Weekly News Recap (31 January-6 February 2022)

© Photo by United Nations Photo via Flickr




Bosnia: Veljko Papic’s Forced Labour Conviction Overturned

On 31 January 2022, in a verdict by the Supreme Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the verdict convicting Veljko Papic, the former commander of the Third Company with the First Battalion of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Sarajevo-Romanija Corps was overturned. Papic was convicted for crimes committed against the civilian population in Sarajevo’s Grbavica and Kovacici neighbourhoods in 1993 and 1994. In January 2021, he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for ordering non-Serb civilians to do forced hard labour and for exposing them to life-threatening situations. The original verdict held that Papic forced civilians to do physically hard and humiliating labour and further abused them mentally. Papic ordered civilians to remove dead bodies and threatened to kill the civilians if they tried to run away. He was also found guilty of forcing three members of the forced labour squad to plant explosives in a building and of beating up one of the members. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction and sent it back for a retrial.


Norway: Anders Breivik’s Parole Request Rejected by the Court

On 1 February 2022, attacker Anders Behring Breivik’s request for parole was rejected by the Norwegian court. Breivik, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi, killed 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity in 2011. The Court held that he must remain in prison, as releasing him would bring forth “an obvious risk” of him returning to his old behaviours. During a hearing last month, the court held that he remains a potential threat even though he claims to have renounced violence. The Judge observed that “the risk of violence is real and significant.” The court found it unlikely for Breivik to be able to adjust to life outside of prison. During the trial, Breivik was declared sane, although the prosecution argued that he was psychotic. He is serving Norway’s maximum 21-year sentence for setting off a bomb in Oslo’s government district and carrying out a mass shooting massacre. A psychiatrist, as well as, prison officials, informed the court that there was an imminent danger that serious crimes would be committed if Breivik was released.


ECtHR: Time Limit for Individual Applications Reduced to 4 Months from the Date of the Final Decision

As of 1 February 2022, as a result of Protocol no. 15 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the time limit for the submission of individual applications has been reduced from 6 to 4 months from the date of the final decision. The new time limit is not retroactive. Hence in cases where the highest court has delivered the final decision before 1 February 2022, individuals can still submit an individual application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) within the 6-months period. The decisions delivered from 1 February 2022 onwards would need to be challenged at the ECtHR within the 4-months period. The time limit for an individual application is one of the admissibility criteria. Not meeting this criterion will result into the case being declared inadmissible before the ECtHR.


Israel: Army Takes Actions Against Officers Responsible for the Death of a Palestinian Man

On 1 February 2022, the Israeli army announced that it is going to remove two officers from their commands and reprimand another officer for the death of a 78 year old Palestinian man while he was under arrest. The Palestinian man named Omar Abdulmajeed Asaad was assaulted by the Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army in a statement said that Asaad’s death was a result of “moral failure and poor decision-making.” It was further explained in the statement that Asaad had no identification and had “refused to cooperate” with the troops. He was then tied by the soldiers and was taken to a nearby building with three other detainees. During the post-mortem, it was found that he had died of a “stress-induced heart attack caused by the circumstances of his detention by Israeli soldiers.” The Palestinian Authority welcomed the investigation but called on Israel to investigate every Palestinian death and not just of those that hold a US passport.


Serbia: Court Overturns Bosnian Serb Ex-Soldier’s Wartime Conviction

On 1 February 2022, a court in Belgrade upheld the appeal of Dalibor Krstovic while dismissing the first-instance verdict that convicted him of raping a female Bosniak prisoner who was detained in an elementary school in the Bosnian town of Kalinovik during the war in August 1992. The first-instance verdict in May 2021 found that Krstovic went to the elementary school along with a soldier and raped the woman who was held captive with her two children. Krstovic denied the charge. He was indicted in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017 before the case was handed over to the Serbian authorities. The Appellate Court observed that the legal procedures were violated, as some witnesses were interviewed in Bosnia before the case got transferred to Serbia, without the presence of defence counsel. This clearly shows that the defendant was prevented from cross-examining the witnesses, violating the defendant’s rights. As a result, the court ordered a retrial.


Italy: Court Definitively Annuls the Pre-trial Arrest Warrant for the Prime Vatican Suspect

On 3 February 2022, the Italian appeals court has definitely annulled the pre-trial arrest warrant for the prime suspect in the Vatican’s fraud and embezzlement trial. The annulment signifies an end to the extradition procedures in Britain. Vatican prosecutors had been investigating Torzi for his role in the Holy See’s bungled 350 million-euro investment in a London residential property. Torzi is accused of trying to extort the Vatican of 15 million euros to turn over full ownership of the property. His status in the case has been in an uncertain stage due to the extradition proceedings between Italy and Britain and the legitimacy of the Italian arrest warrant. The decision has ceased the attempts of bringing Gianluigi Torzi back to Italy. The Vatican does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. Torzi has denied the accusations and says he has not done any wrong in both the Italian and Vatican cases. The Court of Cassation found that Italian prosecutors hadn’t provided full documentation beneficial to Torzi’s defence when the judge was deciding whether to issue the warrant. Thus, the Review Tribunal annulled the warrant.



ECtHR: Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland Declared Not an Independent and Impartial Tribunal Established by Law

On 3 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held that there had been a violation of the right to a fair trial in the case of Advance Pharma sp. z o.o v. Poland. The case was initiated by the applicant company, claiming that the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, which had adjudicated a case concerning the company, had not been established by law and lacked independence and impartiality. Notably, the ECtHR found that the procedure for appointing judges to the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court had been unduly influenced by the legislative and executive powers. The case is one of the 94 pending cases against Poland concerning the reorganization of the Polish judicial system.


Myanmar: Government Files Eleventh Corruption Charge against Aung San Suu Kyi

On 4 February 2022, in its eleventh filing of corruption charges against the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar government has alleged that Suu Kyi received $550,000 as a donation for a charity foundation named after her mother. The statement gave no further details as to when the case would commence. While the case was announced, the military launched attacks on civilians and burnt houses, forcing many to flee the region. Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since the Coup that took place on 1 February 2021 and led to the mass protests and killing of 1500 civilians. Under various other charges, she has already been sentenced to six years of imprisonment and is currently under house arrest. Each corruption charge carries a possible 15-year of imprisonment. The military has further announced that she will be facing new charges in mid-February for influencing the country’s election commission during the 2020 polls.


Denmark: Three Iranian Separatists Found Guilty of Spying for Saudi Arabia

On 4 February 2022, three members of an Iranian separatist group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) were found guilty by a Danish court for facilitating and promoting violence in Iran and for gathering information for an unnamed intelligence service in Saudi Arabia. The Court in its observation found that they took the information of individuals and organisations of Denmark and on Iranian military affairs and passed it on to a Saudi intelligence service. The Dutch police said that a part of the ASMLA movement has an armed wing that carries attacks in Iran.  Denmark’s Security and Intelligence Service commenced the investigation of this case in November 2018. The trio was arrested in February 2020 in Ringsted. The men pleaded not guilty. Most of the proceedings were held privately to safeguard the interest of foreign relationships and the accused. The sentence will be announced in March. The men, who were not identified according to Danish rules, face up to 12 years in jail.



Myanmar: An Opportunity to Assist in Unity Building in Myanmar

On 31 January 2022, Noeleen Heyzer, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General while speaking to journalists in Geneva told the international community that there exists a ‘window of opportunity’ for building upon the unique unity that currently exists across religious, ethnic, and communal lines to help the country work towards a common vision. The “broad-based resistance movement built against the military regime” due to military exploits, has made Myanmar increasingly unstable. In order to help lay the building blocks for a national dialogue, the Special Envoy introduced several proposals which included the need for a ‘humanitarian pause’ and action on part of the UNSC. She further stated that tangible improvements which can be seen by the people of Myanmar, on the ground, are needed to build, and increase trust in any homegrown process that works towards a peaceful resolution, reflecting their will and needs. She also addressed the situation of Rohingyas, as hundreds of thousands have fled Bangladesh since 2017, amidst brutal persecution by the military and security. She urged for international support for creating conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified retuned for the Rohingyas, as well as, urgent protection for refugees fleeing Myanmar, saying it should be part of broader efforts to find peaceful political solutions.


Lebanon: UN Mission Pioneer in Gender Sensitive Peacekeeping Operations

On 31 January 2022, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) received funding by a new initiative called ‘Elsie Initiative Fund for Women in Peace Operations’ which is a multilateral fund set up by the UN Member States, that aims to accelerate progress towards gender parity in peacekeeping operations. The initiative is a first of its kind which aims to provide gender-sensitive housing and invest in better working conditions for women peacekeepers who are serving in Lebanon. The $357,000 grant aims to provide: four women-specific accommodation buildings, restrooms, and a welfare area. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN peacekeeping chief stated that women still face barriers that prevent them from contributing towards peacekeeping which is inclusive of lack of information about deployment-related opportunities or provision of inadequate infrastructure and facilities. He further added that the UNIFIL project is representative of the expression of shred values for gender equality and also for promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the force. According to Sima Bahous, UN Women’s Executive Director, the UNIFIL project that has been funded by the Elsie Initiative Fund is a great example of tackling significant structural barriers and also helping in achieving parity in peace operations. With the help of this protection, UNIFIL aims to support troops and police-contributing countries to increase deployments of women peacekeepers.


UNICEF: Third Cycle of Drought, Millions Being Pushed to the Brink in Ethiopia

On 1 February 2022, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, in the spirit of the General Assembly’s Olympic Truce made the “strongest possible appeal” for all parties in Ethiopia to cease hostilities in Tigray and other areas. He stated that these actions would pave the way for providing effective humanitarian access to Ethiopians and would further lead to a much needed inclusive national dialogue. At the same time, he reiterated that more than 6.8 million people will require urgent humanitarian assistance by mid-March because of the relentless drought in the country, according to UNICEF. Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have brought on severe droughts in the lowland regions of Afar, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNPR), as well as, in Somali. As a result, water wells have dried up, killed livestock and crops, and has pushed hundreds of thousands of children and their families to the brink. To date, around 4.4 million people are facing critical water shortages in Oromia and Somali. In the most severely impacted regions, away from the fighting in the north, there is a significant lack of clean water and food security is quickly deteriorating. In the Somali and Oromia regions, around 155,000 children have dropped out of school so that they can help fetching water; often travelling long distances, or looking after other children while caregivers try to find water for their families and cattle. In response to the crisis, the agency is providing life-saving assistance and is in close coordination with local authorities. The response includes rehabilitation of boreholes and water schemes, emergency water trucking and treatment of severely malnourished children along with providing emergency education and children protecting support. The UNICEF has appealed for $31 million in response to the drought crisis in Ethiopia which is in addition to the overall humanitarian appeal of $351 million. The funding would be targeting more than two million vulnerable people in the four regions of Afar, Oromia, SNNPR and Somali.



UN: Missile Launch By DPR Korea Violates International Law

On 1 February 2022, the Democratic Republic of Korea launched a possible intermediate-range ballistic missile, which drew condemnation from the UN Secretary-General. Farhan Haq, UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Spokesperson stated on behalf of Mr. Guterres that this amounted to breaking of DPRK’s announced moratorium in 2018 on launches of this kind and is a clear violation of the Security Council resolutions. The UN chief urged that the country must desist from taking any further counter-productive actions and also called on parties to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution. He also maintained that it was a matter of great concern that DPRK has shown disregard for any consideration for the safety of international flight or shipping, as the missile reportedly flew across the country and into the sea of the east coast. UN Chief’s statement comes in response to the latest launch that was conducted on 30 January and was confirmed by DPRK to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile. While according to news reports, the flight data of the launch suggests that it was the most powerful launch that had been conducted by the regime since November 2017. In early January, DPRK has claimed to have successfully tested two hypersonic missiles, and then another from a rail car, on 14 January; while UNSC resolution prohibits the development of all ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. 


WHO: Report on COVID-19 and Waste Management Globally

On 1 February 2022, WHO released a new report titled ‘Global analysis of healthcare waste in the context of COVID-19: status, impacts and recommendations’ which discusses how plastic trash is not only a threat to human and environmental health, but also lays out the dire need for improving waste management practices. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Chief stated that even though pandemic is the most severe health crisis in a century, it is connected to many other challenges that are faced by countries. The analysis also stated that tens of thousands of tonnes of extra medical waste from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has also put a tremendous amount of strain on healthcare waste management systems around the globe. The report is based upon approximately 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) which was procured between March 2020 and November 2021 and was shipped through a joint UN emergency initiative. The report does not take into consideration any of the COVID-19 commodities that have been procured outside of this initiative. According to WHO at present, 30 % of healthcare facilities in the least developed nations are not properly equipped to handle existing waste loads, which exposes health workers to needle injuries, burns and pathogenic microorganisms. Moreover, communities that live near poorly managed landfills are bound to be impacted by the contaminated air from the burning waste, or disease-carrying pests. The report also analysed over 140 million test kits, which have the potential to generate 2600 tonnes of non-infectious waste and 731,000 litres of chemical waste have been shipped. Less attention was paid towards safe and sustainable management of waste by counties as they were struggling with the task of securing quality assured PPE kits and other medical supplies for combating the pandemic.  The report also sets out recommendations which include eco-friendly packaging and shipping purchasing of safe and reusable PPE kits, investment in non-burn waste treatment technologies and investing in the recycling sector to ensure that materials like plastic can have a second life.



DRC: Militia Attack on Camp Leads to Multiple Deaths

On 2 February 2022, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reported that roughly 50 people were killed in an attack on Tuesday, at a site for internally displaced persons. The agency reported that the attack was carried out by members of the so-called Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO). The Secretary-General’s Deputy Spokesperson, while briefing journalists, stated that the UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with the assailants shortly after arriving at the scene. The agency sent humanitarian partners to provide aid, although humanitarian officials reported that access by road is restricted due to insecurity, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance is challenged. While speaking on this, the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) reported that over 6,000 cases of human rights violations were documented last year in the country, which is down by nearly 12 per cent from 2020. State agents on the other hand have accounted for 35 per cent of the violations, including the extrajudicial killings of at least 40 civilians. This has led to the government-imposed ‘state siege’ last year in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. The humanitarian crises sadly continued despite efforts.


UNAMI: UN Agency Calls for More Dialogue as Civilian Casualties Escalate

On 2 February 2022, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMI) reiterated that Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity “must be respected at all times.” Recently, Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish insurgents, killing at least four people. The Turkish defence ministry said the goal of the new aerial offensive was to protect Turkey’s borders from “terrorist threats.” In the meantime, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that four children have been maimed over the past week, due to explosive devices left behind by combatants. The agency noted that these were not isolated incidences as 125 children were killed or maimed by explosive remnants of war (ERW) and unexploded ordnance over last year. The representative of the agency said that ERW continues to be a primary reason for civilian casualties, with children being especially vulnerable due to their smaller size. She then warned that child safety must remain a primary concern. Accordingly, all parties should clear all existing mines and unexploded ordnance and promote victim assistance, while urging national governments and donors to support Explosive Ordnance Risk Education activities, so that children and community members in areas previously affected by conflict, receive information on how to protect themselves.


UN: US Special Forces Operation Leads to the Death of ISIL Leader

On 3 February, UN Spokesperson expressed concern over reported civilian casualties, following an attack by the United States Special Forces in Northwest Syria. Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General told journalists that “the UN system, as a whole, has been very united in efforts to act against Da’esh, so any successes against them are to be welcomed.” That said, initial investigations carried out revealed that at least 13 civilians, including women and children reportedly died from the US special forces operation. Mr. Haq reiterated the need for all parties to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law. The US raid targeted Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who took over as head of the group in 2019. The US government reported, that al-Qurayshi died by a bomb explosion killing himself and his family, as US forces approached. Mr. Haq reiterated that ISIL has ‘committed heinous crimes and brought tragedy to thousands of men, women and children.’


Burkina Faso: Increase in Displacement Adds to Sahel Crisis

On 4 February 2022, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reported that insecurity in Burkina Faso is pushing more people to seek safety both within and outside the country. The situation in the area, which deteriorated due to political instability, is being worsened by the crises. The UNHCR has so far registered and provided assistance, to over 4,000 Burkinabe since May of last year. Over 19,000 Burkinabe have fled to Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Benin,  a 50 per cent increase over 2020 (as reported by UNHCR). Currently, more than 34,000 are in exile across the region.  Burkina Faso also faces an internal displacement crisis with over 1.5 million displaced last year. The Spokesperson of the UNHCR opined that while the conflict gets protracted, large parts of the Sahel remain inaccessible to humanitarian support. He added that threats to women and youth are particularly severe and that interventions are vital to alleviate suffering and prevent abuse.


UNHCR: UN Agency Gives Aid to 20,000 Refugees Fleeing Clashes in Ethiopia

On 4 February 2022, the UN Refugee Agency reported that it is providing aid to over 20,000 refugees who fled clashes in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz region. Fighting broke out on 18 January, in the town of Tongo where a nearby camp hosting over 10,000 refugees was looted and burned. The situation in the Benishangul Gumuz region remains tense where more than 70,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees and over 500,000 internally displaced Ethiopians, are currently being hosted. The spokesperson to the UNHCR revealed that the UNHCR is working with the Ethiopian Government’s Refugee and Returnees Service and partners to provide urgent assistance to displaced refugees. A UN official said that the UN is working to install basic services including shelter, water points and latrines in order to begin the process of relocating refugees to those sites, as soon as possible. The government, UNHCR and partners, have been aiding the region’s internally displaced, reaching over 100,000 people throughout last year. The spokesperson stressed the need to end the conflict while seeking the protection of civilians and those forcibly displaced.


EU: Council Imposes Sanction on Mali Leaders for Causing Obstruction of Political Transition

On 4 February 2022, several senior leaders of Mali’s transitional government were sanctioned by the European Union (EU) for delayed elections and lack of reforms. The sanctioned leaders included the prime minister, as well as, top military commanders who removed former Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. These leaders are responsible for hindering and undermining the successful completion of Mali’s political transition. The five leaders have now been subjected to a travel ban that restricts them from entering or transiting through EU territories and an asset freeze. Further, EU citizens are prohibited from directly or indirectly funding them. In May 2021, the European Council strongly condemned the coup d’état which took place in Mali. In June, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution calling for all the Malian stakeholders to aid the political transition and handover of power within 18 months. In November, a lack of progress called for the imposition of sanctions against the leaders. In December, the council set up an autonomous framework for sanctions against those responsible for threatening the peace, security or stability of Mali.



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