Weekly News Recap (23-29 May 2022)

© Photo by Manhhai via Flickr




Palestine: The Foreign Minister Asked the ICC to Investigate the Death of Shireen Abu Akleh

On 23 May 2022, Palestine’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki formally asked the ICC to investigate the killing Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead on 11 May 2022, in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Riyad Al-Maliki asked the Court to add Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing to the list of alleged war crimes committed by Israel. On the other hand, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouti, accused the ICC of having a double standard in the handling of cases. While information has been provided for at least 13 years, no cases have been brought against Israeli nationals. In contrast, the ICC sent 42 investigators to Ukraine in the past few days. Barghouti highlights the importance of exercising pressure on the ICC to initiate investigative tasks that include an investigation into the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.


Europe: Eurojust Report Shows that National Prosecution of International Crimes has Increased

On 23 May 2022, Eurojust announced that since 2016, the prosecution of international crimes by domestic courts in Europe has increased by 44 per cent. While in 2016, the number of cases was 1 073, in 2021 that number went up to 1 547. This trend can be attributed to the rise of conflict and massive human rights violations near the EU’s borders, most recently in Ukraine, Belarus, and Syria, which in turn leads to refugees in EU countries. Another factor that may explain this surge in the number of cases may be the expertise of some States in conducting prosecutions of international crimes. On this trend, Eurojust’s president, Ladislav Hamran, highlighted the importance of sharing knowledge and lessons learned between prosecutors and investigators at the domestic level.



ICC: High-Level Conference on Complementarity Was Held Between the ICC and Senegalese Authorities

From 23 to 25 May 2022, the ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański together with the Deputy Prosecutor Mame Mandiaye Niang, the President of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi and other ICC officials held a conference with authorities of the Republic of Senegal where they discussed the importance of collective efforts to guarantee the implementation of the principle of complementarity. In the words of the ICC President, the conference was an opportunity to draw best practices and lessons learned in the national and international prosecution of international crimes, and a chance to discuss ways to improve cooperation among states and between State-parties and the Court. Senegal was the first country in the world to ratify the Rome Statute and, as shown by this conference, it continues to play a major role in advancing international criminal justice. Events like this, held in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region are essential to further advance cooperation and complementarity under the Rome Statute regime.


The Netherlands: Syrian Regime Militia Member is Arrested for Alleged War Crimes

On 24 May 2022, the Dutch police arrested a 34-year-old man under the suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Syria in 2013. The suspect has been in the Netherlands since 2020 and has applied for asylum there. The Dutch police proceeded with the arrest after learning that the man would have played a prominent role as a militia member on the side of President Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war. This is the first time that a person is arrested under these suspicions in the Netherlands. The Syrian war began in 2011 with a peaceful protest and it has cost 400,000 lives. Since the beginning of the conflict, the Liwa al-Quds militia, which the suspect was allegedly a part of, has played a major role in the widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population. Their role consisted of cracking down on demonstrations and arresting civilians. The suspect will be brought before a competent judge in a court in The Hague on Friday 27 May 2022.


USA: Former UN Staff Pleads Guilty for Sexually Assaulting Thirteen People and Drugging Six More

On 24 May 2022, Karim Elkorany, a former communications specialist for the UN in Iraq admitted to having sexually assaulted an internationally protected person and to having abused 13 other persons, while they were unconscious after he drugged them. He committed many of these crimes while employed at the UN from 2005 to 2018. Elkorany worked for the UN Children’s fund in Iraq. The 37-year-old also faces charges for having provided false information to an FBI agent regarding his involvement in these crimes. Elkorany is scheduled to be sentenced on 29 September 2022.


USA: Mirsad Kandic Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Supporting ISIS

On 24 May 2022, a federal jury in Brooklyn pronounced a guilty verdict against Mirsad Kandic. Kandic, 40, faces life imprisonment and has been convicted of assisting Islamic State (ISIS) and providing them with weapons, pieces of equipment and battlefield intelligence. He is convicted on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS, and five substantive counts of providing material support to ISIS in the form of personnel. In 2013, he left the US and moved to Turkey to join ISIS. He worked for recruiting individuals through social media and aided their travel to ISIS-controlled territories for waging war. Kandic was arrested in Sarajevo and extradited in 2017.


India: Kashmiri Pro-Freedom Leader Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

On 25 May 2022, Kashmir pro-independence leader Yasin Malik was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court. Malik is the chief of the now-banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) which renounced violence in 1994. He was convicted of aiding and assisting terrorist acts and for other crimes such as criminal conspiracy and sedition. A coalition of pro-India parties in the region termed the sentence as “unfortunate.” The anti-terrorism court suspended the Internet facilities of the region soon after the verdict was pronounced. During the trial, Malik had denied all the charges and had called himself a “freedom fighter.” He was arrested in 2019 by the NIA in a terror-funding case. He was accused of receiving funds from Pakistan for conducting terrorist activities. 



The Gambia: The Government Reveals Implementation Plan of the Truth Commission’s Recommendations

On 25 May 2022, Justice Minister Dawda Jallow announced the acceptance of all but two of the 256 recommendations of the truth commission and announced the creation of a special court to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including senior officials and former president Yahya Jammeh. The prosecution of president Jammeh relates to the alleged crimes he committed between 1994 and 2017, a period in which he ruled over the Gambia, curtailing fundamental rights, using paramilitary hit-squads to commit at least 103 enforced disappearances and 232 murders. Jammeh’s crimes include widespread murder, torture, rape, and arbitrary detention, all of which constitute crimes against humanity, according to Reed Brody of International Commission of Jurists. It is not clear today, however, when and where these prosecutions will take place or what powers the special prosecutor will have. The two recommendations that were not accepted by the government consisted of an amnesty for Sanna Sabally, former vice-chairman of the military junta, and the qualification of judges that helped Jammeh’s regime as “mercenary judges.”


Colombia: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Goes Through Two Political Crises

On 25 May 2022, Colombia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is facing two political crises ahead of the upcoming presidential elections: the resignation of its only truth commissioner with a military background, Carlos Ospina, and the polemic statements of commissioner Alejandro Valencia regarding the ‘false positives’ scandal. These two episodes raise concerns over how the Truth Commission will complete its mandate in the few weeks it has left. Commissioner Ospina justified his resignation on the “imposed narrative that has decided to privilege a totalizing and unequivocal tone, constricting differences, the multi-causality of the conflict, its actors and impacts and the plurality of testimonies.” Ospina has gone on to say that the Truth Commission’s report will place much of the responsibility on the State and that many truths about the role of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in the conflict will be missing. The second political crisis stems from commissioner Valencia’s speech in which he presented the conclusions of the final Truth Commission’s report before this was officially published, at a sensitive time in Colombian politics: the upcoming presidential elections. The conclusions are polemic because they suggest that the killing of civilians by the Colombian military was not a set of random cases, but instead, it was the result of a State policy.


Ukraine: Two Russian Soldiers Found Guilty for Violating the Laws of War

On 26 May 2022, Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov were convicted for the shelling of a town in eastern Ukraine. When found guilty, the defence asked for leniency as the individuals were following orders and repented. Both soldiers admitted to being part of a unit that fired at civilians in the Kharkiv region from the Belgorod region in Russia. The hostilities destroyed a school in the town of Derhachi. The hearing lasted an hour and the sentencing is expected to be delivered on 31 May. Many more trials are expected to be carried on in Ukraine.


Canada: Quebec Mosque Gunman Allowed to Seek Parole After Serving 25-Year Prison Sentence

On 27 May 2022, Canada’s top court allowed Alexandre Bissonnette to seek parole after serving 25-years of his prison sentence. The Prosecution had asked for the court to pronounce a 50 years jail term before a possibility of parole. The Court dismissed their appeal and observed that pronouncing such a sentence would be “cruel and unusual by nature” and violative of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court further observed that it would be incompatible with human dignity and degrading to give such a sentence. Bissonnette is convicted of attacking Quebec’s largest mosque in 2017 that killed six and severely injured at least five others. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot. Upon appeal, the Quebec Court of Appeal declared the sentence to be unconstitutional. It reduced his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The Quebec appealed the verdict and asked for the gunman to be barred from accessing parole for 50 years. The top court upheld the ruling of the Quebec Court of Appeal verdict and dismissed the appeal.


Japan: Fusako Shigenobu Released from Prison After Serving 20-Year Jail Sentence

On 28 May 2022, the co-founder of the Japanese Red Army was released from jail after serving a prison sentence of 20 years. She was apologetic for hurting innocent people. The armed group was a once feared left-wing group that carried out attacks around the world in 1970s and ‘80s in support of the Palestinian cause. The armed group was founded in 1971 and worked with Palestinian fighters to become an enemy and opponent of Israel. It conducted plane hijackings and hostage-taking in the 1970s. The group was one of the most feared armed groups in the world. It took responsibility for several attacks and bombings worldwide. She was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to a 20-year jail term. Shigenobu announced the armed group’s disbanding in 2001.



UNHCR: With 17 Rohingyas Reportedly Dead, Agency Calls for Collective Action on Safety of Refugees Journeying Through the Sea

On 23 May 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that a boat that left Sittwe in Rakhine State, Myanmar on 19 May encountered bad weather and capsized on 21 May near the Coast of Pathein Township, with 17 people being feared as dead. According to Indrika Ratwatte, UNCHR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific this tragedy evidences the “sense of desperation” that Rohingyas in Myanmar feel. She further urged that there was a need for addressing the major cause of such a deadly journey, along with neighbouring countries uniting to assure the safety of all those stranded or journeying through the sea. The UNHCR further urged that with continued failure on part of nations, there would be disastrous and deadly consequences. 


UNICEF: Flooding in Bangladesh Puts 1.5 Million Children at Risk of Diseases

On 23 May 2022, it was reported that due to extreme flooding in the north-eastern region of Bangladesh, 1.5 million children are at an extreme risk of waterborne disease, drowning and malnutrition. In the country, five districts have been highly affected by the flooding among which the districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj have been the most affected with water above dangerous levels. Three children have reportedly died due to being struck by lightning, while there have also been reports of cases of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and skin diseases. Mr Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh stated that children were the most vulnerable as they were also missing out on their education because of the natural disaster along with the 18 months of pandemic school closures that occurred. UNICEF has been providing aid and support to respond to the flooding in Bangladesh by providing clean water, hygiene and learning kits.


IOM & ECHO: UN Migration Agency Continues to Provide Support to Thousands of Displaced Yemenis

On 23 May 2022, it was reported that the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) and European Union’s Humanitarian Aid Wing (ECHO) were increasing their support to fulfil the needs of more than 325,000 Yemenis who are displaced by the conflict in Yemen. Christa Rottensteiner, Chief of the IOM’s Mission in the country highlighted that the situation for women migrants in the country was worsening. According to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA), 2 out of 3 Yemenis are in urgent need of humanitarian aid while there are 7.4 million Yemenis who are in dire need of shelter and essential items, with 17.8 million requiring WASH support. In the first months of 2022 alone 25 000 migrants arrived in Yemen as the country has remained a major point on the migration route from the Horn of Africa to Saudi Arabia. The IOM has been able to provide support and aid to migrants in form of health assistance and individualised protection assistance through the contribution from the EU. According to Ms Rottensteiner, the renewed partnership with the European Union would further allow the IOM in continuing its support and assistance to tens of thousands of people who have migrated or been displaced.


WFP: Food Insecurity on the Rise in the Latin American and Caribbean

On 24 May 2022, the World Food Programme reported that 9.3 million have been affected by food insecurity across nations where the agency has been providing support and aid. Lola Castro, WFP’s Regional Director for Latin America highlighted that if the conflict in Ukraine continues, there would be a spike in hunger and food insecurity across nations, leading to the number of already food-insecure people to 13.3 million. The organisation warned that between December 2021 and March 2022 alone, the number of people becoming food insecure has increased by half a million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and with the pandemic, the situation has further compounded insecurity as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine restrains access to resources. The WFP Regional Director further underscored that with the rising number of food-insecure people there exists a huge gap between required funding and the availability of resources. To fulfil its operational costs across the region, the WFP is in urgent need of $ 315 million and with the Atlantic hurricane season upcoming in June, it would potentially make more people food insecure.


UK: Under Rwanda Plan, Government Fails to Identify Risks Posed to LGBTQ+ People

On 24 May 2022, it was reported that Priti Patel’s, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, plan to send migrants and refugees back to Rwanda has been legally challenged by Freedom from Torture, a pressure group. The organisation sent a pre-action letter to the Home Office questioning as the government the claims made by the government, that Rwanda was “generally being a safe country” for refugees. Freedom from Torture claims the government has failed to identify the risks that would be faced by groups such as LGBTQ+ people. Furthermore, there has been an equality impact assessment made by the department which stated that the treatment of some LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda was concerning. The chief executive of Freedom from Torture, Sonya Sceats highlighted that the “willful blindness” of the government towards the risks faced by people under the Rwanda plan was horrifying. The Foreign Office travel advice for Rwanda has clearly stated that discrimination and abuse can be faced by individuals, that too from local authorities as well. It further stated that there were no particular laws in place which provided protection to LGBT individuals.


UNFPA: Fistula Cases Have Been Soaring Due to Conflict in Tigray

On 25 May 2022,the Medical Director of Hamlin Fistula Centre in Tigray declared that the conflict in Ethiopia has generated an increase in the cases of obstetric fistula. An obstetric fistula is an injury caused by prolonged and obstructed labour that occurs when there is a lack of emergency obstetric care. The conflict has eroded all progress made towards the elimination of the disease since the Hamlin Fistula Centre opened in 2006. Almost 80 per cent of health facilities have been destroyed and looted during the conflict, making access to maternal health care scarcer. Currently, less than 30% of births are attended by skilled medical professionals. The current context has changed the sociodemographic characteristics of women suffering from fistula. Whereas in the past, cases were common in impoverished situations, now it has become a common occurrence in urban areas and with educated women. Cases are further aggravated by severe malnourishment among pregnant women.



UNHCR: UN Refugee Agency Chief Promised to Boost Support to Relocated Rohingya Refugees

On 25 May 2022, speaking to reporters in Dhaka, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi promised to “step up presence” and agreed to boost support to Rohingya refugees relocated to Bhashan Char. This occurs in the light of Bangladesh’s intentions to relocate approximately 100 000 Rohingya refugees to the ‘previously uninhabited, flood-prone’ Bhashan Char, in an attempt to ease overcrowding in the sprawling network of refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar. Approximately 920 000 Rohingya people are crammed into desolate border camps, relying on aid after fleeing violence and the military crackdown in Myanmar. Last year UNHCR signed an agreement with Bangladesh authorities to aid and protect refugees on Bhashan Char, where approximately 20 000 refugees have already been relocated. However, the agency acknowledged that the task would prove itself challenging, as only 13 per cent of the UN refugee agency’s $881 million annual response plan for the Rohingya is currently funded. 


ICRC: Developing a Common Approach to the Issue of People Who Go Missing Along Migration Routes Is Needed

On 26 May 2022, after concluding a meeting between North African and North-West African countries, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for closer cooperation between countries and humanitarian organisations along the most dangerous migration routes, in order to find and identify missing migrants. The routes through West Africa and the countries along Africa’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts are among the world’s most challenging, as immigrants might face several obstacles. People might vanish in the desert, perish in the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas or go missing in conflict zones. Notwithstanding, this represents a major humanitarian challenge for the region, as thousands of families get split. According to the official data gathered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 11 000 migrants are recorded as having died in the Sahel/Sahara region since 2014, yet the organisation points out that the actual number of deaths is probably times higher. Moreover, the families of missing migrants often face numerous administrative, legal and economic problems, such as not being able to claim benefits, sell or manage property or inheritances, remarry or exercise their parental rights.



UNSC: Sanctions on South Sudan Extended for Another Year 

On 26 May 2022, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2633 with 10 votes in favour and 5 abstentions, despite the uncertainty of some members over its effectiveness. The resolutions extend the sanctions imposed on South Sudan which include an arms embargo, travel ban and financial measures, until 31 May 2023. The Council strongly condemned past and ongoing human rights violations in South Sudan and expressed deep concern at continued fighting in the country. In light of progress on the key benchmarks, the Council reiterated its willingness to review arms embargo measures, including modification, suspension, or gradual lifting. It also requested that the Secretary-General conduct an assessment of progress by 15 April 2023, in close consultation with the UN Mission in South Sudan and the Panel. South Sudan’s representative condemned the sanctions from the start, calling them ‘counterproductive and ill-intended.’


UNHCR: Operations to Provide Aid to Refugees from Ukraine in Poland Will Be Expanded

On 27 March 2022, UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado declared that the agency will continue to scale up operations in Poland, in order to provide aid to refugees from Ukraine who have settled across the country. Since the beginning of the war, more than 3.5 million people have entered the country, making it the primary destination for Ukrainian refugees. The most common requests from refugees are for health services and medical needs, with others for transportation, financial assistance, psychosocial needs, housing, and access to social services. Sarrado stated that the UNHCR is willing to continue assisting the Polish authorities in their mission. In support of the government-led response, UNHCR coordinated the development of an Inter-Agency Regional Refugee Response Plan, which brings together 87 partners in Poland and requests $740 million in funding to address prioritised needs. So far, 25% of Poland’s requirements have been met.


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