Weekly News Recap (29 November-5 December 2021)




Bosnia: Serb Ex-Policemen Acquitted of Genocide Charges

On 29 November 2021, the Bosnian state court found Miodrag Josipovic, Branimir Tesic, Dragomir Vasic, Danilo Zoljic and Radomir Pantic not guilty of participation in the partial extermination of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in July 1995. More than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces in July 1995, after the Bosnian Serb Army seized the UN-protected ‘safe zone’ of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia – a crime which has been classified by the international court as genocide. Judge Kreho held that the prosecution failed to present a single piece of evidence linking Vasic with a joint criminal enterprise to commit the crime. The prosecution had not proved that Josipovic was responsible for issuing the order and had selected the policemen to carry out the tasks. The court further ruled that the prosecution did not prove that during the operation, Vasic, Zoljic and Pantic commanded and supervised police officers and the special police units. The verdict is appealable.


Germany: Court Issues First Ruling on Crime against Yazidi Community as Genocide

On 30 November 2021, in the first ruling of its kind, a German Court recognised crimes against the Yazidi community as genocide. The verdict is hailed as a historic win for the minority community. Taha al-Jumailly, 29, who joined the Islamic State jihadist group in 2013, was sentenced to life in jail for genocide against the Yazidis, as well as, crimes against humanity and a number of war crimes. In May 2021, the United Nations Special Investigators reported that that they had collected “clear and convincing evidence” of genocide by IS against the Yazidis. Prosecutors say Jumailly and his now ex-wife, a German woman named Jennifer Wenisch, “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves” while living in then IS-occupied Mosul in 2015. In a separate trial, Wenisch, 30, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in October for “crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement” and aiding and abetting the girl’s killing by failing to offer help.



IRMCT: Application for Early Release of Vlastimir Djordjevic Rejected

On 30 November 2021, the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in The Hague has rejected an application for early release from prison from the former Serbian Interior Ministry official, Vlastimir Djordjevic. Judge Carmel Agius while denying the application held that, “While Djordjevic has demonstrated some level of rehabilitation… the high gravity of crimes militates very strongly against his early release.” Moreover, there are serious concerns as to whether Djordjevic has been sufficiently rehabilitated such that, if released early, he could be trusted to comply with any necessary conditions. The importance of this consideration becomes particularly acute in light of the heightened risk to witnesses should Djordjevic be released early. The Tribunal sentenced Djordjevic to 18 years in prison in 2014 for the persecution and deportation of ethnic Albanian civilians during the Kosovo war and for assisting in the concealment of the bodies of war victims who were killed by Belgrade’s forces. Agius’s decision said that Djordjevic was psychologically examined in order to establish to what extent he accepted responsibility for his wrongdoing. It was found that, although Djordjevic has accepted some responsibility for his crime, he has not come to terms with the full scope of his role.



IACHR: Resolution to Follow Up on Precautionary Measures in Favor of Protected Groups of the Wayúu Indigenous People in Colombia

On 1 December 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued the Follow-up Resolution No. 99/2021, through which it addressed the implementation of precautionary measures in favor of three protected groups of the Wayúu Indigenous People in certain municipalities of the department of La Guajira in Colombia. The three groups are: boys, girls and adolescents from Uribia, Manaure, Riohacha, and Maicao; pregnant and lactating women from Manaure, Riohacha and Uribía; and older people from Manaure, Riohacha and Uribía. Such groups were protected by precautionary measures through Resolutions 60/2015, 3/2017 and 51/2017. The IACHR positively valued the actions implemented by Colombia in the matter. The Commission further required Colombia to continue to adopt the necessary measures to effectively protect the life, personal integrity and health of the three groups of beneficiaries.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favor of Journalist Luis Valdés Cocho and his Partner, a Human Rights Defender, in Cuba

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted on 1 December 2021 the Resolution 100/2021, by which it granted precautionary measures in favor of journalist Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho and his partner, a human rights defender, after considering that they are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable damage to their rights in Cuba. Mr. Valdés Cocho is an independent journalist who identifies himself as gay. He and his partner were subjected to harassment, violence and detentions by Cuban authorities. The applicants submitted that they have been subjected to threats by state security agents. Cuba has not submitted its observations despite requested by the Commission in accordance with Article 25.5 of its Rules of Procedure. The IACHR requested Cuba to adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the beneficiaries and adopt the necessary measures so that the beneficiaries can carry out activities as a journalist and human rights activist without being subjected to acts of violence, intimidation, and harassment.


Bosnia: Serb Ex-Policeman’s 12 Year Prison Sentence for Crimes Against Humanity Upheld

On 2 December 2021, the Appeals Chamber of the Bosnian Court upheld the 12-year sentencing verdict for crimes against humanity for Simo Stupar, a former reservist policeman at the Public Security Station in Vlasenica. Initially, in May 2021, Stupar was found guilty of participating in a widespread and systematic attack on the Bosniak population in the Vlasenica area from April 1992 to the end of September that year, as a member of the reservist police force of the Public Security Station in Vlasenica. The Court held that Stupar took part in an assault on the village of Dzamdzici in the Vlasenica area on 18 May 1992, when five people were killed and several houses were set on fire. The verdict further found Stupar had participated in the beating of a Bosniak civilian at the police station in Vlasenica in the first half of June 1992 and the inhumane treatment of another man. He was also found guilty of participating in the arrest of two men on 10 July 1992. After their arrest, the two men disappeared and their bodies were only found in 2007. The state court said it had “rejected as unfounded an appeal filed by the defendant’s defence lawyer.” The verdict was handed down in Stupar’s absence.


UNITAD: Islamic State Responsible for War Crimes at Iraqi Prison

On 2 December 2021, the head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) has said in a United Nations Security Council briefing that the armed group’s fighters committed crimes against humanity and war crimes at a prison in the northern city of Mosul, where at least 1,000 mostly Shia Muslim prisoners were systematically killed seven years ago. Special Adviser, Christian Ritscher said the evidence collected so far is capable of supporting trials. The evidence from mass graves containing the remains of victims of executions carried out at Badush Central Prison and from survivors shows detailed preparations of the attack by senior ISIL members followed by an assault on the morning of 10 June 2014. Ritscher said the investigators’ analysis of digital, documentary, survivors and forensic evidence, including ISIL documents, has identified several members from the group who were responsible for the crimes. The evidence further showed the use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL. He said that the investigation team with the help of witnesses, survivors and digital fingerprints can find the individuals responsible for the commission of these crimes.




Germany: Syrian State Torture Trial on Crimes Against Humanity

On 3 December 2021, based on the principle of universal jurisdiction in international criminal law, Germany’s trial against two members of the Syrian regime charged with torture and murder progressed, as closing arguments began. It is the first worldwide trial on state torture in Syria. The prosecution has accused the main defendant Anwar R. of perpetrating crimes against humanity between 2011 and 2012. He has allegedly worked as the lead interrogator for the Syrian secret service at the Al Khatib detention centre in Damascus and was allegedly responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people. He has also been charged with the murder of 58 detainees. Anwar, a former colonel rejected the accusation and has claimed to have secretly have supported the opposition, even taking part in the 2014 Geneva peace conference. The prosecution contested this narrative with the help of witness accounts who described a man who continuously employed his power to carry out orders given by the regime. In February 2020, the Koblenz Higher Regional Court sentenced Eyad A. to four and half years in prison, while Anwar R.’s trial continues.



Bosnia: Seven Former Bosnian Serb Police Officers Arrested for Murder of Civilians

On 3 December 2021, State Investigation and Protection Agency police officers arrested seven people on suspicion of involvement in the murders of 22 Bosniaks, including seven children and eight women, in the village of Balatun, near Bijeljina during the war in September 1992. The suspects were arrested in several towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina and will be handed over to the prosecutor for further investigations. One of those arrested was Goran Saric, who was previously acquitted in two separate cases at the Bosnian state court over his involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and participating in war crimes in Sarajevo in 1992. Twenty-two members of the Sarajlic, Sejmenovic and Malagic families, including seven children, were taken from their houses in Bukres near Bijeljina and killed on the banks of the River Drina in the village of Balatun at dawn on 25 September 1992. The remains of a few victims are still missing. The state prosecution said that the “individuals charged with directly participating in the execution of the victims are among the suspects who have been arrested.”



UN: Calls for a Nuclear Weapons Free Middle-East

On 29 November 2021, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General while speaking at the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in New York, stated that in the case of the Middle East, concerns over nuclear programmes persist and conflicts and civil wars are causing widespread civilian casualties and suffering, undermining the stability and disrupting social and economic development. Since 1967, five such nuclear free Weapons Zones have been established around the world: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central Asia and they include 60 per cent of all UN Member States while covering almost all of the Southern Hemisphere. For the Secretary-General, expanding such zones would help build a safer world, further reiterating his call for all parties to exercise restraint and avoid escalation. In this context, he highlighted the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran Nuclear Deal, stating that the return to dialogue is “an important step.” The JCPOA was signed by Iran alongside the European Union and five permanent members of the  Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; while talks over Iran’s nuclear programme and a revival of the JCPOA, have resumed this week in Vienna.  Abdulla Shahid, the president of the General Assembly also addressed the Conference and pointed out some progression, such as the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and further cautioned that the addition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to region’s politics will complicate an already challenging process, undermining trust and portending existential consequences. Finally, the President of the General Assembly noted that not enough states have signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), twenty-five years after its adoption.  


IOM: Aid Scaled up at EU-Belarus Border by the Agency as Hypothermia Death Ticks Up

On 29 November 2021, it was reported that there are up to 2,000 migrants and refugees at the border with Poland, predominantly Kurds from Iraq, but also Syrian, Iranian, Afghans, Yemenis, Cameroonians and others. António Vitorino, IOM Director General stated the “priority is the safety of these stranded migrants, upholding their human rights and preventing more deaths as temperatures remain well below freezing.” He further stated that the agency was committed to providing humanitarian assistance and is working with the authorities on both sides of the border. The agency and its partners have been scaling up aid along the border between EU member states (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia) and Belarus amid worsening winter weather which has led to an increase in deaths due to hypothermia among migrants and asylum seekers stranded there. The agency has estimated that the total number of migrants and refugees currently in Belarus is around 7,000 and so far, only a limited number have expressed a desire to return home voluntarily. However, in recent days, the Government of Iraq has organized the repatriation of over 1,000 of its citizens. Discussions with IOM to facilitate more voluntary returns are ongoing and until now at least 44 people have so far been assisted by IOM to return home voluntarily, with another 38 in the pipeline.  On several occasions in recent weeks, the Belarusian authorities have granted IOM, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Belarus Red Cross, access to provide aid to those stuck in makeshift camps. The agency and its partners have used the opportunity to assess conditions and needs, distribute supplies, and help facilitate anyone considering returning home. There has been an increase in the number of migrants with many from the Middle East trying to enter the territories of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia via Belarus. The crisis has been brewing ever since the EU imposed sanctions against Belarus for cracking down on pro-democracy protests in the wake of the contested August 2020 presidential election, according to media reports.  The EU has accused Belarus of orchestrating the migrant crisis in retaliation, which the country has denied while earlier this month, Poland deployed thousands of troops to the border after migrants attempted to storm into the country. 



UNSC: Risk of Increased Violence in Gaza without Decisive Action

On 30 November 2021, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process informed the Security Council that ‘recent developments on the ground are worrying” in Israel-Palestine relations. He pointed out the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority.  He further emphasised that concerted efforts by all parties are needed to calm the situation on the ground and if any action is not taken there is a risk of plunging into another deadly escalation of violence. He also stated that there is a severe fiscal and economic crisis that is threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank. While at the same time, he added, “ongoing violence and unilateral steps, including Israeli settlement expansion and demolitions continue to raise tensions, feed hopelessness, erode the Palestinian Authority’s standing and further diminish the prospect of a return to meaningful negotiations.” In Gaza, the cessation of hostilities continues to hold but the Special Envoy argued that “further steps are needed by all parties to ensure a sustainable solution that ultimately enables a return of legitimate Palestinian Government institutions to the Strip.” The Special Envoy stated that Gaza’s humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction efforts are continuing and further stated that the gradual easing of restrictions on the entry of goods and people is “encouraging” but the economic, humanitarian and security situation still “remains a serious concern.”  


UNHCR: Agency Appalled by a Series of Deadly Attacks on IDPs in DRC

On 30 November 20201, Boris Cheshirkov, UNHCR Spokesperson cited local authorities in stating that 26 people were killed on 28 November at the Ndjala site in the Drodro health zone of the Ituri province. Out of the 26 fatalities, 10 were women and 9 were children, and a further 11 people were wounded. This has been the fourth attack on Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) in the Ituri province since 19 November. David McLachlan-Karr, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) expressed shock over these repeated attacks on civilians who are forced to leave their homes to seek safety from the violence, and that it was imperative to protect these populations, and that these attacks are “violations of international humanitarian law and the 2009 Kampala Convention on IDPs.” On 21 November, a militia group attacked Drodro, another site for displaced people, leaving 44 dead and over 1,200 shelters destroyed; they also attacked a site at Tché, wrecking almost 1,000 shelters, according to authorities. As many as 20,000 inhabitants fled to Rhoe, seeking safety near the military base of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has doubled in size from 21,000 to 40,500 in under 48 hours and has forced the newly arrived families to sleep in the open. A staggering 5.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes in the DRC, an increase of 400,000 people compared to early 2021. The UNHCR Spokesperson called upon all parties to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of displacement sites, where both IDPs and the local populations are being attacked in their homes, and also to ensure access to locations so that humanitarian actors can provide essential assistance.



UNHCHR:  Burkina Faso Faces Multitudes of Challenges

On 1 December 2021, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), after a visit to Burkina Faso said the country faces a multitude of challenges with severe impacts on a wide range of human rights, noting that the country faces ongoing threats of violent extremism, climate change and humanitarian crises.  She pointed out the violence from both the Government and non-government forces, with government militias killing terrorism suspects and civilians, while the Armed Islamic groups have killed hundreds of civilians in the country, as well as, in Mali and Niger. This happens concurrently with the changes in the weather which robs farmers and herders of their livelihood and thereby sparks conflict.  She explained that there is a 60% increase in humanitarian need since January last year. The High Commissioner discussed the country’s challenges with President Kaboré, senior ministers, as well as, the President of the National Assembly. She addressed the issue of internally displaced persons while the Government stated that more than 1.4 million people have been displaced within Burkina Faso due to various human rights abuses.  The High Commissioner stressed to the President that “it is essential that all perpetrators of such human rights violations and abuses be brought to justice regardless of their affiliation, and that they are held accountable for their actions in line with international standards.” Going further, she underscored the need for all state security affiliated forces to comply with international human rights laws and international humanitarian law, as doing otherwise would lead to failure in confronting violent and lawless extremism.  She further expressed concern over the situation of the youths in the country adding that “poverty, the lack of access to economic opportunities and, in some cases, discrimination and marginalization can make young people more vulnerable.” She described the voices of youth, women and underrepresented minority communities as key and called on the State to “take proactive measures to increase the number of women in decision-making positions at all levels.” She hoped that the international community would step up with greater support amidst the crisis, pointing out how crises are managed would have repercussions for peace and security and human rights for millions of people in the country, in the region and beyond.  She stressed that now is the moment to take action to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.


WFP: Appeals for Greater Support in Afghanistan As Hunger Increases

On 1 December 2021, the World Food Programme urged countries to put politics aside and step up to support and avert a political catastrophe. The UN agency said that humanitarian needs in the country have increased as all provinces faces crises or emergency level food insecurity, pointing out that roughly 23 million Afghans require urgent food assistance.  The WPF’s Afghanistan Country Director said that the international community has real concerns and at this time, there is a need to separate humanitarian imperative from the political discussions.  She added that the people of Afghanistan including children have had their lives upended through no fault of theirs, and cannot be condemned to hunger and starvation just because of geopolitics and the lottery of birth. The WPF seeks more funds for its operations in Afghanistan over the coming year, as a visit to the remote areas of the country revealed the plight of citizens coping amid the impacts of prolonged drought, economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also been pointed out that some people in the country, have resorted to consuming varieties of wheat known to cause health problems, while others are surviving on bread and tea with milk.  The economic collapse in the country has forced school teachers, principals and government workers in the country to sell their personal effects on the street to earn a living. WPF stated that their staff was finally able to access one of the villages located several hours south, after being inaccessible for almost 10 years.  The WPF reported that the aforementioned village has seen a 30 per cent increase in severe and moderated malnutrition since October. More than half of the Afghan population is facing acute hunger while millions of children suffer from malnutrition. To reach about 24 million people in 2024, WFP is ramping up its life-saving support in Afghanistan. The agency has provided food, cash and nutrition assistance to millions of people. The support included malnutrition treatment and prevention services to both pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children.


UN: A Rise in Emergency Aid for 2022 is Needed to Assist More People

On 2 December 2021, UN Humanitarian Affairs Aid said during the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) in Geneva that a total of 274 million people worldwide will need emergency aid and protection in 2022. The document, which is published annually by the UN and partners, stated that $41 billion is required to provide relief and protection to the 183 million people most in need. According to Mr Griffiths, the climate crisis is hitting the world’s most vulnerable people.  As protracted conflicts continue, instability has worsened in several parts of the world, notably in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Afghanistan. He stated that it is his goal “that this global appeal can go some way to restoring a glimmer of hope for millions of people who desperately need it.” Some of the 120 civil organizations – nearly 100 of them are based in countries hit hard by hunger, have issued a letter urging world leaders to fully fund a response to prevent famine globally, and to address the major threats driving food insecurity. In 2021, the humanitarian system delivered food, medicine and health care and other essential assistance to 107 million people, 70 per cent of the target. Mr Griffiths also noted several successes including, over half a million people being brought back from the brink of famine in South Sudan, healthcare was delivered to 10 million people in Yemen, and that the aid agencies never left Afghanistan in the wake of Augusts’ Taliban takeover. He also stated that the programme for 2022, is three times the size of programme for 2021 because of need. He thanked international donors and member States who in 2021, provided billions of dollars for projects included in the GHO, despite economic stress brought on by the pandemic. Mr. Griffiths reiterated that assistance is not a solution, as seen in Afghanistan, but merely a way to stabilize societies and “it doesn’t replace development assistance, the funding of society and economy. It is merely an extra lifesaver.”


UN: Human Rights Experts Urge States to Convert Climate ‘Promises Into Actions’

On 3 December 2021, while marking the 35th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, independent UN human rights experts issued an urgent call to “move from promises to action” on the outcomes of the UN’s landmark COP26 conference. Thirty-five years ago, the Declaration on the Right to Development provided the promise that everyone is entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development. It also stressed the need to eliminate historical and systemic obstacles, including racism and racial discrimination, and to support equal development opportunities for all. More than three dozen UN experts endorsed a statement calling for greater transparency and rigorous follow-up on the commitments made in Glasgow in the past month, such as the 100-strong pledge to end deforestation by 2030; cut emissions of methane by 30 per cent by the end of this decade; and establish a ratchet system requiring States to strengthen their commitments yearly. The experts reminded the world’s largest and wealthiest economies have failed to make sufficiently strong commitments to keep planetary warming to 1.5°C. The experts also stated that in order to address the double challenge of the climate emergency and COVID pandemic and increase preparedness and resilience for natural disasters and future pandemics, States must act “in accordance with the principles underpinning the right to development.” These encompass “participation, progressive realization, equality within and between countries, international solidarity and cooperation and assistance.” Furthermore, to ensure that the commitments made at the COP26 are implemented in the spirit of the Convention and the Paris Agreement, State parties need to “ensure rapid follow up, by elaborating and making public concrete implementation plans.” These plans must include specific time frames, allocated financial resources, a just transition by integrating gender perspectives, and transparent processes to review progress.


WFP: Multi-Year Project to Strengthen Food and Nutrition Security in Mali

On 3 December 2021, the Government of Sweden, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) signed a four-year program to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities affected by food insecurity and other issues of concern. The project would help improve the food and nutritional security of several people, especially among women and children, through the financial contribution by Sweden, and the expertise of UN agencies. These objectives would be achieved through sustainable agriculture support, creation, and rehabilitation of community assets, such as developing hallows for fish. According to the Head of Cooperation for Sweden in Mali, Richard Bomboma, strengthening resilience for food security and nutrition for the most vulnerable people requires a multi-sectoral and integrated approach. He stated that the Sweden Partnership with the three UN agencies would aid in addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability and contribute to a sustainable and nutritious food system. The FAO representative in Mali said, “FAO is committed with all partners to support project beneficiaries to strengthen their resilience, preserve natural resources and biodiversity affected by climate change.” Also, tools will be used to enhance social cohesion and reduce conflict within agricultural activities to achieve better productivity. UNICEF’s representative, on the other hand, said that the program emphasizes children and young people, as well as, the involvement of women. As Sweden is a key partner of UNICEF in Mali, the impact for the people of Mali can be minimized. The WPF Representative and Director in Mali said that their common priority is to work with communities to enable them to have sustainable access to safe and nutritious food. This includes programs offering cash or in exchange for work to build assets that will benefit the whole community and the development of nutrition-related activities, in a complementary manner with sister agencies, UNICEF and FAO.


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