- ICC: Former CAR Militia Leader Mokom Appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II
- ECtHR: Resolution on Consequences of Cessation of Membership of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe
- Nigeria: Shell Company Acquitted Citing Insufficient Evidence in the Ogoni Nine Trial
- Montenegro: Russia’s Request to Extradite Far-Right Ukrainian Member Rejected
- France: Anti-Terror Prosecutors Open Inquiry into Alleged Torture and Acts of Barbarism by Interpol Head
- Lebanon: Military Court Charges Politician Samir Geagea Over Beirut Street Violence
- Bangladesh: Two Former Lawmakers Sentenced to Death for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
- ICC: Danish Siddiqui’s Family Filed a Complaint Against Taliban Leaders
- ECtHR: Destruction of Manuscript Written During Detention Amounts to Violation of Right to Freedom of Speech
- Bosnia: Former Bosnian Policemen and Ex-Soldiers Acquitted of Murder Charges
- UNESCO: New UN Report Emphasises Managing and Preserving Groundwater Resources
- OHCHR: Widespread Human Rights Violations in Myanmar Could Drive Half of the Population to Impoverishment
- South Sudan: UN Commission Report Reveals the Extensive Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls
- UNHCR: Agency Continues to Provide Assistance to Thousands Displaced by Conflict in Cabo Delgado
- UN: General Assembly Approves the Resolution Calling for the Protection of Civilians in Ukraine
- UN: Security Council Defies DPR Korea’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Test
- UNHCR: 13 Million Remain Stranded in Ukraine Amidst Continuous Shelling
- Syria: Peace Negotiation Talks in Geneva Continue to End in Deadlock
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
ICC: Former CAR Militia Leader Mokom Appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II
On 22 March 2022, a national of the Central African Republic (“CAR”), Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka surrendered to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) by the Republic of Chad, appeared before the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC. Mr Mokom is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was a National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka that attacked the Muslim civilian population and those in support of the Seleka. A warrant against Mr Mokom was issued by the Chamber when it was found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that an armed conflict was going on in the territory of CAR between the Seleka (Muslim minority) and Anti-Balaka (Christian or animist). The alleged crimes were committed between December 2013 to December 2014. During his appearance, the Chamber identified the suspect and made sure he was aware of the crimes he is alleged to have committed and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC. The next hearing of confirmation of charges has been scheduled for 31 January 2023.
ECtHR: Resolution on Consequences of Cessation of Membership of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe
On 22 March 2022, in a press release, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) declared that it has adopted a resolution on the consequences of the cessation of membership of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe in the light of Article 58 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It declared that the Russian Federation would cease to be a High Contracting Party to the Convention on 16 September 2022. In case of applications brought against the Russian Federation relating to acts or omissions leading to violation of the Convention, the Court would remain competent to entertain such applications provided that such a violation occurred before 16 September 2022. The decision suspending examination of all the applications against the Russian Federation was lifted with immediate effect. The Resolution was adopted without prejudice to consideration of any legal issue relating to the consequences of the cessation of the Russian Federation’s membership to the Council of Europe, which may arise in the exercise of the Court’s competence to try the cases brought before it. The Court emphasised the object and purpose of the Convention.
Nigeria: Shell Company Acquitted Citing Insufficient Evidence in the Ogoni Nine Trial
On 23 March 2022, in its final verdict, a Dutch court acquitted the Shell company in a suit filed by four widows of the activists that were executed for participating in the 1995 protest against the company’s exploitation of the oil-rich Niger Delta. The nine Ogoni activists were sentenced to death for their involvement in the murder of Ogoni leaders. The claimants seek to hold Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and other Shell companies co-responsible for violating the fundamental rights that led to the death of their husbands. The company completely denies all the allegations. The Court observed that the pieces of evidence provided by the claimants were insufficient. Several testimonies were heard by the court wherein many said that they were paid and trained by Shell to give false testimonies in the case that led to the execution of nine Ogoni activists. The court held that mere witness testimonies cannot establish Shell’s or its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC’s liability. It was observed that witness testimonies are based on assumptions and interpretations and thus they cannot rely upon them to conclude that the money received by the witnesses came from the SPDC. One of the claimants said that she would file an appeal at The Hague while other claimants are considering filing an appeal.
Montenegro: Russia’s Request to Extradite Far-Right Ukrainian Member Rejected
On 23 March 2022, Russia’s request to extradite Rizvan Babayev, a member of the far-right group – “Right Sector” was rejected by the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights in Montenegro. The Ministry took this decision citing the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Russia issued an international warrant charging Babayev for “strategically smuggling important resources” during the 2014 Russia-Ukraine conflict. It considers the Right Sector an illegal terrorist organisation. As soon as investigations were launched in 2016, Babayev fled to Ukraine and took Ukrainian citizenship. He was arrested in Podgorica in January 2021. His lawyer requested the ministry to consider the request for asylum before considering Babayev’s extradition to Russia. Later that year, the Ministry of Justice decided to extradite Babayev to Russia but in December 2021, he applied to the Interior Ministry for asylum. According to Montenegrin law, Babayev cannot be extradited unless a decision on the asylum request is made. This is not the first rejection of a Russian request for extradition based on a Russian-issued international arrest warrant.
France: Anti-Terror Prosecutors Open Inquiry into Alleged Torture and Acts of Barbarism by Interpol Head
On 24 March 2022, a probe into the alleged barbaric act and torture committed by Interpol head, Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi commenced. An NGO named the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) filed a complaint against Raisi in January before the anti-terror prosecutors unit. He is accused of torturing opposition members while he held an official position in the United Arab Emirates interior ministry. The NGO believes Raisi was a participant of the group that was responsible for torturing Ahmed Mansoor an opponent member of the Emirati government. Accusations of torture against Raisi were advanced by several human rights organisations when he ran for the president of Interpol. There was a fear that the agency would run a risk of exploitation. Nevertheless, Raisi became the president of Interpol in November 2021. The French anti-terror prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into the allegations made against Raisi.
Lebanon: Military Court Charges Politician Samir Geagea Over Beirut Street Violence
On 24 March 2022, Samir Geagea, a Christian politician, was charged by a Lebanese military court for the violence that took place in Beirut in October 2021. Judge Fadi Akiki charged Geagea based on the findings of recent information relating to the Tayouneh events, a reference to Beirut’s deadliest street violence in a decade. Last October, Geagea was summoned for a hearing at the military intelligence but chose to abstain from attending the hearing. Seven members of the Shia Muslim group, Hezbollah and its Shia ally, the Amal Movement were killed in the incident. An investigation into the 2020 Beirut port blast by the judges led to the violence in October 2021, as protests were called upon by Hezbollah. Hezbollah won the 2018 election and is heavily armed and backed by Iran. Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) party claims that the charges and investigation into the violence are inspired by political motives. Hezbollah accuses LF of encouraging and dragging the country towards a civil war.
Bangladesh: Two Former Lawmakers Sentenced to Death for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
On 24 March 2022, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 in Bangladesh sentenced two former Jamaat lawmakers, Abdul Khaleq Mondol and Khan Roknuzzaman, to death. The convicts were charged with committing crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and rape during the country’s independence war in 1971. Khaleq organised the Razakar forces in Satkhira, and Roknuzzaman was a member of that force. Khaleq was arrested during the investigation while Roknuzzaman is still absconding. Initially, the case was filed in 2015 against four individuals however, two of the accused died due to old age and health related issues. The trial commenced in 2018 and the prosecution charged the accused with six counts of crimes against humanity. All the charges were proved beyond doubt. The lawyer representing the Jamaat leaders stated that an appeal against the verdict would be filed. Human Rights groups have also expressed their concern that the tribunal is not following fair-trial standards.
ICC: Danish Siddiqui’s Family Filed a Complaint Against Taliban Leaders
On 24 March 2022, a petition was filed before the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) by the family of an Indian photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui who was killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan in July 2021. The family alleges that Siddiqui was tortured and killed because he was a journalist and an Indian national. At the time of his murder, Siddiqui was working for Reuters and was placed with the Afghan Special Forces in Spin Boldak district in the Kandahar province. The lawyer representing the family stated that Siddiqui’s death amounted to war crime and crime against humanity. Further, it was stated that ICC has the jurisdiction to investigate the matter. The petition accuses six prominent Taliban leaders and several other local commanders of Siddiqui’s murder. In March 2020, the ICC allowed a prosecutor to investigate crimes committed in Afghanistan since May 2003. According to Article 18(2) of the Rome Statute, the investigation was later deferred to the Government of Afghanistan under the regime of former President Ashraf Ghani. Since the 2021 Taliban seizure, the ICC prosecutor seeks to resume his investigation of the war crimes committed in Afghanistan.
ECtHR: Destruction of Manuscript Written During Detention Amounts to Violation of Right to Freedom of Speech
On 24 March 2022, in a case against the authorities of Azerbaijan that destroyed the manuscript written by Mr Ganimat Salim oglu Zayidov, a journalist under pre-trial detention, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) considered it a violation of his right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. Zayidov is an Azerbaijani national who was arrested and charged with hooliganism in 2007. He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in 2008 and wrote a 278-page manuscript on his experiences during detention. Zayidov informed the detention facility officials about his intention to publish the manuscripts. He alleged that the manuscripts were taken away from him in two batches. Zayidov’s lawyer requested the manuscripts to be returned and later lodged a civil claim with the Sabail District Court. The lawyer’s request for Zayidov’s presence during the hearings was rejected without reasoning. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, the lower court’s verdict was upheld in the absence of Zayidov and his lawyer. In 2009, Zayidov filed an application before the ECtHR. The Court observed that there was a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) and ordered Azerbaijan was to pay the applicant 6,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 in respect of costs and expenses.
Bosnia: Former Bosnian Policemen and Ex-Soldiers Acquitted of Murder Charges
On 25 March 2022, two former policemen and three Bosnian Serb army ex-soldiers were acquitted by the Bosnian State Court for the charges of involvement in the killing of 57 Bosnian civilians. The incident took place in the village of Zaklopaca in the Milici municipality in 1992. The Court acquitted the accused, Radomir Pantic, Nenad Vukotic, Branko Jolovic, Milomir Milosevic and Nikola Losic, based on the observation that none of the witnesses were confident in their statement. Some witnesses could not completely identify the accused they were testifying against. The Court found that there was no evidence that Pantic organised a convoy of vehicles alongside his co-defendants and drove from Milici for Zaklopaca. It was found that it wouldn’t have been physically possible for the witnesses to see the defendants from the spot they were claiming to have seen them. The Judge observed that none of the five witness statements matched up to conclude who killed Muradif Hreljic. The verdict is appealable.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
UNESCO: New UN Report Emphasises Managing and Preserving Groundwater Resources
On 21 March 2022, the latest edition of the UN World Water Development Report was released and in its foreword, UNESCO Chief Audrey Azoulay stated that groundwater, which as an important natural resource, fulfilled the needs of 50 per cent of the urban population globally and was crucial for human life. Gilbert Houngbo, UN Water Chair and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) also urged that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, there is an urgent need for prioritising management and usage of groundwater. According to the report, 25 per cent of groundwater apart from domestic and drinking uses is necessary for irrigation of crops. The report predicts that in the next 30 years there will be a one per cent increase in the usage of water annually with global warming further increasing the dependency upon groundwater. UNESCO Chief stressed that in order to prevent groundwater pollution enhanced capacity development or knowledge is not sufficient, and as for protecting aquifers, there is a need for improvement and advancement on a technical, institutional, legal and financial basis.
OHCHR: Widespread Human Rights Violations in Myanmar Could Drive Half of the Population to Impoverishment
On 21 March 2022, UN High Commissioner of the Human Rights Council Michelle Bachelet warned that the crisis in Myanmar is continually intensifying and the security forces known as the Tatmadaw, which have further instigated the pre-existing armed conflicts. The OHCHR chief also underscored that with the widespread violence in Myanmar more than 14.4 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid and in the coming months, food insecurity is bound to intensify. According to UN Development Programme (UNDP) predictions, the impact of COVID-19 coupled with the military coup and widespread violence could compound the crisis and drive half of the country’s population into impoverishment. She also emphasised that there is a need for “political pathway to restore democracy and civilian rule,” but while moving towards a dialogue, identifying persons responsible for committing severe human rights violations should not be ignored.
South Sudan: UN Commission Report Reveals the Extensive Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls
On 21 March 2022, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, in its new report “Conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan” described the horrific plight of women and girls in the country. The Commission stated that the conflict in the country has fuelled extensive sexual violence against women and girls, while also stating that it has been instrumentalised by armed groups as a reward mechanism for promoting the participation of youth and men in the conflict. The Commission welcomed the Government initiative put in place for addressing these crimes; it stated that the initiative still remains to be insufficient with regard to the degree of the crime. The Commission also underscored that the failure to fulfil the basic needs of armed forces and reforms in the security sector has highly contributed towards creating an environment in which South Sudanese women and girls are being subjected to these crimes. The Commission has called upon South Sudanese authorities for taking up crucial steps in order to combat sexual violence against women and girls, by tackling the drivers of conflict and security.
UNHCR: Agency Continues to Provide Assistance to Thousands Displaced by Conflict in Cabo Delgado
On 22 March 2022, Boris Cheshirkov, UNHCR Spokesperson stated that 24,000 people within the Nangade district of Mozambique have been displaced by the series of attacks that occurred between January and mid-March. According to the UNHCR, thousands have fled the continued violence in Cabo Delgado province. Furthermore, in the neighbouring district of Mueda, some 5000 people have sought protection while 134,515 people have been internally displaced are also being hosted, and overall 735,000 have fled their homes in Cabo Delgado since the beginning of the conflict in 2017. The UNHCR spokesperson also stressed that the return of refugees and IDPs to Cabo Delgado would be a premature decision as it requires the return be done in a dignified and voluntary manner while also taking into consideration the insecure situation there. Meanwhile, the UNHCR has also been continuously providing assistance to people affected by the Tropical Cyclone Gombe that hit the Nampula Province on 10 March 2021. The UNHCR has been working towards procuring essential items and shelters for assisting 62,000 refugees, internally displaced persons and other host community members. The UNHCR is in need of $36.7 million funding to sustain the humanitarian aid and lifesaving assistance operations in Mozambique. So far, merely 11 per cent of the sum have been funded.
UN: General Assembly Approves the Resolution Calling for the Protection of Civilians in Ukraine
On 24 March 2022, a resolution put forward by Ukraine, demanding “an immediate cessation of the hostilities by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, in particular of any attacks against civilians and civilian objects” was passed at the UN headquarters in New York. The resolution, originally prepared by France and Mexico at an emergency session of the General Assembly, strongly criticizes Russia for attacking civilians indiscriminately and targeting facilities such as hospitals and buildings used as shelters. The resolution also calls for the protection of medical and aid workers as well as journalists. The claims brought forward by Ukraine and the Western allies are continuously denied by the Kremlin since the start of the invasion a month ago. The Russian representatives refer to the conflict as a “special military operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure and claim that the drafted resolution is “politicised.”
UN: Security Council Defies DPR Korea’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Test
On 25 March 2022, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, urged the UN Security Council to be in agreement on its response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch, as the delegates met on Friday in emergency session. On 24 March, the large-scale intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was put in the country’s first long-range test since 2017. It covered 1,090 km and obtained a height of approximately 6,200 kilometres, making an impact in the sea within the exclusive economic zone of Japan. The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the missile was designed to demonstrate the strength of its nuclear force and avert any possible US military moves. DiCarlo emphasised the importance of the Security Council’s unity to ease tensions and prevent any negative action-reaction course. She additionally reminded that the UN is committed to working with all involved parties toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
UNHCR: 13 Million Remain Stranded in Ukraine Amidst Continuous Shelling
On 25 March 2022, Karolina Lindholm Billing, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative in Ukraine, stated that while three million have fled the war in Ukraine, 13 million still remain stranded in affected areas because of restricted movement, lack of resources, information on safety, accommodation and various other reasons. According to the IOM, about 6.5 million people have been internally displaced. The UN official explained that the UN has been continuously working towards reaching the population currently facing the greatest risk, such as in Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk. Tomson Phiri, UN World Food Programme Spokesperson, underscored that the food supply to Ukraine had been broken due to the continuous bombing, empty supermarkets and warehouses. He further highlighted that the situation in Mariupol was dire as the city was running out of last stock of food and water due to constant shelling, with the only way to provide assistance was through humanitarian convoys which have been unable to reach the city so far. Funding of $1.7 billion is required to provide assistance to people across and beyond Ukraine and $1.1. Billion is urgently needed for fulfilling the needs of six million people who are about to be displaced by military operations in the upcoming months. The emergency appeal is approximately 40 per cent funded so far.
Syria: Peace Negotiation Talks in Geneva Continue to End in Deadlock
On 25 March 2022, Syrian peace talks failed to find a solution to the 11 year long civil conflict after government officials, opposition figures and members of civil society left the UN-led process in Geneva without any substantial progress. After the five-day dialogue between delegations from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian negotiations commission, no agreement was reached in the attempt to sketch a new constitution for the war-torn country. The tentative talks were scheduled in an effort to rewrite Syria’s constitution and support an overture to broader political dialogue with the guidance of the UN-supported Constitutional Committee. During the five days of dialogue, members have discussed four fields of the constitutional principles – basics of governance, State identity, State symbols and the regulation and functions of public authorities. A press conference was anticipated after the talk was cancelled, therefore neither side gave detailed comments on the negotiation process, however, Mr Pedersen, the Special Envoy, has commented that the week-long deliberations “have not been easy.”