Weekly News Recap (2-8 May 2022)

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USA: Former Police Officer Charged with Murder for Shooting a Boy

On 2 May 2022, a former police officer was charged with the first and third-degree murder of Thomas “TJ” Siderio, who was unarmed and on the ground when the officer fired the shot. It is alleged that Siderio first shot at an unmarked police car, injuring one of the four officers. According to unsealed grand jury documents, Officer Edsaul Mendoza is also accused of voluntary manslaughter and other crimes and has been suspended since March 2022. Mendoza surrendered on Sunday and was denied bail. The unsealed grand jury documents further revealed that Siderio had thrown his gun down about 12 metres before he was shot. District Attorney Larry Krasner said that Siderio was facing downward in a push-up position while being shot. The four police officers were looking for a teenager they were looking to interview regarding a firearm investigation and had spotted two youth among which one of them was Siderio. Mendoza chased Siderio and fired twice. He also informed another officer that he was aware that the boy was unarmed while firing the fatal shot.


USA: Move to Overturn Roe v. Wade Could Set Back Years of Progress in Sexual & Reproductive Rights

On 3 May 2022, Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, responded to the draft judgment overturning the landmark decision of Roe v Wade, on abortion rights. She stated that overturning the decision would be “deeply racist  and classist.” Further remarking, that the decision of the Supreme Court would be a violation of the right to life and prohibition of torture. She called upon US authorities, to protect the right to legal and safe abortion, as “anything less would be a gross failure to uphold human rights.” She underscored that overturning the decision would put the progress that has been made globally at risk, along with the lives of millions of people. She stated that the United States would set a dangerous precedent for other governments that could lead to the denial of the rights of women, girls and other people who can become pregnant. She applauded the efforts made by Argentina, Mexico, and Ireland in decriminalising abortion and highlighted that this move by the United States would be regressive, and would damage the global perceptions.


Germany: Former Syrian Secret Police Officer’s Appeal in Torture Case Rejected

On 3 May 2022, the Federal Court of Justice rejected Al-Gharib’s appeal against a lower court ruling, convicting him of torturing prisoners in his home country, Syria. Gharib was a member of the Syrian regime’s secret police and was accused of facilitating the torture of prisoners and committing crimes against humanity, as a low-ranking member of the intelligence service. A court in the western German city of Koblenz sentenced him to four and a half years of imprisonment. Gharib appealed on the grounds that his testimony to investigators provided evidence for the conviction of a second, more senior former Syrian official. The court observed that there were no shortcomings or legal errors in the verdict given by the Koblenz court and thus it could not be challenged. This judgment was the first of its kind and dealt with the brutal oppression of protesters by the Syrian regime in Damascus during the Arab Spring (2011). The case was tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity regardless of where they were committed.


Haiti: Leader of 400 Mawozo Gang Extradited to the US

On 3 May 2022, according to the press release by Haiti’s National Police, the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, who is accused of weapons smuggling, kidnapping, and ransom of American citizens, was extradited to the US. The US had issued an international warrant for his arrest near the end of April after the gang abducted a group of missionaries from the United States and Canada. Germine Joly aka ‘Yonyon’ was extradited following a request for judicial assistance issued by the US judicial authorities. In October 2021, the gang kidnapped a group of 17 North American missionaries and their relatives. On Sunday, the Dominican Republic has reached out to Haitian police regarding the kidnapping of a Dominican diplomat, who is being held by the group for a $500,000 ransom. The gang has controlled a highly strategic area, including the only road to the country’s north, for several years. The Mawozo has been clashing with another gang in a northern suburb of Port-au-Prince, forcing hundreds of families to flee the area with at least 20 civilians killed.



Sweden: Hamid Noury’s War Crime Trial Wrapped Up; Jury Verdict Due in July

On 4 May 2022, the trial of an Iranian prison official, charged with war crimes during a 1988 purge of dissidents, came to an end. This marks a landmark trial, as it is the first time an Iranian official has gone on trial for the purge. Hamid Noury, 61, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is alleged that Nouri played a significant role in killing around 5000 prisoners across Iran on the order of supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. According to the survivors who testified, during the time the events happened, Noury worked as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison near Tehran. The killings were done as a response to the attacks carried out by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an exiled opposition group, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. The Prosecutors have called for a life sentence for Noury. The verdict has been scheduled for July. Iran’s Foreign Minister has demanded Sweden release Noury, immediately. The trial has worsened the relationship between Sweden and Iran.



Iran: Swedish-Iranian National Facing Charges for Spying for Israel to be Executed

On 4 May 2022, the ISNA news agency confirmed that a Swedish-Iranian national, charged with spying for Israel is set to be executed on 21 May 2022. Ahmadreza Djalali worked as a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and was arrested in Iran in 2016 during an academic visit. In 2017, Iran’s apex court sentenced Mr Djalali to death for passing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists. The Swedish Foreign Minister, Ann Linde said that Sweden and the European Union condemn the death penalty and demanded Mr Djalali be released. Last year in November, Amnesty International urged Iran to drop all the charges against Mr Djalali and release him. 



UK: Suspected Leader of ‘Systematic Human Smuggling’ Arrested

On 4 May 2022, the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom arrested the suspected leader of an international criminal operation supplying boats to individuals smuggling migrants across the Channel. The “alleged small boat kingpin,” Hewa Rahimpur is originally from Iran and was arrested at his workplace in east London. The operation was carried out in collaboration with Belgian law enforcement agencies. Rahimpur is accused of playing a key role in supplying boats to the criminal network of people smugglers. He was allegedly involved in sourcing boats in Turkey and getting them delivered to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. He was funded by the people who had paid to be smuggled across the Channel. On 5 May 2022, his extradition hearing began wherein he confirmed his identity and refused to be extradited to Belgium. The next extradition hearing has been scheduled for 2 September 2022, after another case management hearing, next week.




ECtHR: Romania Ordered to Pay Complainants Compensation for Inadequate Detention Conditions

On 5 May 2022, in the case of Bălui and Others v Romania, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) joined the applications against Romania for inadequate conditions of detention and observed that there was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”). The Applicants approached the Court under Article 34 of the Convention. The Court directed the State to pay the applicants such amount as prescribed by the Court within three months from the date of judgment. The Court observed that the applicants were kept under poor conditions of detention and relied on several principles established in its case-law that found inadequate conditions of detention similar to this case, as a violation of Article 3 of the Convention. Article 3 provides that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Court further held, in case the State fails to pay the applicants before the prescribed time limit, that simple interest shall be payable on the amounts prescribed at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period.


Eurojust: Council Adopts Mandate To Preserve War Crime Evidence

On 6 May 2022, the Permanent representatives to the European Union (EU) adopted a mandate regarding new rules for the preservation, analysis, and storing of evidence relating to international crimes. The newly drafted rules will allow Eurojust to store and preserve evidence related to war crimes including satellite images, photographs, videos, etc. and process this evidence with the assistance and cooperation of Europol. The findings will then be shared with relevant national and international authorities including the International Criminal Court (ICC). The next step is for the European Parliament to reach an agreement on this regulation so it can be adopted and enter into force, as quickly as possible. This move came after all EU member states, along with other partner states, referred the situation in Ukraine to the ICC. Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine has provided the bedrock for this move, as ‘there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been and are being committed.”



UN: Prioritise Peace, Stability and Prosperity Across Niger & Sahel

On 2 May 2022, on his visit to Niger, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, stated that terrorism was not a regional issue but that which threatens the whole world, and the increase in terrorist attacks in the Sahel region of Africa remains an “absolute priority” for the United Nations. Mr Guterres reiterated his call for prioritising “peace, stability and prosperity” across Niger, as well as, the Sahel region. According to the United Nations, insecurity in the region has been influenced by various actors, with civilians often being the “first victims” with roughly 8 out of 10 victims of violence being civilians. In 2021, 588 deaths were attributed to terrorism in Niger according to the Global Terrorism Index, and in the Tillabéri region, the number of deaths has doubled between 2020-2021. The UN Secretary-General remarked that the crisis in Niger was “multidimensional” with insecurity only a factor as the climate crisis, food insecurity, malnutrition, and increasing food prices have further compounded humanitarian needs. The number of people who are acutely food insecure has doubled since 2020, with 25 million requiring humanitarian aid in 2022. Niger was ranked as the least developed, on a list of 189 countries according to the Human Development Index of 2019.


FAO: Deforestation Rate Has Slowed Down by 30 % in Past 18 Years

On 3 May 2022, Food and Agricultural Organisation released a new report ‘The Global Forest Resources Assessment Remote Sensing Survey’ which stated that between 2010 and 2018 deforestation rate has slowed down by 30 per cent in comparison to the past ten years. The report, however, warned that rainforests still faced considerable threats. FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo stated that the survey provides critical information regarding forest trends including what is driving deforestation and how to monitor it. The survey revealed that the total forest area losses have been cut in half from 6.8 million hectares per year to 3.1 million. The highest levels of deforestation between 2000 and 2018 occurred in South America, with 68 million hectares deforested, followed by Africa with 49 million hectares. The expansion of land for crops has been the main cause of deforestation and has led to half of the deforestation globally. Palm oil planting alone accounted for seven per cent of the global deforestation from 2000 to 2018. Along with the publication of their survey, FAO launched its flagship, State of the World’s Forest Report (2022). The report laid down three interconnected solutions for stopping deforestation and maintaining forests, which were: ‘restoring degraded lands, expanding reforestation and ensuring sustainable value chains.’


UN: Increased Politicisation Towards the Work of Journalists and Media Workers

On 3 May 2022, marking World Press Freedom Day, UN Secretary-General expressed his concerns over the growing threats toward journalists and media workers. He stated that they are facing “increasing politicising” of their work, and there have been attempts from many sides to silence them. The Secretary-General expressed concern over the growing censorship by authoritarian governments and efforts to suppress the truth. He pointed out that although digital technology has “democratised access to information” it has also created new means of harassing and abusing women journalists. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reported that three-quarters of women respondents had experienced online harassment. The UN established a ‘Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists,’ ten years ago which aimed at protecting media workers and putting an end to the crimes committed against them. While marking the 10th Anniversary of the UN Plan of Action, UN officials underscored the challenges that still existed, such as online violence, detention of journalists, legal harassment, use of surveillance tools and harassment of women journalists. They further emphasised the need to respect freedom of expression, press freedom and access to information, as they are complementary to all other rights including quality education, poverty eradication and access to justice and healthcare.


GNAFC: Annual Report Emphasizes Growing Global Levels of Acute Hunger

On 4 May 2022, a new report released by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC), an international alliance of the UN, European Union (EU), and governmental and non-governmental agencies, addressed the need to tackle the root causes of food crises “rather than responding to emergencies after the fact.” According to the report, the number of people facing acute food insecurity has increased alarmingly, requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support. The report focuses on countries and territories where the severity of the food crisis exceeds local resources and capacities. In 2021, the number of people in need increased by approximately 40 million people equating up to 193 million people in 53 countries or territories.  Moreover, 570,000 people in Ethiopia, southern Madagascar, South Sudan, and Yemen were classified as being in the most severe phase of acute food insecurity, necessitating immediate “action to avert widespread collapse of livelihoods, starvation and death.”


Amnesty International: The Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Condemns the Abuses of the Militia Leaders in Libya

On 4 May 2022, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International addressed, in a statement, the abuses that were undertaken by the Stability Support Authority (SSA) militia in Libya. Their crimes include unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, interception and subsequent arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees, torture, forced labour, and other shocking human rights violations and crimes under international law. The SSA militia was established by a government decree in January 2021. It is currently led by Abdel Ghani al-Kikli, also known as “Gheniwa,” who has an extensive history of violating international law and other serious human rights. Moreover, representatives from the Ministry of Interior in Tripoli confirmed that the SSA intercepts refugees and migrants at sea and transports them to SSA-controlled detention centres. Since September 2021, SSA’s interceptions have been accompanied by reports of violence, which often resulted in deaths at sea. Moreover, Amnesty International has documented several incidents of crimes including enforced disappearances and death while in custody by SSA. On 19 April 2022, Amnesty International wrote to the Libyan authorities regarding the complaints they’ve received against Abdel Ghani al-Kikli and his former deputy and demanded their removal. To date, there has been no response from the Libyan authorities.


UN: New Study Emphasises the Gender Implications for Children Caught up in Conflict

On 5 May 2022, a new analysis from a UN leading expert on issues facing children caught up in war, titled ‘The Gender Dimensions of Grave Violations Against Children In Armed Conflict’ was released. The study focuses on the importance of understanding the interlinked nature of grave violations against children and how gender differences impact young people during armed conflicts. Moreover, it shows that “allocating adequate resources to gender analysis can help expose how gender is being instrumentalism” in various conflict settings. In addition, the report also emphasizes the importance of assisting the UN and its partners on the ground in providing the necessary resources and capabilities to investigate grave violations against children using a gender lens. The UN Special Representative advocating for children in conflict, Virginia Gamba stated that this study helps in integrating a gender perspective in the implementation of the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) mandate, while also contributing to a better comprehension of the impact of unseen gender norms and biases when it comes to the protection of children.



Amnesty International: Approximately 3.1 Million People in Syria are Facing a Health Crisis Due to Financial Cuts

On 5 May 2022, Amnesty International announced that a considerable amount of persons are facing a health crisis as hospitals and other medical facilities struggle to operate on low resources in Syria. In the past 10 months, the international aid provided to the health sector dropped by more than 40 per cent to Syria.  Medical facilities which are under the control of the armed opposition group Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, rely entirely on funding from the international community. Even more troubling, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 25 per cent of the required funds for Syria’s health sector has been secured as of December 2021, compared to 67 per cent in July 2021. As a result, hospitals have had to cut back on services due to a lack of staff, medicines, equipment, and operational capacity, placing countless lives at risk.


China: 18 Fighters and Bombers Were Dispatched into Taiwan’s Air Defence Zone, the Year’s Second-Largest Incursion

According to Taipei’s defence ministry, on 6 May 2022, 18 Chinese planes crossed into Taiwan’s air defence zone, forcing Taiwanese air defence to scramble jets and deploy air defence missile systems to track them. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained about these repeated missions by Chinese aircraft which have become more frequent in the last two years. China has continued to refer to the incursions as missions to defend China’s sovereignty and counter Taiwan’s “collusion” with foreign forces, a subtle reference to US support for Taipei. Moreover, according to figures compiled by the AFP news agency, the incursion was the second-largest this year, following the entry of 39 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on January 23.


UNICEF: Child Protection Crisis Created by Two Months of War in Ukraine

On 6 May 2022, UNICEF’s Regional Advisor – Child Protection for Europe and Central Asia, Aaron Greenberg, in a statement said that a child protection crisis has emerged in Ukraine. Within two months of war, 7.7 million people have been internally displaced  with 5.5 million having been driven across international borders of which two-thirds are children. To compound the problem, Ukraine also has the highest number of children who were under institutional care, prior to the war, across Europe i.e. 90,000 children, among which half of them are children with disabilities. He further underscored that UNICEF and partners have reached over 140,000 children and their caregivers with Mental Health and Psychosocial services since 24 February, with 34,000 children benefitting from specialised services through social work case management. Although progress is being made by the agency, he reiterated that more needs to be more done, including providing increased services for child survivors of physical and sexual violence and providing ‘support to children with disabilities who have suffered disproportionately’ as a result of the war.


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