Weekly News Recap (21-27 February 2022)

© Photo by Joe Flood via Flickr




ECtHR: Update on Interim Decisions Concerning the Situation on the Border with Belarus

On 21 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) provided an update concerning member States’ borders with Belarus. The ECtHR has received several requests for interim measures since August 2021 from individuals at the Belarusian borders with Council of Europe member States. In most of those cases, the applicants were in Poland or claimed to be on Polish territory allegedly with a view to seeking international protection, and their requests fell under Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention. In total between 20 August 2021 and 18 February 2022, the Court dealt with requests for interim measures in 69 applications brought by a total of 270 applicants. Rule 39 measures are still in force in 12 applications (11 against Poland and one against Lithuania). A total of 48 of the 69 applications in which Rule 39 requests have been processed are pending before the Court.


ICJ: Case Against Myanmar Concerning Rohingya Genocide Begins

On 21 February 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard submissions in the case of Gambia v. Myanmar concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The Gambia filed the situation with the Court after receiving reports of large-scale killings and other abuses being committed by the Myanmar military, causing more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Both countries involved in this case are party to the 1948 Genocide Convention. The proceedings, which began in a hybrid format, served as a crucial moment for Myanmar whom had the opportunity to present its preliminary objections. Furthermore, the proceedings were considered to be urgent in nature due to the existing political instability within the Myanmar Government following a coup earlier this month. The Gambia based their arguments on the violation of obligations found within the Convention whilst Myanmar focused its counterarguments on challenges to admissibility , honing in on issues of jurisdiction. The outcome of this case is eagerly awaited due its potential status as a landmark case, specifically if the ICJ holds Myanmar accountable for the cycle of violence committed against not only the Rohingya community but also numerous others citizens who have fell victim to the waves of atrocities in Myanmar.



ICC: Trial in the Said Case is Set to Commence on 26 September 2022

A date has now been set by Trial Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court in the case of The Prosecutor v. Mahamat Said Abdel. Said, a national of the Central African Republic, is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, and was the subject of an arrest warrant issued back in January 2019. During the confirmation of charges hearing, the Trial Chamber considered the disclosure of outstanding material provided by the Prosecution as well as additional disclosure from the Defence. In light of the information received, the Chamber found it reasonable to set a trial date. In reaching the date of 26 September 2022, the Trial Chamber noted that it had taken into consideration expeditiousness, fairness and other trial rights, as well as the interests (and protection) of witnesses and victims. The Chamber noted that the rights of Mr. Said in particular will be ensured, in terms of receiving adequate time to form a defence etc., as long as the Prosecution fulfils its duties in terms of disclosing all incriminating evidence in a timely manner.



Kazakhstan: Failure to Investigate January Violence Against Protestors Sparks Concern

On 21 February 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on the situation in Kazakhstan and called upon the international community to ensure that a human-rights based investigation into the State’s brutal use of force against peaceful protesters is carried out. During January 2022, the arbitrary arrest of peaceful protesters escalated to level of ill-treatment and torture, with various forms of abuse committed against detained protestors; events which caused alarm and great concern amongst UN human rights experts. President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is reported to have issued orders which directed security forces and army officials to use lethal force and open fire on protestors whom he declared to be bandits and terrorists. By 25th January, the General Prosecutor’s Office held a record of 898 detained protestors. All of which were charged with alleged criminal offences ranging from major rampage to terrorism. In recent statements made by the Kazakh government, mention was made of its efforts to investigate the recent events as well as discussion regarding reformation. However, as reported by HRW, these plans do not reach  the level of commitment expected, nor the standards required, by the UN.


Netherlands: Dutch Case Against Abdul R for War Crimes Comes to An End

The District Court of The Hague closed the trial against Abdul Razaq Rafief on 22 February 2022. Abdul R,. an Afghan-Dutch national,  appeared before the Dutch Court for crimes alleged to have been committed in the 1980’s whilst he was in charge of Pul-e-Charkhi prison. The Prosecutor in this case, Mirjam Blom, stated that they suspected Abdul R. to be the Commander and Chief of Political Affairs and highly involved in the serious mistreatment of civilians detained because of their protest against the government. It is alleged that these civilians were held at the prison without having received a fair trial. The case involved a thorough investigation by the Dutch police, including tracking telephonic conversations, filing statements shared by eyewitnesses and relying on a high number of open-source materials. The case involved the collaboration of approximately 24 witnesses, one of whom testified before the Court about his tragic experience in ‘Prison Block 3’, the block where all detainees were held for political opposition. The trial concluded with the judges adjourning the hearing in order to deliberate, it is expected that a decision will be issued on 14 April 2022.


ECtHR: Court Recommends That Extradition of US National Wanted for Murder Be Halted

On 23 February 2022, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held a hearing in the case of McCallum v. Italy. The applicant, Ms. Beverly Ann McCallum, is currently wanted in the United States (US) for murder charges. Ms. McCallum is alleged to have murdered her husband and then burnt his corpse. She is currently being detained in Italy, whose Minister of Justice granted the US extradition request which was then upheld by the Court of Cassation. In response, Ms. McCallum submitted an application with the ECtHR claiming violation of Article 3 (Prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment). She is of the belief that if sent back to the US, she would face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. However, to the contrary,  US authorities have guaranteed that Ms. McCallum would be given the possibility of parole if convicted on the charges. At the hearing, the ECtHR indicated that Italy must not extradite Ms. McCallum to the US until this issue is resolved. This ruling is in accordance with Rule 39 which states that temporary actions are not to be taken until a formal examination of the case is completed. A further deliberation will be conducted shortly  in private with the corresponding ruling to be issued shortly after.  


ICC: Chief Prosecutor Reminds All Parties Involved in Ukraine Invasion of Potential Investigations and Prosecutions

On 25 February 2022, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Mr. Karim A.A. Khan QC issued a statement wherein he conveyed his concerns regarding the recent developments in Ukraine. Mr. Khan QC reminded parties involved that the Office of the Prosecutor may exercise jurisdiction over any crimes committed during the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are not State Parties to the Rome Statute, with the latter declaring its opposition to any case or proceedings started against them. Thus, the ICC does not have the power to investigate the crime of aggression. However, the court does have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Ukraine due to the country’s Article 12(3) declaration. This declaration granted the ICC the power to investigate and prosecute the aforementioned crimes, with the exception of aggression, if committed from February 2014 onwards. The Prosecutor concluded his statement by assuring the international community that his office is not only monitoring the situation closely but that it will also consider taking action, and that updates on this will be issued very soon.


US: Three Ex-Police Officers Charged Relation to George Floyd’s Deadly Arrest

On 25 February 2022, in Minneapolis, three ex-police officers named J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane, were all found guilty of violating the civil rights of George Floyd. Floyd become a victim of police brutality in 2020 when he was pushed to the ground by ex-police officer Derek Chauvin and held down for more than 9 minutes whilst cuffed. Throughout this period, Mr. Floyd could not breathe and this lack of oxygen ultimately led to his subsequent death. With the conclusion of counsel submissions, the jury, which was composed of eight women and four men left the courtroom and deliberated for over two days. The jury ultimately dismissed the arguments presented by representatives of the three accused regarding their reasons for not intervening when Chauvin acted with excessive force. The ex-officers reportedly cited their inexperience, poor training and fears of higher ranked cops as reasons for their lack of intervention. To the contrary, Prosecutor Marta Sertich asserted that all three accused were well aware of the fact that George Floyd had trouble breathing, lacked a pulse and was ultimately dying. The prosecutor stated that this made their failure(s) to act, their mistake, a crime. Following the verdict from the Jury, all three individuals were released on bail and are currently awaiting sentence.


ICJ: Ukraine Initiated Proceedings Against Russia Concerning the Genocide Convention

On 26 February 2022, Ukraine filed an application instituting proceedings against the Russian Federation before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concerning a dispute relating to the interpretation, application and fulfilment of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). Ukraine claims that Russia falsely claimed that acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine, and on that basis recognized the so -called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’, and then declared and implemented a ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine. Ukraine also requests the indication of provisional measures in this regard.



UNHCR: Treatment of Refugees at European Border is ‘Precedent-Setting’ globally

On 21 February 2022, Fillipo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees voiced his concern over the violence and ill-treatment that was being meted out to migrants and refugees at various European borders. The agency has reported that since the beginning of 2020, 540 incidents of informal returns by Greece have occurred. While highlighting the plight of migrants and refugees at the European border, he expressed his fear over disreputable practices becoming standardised and policy-based. He underscored the firm support that has been provided by European countries towards UNHCR’s work for protecting refugees, although the obligations towards receiving and protecting refugees in their own territory cannot be replaced by monetary and capacity support. He concluded by stating that how Europe would treat refugees and asylum seekers would set precedent not just regionally but also globally and called upon the European States to continue their commitment and respect towards human rights, which includes inclusive of the right to life and right to asylum.



UNHRC: Arms Exports to the Myanmar Military Rulers Should Be Banned

On 22 February 2022, Tom Andrews, UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Myanmar, in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said that the exports of weapons that the UN Member States are making to the military rulers in Myanmar are being used against civilians and such exports should be stopped. He further urged the UN Security Council to have an emergency session for the voting on passing a resolution in order to ban this trade. The UN expert identified China, Russia, and Serbia – countries which are supplying weapons to Myanmar military rulers who seize the power in a coup last year in February. Mr. Andrews emphasised that there was a need for voting upon the resolution for banning the sale of weapons as the people of Myanmar are awaiting the UN to take action on the matter. The report, which names countries supplying weapons to Myanmar, also calls upon countries for cutting off the military rulers’ revenue by way of coordinated action. Mr. Andrews emphasised the need for transparency on this matter and highlighted the needs of the people of Myanmar.



Madagascar: Island Hit by the Fourth Tropical Cyclone in a Month

On 22 February 2022, UN agencies warned that Madagascar was preparing for its fourth tropical month in just a month’s span while outlining plans for helping authorities in assisting the most vulnerable.  Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA stated that a response team have already been organised to support the Government-led response. UN humanitarians have appealed for $26 million in funding for boosting response in the region with more than 1.6 million people in need of humanitarian aid, which includes 334,000 used in Grand Sud for combating high levels of food insecurity – the consequence of the recurrent drought and the pandemic. OCHA Spokesperson stated that this amount of funding would be needed for the next three months to support an efficient response, but with the coming of the new cyclone, the needs and requirements are supposed to increase on the basis of its impact. The World Food Programme stated that it was ready to support the people affected as also acknowledged the fact that the incoming new storm would further increase the needs of those already bearing the effect of the previous typhoon and weather chaos. The UN agency is coordinating with the Government to supply hot meals in the affected areas along with 148 tons of stored food while awaiting additional supplies. 


Somalia: The US Conducts Drone Airstrike Targeting Al-Shabab

On 22 February 2022, the US Africa Command conducted a strike against Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia, which is the first military combat on this scale against the Qaeda partner since August. Because of the ongoing combat between Al-Shabaab and Somali forces, it is unknown how many insurgents have died in the fight but it has been reported that no civilians have been injured. Al-Shabab, an Islamist group has been attacking Somalia’s government for over a decade and holds power in some of the parts of Somalia. Joe Biden’s administration enlisted new restrictions on drone strikes that are not carried in the active war territories. However, in this instance, the proposal for a drone strike was not directed through the White House – the Africa Command is fully authorised to carry through strikes for supporting ally forces. The political fragility in Somalia has increased the Shabab’s presence in the country and the prolonged political crisis has given the Islamist group an advantage. Because of the instability, financial constraints and nationwide drought there are continuous delays for Somalia’s parliamentary elections. According to the UN, approximately 4.3 million people who are affected by the worst drought crisis in a decade are in need of humanitarian aid.



Israel & Palestine: UN Chief Calls for Political Solutions to Stop the Crises

On 23 February 2022, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Tor Wennesland, said that the absence of a solution to the crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory has led to the continuation of a disturbing atmosphere. The UN Chief called for actions that would bring the warring parties to a meaningful dialogue as the ongoing conflict shows the territorial fragmentation of the West Bank and thereby, sabotages the Palestinian Authority. According to Mr. Wennesland, the daily violence has led to destruction as well as wreckage at the refugee camps. However, relative calmness is observed in the area but the UN chief is afraid that this might not last. He encouraged the lifting of impediments to the access to food and necessities. Since his last briefing in January, the Special Envoy observed the killing of civilians which occurred over different periods during “demonstrations, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, as well as other incidents.” Another issue plaguing the country stems from settlement concerns. Israeli authorities ordered the removal of Palestinian homes in a particular region in East Jerusalem and, according to the UN Chief, this raised serious issues about the evicted persons. It was also noted that the Palestinian economy is in a bad state, resulting in no investment in either education or the health section. Mr. Wennesly called for efforts to revive the dwindling economy. He added that Israelis, Palestinians, as well as the International community, should work to ensure not just negotiations, but results from both parties.


Ukraine: China Condemns the US of Creating Panic

On 23 February 2022, China’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Hua Chunying indicted the US for causing unnecessary alarm over the Russia-Ukrainian situation. The Foreign Minister reiterated China’s long-standing position and further showed disapproval of the sanctions imposed on Russia. The indictment of the US is based on the weapon supply to Ukraine however, there was no reference made to the efforts of the US as well as France and other countries to engage Russia in diplomatic discussions. Earlier in the month, both the Chinese and Russian presidents showed their support for Moscow’s hostility toward NATO extension. The Chinese Foreign Minister’s spokesperson pointed out that China, unlike the US, has been working to ensure that both parties to the conflict come to terms and work together to uphold stability and security in the region. The invasion in Ukraine resurrects some other issues like China’s threat to invade Taiwan, its feud with India as well as other underlying security issues. Hua Chunying also explained that comprehending the Ukrainian situation would demand understanding the “merit of the Ukraine issue and properly addressing relevant countries’ legitimate security concerns based on equality and mutual respect.” She also pointed out that the sanction on Russia by the Western countries have been impotent for reducing the tensions and do more economic harm in the region.


UN: Governments Unprepared to Tackle the Worsening Global Wildfires

On 23 of February 2022, the UN reported that in years to come, there would be an increase in wildfires burning globally as there continue to be changes in land usage, and that the government is not prepared to deal with this impending doom. The report by the United Nations Environment Programme revealed that while some countries like Australia, the US, India are already witnessing this, the wildfire will increase exponentially by 2050. Areas previously considered protected like the Arctic will also experience an increase in burning. Apart from the Arctic, the rainforests in South America and Indonesia are at risk of increment in a wildfire. The wildfires are majorly caused by climate change which results in higher temperatures making it quite easy for a fire to break out and thereby, releasing carbon into the environment. Areas in which lands are used for Agriculture have a low risk of a wildfire outbreak, while logging and other land usage increase the tendency of an outbreak. Accordingly, the focus should be on investing time and money resources in preventing an outbreak of fire rather than fighting it. With poor communities often being major victims of the fire, which usually destroy their crops, it has been suggested that it is crucial to include fire management on the same level as disaster or drought management and several countries have already developed plans to manage and or combat fire outbreaks.



Ukraine: Ukrainians Issued Weapons During Call to Fight Against Russian Invasion

On 24 February 2022, the Russian invasion began as forces started attacking infrastructure with cruise and ballistic missiles, with explosions being heard near major Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv, Mariupol, Dnipro and Kharkiv. In response, President Zelenskiy declared martial law and vowed to defend Ukraine. In doing so, he called upon all Ukrainians to join the fight and provided instructions for the issuing of armaments to those who wished to defend Ukraine. Sources from the military in Ukraine have reported the presence of 20 Russian helicopters with paratroopers in the Kyiv region. Russian presence in the region has resulted in a fight for control. Whilst the critical situation continues to unfold, Putin attempted to justify the military operations by stating that they were being carried out for the purpose of “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. He also stated that Russia did not intend on occupying Ukraine. However, Putin also used this opportunity to issue a warning to ‘interfering parties’, starting that such parties would face consequences bigger than any other seen in history. Following this transmission, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting and pleaded with Putin to stop the attacks. World leaders soon followed suit and began issuing individual appeals to Putin, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring that the UK and its allies would respond decisively, and Head of EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen stating that the Kremlin would be held accountable.


Ukraine: World Leaders Respond to Russia’s Attack

On 24 February 2022, world leaders reacted to Putin’s attack on Ukraine. The President of the US Joe Biden showed his readiness to respond decisively to Russia’s pre-meditated invasion, adding that “the world will hold Russia accountable”. As Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, North Atlantic Trade Organization’s (NATO) countries are united in their resolution. The Secretary-General of the organisation Jens Stoltenberg decried the shattering of the peace in the continent and vowed that “NATO would do all it takes to protect and defend all allies”.  The President of France Emmanuel Macron on the other hand described the situation as “a turning point in the history of Europe” and promised that France will act “decisively” in response to Russia. The Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson is another leader not silent on the issue – while condemning the invasion, he promised that the UK will respond with economic sanctions. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also showed solidarity amidst the suspicion that Germany would falter following its dependency on Russia’s natural has. India and China are being careful when addressing the invasion and balancing the alliance relationships with the US and Russia. China has not recognized the current situation as an “invasion”, it has however called on both parties to engage in negotiations for a possible solution.


UN: Russia Vetoes Security Council Action on Ukraine

On 25 February 2022, Russia vetoed the UN Security Council resolution that would have deplored the Kremlin’s invasion in Ukraine and demanded withdrawal of the Russian troops. China, India, and the United Arab Emirates abstained while 11 of the 15 Council’s members voted in support of the resolution. The original draft made by the US was adjusted by China’s indication during the talks that “it would be easier to accept the adoption of a resolution passed under the less powerful Chapter 6” and other more minor changes took place. However, the alterations were not adequate enough for India, the UAE to vote in favour of the Security Council resolution. Russian Federation’s delegate informed that the draft disregards the interests of people in Ukraine who have been through tragic experiences since 2014. Ukraine’s representative responded by acknowledging the countries supporting the resolution and reminding that there have been multiple occurrences when the aim for the invasion was denied by the Russian representative. After the event, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressed the press by emphasising that while the United Nations had not accomplished its primary role, which is to end the war, “we must never give up.”



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