginning in October,” the UN agency predicted. Recalling that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is a gross violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law and that all children who are recruited for this purpose should be treated as victims. Mr Elder further emphasised the heightened risks these children face: being exposed to extreme violence, sexual violence and abductions. Speaking to journalists during a regular briefing in Geneva, Mr Elder added that other reports about young boys and girls who had been abducted from their families and villages “match accounts told by family members to UNICEF’s field staff and partners.” Finally, UNICEF welcomed an agreement signed with the Mozambican Ministry of Defence to increase protection measures for children affected by conflict.
UNSC: Small Arms Remain a Threat to Peace and Security
On 6 October 2021, Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative of Disarmament Affairs while briefing the UN Security Council (UNSC) on threats posed by illicit flows of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the context of UN peacekeeping operations stated that according to her these arms “remain a defining factor in undermining peace and security” and have “deeply aggravated situations for vulnerable populations already suffering from conflict.” She also pointed towards a growing number of resolutions that take account of weapons and ammunition management, saying it “is indicative of the UN’s role in supporting the control of those weapons to build and sustain peace.” She further highlights the threat of inadequately maintained stockpiles, saying they constitute “serious humanitarian hazards and are a known source of weapons diversion.” She also told the Members of the Council that “children continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict” often enabled and prolonged by the widespread availability of weapons and all SALW control initiatives should be carried out with due attention to their potential impacts on children’s rights. Ms Nakamitzu also assured that the UN will continue to advocate for the universalisation of the Firearms Protocol and the Arms Trade Treaty, and the full implementation of instruments such as the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument. The organization will also support the decision by the African Union Commission, to extend until 2030 the Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns and other regional initiatives in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.
UNDP: New Report Reveals Inequalities Between Ethnic Groups are Stark and Multi-dimensional
On 7 October 2021, UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative released a report which found that in nine specific ethnic groups surveyed, more than 90 per cent of the population is trapped in poverty and some cases, disparities across ethnic and racial groups are greater than across regions within a country; more than that, the disparities across the Index for ethnicity, is greater than that across all 109 countries, and all other variables tested. The research for the report was conducted across 109 countries, covering 5.9 billion people, and presents an ethnicity/race/caste disaggregation, for 41 nations. Within a country, multidimensional poverty among different ethnic groups can vary immensely and across the 109 countries studied, a total of 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor. For example, in Latin America, indigenous peoples are among the poorest. In Bolivia, indigenous communities account for about 44 per cent of the population but represent 75 per cent of multi-dimensionally poor people. The figures are also stark in India, where five out of six people in this situation were from “lower tribes or castes” according to UNDP. Furthermore, around 1 billion people, for example, are exposed to health risks due to solid cooking fuels, another billion live with inadequate sanitation and another billion have substandard housing and around 788 million live in a household with at least one undernourished person, and about 568 million lack improved drinking water within a 30-minute roundtrip walk. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator stated that this is a reminder “of the need for a complete picture of how people are being affected by poverty, who they are and where they live.”
UNSC: International Crime Gangs Amass “Staggering” Profits in Conflict Zones
On 7 October 2021, at the UN Security Council (UNSC), Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, described the transnational organised crime as a “global and accelerating phenomenon, and a threat to international peace and security,” that, in conflict areas alone, is generating around $31.5 billion in illicit profits. Part of the annual briefing by UN Peacekeeping operations led by Alexander Zuev, Assistance Secretary-General for the Rule of Law, at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), included presentations from the UN Police Commissioners on the work being carried out by Missions in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Haiti. The link between conflict areas and organised crime is undeniable and, as emphasised by Ms Reitano, the scale of money being illicitly generated by organised crime in these areas is “staggering.” She further added that combatants are not the main beneficiaries of those illicit funds. “By far the larger share of the 31.5 billion dollars goes to political actors at all levels and associated transnational criminal networks. These, therefore, are the main beneficiaries from instability, violence and lack of state capacity for enforcement, and who thus retain an interest in the perpetuation of conflict.” Awale Abdounasir, UN Police Commissioner for the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) further stressed that the police component of the Mission is to assist the government in combating organised crime by armed groups. Governments of countries affected by armed conflict look too often to a military solution, although strengthening the judicial system by making it more transparent and rigorous is a more appropriate strategy, according to Mr Abdounasir. In light of this statement, Ms Reitano called for crime-sensitive peace operations, warning that recent analysis carried out by partner organisations such as the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime and INTERPOL, shows links between illicit trafficking routes in conflict zones and international terrorism.
UNHCR: Cessation of Refugee Status Recommended by the UN Refugee Agency
On 7 October 2021, after an in-depth analysis of the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, UNHCR recommended that countries hosting Ivoirians end their refugee status and help them to voluntarily repatriate either by obtaining permanent residency or beginning the naturalisation process. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees was pleased to recommend a general cessation of refugee status for Ivorian refugees to take effect on 30 June 2022 in light of the fundamental and durable changes in Côte d’Ivoire. The cessation of refugee status recommendation comes with concrete measures to promote durable solutions for Ivorian refugees that will facilitate their voluntary return and reintegration, and the opportunity to seek permanent residency or naturalization where they are, including notably for those who have formed strong ties to host countries. According to data available to UNHCR, there are approximately 91,000 Ivorian refugees and asylum seekers around the world, while some 51,000 live in West Africa, with 33,000 in Liberia alone, and a further 22,000 in Europe. Since 2011, some 290,000 Ivoirian refugees living in West Africa have voluntarily returned to Côte d’Ivoire and a UNHCR survey in the region revealed that 60 per cent of those remaining intend to repatriate, while 30 per cent are still undecided and 10 per cent will stay in their host country. UNHCR remains committed to assisting Côte d’Ivoire and host countries in implementing the cessation recommendation and also continues to advocate for States to provide refugees with civil, identity and travel documents.
WHO: Globally, 2020 Mental Health Targets Not Met
On 8 October 2021, the latest edition of Mental Health Atlas was released by the WHO, which painted a disappointing picture and showed that increased attention given to mental health in recent years has yet to result in a scale-up of quality mental services that are aligned with needs. According to the report, which includes data from 171 countries, none of the targets for effective leadership and governance for mental health, provision of mental health services in communities, mental health promotion and prevention, or targets for strengthening of information systems, were close to being achieved. In 2020, just 51 per cent of WHO’s 194 Member States reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, way short of the 80 per cent target and only 52 per cent of countries met the target relating to mental health promotion and prevention programmes. The only 2020 target met was a reduction in the rate of suicide by 10 per cent, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan. The Mental Health Atlas 2020 also showed that there existed massive inequalities in the availability of mental health resources and their allocation between high- and low-income countries and across regions; what was more encouraging was the increase in countries reporting mental health promotion and prevention programmes, from 41 per cent of Member States in 2014 to 52 per cent in 2020. In the Mental Health Atlas, the global targets that are reported are from WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan which contained targets for 2020; this plan has now been extended to 2030 and includes new targets for the inclusion of mental health and psychosocial support in emergency preparedness plans, the integration of mental health into primary health care, and research on mental health.
OHCHR: UN Council Declares Access to a Healthy Environment a Human Right
On 8 October 2021, the Human Rights Council in resolution 48/13, called upon States around the world to work together, and with other partners, to implement this newly recognized right. The text, proposed by Costa Rica, the Maldives, Morocco, Slovenia and Switzerland was passed with 43 votes in favour and 4 abstentions – from Russia, India, China and Japan. At the same time, through a second resolution (48/14), the Council also increased its focus on the human rights impacts of climate change by establishing a Special Rapporteur dedicated specifically to this issue. The decision comes weeks before the crucial UN climate change summit, COP26, happening in early November in Glasgow. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement called upon Member States to take bold actions to give prompt and real effect to the right to a healthy environment and that she was “gratified” that the decision “clearly recognises environmental degradation and climate change as interconnected human rights crises.” According to World Health Organization (WHO), 24% of all global deaths, roughly 13.7 million deaths a year are linked to the environment, due to risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure. Following the passage of the resolution, Michelle Bachelet paid tribute to the efforts of a diverse array of civil society organisations, including youth groups, national human rights institutions, indigenous peoples’ organizations, businesses and many others, further noting that an unprecedented number of environmental human rights defenders were reported killed last year. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Costa Rica’s ambassador, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said the decision will “send a powerful message to communities around the world struggling with climate hardship that they are not alone.”
Afghanistan: “Horrific” Attack at Kunduz Mosque
On 8 October 2021, it was reported that at least 100 worshippers have been killed or injured after a suicide bomber targeted a Shia mosque in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz during Friday prayers. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “[a]ttacks that deliberately target civilians exercising the right to freely practice their religion are violations of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law.” He further added that “[t]he perpetrators must be brought to justice.” The attack was claimed by the local self-designated Islamic State Khorasan Province (IKSP) which has previously targeted the Shia Muslim community in Sunni-majority Afghanistan. The IKSP is an extremist faction opposed to the de facto rulers of the country, i.e., the Taliban, who seized power in mid-August. The faction is also responsible for the deadly attack perpetrated at Kabul airport last month, which killed 169 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. military personnel. The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) subsequently expressed its deep concern over the recent resurgence of attacks, which apart from the bombing of Sayyidabad mosque on Friday included incidents all claimed by the IKSP, such as the attack on 3 October near a mosque in Kabul, as well as, last Wednesday’s attack on a school in Khost- although it has not yet been claimed. UNAMA describes the attack of the Sayyidabad mosque as forming “a disturbing pattern of violence.” On 8 October, the Human Rights Office (OHCHR) also joined the UNAMA’s and the UNSG’s statements in saying that these bombings targeting persons and objects entitled to special protection under international humanitarian law “highlights the vulnerability of ordinary Afghans, especially religious minorities. Our hearts are with the victims and we hope for justice.”