Weekly News Recap (28 February-6 March 2022)

© Photo by Mirek Pruchnicki via Flickr




ICC: Prosecutor Decides to Open Investigation into the Situation in Ukraine

On 28 February 2022, the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”) Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC decided to open an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine. Although Ukraine is not a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, it has on two occasions accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC. The situation was reviewed by the Prosecutor, who upon a preliminary examination, was satisfied that the allegations support opening an investigation into the matter. According to the preliminary examination, there are reasonable grounds that alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in the territory of Ukraine. Russia is not a State Party to the Rome Statute but the Court can still investigate war crimes being committed in Ukraine regardless of that by virtue of the ad hoc declarations submitted by Ukraine. The Prosecutor sought authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court, under Article 15(3) of the Rome Statute to open an investigation, and on 2 March 2022, the Presidency of the ICC assigned the situation to Pre-Trial Chamber II, which will now assess the reasonableness of the request.



US: International MS-13 Criminal Gang Member Sentenced to 50 Years of Imprisonment

On 28 February 2022, an accused belonging to the international MS-13 criminal gang was sentenced to 50 years of imprisonment by the Virginia Beach Circuit Judge James C. Lewis. He was found guilty of ordering the murder of a Chesapeake man who was supposedly a member of the rival gang. The victim, a 19-year-old man, was killed near the shoreline of Lake Smith in Virginia Beach. According to the Prosecutors, the accused ordered other gang members to kill the victim. Three other members of the MS-13 gang involved in the case are awaiting their trials. The accused was convicted of solicitation of murder, conspiracy and participation in a criminal act. Among the witnesses that testified against him were some members of the gang itself. The MS-13 gang originated as a street gang in Los Angeles by the individuals fleeing the El Salvador civil war in the mid-1980s. It recruits its members from Central America and seeks to cause unrest through violence.


ECtHR: Court Indicates Interim Measures to Russia to Abstain from Military Attacks 

On 1 March 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) upon receiving an application (Ukraine v. Russia, 11055/22) by the Ukrainian government concerning ‘massive human rights violations being committed’ by the Russian military, indicated to the Russian government to refrain from military attacks against civilian populations. Rule 39 gives the Court the power to indicate interim measures to any State Party of the European Convention on Human Rights where there is an imminent threat and risk of irreparable harm. Further, the Court cited an interim measure issued in 2014 which still stands effective concerning both the Government of Ukraine and Russia. In the view of military actions that advanced since 24 February, the Court has held that it violated the rights of civilians. The Government of the Russian Federation was further requested to provide the Court with actions taken to comply with the Rules of the Conventions. 


Israel: Court Rules on the Suspension of Eviction for a Group of Palestinian Families 

On 1 March 2022, a decades-long battle for various Palestinian families residing in occupied East Jerusalem has come to an end after the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that the Palestinian residents can stay in their homes while suspending their eviction. The Court held that the four families can continue residing in their homes until Israel makes land arrangements for them. This issue of ownership and tensions led to several protests and clashes by the families that caused the 11-day Israeli bombing of Gaza. The decision is considered “significant” as it would subside the unrest and tension in Sheikh Jarrah. The Court further held that the past rulings of ownership did not apply and that whoever seeks to argue their ownership must prove the same. According to Gaal Yanovski, advocacy coordinator at Ir Amim, the new ruling has left the decision of the final status of the property open for the office of the Ministry of Justice to decide. Dozens of families have been at risk of eviction and under threat of displacement for a very long time. 


US: Supreme Court Citing National Security Concerns Ruled that CIA Contractors Cannot be Questioned by the Polish Investigators on Guantanamo Detainees

On 3 March 2022, in a case regarding the treatment of an Al-Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah who has been detained since 2002 without charges, the US Supreme Court ruled that Polish investigators cannot interrogate the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractors, James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen. According to US laws, the Court while citing national security concerns, held that they cannot be subpoenaed to provide testimony in a foreign proceeding. The Court held that the government can use “state-secrets privilege” to prevent the contractors from being interrogated in the Polish criminal investigation. It is believed that in Poland the CIA used “enhanced interrogation techniques” to interrogate Zubaydah. A US document states that Zubaydah lost an eye and went through the harsh waterboarding technique while being detained by the CIA. This is not the first case of Guantanamo detainees challenging their detention. The US Court has turned away many such cases. According to Zubaydah’s lawyer, the Court has provided him with a chance to file a fresh request that would not disclose the site’s location.


Germany: Gambian National Charged with Crimes Against Humanity and Murder

On 3 March 2022, the German court, in a case brought under universal jurisdiction, has charged a Gambian national, Bai L, who is accused of committing crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder. The accused has been under pre-trial detention since March 2021. He is also charged with the killing of an AFP news agency journalist in 2004. It is alleged that he was a part of the army unit of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh. Bai L used to work as a driver for a hit squad identified by the name of ‘Junglers.’ This unit was used by the Gambian president to conduct illegal killings among other things. He is accused of being involved in the attempted murder of a lawyer and a journalist in 2003 and 2004, respectively.


Germany: Russian Man Charged with Planning the Killing of Chechen Dissident in Germany

On 3 March 2022, the German court has charged a Russian man who is accused of taking orders for killing a dissident from Russia’s Chechen Republic in early 2000. The accused, Valid D, is alleged to have accepted an order to kill an opposition member who was exiled in Germany from a member of the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov‘s security apparatus. The designated victim and his brother were advocates of independent Chechnya and used to openly criticise Kadyrov through the media. The accused travelled to Germany with acquired arms and ammunition to assist another man, who was set to kill the ‘designated victim and his brother’ in the latter half of 2020. Just before the plan was to be implemented, he was arrested (January 2021) and has been detained ever since. In 2021, in a similar case, the Berlin Court sentenced a Russian man to life imprisonment.


Sweden:  Swedish Woman Found Guilty for “Omitting to Prevent” Her Son from Joining the ISIS

On 4 March 2022, the Stockholm district court sentenced a Swedish woman to 6 years of imprisonment for “omitting to prevent” her 12- year-old son, Joan from joining the ISIL (ISIS) armed group as a child soldier who subsequently died in the civil war. The accused, Lina Ishaq returned from Syria in 2020 and was charged with “grave violation of international law and grave war crimes.” She denied all the charges against her, however, the Court ultimately found her guilty on the grounds that she, as a guardian, failed to prevent her son from being recruited as a child soldier in Syria and found that she must have understood the purpose of her son’s recruitment by the armed group. According to the Swedish laws, the Court has jurisdiction to try cases of crimes against international laws even though they have been committed outside the domain of Sweden. It is against international humanitarian law to recruit and involve children below the age of 15 as soldiers and is considered a war crime under the definition provided by the International Criminal Court.


US: Supreme Court Reinstates Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Death Sentence

On 4 March 2022, in a case dealing with the conviction of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. In this case, the US Justice Department challenged the ruling of the Appeals Court after it upheld Tsarnaev’s conviction but overturned the death sentence. The Court of Appeal based its decision on the grounds that the accused had not received a fair trial under the US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment and the trial judge had excluded some important pieces of evidence about a different crime. The Supreme Court observed these findings of the Court of Appeal to be erroneous and upheld the death sentence. The majority was held by 6 of the conservative judges, with three of the more liberal judges dissenting. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was tried in 2015 for planting a bomb that killed three individuals among which was an 8-year-old boy and wounded more than 260 others. The Supreme Court held that Tsarnaev received a fair trial despite the nature of the crime committed.



IPCC: New Climate Change Report Underscores Impacts and Risks Posed by the Crisis

On 28 February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report titled ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the human-induced climate change has led to widespread changes in nature which are further affecting the lives of billions of people while efforts to reduce the risks of the climate change are still being made. The report, which was approved on February 27, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, is a second instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which emphasises the co-dependency of biodiversity, climate and people. The UNICEF Executive Director also remarked upon the new IPCC report clarifies that the climate crisis is not just a global future threat but it also will affect the world in devastating ways, by affecting the children the most, with one billion being most vulnerable to the crisis. The report underscores that there is an urgent need for action – the focus should be on equity and justice. It further mentions that proper funding and political allegiance there would be a more efficacious adaptation to climate change with reductions in emissions.




Indonesia: 100,000 Indigenous Papuans Displaced Because of Human Rights Violations

On 1 March 2022, UN Special Rapporteurs Francisco Cali Tzay, Morris Tidball-Binz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary called out the various instances of extrajudicial killings which included young children, along with enforced disappearances and inhumane treatments being meted out to about 5000 Papuans by the security forces in Indonesia. The three UN appointed rights experts further made a call for providing urgent humanitarian aid to the region along with urging the Indonesian authorities to conduct an investigation into the abuses being committed. The escalation in violence witnessed since 2018 has led to the displacement of 100,000 people and according to the UN experts, most of the displaced people have been unable to return safely to their homes in the West Papuan region because of the heavy presence of security forces and ongoing armed combats in the area. Furthermore, they also expressed their concern over the reports they received of displaced Papuans not being able to have access to adequate food and health services because of the authorities obstructing the access to humanitarian aid. The UN experts highlighted the need for urgent action in order to put an end to the human rights violations against the indigenous Papuans and further laid down steps for ascertaining a ‘thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the violations.’ 



UNHRC: Hundreds of Civilians Killed in Tambura County of South Sudan 

On 1 March 2022, a joint report launched by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office stated that in four-month time period from June to September 2021, 440 civilians have been killed and 80,000 have been forced to flee their homes during the fighting in Tambura Country, West Equatoria State. Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commoner for Human Rights, urged and called upon all parties involved in the conflict to hold accountable the individuals who have committed the grave human rights violations against South Sudanese civilians and further called forth a thorough and independent investigation into the violations as well as the need to bring perpetrators to justice. She further emphasised that sustainable peace is only achievable if ‘gross violations of human rights that occurred during conflict are addressed through justice, truth, reconciliation, healing, compensation and reparations.’ The UNMISS and the UN Human Rights Office have further called upon the South Sudanese government to investigate the human rights violations in accordance of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan


ILO: Uzbek Cotton Sector Free of Child and Forced Labour 

On 1 March 2022, the ILO in its new report titled ‘2021 ILO Third Party Monitoring report of the Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan’ estimated that since the start of the reform process in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan, two million children have been taken out of child labour and half a million adult workers have been taken out of forced labour. The data that has been collected by the report is based upon the eleven thousand interviews that were taken with cotton pickers and 99 per cent of them worked in the cotton sector voluntarily making all provinces and regions with few or zero forced labour cases. Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, stated that the collaboration of ILO with the Uzbek Government during the past seven years has effectively worked freed the country from systematic child labour and forced labour. Tanzila Narbaeva, the Chair of the Uzbek Senate and Head of the National Commission to Combat Forced Labour and Human Trafficking stated that in order to eradicate child and forced labour, they first eradicated the cotton production’s place in the state order system and further made reforms to criminalise child labour and forced labour while also actively engaging with civil society to discover effective solutions. 


UN: General Assembly Demands Withdrawal of Russian Troops From Ukraine 

On 2 March 2022, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution confirming Ukrainian sovereignty and ‘territorial integrity.’ According to the resolution, the Assembly demands Russia to evacuate its troops from Ukraine and its borders in entirety. The resolution was sponsored by 90 countries and received non-acceptance by five countries – Belarus, Eritrea, Korea, Russia, and Syria – while 35 countries abstained. When addressing the press, the President of the Assembly explained that the resolution indicated the international actor’s stance on the situation in Ukraine. He also expressed concerns regarding the grave attacks against civilians as well as civilian properties and protected objects. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres encouraged immediate action in this regard since the increment of hostilities could worsen over time. He noted that the humanitarian response has been met with record-high generosity, which will allow the UN to assist with urgent medical, food and protection supplies. Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya expressed hope in the United Nations, which also echoes in the views of people of Ukraine. 


Poland: Persons of Colour Face Attacks in the Country After Fleeing the Conflict in Ukraine

After the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many persons of colour fleeing Ukraine were discriminated against. Students mainly from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East were assaulted after they crossed the Poland border and an attack on the people fleeing left one Indian hospitalized after three of them were attacked by a group of men. A journalist who first recounted the incident revealed Polish men yelling at the refugees of colour for them to return to their country. One of the eyewitnesses who was also a victim from Egypt narrated how the young men from Nigeria were attacked, stopped from going anywhere to buy food and asked to return to their country. The Polish police reported that there were rumours of crimes allegedly committed by the persons from these regions and the allegations put forward by the attackers were false. These attacks continue despite the stranded citizen evacuation planning by the African governments. South Africa’s Ambassador to Ukraine revealed that over 16, 000 students of African descent had their education in progress in Ukraine before the invasion. An interviewee who remained anonymous explained how she and others were refused entrance into Poland by Ukrainian border guards whereas Ukrainians had no such challenges. After they successfully left the border, they were denied space in a hotel that accepted only Ukrainians despite them offering to pay a fee.  The president of Nigeria Mohammadu Buhari condemned this discrimination and promised to evacuate all his citizens fleeing Ukraine. Other African countries whose citizens are affected are taking steps to bring their citizens back in response to accounts of discrimination and violence.


Afghanistan: UN Special Representative Called on the International Community To Engage With Taliban for a Common Good 

On 2 March 2022, top UN official in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyon told the Security Council that the international actors must act decisively to avert an irreversible economic meltdown in Taliban-lead Afghanistan. While thanking donors whose efforts at humanitarian aid saw the prevention of an impending famine, Ms Lyon told the Security Council that beyond humanitarian aid, Afghans need a ‘strong foundation for Afghan self-reliance’ and the country’s major challenge stems from the closure of businesses. The businesses closing and high unemployment rates have taken a toll on the economy, the termination of growth subsidy as well as the placement of restrictions on the central bank. The Special Representative explained that the Taliban is misunderstood mostly by the International Communities – they want recognition and assistance as they claim to mean well and have recorded good achievements for the Afghan people in the past six months. The Special Representative stated that the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) continues to report the realities on grounds but these realities seem complicated given the fact that both ‘ positive and negative trends occur simultaneously in the country.’ The goal of UNAMA remains to ‘see Afghanistan join the international community as a member with good standing’. The Secretary-General António Guterres has proposed the renewal of the UNAMA mandate, which would seek to evaluate the result of a sustained political engagement.


UNEP: UN Chief Lauds Efforts to Prevent Pollution, Rebuild Ozone and Safeguard Seas

On 3 March 2022, the Secretary-General of the United Nations praised the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for its effort in making the world better for all. The UNEP which was established about 50 years ago at a time when the earth was already at risk due to human activities, is working to ‘combat air pollution, restore the ozone layer, protect the world’s seas, promote a green and inclusive economy and raise the alarm about biodiversity loss and climate change’. The UNEP has through various mediums, boosted insight on the impact of the environment on sustained development. In what Mr Guterras described as ‘war against nature’ the top UN Official set up four targets to address ‘climate disruption, biodiversity and habitat loss, and pollution and waste that threatens societies and life on Earth’, especially for the vulnerable counties. Accordingly, the UN Chief stresses the need to reduce global emissions. Recalling South Africa’s declaration of a renewable energy coalition last year, he urged countries that need specialised and monetary backing to get out of coal to venture into the same partnerships. To set a path forward, he posited that monetary and analysis policies must also be revamped to indicate the actual reality of ‘economic activities, including their impact on nature and the environment.’ This was as a follow up to the desire to create an ‘intergovernmental committee’ which would discuss a legally binding international arrangement on plastic waste pollution. 


UNHRC: The Council Approves Ukraine Commission of Inquiry 

On 4 March 2022, a resolution presented by Ukraine was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council agreed upon the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the violations that have been committed by the Russian military attack on Ukraine. As a result, 32 countries voted in favour of the resolution, Russia and Eritrea voted against and 13 countries abstained. The resolution has called forth a prompt withdrawal of Russian troops and armed groups from Ukraine along with urging unobstructed humanitarian aid to the people affected. Ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko underscored the motive behind the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry is to ensure accountability by approving information collected for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine along with identifying the persons responsible for committing human rights violations in Ukraine. The ambassador asked the officials present to stand and hold a moment of silence to show respect for the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine.


Ukraine: Power Plant Destruction Averted as Russia Took Control

On 4 March 2022, Russian fighters took over the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe, after a building close to it was gutted by fire, which brought panic to the international community until the fire got extinguished. An official who runs Ukraine’s four power plants explained that there was no serious damage to the plant as it is working fine after extinguishing the fire and the fire was not caught in the plant itself but in a nearby building. However, the official claimed that communications with the plant’s manager had been lost. Russia blames the outbreak of the fire on the reckless firing by Ukraine who took control of the plant that ‘provides more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity.’ However, the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky called on both Europe and Russia as well as the world at large to rise and stop Russia from shooting at the power plant. As fighting continues in the country, most intensively in the Southeast of Kyiv,  thousands of people are speculated to have either been killed or hurt while many others have fled the country since the fighting started in February. Russian forces seem stiff-necked in their resolve to capture Ukrainian leaders and disarm them in order to conquer the country. Since the fighting began, a few major cities in Ukraine continue to be under siege of troops – Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Kyiv continue to be under the control of the Ukrainian government despite severe attacks. Ukraine and Russia negotiators agreed on peace talks regarding ‘the need for humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape and to deliver medicines and food to areas of fighting.’ 


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