Weekly News Recap (6-12 December 2021)




Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi Sentenced to Imprisonment

On 6 December 2021, Aung San Suu Kyi was found guilty of charges of incitement and violating COVID-19 rules which have been widely dismissed as politically motivated. She has been sentenced to imprisonment in an undisclosed location by a court in military-ruled Myanmar. She was initially given a four-year term which was reduced after being partially pardoned by the coup leader and army chief, Min Aung Hlaing. This ruling is the first among a dozen cases filed against the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Other cases against her involve charges of corruption, violations of a state secrets act, and a telecoms law that together carries a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison. Aung San Suu Kyi has denied all the charges. Former President Win Myint was also initially jailed for four years on the same charges, which the US later blasted as an “affront” to justice. Journalists are barred from attending the court hearings and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media. The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar urged countries to increase economic pressure on Myanmar’s junta.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/6/aung-san-suu-kyi-sentenced-to-x https://www.arabnews.com/node/1981466/world

Bosnia: 5 Ex-Soldiers Arrested for Crimes against Serb Civilians

On 7 December 2021, Bosnian authorities arrested five ex-soldiers for crimes against Serb civilians in Sarajevo during the 1992-95 war. The prosecutor’s office said that it is suspected that the group was involved in the killing of at least eight civilians and crimes against a hundred victims, included inhumane treatment, abuse, torture, forced labour and inflicting bodily and mental harm. The arrests were done in cooperation with Serbian authorities, where some of the survivors now live. The imprisoned civilians were held in wartime prison camps in a former school and another building in Hrasnica surburb. The data states that more than 100,000 people died in the war in Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs surrounded the capital, Sarajevo, during the conflict but many Serbs also remained in the city and dozens were killed by Bosniak fighters who were in control. The conflict ended in a US-brokered peace agreement in 1995. Even after years, the ethnic relations in Bosnia remain tense.



The Netherlands: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz Immune from Civil Prosecution

On 7 December 2021, in the case of six Palestinian deaths in an Israeli airstrike, the Dutch Appeals court ruled that Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz was immune from civil prosecution in the Netherlands. The court upheld the lower court’s verdict which stated that Gantz, as a high-ranking official, carrying out government policy could not be held liable in a Dutch civil case. At least 2,251 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 74 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the 2014 fighting. The Appeals court said that the case concerned officials, Gantz and his co-defendant, former Air Force commander Amir Eshel, who carried out the policies of the Israeli State. However, the Court added that it was not blind to the plaintiff’s suffering. The Court’s ruling did not address whether the bombing contravened international laws. Israel’s Deputy Attorney General said that the ruling has set an important legal precedent that safeguards Israel’s military commanders as a whole. The Court further held that universal jurisdiction which allows countries to prosecute serious offences committed elsewhere could not be applied in civil damages cases in the Netherlands, even if they concerned alleged war crimes.



ICC: Alleged CAR Leader to Face Charges of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

On 9 December 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a statement has partially confirmed the charges of war crimes against alleged Seleka leader Mr. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani (‘Mr. Said’). The alleged leader of a rebel group in the Central African Republic will go on trial facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2013, CAR became a centre of conflict when President Francois Bozize was overthrown by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, drawn largely from the Muslim minority. The ICC said that the court retained charges against Mr. Said that were committed in the capital Bangui between April and August 2013 against detained people suspected to be Bozize supporters. The crimes were inclusive of inhumane treatment, imprisonment and torture. The ICC found that there was sufficient evidence to establish grounds to hold Mr. Said, a senior member of the coalition responsible. However, the court has rejected the accusations of alleged crimes committed in a separate location in Bangui between September and November 2013. Mr. Said was handed over by the CAR authorities to the ICC in January, in response to an international arrest warrant.




Bosnia: Indictment Filed for Crimes against Humanity in Bosnia’s Eastern Visegrad Area

On 9 December 2021, an indictment was filed against Djuricic and Spasojevic by the Bosnian state prosecution, for crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia’s eastern Visegrad area. Djuricic and Spasojevic allegedly attacked the Bosniak population on national, ethnic and religious grounds as part of a widespread and systematic attack between May 1992 till the end of September 1993. The prosecution stated that Djuricic was the manager of Uzamnica detention camp with Spasojevic serving as a guard in the camp. The prosecution in their allegations stated that they resorted to actions that comprised of unlawful detention, abuse, inhuman treatment, torture, rape and sexual abuse of victims in an extremely inhumane condition which has left permanent physical and mental consequences for the victims. Spasojevic has also been charged with having issued orders to abuse the victims. The prosecution is planning to prove its allegations by presenting 19 witnesses before the court, as well as, several material pieces of evidence.


UK: Unofficial Uyghur Tribunal Ruled that China Committed Genocide

On 10 December 2021, an unofficial tribunal of lawyers and campaigners ruled that China is responsible for committing genocide, crimes against humanity and torture of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens in the northwest region of China known as Xinjiang. China dismissed the tribunal calling it to be a farce being used by their enemies. The tribunal is headed by British lawyer Geoffrey Nice and has no powers of sanction or enforcement. The tribunal states that it is satisfied that President Xi Jinping and other senior officials in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) bear primary responsibility for acts that have occurred in Xinjiang. In 2020, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), which represents the interests of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang and around the world, asked Nice to conduct an investigation through an independent tribunal for abuse in Xinjiang. Various foreign lawmakers have labelled the treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. The foreign ministry of China dismissed the WUC as a separatist organization under the control and funding of anti-China forces in the United States and the West. China recognises the tribunal as a tool being used against China for spreading lies.



ICC: Advocacy Group Sent a Submission Urging to Investigate Myanmar’s Military Leader

On 10 December 2021, Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing has been accused of committing crimes against humanity for overseeing, as army chief, a deadly crackdown on protesters and activists opposed to the 1 February coup, before the ICC. An advocacy group, the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) has urged the tribunal to open a criminal investigation “into the widespread and systematic use of torture as part of the violent crackdown against the protest movement” in the Southeast Asian country. According to the advocacy group, Min Aung Hlaing is criminally responsible for commanding the commission of a range of atrocious crimes. According to the head of the UN investigating body, Nicholas Koumjian, more than 219,000 items of information have been collected since the coup to support these allegations. An increase in violent military response has prompted the protestors to arm themselves, triggering more violence. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights group tracking deaths and detentions at least 1,305 people including more than 75 children have been killed due to the military crackdown on anti-coup protests.



France: Man Indicted in Paris for Genocide in Rwanda

On 10 December 2021, the national anti-terrorism prosecution (PNAT) said that a man suspected of having participated in the massacres of Tutsi in Rwanda when he was a teenager was indicted in Paris for “genocide” and “complicity in crimes against humanity.” Born in Rwanda in 1977, this man was also indicted by two Parisian examining magistrates for “participation in an agreement established for the preparation of one of these crimes” and placed under judicial control, according to a press release from PNAT. This indictment was pronounced within the framework of a judicial investigation opened in August 2019, which initially targeted the father of this man, Jean R. The man, now in his forties, is suspected of having, at the age of 17, participated in meetings intended to prepare or coordinate the abuse, as well as, participate. According to the UN, the genocide left more than 800,000 dead, mainly Tutsi exterminated between April and July 1994. To date, two trials linked to the genocide in Rwanda have resulted in France in the final convictions of three men.





UNICEF: Students Face $17 Trillion Loss in Lifetime Earnings Due to School Closures During COVID-19

On 6 December 2021, the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF jointly released a new report titled ‘The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery,’ which stated that school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a staggering $17 trillion in lost lifetime earnings for today’s students. The figure is calculated in present value, representing roughly 14 per cent of the current gross domestic product (GDP), and far exceeds the $10 trillion estimate from a year ago, revealing that the impact is more severe than previously thought. Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education stated that pandemic has brought education systems across the world to a halt and more than 20 months later, millions of children remain shut out of school, while others may never return. Furthermore, the report shows that in low and middle-income countries, the share of children living in “learning poverty” could jump from 53 per cent to 70 per cent. Mr. Saavedra also stated that the loss of learning that is being experienced by many kids is morally unacceptable and the potential increase of ‘learning poverty’ might have a devastating impact upon future productivity, earnings, and well-being for this generation of children and youth, their families, and the world’s economies. Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Director of Education, called for reopening schools, and keeping them open, to “stem the scars on this generation” while warning of the risks of inaction. The report also states that with less than three per cent of government stimulus packages being allocated to education there is a need for greater funding. Furthermore, countries should implement Learning Recovery Programmes to ensure students in this generation will attain at least the same competencies as their predecessors.  Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, underscored that with government leadership and support from the international community a great deal can be done to make systems more equitable, efficient, and resilient, capitalizing on lessons learned throughout the pandemic and on increasing investments, while also stressing the need to prioritize children and youth.  


UN: 280 Prisoners Dead in Ecuadorian Prison, UN Experts Call for Urging Action by the Government

On 6 December 2021, UN experts in a joint statement said that they were “appalled and gravely concerned” by the repeated riots which have resulted in the death of so many prisoners and there was a clear risk of further incidents. The statement was signed by Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Nils Melzer,  Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They called for urgent government action after a series of riots occurred in Ecuador which left more than 280 inmates dead and hundreds injured in the Ecuadorian prisons this year. During the most recent outbreak of violence, on 12 November, at least 62 inmates were killed and 44 were injured at the Centre of Deprivation of Liberty Guayas Nr. 1 (El Litoral Penitentiary) near the coastal city of Guayaquil. This was the fourth deadly riot at the prison this year. A few days earlier, four inmates were shot and killed during clashes inside the prison block, while in September; El Litoral Penitentiary saw the deadliest riot ever recorded in the country, with 118 inmates killed and more than 80 injured. The UN experts in their statement reminded authorities that they have an obligation to protect the life and physical integrity of individuals in detention, which also includes the duty to investigate unlawful deaths using the highest standards, as is determined by The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, and the failure to do so amounts to arbitrary deprivation of life, torture and other ill-treatment for which the authorities are responsible. They also noted that the Government has put the prison system under a state of emergency, and urged that concrete steps be taken to relieve overcrowding, prevent inmate’s access to weapons and promote the use of alternative measures of incarceration. They further also stated that the Government should also ensure strict adherence to the 2015 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules. 


WFP: Severe Crash Crunch Threatens Operations of the Agency in Ethiopia

On 6 December 2021, World Food Programme (WFP) warned that millions of people in Ethiopia could be pushed deeper into hunger as the agency is facing a major shortfall that threatens its operations there over the coming six months. WFP is in urgent need of $579 million to deliver food aid and livelihood support to some 12 million Ethiopians and refugees and it also includes $316 million for food and nutrition assistance to nearly four million people in the war-ravaged north.  It is estimated that 13.6 million people are now food insecure due to the combined effects of conflict, drought, flooding, desert locust invasions, market disruptions, high food prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Steven Were Omamo, WFP Representative and Country Director stated that timely and complete food and nutrition support is critical to alleviating the suffering of millions across Ethiopia. Moreover, he also stated that the agency was deeply concerned about the climate-related vulnerability and food insecurity in dry lowland areas, in addition to the severe challenges being faced by conflict impacted populations in many regions. Although food is available, Dr. Omamo stressed that unless the agency receives new funding commitments soon, “we will be unable to purchase and mobilise this food to prevent millions from falling into severe hunger and hardship by early next year.” WFP showed that record-high levels of acute food insecurity are expected in Ethiopia through at least the middle of 2022, with the northern, southern, and south-eastern parts of the country of highest concern. WFP reported last month that the number of people who needed food assistance across the north had risen as a direct result of the ongoing war there. WFP said although donors have stepped up and contributed to its operations in Ethiopia, the level of funding has not kept up with the rising needs, funding shortages have already led to ration cuts affecting some 710,000 refugees across the country, and 2.4 million food insecure people in Somali region. WFP is working throughout northern Ethiopia with the federal government and regional authorities, to reach populations affected by the conflict and the agency urged the warring sides to respect its staff and assets, as well as, access to areas of need.  


UNSC: Broader Political Commitment Needed to End Violence in DR Congo

On 6 December 2021, Bintou Keita, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while addressing the UN Security Council (UNSC) argued that, for stability to return to eastern Congo, “the State must succeed in restoring and maintaining the confidence of the people in their ability to protect, administer, deliver justice and meet their basic needs.” Ms. Keita, who also acts as the head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country (MONUSCO), said that she has stressed this regularly in her exchanges with the Head of State and with the Prime Minister. The UN Special Representative stated that the UN peacekeepers continue to support the Armed Forces in protecting civilians and neutralising armed groups. In May, the Congolese authorities declared a state of siege in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, whose duration has just been extended for the 13th time; though given the difficulties of implementing it, the Defence and Security Committee of the National Assembly carried out an assessment of the decision and made recommendations to the Government. This was saluted as a constructive and democratic approach by the UN Special Representative and she further called the consultations that followed “a step in the right direction.” For her, the challenges facing the Government in implementing the state of siege highlight “the limits of a strictly military approach to the protection of civilians and the neutralization of armed groups.” According to the Special representative, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in the east due to insecurity, epidemics and limited access to basic services. Ms. Keita pointed out that the illegal exploitation of natural resources was “a major driver of conflict” stating that it must be addressed and commended President Tshisekei’s intervention at the COP26 Summit, where he committed to combating deforestation in the Congo Basin rainforest and reducing greenhouse gas emission by 21 per cent by 2030. She told the UNSC that “a lasting solution” to the violence in DRC “requires a broader political commitment to address the root causes of conflict.”


UNHCR: More Effective Action Needed Against Gender Based Violence in Central America

On 6 December 2021, UNHCR in response to the alarming levels of gender-based violence in the north of Central America called for more effective, innovative and immediate measures to protect the rights of women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people on the move in the region. Gender Based Violence (GBV) is often underreported and statistically invisible. It is one of the primary factors driving women, girls and members of the LGBTIQ+ community to flee their homes in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; while at the same time, it is one of the key risks they face as they search for safety. Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, stated that it is unacceptable that gender-based violence continues to drive women, girls, LGBTIQ+ people from their homes and remains one of the major risks they face during their displacement. Further stating that national authorities must ensure they can access asylum and seek protection and scale-up prevention and response measure. A recent study in Honduras showed that the violence against women was a determining factor in displacement especially for those who had leadership roles and relationships with members of gangs or security forces. While, LGBTIQ+ people, especially transgender women were also particularly vulnerable to extortion, exploitation and persecution. In El Salvador, the NGO Comcavis Trans reports that nearly two-thirds of the LGBTIQ+ people they assisted this year were fleeing from criminal gangs, with death threats given as the primary reason and in Honduras, the NGO Cattrachas reports 373 violent murders of LGBTIQ+ persons since 2009. The UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner further added that prevention measures are crucial for empowering women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people, and in securing their rights and boosting their self-reliance; while at the same time, the survivors of abuse must be at the centre of all responses. One response in the region is a programme that uses roving vans, known as UNIVETs launched in Guatemala by UNHCR and the Secretariat Against Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons. UNIVETS travels to remote locations and along transit routes, to provide information and support to survivors of gender-based violence.



UN: Secretary General Called for Increased Support for Peacekeeping Amidst Mounting Threats

On 7 December 2021, the Secretary-General of the United Nations urged Nations to step up support for peacekeeping operations across the globe and thousands who serve within them. This appeal was made at the opening ceremony of the 2021 Seoul UN Peacekeeping Ministerial hosted by the Republic of Korea. The Secretary-General stated that this support is needed, especially due to new threats and mounting challenges. The Seoul meeting is in line with efforts to reform UN peacekeeping, particularly the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative launched three years ago by the Secretary-General. A4P encompasses eight priority areas and this has been enhanced through a strategy known as A4P+ to accelerate commitments over the next two years. The focus this time is on medical capacity building and technology. The Secretary-General also stated that there is a need for partnership to ensure that well-trained troops are deployed with the appropriate equipment adding that too often uninformed peacekeepers lack the skills to administer first aid, to plan and undertake first aid, to plan and undertake a patrol or to assess information and identify threats. South Korean Foreign Minister, Chung Eui-yong announced the launch of the Seoul Initiative on Technology and Medical Capacity-Building in Peacekeeping, one of a raft of pledges made by countries during the first day of the meeting. This was after he noted that the operating environment for peacekeeping missions had become increasingly complex and high risk. The Head of the UN Department of Operational Support said that efforts were being redoubled to reduce the missions’ environmental footprint, as well as, action on gender equality.


UN: Calls for Full Investigation into the Attack on UNHRC Staff in DRC

On 8 December 2021, the UN refugee agency expressed outrage over an attack on a convoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in which one of their vehicles was hit, injuring three staff members. This was after unidentified attackers opened fire on the convoy in the North Kivu Province. The agency reported that three UNHRC personnel received emergency medical assistance at the scene after which they were transported to the hospital.  The injured personnel were travelling in a clearly marked UNHRC vehicle after distributing aid to people already displaced from their homes by violence and to vulnerable families from the community. The agency in shock at the turn out of events, called for respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law to protect civilians and humanitarian workers from violence and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice immediately. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres called for holding the perpetrators accountable and wished a quick recovery of the injured staff members.  He noted that attacks on United Nations personnel and humanitarian workers may constitute a war crime. As such, he called on Congolese authorities to investigate the attack promptly and hold the perpetrators accountable.  Mr. Guterres further reaffirmed his continued support to all humanitarian workers in their efforts to deliver assistance to the Congolese people.


UN: Climate Change Aggravates Terrorism

On 9 December 2021, the UN chief told the Security Council that environmental degradation enables armed groups to extend their influence and manipulate resources to their advantage. During a debate on Security, in the context of terrorism and climate change, the UN Secretary-General explained that in Iraq and Syria, ISIL a terrorist group exploited water shortages and took control of water infrastructure to impose its will on communities while charcoal production provided income for Al-Shaabab. Mr. Guterres, UN Secretary-General, urged members to address the issue, pointing out that although climate change is not the source of all ills, it has a multiplier effect and is an aggravating factor for instability, conflict and terrorism.  He reminded that the regions that suffer most from climate change also suffer from insecurity, poverty, weak governance and the scourge of terrorism. He emphasised that climate impacts compound conflicts and exacerbate fragility, citing the example of the Lake Chad Basin where Boko Haram has been able to gain new recruits, particularly from local communities disillusioned by a lack of economic opportunity and access to essential resources. He outlined five points of action which he believes the council must take to address global security. First, that the council should focus on prevention and address the root causes of the insecurity. Second, to increase investment in adaptation and resilience. Mr Guterres reminded developed countries of their promise to contribute at least 100 billion per year to developing countries. He, however, warned that the cost of adaptation and resilience will be increasing in the next decade. Third, better analysis and early warning systems while also reiterating the need to build on existing expertise in disaster risk reduction and integrate climate risk into all economic and financial decisions. Going further, he mentioned the development of partnerships and initiatives linking local, regional, and national approaches. He then urged countries to make use of on-the-ground expertise while drawing on the political, technical and financial capacities of regional and international actors. Finally, sustained investment while warning that African Peace Missions in places like Sahel and Somalia often have limited room to maneuver and are faced with great funding uncertainties. He then urged ambassadors to consider the matter as soon as possible.


Afghanistan: Political Affairs Chief Had a Productive Exchange with the Taliban

On 9 of December 2021, the UN’s Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief during a three-day visit to Afghanistan urged Taliban representatives not to erase gains made by women and girls across the country in recent years.  The UN chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, said that she had useful exchanges about what was needed to be done to bring about an inclusive Afghanistan, abides by its human rights obligations and is a resolute partner in suppressing terrorism. She highlighted serious and understandable concerns about the situation of women in the country. This was after she stressed the importance of ensuring that all Afghans take part in governance and public life. She recalled that the women of Afghanistan want to be able to go to school, work and take part in public life, free of discrimination and that the progress made was not erased. Ms DiCarlo reaffirmed the support of the United Nations to Afghanistan during the three days meeting wherein she met with a wide range of Taliban representatives, members of civil society and the diplomatic community. The Under-Secretary-General decried the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country in the last year.  According to the World Food Programme (WFP), some 2 million Afghans require urgent food assistance, a figure which has never been seen before. The United Nations in response scaled up its aid, providing millions of Afghans with food, healthcare and nutritional support. As humanitarian requirements tripled, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General informed that in the three months of September through November, humanitarian partners have reached eight million Afghans with food assistance.  In the same period, millions of people received primary and secondary health-care services while thousands of children were treated for malnutrition. The worsening situations in the country lead the Spokesperson to conclude that the humanitarian requirement is expected to triple in 2022.


WFP:  West and Central Africa Suffer from Rise in Hunger and Food Insecurity

On 10 December 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the number of acutely food insecure people in West and Central Africa has risen to a high record and the trend points towards a further deterioration if there is no support to stem the hunger.  According to a report, millions of people in the Sahel and West Africa currently do not have sufficient food during the ongoing harvest season.  Another report states that an additional 2 million people in the Central African Republic are also acutely food insecure during the same period.  This is the largest number of people facing levels of high acute food insecurity in West and Central Africa recorded since 2014. The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO) and WFP urged regional leaders and their partners to step up to meet immediate needs and address the main drivers of food insecurity in the region. Both the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) and Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) released reports warning that without immediate, efficient and coordinated actions, the number of people who will be uncertain of their next meal will increase exponentially in the Sahel and West Africa, and a greater percentage in the Central African Republic (CAR) through June to August 2021. Going further, WPF Regional Director for West Africa said that food security indicators are all pointing in the wrong direction in this region and that they are seeing hunger at its highest level in almost eight years. He also said that needs currently exceed available funding and called upon donors to step up. He added that at the same time, the resilience of communities must be built through a proactively planned, government-led, community-owned response to food insecurity and malnutrition. On the other hand, the FAO sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa said that given the situation, there was a need to scale up investments to ensure off-season production and safeguard pastoralists’ livelihood given the upcoming lean. He added that the reduced availability of pasture and the limited mobility due to insecurity will pose tremendous challenges to pastoralists in the next few months.  According to FAO and WFP, ensuring immediate access to food sustained food production and preserving food systems, paving the way for recovery, especially in conflict-affected areas are the most cost-effective humanitarian response.


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