Weekly News Recap (11-17 April 2022)

© Photo by UN Women via Flickr




DRC: New Trial to Judge Militiamen Suspected of War Crimes in Kasaï Central

On 12 April 2022, a court opens in Bana Ba Ntumba, Kasaï Central, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to prosecute and judge those responsible for numerous atrocities committed during the attack on several villages from April to May 2017 in the Dimbelenge territory of Kasaï Central. The defendants who belong to a militia associated with the Kamuina Nsapu insurgency, are indicted by the Kananga Garrison Military Court for war crimes. TRIAL International (an NGO) explained that it was following the case with four lawyers who are representing 250 victims and that this new trial is an “encouraging sign in the fight against impunity of armed groups in the DRC.”


ECtHR: Right to Freedom of Expression Not Breached by Assisted-Suicide Judgment 

On 12 April 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided that the assisted suicide conviction by a Danish Court of a Danish doctor did not breach the right to free expression. Mr Svend Lings, who founded a pro-assisted suicide organization was convicted of three counts of assisted suicide. The ECtHR found that the Danish authorities had acted within their discretion in convicting the doctor since he was involved in specific acts of assisted suicide under the relevant law. The ECtHR further explained that there was no violation of freedom of expression of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Switzerland: Criminal Proceedings Opened for War Crime of Pillage

On 13 April 2022, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland officially opened criminal proceedings with the support of TRIAL International for the war crime of pillage in a case involving a Swiss trading company Kolmar Group AG based in Zug. Unknown persons are facing allegations of purchasing smuggled gasoil belonging to the National Oil Corporation, which is a Libyan state-owned company. This allegedly happened in 2014 and 2015 which coincided with the Second Libyan Civil War. The evidence gathered during the investigation conducted by TRIAL International, concluded that the Swiss trader may have been complicit in pillage activities. 


Serbia: Former Commander of Drina Corps Will Go on Trial

On 13 April 2022, during a preparatory hearing at Belgrade Higher Court, it was decided that Milenko Zivanovic, a former Bosnian Serb army officer and former commander of Drina Corps, will face trial in Serbia on 30 May. He is accused of forcing the Bosniak civilian population to leave Srebrenica during the Bosnian Serb Army’s offences in July 1995. In addition to this indictment which happened in December 2021, he was also indicted a week later in Bosnia and Herzegovina for ordering attacks on civilians in Srebenica. 


Netherlands: Afghan Man Sentenced to 12 Years of Prison by Dutch Court  

On 14 April 2022, The District Court of The Hague imposed a prison term of 12 years on a 76-year-old Afghan male named Abdul Razaq Arif, convicted of war crimes committed in 1980. The Dutch court used a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction to prosecute Mr Arif who was granted Dutch citizenship after entering the Netherlands in 2001. The Court explained Mr Arif changed his family name to Rafief when applying for asylum in the Netherlands. He is responsible for war crimes including torture of prisoners and deprivation of liberty while he was a top commander in Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul, Afghanistan from 1983 to 1987.



ICJ: Deliberation Will Commence in the Case of Chile v. Bolivia

On 14 April 2022, after two weeks of hearings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a case concerning a dispute over the status and use of the waters of the Silala (Chile v. Bolivia), was concluded. The hearings before the ICJ began on the 1st of April and lasted until the 14th of April. Chile made several requests from the Court, primarily asking the Court to declare that the Silala River, which originates in Bolivia and runs through Chile, is an international waterway allowing a reasonable utilisation of the waters by it. Bolivia has requested the Court to reject Chile’s submission claiming that the river’s surface water has been artificially enhanced and that Bolivia has sovereignty over the artificial canals and drainage mechanisms in the Silala, and Chile has no acquired right to artificial flow.


ECtHR: Interim Measure Taken in the Case of Judge Stępka v. the Government of Poland 

On 14 April 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided an interim measure in the case of Stępka v. Poland. Judge Andrzej Stępka is a Polish national born in 1956 and who works for the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland. He is accused of negligence related to a judicial decision in a criminal case which led the State Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute him for criminal negligence and seek the removal of his immunity before the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. On 11 April 2022, Stępka requested from the ECtHR to suspend the action of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court arguing that it’s not independent nor impartial. The ECtHR requested the Government of Poland to ensure that the lifting of Judge Andrzej Stępka’s immunity complies with the legal principles of “fair trial” and “independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” Furthermore, ECtHR asked the Polish Government to pause any decision taken by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court regarding his immunity until the ECtHR submits its conclusion regarding his complaints. 



UK & Ukraine: Use of Chemical Weapons’ Claims are Being Verified 

On 11 April 2022, London’s top diplomat stated that the United Kingdom is trying to verify claims and reports of chemical weapons being used by the Russians in an attack on the city of Mariupol. Several other officials, including Ukraine’s Azov battalion, claimed a Russian drone had dropped a substance on people in Mariupol, and that people were experiencing respiratory failure and neurological problems. These claims have been not been verified and Russia has continued to deny committing any war crimes in its activities in Ukraine.


Ukraine: Reports of Sexual Violence Against Women are Surging as the Economy is Falling 

On 11 April 2022, Sima Bahous, Executive Director of the UN gender equality and empowerment agency UN Women, stated that reports regarding sexual violence and various other crimes committed against women and children have been received in the backdrop of the killings of hundreds of civilians in Ukraine. As of 10 April 2022, it has been verified by the United Nations that 142 children have been killed, while 229 have been injured, however, the numbers are estimated to be higher than the ones verified. UNICEF’s Director of Emergencies emphasised that the agency and its partners were working towards providing aid within Ukraine as well as externally. Achim Steiner, the UNDP Administrator, stated that the devastation caused by the conflict in Ukraine would push 9 out of 10 people towards impoverishment and the economy of the country would shrink by 45 per cent. With the continuous presence of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the agency is building an initiative aimed at providing women and girls access to basic needs while also providing support to the most vulnerable population. The agency seeks to inculcate the aspect of “inclusion, protection and empowerment”, in order to provide support and help in the economic recovery of the country. 



UN: Expedite Process of Investigation of Missing Persons from Tragedy of Cyprus that Occurred During Violence Splitting the Mediterranean Island

On 11 April 2022, an appeal was made by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for expediting the process of searching for the remains of people who had disappeared decades ago during the violence which had split the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The panel expressed urgency upon the matter as it was important to treat the issue of missing persons as a human rights and humanitarian issue. The panel also underscored that there was a need for all stakeholders to cooperate and provide unreserved support. They also highlighted the fact of lack of any criminal investigation and prosecution into the violations of human rights of individuals that went missing inclusive of enforced disappearances; while the experts have emphasised adding accountability along with reparations. Furthermore, they also highlighted the need for a proper legal framework that would prevent enforced disappearances. 


UN: Restrictions on the Right to Peaceful Assembly in Brazil Raise Concerns

On 12 April 2022, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN expert, at the end of his 12-day visit to Brazil expressed his concern over the condition of rights to peaceful assembly and association in Brazil. He pointed out that in recent years the exercise of these rights was being limited by the authorities and there has been a disturbing trend of committing violence against human rights defenders, women journalists, and indigenous peoples. He condemned the policies which have restricted the socio-political participation of people and also limited spaces for deliberating upon public policies. He called upon the Brazilian authorities to create a safer environment for the exercise of these rights. The UN expert was gravely concerned about the discrimination that was being meted out to quilombolas (original Afro-Brazilian settlements), indigenous communities, and community leaders in favelas. The UN expert also appreciated the role of civil society organisations in fighting for social justice, promoting democracy and their efforts towards tackling COVID-19.


Oxfam: Impoverishment on the Rise Globally due to High Food Prices, COVID-19 and Inequality 

On 12 April 2022, Oxfam in its new report titled “First Crisis Then Catastrophe” stated that more than a quarter-billion people would fall into poverty this year because of the increasing global inequality and food prices. While the report further mentioned that the number of people that would be pushed into impoverishment would be living on less than $ 1.90 by the end of 2022. Katy Chakrabortty, Oxfam Head of Advocacy, urged imposing heavy taxation on wealthy nations in order to fulfil the humanitarian aid needs of the countries most affected. She also noted that in countries that are on the brink of a hunger crisis, the data on poverty is astounding – around 827 million people could become malnourished by the end of 2022. Oxfam has made the following suggestion in order to tackle the existing inequality and increasing impoverishment: firstly, the introduction of a permanent wealth tax for recovering from the impact of COVID-19; secondly, cancelling debts of underdeveloped nations, which would free up to $30 billion in funds to providing aid to 33 countries. 


UNEP: 1100 km2 Ice Shelf Melts Because of Record High Temperatures 

On 12 April 2022, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that the collapse of the 1100kmice shelf in Antarctica is now one of the many results of climate change and has occurred when the world is experiencing record high temperatures. The latest ice shelf to have collapsed is the Conger ice shelf, which split from the eastern side of Antarctica in March. According to the Director of the Global Resource Information Database (GRID)-Geneva Pascal Peduzzi the concentration of greenhouse gases at present is worrisome and to cut the emissions in half, various sectors would need to be restructured.  To tackle the melting ice caps, meeting the climate-related pledges is important and the same can only be done by making reduction in greenhouse gases. A Six Sector Solution to the climate crisis has been proposed by the UNEP, which aims at the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in six sectors – forests, energy, industry, agriculture and food, transport and buildings. The Six Sector Solution proposal would be able to provide reduced emissions and keep the temperatures according to the Paris Agreement.


UNSC: Effective Prevention and Prosecution Practices Needed to Tackle Sexual Violence

On 13 April 2022, Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative working to end rape as a weapon of war, while addressing the UNSC emphasised that the rights of women were human rights and universal in nature during war and peacetime. She presented disturbing cases of rape and other human rights violations in her latest report, which covered situations in 18 countries and has documented 3293 UN-verified cases that were committed in 2021. The most targeted persons were women and girls constituting to be the 97 per cent of cases. She further underscored the need for prosecution and prevention to promote deterrence of such violations. Furthermore, her report also called for robust action which would help in reinforcing prevention, while other recommended measures included the use of amplifying the voices of survivors and identifying early warning signs of sexual violence. 


Yemen: UN Refers to the Truce Between the Warring Parties as a “Moment of Reprieve and Potential” for Peace Efforts

On 14 April 2022, the UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg briefed the Security Council on the latest events occurring in Yemen, while emphasizing the UN efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully and sustainably. As the two-month renewable truce between Yemen’s warring parties is still in effect, the provisions, including enhancing civilian and goods mobility across the war-torn Arab nation, are providing positive results. Since the start of the truce on 4 April, there has been a significant reduction in violence and civilian casualties – no confirmed airstrikes, more fuel flowing through the ports of the Hudaydah region, and preparations for commercial flights from Sana’a airport. Notwithstanding, the truce remains in its fragile state and  “continuous commitment” from the Saudi-led coalition is essential for ensuring peace.


UNHCR: Concerns About the United Kingdom’s Decision to Export its Asylum Commitments to Rwanda are Increasing

On 14 April 2022,  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £120 million scheme that would give asylum seekers crossing the Channel to the UK a one-way ticket to Rwanda. From UK’s perspective, the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards would ensure the protection from human trafficking. However, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs expressed firm opposition to such arrangements to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries. The UNHCR encouraged both nations to reconsider their proposals, cautioning that these externalization arrangements would amplify dangers, encouraging refugees to seek alternate ways and intensifying demands on frontline governments. The UNHCR emphasized that the prosperous countries should demonstrate solidarity with Rwanda and the refugees it currently accommodates.



Amnesty International: Indian Authorities Encouraged to Put a Halt to Apparent Illegal Demolitions of Muslim-owned Property

On 14 April 2022, Aakar Patel, Chair of Amnesty International India’s board, addressed the claims of the demolition of primarily Muslim-owned stores and dwellings by the authorities in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone region. His statements emphasised that the demolition represents a significant setback for the rule of law. Accordingly, he highlighted that authorities must conduct a prompt, complete, impartial and transparent investigation into the demolitions and guarantee that those responsible for inciting violence and vandalism are brought to justice through fair trials. On 11 April, the rise of offensive slogans near a mosque resulted in a riot, stone pelting, and violence. State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan responded that the rioters had been identified, adding that the damage will be recovered from their private or public property rather than imprisonment. Local authorities demolished the properties and homes of individuals allegedly involved in the violence, the majority of whom come from economically poor Muslim households.


WFP: UN Agency to Cut Down on Food Assistance in Syria as Families Fear Hunger 

On 15 April 2022, it was reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) would be reducing food assistance related aid from next month in the north-western region of Syria with families currently fearing hunger. Furthermore, the reduction in life-saving food assistance has come forth because of price hikes in food items and has been further compounded because of the deteriorating economy of Syria and the war in Ukraine. The reduction would cut down on the monthly quantities of lentils, chickpeas, rice and bulgur wheat but the families would continue to receive the same amount of other food items like vegetable oil, sugar, salt etc. Prices of vegetable oil and wheat flour have increased by 39 per cent due to the war in Ukraine. According to the UN agency, food assistance and aid had been dispatched for 5.5 million people across the country, while in February it was recorded that around 12 million Syrians were facing acute food insecurity, which constitutes 55 per cent of the Syrian population. Two-thirds of families in the region have reduced their food intake, while half of the children have dropped out of school. 


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