Weekly News Recap (4-10 April 2022)

© Photo by United Nations Photo via Flickr




Rwanda: Court Upholds 25-Year Prison Sentence Against Paul Rusesabagina for Charges of Terrorism

On 4 April 2022, the court, while rejecting the prosecution’s appeal to increase the 25-year sentence to life imprisonment for Paul Rusesabagina held instead that Mr Rusesabagina was a first-time offender and thus the sentence was in line with the weight of crimes he committed. The court argued that decreasing his sentence because he confessed to the charges is invalid, but as a first-time offender, the 25-year prison sentence was appropriate. Mr Rusesabagina used to work as a hotel manager in Kigali and provided shelters to Hutu and Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. He was accused of supporting the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed wing of his opposition political platform Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), that claimed partial responsibility for the death of nine Rwandans, who died during the 2018 and 2019 attacks. Mr Rusesabagina has denied responsibility.


Bosnia: Nikola Koprivica Extradited from Canada for Charges of Crimes Against Humanity

On 4 April 2022, Nikola Koprivica, a suspect in a shooting that led to the death of more than 40 Bosniak victims from Novoseoci in 1992, was extradited from Canada to Sarajevo to face charges. Mr Koprivica lived in Canada for many years and was identified with the help of the Canadian authorities. According to the prosecution, 44 Bosniak men were taken to a landfill at Ivan Polje by the members of the Military Police and Reconnaissance Company. They were later killed while the women, children and elderly were taken to Sarajevo. There are several others, who are also on trial for their role in the events including Miladin Gasevic, former deputy commander of the Reconnaissance Company. An indictment against Mr Koprivica was filed, with court proceedings commencing in the Court of BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina).



France: Court Paves the Way for Syrian Oppositional Figure to Stand Trial for Charges of War Crimes

On 5 April 2022, while overturning an earlier decision against universal jurisdiction, a French court ruled that Majdi Nema, also known as ‘Islam Alloush’ a former spokesman of Jaish Al Islam, an extremist rebel group, could stand trial for war crimes committed in Syria under the principles of universal jurisdiction. Mr Nema was arrested in 2020 while travelling to France for his studies. This ruling will set a precedent that will allow prosecutors to seek justice for international war crimes that have no link to France. Between 2011 and 2018, Jaish Al Islam was an active rebel group fighting against the Syrian government and is accused of committing several crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is also accused of kidnapping and torturing four human rights activists who have been missing since 2013. In 2019, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), identified 30 members of Jaish Al Islam who should be put on trial, if they were found in Europe and thus, filed a legal complaint against them. This case is currently under investigation.


ICC: Darfur Janjaweed Leader Abd-Al-Rahman Pleaded Not Guilty Before Trial Chamber I

On 5 April 2022, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman also known as ‘Ali Kushayb’, a leader of Sudan’s pro-government linked militia – “Janjaweed” appeared before the Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) and pled not guilty. He is charged with 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004. In 2020, Mr Abd-Al-Rahman surrendered before the court. The Darfur conflict began in 2003, between the pro-government Janjaweed militia and the non-Arab Darfur rebel movements, who were resentful of the discriminatory treatment and the neglectful attitude by the government. It is alleged that the Janjaweed committed genocide against the civilian population. Mr Abd-Al-Rahman, along with other militia members, is alleged to have committed widespread rape, torture, killing and pillaging. This is the first case of charging suspects related to the Darfur conflict. 




Burkina Faso: Ex-President Blaise Compaoré Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

On 6 April 2022, after a six-month trial for the assassination of Thomas Sankara, the Burkinabe court sentenced former President Blaise Compaoré to life imprisonment. Mr Sankara, along with 12 other officials, were killed during a coup conducted by Mr Compaoré in 1987. Since then, Mr Compaoré ruled as the President until his removal in 2014. Mr Compaoré fled to the Ivory Coast and received citizenship. Mr Compaoré was tried in absentia, while two other suspects, namely, Gilbert Diendéré, one of the leaders of the 1987 putsch and the leader of the 2015 coup, and Hyacinthe Kafando, leader of Compaoré’s guards at the time, were also sentenced to life imprisonment. The court has handed down jail terms to eight other accused with three being acquitted. This is an important ruling in the nation, as Mr Sankara is still known for his socialist reforms and speeches.


Pakistan: Supreme Court Ordered Restoration of Parliament after Dissolution by the PM

On 7 April 2022, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the House of Parliament to be restored while pronouncing its dissolution by Prime Minister Imran Khan to be illegal. The Prime Minister lost the majority’s support in parliament last week as the opposition staged a no-confidence motion. The deputy speaker of the Parliament rejected the motion and the Prime Minister dissolved the Parliament. After a four-day hearing of the matter, the court ordered the restoration of the Parliament, and for a no-confidence vote by lawmakers. The opposition, while citing that Khan violated the constitution, took the case to the country’s top court and won. According to Khan, the opposition was inspired by the United States which wanted a change of regime, as his foreign policies were independent and favoured China and Russia. The US Department of State has denied any involvement in the matter. Currently, the country inhabiting 220 million people is going through a constitutional and economic crisis.


Turkey: Jamal Khashoggi Case Suspended and Transferred to Saudi Arabia

On 7 April 2022, a court in Turkey, while granting the prosecutor’s request, ruled on the suspension of the Jamal Khashoggi case and transferred it to Saudi Arabia. Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post journalist, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The case involves a trial, in absentia, of 26 Saudis accused in the killing. The Court was warned by various human rights groups that handing over the case to the Saudi authorities would imply the case is covered up and an unjust trial. Mr Khashoggi’s fiancée has appealed the decision. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had also called for the court to overturn the decision, as transferring the case to Saudi authorities would “end any possibility of justice” for Khashoggi. 


IACtHR: Peru Ordered to Not Release Ex-President Alberto Fujimori from Prison

On 8 April 2022, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) ordered Peru to not release jailed ex-president, Alberto Fujimori. This decision comes after Peru’s top local court reinstated the controversial 2017 presidential pardon, which would allow Mr Fujimori to be released. The original 2017 presidential pardon was granted due to health concerns but was overturned by a decision issued by the IACtHR. Mr Fujimori will now remain in prison until the court reviews the matter. Mr Fujimori was convicted of several human rights violations which were committed between 1990 and 2000. He was convicted for 25 murders, which were carried out by a clandestine military squad in two massacres, between 1990 and 2000. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence. The Peruvian government has agreed to obey the decision.



Nigeria: Court Ruled Nnamdi Kanu Stands Trial on Seven Counts of Terrorism

On 8 April 2022, a federal court judge ruled that Nigeria’s leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, will stand trial on charges of terrorism and false broadcasting. The court struck down eight out of fifteen charges that were brought against the Mr Kanu by the government and held that Mr Kanu will stand trial on seven counts of terrorism. He is being charged for broadcasts made during the years 2018- 2021. In 2014, Mr Kanu established the IPOB with the intent to have the south-eastern parts of Nigeria secede which is inhabited by a majority of the Igbo ethnic population. A similar attempt was made in 1967 by the Igbo separatists which led to a three-year civil war that caused over a million deaths. Mr Kanu was arrested in 2017 and later escaped from Nigeria, after skipping bail, but was re-arrested in Kenya and extradited to Nigeria. Mr Kanu’s lawyer filed a suit against the charges being imposed on his client, saying that his extradition was not based on those charges. Mr Kanu denies all the charges.



West Africa: Worst Hunger Crisis in a Decade

On 4 April 2022, it was reported that the West African region, which includes Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria. the largest food crisis of the decade is being witnessed. Around 27 million people are currently facing hunger and the number could increase to as much as 38 million by June, which would be one-third increase since last year. In the West African region, areas have been reported to have had an increased food crisis, and the number of people in need of urgent food assistance has quadrupled between the years 2015 and 2022 alone. Furthermore, an increase in malnutrition will be seen in the Sahel region, with the United Nations estimating that 6.3 million children under the age of five will be soon facing acute malnourishment with 1.4 million in the severe acute malnutrition phase. The Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations has stated that there could be a 20 per cent increase in food prices which would further make it even more unaffordable to the most vulnerable population of the world. The regional representative of Action Against Hunger reiterated that with the Sahel being in the worst humanitarian crisis, the reduction in funding should not be made and by redirecting funding to the Ukrainian crisis, the situation in other conflict-stricken area could be compounded. Until now, only 48 per cent of the Response Plan in West Africa has been funded and a four billion dollar funding gap has to be filled to protect lives and provide live-saving assistance.



Ukraine: War Crimes Committed In Bucha Must be Investigated Promptly

On 4 April 2022, Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International stated that the reports received from Bucha and other occupied areas of Ukraine showcase an extensive pattern of commission of war crimes which also include extrajudicial killings and torture. She also emphasised the need for urgent efforts to investigate the happenings in Bucha. Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for the United Nations Human Rights Council, also allied with the UN Secretary-General’s call for conducting an independent investigation into the killings of hundreds of civilians in Bucha. Osnat Lubrani, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, urged that it was critical to verify the report of violence against civilians and determine the scale of these crimes so that perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.



OHCHR: El Salvador’s Response Towards Gang Violence Concerning

On 5 April 2022, Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for the Office of Hugh Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed her grave concern over the measures that were introduced in El Salvador for responding to rising gang killings in the state of emergency declared on 27 March 2022. She stated that the measures were creating a pattern of excessive use of force by the state police, while 5747 people were detained and treated inhumanely. Furthermore, she also highlighted that amendments being brought to the criminal law and procedure of the country would highly affect the number of sentences imposed. The detention is also affecting children as it imposes a sentence of 10 years imprisonment upon children between the ages of 12 and 16, while those aged 16 and 18 would have to undergo a term of 20 years of conviction; this elevation in sentences would make children and teenagers triable as adults. She underscored that the government should comply with international human rights law and urged the government to treat the prisoners humanely while providing them access to food, water and sanitation.


OHCHR: Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka Compounded by Worsening Economic Conditions

On 5 April 2022, the Office of High Commoner on Human Rights expressed deep concern over the situation in Sri Lanka and urged the Sri Lankan authorities to put an end to the ongoing tensions while also underscoring that shortages in essential items like food and fuel are present in the country. The economic situation in Sri Lanka has worsened over the two weeks with recurrent power cuts, inflation and devaluation of the currency, which has further led to protests across the country. A state of emergency was declared on 1 April after people held a demonstration outside the residence of the President on 31 March. According to OHCHR, there have been reports of the use of excessive violence against protestors. The OHCHR reminded us that Sri Lankan authorities should comply with international human rights law while imposing the measures relating to the state of emergency. Furthermore, to avoid further polarization of the situation in the country, the OHCHR has called upon all international actors and civil society members to find a peaceful solution for combating the economic and political challenges existing in the country.


Ethiopia: New Joint Report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Concludes Crimes Against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone

On 6 April 2022, an investigation led by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch determined that newly appointed administrators in the Western Tigray and Amhara region are responsible for an ethnic cleansing campaign targeted at Tigrayan civilians. The report emphasized that the regional authorities alluded through oral and occasionally written threats to push Tigrayans out of the area. The forces attempted to persuade Tygrains into migrating east, over the Tekeze River. The coercive methods included unlawful killings, sexual violence against women and girls, mass detentions, discriminatory withholding of humanitarian aid and services, and the forcible transfer of hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans from the territory. Previously, between December 2020 and March 2022, researchers from both organizations conducted over 400 interviews, in order to explore the abuses and trends in the area. According to estimations of the United Nations and international NGOs and the Tigray interim government, several hundred thousand Tigrayans have been evacuated from the Western Tigray Zone since November 2020.


Sudan: Tens of Thousands Of Protesters Have Defied the Military Leadership Through Mass Marches

On 6 April 2022, tens of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators marched in Khartoum and other towns, condemning the recent coup orchestrated by the army. The protests, led by neighbouring resistance committees, come as a result of the military’s difficulty in appointing a new prime minister, while the economy of the country has consistently deteriorated, due to the suspension of foreign aid. Despite the high temperatures, tear gas and the fasting of Ramadan, citizens gathered to mark the third anniversary of the fall of former President Omar al-Bashir. The 6 April celebrates the anniversary of enormous rallies against Bashir in front of military headquarters in 2019, followed by a civilian sit-in that sought democratic governance. While a power-sharing agreement was reached, it was terminated by a coup in October. Military commanders refer to the intervention as a necessary corrective action.


Armenia & Azerbaijan: Foreign Ministers Begin Preparation of a Future Peace Treaty on the Nagorno-Karabakh

On 7 April 2022, the Armenian Prime Minister and Azerbaijani President reached an agreement regarding the establishment of a bilateral commission on the issues of the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijan border. The decision was taken during a meeting held in Brussels, mediated by the European Council President, Charles Michel. The day before, several thousand opposition supporters marched in Yerevan to urge the government against making compromises with regard to the disputed region. According to official statements, Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives were preparing to hold new peace talks after the 25 March incident. Allegations claim that last month, Azerbaijani troops seized a key village located in the region supervised by Russian peacekeepers, killing three Armenian rebel forces. The Nagorno-Karabakh region was at the centre of a full-scale war in 2020 that killed over 6,500 people and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire accord. Following the agreement, Armenia had already ceded swaths of territory it had governed for decades, which was viewed as a national disgrace in Armenia and sparked weeks of large anti-government rallies.


Yemen: President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi Hands Power to New Presidential Council

On 7 April 2022, Yemen’s president accepted the transfer of power to a new presidential council, formed by eight members. The council will be presided by Major General Rashad al-Alimi, a veteran politician and previous adviser to Hadi. Other members include the president of the Southern Transitional Council, Aidarus Al- Zoubaidi, the commander of the Giants Brigade, Abdulrahman Al-Mahrami alongside Tarek Saleh, the nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. According to a public announcement, the council intends to create an advisory group comprising 50 members. Abd-Rabbu Mansour has been President of Yemen since the ousting of both President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, in 2012. The shift is aimed at supporting UN efforts to bring the country’s seven-year civil conflict to a conclusion. Fought between the Saudi military coalition and the Tehran-backed Houthi rebel group, the conflict is considered as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Tens of thousands of people have been slaughtered since the conflict began, and millions more are on the verge of hunger.


Peru: Social Protests Highlight the Risk of Disproportionate Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials

On 8 April 2022, Amnesty International’s Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, urged President Castillo to ensure strict obedience to the law and respect for international norms in all parts of the country during times of tensions. At the same time, the appeal emphasized the potential of law enforcement authorities to undertake unnecessary measures against protestors. The purpose of the declaration was to raise an alarm question in order to avoid further loss of life, harm to people’s bodily integrity and eventual escalation of this crisis. Amnesty International has previously recorded major human rights abuses in the context of social uprisings in Peru. Following the President’s suspension of several constitutional rights and the increase in the costs of food, gasoline, and fertilizers, sections of society associated with transportation and agriculture have planned demonstrations in numerous locations of the country.


Colombia: Government and Armed Groups Need to Agree on Ending the Continuous Violence

On 8 April 2022, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that peace in Colombia has deteriorated with the intensifying conflict; 8 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. This number is twice the number witnessed after the peace deal was signed in 2017. According to the United Nations, 274,000 people had been affected in the months of January and February alone. Women and children have fled from the violence up to four times because of insecurity in the rural areas which are more distant from the government’s reach. Francesco Volpi, acting Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia, underscored that to put an end to the war, the government along with armed groups should unite and agree upon a solution for peace. The armed groups in the country have enforced and established curfew rules along with imposing punishments on local people, while they are also doing forced recruitment, preventing people from working for their livelihoods.


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