Weekly News Recap (9-15 May 2022)

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Serbia: Commander of Military Prison Sentenced to Ten Years of Imprisonment for Abusing Prisoners

On 9 May 2022, Husein Mujanovic, a military prison chief, was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment by the Belgrade Higher Court for abusing prisoners during the Bosnian war. The Hrasnica prison was controlled by the Bosniak-led Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina and held around 30 inmates who were kept in poor conditions and subject to torture and abuse. Six of the prisoners died as a result of the beatings. Mujanovic was personally charged with beating two of the prisoners who survived. He was arrested in July 2018 by Serbian police and has remained under custody since. In 2020, Mujanovic was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment but upon appeal, the verdict was quashed citing a violation of the Constitution and provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code with a retrial ordered. Five defence witnesses were presented before the court and claimed that Mujanovic was appointed as the chief for only a short period, however, the Court observed that their memories of the time of Mujanovic’s appointment as a prison chief were ‘unclear.’ Since this is a first-instance verdict it can be appealed.


France: Trial Against Ex-Rwandan Official Laurent Bucyibaruta Commenced

On 9 May 2022, Laurent Bucyibaruta, an ex-Rwandan official went on trial before a French court. He is facing charges of genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity and is accused of participating in several “security” meetings to plan the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This is the fourth case regarding the Rwandan genocide before a French court and involves the trial of one of the senior figures. The trial is expected to last two months and feature over 100 witnesses. If convicted, Bucyibaruta will possibly face life imprisonment. The court will also determine Bucyibaruta’s responsibility in the massacre of roughly 90 Tutsi pupils at the Marie Merci school. Bucyibaruta denies the charges and his participation in the killings. Currently, he is under judicial supervision and is facing several health issues. In regards to the three earlier cases, four defendants have already been convicted before the French court.



Ecuador: Clashes in Prisons Call for Comprehensive Reform in the Criminal Justice System

On 9 May 2022, more than 44 prisoners were killed and 10 injured in crashes that occurred at the Santo Domingo de Los Tsáchilas prison. Earlier, on 25 April 2022, clashes between prisoners from different gangs injured 15 people in the El Inca prison. Since December 2020, roughly 390 people have been killed in Ecuador’s prisons. OHCHR Spokesperson Liz Throssell urged that the incident called for “a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system” which should include a prison system that can tackle the crisis in the country. She further stated that a public policy had been launched by Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso for the rehabilitation of prisoners with the support from OHCHR and further emphasised that the State should take prompt steps in providing proper resources for the implementation of the policy. While Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, urged Ecuador to address the structural causes of the problems that exist, while also conducting a prompt investigation into the deaths, as well as, human rights violations of persons who were deprived of their right to life and liberty.



USA: Former President Hernandez Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Charges

On 10 May 2022, while appearing before the US federal court, former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez denied all charges and pleaded not guilty. Hernandez’s lawyer further complained that he was being treated as a “prisoner of war” and kept in solitary confinement without contact with his family. Hernandez was extradited last month and faces charges of participating in a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy to facilitate the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States.” According to the indictment, he is charged with three counts of drug and weapons offences and if convicted, faces decades of imprisonment. Mr Hernandez served as Honduras’s President from 2014 until January 2022, when he handed over the title to Honduras’s first female president. The Court directed the government to submit a report on the conditions of Hernandez’s detention and has set a preliminary trial date in January.


USA: Haitian Gang Leader Indicted for Kidnapping 17 Missionaries

On 10 May 2022, the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, Joly Germine, also known as “Yonyon” was indicted for “conspiracy to commit hostage-taking” after the kidnapping of 17 missionaries near Port-au-Prince, in October 2021. The group was travelling to Haiti as a part of a trip organized by the Christian Aid Ministries. Five of the abductees were released in November and December, with the remaining 12 escaping on 16 December. The gang has been taking control over the areas in and around the capital, causing a surge in gang-related violence. The United Nations has warned people about the increasing violence in Port-au-Prince. Mr Germine, who was in a Haitian prison while the kidnapping occurred, is believed to have ‘directed and asserted control’ over the operations. The US issued an international warrant for his arrest and on 3 May, he was extradited to the US.


France: Court Orders Investigation into Torture Allegations Against Interpol President Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi

On 11 May 2022, considering the evidence of two British citizens detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a French court ordered an investigation into the war crimes and crimes against humanity allegations against the Interpol President Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi. Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad were detained under hostile conditions in UAE. Hedges was imprisoned for seven months on spying charges and was tortured and kept in solitary confinement while Ahmad was detained and tortured during the 2019 Asian Cup soccer tournament. They both filed a criminal complaint against Al-Raisi before the tribunal’s judges in October under the principle of universal jurisdiction. In November, Al-Raisi was appointed as the Interpol president and is accused by human rights groups of torture and unlawful detention in the UAE. He was a general inspector of the interior ministry during the time Hedges and Ahmad were under detention. The complainants have also filed criminal complaints against Al-Raisi in Norway, Sweden and Turkey.



Ukraine: First War Crime Trial to be Initiated Against Russian Soldier

On 12 May 2022, the public prosecutor announced the initiation of the first war crime trial against a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian to prevent him from reporting to a group of soldiers. The civilian was shot by an automatic rifle, a few metres away from his home, by a 21-year-old Russian soldier, Vadim Shyshimarin. The accused was ordered by a military serviceman to stop the civilian from reporting them. The accused faces charges of premeditated murder and war crime and can be sentenced to life imprisonment if found guilty. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova’s office has received more than 10,000 reports of alleged war crimes and around 622 suspects have already been identified. Venediktova did not specify any particular date for commencement of trial. The Russian invasion which began on 24 February has exposed millions of Ukrainians to massive destruction, torture and abuse.


Russia: Five Crimean Muslims Sentenced to Jail for Alleged Membership in an Islamist Organisation

On 12 May 2022, five Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority, were sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment by a Russian military court for their alleged involvement in an “Islamist” organisation called Hizb-ut Tahrir. The organization advocates for a peaceful restoration of a Muslim Caliphate and freely operates in Ukraine but is banned in Russia as an extremist group. This decision portrays the continuing pressure of Russia on Crimean Tatars, who once dominated the Black Sea peninsula. According to the community leader, several Tatar men are awaiting trial or have been sentenced. Activist Mumine Salieva told Al Jazeera, that the court does not release official information and neither does it allow the media to write about the people under detention. Since 2014, many Tatar Muslims have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.



Bosnia: Two Former Policemen Indicted for Wartime Murders

On 13 May 2022, ex-police officers, Milenko Samardzija and Kosta Stanic were indicted by the state prosecution in Sarajevo for willingly participating in the murders of 22 Bosniak civilians in the village of Balatun. The accused were directly involved in the shooting and killing of the civilians. It is alleged that in 1992 they forced the civilians out of their homes, transported them in military trucks and shot them on the banks of River Drina, in the village of Balatun. It is also alleged that ten days before the incident Samardzija participated in the unlawful removal of civilians from their homes and public spaces. The victims were later taken to the police station and were tortured, abused and killed. This is the second indictment dealing with the torture and killing of civilians in Balatun that has been filed before the state court. The first one was confirmed in January.


ICC: Closing Remarks to Commence in June for the Gicheru Case

On 12 May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated that the closing statements in the case of Paul Gicheru are scheduled for 27 June 2022, following the close of the Prosecution’s case (on 29 March 2022). The Defence announced on 25 April that it will not present any evidence. Mr Gicheru surrendered to the ICC on 3 November 2020 pursuant to an arrest warrant for offences against the administration of justice, consisting of corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya. Mr Gicheru has pleaded not guilty to all charges.



USA: Treasury Department Imposes Sanctions on ISIS

On 9 May 2022, the US Treasury Department accused and imposed sanctions on a network of five Islamic State financial facilitators, that are supporting the extremist jihadist group in Syria, and working across Indonesia, Syria and Turkey. This network plays a vital role in facilitating the travel of extremists to Syria and other places where ISIS operates. The Treasury further informed that the network collects funds in Indonesia and Turkey. Some of the funds collected were used to smuggle children out of the camps to recruit them as ISIS foreign fighters. The move targeted Dwi Dahlia Susanti, Rudi Heryadi, Ari Kardian, Muhammad Dandi Adhiguna and Dini Ramadhani and aims to freeze their US assets and bar Americans from dealing with them. The US, as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, is committed to preventing ISIS from raising and distributing funds across jurisdictions and seeks to defeat their purposes.


FAO & WFP: New Report Reveals “Catastrophic” Levels of Food Insecurity in Afghanistan

On 9 May 2022, the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) was launched for Afghanistan. The report stated that a catastrophic amount of food insecurity exists in the north-eastern region, with 20 million at risk. According to Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan, providing humanitarian assistance remains of critical importance, without which, the crisis cannot be averted. According to the report’s prediction, there will be an improvement witnessed in food security from June to November, with the number of food-insecure people dropping to 18.9 million. The report warned that even though there would be a slight improvement in food insecurity, the continuous drought and economic slowdown would still put the lives of millions of people at risk. In the Ghor province, which is located in the northeast region more than 20,000 people are facing dangerous levels of hunger due to harsh winters and the worsening of agricultural structures. The WFP has assisted more than 16 million people since 2021 and has been continuously providing skills training to families for cultivating their land. The FAO has also been scaling up its response in the region by providing assistance to more than 9 million people by working to provide support for crops, livestock, cash transfer and vegetable production.


Sri Lanka: Right to Peaceful Assembly Should be Upheld by Security Forces

On 9 May 2022, clashes broke out after hundreds of supporters of the former Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, attacked peaceful anti-government protest sites at Galle Face Green. Over 150 people have been reportedly injured and at least five were killed in separate incidents. Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asian Director at Human Rights Watch, responded that the attack on peaceful protestors have increased the risk of violence and abuse and that it’s crucial for security forces to uphold the right to peaceful assembly. The attacks were condemned by the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission and the Bar Association. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has led to widespread protest for political reform and the resignation of the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, the prime minister. Hours after the attacks, the prime minister resigned. Following the attack on Galle Face Green, various incidents were witnessed across Colombo and other regions in the country, which included attacks on the property of ruling politicians.



UNHCR: Internal Displacement Worsens in Mozambique Due to the Climate Crisis

On 10 May 2022, Grainne Ohara, Director of the Division of International Protection of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement, that in the northern region of Mozambique conflict and displacement have increased the needs of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and continuous violence and insecurity is of concern. Since the beginning of the year, Mozambique has had five tropical storms in its northern areas, which have further affected thousands of families, refugees and IDPs. On 11 March 2022, Tropical Cyclone Gombe, which hit the country, damaged 80 per cent of settlements in the Maratane region while affecting 736,000 people. The agency has been responding swiftly to the effects of Cyclone Gombe by providing shelter, household kits, and health clinics while repairing schools and scaling up humanitarian assistance in the region. The agency in partnership with the Mozambique Government has also assisted 21,500 people in the Cabo Delgado region. The agency has been committed to providing assistance and support to the Mozambique government in finding solutions for refugees and IDPs while also being prepared to respond to extreme weather events. In order to scale up the response in the region, the agency is in need of $ 36.7 million.


UN: Joint Appeal for $10.5 Billion Launched for Supporting Syria

On 10 May 2022, during a European Union conference, UN agency heads launched a joint appeal for 10.5 billion dollars to assist Syria. In Syria, 12 million people are on the verge of hunger every day with 90% of the population living in poverty and exposed to gender-based violence and explosives. To survive this year, 14.6 million Syrian are in need of urgent humanitarian aid and another 12 million are refugees who also require support. Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) also emphasised that $4.4 billion of the amount, is needed to support Syrians inside the county, while $6.1 billion is needed to support Syrian refugees. Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) further stated that they are seeing ‘soaring poverty rates and hunger, deepening inequalities, and increased tensions across the region.’ He noted that for early recovery assistance $1.2 billion is needed (25 per cent of the year’s Humanitarian Response Plan) to meet the challenges and needs on the ground.


Yemen: Civilians Casualties Has Dropped Drastically Since Truce

On 11 May 2022, a press release from the Norwegian Refugee Council announced that, according to the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, the number of casualties in the war in Yemen has dropped by more than half since the announcement of the truce. While from March to April, 213 civilians were injured or killed, in the month that followed, the number was reduced to 95. Erin Hutchinson, Yemen Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, stated that the figures provide clear proof of the benefits of the truce and urged the parties to extend it. While the data shows a significant reduction in the number of casualties from airstrikes, shellfire, and shooting since the start of the truce, the number of people injured or killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance remained the same or higher. The agreement enforced in Yemen on 2 April is the first nationwide truce since 2016, after more than seven years of conflict.


Sri Lanka: Amnesty International Urges Authorities to Retract the Excessive Powers Conferred to the Police and Military

On 11 May 2022, Amnesty International issued a press release calling for the retraction of the emergency regulations and shooting orders that provide excessive powers to the police and military in Sri Lanka, while also emphasizing the necessity to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of peaceful protestors. On 6 May, the President proclaimed a State of Emergency along with a country-wide curfew from 9-12 May. On 10 May, a day after protesters peacefully demonstrating in front of the Presidential Secretariat were violently attacked by pro-government supporters, the Defence Ministry issued a notice saying the Armed forces have been ordered to open fire at anyone looting public property or causing harm to others. While the move has been called “illegal” by some parliamentarians, the cabinet remains dissolved following the PM’s resignation on 9 May. According to authorities, nine people have died and over 220 people have been injured since the commencement of the violence. Additionally, 41 vehicles had been set on fire, 61 vehicles were damaged, and 136 incidents of property damage were recorded.


Somalia: At Least Four Killed and Seven Injured in a Suicide Attack Near Mogadishu Airport

On 11 May 2022, a suicide attack at the site of Somalia’s upcoming presidential election ended the lives of at least four people and injured another seven. The attacker reportedly targeted vehicles parked at the checkpoint, blowing himself up as presidential candidates were heading into the airport to address lawmakers. None of the candidates or state officials were injured, however, two security personnel were killed. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, as they have a long history of opposing Somalia’s federal government, fighting against it since 2007. Since 2010, the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has recorded 346 incidents of explosive violence in Somalia attributed to Al Shabaab, which has resulted in 4,612 civilian casualties of which 39% of those attacks were suicide attacks, and they caused 63% of civilian casualties.


ICRC: New Project Aims at Expanding Family Reunification Service Capacities

On 13 May 2022, a new press release issued from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement announced the Reunification Pathways for Integration (REPAIR) project, aimed at enabling safe and legal family reunification in the EU. The project is co-funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and will increase ICRC’s capacities by providing assistance to the beneficiaries of international protection and their family members before, during and after arrival. The project, led in partnership with the Austrian, British, French and Slovenian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will last for three years. It supports the key mandate of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, Restoring Family Links (RFL), and will deliver activities aimed at preventing separation and disappearance, searching for missing persons, restoration and maintenance of contact between family members, while consequently clarifying the fate of persons reported missing.


UN: Human Rights Experts Condemn Abu Akleh’s Killing

On 13 May 2022, UN human rights experts called for a prompt, transparent, thorough and independent investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. On 11 May, Israeli forces shot dead Abu Akleh, a long-time TV correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, in the city of Jenin. When the shooting occurred, Abu Akleh was wearing a press vest and was standing with other journalists. The Palestinian health ministry announced that she was declared dead shortly after she arrived at the hospital in Jenin. The experts at the UN human rights special procedures declared the killing of Abu Akleh, represents another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank, adding that he urges the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, alongside other stakeholders, to cooperate for carrying out the investigation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated his intent to bring Abu Akleh’s case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to get justice for the reporter, who was an icon in Palestine.


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