Weekly News Recap (16-22 May 2022)

© Photo by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation via Flickr




ICC: Prosecutor Announces Deployment of Forensics and Investigative Teams to Ukraine

On 17 May 2022, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC announced the deployment of 42 investigators, forensic experts, and support personnel to Ukraine to advance the investigation into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the ICC and provide support to Ukrainian national authorities. The joint work of national Ukrainian authorities and forensic experts will ensure the collection of hard evidence on the ground in Ukraine, as well as the identification of remains, ballistics analysis and the storage and preservation of forensic evidence.


IRMCT: Prosecutor Confirms Death of Fugitive Phénéas Munyarugarama

On 18 May 2022, the Prosecutor confirmed the death of Phénéas Munyarugarama that, together with the death of Protais Mpiranya, leaves only four fugitives under the International Residual Mechanism of Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) jurisdiction: Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Charles Ryandikayo and Aloys Ndimbati. In his announcement, the Prosecutor Serge Brammertz expressed his appreciation to authorities in Belgium and Rwanda for their meaningful contribution to the investigations. After a thorough investigation, the OTP concluded that Munyarugarama died of natural causes on 28 February 2002 in Kankwala in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Munyarugarama was a Lt Colonel in the Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR). He was indicted for eight counts including genocide, public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity. Specifically, the charges involved the mass killings, attacks, and sexual violence against Tutsi civilians in several locations of the Bugesera region, including at the Ntarama and Nyamata Catholic Churches.


France: Charges for Crimes Against Humanity Against Lafarge for Payoffs to ISIL and Other Armed Groups

On 18 May 2022, the cement group Lafarge was charged with complicity in crimes against humanity over alleged payoffs to ISIL and other armed groups in Syria. This case, rights activists believe, could set precedent for the future prosecution of multinational corporations that continue their operations in countries where armed conflict is ongoing. The alleged payoffs to ISIL amounted to nearly 13 million euros. Holcim, the Swiss building materials conglomerate that Lafarge is now part of, announced its intention to appeal the Court’s decision.


Colombia: The JEP Begins Process to Sanction Military Officials That Confessed to Killings as a War Crime Known as “Falsos Positivos

On 18 May 2022, the JEP announced that the military officers that confessed to the killing of civilians in the Catatumbo region in the context of the falsos positivos scandal now have five days to present the JEP victims’ reparation plans. As the JEP cannot impose prison sentences on those who confess their crimes, the military officials may face ‘sanctions’ such as community service aimed at satisfying the rights of victims. The victims will then have the opportunity to receive and comment on this reparation plan. In case these reparation plans are not presented by the perpetrators, the JEP may develop and impose its own sanctions. This process will last three months.


Israel: Defence Forces Will Not Open a Criminal Investigation for the Killing of Shireen Abu Aqleh

On 18 May 2022, the Israel Defence Forces announced that the killing of Shireen Abu Aqleh occurred in an “active combat situation” and therefore no criminal investigation is to take place although an operational enquiry would continue. This decision marks a departure from other decisions in which similar cases prompted an opening investigation. The journalist was killed during an arrest raid by an Israeli commando unit on Palestinian militants. While Palestinian officials refused to give the Israeli authorities the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Aqleh, they welcome international inquiries. Both the White House and the UN security council have called for a transparent investigation. Journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was well known for her reports on the Palestinian living conditions under Israeli rule.


EU: European Parliament Supports Investigative Powers of Eurojust Over International Crimes

On 19 May 2022, members of the European parliament granted Eurojust the power to store and analyse evidence connected to war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. This vote passed with 560 votes in favour, 17 against and 18 abstaining. The evidence that Eurojust can store relates to DNA profiles, fingerprints, photographs, videos, and audio recordings. Such information, under the new rules, can be shared with the ICC and other international organizations conducting investigations on these crimes. Additionally, the information collected can also be shared with EU member states. These new powers to Eurojust come in response to the invasion of Ukraine and were approved in an accelerated way. Before this regulation comes into force, however, they must be formally adopted by the Council of the EU.


Ukraine: A Guilty Plea is the Outcome of the First Trial of the Ukrainian Invasion

On 18 May 2022, Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander in the Russian armed forces, pleaded guilty to killing Oleksandr Shelipov, an unarmed 62-year-old civilian. Shishimarin now faces life imprisonment in what is now the first trial of the Ukrainian invasion. According to the prosecutor of the case, Shishimarin was ordered to kill the civilians for which he used Kalashnikov assault rifle. The trial was adjourned shortly after the admission of guilt to be restarted days after. This case is part of more than 10 000 other possible war crimes committed by Russia. The country’s chief prosecutor stated that this first trial sends a clear message to every perpetrator who ordered or assisted in the commission of war crimes in Ukraine.


KSC: The Kosovo Special Court Sanctions Two Former Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for Witness Intimidation

On 18 May 2022, this special court convicted Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj for obstruction of justice, witness intimidation and unauthorized release of confidential information. The sentences were four-and-a-half years in prison and a 100 euro fine. This case started with boxes of confidential files from the KSC that were anonymously left in the hallway of the veterans’ organization. The files were then “released” by Gucati and Haradinaj who urged the media to report on the details. They themselves posted confidential information on social media and shared it in interviews with journalists. Most of the leaked documents involved the correspondence between the Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) and, in some cases, the phone numbers and addresses of countless witnesses from Kosovo, Serbia and Albania. After revealing this information, Gucati and Haradinaj were arrested at their organization’s headquarters in Pristina by heavily armed European Union police.




WHO & UNICEF: Report Highlights 1 Billion Children in Need of Assistive Technology

On 16 May 2022, WHO and UNICEF in a new joint report titled “The Global Report on Assistive Technology” revealed that there were 2.5 billion people who needed assistive technology or products such as a wheelchair, hearing aids or apps which would be able to support communication. The report is a first of its kind which provides evidence as to the importance of providing access to assistive products on a global level. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that access to assistive technology would further open “door to education” for children living with impairments, and adults living with disabilities and providing employment to them. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell highlighted that there were 240 million children with disabilities and denial of the right to assistive products would be depriving children of education. Furthermore, according to the report, the number of people who would require assistive technology will increase to 3.5 billion by 2050 and with affordability impeding accessibility of this technology and products. 


Burkina Faso: Human Rights Abuse by Armed Islamist Groups on the Rise

On 16 May 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Armed Islamist groups have been increasing the abuses against civilians, as the conflict escalates. The HRW further stated that the Burkina Faso government should ensure that civilians are protected and also respect human rights. According to Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at HRW, a blatant disregard for civilians’ lives is being shown by the Armed Islamist groups. Furthermore, there have been 42 alleged summary execution and 14 enforced disappearances according to HRW. Ms Dufka also highlighted the lack of investigations that have been conducted and further reiterated that the government must take responsibility and adopt measures, such as providing a fair trial to suspects by military and regular courts. Furthermore, the report which is based on the interview of 83 survivors in the region, HRW recorded dozens of rapes, destruction of villages, health centres, water and telecommunication infrastructure, and the recruitment of child soldiers as young as 12 years old, along with carrying out hundreds of killings.




Haiti: Amid Increasing Armed Violence, UN High Commissioner Called for Restoration of the Rule of Law

On 17 May 2022, United Nations Human Rights Council High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet urged the Haitian authorities to restore the rule of law and protect the people from armed violence in the region, which has reached unthinkable levels in Port-au-Prince. According to UN human rights officers, there have been 113 people injured, 12 reported as missing, 49 have been kidnapped for ransom with 92 people unaffiliated with the gangs killed in the past 3 weeks. She further highlighted the weakness of state institutions, especially the police and judiciary, and urged the need for strengthening these institutions to combat impunity and corruption. She also urged the international community to prioritise Haiti and also increase its efforts in preventing the situation in Haiti to escalate further.


WFP: Acute Food Shortage Being Faced by Thousands of Syrian Refugees Living in Camps in Iraq

On 17 May 2022, the Word Food Programme (WFP) and UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) stated that Syrian refugees who were living in camps in Iraq were facing an acute food shortage. According to the agencies, food insecurity has affected 86 per cent of the refugees who have been living in camps after continuous “socio-economic shocks.” Due to the pandemic and its impact on employment the Iraqi dinar has continued to devalue which is exacerbated by the rise in prices, further limiting the access of people to basic food. In order to provide basic food and cash assistance continuously, WFP requires 10.1 million and additional funding to support 72 000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Iraq. According to Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq and Ally Raza Qureshi, WFP Representative for Iraq, without adequate funding for tens of thousands of people there is a greater risk of refugees becoming food insecure and recurring severe levels of food insecurity. Iraq has been hosting 260 000 Syrian refugees of which 95 745 are living in camps, while 72 000 have been receiving humanitarian assistance, food and cash assistance from the WFP and other services such as legal support, registration services, and educational support are being provided by the UNHCR.



NATO: Finland and Sweden Have Officially Applied to Join the Military Alliance

On 18 May 2022, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that Finland and Sweden have officially applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), adding that this represents ‘a historic moment, which we must seize.’ The decision taken by the two countries represents one of the most significant changes in Europe’s security architecture in decades, as they have kept a neutral status throughout the Cold War. However, the applications must be weighed by the 30 member countries. This process could take up to two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations which could further delay the process. Ankara blames the two countries for allegedly supporting groups considered “terrorists” by the Turkish administration.  If these discrepancies are overcome, accession talks might proceed as expected and the two could become members within a few months. The process normally takes between eight and twelve months, but given Russia’s threat to the Nordic countries, NATO prefers to move quickly.


Nigeria: Explosion in Kano Led to the Collapse of a Building and the Death of Nine People

On 18 May 2022, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, head of the National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria, announced that nine people were killed after a gas cylinder explosion. The incident led to the collapse of a building close to a popular market in the Sabon Gari area of Kano. The explosion occurred near a local school, fortunately, there were no reported injuries among the pupils. According to public statements, the bodies were pulled out of the rubble by emergency responders during a search and rescue operation. Kano is the capital of the Nigerian state in the northwest region of the country, which has been renowned for centuries both as a centre for Islamic scholarship and a commercial hotspot in trans-Saharan trade. 


EU: Indo-Pacific Defence Presence Stepped Up

On 18 May 2022, over concerns that ‘multilateral rules-based order will not be fully respected,’ the European Union has resolved to step up its defence strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the EU’s special envoy, Gabriele Visentin. This decision comes in the light of China’s growing presence and concerns sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While no evidence suggests a war in the region is imminent, the EU is concerned by the current international context. Visentin said China represents “a partner, a competitor and a rival” in the eyes of the European leaders, and is the largest threat in the region. Such concerns had been emphasized by China’s military build-up and strategic intentions uncovered in the draft of the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands that was leaked in March.


Pakistan: Taliban Extends Ceasefire with the Government until 30 May

On 19 May 2022, the spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group, Mohammad Khurasani, announced that the existing ceasefire with the Pakistani government had been extended until the end of the month. The claims were confirmed by the Taliban in Kabul, who hosted and moderated the talks. The TTP represents a separate yet allied group with the Taliban, that was emboldened by the Taliban takeover in neighbouring Afghanistan. In recent months, attacks on government forces have increased, particularly along the mountainous borders between them. The TTP has a long history of advocating for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in Pakistan, alongside the release of their detained members and a reduction in military presence in the country’s tribal regions.


Sri Lanka: As Prime Minister Warns of a Food Shortage, Thousands Stock Up on Fuel and Cooking Gas

On 20 May 2022, Reuters reported that in Colombo thousands queued for cooking gas and petrol as their Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe warned that a food shortage could occur in the country. The Sri Lankan Prime Minster while warning about a food shortage, has also promised to buy enough fertiliser to help boost productivity in the next planting season and meet the needs of the country’s 22 million population. Moreover, Japan which has a long-standing economic history with the island, announced the funding of $3 million to contribute towards medicine, food assistance and respond to the economic crisis. Currently, the price of cooking gas for a 12.5 kg cylinder has soared to nearly double, from 5 000 rupees ($14) to 2 675 rupees in April. According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in the next few months, the inflation could rise by 40%, and in April alone the inflation hit 29.8 % with food prices rising by 46.6 % every year.


OCHA: Emergency Humanitarian Fund Allocated to Boost the Humanitarian Response Across Four Countries

On 20 May 2022, OCHA released $30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in order to improve the degrading food security in four countries. Accordingly, $6 million will be allocated to Burkina Faso and $8 million each to Chad, Mali, and Niger. With this latest development, the funding to the Sahel, channelled through CERF, amounts to almost $95 million since the beginning of the year. Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator, emphasized the importance of immediate action, adding that ‘this injection of cash will help agencies on the ground scale up the emergency response to help avoid a catastrophe.” In the Sahel, estimations claim that 7.7 million children under five are expected to suffer from malnutrition. Out of them, 1.8 million are severely malnourished and, in the prospect of stagnating aid operations, the number is expected to reach 2.4 million by the end of the year.


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