Weekly News Recap (1-7 November 2021)




Serbia: Trial for Kosovo War Massacre Stalled for Two Years

On 1 November 2021, the Belgrade Higher Court postponed a hearing in the trial of 11 former Yugoslav Army soldiers, who are charged with committing war crimes in four Kosovo villages in May 1999. The postponement comes two years after any hearing in the case. The defendants are alleged to have killed at least 118 ethnic Albanians. The hearing has been postponed due to a failure on the part of the court to establish a video conference call with a German prison where a witness in the case is serving a sentence. Another witness, Zoran Obradovic could not appear due to the COVID-19 situation. The accused were sentenced to 106 years in jail in an earlier verdict in 2014 but on appeal at the Serbian appeals court, the verdict was reversed and a retrial was issued. The last hearing was in November 2019. In July 2021, Vukovic and his defence had proposed for two witnesses to be questioned. Judge Duruz noted that the appeal verdict of the retrial was based on the view that the first trial did not make enough efforts for the witnesses to be heard in the case.


ICC: Appeal by Ali Kushayb against the ICC Jurisdiction Rejected

On 1 November 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber in The Hague has unanimously rejected an appeal by former Darfur Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb challenging the court’s jurisdiction. The ICC rejected the appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber II decision on the Defence’s jurisdictional challenge. In an open hearing, one of the presiding judges read the summary of the judgment rejecting all the four grounds of appeal while stating that it found no error in the reasonings of the Pre-Trial Chamber. As for the alleged failure of the Pre-Trial Chamber to take into account the lack of the Security Council logistical and security support to the Court in Sudan, the Appeals Chamber stated that it did not find any demonstrated reasoning as to how the alleged error of law related to the jurisdiction of the Court. Thus, while referring to the principle of legality, the Appeals Chamber found that the referral of the Situation in Darfur, Sudan took place during serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law that were criminalised under international law at the time. The Appeals Chamber also found that the crimes under the Statute were intended to be generally representative of the state of customary international law when the Statute was drafted. Kushayb faces 31 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur and is also charged with several crimes by the Sudanese authorities.



Germany: Lawsuit Filed against a Group of Belarusian Security Officials for Crimes Against Humanity

On 1 November 2021, two human rights groups filed a case against six members of the Belarusian security service for crimes against humanity in Germany. The case was filed by the Geneva-based, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the Berlin-based, European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). They accused the Belarusian authorities of carrying out mass detentions, torture, disappearances, sexual violence and political persecution. The case was filed in Germany due to its principle of universal jurisdiction which gives German courts the power to prosecute crimes against humanity that have been committed anywhere in the world. The organization expects the preliminary proceedings to be initiated by the Federal Prosecutor General against those responsible. The organisations’ joint statement accused Belarus of using violence to bring an end to the anti-government protests that broke out last year. In another such case, the ECCHR brought a lawsuit against human rights abuse in Syria which led to arrest warrants for several defendants and an ongoing trial at the Koblenz Higher Regional Court.


ICJ: Measures Related to Azerbaijan’s Appeal over Armenia’s War Crimes are Being Considered

On 2 November 2021, the local media in Azerbaijan reported that the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Kamran Aliyev has said that the country’s appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Armenia’s war crimes are being taken. It is reported that the Prosecutor-General’s Office has collected the necessary evidence to illustrate Armenia’s war crimes against Azerbaijan. The office considers these pieces of evidence as a basis for its accusation against Armenia. The prosecutor general said that the police seized drug crops in the Azerbaijani lands which was liberated from Armenia’s occupation in 2020. In the 30 years of occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan, Armenia has used it for illegal activities. The clashes grew after Armenia launched large-scale attacks on Azerbaijani forces and civilians on 27 September. Organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have verified the usage of banned bombs and rockets by Armenia in its attacks against Azerbaijan which resulted in the killing of 100 Azerbaijani civilians and many other atrocities. A criminal case has been initiated for every civilian death caused due to Armenia and appeals have been filed in international courts and organizations.


ACtHPR: Guinea Bissau Becomes the Eight State to Deposit a Declaration Allowing Direct Access to the Court

On 3 November 2021, Guinea Bissau’s Ratification and Declaration was officially handed over by the representative, Mr Alamara Quessangue, to a representative of the Office of the Legal Counsel of the African Union Commission, Ms Tsion Bhergano, during the Conference on the Implementation and Impact of Decisions of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR). The Republic of Guinea Bissau has ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and has simultaneously deposited a Declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol to allow individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations to access the African Court directly. The Republic of Niger had earlier deposited its Declaration at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 28 October 2021. The other States that have Declarations that are in effect are: Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Tunisia.


Bosnia: Former Bosnian Army Soldiers Indicted for Killing Two Serb Civilian Prisoners

On 3 November 2021, Cantonal Court at Sarajevo sentenced Mustafa Divjan to ten years and Alija Gazibara to two years of imprisonment for crimes committed against the civilians in Ilidza during wartime. In those days, Divjan held the post of a supervisor of the work done by the civilians brought from the Silos and Krupa detention camps in the Hadzici municipality to do forced labour. Divjan shot two prisoners with his automatic rifle upon hearing that several prisoners had fled. The two men died instantly. The verdict held that the prisoners were subjected to severe mental and physical pain. Divjan was found guilty of killing two Serb civilian prisoners on 22 April 1993 while serving as a member of the Bosnian Army’s Fourth Motorised Brigade. The matter is appealable at the Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


ICC: Allegations of Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela to be Investigated by ICC

On 3 November 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally announced that it will investigate the allegations of crimes against humanity in Venezuela. ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan and Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro signed a ‘Letter of Understanding.’ The United Nations has accused Venezuelan security forces of using extreme force and detaining people during protests against Maduro’s government. The Maduro government has been under a preliminary examination of ICC since 2018 wherein the court is in the process of determining whether Venezuela merits a trial for alleged crimes against humanity. According to the UN Human Rights Office, more than 120 people died in protest-related incidents. The letter read that the International Criminal Court has concluded the preliminary examination and has determined that it would be appropriate to open an investigation to determine the truth following the Rome Statute.


Sudan: Foreign Minister Demands Military Leaders of the Military Coup to be Brought to Justice at the ICC

On 5 November 2021, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Al-Mahdi in her statement issued to the UN Human Rights Council said that military coups are crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). She refers to Article 8 of the ICC’s Rome Statute in making her argument for the criminalization of the coup as a “war crime.” On October 25, a military coup was staged and Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the cabinet and the ruling military-civilian sovereign council. Before the military coup, the country was ruled by a transitional government that was installed in the aftermath of the ousted-then President al-Bashir, two years ago. Al-Mahdi is one of the few members of the government that has not been arrested by the military and has been an active critic of the coup. This came after the UN Human Rights Council convened a special session in Geneva to discuss a draft resolution condemning the military takeover in Sudan. The resolution aims for immediate restoration of the civilian-led government and the release of each arbitrarily detained person.


ICJ: UNGA and UNSC elected Ms Hilary Charlesworth as a Member of the Court

On 5 November 2021, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Security Council (UNSC) elected Ms Hilary Charlesworth as a Member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Of Australian nationality, Ms Charlesworth succeeds Mr James Richard Crawford, former judge of the Court, who passed away on 31 May 2021. Ms Charlesworth will hold office for the remainder of Mr. Crawford’s term, which is due to expire on 5 February 2024.


Bosnia: Appeals Chamber Ordered for a Wartime Rape Case Retrial

On 5 November 2021, the appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court has upheld a prosecution appeal and quashed the decision that threw out an indictment against Adem Kostjerevac. The court ordered a retrial of the former Bosnian Army military policeman. Kostjerevac is accused of raping a Serb woman in the village of Bajrici in the Zvornik area. She was pregnant at the time when she was detained in the basement of a mill that served as a prison. The woman suffered a miscarriage due to the rape. It is alleged that the crime was committed when Kostjerevac was a military policeman with the First Muslim Brigade of the Bosnian Army. The indictment was quashed in March when the judges found that Kostjerevac was not questioned in accordance with the laws. It is reported that Kostjerevac admitted that he was a member of the military police and had seen the victim in custody but he denied raping her. Kostjerevac moved to the US 17 years ago and was extradited from the US in June 2020.




Sudan: Multiple Ongoing Mediation Efforts After the Military Coup

On 1 November 2021, it was reported by Mr Perthes, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan that, one week after the Sudanese army seized power, multiple mediation efforts have been deployed to achieve a peaceful settlement. On 25 October, military forces dissolved the power-sharing transitional government and detained civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his cabinet. According to Mr Perthes, the situation is “stable but very tense.” He further added that “[m]any of the interlocutors [they] are speaking within Khartoum, but also internationally and regionally, are expressing a strong desire that we move forward quickly to get out of the crisis and return to the steps of normalcy […].” Indeed, the coup occurred in the middle of an ongoing transitional process for the country which was on its way towards democracy following the fall of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Prime Minister Hamdok has been released and is now under house arrest. Since then, the UN Special Representative met him several times. In response, a “march of millions” took the streets in a nationwide mass demonstration which have been violently repressed. On 2 November, the Office of the High commissioner reported that several protesters were killed as the result of excessive use of force. The disproportional use of militarised force on civil protesters led UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, Clément Voule, to express: “In light of the serious allegations of human rights violations and restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, I am calling on the de-facto authorities to investigate all reports of the use of force against peaceful protests.”



OHCHR: Joint Statement Regarding Human Rights and Water Infrastructure

On 1 November 2021, Pedro Arrojo Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons issued a joint statement on the human rights of people affected by dams and other water infrastructure. More than 20 years ago the World Commission on Dams presented findings demonstrating that although dams have significantly contributed to human development worldwide, “in too many cases an unacceptable price has been paid, especially in social and environmental impacts, mainly by riparian communities.” Impacts of large dams concerned both the natural ecosystems and humans’ living conditions. The degradation of biodiversity and massive forced displacement caused by that reduction has impacted more than 470 million people. In addition, consequences for displaced populations are long-lasting. Thus, what could be seen as an outdated report is still relevant today. Twenty years ago, the Commission was unsuccessful in adopting an effective mechanism designed to ensure the implementation of its human rights-oriented framework for dam decision-making. Nowadays, river and riverside communities are still threatened by projects of the hydropower industry. This state of affairs was the motive behind the Joint Statement.


Ethiopia: A Worrying Combination of Escalated Violence and a State of Emergency

On 2 November 2021, reiterating his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unrestricted humanitarian assistance and inclusive national dialogue, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General said that “the stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake.” Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, joined Mr Dujarric in expressing alarm saying that “the possible consequences of a spiralling conflict on the country and the region are frightening to contemplate, but it’s not too late to choose dialogue.” Echoing this sentiment, the last update from the UN Humanitarian Affairs Office (OCHA) stated that the situation “remains unpredictable, volatile and highly tense.” Indeed, the situation on the ground is dramatically impacted by a plethora of factors, the most severe of which include the lack of supply in fuel, cash and communication services coupled with ongoing fighting. This equation results in the impossibility for humanitarian aid to access the population in need, and in turn, leads affected civilians to flee across combat zone, on long distances and over harsh terrain. According to the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), “[a]round 45,449 refugees from Ethiopia’s Tigray have fled into Sudan, and 96,000 refugees into Eritrea. Before this crisis, there were already around 100,000 internally displaced in Tigray.” But amidst allegations of widespread and gross violation of both international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), the top priority right now for UN agencies is the acute food insecurity affecting up to 7 million people throughout the country. 


Afghanistan: Deadly Attack on a Military Hospital in Kabul

On 2 November, after two explosions detonated near the entrance of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, stated that this attack was a reminder that while entitled to special protection under the Laws of Armed Conflicts, hospitals are too frequently the object of military attack. It was reported that the attack resulted in at least 19 persons dead and dozens of wounded. Though Taliban officials reportedly laid blame on an affiliate group of the ISIL terrorist network, there has been no claim of responsibility. Shabia Mantoo, Spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recalled efforts deployed by the Agency in the country to respond to the need caused by conflict and insecurity. She said, “we are using land, sea and air routes, to bring humanitarian relief into Afghanistan and other countries in the region, so we can respond to the increasing needs. […] Further relief supplies have also been prepositioned in Termez, Uzbekistan, ready to be trucked into Afghanistan as needed. As we continue to scale up our humanitarian response, more resources are urgently needed.” As a reminder, armed violence has caused the forcible displacement of over 3.5 million persons inside the country, with 700,000 in 2021 alone.


CAR: 10 Blue Helmets Wounded During Attack

On 2 November, it was reported by the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) that ten unarmed peacekeepers belonging to the Egyptian Constituent Police Unit were shot and wounded. The 1 November attack occurred after the arrival of targeted peacekeepers at the M’Poko International Airport. According to the MINUSCA, while they were taking part in their duty, of periodic rotations and deployment, they came under heavy fire from the presidential guard “without any prior warning or response, even though they were unarmed.” The Mission “strongly condemn[ed] what appears to be a deliberate and unjustifiable attack.” In addition, a civil bystander had been. MINUSCA command and the Central African Republic (CAR) Government jointly opened an investigation into the deadly incident. Events will be accordingly examined based on legal obligations as defined by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Despite last month unilateral ceasefire declared by President Faustin Archange Touadéra, much of the country remains under the control of armed groups.


Israel: Settlements “an Engine of Occupation” According to UN Experts

On 3 November 2021, UN experts stated that nearly 700,000 Israeli settlers are now living in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and in recent weeks, Israeli authorities have approved plans for more than 1,700 new housing units in two settlements in East Jerusalem: Givat Hamatos and Pisgat Zeev, experts reported. Developments are underway for an estimated 9,000 more in Atarot, and another 3,400 in an area just east of Jerusalem. Experts stated that the raison d’être of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territory is to create a strong demographic presence on the ground to solidify and consolidate political control through an unlawful claim of sovereignty. This form of activity tramples upon the fundamental precepts of humanitarian and human rights law. The Israeli settlements have been characterised as ‘the engine of occupation’ by the Special Rapporteurs and are responsible for a wide range of human rights violations that have been committed against the Palestinian people including land confiscation, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and racial and ethnic discrimination. Accordingly, the main purpose of the settler implantation is to rupture the relationship between a native people and its territory which is a denial of the right to self-determination which is at the very core of modern human rights law. The UN has repeatedly stated Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are a flagrant violation under international law. They further added that the Israeli settlements are a presumptive war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and should be treated as such by the international community.


OHCHR: Human Rights Defenders Living in a “Constant Climate of Fear” in Afghanistan

On 3 November 2021, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders stated that Human Rights defenders in Afghanistan are now enduring a “climate of fear” in which threats are very real. She further called for an urgent coordinated response from the international community stating that human rights defenders told her that they have been receiving direct threats, including gendered threats against women of beating, arrests, and enforced disappearances and of defenders being killed. They described living in a climate of constant fear.  Various anonymous testimonies of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) state that the freedom of expression is very limited; with not only HRD’s but also women human rights defenders being threatened. Furthermore, these testimonies state that HRDs are being smeared as foreign agents. According to Ms Lawlor, the Taliban has raided offices of human rights and civil society organisations, searched for their names, addresses and contacts. She called further for immediate international support and an urgent plan for evacuation of those at high risk along with families.



FAO: Food Price Index at an all Time High in More than a Decade

On 4 November 2021, FAO in its Food Price Index stated that the international prices of many food commodities is up by 3.9 per cent since September, which has been on a rise for the third consecutive month. The vegetable oil index has increased up to 9.6 per cent and is at, an all-time high, with the dairy index rising by 2.6 points. For the third consecutive month, the meat index has declined amid reduced purchases of pork products from China and a sharp decline in beef from Brazil. In comparison to last year, the global cereal production for 2021 is anticipated to increase and reach a new record level of around 2,793 million tonnes. The consumption of cereal worldwide for 2021/22 is on a 1.7 per cent gain which is also led by an anticipated increase in global food consumption of wheat. The production, distribution and consumption of all this food uses about a third of the world’s total energy, according to a new report launched on the sidelines of the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. The report titled Renewable energy for agri-food systems – Towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, states examples like the use of solar irrigation through which access to water can be improved and enabling multiple cropping cycles and increasing resilience to changing rainfall patterns. In India, the use of solar irrigation pumps has raised farmers’ incomes by at least 50 per cent compared to when rain was the only option, while in Rwanda, smallholder farmers’ yields have grown by about a third. 


OHCHR: Call for Protection of Trafficked Workers from Vietnam & Saudi Arabia

UN experts called upon both nations to curb human trafficking because some women and girls are being recruited in Vietnam to serve as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and are suffering sexual abuse and torture. They urged both countries to do more to combat trafficking and to protect these workers and stated that all cooperation should be based on human rights principles and assure accountability. While referring to a mechanism used to monitor migrant labourers working primarily in construction and domestic service sectors, they stated that Saudi Arabia should bring domestic workers under its labour law protections and extend the reforms of its kafala system to such workers. The group also highlighted “truly alarming allegations” that some companies recruited girls as domestic workers and forged their age on documents to hide the fact they were children. In less than two months (between 3 September and 28 October 2021), nearly 205 women, many alleged victims of trafficking have been repatriated to Vietnam. Experts call upon the Southeast Asian country to strengthen their welfare services and provide these women legal assistance, and medical and psychosocial care. Furthermore, experts urged both governments to conduct an impartial and independent investigation, including allegations of involvement of public authorities. Experts concluded by reminding both countries of their international legal obligations to cooperate in combatting trafficking of persons including criminal justice investigations, provision of effective remedies and assistance to victims of trafficking.


UNHCR: Governments Urged to Accelerate Action on Stateless Persons

On 4 November 2021, UNHCR urged governments that more action is needed to resolve the plight of millions around the world who are still without citizenship while marking seven years since the launch of its #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that there has been significant progress made over the past few years, but governments must do more to close the legal and policy gaps that continue to leave millions of people stateless or allow children to be born into statelessness. Statelessness, or the situation of not being recognized as a citizen by any country, affects millions of people around the world. Stateless people cannot often access the most basic of rights, including being able to go to school, work legally, access health services, marry, or register the birth of a child. Worldwide, UNHCR’s statistical reporting counts 4.2 million stateless people in some 94 countries. Since the launch of its #IBelong campaign in 2014 for raising attention and advocating for an end to global statelessness, more than 400,00 stateless people in 27 countries have acquired nationality, while tens of thousands of people across Asia, Europe,  Africa and the Americas now have a pathway to citizenship as a result of the newly enacted legislative changes. Over the past seven years, 29 states have acceded to the Statelessness Conventions, signalling strengthened political will to end statelessness, and Mr Grandi highlighted the fact that they are encouraged by the global momentum to tackle statelessness which with concerted efforts by States, can be eradicated. He further stated that unless progress accelerates, the millions who remain deprived of nationality will be stuck in a human rights limbo, unable to access the most basic rights. UNHCR’s decade long #IBelong campaign calls on states to end statelessness by 2024.


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