Weekly News Recap (18-24 April 2022)

© Photo by UN Ukraine via Flickr




Pakistan: Six Convicts Sentenced to Death for Killing a Sri Lankan National Accused of Committing Blasphemy

On 18 April 2022, a court in Pakistan sentenced six men to death and several others to jail for murdering Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan National, in 2021. Diyawadana worked as a manager of a Sri Lankan sports equipment factory and was accused of committing blasphemy by the workers in Pakistan’s eastern Sialkot district. The AFP news agency was told by the local police that rumours were spread that Diyawadana had torn down a religious poster and had thrown it in a dustbin. In video clips shared on social media, Diyawadana was seen being beaten and set ablaze by a mob chanting slogans against blasphemy. According to the public prosecutor, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore sentenced nine people to life imprisonment and pronounced five years’ jail to one and two-year sentences to 72. The special anti-terror court was established to speed up the justice delivery system of such cases.


Egypt: Social Media Influencer’s 10-Year Human Trafficking Sentence Reduced

On 18 April 2022, in the case of a social media influencer Haneen Hossam who was convicted for the offence of human trafficking and sentenced to 10 years in jail, the court has reduced the sentence to three years. Along with the sentence, Hossam was also fined 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($10,740) by the Cairo Criminal Court. She was first arrested alongside Mawada al-Adham in 2020 for “attacking society’s values” in online videos and was given a two-year jail sentence. In 2021, they were acquitted by the appeals court. Later, they were charged with human trafficking for reportedly spreading the word for girls to collaborate with them to make money online. Adham was sentenced to six years in jail. According to Hossam’s lawyer, Hossam has already served 21 months behind the bar which is inclusive of the investigation period and thus she can be released in June or July. This case has sparked a debate on Egyptian authorities targeting female influencers in an attempt to control cyberspace by policing women’s bodies and conduct.


Argentina: Napalpí Massacre Trial Opened After 98 Years of the Incidence

On 19 April 2022, a landmark trial opened in the city of Resistencia in Argentina’s northeast that seeks to hold the people who participated in the 1924 ‘Napalpí massacre’ accountable. It has been 98 years since the massacre took place. In 1924, roughly 130 policemen and ranchers descended on the protesting residents of the Napalpí indigenous reservation, where Qom and Moqoit people lived under the conditions of semi-slavery, and killed more than around 300-500 people. It was due to a lack of defendants in the case that a trial could not be commenced until now. Although a federal judge had earlier ruled this incident of mass killing as a crime against humanity, the presiding judge observed that the case seeks to establish the truth and generate a sense of awareness among individuals to avoid such human right violation in the future. The people responsible for the massacre have long been dead. The Government calls the trial “a truth trial” which may lead to reparation being paid to the victims. Around 40 people will testify during the trial.


CAR: First SCC Trial Opened Against Alleged War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

On 19 April 2022, the first trial opened before the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic (CAR). This day had long been awaited by victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The accused Issa Sallet Adoum, Yaouba Ousman and Mahamat Tahir, members of the Central African Republic rebel group 3R, were allegedly involved in the attacks that took place in the villages of Koundjili and Lemouna in May 2019 and are to be tried before the SCC. The attacks led to the death of many civilians. The SCC, which was set up in 2015, is conducting investigations with the International Criminal Court (ICC). The trial was postponed on Tuesday when the lawyers for the defendants chose not to appear before the court, boycotting the proceedings. The trial, however, will resume on 25 April. This trial is considered a milestone for the Central African Republic where millions of people have been forced to flee due to the decades-long conflict between the government forces and rebels.



UK: Court Officially Approved WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Extradition to the US

On 20 April 2022, the Westminster Magistrates Court officially gave the approval order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he will be facing spying charges for publishing highly classified documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ten years ago. First, the order of the court will be sent to the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel who will decide to approve or reject the extradition request. Previously, a British judge ruled in favour of Mr Assange, citing the harsh conditions of US prisons which might pose a risk of Mr Assange harming himself. The US assured Mr Assange’s safety in prison and the High Court overturned this decision. The Supreme Court, UK’s highest court, denied Mr Assange permission to appeal the lower court’s decision last month. Mr Assange has not yet exhausted all his legal remedies and can appeal the Home Secretary’s decision once pronounced, for judicial review. If Mr Assange is convicted of all the charges, he could face imprisonment for up to 175 years.


Netherlands: Ethiopian Refugee Appealed Conviction for War Crimes

On 20 April 2022, the two-week appeal hearing of Eshetu Alemu, who was convicted of war crimes, came to an end. He had appealed before The Hague Court of Appeals against the lower court’s verdict that sentenced him to life imprisonment. Mr Alemu argued that the lower court had refused to acknowledge exculpatory evidence during his 2017 trial. In the 2017 trial, the prosecution accused him of torturing and murdering civilians during the political violence that took place in the late 1970s in Ethiopia and further presented evidence claiming he supervised the execution of 75 people detained in a church. Mr Alemu denies all the charges and claims he was not a participant in the incidents. Mr Alemu is now a Dutch citizen, who was granted asylum in the Netherlands in the 1990s. In 2006, Ethiopia sentenced him to death for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity but the Netherland was not willing to extradite anyone facing the death penalty. Mr Alemu was arrested in 2015 by Dutch investigators. The Netherlands is prosecuting Mr Alemu under the principle of universal jurisdiction.


DRC: 9 Militiamen Convicted of War Crimes Committed in the Province of Kasai Central

On 21 April 2022, the Kananga garrison military court pronounced 9 militiamen guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between April to May 2017 in several villages in the territory of Dimbelenge in central Kasai. The violence included armed clashes between Kamuina Nsapu movement and the DRC armed forces. All the defendants plead not guilty. Around 250 victims joined the proceedings as civil parties. The court, in order to create an accessible passage to justice for the victims, shifted the court to Bana Ba Ntumba where the actual crimes were committed. The 9 militiamen were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder, torture and other inhumane acts, rape and pillage, as well as, other ordinary offences. The Court awarded compensation ranging from US$2,000 to US$20,000 to the victims and sentenced the nine men to death.



Rwanda: Chinese National Sentenced to 20 Years in Jail for Torturing Mine Workers

On 21 April 2022, a Chinese national convicted of torturing mine workers was sentenced to 20 years in jail by a Rwandan court. In a video that went viral last year, Sun Shujun, the manager of the mine was found whipping a man tied to a pole. Mr Shujun acknowledge the assault and stated that he was frustrated with them for constantly stealing minerals from the mine. Mr Shujun further argued that he had paid one million Rwandan francs and had signed and sent a reconciliation letter to the victims. The prosecution argued that the victims accepted the payment as they were scared and traumatised by him. The court observed that Mr Shujun’s actions amounted to a grave crime committed with malicious intent and thus pronounced a jail term of 20 years. Mr Shujun can appeal the verdict within 30 days. The Chinese embassy in Rwanda took note of the verdict and said that it has always urged Chinese nationals to abide by the local rules and regulations of Rwanda. Both Rwanda and China enjoy good relations.


Bosnia: Wartime Commander of Interior Ministry Police Acquitted of War Crime Charges

On 21 April 2022, the Bosnian state court, while pronouncing the first-instance verdict in the case of Dragan Vikic and three co-defendants who were accused of committing war crimes against the prisoners that were killed in Veliki Park in Sarajevo in 1992, held that the accused are not guilty. The prosecution charged Mr Vikic and Jusuf Pusina based on their position within the Bosnian interior ministry’s police squad, with Mr Vikic, as the Commander Mr Pusina as the former assistant minister for uniformed police. According to the Prosecution, both men must have been aware that their subordinates were planning to murder eight Yugoslav People’s Army prisoners and had failed to stop or punish them. The court observed that the testimonies of the witnesses and the pieces of evidence produced by the prosecution were unreliable and could not prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, the prosecution was unable to establish that Mr Vikic held command over the squad responsible for the crime. The court acknowledged that eight soldiers were denied their right to life and were killed in Veliki Park but this did not prove that the defendants were associated with the incident. The verdict is appealable.


Turkey: Activist Osman Kavala Made a Final Appeal Before the Court Pronounces a Verdict

On 22 April 2022, in the case of a Paris-born philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala, 64, who was arrested when he arrived in Istanbul in 2017, a final appeal for freedom was made before the court. The court had estimated a verdict for this year-long trial by Friday but has now extended it until Monday next week. Mr Kavala has been imprisoned without conviction and has denied all the charges framed against him. The prosecution argued that Mr Kavala was responsible for financially aiding the 2013 attempt to overthrow Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s government and for his involvement in the 2016 coup plot. In February 2020, Mr Kavala was acquitted of the 2013 protests charges but was detained again for the charges of participating in and aiding the 2016 coup attempt. The court will pronounce its verdict on Monday and a guilty verdict would mean Mr Kavala could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. This case has strained Ankara’s ties with Western allies. According to human rights advocates, a verdict releasing Mr Kavala would mean the Turkish judicial system is free from Erdogan’s pressure.




UN: A New Action Plan to Protect Children in Yemen

On 18 April 2022, it was reported that the Action Plan that has been signed by the Houthis with the United Nations in order to put a stop to the recruitment of children in armed conflicts, and aspect of attacks on schools, children and hospitals. Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative for Children & Armed Conflict (CAAC), also commended the efforts and commitment that have been shown by Houthis towards the prevention of grave violations against children. The Houthis, in accordance with the Action Plan, have committed to putting an end to the recruitment of children and also to release the recruited children within six months and providing them with reintegration assistance. The UN Representative emphasised that the Action Plan should be implemented to the fullest so that improvement in the protection of children is visible. The Action Plan has also led to highlighting the humanitarian and economic needs of Yemen along with providing an opportunity to resume and renew the Yemeni political process. Phillipe Duamelle, UNICEF Representative called the signing of the Action Plan “an important milestone” for children affected by the Yemen conflict and said that he looked forward to its implementation as the agency continues to work with all parties for the welfare and safety of Yemeni children.




Mediterranean:  Drowning of Migrants and Asylum Seekers Continues

On 18 April 2022, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported that the continuous and increased sinking and drowning of migrant and asylum seekers reflects the indifference of all nations and parties. On 15 April 2022, 35 migrants and asylum seekers capsized off the coast of Sabratha, Libya. Six bodies were recovered but 29 are reported missing. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), since the beginning of the year, almost 560 migrants and asylum seekers have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean region. The number of migrants arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean has been 20 per cent more than in 2020; in 2021,116,573 migrants and asylum seekers have been crossing the Mediterranean Sea and 1,864 have died or gone missing. The Euro-Med Monitor emphasised that there should be a new mechanism in place through which migration and asylum seekers are protected from human trafficking while also developing such conditions that help in integrating migrants into their communities. The Monitor also underscored the need for all parties to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 and the International Convention for Search and Rescue, both of which urge and emphasise the need for assisting, rescuing people stranded and distressed at sea.


Brazil: Organisations Write Open Letter Inviting UN Experts to Investigate Continuing Police Abuse Against People of African Descent

On 18 April 2022, hundreds of Brazilian organisations in an open letter to the Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco França stated that the new UN International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement should be invited for conducting a fact-finding mission in Brazil. The official communication of invitation comes important as discrimination and violence against black people have been frequent – more than 6400 people had been killed by police in 2020 and 80 per cent of those killed have been black people. Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil Director at Human Rights Watch emphasised that there was a need for the government to invite the UN experts for assessing the situation in Brazil as police abuse is a major issue. The experts providing recommendations on the issue would further ensure that police forces protect communities without discrimination and according to rule of law. The signatories to the open letter include groups and organisations focusing on racial equality, national human rights organisations and also communities that have been highly affected by police abuse.


Afghanistan: School Bombings – a Failure to Protect Ethnic and Religious Minorities

On 19 April 2022, it was reported that an all-boys high school Abdul Rahim Shahid in Kabul, Afghanistan, was bombed, killing at least 6 people and wounding 20. Reportedly the attack occurred when students were coming out of their morning classes. Shortly after the bombing at school, Mumtaz Education Centre was also bombed. UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov condemned the attack and underscored that violence around or in schools was highly unacceptable and is prohibited under international humanitarian law.  Amnesty International called for conducting a prompt investigation into the attacks which should be in compliance with international law. Samara Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner urged that these acts are a reflection of the continuous violence that Afghans have to face every day and also show the failure on part of the de-facto authorities to protect religious and ethnic minorities.



UN: Increased Humanitarian Aid by UN Agencies Across Ukraine

On 19 April 2022, UN World Food Programme stated that six million people were in need of food and economic assistance since the Russian invasion. UN agencies have stepped up their efforts to provide humanitarian aid across Ukraine. The World Health Organisation stated that it was doing its best to provide and deliver lifesaving supplies and assistance in remote areas. The agency has delivered 218 metric tonnes of emergency and medical supplies to the country. Furthermore, the WFP has delivered enough food to support 2 million people for two months and 1.7 million have been assisted by way of in-kind food assistance since 24 February, while $ 3.6 billion cash transfers have been made to keep the markets up and running. 113 tonnes of food have been delivered by the UN Agency which would be sufficient for 20,000 people for 10 days.


CAR: UN Humanitarian Coordinator Condemns Recent Attacks on Humanitarian Organizations

On 20 April 2022, a press release published by ReliefWeb stated that the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic Denise Brown is ‘deeply shocked and dismayed’ by attacks aimed at humanitarian organizations. On 7 and 9 April 2022, six aid workers and a health district employee were injured during violence carried out by armed individuals. Moreover, one humanitarian organization was forced to suspend activities that were ensuring the access to clean water for approximately 11,000 people living in remote areas. These security incidents obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid, required by more than half of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) population. The incident is far from being isolated, as the country represents one of the most challenging missions in the world for humanitarian workers. Solely between 1 January and 15 April 2022, 43 incidents involving humanitarian organizations were reported, among which 11 aid workers were injured. In 2021, at least one incident per day affecting humanitarian workers was recorded with burglaries, robberies, and intrusions accounting for half of them.




UNISFA: ‘Trust Deficit’ between Sudan and South Sudan Continues to be a Concern

On 21 April 2022, the United Nations Security Council was briefed by Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix on the work of the UN Interim Security Force in the Abyei region. In this regard, Mr Lacroix urged the Council to extend the force’s mandate for another six months. The deployment of a peacekeeping force has been authorized in 2011 in order to serve as a mitigation measure to the dispute between northern and southern Sudan over the Abyei area. Over the years, the operation facilitated dialogue between the pastoral Misseriya and nomadic Misseriya communities while also addressing recent incidents of violence. Although the overall security situation in the disputed, Abyei region between Sudan and South Sudan has remained calm Mr Lacroix told the Security Council that the “trust deficit” between the two main communities remains a major concern. He further mentioned the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Abeyi since his last briefing in October. The number of people requiring aid rose from 103,000 to 240,000, primarily due to deadly violence between Twic Dinka and Ngok Dinka communities earlier in the year.


ICRC:  The Director of Operations Calls for Improved Humanitarian Access in Ukraine

On 21 April 2022, Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, addressed the issue of humanitarian access in Ukraine. Mr Stillhart’s recent visit to Irpin and Bucha evinced the substantial level of destruction caused by urban warfare. Mentioning the severe consequences of only a few weeks of hostilities, he emphasized the urgent need for improvement and respect for International Humanitarian Law. The visit generated a stronger appreciation of the issue of restricted access to humanitarian aid. Mr Stillhart added that parties must do everything possible to ensure that civilians in conflict-affected cities have access to critical humanitarian aid. The International Committee of the Red Cross continues to work in order to ameliorate the consequences of damaged vital infrastructure and the resulting disruptions in water, electricity, and gas supplies. One of these efforts is the rehabilitation of a water pipeline connecting Kyiv and Irpin that will benefit over 200,000 people. Civilians, civilian infrastructure, medical facilities, vehicles, and personnel were mentioned in the press release. Furthermore, the International Committee of the Red Cross urged all parties to allow unimpeded humanitarian aid and safe passage for medical personnel and civilians seeking refuge.


OHCHR: UN Human Rights Experts Address the Urgency of Action in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory 

On 22 April 2022, UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk addressed the precarious situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory. Mr Lynk emphasized the necessity of adopting short- and long-term international measures and directing Israel to end the 15-year Gaza blockade by halting all settlements in the West Bank and removing checkpoints and permit restrictions and other barriers to Palestinian freedom of movement. Consequently, OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani emphasized, during a press briefing in Geneva, that the use of force by Israeli police must be thoroughly investigated without any delay. Ms Shamdasani’s statement comes as a response to last week’s tensions that occurred near the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, an edifice sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Reports state that over the weekend, more than 470 people were arrested in Jerusalem. Among them, approximately 180 Palestinians, including at least 27 children, were injured by Israeli forces. While reportedly everyone has been released, most have been barred from entering the Al Aqsa Mosque compound or the Old City of Jerusalem for the coming weeks. These developments come as out-turn after weeks of unrest in the occupied West Bank. 



NATO: Finland and Sweden Begin Discussions on Joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

On 22 April 2022, the possibility of Finland and Sweden adhering to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization entered an advanced phase. Leaders from both countries travelled to Washington in order to meet with senior Biden administration officials and start discussing the accession perspective. During their visit, Petteri Orpo, the chair of Finland’s centre-right National Coalition Party, and Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the opposition in Sweden’s parliament and the head of the country’s Moderate Party, met with officials and congressional staff in order to press for prompt support for the expansion, in the eventuality that both countries formally submit bids. Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the prospect of the two Nordic countries joining the military alliance represents a significant shift in their foreign policies. In order to accept a new member, all of the organization’s current members must agree unanimously. Most observers expect Finland’s parliament to approve membership accession by mid-May, and Sweden to announce its decision by the end of the month. The alliance is expected to make a formal announcement on both countries’ membership at the upcoming summit in Madrid. Consequently, an expansion in Northern Europe could have significant geopolitical and military implications for the alliance, given the current tensions with Russia.


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