Weekly News Recap (14-20 March 2022)

© Photo by UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr




ICAO: The Netherlands and Australia Initiate Legal Action Against Russia Over the Downing of MH17

On 14 March 2022, a case was registered by the Dutch and Australian governments before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) against Russia over the shooting down of flight MH17 while it was flying over the rebel-held territory of eastern Ukraine in 2014. An investigation of the incidence has concluded that MH17 was shot down by the separatist rebels and it was found that the flight was attacked by a Buk missile system that was delivered to the Ukrainian territory from a Russian missile base. All the 298 passengers and crew members were killed. Russia has denied any association with the incidence. Both governments consider it necessary to hold Russia accountable for its violation of international laws and the UN Charter. This case is followed by the October 2020 decision for Russia to walk away from negotiations with Australia and the Netherlands. Presently, in another case, three Russians and one Ukrainian national are undergoing a murder trial for their participation in the shooting down of MH17. Further, in 2020 the Netherlands also filed a case against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights.



UK: Julian Assange Denied Permission to Appeal Against the US Extradition Ruling

On 14 March 2022, Julian Assange’s request to appeal the ruling authorising his extradition to the US was rejected. Assange, 50, faces spying charges for publishing thousands of US classified documents in 2010 and 2011. The published documents included 500,000 military files containing sensitive information relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court denied the permission to appeal based on the reasoning that “the application did not raise an arguable point of law.” The case will now be transferred to the British Home Secretary for approval and the decision can be challenged by Assange for judicial review. Assange faces an 18-count indictment from the US government that attaches a penalty of up to 175 years of imprisonment. Initially, a British district court rejected the US extradition request on the grounds that Assange might kill himself under the harsh conditions of the US prisons. Later the high court overturned that ruling and held that assurance given by the US is enough to expect Assange will be safe and treated humanely. 


ICC: Former CAR Militia Leader Accused of War Crimes Surrendered by the Republic of Chad 

On 14 March 2022, the Republic of Chad surrendered Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka to the International Criminal Court in compliance with an arrest warrant issued against him in December 2018. Mr Mokom, a national of the Central African Republic, was a National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka and under this capacity is suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a leader of the Anti-Balaka group, it is alleged that he committed these crimes between 2013 and 2014 in Bangui and other locations in the Central African Republic. He is alleged to have committed these crimes alongside various others with a motive to target the Muslim population. The conflict between the Seleka (Muslim minority) and Anti-Balaka (Christian or animist) began when President François Bozizé was overthrown by the Muslim minority rebel coalition. This led to a sectarian bloodbath between the two forces. Two former Anti-balaka leaders, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and Alfred Yekatom, are already on trial at the ICC.



ECtHR: Violation of the Right to a Fair Trial in a Case Concerning Premature Ending of Mandate for a Member of the Polish National Council of the Judiciary

On 15 March 2022, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been a violation of the right to a fair trial in the case concerning a removal of a judge from the Polish National Council of the Judiciary before his term had ended and his inability to get judicial review of that decision. His removal had taken place in the context of judicial reforms in Poland. This was the first time that the Grand Chamber of the Court had examined these issues. The Grand Chamber ruled that the judicial reforms had been aimed at weakening judicial independence. There are more than 90 pending applications before the Court concerning the reorganisation of the courts in Poland.


ICJ: Court Orders Russian Federation to Immediately Suspend Military Operations in the Territory of Ukraine

On 16 March 2022, the International Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt of military operations being conducted by the Russian Federation in the territory of Ukraine since 24 February 2022. The order was concluded by a vote of thirteen to two. Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian of Russia and Judge Xue Hanqin of China were the only ones who dissented. Additionally, the Court ordered Russia to ensure that any military or irregular armed units under its control must cease the military operations. Both the parties were unanimously ordered to refrain from taking any action that might elevate the dispute and the difficulties posed by it. The case of Ukraine v. Russian Federation was filed before the court shortly after the Russian invasion. The Russian President has justified the invasion by stating that the military operations are being conducted to prevent genocide in eastern Ukraine. Russia skipped one prior hearing citing that the case is absurd and has since, increased the intensity of its military strikes. President of the Court, Joan Donoghue held that the case met the necessary conditions for ICJ to indicate provisional measures.




Kyrgyzstan: Supreme Court Rejects President Almazbek Atambaev Appeal for Retrial

On 16 March 2022, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld the sentence awarded to President Almazbek Atambaev for the illegal release of the criminal mastermind, Aziz Batukaev in 2013. He was charged with several crimes and murders that also included the murder of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and a ministry official. Upon his released Batukaev fled to Russia. During Batukaev’s trial, Atambaev was summoned three times but refused to comply. This led to a clash between Atambaev’s supporters and government security officials and resulted in the death of a top security officer and injuries to more than 170 law enforcement officers. In 2019, Atambaev surrendered before the police after a two-day standoff and was sentenced to a prison term of 11 years and 2 months. In 2020, the Supreme Court decided to send the case back to the district court for a retrial, to which the Prosecutor General appealed, and the decision for retrial was overturned. Atambaev’s lawyer appealed against the decision. Presently, Atambaev is on trial for another case of violence that took place in 2019 and is charged with several other offences alongside 13 others. 


ECtHR: Suspension of the Examination of All Applications against the Russian Federation

On 16 March 2022, following the Resolution of the Committee of Ministers that the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from 16 March 2022 (Resolution (CM/Res(2022)2), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to suspend the examination of all applications against the Russian Federation pending its consideration of the legal consequences of this Resolution for the work of the Court.


Rwanda: Special Court Sentences Rwandan Genocide Suspect Jean-Baptiste Mugimba to 25 Years in Prison

On 17 March 2022, the International Crimes Chamber of the High Court, a special court in Rwanda established to try cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, sentenced Jean-Baptiste Mugimba, 63, a suspect in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to 25 years of imprisonment. Mugimba, a senior official of an extremist political party, the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) is said to have played a key role in genocide-related crimes. He was charged with several counts but was convicted of the crimes of conspiracy to commit genocide and complicity in genocide. Owing to his cooperation during the trial he was awarded a fairly shorter sentence considering the gravity of the crimes committed. The Rwandan Genocide led to the death of more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus at the hands of Hutu extremists. Mugimba fled to the Netherlands in 1999 and was arrested in 2014. He was later extradited to Rwanda in 2016. According to a local media report, Mugimba intends to appeal against the ruling. 




Peru: Constitutional Court Reinstates Pardon of Ex-President Alberto Fujimori

On 17 March 2022, former President Alberto Fujimori who was sentenced to imprisonment till 2032 for charges of human rights violation, was ordered to be released early. Fujimori’s prison sentence was pardoned in 2017, but the Constitutional Tribunal overturned that decision, as the grounds of that decision were found to be irregular. The Court later reinstated the pardon sentence with a vote of 4-3, to free Fujimori. In 2000, he resigned from the presidency and moved to Japan seeking Japanese citizenship. He was later arrested in Chile, after flying there in 2005. He was extradited to Peru where he was finally prosecuted. He was released for a short time in 2019 before his pardon sentence was overturned. Fujimori’s rival, President Pedro Castillo, called upon the international courts and forums to administer justice and to protect its practice. Protests against the decision were called upon by the left-wing. Fujimori is seen as a highly polarising figure.


Serbia: Court Convicts Wartime Official Osman Osmanovic for Abusing Civilians and Prisoners of War

On 18 March 2022, Osman Osmanovic, a wartime official in charge of the Rasadnik camp in Gornji Rahic in Brcko was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for abusing and mistreating civilians and prisoners of war detained in the summer of 1992. The Belgrade High Court held that Osmanovic’s abusive behaviours were indicative of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Further, it was established that he was working for the Interior Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time of the crimes. Osmanovic was arrested in 2019 at the border between Serbia and Bosnia. Serbia refused his extradition to Sarajevo. The verdict is appealable. Osmanovic’s lawyer announced that the verdict will be challenged as the general assessment in itself is “unfair and illegal.” Judge Mirjana Ilic held that there is no evidence to prove that Osmanovic was one of the main investigators of the camp where prisoners were interrogated. 



UNSC & WHO: War in Ukraine Has Become the “Most Severe Test” for Europe 

On 14 March 2022, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo expressed her deep concern over the situation that had worsened in Ukraine over the weekend. She cited that relentless shelling and bombardment of various cities in the country have killed many civilians, further mentioning that there have been reports of Russian forces using cluster munitions. While addressing the UNSC, she described the war as “the most severe test” for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe since its creation in 1975. She further warned that the Russian invasion could potentially damage the framework of the longstanding confidence in building measures and arms control treaties in Europe. Around 18 million people in Ukraine have been affected by the war, with 6.7 million having been internally displaced. While WHO has been continuously working towards providing urgent healthcare relief, due to military operations the supply chains were hit and many distributors were inaccessible. With medicinal supplies running low, hospitals have been struggling to provide care for the wounded and sick. One of the major priorities of WHO at the moment is to provide support to neighbouring countries for their healthcare facilities which have provided shelter to around 2.8 million people in the past two weeks. 




WFP, FAO & UNICEF: War in Yemen Brings Record Food Insecurity as Funding Shrinks

On 14 March 2022, it was reported that the hunger crisis in Yemen has made more than 17.4 million Yemenis food insecure, in addition to the 1.6 million expected to fall under “emergency levels of hunger,” which would further take the number of people having emergency need to 7.3 million. David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, stated that there was a likelihood of a five-fold increase in the hunger crisis which could potentially turn into famine levels of hunger by the end of December. The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) stated that even after seven years of fighting, basic food needs in many households was lacking. The agency is working in collaboration with farmers on the ground for promoting self-reliance “through a combination of emergency and longer-term livelihood support” in order to build their own resilience and have local production of agri-food while minimising the reliance on imports. UNICEF is in urgent need of $484.4 million in funding to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. With the latest analysis on food insecurity, acute malnutrition has been on the rise among children under the age of five, with 2.2 million children already being acutely malnourished. The intensifying conflict in Yemen has led to a decline in the economy of the country, further driving up hunger levels and depreciating the value of Yemen’s Rial leading to an increase in food prices. According to new assessments, around 23.4 million are currently in need of urgent assistance which means 3 in every 4 people are at the brink of going hungry with 160,000 of them facing famine-like conditions in the upcoming months. 





UN: Myanmar Army Accused of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

On 15 March 2022, the United Nations released a report accusing the Myanmar army of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and killings. It requested the international community to take steps to bring an end to the spiral of violence taking place in the territory of Myanmar. It submitted that the Myanmar military is engaging in widespread human rights violations and abuses. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, while citing the will of the Myanmar population to fight against the coup called for the international community to take measures to resolve the crisis and hold the suspects accountable for their actions of gross human rights violations. The report covers the situation of the military takeover, since February 2021 and is based on interviews from victims, witnesses and advocates. The report suggests the possibility of mass killings and, based on the pieces of evidence, that people have been subjected to inhumane treatments. More than a thousand people have been killed by the security forces and several others have been detained and displaced. The report highlighted the urgent need for humanitarian assistance and concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the military is committing crimes against humanity. 


UNICEF:  Thousands of Children Killed in the Past 11 Years of Syrian War and Many Affected Psychologically

On 15 March 2022, UNICEF stated that the crisis in Syria continues to scar children physically and psychologically, and nearly 5 million children that have been born after 2011 do not recognise life in peace conditions.  In 2021 alone, 900 children were either killed or injured because of the ongoing conflict and since 2011, the total number has reached around 13,000. UNICEF Syria Representative Bo Viktor Nylund highlighted that the weight of the war has been “bearing down on Syrian children” and the crisis was continuously scarring them psychologically with signs of distress becoming visible among kids. Furthermore, Mr Nylund also talked about children with disabilities, stating that they had the “right to be cared for and nurtured.” An estimated 5.8 million children are hosting neighbouring countries and are in dire need of assistance; UNICEF has been continuously working towards protecting children and helping them in coping with the impact of conflict by providing them psychosocial support services, along with providing life-saving support to children who are struggling psychologically as well as physically. Furthermore, an Integrated Social Protection Programme for Children with Disabilities in Homs, which was started in 2016, has reached around 11,639 children with disabilities. The programme aims at providing regular and continuous cash transfers along with case management services for children living with severe disabilities.  


OHCHR: Immediate Action Vital for Ceasing Intensifying Violence in Myanmar

On 15 March 2022, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet made an appeal to the international community for taking immediate and resolute action to prevent the spiralling violence in Myanmar. The new report warned that there had been serious human rights abuses witnessed in the country which constitute war crimes against humanity. The report further upheld the fact that the military and security forces of the country have shown blatant disregard towards human life, as many citizens have been burned to death or have been used as human shields. The data that has been contained in the report is based on the interviews conducted with more than 155 victims, witnesses and advocates. The findings represent merely a fraction of the violations occurring in the country. It is estimated that 14 million people in Myanmar are in need of urgent humanitarian aid as the delivery has been blocked by military forces. Additionally, 440,000  people have been displaced by the conflict. The report states that most of the human rights violations that have been committed, including rape, suspension of food and water, electrocution, injection of unidentified drugs, were mostly carried out by security forces. The UN human rights chief underscored that the people of Myanmar remain committed to “seeing a return to democracy.”


UNSC: Libya Requires Transparent Election to Avoid Governmental Instability

On 16 March 2022, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs highlighted the issues in Libya such as human rights abuses, hate speech, violence against activists, civil society actors and journalists. She added that “a new phase of political polarisation” was being witnessed in Libya which could potentially revert the gains that have been achieved so far in the past two years. She also briefed the UNSC upon the security, economic and human rights situation in Libya, further warning that there has been an increase in tensions across the country. Reports of torture, extortion, starvation and custodial deaths were also mentioned as instances occurring despite a decline in the number of internally displaced persons across the country between the end of 2021 and March. Even though the ground situation in Libya remains relatively calm, there have been reports of threatening rhetoric, “a political impasse” and divided loyalties among the armed groups in western Libya. The UN political affairs chief underscored that their major priority is to take into consideration the aspiration of three million Libyans registered to vote and chose their representatives through transparent elections that are in line with the constitution. 


ICRC: Thousand of Somalis Worst Affected by the Ongoing Drought in the Horn of Africa

On 16 March 2022, The ICRC reported that the situation in Somalia is alarming as it has been severely affected by the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa. As a consequence of the drought, around 670,000 people had been displaced by the beginning of March and the most affected areas are the central and southern regions of Somalia. The Drought Emergency Response Plan has been put in place by the ICRC to focus on conflict affected and hard to reach areas. Juerg Eglin, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Somalia, stated that even though access to some areas was pending, teams across the district of South, Mogadishu and North Somalia were already assessing the needs and registering beneficiaries for providing assistance and support. He also stressed that there are quick processes underway to reach out to over 68,000 beneficiaries in the priority zones. The ICRC is continuously trying to scale up its response in several phases and has begun to provide support in areas where conflict affected communities are residing. 


UNDP: Delayed Peace in Ukraine Could Dismantle 18 Years of Development Achievements

On 16 March 2022, Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator stated that the war in Ukraine has been causing unimaginable human suffering and there is a need for peace now. The early projection released by UNDP stated that in the event of the war continuing, the 18 years of socio-economic developments would be dismantled, and accelerate further 62 per cent of the population to fall into poverty in the next twelve months. The war has caused at least $100 billion worth of damage to infrastructure, buildings, roads, schools and other physical assets. In order to mitigate the impact of war and the increase of people living in poverty, a series of policy measures in the upcoming weeks could assist the people in Ukraine. The UNDP has joined the UN Crisis Coordinator for strengthening the country’s banking and financial institutions. Multi-purpose cash assistance would be promoted through this collaboration to reach the maximum population. Furthermore, in neighbouring countries, the UNDP is working with the UNHCR for ensuring that millions of displaced Ukrainians are being provided assistance through income generation and employment. 


UNHCR: Current Humanitarian Approaches Are Insufficient for Long Term Support for Afghanistan

On 17 March 2022, Filippo Grandi, UN Refugee Agency Chief, appealed for sustainable international support for the people of Afghanistan as they were reeling under a worsening humanitarian crisis. He stated that around 3.4 million have been internally displaced because of the conflict and healthcare systems in the country are witnessing severe shortages because of a measles outbreak and the COVID crisis. Additionally, the devastating impact of rising global food prices and energy can already be visible; more than 500,000 Afghans have been assisted by the UNHCR relief preprogrammes since the beginning of the year and 130,000 have been able to survive winters because of the agency’s support. M Grandi underscored the mere “humanitarian approaches” are not sufficient, there is a need for “long term political and economic stability.” He also stated that to build trust among Afghans, they need to be guaranteed their rights and provided with services on an equal basis and access to work.  According to the recent report 95 per cent of Afghans are not getting enough to eat and overall 24 million required urgent humanitarian aid. In order to meet the critical needs of 22 million Afghans, the Humanitarian Response Plan needs $4.44 billion to prevent further hunger, malnutrition, death and displacement. 


IOM: Migration Mission Project Reports 215 Migrants Missing This Year

On 17 March 2022, Federico Soda, Libya Chief of Mission for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), expressed his grave concern over the continuous loss of life in the Central Mediterranean region due to migrants going missing near the Libyan coast. The IOM stated that in the past two weeks, 70 migrants have gone missing at sea and have been presumed dead. According to reports, on 12 March, a boat tha was was carrying 25 migrants had capsized near the Libyan coast of Tirbuk, leaving 12 missing persons while six were rescued and seven bodies were recovered. According to the IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, the incident has brought the number of missing migrants this year to 215. The IOM official stated that more than half of the deaths of migrants counted this year have been near the Libyan coast. The agency has been calling upon taking robust action of search, rescue and disembarkation mechanisms in accordance with international law to prevent deaths in the dangerous central Mediterranean route. The urgent need for having safer, proper and regular migration operations was highlighted by the IOM so that people are not compelled to risk their lives in search of security and protection. 


UNHCR: 2.3 Million South Sudanese Refugees in Need of Urgent Humanitarian Assistance

On 18 March 2022, Matthew Saltmarsh, UN Spokesperson issued a statement appealing for $1.2 billion to provide much need humanitarian assistance to 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees and local communities in the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. He further mentioned that despite having implemented the peace agreements, South Sudan is still facing occasional violence, with growing food insecurity and the impact of major flooding. The agency has appealed for urgent funding to support the five countries hosting South Sudanese refugees; so that they can provide required essential services as well as the refugees can be integrated into their social systems in order to access other social service delivery. Moreover, two out of three South Sudanese refugee children under the age of 18 have been affected by the crisis and school closures, therefore the funding is crucial for providing child protection, proper birth certification and family reunification. Furthermore, the South Sudan refugees crisis continues to be not only the largest on the African continent but also the least funded one at 21 per cent. The upcoming Humanitarian Response Plan for South Sudan is planned to complement the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan scheduled to be published in the coming weeks. 


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