Weekly News Recap (28 March-3 April 2022)

© Photo by UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr




Eurojust: Assets Linked to Money Laundering in Lebanon Have Been Seized by Several EU Countries

On 28 March 2022, a press release from Eurojust explained that judicial authorities, police, and investigative teams of France, Germany, and Luxemburg recently seized properties and froze bank accounts worth $132m, which were linked to the embezzlement of public money in Lebanon. Eurojust, who supported the judicial cooperation, stated that the main investigations were directed against five individuals suspected of embezzling public funds in Lebanon between the years 2002 and 2021. 



Eurojust: Support for Investigations of Core Crimes Committed in Ukraine

On 28 March 2022, a press release from Eurojust explained that it will support investigations carried out into the alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine by setting up a joint investigation team (JIT), signed in an agreement by different countries with the possibility to extend the participation in the JIT to the EU Member States, third countries or other third parties. The primary responsibility of the JIT is to gather information and evidence and secure the exchange and sharing of information as well as to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Eurojust will be supporting the JIT’s operation and activities in different ways. 


France: The Judicial Court of Paris Indicts Two Cambodian Generals for the Grenade Attack on 30 March 1997 

An article published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 29 March 2022 states that the Judicial Court of Paris (‘Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris’) has issued arrest warrants for two Cambodian generals for the grenade attack of 30 March 1997 in Phnom Penh, on an oppositional political demonstration that killed 16 people and injured more than 150. The court could not summon Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for his role in the attack due to his immunity, as Head of State. The case was originally filed in Paris by Sam Rainsy, the leader of the opposition and the target of the attack. 


USA: President Biden Signs Legislation Declaring Lynching as a Federal Hate Crime

On 29 March 2022, President Biden signed legislation making lynching a federal hate crime, with criminals facing up to 30 years of jail. The crime of lynching is defined as, murder by a mob with no due process or rule of law. Across the US, thousands of people, mainly African Americans, have been lynched by white mobs. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named after a 14-year-old black boy, who was killed in 1955 in Mississippi in a racist attack. 



KSC: Krasniqi’s and Selimi’s Appeals Against the Decision of the Pre-Trial Judge Dismissed

On 29 March 2022, the Court of Appeals Panel of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) denied Mr Krasniqi’s appeal against the decision by the Pre-Trial Judge ordering their continued detention. Mr Krasniqi was arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant in 2020. In June of 2021, the Pre-Trial Judge reviewed Mr Krasniqi’s detention and ordered his continued detention. In his appeal, Mr Krasniqi alleged three grounds for his appeal: 1) that the Pre-trial Judge erred in law and fact, and considered irrelevant factors in determining that release on the proposed conditions was insufficient to mitigate the identified risk, 2) whether there was sufficient risk of witness interference or commission of further crimes to justify his ongoing detention, and 3) undue delay. The Panel ultimately found that Mr Krasniqi had failed to prevail on all grounds and the Court of Appeals Panel, accordingly, dismissed Krasniqi’s Appeal. 

ICJ: Upcoming Judgment to be Delivered (Nicaragua v. Colombia)

On 30 March 2022, the Registry at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that the Court will deliver a judgment on Thursday, 21 April 2022, regarding the case of alleged violations of sovereign rights and maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia). Nicaragua initiated proceedings against Columbia in November of 2013. In support of its claim, Nicaragua states that various declarations by the President and the Vice-President of Colombia, as well as the Foreign Minister, demonstrate Colombia’s rejection of the Court’s prior judgment (in 2012).


UK/Hong Kong: UK Supreme Court Judges Withdraw from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal 

On 30 March 2022, the British government decided to withdraw its judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal with two judges directly resigning. The decision came as a result of a security law that was introduced in 2020 by China repressing freedom of speech and enabling the punishment of protestors. The UK explained that the new law has departed from values concerning civil and political liberties, stamping on free speech, press, and association.


ECtHR: Extension of the Applicable Measures Related to Ukraine Following the Military Attack of February 2022

On 31 March 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), after conducting a reassessment decided to extend the application of measures taken against Ukraine until further notice. The Court decided that these measures will be reviewed by the Court at a later date. However, applications for interim measures concerning Ukraine will continue to be processed. 



Ethiopia: Supreme Court Grants Bail to Journalist

On 31 March 2022, the Ethiopian Supreme Court upheld the decision to grant bail to the Ethiopian video journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro, who is accused of violating Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law after being arrested for four months without any formal charges being brought. Another local journalist, Thomas Engida was also arrested and is facing similar charges. Whether or not the journalists will have charges pressed against them despite being granted bail remains uncertain. If found guilty of violating Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, or the state of emergency law, they could face sentences of seven to 15 years behind bars. 


ECtHR: Application Regarding Deteriorating Health While in Detention in Armenia Rejected

On 31 March 2022, in the case of Mayrapetyan v. Armenia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared Mr Mayrapetayan’s application concerning medical care inadmissible. Mr Mayrapetayan, who was placed in pre-trial detention following corruption charges, requested medical care that was not available in Armenia. Following an application in 2019, Mr Mayrapetayan was able to travel to Germany for treatment under a personal surety. The surety was later cancelled as the applicant received the necessary treatment and was no longer facing life-risking ailments. The Court noted that the applicant had free access to doctors of his choosing and that although his condition worsened while in pre-trial detention, it was not the rest of any negligence on the part of the authorities. As a result, the Court rejected the application regarding Article 2 and Article 3, as ill-founded. 


IACHR: William Alfredo Balmaceda Ubieta and Family Granted Precautionary Measures in Nicaragua

On 31 March 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), granted precautionary measures in favour of Mr William Alfredo Balmaceda Ubieta and his family, after finding that they are in a serious and urgent situation of irreparable damage to their rights in Nicaragua. Mr Balmaceda Ubieta is an opponent of the current Nicaraguan government and has been subject to acts of threats, harassment and constant surveillance by state and parastatal agents. Mr Balmaceda Ubieta has suffered numerous arrests with threats, interrogations and attacks by the authorities in recent years. In accordance with Article 25 of the Regulations, the State of Nicaragua is requested to adopt necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of Mr Balmaceda Ubieta and his immediate family, in accordance with the standards established by international law of human rights, and report on actions taken to investigate the alleged facts. 


Germany: 93-Year-Old Holocaust Denier Sentenced to a Year in Prison

On 1 April 2022, the notorious 93-year-old neo-Nazi Ursula Haverbeck was sentenced to a 12-month prison sentence in Berlin for denying the murder of over a million Jews at the Auschwitz death camp. The court rejected her appeal for convictions in 2017 and 2020 handed to her for repeated instances of Holocaust denial. Haverbeck was sentenced to six months in prison in 2017 after repeatedly denying the historic facts of the Holocaust during an event in Berlin. The presiding judge emphasized that she is not a Holocaust researcher but a Holocaust denier.



Amnesty International: Humanitarian Truce – a Step Towards Providing Help in the Tigray Region

On 28 March 2022, it was reported that the Tigrayan authorities have agreed to respect the humanitarian truce announced by the Ethiopian Government in the conflict-ridden Tigray. The regional authorities stated that they would “respect if sufficient aid reached Tigray within a reasonable timeframe.” The humanitarian truce has been labelled as “a positive step” for millions of Tigrayans affected by the conflict. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes region, Sarah Jackson urged that this opportunity should be taken as an opportunity by international actors to de-escalate the intensifying humanitarian crisis in the region. She also emphasised the need for providing continuous and non-discriminatory humanitarian assistance in the western Tigray region, while urging that all parties of the conflict must allow humanitarian aid workers access to the northern region of Ethiopia, including land routes. According to reports, 5.2 million are facing food insecurity, while only 784,000 have only been able to receive food aid since May 2021; the shutdown of various services like internet, and phone communication has jeopardised the humanitarian operations in the region. 



OCHA: Consecutive Fourth Failed Rainy Season Could Drive Millions of Somalis to Famine

On 28 March 2022, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Adam Abdelmoula warned that a famine could be witnessed if the upcoming rainy season failed, as the country has already seen three consecutive failed rainy seasons, and this could be the fourth. Since 1981, this is the worst drought being experienced by the Horn of Africa while putting millions of lives at risk in Somalia. Furthermore, prior to the start of the drought, 7.7 million Somalis were in need of humanitarian aid and assistance and now it has increased by 30 per cent in just one year. The United Nations and its partner organisations have continuously been providing humanitarian aid and assistance, reaching 1.6 million people in February. The UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states that 4.5 million Somalis have been affected by the drought and 700,000 have been displaced. The UN World Food Programme aims to reach 2.5 million people by providing food aid, but without sufficient funding, it is not possible. It requires $203 million to deliver the required humanitarian aid. Only four per cent of the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia has been funded, which is equal to $56.1 million. In order to support 5.5 million of the most vulnerable population in the country,  $1.5 billion is still lacking to provide assistance. 


UNHCR: New Joint Response Plan Launched to Support Rohingya Refugees and Bangladeshi Communities 

On 29 March 2022,  UN Refugee Agency UNHCR urged that there is a need for a “robust and sustained international support” in order to proved assistance to Rohingya refugees and the communities hosting them. Babar Baloch, UNHCR Spokesperson stated that more than $881 million is required for providing aid and assistance to 1.4 million people which includes not just 918,000 Rohingyas but also 540,000 Bangladeshis. A Joint Response Plan has been launched by the UNHCR and the International Organisation on Migration for the Rohingyas Humanitarian Crisis, with an aim to prioritise disaster risk management and climate change impacts. The 2022 Joint Response Plan brings engagement from 136 different partners and 74 of those are local Bangladeshi organisations. International displacement continues to rise and UNHCR has highlighted that the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar are exposed to natural disasters. Therefore, this year’s Joint Response Plan focuses on the need for strengthening disaster risk management and migration caused by climate change. 


UNSC: Food Shortage in Ukraine and North Africa to Increase in Upcoming Months

On 29 March 2022, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), after assessing various regions of Ukraine, highlighted that many regions would not be able to “sustain livestock production, plant new crops or harvest crops.” While Rein Paulsen, FAO Director, Office of Emergencies & Resilience, further stated that in the next three months food shortage could be witnessed in 40 per cent of the surveyed areas and production is likely to be further disrupted. The FAO has made an urgent appeal for $50 million, of which only 10 per cent has been funded up till now. On 29 March 2022, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in a meeting with the UN Security Council claimed that around 1100 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in a month and the conflict in the country was showing no “signs of abating,” further warning that the death toll is continuing to further increase. Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) David Beasley while briefing the UNSC, also emphasised that the food insecurity would be further compounded in regions of Sahel, North Africa and the Middle East due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. In these regions, most of the staple food like wheat is supplied from Ukraine and Russia, where it is the planting season at the moment. 



UN: Eight Peacekeepers Killed in a Helicopter Crash in DRC 

On 29 March 2022, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, has confirmed that eight peacekeepers were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). No survivors were found among the crew members with diverse ethnic backgrounds – six of them coming from Pakistan and two from Russia and Serbia. The helicopter was on a patrol mission when it crashed in North Kivu province, where conflicts emerged this week between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group. While the Congolese army declared that the chopper was shot down by rebels, the M23’s spokesman denied the claim. MONUSCO representatives did not specify the reason for the crash but stated that an inquiry was ongoing. After an uprising in 2012 and 2013, the M23 gang was forced out of the country and tracked into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, however, its fighters have subsequently returned to carry out attacks. Willy Ngoma, M23 spokesman, claimed that the group was fighting solely for defensive reasons. 


Tunisia: President Kais Saied Dissolved The Parliament to “Preserve the State and its Institutions”

On 30 March 2022, Tunisia’s president has publicly announced on state television that the Assembly of Representatives of the people will be dissolved. The statement was made during a meeting of the National Security Council, only hours after legislators convened an online plenary session and passed a bill opposing his “extraordinary actions.” Following his announcement, the Tunisian Minister of Justice, Leila Jeffal, called on the Attorney General to open an inquiry against members of parliament on charges of “conspiracy against state security.” Eight months earlier, on 25 July last year, Said sacked the Tunisian government and suspended the assembly. He granted himself the authority to govern and legislate by decree, as well as seize control of the courts, while his moves were regarded as attacks on democracy.


Georgia: The Separatist Region of South Ossetia has Begun the Process of Joining Russia

On 31 March 2022, Anatoly Bibilov, the leader of the separatist region of South Ossetia, backed by Moscow authorities, has announced that the separatist region is prepared for official accession to Russia. A spokeswoman of Bibilov, Dina Gassiyeva, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the authorities in the region plan to hold a referendum in this regard, mentioning that the accession decision was taken directly in connection with the “opportunity that arose in the situation recent international conference,” referring to the current conflict in Ukraine. Russia has recognized South Ossetia as an independent republic since 2008 after it was embroiled in a war with Georgia. This partnership has been extremely prolific as Russia has secured the separatist territory by providing significant financial support, giving the nationals Russian citizenship, and dispatching national troops to defend the region.


UNHRC: Ethiopia Blocks an Investigation Into the Country’s Human Rights Abuses 

On 31 March 2022, funding for the independent investigation into abuses in the Ethiopian conflict was subject to a vote in a United Nations General Assembly budget committee. The voting comes in response to the Ethiopian proposal to restrict funds for the investigation. In December, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva initiated an inquiry in order to gather evidence and identify individuals responsible for the atrocities. Ethiopia’s representatives promised not to participate, calling the initiative, pushed by Western countries, “politically motivated.” Human Rights Watch has called on UN member states to reject the Ethiopian movement. The war between Ethiopian federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), controlling the Tigray region, broke out 16 months ago. During last year, fighting spread from Tigray to neighbouring Amhara and Afar before Tigray rebel forces were repulsed.


UNHCR: Uganda Continues to Host Refugees from DRC After Recent Clashes

On 1 April 2022, the UN Refugee Agency reported that some 10,000 refugees were being assisted in the Kisoror region in Uganda after they had fled clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which began on 28 March 2022 by the Ugandan Government in partnership with the UNHCR. Furthermore, around 36,000 people have been internally displaced, among them most are being hosted by families or in markets and schools. Joel Boutroue, UNHCR’s Representative to Uganda, stated that the UNHCR with Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister were promptly responding to the situation on the ground by managing various transit centres for asylum seekers along the border of the DRC. They have been able to relocate around 2350 asylum seekers to the nearby Nyakabande transit centre. Uganda has been commended for hosting refugees and currently, there is a need for $343.3 million for sustaining humanitarian operations in the country, and only nine per cent of the amount has been funded so far. The operations in DRC require funding of $225.4 million to fulfil the needs of 5.6 million internally displaced people, but with it being underfunded, the humanitarian needs of these people still remain unmet. 


Sri Lanka: President’s House Stormed and 50 People Injured in Protests Amid Economic Crisis 

On 1 April 2022, hundreds of protesters gathered at the residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, calling for him and the government to resign. The protesters attempted to attack the president’s mansion, triggered by the government’s poor handling of the country’s escalating economic crisis. The unrest resulted in an overnight curfew, as well as the arrest of 45 persons. Nearly 50 individuals were hurt and sent to the hospital, including journalists, as authorities deployed tear gas and water cannon to disperse the gathering. The government has been lacking the funds to pay for the fuel required by the power plants and has even turned off the street lighting to conserve energy. Without air conditioning or fans during the power outages that last between 10 to 12 hours, citizens are suffering. The crisis has spread to the hospitals that had to cancel surgeries due to a scarcity of fuel to power the generators that serve as backup during blackouts. India, China, and the US have loaned billions of US dollars to the Sri Lankan government that is now looking for an International Monetary Fund bailout.


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