Weekly News Recap (7-13 February 2022)

© Photo by andresAzp via Flickr




IRMCT: Acquitted and Released ICTR Accused Transferred Back to Arusha

On 7 February 2022, a Judge of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) ordered the return to Arusha of eight persons who have been acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) or released having served their sentences. The eight, who had remained in Arusha since they could not return to Rwanda, were moved to Niger in the beginning of December last year, following an agreement between the country and the IRMCT. Just a few weeks later, Niger suddenly and surprisingly ordered them to leave the country. In his order, the Judge concluded that this situation required that the IRMCT receive the eight back to the Arusha branch of the Mechanism on a temporary basis, until their transfer to another State is secured.


Venezuela: Two Officers Sentenced to 30 Years Over In-Custody Death

As reported on 7 February 2022, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced that two members of the armed forces implicated in the in-custody death of retired Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo were sentenced to 30 years in prison. The day before, Saab stated that the National Prosecutor’s Office sought the heavy sentences after Lieutenant Antonio Ascanio Tarascio Mejías and Sargent José Estiben Zárate Zoto were found guilty of torture and qualified homicide in the death of Acosta. The in-custody death of Arévalo in June 2019 drew international attention and was one of a number of high-profile cases cited before the International Criminal Court as evidence of alleged human rights abuses by the Venezuelan state.


ICC: Trial Chamber Hears The Opening Statements by the Legal Representative of Victims in Timbuktu Case

On 8 February 2022, the Trial Chamber X continued to hear evidence in the case of Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoal Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud. Al Hassan is charged with several crimes, including torture, rape, and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, between April 2012 and January 2013. At the time, he served as head of the Islamic Police in the Ansar Dine militia. Al Hassan was arrested and transferred to the ICC in March 2018, having the trial started in July 2020. Al Hassan is the second extremist to face trial at the ICC for the destruction of Timbuktu’s shrines, being the Court’s first case focused on cultural destruction. The Prosecution had finalised the presentation of its evidence and on 8 February 2022, the Chamber heard the opening statements and presentation of evidence by the Legal Representative of Victims who stated that “Timbuktu was […] reduced to a shadow of its former self and this will be remembered for thousands of years to come”. According to the Prosecutor, Al Hassan was a key figure in the police and court system set up by the militants after they exploited an ethnic Tuareg uprising in 2012.



ECtHR: Interim Measures in the Case of Polish Supreme Court Judge’s Immunity

On 8 February 2022, the European Court of Justice (ECtHR) decided to indicate an interim measure in the case Wróbel v. Poland concerning a judge and well-known critic of the Government’s judicial reforms. Mr Wróbel has been a judge in the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland since 2011. The ECtHR asked that the Government ensure that the proceedings concerning the lifting of Mr Wróbel’s judicial immunity comply with the requirements of a fair trial as guaranteed by Article 6 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the requirement of an independent and impartial tribunal established by law, and that no decision in respect of his immunity be taken by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court until the final determination of his complaints by the ECtHR.


KSC: Third Decision on Conduct of Proceedings in Mustafa Case and Two Decisions by the Court of Appeals in Shala Case

On 9 February 2022, the Trial Panel at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) decided in the Prosecutor v. Salih Mustafa case to vacate the deadlines imposed in its earlier decision on 21 January. Accordingly, the Defence shall file its motion for dismissal of charge(s) pursuant to Rule 130 by 15 February at 16:00 hours and the Panel intends to issue its decision on it between 23 and 25 February. On 11 February 2022, The Court of Appeals Panel denied Shala’s appeal against the Pre-Trial Judge’s decision rejecting the Defence motion challenging the jurisdiction of the Specialist Chambers. In another decision, the Court of Appeals Panel dealt with the accused’s appeal against the decision of the Pre-Trial Judge on the review of his detention. The Panel granted one ground of appeal and remanded the matter to the Pre-Trial Judge  in order to, inter alia, seek additional information from the KSC Registrar and invite the Defence to consult with the Belgian authorities about the potential enforcement of the conditions proposed by the accused . Other grounds of appeal were dismissed.



ICJ: Judgment on Reparations in the Case of DRC v. Uganda

On 9 February 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its Judgment on the question of reparations in the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda). The judgment fixes the amounts for the compensation for the damage caused by the violations of international obligations by the Republic of Uganda, as found by the ICJ in its Judgment of 19 December 2005 as follows: US$225,000,000 for damage to persons, US$40,000,000 for damage to property and US$60,000,000 for damage related to natural resources. In its Judgment on the merits of the case delivered on 19 December 2005, the Court found that Uganda had violated the principle of non-use of force in international relations and the principle of non-intervention and that it had violated human rights and humanitarian law as an occupying Power in the Congolese province of Ituri. The Court found at the same time that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had for its part violated obligations owed to Uganda under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Court concluded that the Parties were under an obligation to one another to make reparation for the injury caused. It also decided that, failing agreement between the Parties, the question of reparation due to each of them would be settled by the Court, in a subsequent procedure in the case.



ICC: Blé Goudé’s Request for Compensation Rejected

On 10 February 2022, the Chamber constituted to decide on the request for compensation presented by Mr Charles Blé Goudé pursuant to article 85(3) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its decision rejecting this request. Following the confirmation on 31 March 2021 by the majority of ICC Appeals Chamber of the acquittal decision, issued by majority of Trial Chamber I on 15 January 2019, Mr Blé Goudé filed a request for compensation before the Presidency which, on 14 September 2021, constituted the Article 85 Chamber, designating it to consider the request. When rejecting the request, the Chamber recalled that according to article 85 of the Statute the Court may in its discretion award compensation “[i]n exceptional circumstances, where the Court finds conclusive facts showing that there has been a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice”. The Chamber considered that Article 85(3) should not be interpreted as providing a right to compensation in all cases resulting in an acquittal and that a ‘failed’ prosecution does not necessarily mean that the prosecution was ‘wrongful’, irrespective of whether the accused spent time in detention.



ECtHR: Conviction of a Syrian Migrant Smuggler Based on Witness Statements not Examined at Trial in Violation of the Right to a Fair Trial

On 10 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgment in the case of Al Alo v. Slovakia concerning a Syrian national’s complaint that his trial and conviction on charges of migrant smuggling had been unfair. An important part of the evidence against him had come from the migrants he had aided, who had been questioned only at the pre-trial stage of the proceedings. These witnesses had later been expelled from Slovakia and thus absent from the applicant’s trial. At the time the applicant had been without legal counsel and had not attended their pre-trial questioning. The Court found that the applicant had been deprived of the possibility to examine or have examined witnesses whose evidence had carried significant weight in his conviction, without sufficient justification. In particular, although the migrants’ absence from the country had in principle been valid grounds for admitting in trial evidence of their pre-trial testimony, on the facts there had not been good enough reasons for their non-attendance at the applicant’s trial as the authorities had been provided with their addresses and identity documents and they had failed to make use of means of securing the witnesses’ appearance remotely.



UN: Security Council Sanctions ‘Not an End in Themselves’

On 7 February 2022, Rosemary A. DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs stated in a debate on sanctions in the Security Council that the sanctions by UNSC are no longer the ‘blunt instrument’ they were once considered as, and that they have transformed since the 1990s into a “vital tool” which further minimises the negative consequences for civilians and Sates that are not being targeted directly. The Under-Secretary-General further stated that at present there were 14 Council sanction regimes in place around the world. These sanctions have supported measures for conflict resolution in Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Yemen, while also deterring unconstitutional changes of the government in places like Guinea Bissau and have constrained the proliferation activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The UN Political chief states that in order for the sanctions should be a part of a comprehensive strategy as they are not an end in themselves and they should work along with direct political dialogue, mediation and peacekeeping. According to Ms DiCarlo, there has been an immense change in the evolution of sanctions from being comprehensive to targeted, but they’re still exists concerns. She stated that the imposition of additional conditions by financial actors and other service providers such as an increase in costs or simply refusing to provide the requested good and services inhibits the delivery of humanitarian assistance. While according to Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, sanctions that are applied by the Member States have a wider impact than the ones that have been put in place by the UNSC.


EU: Russia and Ukraine Tension Leads to a Dangerous Moment

On 7 February 2022, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated that Europe is going through its most dangerous moments for security since the end of the Cold War. This statement took place shortly after French President Macron went to Moscow in an attempt to avoid war and build trust. Meanwhile, President Putin mentioned that both countries found themselves with a common interest and concern for the security sphere in Europe. More than 100.000 troops were deployed from Russia to Ukraine’s borders despite Putin denying any plans of invasion. NATO’S potential addition of Ukraine is seen as a threat to the security of Russia. Russia’s deployment has generated a response from the US, who has since deployed 3000 troops to Poland and Romania, with Germany deploying 350 troops. For now, one thing remains clear: Russia wants its demands to be met but countries like the US and its allies stand firm at the decision of not granting those wishes.


IOM: Displacement Continues amid Intensifying Crisis in Afghanistan

On 8 February 2022, Ugochi Daniels, the Deputy Director of Operations for the International Organisation on Migration stated that the ongoing crisis has intensified humanitarian needs in Organisation and has further increased displacement both inside the country and across the border. The IOM has stated that more than 700,000 Afghans have left their homes and have been added to the 5.5 million people already displaced over the past years. The agency further explained that in the past year, Afghans have crossed the border into Iran and Pakistan, and the trend is likely to continue in the upcoming months. The agency also warned that as the needs of people are growing continuously, the failure to sustain and also improve access to essential services while also effectively addressing vulnerabilities of populations that have been affected by the crisis would further cause a surge in displacement and migration. The IOM has appealed for $589 million in order to respond to the urgent humanitarian and protection needs of more than 3.6 million people in Afghanistan, and without funding for supporting a response that encompasses urgent humanitarian action, the socio-economic conditions would continue to deteriorate. The agency scaled up its operational capacities between August and December in order to reach more than 600,000 people in Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 


UNHCR, UNICEF, OHCHR & IOM: Deep Concern over Creating Safer Migration Pathways

On 8 February 2022, UNHCR, UNICEF, OHCHR and IOM issued a joint statement expressing their deep sadness over the death of a baby during an interception at the sea off the southeast coast of Trinidad on 6 February. They further called for stringer measures for protecting refugees and migrants and made a joint plea urging countries to do more to prevent similar deaths from occurring. According to news reports, the incident occurred on 6 February on a vessel carrying Venezuelans which was intercepted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard when it entered the country’s maritime territory. According to the Coast Guard, a mother and infant were injured during the incident, with the woman being taken to a health facility while the baby tragically died. Dr Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, stated that this incident highlights the plight that is faced by people on the move during desperate and dangerous journeys towards safety. The joint statement issued by the UN agencies stated that the pathways that are for entry and stay should be in consonance with the international human rights and humanitarian consideration and should also include access to due process and procedural safeguards. The UN agencies have further appealed to the States for establishing a mechanism that would help in the protection of the rights of the people on the move especially women, girls, boys and others with specific protection needs. Dr Stein reiterated that safer pathways are needed for refugees and migrants, for preventing these tragedies from happening. In December 2021, UNHCR and IOM launched a joint appeal for $1.79 billion in order to fund the regional plan which would support the increasing needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants and also their host communities that are living across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.


UNDP: Growing Sense of Insecurity Among People, Despite Years of Development Growth

On 8 February 2022, UNDP released a new report titled ‘New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene’, which stated that the sense of safety and security of people is at an all time low in almost every country, with six in seven countries having been plagued by a feeling of insecurity. The report further called for greater solidarity across the border in order to tackle the disconnect that exists between development and perceived security. Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator stated that a majority of people feel apprehensive about the future despite global wealth being higher than before and it is likely that these feelings have been exacerbated by the pandemic; he further stated that there is a need for a ‘fit-for-purpose’ development model that is built around the protection and restoration of the planet along with new sustainable opportunities for all. The report has examined various threats that have become prominent and include threats from digital technologies, widening inequalities, conflicts and the ability of healthcare systems for tackling new challenges such as the pandemic. In order to address these threats, there is a need for taking into consideration solidarity, empowerment and protection along with human security, human development and climate concerns. Asako Okai, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Crisis Bureau, states that the report has highlighted the need for building a greater and better sense of global solidarity which is based upon the idea of common security. 



Iraq: Final Reparation for Victims of 1990 Invasion of Kuwait

On 9 February 2022, Iraq made final reparation to Kuwait following the 1990 invasion. This is coming after almost 30 years after the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) was created to ensure restitution for Kuwait. According to a press release by the UN office in Geneva, all compensations are now paid in full with the final payment made on 13 January. A special session was convened by the UNCC to mark the formal conclusion of the reparation payment which was to the tune of $52.4 billion, for persons, companies and bodies who proved specific injuries suffered at the invasion and occupation of Kuwait that year. A delegation from both countries addressed the session during the open plenary meeting. The reparation amount which has gone to the successful plaintiff was paid from the UN Compensation Fund since it received a percentage of the proceeds generated over the years by export sales of Iraqi Petroleum and its products. This three per cent payment was originally 30 per cent but was reduced over time under various Security Council resolutions and Governing Council decisions. The Governing Council in its recently adopted decision declared that the Government of Iraq had fulfilled its international obligations to compensate all successful claimants for the losses and damages they suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion of Kuwait. The UNCC however expressed gratitude towards Iraq for its cooperation and commitment in meeting its obligations despite serious security and economic challenges. The government of Kuwait was not also left out. It is expected that the UNCC President will present the final report of the Governing Council on the Commission’s work soon enough.


UN: Counter Terrorism Chief Warns About Continued Battle with Da’esh

On 9 February 2022, Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism told the Security Council that the global fight against threats posed by ISIL which are officially known as Da’esh seems to remain a long term issue with no ‘quick fixes’. The Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism said the threat from Da’esh is very real in Syria and Iraq where the group continues to carry out hit-and-run operations, ambushes and roadside bombings. Describing the recent attempts of jailbreak in Syria by members of the force, the Under-Secretary-General noted with sadness that it was a “shattering and sober reminder” of the network’s “extreme brutal violence”, especially since the attempt led to serious humanitarian consequences. With the attack leading to the death of ISIL leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi, the Under-Secretary-General warned that Da’esh is known for its ability to regroup and even intensify its activities following major defeats. He then underlined the need for both military counter-terrorism operations and more comprehensive measures with a focus on prevention counter-attacks. The UN Chief called for efforts to address the dire situations of many in displacement camps and detention facilities across Syria and Iraq, where thousands of people remain stranded through no fault of their own. The Under-Secretary-General also reported on the expansion of the network and its affiliates beyond Syria and Iraq to the African continent as attacks are attacks increasingly reported in the border area between Mozambique and Tanzania. He further called on countries to use every tool at their disposal to sustain important gains made against Da’esh, preventing its further regional expansion, curtailing its attack capabilities and preventing additional recruitment.


UN: Deputy Secretary-General Foresees Hope for Ethiopia while Calling for Peace

On 9 February 2022, the UN Deputy Secretary-General met some of those whose lives have been upended by conflict in Ethiopia while also hearing stories of hope that point towards a return to lasting peace across the African nation. This was following a meeting of the African Union where the Under-Secretary-General represented the Secretary-General. During the visit, the UN Chief met with a lot of people including the Vice President of Amhara and witnessed first-hand how the United Nations is trying to assist those most in need. While offering support for the organization, she noted that there is a lot of work that has been done to help the people of Amhara. But what is clear is that the price for conflict is too high, and therefore, peace is indispensable adding that more than 9 million people need humanitarian food assistance. The UN chief saw firsthand the wanton destruction caused by the continued conflict and was informed by one of the students she interacted with -whose school was destroyed-, that Members of the community contributed from their meagre income, to add more facilities to the school so that they could get quality education. With this destruction, she fears that none of them can make any contribution to rebuilding and furnishing new study areas, as they are struggling to make ends meet. The Deputy Secretary-General then went to Tigray, where the clashes first erupted between Federal Government troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Options for peaceful resolution of the conflict were discussed as well as the benefit that would present to all Ethiopians. Upon, the UN chef’s visit to the health care centre located at the capital of the city, she was moved by the many ugly stories she heard especially the survival stories of the women. The doctors in the health centre reported with sadness the unavailability of basic test kits and other materials for the smooth running of the health centre and how they had suffered from the lack. Going further, the Deputy Secretary-General went to Somalia alongside Ethiopia’s president. Since the country suffers from severe drought, it will leave more than 6.8 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance by mid-March. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia told the UN news about the allocation made to the Somali for aid to those in need and that more assistance is needed. While at Somalia, the Deputy Secretary-General met with the President of the region, pastoralists, displaced people and community leaders where she discussed issues bordering on the region. While listening to their stories, looking at the faces of survivors, the Assistant Secretary-General said that there is hope for the country.


UNHCR & IOM: Call for More International Support for Niger

On 11 February 2022, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees noted that he has seen first the strength of the migrants, as well as, the challenges faced by the host communities. This requires a holistic response that puts human rights and well-being of people at the centre. The representatives of the two synergizing organizations while focusing on the solutions, stressed that stronger humanitarian and development support will be crucial to addressing mixed flows. The officials called for more actors to invest alongside the humanitarian organization to help motivate the impact of climate change on forced migration and displacement. The officials noted with commendation the exemplary solidarity in Niger whereby migrants and forcibly displaced persons were fully embraced despite limited resources. At a high-level roundtable on mixed migration in Niger organized in Niamey during the joint IOM-UNHCR visit, participants discussed how to better support Niger to manage the challenges of complex movements of refugees and migrants. The officials of the two organizations discussed support for migrants and communities hosting them during a meeting with President Mohamed Bazoum.


WFP: Madagascan Government Alongside WFP Reaches out to People Affected by Cyclone Batsirai

On 11 February 2022, the World Food Programme alongside the government of Madagascar provided food relief, as well as, IT assistance amongst other forms of relief to districts of Mananjary and Manakara badly affected by Cyclone Batsirai that made landfall on 5 February. It is noteworthy that food support from the WFP started reaching the area even before the cyclone started reaching the affected communities. The WFP also supported assessments to ascertain the impacts of the cyclone. According to the WFP’s country director in Madagascar, the organization is working assiduously to ensure that food and essentials reach those whose lives have been turned upside down by the cyclone. Our logistics and IT support to humanitarian partners in ensuring a timely and efficient response to the disaster, adding that severe damage and destruction to crops were observed. The works of the WFP in the area is commendation. This includes the distribution of 10,000 hot meals in cyclone shelters in Manakara, since 3 February 2022, the distribution of some 8.7 MT of prepositioned foods to displaced persons in Manakara, as well as, other volumes of distributions in other areas. Cash distribution, provision of transport to partners between Manakara and Mananjary to enable relief efforts, and the already provision of logistic support for relief goods are noteworthy contributions. WFP also deployed staff to assess the IT needs of the entire humanitarian community in the areas worst affected and also provided the government with IT equipment, as well as, a vehicle to access WFP’s data-collecting platforms.


OHCHR: Brazil Must not Dismantle its National Torture Mechanism and Comply with Its International Obligations

On 11 February 2022, Suzanne Jabbour, the head of the three-member delegation from the UN torture prevention body which visited Brazil earlier this month urged that the country must drop its decision of dismantling the national torture prevention mechanism. The UN independent expert said that Brazil must comply with its international obligations and also reinforce the nation’s prevention mechanisms against torture. According to the OHCHR, Brazil has more than 750,000 detainees and many overcrowded prisons. The delegation that visited Brazil, met with all the senior authorities and held meetings with the country’s torture prevention watchdog, Federal National Preventive Mechanism (MNPCT) and agreed that a well-functioning preventive mechanism was absolutely important both on a federal and state level. The UN expert underscored that they will continue to engage with Brazil’s prevention mechanisms and relevant authorities/institutions and also support their efforts for establishing a strong, functional and independent monitoring system to prevent torture in the country. According to the Optional Protocol against Torture, the State parties to it are obliged to establish a functional and independent national preventive mechanism. Even though Brazil has established a national system of torture prevention in 2013, only four out of its 26 states have set up a body that regularly visits imprisoned people for preventing torture and ill-treatment, as well as, lobbies for improved conditions.



Leave a Reply