Weekly News Recap (25 April-1 May 2022)

© Photo by UN Women via Flickr




Turkey: Osman Kavala Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

On 25 April 2022, activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a Turkish court under the charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The prosecution alleged that Kavala financially aided the 2013 attempt to overthrow the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and for his involvement in the 2016 coup plot. He was arrested in 2017. In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered the Turkish state to immediately release Kavala and further observed that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove that Kavala was a participant in the 2016 coup attempt. The United States has also urged for Kavala’s release. According to Kavala, the 2013 rally was protected under free speech and all the charges against him are politically and ideologically motivated. In 2020, Kavala was acquitted of charges relating to the 2013 protest but was rearrested for the charges of participating in the 2016 coup attempt. Seven other defendants were sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment for aiding and participating in the protests. 


Germany: Trial of Gambian National Accused of Crimes Against Humanity Commenced

On 25 April 2022, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the trial of a Gambian national belonging to a death squad and facing charges of crimes against humanity commenced before a court in Germany. The accused was arrested in Hanover in March 2021. He is facing charges of being involved in two murders and one attempted murder while he worked as a driver for a notorious assassination squad known as the “Junglers.” The prosecution alleges that the Junglers were used by dictator Yahya Jammeh to carry out illegal activities and killings, to intimidate and suppress opposition and the Gambian population. The alleged crime took place between 2003 and 2006. This is the first case dealing with human rights violations committed in Gambia during the rule of Jammeh, based on universal jurisdiction. Among the victims was Deyda Hydara, a prominent correspondent of the AFP news agency who was killed on the outskirts of Banjul in 2004.


Colombia: Former Military Members Confessed to Killing Hundreds of Civilians Falsely Portrayed as Armed Group Members

On 26 April 2022, in a public hearing of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) tribunal in the Norte de Santander department, ten former members of the Colombian military acknowledged their participation in the 2007-2008 killings of more than a hundred civilians who were falsely portrayed as members of an armed group that were killed in combat with the army. Among the ten members were four colonels, a former military general, five other army officials, and one civilian. They informed the tribunal about their participation in kidnapping more than 120 people from the town of Ocana and neighbouring communities to kill them and later present them as members of the left-wing guerrilla and other armed groups. The Judge observed the hearing to be a “truth and accountability” hearing and expected the military officials to clearly answer all the questions and provide any other information when required. Full disclosure of the incidents might allow for the accused to bypass jail, as the tribunal has the authority to offer alternatives to prison sentences to people who confess their crimes and make reparations.



Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi Sentenced to Five Years in Jail for Corruption Charges

On 27 April 2022, Nobel laureate and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to 5 years in jail by the military-ruled Myanmar court in the first of 11 corruption cases filed against her. It was alleged that Suu Kyi accepted a bribe for 11.4 kg (402 oz) of gold and cash payments totalling $600,000 from former Yangon chief minister Phyo Min Thein. The hearings are being conducted behind closed doors and journalists are barred from attending them. Suu Kyi’s lawyer has also been banned from speaking to the media. She is already under house arrest and was sentenced to six years in jail for incitement against the military, breaching lockdown rules and breaking the telecommunication rules. In February 2021, the military conducted a coup and took over Myanmar. Suu Kyi has been charged with several offences and could be sentenced to a combined jail term of 190 years if she is found guilty. Thousands of people have been killed and detained since the coup.



Bosnia: State Prosecutors Charged 10 Suspects in the Dobrovoljacka Street Case of 1992

On 27 April 2022, ten suspects alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against prisoners of war and civilians in the Dobrovoljacka Street case in 1992, were indicted by the Bosnian state prosecution. It is alleged that the suspects attacked and killed an undefended convoy of Yugoslav People’s Army soldiers and civilians, escorted by the UN peacekeeping troops. Bakir Alispahic, one of the suspects, was the chief of police in Sarajevo at the time of the incident. The prosecution alleges that the suspects failed to prevent the attack and even helped the perpetrators escape punishment. The evidence collected by the prosecution indicated that eight victims were killed, with twenty-four individuals wounded and several others captured and abused. A complaint was filed by the families of the victims but was dropped in 2012. In 2018, the Constitutional Court, upon appeal, ordered the state prosecution to decide on the complaint. The state prosecution reversed the order of discontinuation of the investigation and ordered the reopening of the Dobrovoljacka case.


Bosnia: Former Commander Sakib Mahmuljin Sentenced to Jail for Committing War Crimes

On 28 April 2022, in a non-appealable final verdict pronounced by the appeals chamber of the Bosnian court in the matter of former commander Sakib Mahmuljin’s war crime trial, the judges pronounced a combined jail sentence of eight years to the accused. In January 2021, Mahmuljin was sentenced to ten years in jail but upon appeal, the first instance verdict was quashed and a retrial began in November. Mahmuljin was the commander of the Third Corps and a superior officer to the El Mujahideen unit of Middle Eastern volunteer fighters. The court observed that Mahmuljin, under the capacity of a commander and a superior officer, had failed to prevent the crimes and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, medical staff and civilians at the hands of the El Mujahideen unit. It was also found that Mahmuljin was aware that the unit was preparing to commit the crimes. Between July to September 1995, approximately 55 Bosnian Serb Army soldiers were killed, while several others were tortured and abused. 


US: Former ISIL Fighter Alexanda Kotey Sentenced to Life Imprisonment 

On 29 April 2022, a United States court sentenced former member, Alexanda Kotey (British-born), of the ISIL (ISIS) cell known as “the Beatles” to life imprisonment. The accused had pleaded guilty several months ago on charges of lethal hostage-taking, conspiracy to support terrorism and other charges which led to the death of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. Kotey’s lawyer had requested the court to recommend that the accused should not be sent to a maximum-security prison but the court declined the request. However, the court informed the US prison authorities about the compliant nature of Kotey under detention. The Court has ordered Kotey to remain under detention in Alexandria, Virginia until July to fulfil the obligation of his plea agreement which calls for him to meet with the government and the victim’s family. 


Finland: Rebel Commander Gibril Massaquoi Acquitted

On 29 April 2022, a Finnish court acquitted Gibril Massaquoi stating there were grounds for reasonable doubt regarding his identity, and a lack of evidence to prove his conviction. Massaquoi was a senior member of the rebel group – the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). He was accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia between 1999 and 2003. He was relocated to Finland in 2008 and was arrested two years later. The prosecution alleged that Massaquoi often ordered enslaved child soldiers to commit rape and murder of civilians. Massaquoi has completely denied all charges and stated he was not in Liberia at the time. He was released in February 2022 after serving two years of pre-trial detention. He has also served as a key informant for the prosecutor’s office of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which gave him immunity for crimes committed in Sierra Leone but not for those in Liberia.



Tajikistan: Activist Amriddin Alovatshoev on Trial in Dushanbe

On 29 April 2022, the trial of Amriddin Alovatshoev, a leader of the Tajik migrants in Russia, commenced in Dushanbe. In February, he was extradited to Tajikistan and faced charges of hostage-taking, illegally depriving others of their freedom and other crimes. He was detained in the Russian city of Belgorod at the request of Tajikistan. His arrest coincides with the Tajik prosecutors launching an investigation into demonstrations which took place for four days in the Gorno-Badakhshan region in November 2021. The demonstrations led to the death of three individuals and several others injured. On 12 February, a Tajik television broadcast showed a video of Alovatshoev confessing to unspecified crimes. Some supporters believe his confession was made while under duress. According to human rights defenders, 15 Tajik anti-government activists and opposition supporters have fled to Russia since 2015.



UNMISS: Intensifying Violence in South Sudan 

On 25 April 2022, the UN Mission for South Sudan expressed condemnation over the violations that were being committed by armed youth and according to the mission, in the past three months there have been recorded 64 cases of sexual violence while 72 civilians have been killed. The UN Mission emphasised that the government’s priority should be to protect the civilian population, while also welcoming and implementing steps taken by authorities which include the establishment of investigation committees and deploying troops for restoring security. Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS, urged that in order to lessen the tensions and prevent the intensification of attacks, the national and local authorities should take prompt action. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Sara Beysolow Nyanti who has been leading a high-level delegation to the state capitals, Bentiu and Malakal, for assessing the needs of people on the ground, also emphasised that continued violence was preventing humanitarian aid to reach the most vulnerable population including women, children, elderly and disable people. This year South Sudan will need of life-saving assistance as almost 6.8 million people are about to become part of the most vulnerable population of the county. Out of the $1.7 billion humanitarian response plan, only 8 per cent has been funded until now. 


Amnesty International: Persisting Human Rights Violations in El Salvador Amid Emergency Imposed by the Government

On 25 April 2022, it was reported that thirty days into the emergency imposed by the government of El Salvador, reports of increased gang-related killings are being received. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, expressed her concern over massive human rights violations that were being committed by El Salvadoran authorities, stating that at present in the emergency situation children between the ages of 12-16 could be subjected to 10 years of imprisonment, with a poor and marginalised population at risk of being arbitrarily arrested without any proper legal recourse. She urged that the government should stop its abuse of civil society representatives and that the authorities should ensure a prompt investigation into human rights violations. It has been reported that four people have allegedly died in detention, meanwhile, El Salvadoran authorities are condemning those who are critical of the measures taken by the Government. The Legislative Assembly of the country further renewed the state of emergency for another month, even though it was scheduled to end on 25 April 2022. 


UNHCR: Refugee Agency Launches a Response Plan for Assisting Millions of Ukrainian Refugees

On 26 April 2022, Shabia Mantoo, Spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), appealed for urgent financial and humanitarian support to Ukrainian refugees and to the countries that were hosting the. The agency launched the updated version of the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) through which the agency and its partner are seeking $1.85 billion to reach about 8.3 million refugees who are being hosted in the neighbouring countries – Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. In the past two months, the war has displaced as many as 7.7 million people out of which five million have fled the country and 13 million are being stranded in areas which they cannot leave because of the safety risks. She further stated that this plan would aim at providing access to international protection to the Ukrainian refugees and promoting solutions for offering socio-economic opportunities. The key sectors the plan has included are food security, health and nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, livelihoods, energy, environment and logistics. 


UNSC: Conflict in Syria Still Ongoing Even Though not Making Headlines

On 26 April 2022, Geir Pedersen, UN Envoy for Syria while briefing the UN Security Council stated that even though the conflict in Syria might not be making news headlines, the international community should continue to strive for finding a political solution to the conflict in the region. While Syria remains to be one of the biggest displacement crises in the world, the displacement caused by the war in Ukraine starts to come close. There are 6.8 million refugees and 6.2 million international displaced persons. As far as the humanitarian aspect is concerned, the UN envoy called upon expanding humanitarian assistance across the border and addressing the needs of thousands of Syrians who remain detained or missing. Joyce Msuya, UN deputy humanitarian affairs chief while briefing ambassadors also reiterated the fact the crisis in Syria was on the verge of becoming a “forgotten crisis” and stated that there are not enough funds to assist Syrians, especially when the world is dealing with an economic crisis, increased food and fuel prices, therefore there has been a shortage in humanitarian resources as well. She also reiterated that consensus was required for maintaining to renew the resolution on providing cross-border aid. 


ECOSOC: UN Under-Secretary-General for Policy Highlighting the Financing Implications for Sustaining Peace

On 27 April 2022, Volker Türk, Under-Secretary-General for Policy, addressed the UN General Assembly at a high-level meeting, underlining the growing risks and financial needs for peacebuilding. Mr Türk mentioned that the number of violent conflicts is at the highest level since 1945 and recalled that the world is currently experiencing record levels of forced displacement and global humanitarian need. Moreover, he added that the costs of conflict are unsustainable, calling for new investments in more targeted work of building peace. The Chair of the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission Rabab Fatima, replied by saying that the body elected by the General Assembly to aid conflict-affected nations, recognized that “adequate, predictable and sustained financing remains a critical challenge”. Collen Kelapile, the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), noted that two billion people live in conflict-affected countries, 84 million are forcibly displaced and 296 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, therefore the pressure on humanitarian aid and peacebuilding is expected to increase. Mr Kelapile emphasized that ways to better monitor financial flows dedicated to peacebuilding and state-building in conflict and post-conflict contexts must be instituted. He concluded by saying that ECOSOC and the Security Council have “ample room to foster stronger collaboration.”


Mali: Authorities Accused the French Army of ‘Spying’

On 27 April 2022, the Malian government issued a statement accusing the French army of “spying” and “subversion” for using a drone to film alleged mercenaries burying bodies near a military base over the Gossi base. Mali’s military announced an inquiry into the discovery of a mass grave at the base, stating it found the grave the day after the images were published and claiming the bodies’ advanced stage of putrefaction discredited Malian soldiers’ responsibility. The French army responded by sharing a video showing Russian mercenaries covering bodies with sand to falsely accuse the departing troops of war crimes. After almost a decade of counterinsurgency military operations, France decided to withdraw its troops in February.  This occurred due to the fallout with the Mali government, fueled by its increased engagement with the Kremlin.  France and the US have consequently accused mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked security firm Wagner of being deployed in Mali, despite the Russians’ claims that they are simply military instructors assisting in the restoration of order. 


Mexico: New Report Shows Failure to Humanely Receive and Integrate Haitians 

On 28 April 2022, Refugees International issued a report regarding the mistreatment received by Haitians while seeking refuge in Mexico. The report is based on 25 interviews with Haitian men and women, conducted between December 2021 and March 2022, followed by another 15 interviews conducted with representatives of non-profit organizations and shelters. The report focuses predominantly on Mexico’s haphazard policy changes that reveal a disregard for Haitians, while also discussing U.S. border and asylum policies and treatment of Haitian refugees. Mexican and US governments’ policies shifted toward removing Haitians from the public eye while disregarding their human rights, starting with the fall of 2021. Since 2016, a large number of Haitians have travelled to and through Mexico. In 2019 and 2020, the U.S. and Mexican governments responded with violent practices and policies designed to block and deter refugees. Haitian refugees were denied asylum or regular immigration status and had limited access to social services. Many were unable to find decent work in Brazil, Chile, or Mexico and were arrested and deported to Haiti. 



Bangladesh: Joint Report calls on the Government and UN to Restore and Strengthen Capacity of Community-Led Schools in Rohingya Camps

On 28 April 2022, 25 organisations agreed on a statement that called the Bangladesh government to act quickly in Cox’s Bazar’s Rohingya refugee camps in order to ensure the protection of children’s right to education. Since December 2021, the authorities in Bangladesh have closed approximately 30 community-run schools. Authorities have threatened refugees with confiscation of their refugee identification cards and relocation to the remote Bhasan Char island if they violate the ban on operating or attending community-led schools. Organisations have highlighted that such endeavours are harmful to the community’s development and represent violations of children’s right to education, putting them at risk of becoming “a lost generation.” Since August 2017, children have been denied access to accredited education, although they account for 52 per cent of those registered in camps. The report adds that the Rohingya refugees’ right to education is just as important as the fight for justice and accountability for the crimes committed against them. 


Afghanistan: Attack on Mosque on the Last Friday of Ramadan Kills 10 and Injures 20

On 29 April 2022, during prayers a powerful blast hit a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, which killed at least 10 people while 20 have been injured in the attack. According to the Deputy Spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, Besmullah Habib the attack occurred at the Khalifa Gul Jan Mosque in Western Kabul at around 2 pm local time. The attack occurred on the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan, and on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr. The attack was condemned by Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan. He further stated that the attack comes as a “painful blow” to the people of Afghanistan as they continue to face relentless violence and insecurity. He added that it was wrong to target civilians indiscriminately which is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Mette Knudsen, the UN Secretary General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, also condemned the attack stating that it fully disregards “human lives and religious sanctity.”



UNHCR: Spokesperson Calls For Urgent Action Amid Soaring Refugee Deaths at Sea 
On 29 April 2022, during a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in GenevaUNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo publicly announced the agency’s new appeal for support in providing alternatives to people that undertake dangerous journeys at sea while attempting to cross the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic. According to a reportreleased the same day by UNHCR, last year more than 3,000 people died or went missing while trying to cross the waters. In this respect, UNHCR appealed to approximately 25 countries for the funding of $163.5 million which would ensure assistance and protection through an updated strategy for refugees. The new approach calls for increased humanitarian assistance, support and solutions for people in need of international protection and survivors of gross human rights abuses. The appeal covers countries of origin, departure, first asylum, transit, and countries of destinations. At the same time, Mantoo emphasised that the UNHCR urges states to commit to finding solutions, while also enhancing legal frameworks and operational capacities, consequently ensuring credible alternatives to dangerous journeys through inclusion, strengthening youth programming and local community-based development.


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