Weekly News Recap (14-20 February 2022)

© Photo by 7th Army Training Command’s photostream via Flickr




ICC: Preliminary Examination of Situation in Bolivia Complete

On 14 February 2022, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor, Mr Karim A. A. Khan QC, brought the preliminary examination with regards to the situation in Bolivia to an end. After considering the information available before the Office of the Prosecutor, Mr Khan concluded that the situation did not meet the criteria prescribed by the Rome Statute for initiating an investigation. In the present case, it was alleged that nationwide road blockades took place throughout August 2020 which in turn restricted the Bolivian population’s access to medical aid and services. These actions resulted in the death of 40 individuals whilst also causing physical and mental damage to numerous others. The Government of Bolivia alleged that these actions fell under the category of crimes against humanity, more specifically, murder  under Article 7(1)(a) and other inhumane acts under Article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor upon examination of the incident held that the present case did not possess the required contextual elements to be considered a crime against humanity and therefore, did not fall under the jurisdiction of ICC. 


ICC: Trial Against Kenyan Lawyer Paul Gicheru Commences

On 15 February 2022, the trial against Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru commenced before Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mr Gicheru is accused of ‘offences against the administration of justice’, such as unduly influencing the testimony of witnesses in cases dealing with the Kenyan situation, but has pleaded not guilty. On 15 February, following opening statements, the first prosecution witness testified before the Chamber whilst the defence chose to remain silent. Five years after the issuance of a warrant, Mr Gicheru had surrendered to authorities and was transferred to the seat of the court in November 2020. In February 2021, a few months after his initial appearance, he was returned to Kenya and was permitted to stay provided that he complied with certain conditions that ‘restricted his liberty’. The commencement of this trial stems from the earlier decision of ICC Pre-Trial Chamber A, in July 2021, which confirmed the charges against Mr Gicheru. It remains to be seen how the trial will unfold over coming months.




France: Investigation of Plane Crash Incident that Led to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Officially Closed

On 15 February 2022, France’s Court of Cassation overturned the verdict issued by a lower court and subsequently abandoned the case filed against individuals believed to associated with current President Paul Kagame. The case concerns an appeal made by the families of victims that were killed in April 1994,  in the missile attack which targeted ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s aircraft. The Court rejected the appeal due to lack of sufficient charges against the accused. Various theories have been put forth in an effort to try determine which individuals and/or groups were responsible for the plane crash. Kagame’s rebels were suspected to be the attackers for a long period of time until a later theory emerged which inferred that the Hutu extremists who were unsatisfied with the moderate Habyarimana were responsible. In 2012, a report issued by the French experts submitted that the missiles involved were launched from a camp site which was inhibited by Habyarimana’s own presidential guards and thus, they were behind the attack. In 2018, the investigating magistrates dropped the case citing a ‘lack of indisputable material evidence’ and witness testimonies that were ‘mostly contradictory or impossible to verify’. The plane crash incident is considered to have led to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide which resulted in the killing of 800,000 people.



Netherlands: Abdul Razzaq Rafief on Trial for Alleged War Crimes Committed in a Kabul Prison

On 16 February 2022, former Commander and Head of Political Affairs at Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul (between the years 1983-1990) Abdul Razzaq Rafief went on trial before The Hague District Court. Mr Rafief, a 76-year-old Afghan, is accused of having committed war crimes in the 1980s. It is alleged that he held prisoners in captivity under inhumane conditions without giving them the opportunity of a fair trial . He was later captured in the southern Dutch city of Kerkrade in 2019. The trial is being conducted in the District Court as the accused currently holds Dutch nationality having immigrated to the country in 2001. Several witnesses have already testified before the court, narrating the forms of torture that prisoners were exposed to during this period. At trial, the suspect informed the Court that the prosecution  was mistaken about his identity and that he is not the person responsible for the alleged crimes. Although, after interrogating more than 25 witnesses, Dutch prosecutors say they are assured they have arrested the right suspect. The Prosecutors are asking the court to impose a sentence of 12 years imprisonment for the accused.



Finland: Court Releases Gibril Massaquoi After Two Years of Detention

On 16 February 2022, Gibril Massaquoi, a former Sierra Leonean rebel accused of committing alleged war crimes in Liberia between 1999 and 2003, was released after serving two years of pre-trial detention in Finland. Mr Massaquoi acted as a “key informant” from 2002 to 2008 for the Prosecutor’s office at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In particular, he identified suspects involved in the Sierra Leonean civil war that took place from 1991 to 2001. As a reward for his assistance, he was ‘granted exile’ and relocated to Finland with his family. In an interview conducted three weeks before his release, Massouquoi told reporters, “I have nothing to worry about” considering that he was innocent and that his future was at the mercy of authorities whom he had ‘expressed confidence’ in. Kimmo Nuotio, professor of criminal law at the University of Helsinki, noted that release at this stage of the proceedings has resulted in speculation that he might not be convicted.


ECtHR: Application Questioning Investigation into Shooting Incident in Northern Ireland Declared Inadmissible

On 17 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in a press release, noted that it had unanimously dismissed an application questioning whether an investigation conducted in relation to a lethal shooting by British soldiers in Northern Ireland satisfied requirements under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) dealing with the right to life/investigation. The applicant’s brother Martin McCaughey was an IRA volunteer who was shot dead by British soldiers on 9 October 1990. The inquest set up to investigate the shooting reached a ‘unanimous verdict of lawful killing’. The ECtHR upon analysing the matter recognised some shortcomings but held that despite this, the inquest into the shooting met the criteria prescribed for conducting an effective investigation under Article 2. Thus, there was not a reason for the court to challenge the inquest. Reflecting on the procedural history of the case (which included two prior applications) and recognising  the supremacy of domestic laws in protecting the lives of citizens, the court held that it would be inappropriate for it to address every challenge posed against the inquest procedure. Furthermore, the presiding judges noted that not only would such a decision make the ECtHR a “Court of fourth instance” but it would also prolong ‘delay at the domestic level.’.


ECtHR: Annotation on Transgender Birth Certificates Indicating Gender Reassignment Found Not To Be a Violation of Human Rights

On 17 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held in Y v. Poland  that the inability of a transgender person to be issued a birth certificate without reference to their gender reassignment included did not violate either Article 8 (right  to private and family life) or Article 14 (protection from discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Previously, in August 2005, the applicant (via his lawyer) had asked the Warsaw District Court to reverse a previous decision which required that reference to the applicant’s gender reassignment be noted on his birth certificate. However, the Polish Registry Office in Prudnik declined this request due to a relevant provision within domestic legislation. Namely, Section 21 of the Civil Status Records Act which notes that ‘any events occurring after a birth certificate had been drawn up had to be included in that certificate in the form of a “marginal annotation”’. As a result, the applicant claimed that this violated his right to family life and was a form of discrimination. However, after examining the issues at hand, the Court dismissed the application. Determining that the ‘Polish authorities had struck a fair balance between the different interests at stake, while remaining within the wide margin of appreciation available to them’.


India: Death Penalty Handed Down to 38 Accused in the Ahmedabad Bombing Case

On 18 February 2022, in a case that has been termed  the “rarest of rare”, a presiding judge at the Special Indian Court handed down a death penalty sentence to 38 accused whilst sentencing the remaining 11 accused to life imprisonment. The case deals with a  bombing incident that took place in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2008. Those involved belonged to two nationwide terrorist networks, namely, the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) operatives – both of which were busted by the Indian police within a few weeks of the incident. The bombing killed 56 innocent individuals and injured more than 200 people. As a result, the accused have been charged with the offences of criminal conspiracy, murder, sedition, participation in terrorist activities (under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act) and attempting to wage a war against the nation. Initially, the case included 77 accused, however in an earlier hearing, the court acquitted 28 individuals who were accused of having participated in aiding with the serial blast. This is despite the fact that the prosecution had originally sought capital punishment for all 49 accused. However, this is the first instance in which 38 individuals have been awarded the death penalty together and the court did award compensation to the victims according to the degree of harm suffered.


ICC: Dominic Ongwen’s Appeal Hearing Comes to a Close

On 18 February 2022, Dominic Ongwen’s hearing before the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) officially came to a close. Ongwen  was charged with  several crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 2002-2005 in Northern Uganda and  sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by the Trial Chamber on 6 May 2021. During the five-day appeal hearing, the defence requested that the judges dismiss the charges on the grounds that the evidence produced by the prosecution was “unfair” in nature. Ongwen’s defence team raised a total of 101 grounds of appeal based on “alleged legal, factual and procedural errors” relating to both the conviction and sentence.  To the contrary, the Prosecution based its arguments on the ground that the accused  had been “fairly convicted” in light of the evidence provided by a vast number of witnesses and large number of items assessed. The hearing was streamed virtually which allowed victims to follow proceedings despite not being in The Hague.  ICC Spokesperson, Fadi El Abdallah, stated that it will ‘take several months’ until the judges pronounce a verdict.




UN: Launch of 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Mali as Conditions Deteriorate

On 14 February 2022, it was stated by Stephane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson that 7.5 million Malians require assistance, which has been significantly more than witnessed after 2012. According to Mr. Dujarric, the humanitarian crisis, compounded by growing insecurity, has further reached the southern region of Mali. As compared to 2021, more than 1.8 million would be driven towards hunger in 2022, making it the highest level of hunger and food insecurity witnessed since 2014. There has been a 51 per cent increase in people facing extreme hunger and, according to the UN Spokesperson, inter-communal violence and climate changes have been factors responsible for causing hunger in the country. The humanitarian response in the country has been continuous despite the various challenges and about 2.5 million people in the country have been provided humanitarian aid in the past year. The Humanitarian Response Plan 2022 has been put in place for proving aid has been critically underfunded in 2022, and an appeal for $686 million has been launched by the UN to reach 5.3 million people who have become vulnerable due to the ongoing crisis.


UNICEF: Six Months into Haitian Earthquake, Learning of 320,000 Children Still Affected

On 14 February 2022, UNICEF reported that the learning environment for 320,000 children has been affected due to more than a thousand schools still in need of reconstruction and around 260,000 children are still in need of humanitarian aid. Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti stated that even though schools are being reconstructed, hundreds of schools are still dilapidated. Further, he underscored the earthquake has deprived people of necessities like water, food, and health with many women and children being in urgent need of health centres and clean water. Even though the learning of children has been highly affected by the earthquake, the UNICEF has responded to the needs of children in partnership with the Haitian government by providing 74,000 students and 1600 teacher learning and teaching material, as well restoring 900 classrooms in 150 damaged schools along with the construction of 234 leaning spaces being underway in 38 schools. At the end of last year, UNICEF made a request for US$97 million via the Humanitarian Appeal for Children, however to date, only one-third of the requested funding has been secured.


WHO: ‘Historic Initiative’ on Providing Vaccine Equity Praised for its Progress

On 14 February 2022, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Chief while attending the virtual COVID-19 Small Group Minister Meeting hosted by the US Department of State praised the progress that was underway at the WHO mRNA vaccine technology transfers Hub in South Africa, calling it a “historic initiative”. He mentioned that more than one million vaccine doses have been shipped in the past year because of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and the COVAX pillar and WHO’s partnership with UNICEF. In light of the continued efforts of the ACT alignment with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the WHO Chief requested that there should be universal support for WHO’s 70 per cent of the global vaccination target, further stating that every country should contribute fairly to fund the ACT accelerator and contribute $16 billion on an immediate basis. He further spoke about the work he witnessed at the Hub in South Africa and underscored that the pandemic can be brought to an end by promoting vaccine manufacturing capacity on a local level and also making temporary intellectual property waivers on vaccine manufacturing. There remain 116 countries that have not fulfilled the international goal – to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population in every country.



UNSC: Conflict in Yemen Risks Escalating Multi-Track Process Needed to Advance and Inclusive Political Settlement

On 15 February 2022, Hans Grundberg, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen stated that the conflict in the region, which has entered its seventh year, requires efforts on part of regional, international and Yemeni political actors as it has led to an increased number of civilian casualties. Furthermore, he emphasized that the conflict can be resolved through a multi-track process and mentioned that he was working towards developing a framework that pushes for a comprehensive political settlement in the region through bilateral talks. While Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief stated that the ongoing conflict in Yemen and the recent escalation have resulted in 650 casualties with an average of 21 civilians being killed each day because of airstrikes, other violence, or shelling. He described the crisis to be “protracted” and showing no sign of de-escalation while humanitarian partners are doing their best to reduce suffering in the region. He also stated that one of the biggest impediments in the region had been funding, as by the end of January this year, two-thirds of UN aid programs have scaled back their operations because agencies are running out of funds at a fast pace. Furthermore, the WFP has also scaled back on its operations in December by reducing the food rations with the Yemenis not receiving any food at all by March this year. He urged that the aid operations that are in place in the region cannot be left to collapse and the gaps that are there in funding should be addressed swiftly by identification of factors that are driving the humanitarian needs of the Yemenis.


UNICEF: Urgent Appeal for $7 Million to Avert Deaths and Treat Children Suffering from Acute Malnutrition

On 15 February 2022, it was reported that more than 1.4 million children would be suffering from acute malnutrition because of the continuous drought in Somalia and the same was reported by the newly released Somalia Foods Security and Nutrition Assessment. Angela Kearney, the UNICEF Representative stated that the numbers that have been witnessed in the present year are steep and there is the risk of thousands of children dying if prompt action is not taken. Three consecutive failed monsoons have further exacerbated the conflict in Somalia, leaving a quarter of its population in urgent need of food assistance. The drought has further caused water shortages in the country which has forced families to migrate to urban or semi-urban areas and added them to the number of 2.9 million people already displaced by conflict. Since July 2021, there has been a certain amount of relief to the humanitarian crisis with support from the government and other partners. It has also been estimated that moderate rainfall in the upcoming season would further improve the crisis of food and nutrition in the region. The UNICEF has made an urgent appeal for $ 7 million by end of March 2022 so that the agency can procure 104,000 Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for the children suffering from poor nutrition as a break-in providing supplies and RUTF would put the lives of 100,000 children at risk.


Afghanistan:  UN Prioritizes Cooperation with Regional Bodies to Assist the Country

On 16 February 2022, the Secretary-General of the United Nations told the Security Council that support to Afghanistan is a topmost concern. This would be a combined effort of the UN and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) since no organization can single-handedly ensure peace and security – collaborative efforts are needed. With the CTSO having shared goals with the UN, its joint declaration signed with the UN in 2010 further strengthens the collaboration. The Secretary-General expressed appreciation to CTSO member countries following their assistance to the UN peacekeeping department. As the situation worsens in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General cautions about the prevalence of terrorism on a global scale. He added that the absence of a defined proceeding, and unemployment, amongst others, would result in despair leading to extremism. He then called for extraterritorial enforcement and judicial cooperation in the global response. Leaders of both involved international organisations expressed delight and determination to keep working together. Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization looks forward to expanding efforts to truncate terrorists’ sources of finance. With regards to the situation in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General reaffirmed efforts of CSTO to cooperate with the UN in reducing conflict while ensuring security and stability and to build a solid alliance based on international law principles.



NATO: Defence Ministers Discuss the Russian-Ukrainian Situation

On 16 February 2022, during a press conference occurring after a meeting of Defence ministers – convened to consider Russia’s military activities in Ukraine – the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg noted that there are no signs of escalations on the ground. He pointed out the seeming readiness of Russia to attack due to massive invasion force and stressed that any further acts of aggression against Ukraine would be met with dire consequences. A series of letters written by NATO inviting Russia over for dialogue to try peaceful settlement of the issue has not been responded to. The Secretary-General while reiterating NATO’s resolve to protect and defend all allies, pointed out that the organization is ready to respond with force should Russia proceed with the plans. During the meeting of defense ministers, several resolutions were reached. One of such resolutions was the consideration of the establishment of “new NATO battlegroups in central, eastern and South-Eastern Europe.” France offered to lead the newly proposed group in Romania. Moving forward, meetings of the ‘Nuclear Planning Group’ were had wherein global developments as well as Russia and China’s modernization of nuclear tools were considered. After Jens Stoltenberg’s statement journalists’ questions were addressed, which majorly bordered on the proposed new battle groups, Russia’s presence in Ukraine as well as the Cyberattack on Ukraine earlier the week.


Ukraine: UN Under-Secretary-General Called for Enforcement of 2015 Agreement

On 17 February 2022, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary A. DiCarlo informed the Security Council of a need for the Russian and Ukrainian counterpart to enforce the 2015 Minsk Agreement. This is following several reports including the fear that an attack could be imminent. Ms. DiCarlo pointed out the danger in this and mustered both parties to a control. The Under-Secretary-General decried the inconclusiveness of talks both in the Normandy Four format and discussions led by the Trilateral Contact Group despite efforts. The Minsk agreement – guidelines for political and military actions to resolve the conflicts between Government actors and Ukrainian separatists in the eastern parts of the country – appears to make no difference concerning a negotiated peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Accordingly, Ms. Di Carlo advocated for the utilization of other means and frameworks to salvage the situation. Calling for prudent recompense, the Under-Secretary-General applauded the diplomatic engagements by heads of states. She further beseeches the UN to strengthen the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, as well as its borders and independence. Humanitarian assistance has been going to the region beginning from 2022 especially following the reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the death of thousands of civilians. Going forward, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation pointed out that the implementation of the 2015 Minsk agreement is not feasible given the attitude of Ukrainian officials. The Secretary of the United States of America on the other hand describes as a collective goal, the implementation of the Minsk agreement fearing Moscow’s looming attack. Moscow on its part claims to have withdrawn troops sent to Ukrainian borders, while Ukraine Ambassador revealed a village was raided with heavy munitions, as a result, damaging a kindergarten. He added that Ukraine stays committed to diplomatic resolutions but will defend itself if the situation escalates.


UNMISS: Civilian Casualties Reduced in South Sudan

 On 17 February 2022, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) revealed that violence against civilians has fallen compared to the previous year. The victims of the violence include a greater percentage of males followed by females and children. The civilian casualties recorded were relatively low in comparison with the number recorded in 2020. The reports also recorded a reduction in sexual violence. The victim casualties are linked to the sub-national conflict, in which many of the victims lost their lives during an armed attack between the militia groups.  As violence continues in some regions between the ethnic militias, about 440 deaths have been recorded as well as a high number of abductions, injuries and sexual violence. Peacekeepers were actively sent into the region to repress the conflict zones throughout the previous year.  Many functioning footings were also established in 2021 to further protect civilians. UNMISS has been proactively working to consult political and community groups locally as well as at a national level. As violence continues to increase in some regions, UNMISS has asked the government of South Sudan to vigorously investigate human rights abuses and bring perpetrators to justice.


FAO: Germany Gives Cash Grant for Drought-Affected Communities in the Horn of Africa

On 17 February 2022, Germany gave a financial grant to the tune of €20 million to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This grant is to assist farmers in the horn of Africa which is severely affected by a multi-season drought. In recent times, the level of food insecurity in the region is alarming as both crops and Animals – the major source of food – are affected. These issues are further compounded by the frequent conflicts as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and major locust infestation. The FAO fears that the continuance of the rainfall in agriculturally dependent states without any form of aid would lead to an increase in the number of food-insecure persons. The FAO Director-General expressed gratitude to the German government for her contribution and added that because of these good gestures, communities relying on agriculture now will be aided.  He also emphasized how the lack of sufficient funding greatly affects the operability of the agency as the number of humanitarian needs has increased. Germany’s funding will be beneficial to the people in need in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, in the restoration of their productive livelihoods as well as ensuring self-reliance in those areas. According to the Horn of Africa Drought Response Plan, more funding is needed for assisting people and households in the drought-affected areas in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.  


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