Weekly News Recap (15-21 November 2021)




Kosovo: Court Upheld Imprisonment of Ex-Fighter 

On 15 November 2021, a Court of Appeals upheld the sentence granted to Zoran Djokic for war crimes in 1999. The Court opined the verdict sentencing the accused to 12 years’ imprisonment has sufficient reasons. Djokic was found guilty of war crimes against the ethnic Albanian civil population in the town of Peja/Pec during the Kosovo war. It was found that Djokic was a member of an organised group and forcibly entered the homes of Kosovo Albanians causing physical and mental abuse to the families and further killing some of the victims. Against the stated charges, in February 2021, a Pristina Basic Court found Djokic guilty of war crimes against the ethnic Albanian civil population. The first instance verdict noted that these operations by Serbian forces began in the Kristal neighbourhood on March 28-29, 1999 and aimed at evicting the ethnic Albanian civilians from their homes and killing them. They later focused on widening their targets to the other neighbourhoods.


Netherlands: Extradition Allowed for Trial in Rwanda

On 15 November 2021, a Court of the Hague allowed the extradition of an accused of war crimes in Rwanda. It is argued by the accused that he will not receive a fair trial in Rwanda. However, the court has observed that there is no fear of an imminent violation of the right to a fair trial against the accused as argued. The accused will be prosecuted in Rwanda for (complicity in) genocide and crimes against humanity. The court has advised the Minister of Security and Justice to allow trial in Rwanda to be observed in this case and to make the observations publicly available. The accused is suspected of participating in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. According to the extradition request, the suspected person will be charged for genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder as a crime against humanity and extermination as a crime against humanity.


Nigeria: Report Finds Police Responsible for Abuses 

On 15 November 2021, a judicial panel has submitted an inquiry report to the Lagos State Governor against abusing protestors. The panel has confirmed the abuses of protestors who were protesting against the ruthless Nigerian police force. In October 2020, youngsters across Nigeria protested against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The Lagos state governor set up a judicial panel of inquiry alongside other states judicial panels to evaluate public complaints against police. The panel was further given the mandate to investigate the incident that took place on October 20, where the army officers shot a large group of people protesting peacefully. The report was finalised after the testimony from several including victims and representatives of key agencies involved. The panel found that despite causalities the army did not allow the ambulance to rescue the wounded protestors. Based on its findings, the panel recommended prosecuting police officers for indiscriminate shooting and killing of protesters. It further recommended appropriate disciplinary measures and dismissals of army officers.


Bosnia: Former Serb Soldiers Found Guilty for War Crimes  

On 16 November 2021, a Bosnian Court sentenced imprisonment to former Serb soldiers Bratislav Bilbija and Djuro Adamovic. The soldiers were found guilty of committing a war crime against civilians in the hamlet of Bukvik in August 1992. It was found that Adamovic along with others physically abused a man in Bukvik until he became unconscious. The court acquitted the third defendant Ranko Babic of failure to prevent the crime from being committed. It was not sufficiently proved by the prosecution that Babic was superior to other soldiers and some witnesses further testified in his favour. The court also acquitted Bilbija and Adamovic, and Ranko Babic, of murder, torture and forced disappearances. Both Bilbija and Adamovic were cleared of various other charges.


Bangladesh: Bail of Alleged War Crimes Suspect Amzad Hossain Cancelled

On 17 November 2021, a domestic Bangladeshi tribunal named The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) cancelled a bail application of Md Amzad Hossain Mollah accused of committing crimes against humanity in Jashore in 1971. The prosecution submitted a plea as the accused after getting bail threatened the prosecution witnesses. It was further submitted by the prosecution that it failed to produce witnesses on an earlier date as the Amzad’s men had been threatening them. Amzad is accused of committing crimes against humanity like confinement, torture and murder. In 2016, an investigation body of the ICT issued a report accusing five men among which Amzad was also an active member in the politics of Muslim League in 1971. Amzad and his men are accused of abduction and murder during the conflict. The so-called International Crimes Tribunal first came in limelight after an infamous Skype controversy exposed by the Economist in 2012 that had become a major source of frustration and political vendetta against the opposition parties in Bangladesh.



Israel: Military Court Sentences a Spanish Woman

On 17 November 2021, a Spanish woman was awarded 13 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels. An Israeli military court sentenced the woman for admitting in a plea bargain to raise funds for a West Bank charity which was then diverted to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a banned militant group. The lawyer on behalf of the accused argued that the plea bargain “clarified very clearly” that the accused was not involved in passing money to the PFLP and had no idea that the alleged transfers had taken place. Ruiz, the accused, was a long-time worker for Health Work Committees, a Palestinian non-profit group that provides medical services in the occupied West Bank. The prosecutors noted that she continued her work for the Health Work Committees even after learning a co-worker had helped finance an attack and after Israel declared the organization illegal in early 2020. In the end, she was convicted of “performing a service for an outlawed organization”.


ECtHR: A Finding of Civil Liability against the Author of a Historical Book for Remarks Deemed Defamatory by the Italian Courts Did Not Breach the Convention

On 18 November 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been no violation of the presumption of innocence and no violation of the freedom of expression in a case concerning a finding of civil liability against the author of a book on account of two sets of remarks deemed by the Italian courts to be defamatory. The book included a reconstruction of the events preceding the summary execution of 43 captured soldiers of the Italian Social Republic (an episode known as the “strage di Rovetta”). The Court held that the domestic courts had not used language liable to cast doubt on the applicant’s acquittal at first instance, and that the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation did not disclose any breach of his right to be presumed innocent. In the Court’s view, the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression had not been disproportionate and the finding of civil liability against him did not disclose any appearance of a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. It observed in particular that the book, which combined the author’s personal recollections with material obtained through his research in the archives, fell into a specific category of historical research known as “microhistory”. The domestic courts had taken this aspect into consideration in their assessment of the book. As to the two sets of remarks, the Court found that the first was not justified in the public interest and that the second did not add anything to the reconstruction of events surrounding the “strage di Rovetta”.


ICC: Tamil Rights Group Seeks Justice at the ICC

On 18 November 2021, Tamil Rights Group (TRG) approached the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking justice for Eelam Tamils. The application is filed under article 15 of the Rome Statute in the International Criminal Court. TRG along with the Tamil Refugee Assistance Network (TRAN) has submitted an application requesting a preliminary investigation against crimes allegedly committed by Sri Lankan officials, including deportation, and persecution of Tamils. A Tamil Rights spokesperson stated that it has been 12 years since the United Nation started holding Sri Lanka accountable for its gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), 25,000 people were internally displaced. He further stated that the current regime has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions that the state itself co-sponsored in 2015. The application bases its argument on the notion that the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate crimes against humanity based on a precedent set in a previous case between Myanmar/Bangladesh. 


ECtHR: Multiple Violations Concerning Afghan Family whose Daughter Died at Croatian Border

On 18 November 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been multiple violations, including a violation of Article 2 (right to life and a violation of Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment), in a case concerning the death of a six-year-old Afghan child, who was hit by a train after allegedly having been denied the opportunity to seek asylum by the Croatian authorities and ordered to return to Serbia via the tracks. It also concerned, in particular, the applicants’ detention while seeking international protection. The Court found in particular that the investigation into the death had been ineffective, that the applicant children’s detention had amounted to ill-treatment, and that the decisions around the applicants’ detention had not been dealt with diligently. It also held that some of the applicants had suffered a collective expulsion from Croatia, and that the State had hindered the effective exercise of the applicants’ right of individual application by restricting access to their lawyer among other things. The Court held that Croatia was to pay the applicants (a family of 14 Afghan citizens) 40,000 euros (EUR) non-pecuniary damage and EUR 16,700 in respect of costs and expenses.


ICC: Philippines’ Deferral Request

On 18 November 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) notified Pre-Trial Chamber I that the Philippines on 10 November 2021 responded to the Prosecution’s notification under article 18(1) of the Rome Statute with a request that the Prosecution defer to the Philippines’ investigation of nationals or others within its jurisdiction “with respect to the alleged crimes against humanity of murder committed throughout the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called “war on drugs” campaign, as well as in the Davao area between 1 November 2011 and 30 June 2016. The Prosecution will, in the coming days, request additional information from the Philippines. The Prosecution has temporarily suspended its investigative activities while it assesses the scope and effect of the Deferral Request. The Prosecution will, however, continue its analysis of information already in its possession, as well as of any new information it may receive from third parties



UNICEF: Report Urge Governments to End Child Detention

On 15 November 2021, UNICEF released a report titled ‘Detention of children in time of COVID’ which revealed that since April 2020 at least 84 countries have safely returned scores of youngsters to their families. According to the data released more than 45,000 boys and girls were released from detention during the COVID-19 pandemic proving that child-friendly solutions “are more than possible”. Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director, commended those countries that heeded the agency’s call. Across the world, children have been detained, including in pre and post-trial custody, or immigration detention, and have also been held under armed conflict or national security. According to a second UNICEF report approximately 261,000 children globally are held in detention. The report titled Estimating the number of children deprived of their liberty in the administration of justice is a first of its kind analysis conducted in more than a decade. It has further warned that incomplete record-keeping and undeveloped administrative data systems in many countries mean the number is likely to be much higher. The report recommended investing in legal rights awareness for children in the justice and welfare systems, expanding free legal aid and representation and prioritizing prevention and early intervention. UNICEF Executive Director urged everyone to work together. UNICEF called upon governments and civil society to re-imagine justice to safely end the detention of all children; and action should also include investing in child and gender-sensitive justice processes, and establishing specialized child-friendly courts, as well as virtual and mobile courts.



OHCHR: Mass Arrests of Tigrayans Continue in Ethiopia

On 16 November 2021, an alert from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) came as the World Food Programme (WFP) described that the aid situation for people in Tigray is “hand-to-mouth”. While citing reports the OHCHR stated that at least 1000 individuals are believed to be detained by police officers in the last seven days on suspicion of being linked to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Liz Throssell, OHCHR Spokesperson stated that many of the persons that have been detained have not been informed of the reasons of their detention, nor they have been brought before a court of law or other tribunals to review the reasons for their detention and have not been formally charged. The humanitarian situation in the country is worsening with fuel stocks having run out for all humanitarian operations inside the Tigray, however, there have been only 22,000 liters of fuel left inside of Mekelle, 10,000 of which has been reserved for emergency relocation of staff and assets. And in an update on the aid relief situation in the conflict-affected north region, WFP stated that even though in recent weeks improvements have been seen in the movement of humanitarian cargo it was still not enough to meet the needs of around .2 million people in the region. Since mid-July only 1,114 truckloads of supplies have only entered the region and currently over 14,000 tons of food in Mekelle, which is enough to sustain around 825,000 people for 45 days while to date, the UN agency has finalized its second round of food distributions in Tigray, reaching close to 2.6 million people. The UN Food agency stated that all parties shave a role to ensure that there is a free flow of aid into northern Ethiopia which will reduce and forestall further severe hunger or loss of life.


OHCHR: The UN Experts Urge Iranian Government to Repeal Abortion Law

On 16 November 2021, UN experts in a statement called upon the Iranian authorities to repeal the ‘Youthful Population and Protection of the Family’ law which was ratified by Iran’s Guardian Council on 1 November. According to the experts the law severely restricts access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilisation and related information which is in direct violation of women’s human rights under international law and contains a provision stating that if carried out on a large scale, abortion would fall under the crime of “corruption on earth” and carry the death penalty. The law also prohibits free distribution of contraceptive goods, and imposes a ban on voluntary sterilisations for men and women, aside from very exceptional cases. According to the UN experts, this move would disproportionately impact women in situations of marginalisation and victims of sexual violence. Abortion in Iran is effectively banned, apart from a few exceptions and with the new law to get a therapeutic abortion the final decision is in the hands of a panel consisting of a judge, medical doctor and forensic doctor, rather than on the pregnant women, supported by the medical doctor. The experts further stated that the measures that are contained in the law could amount to gender-based violence as women denied safe abortions can incur mental and physical suffering, furthermore, the criminalisation of abortion can constitute cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment and may amount to torture. They urged the government to immediately repeal the law and to take measures to end the criminalisation of abortion and to ensure that all women can access all necessary health services inclusive of sexual and reproductive health care in a manner that is safe, affordable and consistent with their human rights. 



UNICEF: The UN Agencies Commit Supporting the “Schools Meals”

On 16 November 2021, in a joint declaration several UN agencies committed to assisting the School Meals Coalition in which over 60 countries envision a nutritious meal in school for every child in need by 2030. The coalition which is led by France and Finland, also committed to “smart” school meals programmes that combine regular meals in school. UN leaders in their joint declaration stated that school health and nutrition programmes are impactful interventions to support schoolchildren and the growth and development of adolescents; and these programmes can help combat child poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. David Beasley, World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director stated that the Schools Meal Coalition has the potential to help countries recover from the COVID-19 crisis, as these programmes can get children back to school, fix the damage done to their education, create jobs locally and enable smallholder farmers to earn a sustainable living to feed their families. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused extensive disruption to schools and education, due to which millions of children were unable to get their school meals or benefit from school-based health and nutrition services. The UN agencies have committed to work with Governments to achieve the coalition’s goals by providing technical and operational support. The Coalition would work towards restoring the school meals and other health and nutrition programmes that were in place before the COVID-19 crisis, expand them to reach an additional 73 million children.


Spain: Spanish Government Files Amendment in the Amnesty Law

On 17 November 2021, the Spanish government filed an amendment to the draft Democratic Memory Law that seeks to force a reinterpretation of the Amnesty Law which has been used to stop attempts to prosecute political figures during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. The amendment seeks a reinterpretation of the Amnesty Law, which was passed in 1977, without repealing it altogether. The amendment aims for all Spanish Laws inclusive of Amnesty Law to be interpreted and applied in accordance with the “conventional international and common law, and in particular, with International Humanitarian Law”. There cannot be any statutory limitations or amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture. This amendment would open the door for the prosecution of crimes committed under the Franco regime. The Amnesty Law will no longer be used as an excuse.



AfghanistanTaliban’s Struggle Creates Anxiety in Kabul

On 17 November 2021, a senior UN official in Kabul told the Security Council that the Taliban are taking steps towards achieving international legitimacy. Deborah Lyons, the UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated that Afghans feels abandoned by the international community and anxious about their new leadership as well. She stated that the Taliban although are trying to present themselves as a Government are hindered by a lack of resources. Ms. Loyns pointed out that the Taliban have not gained the trust of most Afghans, as such, the international community must engage with the Taliban to shape a more positive future trajectory. Going further, the Taliban indicates their desire for UN presence in the country and continue in their pursuit for recognition in the International community. Ms. Loyns further stated that the Taliban are acknowledging their mistakes and are trying to address the concerns of the international community. They however have their reservations on certain issues including that of women rights and freedom but have however assured that they are working on a nationwide policy to govern girls’ rights to education. Ms. Lyons called for an establishment of constructive relations between Afghanistan and the world at large pointing out that the best way to promote stability and future international support is for the Taliban to avoid isolation.


Africa: UN Envoy Calls for Election in Somalia

ON 17 November 2021, the UN Special Representative for Somalia James Swan stated that the progress at Somalia’s elections has been slow and uneven. He welcomes the completion of the indirect elections to the upper house of Somalia’s Federal Parliament noting that there has been a fall by 30 per cent of women participation in the process. Speaking via a video conferencing, he said that the efforts of Somalia’s political leaders will need to be doubled in the coming weeks. He advocated for women participation in government and said that the Inclusion of women in political life, and in all sectors of life is key to Somalia’s sustainable peace and development.

Going further, Somalia’s Women’s Rights activist expressed concern over the delays in the lack of concrete measures and schedules for the completion of the House of People’s election stating that further delay is likely to affect women’s quota negatively. Also, she stated that nearly 1000 civilians have been injured in armed conflict this year. In reaction to Al- Shabaab’s daily attacks, Mr Swab paid tribute to Somalia’s security forces and African Union Mission in the country (AMISON). He pointed out the activities of Al- Shabaab is deliberately disrupting electoral processes.


OHCHR: The UN Commissioner Condemns Killing of Peaceful Protesters in Sudan 

On 18 November 2021, UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet condemned the killing of at least 39 people in Sudan by security forces. She urged the military to avoid unnecessary use of force against demonstrators but stated that it is sad that such force is continually used by security personnel. She further pointed out the shooting into unarmed crowds and left many people dead and injured to suppress public opinion. A media report has that over 100 people were injured during Thursday protests. Heavy use of tear gas was reported too as well as the incessant arrest of demonstrators. This is against the report by the police that 80 policemen had been injured. There was a total shutdown of phones and communication lines in the country as well as the continued internet disability leaving only satellites functional. The High Commissioner noted the grave consequences of the internet shutdown pointing out that ambulances could not be reached to treat injured demonstrators and hospitals were unable to call their doctors during emergencies. There were more reports of an attack on journalists particularly those perceived as critics as well as the invading of their homes and offices by security forces. The High commissioner also pointed out that the continued internet shutdown would lead to self-censorship of the journalists as they cannot get information out of the current situation. She urged the authorities to release those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their rights while also stressing that members of the security forces as well as political and ad military leaders responsible for the disproportionate use of force must be held accountable. 


WFP: WFP Hands Over School Feeding Program to Armenia 

On 18 November 2021, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) handed over to the government of Armenia the management of its school feeding program in Gegharkunik Lori provinces. This is in furtherance of its long-standing feeding of over 100,000 school children on daily basis in the country. The WFP had since 2017 been handing over its feeding Program to the Government of Armenia on a gradual basis and six provinces had already been nationalized. The WFP Country Director and Representative in Armenia, Jelena Milosevic thanked the Government of Armenia for the long-standing partnership and the support of the Russian Federation and several other partners over the decades. The school feeding program celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020 and the successful strategic cooperation between Armenia and Russia towards creating a national program for sustainable school feeding in the country. According to the minister of education, culture and sports of the Federal Republic of Armenia, the sustainable school feeding Program envisages the introduction of an additional strategic component which is Transformative School Feeding. The president of the Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute stated that the plans were not realized on time last year but there is a difference this year as there has been a smooth achievement of the goals which were set during the workflow. Also, it was stated that the schools of Armavir, in 2022, and Kotayk, in 2023, will be handed over to the National feeding program of the government of Armenia. This feeding program is said to reduce the poverty rate by 0.4 per cent in Armenia and is a major contributor to the social protection system.


OAS: Nicaragua Denounces the Charter of the Organization of American States

On 18 November 2021, the Nicaraguan Government officially notified the General Secretariat of the the Organization of American States (OAS), of the “unwavering decision to denounce the Charter of the Organization of American States in accordance with its Article 143, which initiates the Definitive Withdrawal and Resignation of Nicaragua to this Organization”. The article establishes that after two years from the date on which the General Secretariat receives a notification of denunciation, the Charter will cease to have effect for the denouncing State, and it will be separated from the Organization. According to the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the transition period provided for in the OAS Charter constitutes a safeguard against complaints that occurred abruptly and untimely, as well as against state decisions taken to the detriment of democratic principles, the public interest of the inter-American system and the weakening of the functioning of the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.


IOM: A New Refugee Camp Opens in Bosnia And Herzegovina 

On 19 November 2021, a new center for the reception of stranded Migrants opened in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Supported by the International organization for Migration, the center replaces the former COVID -19 emergency tent shelter which was destroyed by fire in 2020. According to Laura Lungarotti, the IOM’s Chief of Mission in BiH and sub-regional coordinator for the Western Balkans, the opening of the new center is a critical step towards a more state-owned migration response. She further stated that offering humane accommodation is just one step within a wider migration governance strategy that will focus on early identification and provision of sustainable solutions to those stranded in the country. The new container-type facility provides humanitarian aid and is run by the BiH Services for Foreigner’s affairs under the ministry of security with support from IOM, UN agencies and NGO partners. A 22-year-old migrant who had spent 2 months in the country stated that the new camp is very good especially with the availability of food and the kind attitude of the workers there. He further appreciated the fact that the new camp had clean space, clothes, heating, water, and medical support. Many migrants move to the European Union upon arrival since the camp is close to the European Union while the rest return to their country of origin. An estimated 3,500 migrants remain in BiH as of today.


FAO: Agricultural Assistance Needed in Afghanistan

On 19 November 2021, Qu Dongyu, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General stated that to avoid a hunger trap in Afghanistan there is a requirement of urgent investment in agriculture and livestock production as millions of Afghans are living on the edge of a catastrophe that will occur to their animals die or their fields go unplanted. The FAO is providing critical life-saving assistance to farmers and herders, while also urging far greater and immediate support for agricultural production. At least 18.8 million people in Afghanistan are facing acute food insecurity which means that they are unable to feed themselves daily and that number is projected to rise to 22.8 million by the end of 2021. Agriculture is the backbone of the livelihoods of the Afghans and is critical for the economy of the country; around 70 % of Afghans live in rural areas and agriculture accounts for at least 25 per cent of GDP while an estimated 80 per cent of all livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on agriculture. Currently, FAO is distributing wheat cultivation packages for Afghanistan’s winter wheat season across 31 out of 34 provinces of the country. This campaign is reaching out to 1.3 million people to keep their livelihoods going in the coming weeks and months, as FAO steps up its humanitarian support to farmers in the largely rural areas of the country where the majority of Afghans live. With the assistance from FAO the provision for animal feed, deworming and other services can keep up to 8,4 million livestock fed and productive, maintain household dairy production and support related income by $35 per week. Cash for work that targets the most vulnerable population includes the landless and provides lifesaving cash in rural areas during the lean period.


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