Weekly News Recap (8-14 November 2021)




ECtHR: The Lack of Independence of the National Council of the Judiciary in Dolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v. Poland Judgment

On 8 November 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held unanimously that there has been a violation of the right to a fair trial in n the case of Dolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v. Poland. The case concerned complaints brought by two judges that the Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs of the Supreme Court, which had decided on cases concerning them, had not been a “tribunal established by law” and had lacked impartiality and independence. The case is one of 57 applications against Poland, lodged in 2018-2021, concerning various aspects of the reorganisation of the Polish judicial system initiated in 2017. The Court emphasised that its task was not to assess the legitimacy of the reorganisation of the Polish judiciary as a whole, but to determine whether, and if so how, the changes had affected Ms Dolińska-Ficek’s and Mr Ozimek’s rights under Article 6 (1) of the Convention.


Serbia: Human Rights NGO Files Lawsuit against Authorities for Banning the Erasing of a Ratko Mladic Mural

On 8 November 2021, a Serbian human rights NGO, The Youth Initiative for Human Rights filed a lawsuit against the Serbian Ministry for banning the activists from organising a public gathering to erase a mural of the Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic, from the wall of a residential building. The gathering was announced prior to the actual event and the Interior Ministry denied permission for gathering on the same evening. The Ministry based its decision on the fact that the gathering would involve opposition and dissatisfaction by a large population and thus could result in physical conflict and disruption on a very large scale. The Ministry further called the motive of the gathering to be filled with evil intent. The rights group said that it will attempt to challenge the arbitrary ban by the Serbian authorities which they argue infringes Serbian law.  In June 2021, the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague pronounced a life sentence to Ratko Mladic for the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats across the country during the war.


Serbia: Two-Year Sentence to Bosnian Serb Ex-Fighter Zeljko Budimir Confirmed

On 9 November 2021, Belgrade’s Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence of two years to Bosnian Serb ex-fighter Zeljko Budimir. Budimir was convicted for beating civilians and stealing their money in the village of Rejzovici in Bosnia’s Kljuc municipality in November 1992. The Appeals Court accepted the circumstances that were taken into account by the first instance court in order to impose a two-year sentence. It held that the first instance court made the right decision of imposing the minimum sentence which would aid in achieving the purpose of the punishment. Budimir was one of the three men who broke into the house of a Rejzovici resident. The indictment did not specify the military group to which the accused belonged. In September 2019, Budimir was given a two-year sentence for assaulting the Rejzovici resident and was acquitted of participating in the murder of other family members. In March 2020, the Appeals Court quashed the verdict and ordered a retrial.


IACHR: Friendly Settlement Agreement Concerning the International Responsibility of Argentina for the Failure to Investigate a Murder

As reported on 10 November 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights plans to approve the friendly settlement agreement in the case of Amanda Graciela Encaje and Family and to publish the relevant report. This agreement was signed on 12 July 2021, by Argentina and by representatives of the victim and her family. The petition that was filed before the IACHR in 2008 concerns the State’s international responsibility for violations of Amanda Graciela Encaje’s rights concerning the judiciary’s failure to effectively investigate the events that surrounded her murder in 1992 and to establish who perpetrated that murder. The Commission commended the State of Argentina for acknowledging in the friendly settlement its international responsibility for violating the human rights to life, personal integrity, judicial protection and guarantees, honor and dignity, and equality before the law. The agreement sets concrete measures to ensure reparation of the harm caused to Amanda Graciela Encaje’s family.


Bosnia: First Instance Court’s Verdict in Bosnian Army Ex-Commander’s War Crimes Quashed

On 10 November 2021, the Appeals Chamber of the Bosnian state court overturned the verdict of a ten-year sentence to a former commander of the Bosnian Army’s Third Corps. The reasons behind the verdict have not yet been released. Sakib Mahmuljin was found guilty of failing to prevent the murders and inhumane acts committed by members of the El Mujahideen unit of volunteer Islamic fighters in the Vozuca and Zavidovici areas during the war. The charges in the case hold that members of the El Mujahideen unit, a detachment of Islamic fighters from Middle Eastern countries, killed at least 55 captured Bosnian Serb Army soldiers in the period from July to September 1995 and decapitated some of them.  It was argued by Mahmuljin during the trial that he was not responsible for the crimes committed by some foreign fighters.


Albania: Trial of Former Iranian Prison Official Moved to Albania

On 10 November 2021, the trial of Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official accused of handing out death sentences as part of a 1988 purge of dissidents, moved to Albania. Noury has been on trial at the district court in the Swedish capital Stockholm since August on a slew of charges including murder, crimes against humanity and war crimes. At the time of the incidences, he was allegedly the assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison in Karaj, near Tehran. At the request of the prosecution, the entire Stockholm district court is being relocated to the Albanian port of Durres for the hearing of the testimonies of seven witnesses unable to travel to Sweden. Since November 2019, Noury has been held in custody upon his arrival in Sweden- where he has family members. He has not been accused of the killings but the prosecution alleges that Noury participated in giving death sentences and bringing prisoners to death chambers. Noury has refuted the charges against him. He is due to testify in Stockholm as of November 23. The universal jurisdiction principle of Sweden implies that the court can try a person accused of murder and war crimes regardless of where the alleged offence took place. The verdict is expected to be given in April 2022.



Nigeria: Judge Adjourns Trial of Nnamdi Kanu as Lead Lawyer Walks Out in Protest

On 10 November 2021, the trial of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu was adjourned until January after the lead lawyer walked out of the court in protest for not allowing the other members of the legal defence team into the courtroom. In a prior hearing in October, Kanu pleaded not guilty to seven charges that included terrorism, treason, knowingly broadcasting falsehoods and perpetuating falsehoods against President Muhammadu Buhari. Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is considered by the military as a terrorist organisation that wants the Igbo homeland to be split from Nigeria. The defence lawyer had planned to challenge the competence of the charges but said that he was barred by the state security agents from entering the courtroom. Kanu’s United States-based lawyer Bruce Fein was among those denied entry. Security agents also barred the journalists from entering the court. Kanu was first arrested in 2015 but disappeared while on bail in April 2017. Security agents produced him in court in Abuja on June 29 after detaining him in an undisclosed country. Kanu denied the Judge’s request for proceeding without his counsel. The trial has now been postponed to January 19 and 20 next year.



Sweden: High-Ranking Executives at the Lundin Group Accused of Complicity in War Crimes in Sudan

On 11 November 2021, the Swedish authorities have accused high-ranking executives at the Lundin Group of involvement in crimes committed in Sudan during the period of 1999 to 2003 and 2000 to 2003. Sweden seeks to fine Lundin for $159.9 million it made in the sale of its Sudan business in 2003. The prosecutor’s office noted that the accusation focuses on an operation in Block 5A where the Lundin group found oil in 1999. This was done right after the Sudanese military led an offensive military operation to allow Lundin to explore the area leading to violations of various humanitarian laws. Through recent investigations, it has been shown that the military attacked civilians and carried out hostile attacks on them. The attacks include aerial bombardments from transport planes, shooting civilians from helicopter gunships, abducting and plundering civilians and burning entire villages and their crops so that people did not have any means to live by. Consequently, many civilians were killed, injured and displaced from Block 5A. Chief Public Prosecutor Krister Petersson said that what constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that they made these demands despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to the military and the militia carrying out such tactics in violation of international humanitarian law.


USA: Kyle Rittenhouse Murder Trial

On 11 November 2021, the defence team of Rittenhouse closed out its case with the testimony of a video journalist that said that one of the men that were shot by the teenager has posed a threat. Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators last year during a wave of racial justice protests in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Kenosha County Judge Bruce held that the closing arguments would be held on Monday. The case involves the crucial issue of division in the United States and saw a mass of ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests across the country aiming for an end of police violence and racism. Rittenhouse, in his defence, insisted that he acted in self-defence upon being threatened and chased by the people shot in the incident. The prosecutors say that the accused was carrying an AR-15 rifle on the night of the events and instigated the violence. Rittenhouse is facing the charges of homicide for killing three people which may carry a possible life sentence. Eighteen people have been hearing the case and after the closing argument on Monday, the names will be drawn to decide which 12 members of the jury panel will deliberate.



Ethiopia: Future of Tigray & Horn of Africa in “Grave Uncertainty

On 8 November 2021, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs stated that the year-long conflict in Tigray has reached “disastrous proportions and warned of  “grave uncertainty” surrounding the future of the country and the stability of the whole Horn of Africa Region. In the past week, the UN human rights office reported that there were serious violations on all sides which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Ms. DiCarlo stated that the government of Ethiopia has declared a nationwide state of emergency and has stated it is fighting ‘an existential war’ noting the spread of fighting throughout the country. The political repercussions of intensifying violence in the wider region would be “immense” and would compound the many other crises underway in the Horn of Africa. More than seven million people need humanitarian aid in northern Ethiopia today, where more than five million lack food and an estimated 400 000 now live in famine-like conditions. While efforts to mobilize assistance in Tigray have been made it has become more difficult to move cash, fuel and supplies into the region since airstrikes on 22 October on the regional capital of Tigray. UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights have remained suspended while fuel shipments have been blocked since August. Due to lack of access, humanitarians have been forced to scale-back aid just as life-saving humanitarian needs have escalated. The UN official stressed there must be an immediate cessation of hostilities, further drawing attention to multiple calls for a lasting ceasefire and an inclusive intra-Ethiopian dialogue.


Myanmar: Deteriorating Humanitarian Situation in the Region, 3 Million in Need of Humanitarian Aid

On 8 November 2021, Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator in a statement said the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating, without an end to the violence, nor a peaceful resolution of Myanmar’s crisis. Since the military takeover on 1 February which ousted the democratically elected government, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes because of violent crackdowns across the country. The humanitarian affairs chief stated that long term displacement remains unresolved with 144 000 Rohingyas still confined to camps and camp-like settings in Rakhine, many since their displacement in 2012, and more than 105 000 people displaced in Kachin and Shan, many for years. While at the same time 223 000 Burmese remain internally displaced which includes 165 000 in the country’s southeast region further adding to those already displacing the Rakhine, Chin, Shan and Kachin states prior to the takeover. The UN Official noted that the situation in the northwest region of the country is extremely concerning because of the escalation hostilities between the Myanmar Armed Forces, the Chinland Defence Forces in Chin state and the People’s Defence Forces in Magway and Sagaing regions. He detailed that more than 37 000 people, including women and children, have been newly displaced. The Emergency Relief Coordinator urged all parties to “fully respect their obligations” under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and allow humanitarian assistance to be provided, including to those being forced to flee violence. So far only less than half of the $385 million that is required under the Humanitarian Response Plan and Interim Emergency Response Plan which was launched after the takeover of armed forces, has been received. Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur urged the UNSC’s closed-door discussion to dramatically increase aid and cut “junta access to revenue and weapons.”


UNSC: A Four Point Roadmap to Inclusion Outlined by the UN Secretary-General

On 9 November 2021, during a Security Council meeting which was convened by Mexico- Council president for November, was held to examine the relation between the various root causes of armed conflicts, such as inequality and poverty; Antonio Guterres UN Secretary-General stated that exclusion and inequalities of all kinds come with a devastating toll on security. He further stated, that the rise in inequalities is a factor in creating instability, and that diversity should be viewed as a powerful benefit rather than a threat, especially in countries experiencing conflicts. The UN chief also outlined a four-point “roadmap for inclusion” urging countries to take greater action on the issues of people, prevention and gender and institutions. He further urged countries to invest in human development, and develop a “New Social Contract” that includes universal health coverage, social protection and safety nets, as well as, COVID-19 vaccines for all. The UN chief called for strengthening prevention on multiple fronts to address different types of exclusion and inequities, with a particular focus on gender and youth, including during peace processes. He concluded by stressing that the need to build trust through national institutions rooted in human rights and the rule of law, which means building institutions resilient to corruption and abuse of power and founded on principles of integrity, transparency and accountability. He further emphasised the fact that policies and laws should protect vulnerable groups, while security and rule-of-law institutions should be responsive to the needs of all people.


Israel: UN Agencies Concerned Over De-authorisation of Palestinian NGOs

On 9 November 2021, a statement by UN Agencies and the Association International Development Agencies (AIDA) stated that they were standing firmly behind civil society organisations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory following an Israeli military decision to deauthorize six NGOs. The agencies stated in their statement that they regretted the decision which was made on 7 November by the Military Commander in the West Bank, as it represents “a further erosion of civic and humanitarian space.” The move which extends to the West Bank began in October when the Israeli Minister of Defence moved to re-designate six Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as a terrorist organisations. The aforementioned organisation are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defence for Children International- Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees. The agencies believe that the move “stands to significantly constrain the work” of these NGOs which have worked with the international community and provided essential services to countless Palestinians. According to news agencies, Israel has stated that these organizations are tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis and is considered a terrorist organization by some Western nations. In a statement by Lynn Hastings, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the OPT stated that “these allegations are taken very seriously” and according to her none of the UN agencies, nor AIDA, have received written documentation that could serve as a basis for the allegations. Furthermore, this move of re-designation allows the Israeli military to arrest their staff, shut their offices, confiscate assets and prohibit their activities.  At the end of October, independent UN human rights experts called the initial decision “a frontal attack on the Palestinian human rights movement, and human rights everywhere.” For the UN agencies, “the breadth of the Israeli 2016 Anti-Terrorism legislation and its impact on the presumption of innocence present serious concerns under international law” as counter-terrorism legislation must follow international humanitarian and human rights law, which include full respect for the rights to freedom of association and expression.


UNHCR: 11 000 People Flee to Uganda amid Fighting in Eastern DRC

On 9 November 2021, UNHCR state that the fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced at least 11 000 people to flee to neighbouring Uganda since 7 November which represents the largest refugee influx in a single day for more than a year. Women and children comprise the majority of those who have crossed the border to escape clashes between militia groups and the Congolese armed forces in the Rutshuru Territory, of DRC’s North Kivu province.  Ms. Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva, state that some 8 000 asylum seekers crossed at Bunagana town, while another 3 000 came through the Kibaya border point in Kisoro district.  Both locations are roughly 500 km southwest of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. She further reported that the agency so far has relocated around 500 people to the nearby Nyakabande transit centre, which can house up to 1 500 people. UNHCR and Uganda are responding to the situation, in coordination with district and local officials, while several partners are also assisting, including the World Food Programme (WFP). The UNHCR spokesperson stated that although Uganda’s borders are currently closed to asylum seekers due to pandemic restrictions, the Government has again implemented a humanitarian exception to allow safe passage for people seeking safety, which UNHCR has commended. However, there are concerns that the local capacity and services may soon be overwhelmed. The UNHCR is seeking around $335 million this year for its operations in Uganda, which hosts more refugees than any other country in Africa. So far only around 45 per cent of the funding has been received.  



Afghanistan : Ex-Military Pilots Urged to Stay and Serve the Nation

On 10 November 2021, Taliban Government Spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid urged former military pilots to remain in the country stating that they would not face arrest and are protected by the national amnesty statute. This came after many U.S trained Afghan pilots left for Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. Many Afghan pilots alongside their U.S counterparts played a key role in the war against the Taliban that lasted for 20 years. Consequent, upon the defeat of the Afghan government by the Taliban, dozens of Afghan pilots fled, unsure of the level of risk they faced from the Taliban. According to a media report, about 140 Afghan pilots had flown out of Tajikistan and arrived in the United Emirates on Wednesday. The Spokesman of the government in his speech stated that Afghanistan needs pilots whether in the military or civil aviation and that “they can at the service of their country.” Furthermore, a spokesman for the Taliban intelligent service stated that in the past three months, about 600 members of the Islamic State  (IS) group have been arrested in connection with violent attacks while about 33 IS members have been killed in gun battles with the Taliban. The Islamic State is an enemy of the Taliban and shares a very contrary interpretation of Islam. Their tactics include suicide bombing and they adhere to global jihad while the Taliban is focused on seizing control of Afghanistan. In a series of recent attacks, it’s becoming apparent that the Taliban cannot bring security to Afghanistan.


IMO: IMO and EIB Strengthens Collaboration to Promote Safety of Migrants

On 10 November 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) strengthened their collaboration in supporting safe, humane and regular migration while encouraging economic and climatic resilience of communities of origin transit and destination. The World Migration Report (2020) reported that 272 million out of the global population of 7.7 billion in 2019 were international migrants.  This five-year partnership in line with the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) will focus on 7 areas including climate change and its impacts on migration.  The Director-General of IOM, António Vitorino called for a stronger focus on human mobility inclusion in climate change policies stating that the partnership signed with EIB is a strategic step towards acknowledging the connections between climate change, the pandemic recovery, the SDGs and reinforcing efforts to ensure the implementation of the global pact on Migration. The vice president of the EIB while reiterating how pleased the EIB is in joining forces with the IOM in contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals pointed out that people are being displaced because they lack access to drinking water and food or simply because their places have become uninhabitable, and further stated that Climate adaptation will play a key role in building a more resilient society. The rise in mobility has been linked to climate change and environmental degradation. In 2020 alone, almost 31 million new displacements were triggered by disaster and the World Bank has envisaged that by 2050, more than 216 million people will be forced to migrate within their own countries if there is no concrete climate and development action.


Yemen: Increased Humanitarian Needs Leads UN Special Envoy to Call for an Immediate End to the Fighting

On 11 November 2021, the UN’s special envoy, Mr. Grundberg briefed the Security Council about his three days meeting in Yemen where he discussed the necessity for an end to the conflict in the country. He stated that the visit gave him a first-hand experience of the impact of the conflict on civilians, and the difficulties they face on daily basis. It also provided him with the opportunity  “to hear from Yemeni men, women and young people, on how an UN-led political process can help to address the situation in Taiz.”  In Taiz city and Turbah, the Special Envoy met with key officials such as the local Governor, Nabil Shamsan, political party representatives, and members of parliament. The representatives raised concerns about the targeting of civilians and the restricted movement caused by the continued road closures, as well as, the deterioration of the economy and basic services. Mr. Grundberg called for stakeholders to engage in political and economic dialogues that concern all Yemenis. Mr. Ramesh Rajasingham also briefed the Security Council, stating that fighting continues along nearly 50 front lines and has forced at least 35 000 people to flee since September. Agencies have estimated that should the fighting reach the city itself, another 45 000 people could be displaced.  Hence, the UN continues to call for an immediate end to the Ma´rib offensive and a nationwide ceasefire. In a separate statement, Mr. Grundberg condemned the assassination of a pregnant Yemeni journalist and the injury of her husband, adding that journalists everywhere must be able to work without fear of retaliation.


Palestine:  UNSCO Calls for Support to the Palestinian Authority as Economic Situation Worsens

On 11 November 2021, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Tor Wennesland, stated that a short term approach to the current economic, political and security challenges in the occupied Palestinian territory is necessary but insufficient. The report by the UNSCO calls for coordinated and integrated efforts to resolve the increasingly precarious situation for all Palestinians which it described as “dire.” The UNSCO report highlights the need to address it urgently and completely as the economy continues its multi-decade decline in the Gaza Strip with persistently high unemployment, particularly among women.  Mr. Wenessland also pointed out the difficulty for the Palestinian Authority to cover its expenditure let alone to make investments in the economy and the people. The contributory factors for the dire situation are traceable not just to the longstanding shortages of public funds, but the continued deduction of a portion of the so-called clearance revenue by the Israeli government. Following the severity of the crises endured so far, the report calls on the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and the International community to work together to address the economic and fiscal situation facing the Palestinian Authority and to strengthen its institutions as well, with a focus on delivering public services.  The report also calls for an end to the hostilities between Israel and militant groups in Gaza and urges a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that improves the livelihood of all Palestinians. 


Libya: UN Secretary-General Encourages Nationalistic Spirit amongst Citizens Before Election

On 12 November 2021, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General urged Libyans to forge a spirit of nationality ahead of the December presidential and parliamentary elections in the country. This appeal was made via a video message to the Paris Conference in Libya which was attended by some 30 countries as well.  Since Muammar Gadaffi was overthrown over a decade ago, Libya has confronted numerous security crises.  Mr. Guterres urged those with influence to put the country’s well-being and prosperity ahead of theirs.  According to the UN chief, nearly three million people have registered for the elections, a sign of wide support for the December elections. As such, he advocated that the aspiration of the people regarding free and fair elections must be met. Mr. Guterres pointed out that elections are essential to the attainment of peace and stability. As such, it must be built on a strong foundation of inclusive and credible frameworks that can guarantee its success with the total exclusion of individual ambitions which he says cannot stand in the way of Lybia’s peaceful transition. Going further, the Secretary-General called for an end to foreign or outside interference within the internal affairs of the country as this has become an issue of concern. 


Ethiopia: Investigation Report Suggests Human Rights Violations Committed by TPLF in the Amhara Region

In a report published on 13 November 2021, The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) committed human rights violations that may constitute war crimes under international humanitarian law. According to the report, a minimum of 184 civilians had been killed and many suffered physical and psychological injuries at the hands of TPLF fighters in areas of South Gondar and North Wollo Zones of the Amhara region. The report covers the period between July and August 28, 2021, and September 5, 2021. The TPLF fighters exposed civilians to death, injury and destruction of property from counterattacks by government forces. The commission in its process of investigation could not cover many regions due to security concerns and thus suggests that the actual number of civilian deaths could be much higher than what is indicated in this report. The TPLF forces killed civilians on the apprehension that they were supporters of the ruling party or government. Further, they damaged homes, hospitals and various other institutions. They did not even spare those who were mentally ill. EHRC commissioner Dr Daniel Bekele called on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations to ensure that civilians and civilian objects do not become targets.



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