Weekly News Recap (30 May-5 June 2022)

© Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid in Flickr




Ireland: Verdict in the Trial of a Former Irish Soldier for Membership in the Islamic State

On 30 May 2022, an Irish court delivered a verdict against former Irish soldier Lisa Smith for her membership in the Islamic State (IS), an unlawful terrorist organization, from 28 October 2015 to 1 December 2019. Smith has denied all charges including the funding of terrorism by sending sums of money to finance medical treatments of a Syrian man in Turkey. Smith converted to Islam and travelled to IS controlled territory in 2015. Later in 2016, she divorced her husband who refused to join her and remarried a UK national involved in the group’s armed patrols. Smith was later arrested at Dublin’s airport on 1 December 2019 with her daughter. Her defence claims that her mere presence in IS territory does not amount to membership to IS and that “at a stretch” she provided assistance to the group.


UAE: Dissidents Imprisoned Under the ‘UAE-94’ Case Remain Behind Bars Even After Completing their Prison Sentences

On 30 May 2022, Amnesty International reported that the UAE should release a group of dissidents promptly as they have been suffering in prison even after completing their prison sentences. The dissidents were prosecuted under the ‘UAE-94’ case in which they had been arrested for the al-Islah political movement. In 2012, those who were arrested as part of the protesting peacefully against political opposition, were due to be released in March and April this year with their prison sentences completed but they still remain behind bars. Among the 94 men who were prosecuted under the UAE-94 case, 69 had received unappealable sentences. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa urged that it was unjust to prolong the entices of the dissidents who had been convicted for speaking out against the Emirati government, while he further underscored that this exemplified how the UAE uses the justice system for undermining the peaceful dissent and the rule of law. According to Amnesty International, there are 24 Emiratis who have been imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom and expression; while seven of them have been released; 17 still remain in prison with their sentences being prolonged.


Chad: Authorities Called Upon to Release Civil Society Members Arrested for Protesting

On 30 May 2022, the Human Rights Watch reported that following the protests on 14 May 2022 by civil society organisations, Chadian authorities had arrested several members of the organisation and were being held for pre-trial detention. On 20 April 2021, a transitional military council had come to power in Chad after the death of President Idriss Deby, with a transition charter being adopted on 21 April 2021 which set a limit for the transition at 18 months with being renewed once. The protests were held because the civil society organisations who have united under the coalition Wakit Tamma, were seeking “a transition in civilian rule” while also condemning the support of France towards transitional military authorities. Samira Daoud, Regional Director of Amnesty International called for the release of the six Wakit Tamma members who had been arrested by the Chadian authorities should be released immediately and also urged that the authorities should be ensuring the safety of people and maintenance of public order during the demonstration instead of condemning the demonstration organisers.


Ukraine: The Second Trial of the Ukrainian Invasion Ends with a Sentence of 11 Years

On 31 May 2022, Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, two Russian soldiers, were sentenced to 11.5 years for directing attacks against the civilian population in eastern Ukraine. This sentence follows the 26 May conviction reached after both soldiers pleaded guilty to all charges presented to them. The Prosecutor initially asked for a 12-year sentence while the Defence argued for 8 years, considering the guilty pleas and expression of remorse from the accused. This is one of potentially multiple trials, as Kyiv is said to have identified more than 10.000 possible war crimes committed by Russian forces since the beginning of the invasion. Russia, on the other hand, has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes during the so-called “special military operations” in Ukraine.


Russia: Navalny Faces New Criminal Case that May Lead to an Additional 15-Year Sentence

On 31 May 2022, Russia’s opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, said that he will face a new trial that may lead to a sentence of 15 years that will be added to his existing 9-year sentence if he is found guilty. In a post on social media, Navalny said that the new charges stem from the creation of an extremist organization and inciting hate towards authorities. His previous conviction relates to the crimes of fraud and contempt of court. Navalny said in his tweet that “not even eight days have passed since my nine-year high-security sentence came into force, and today the investigator showed up again and formally charged me with a new case.” After the Ukrainian invasion, Russian leaders have doubled down in their efforts to quash the domestic opposition that Navalny represents.


ECtHR: Judgment Concerning Unlawful and Arbitrary Pre-Trial Detention of the Chair of the Turkish Branch of Amnesty International

On 31 May 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (lack of reasonable suspicion justifying initial and continued pre-trial detention) of the European Convention on Human Rights, a violation of Article 5 § 3 (failure to provide reasons for decisions concerning pre-trial detention), a violation of Article 5 § 5 (no compensatory remedy for unjustified pre-trial detention) and a a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) in a case concerning the initial and continued pre-trial detention of Mr Kılıç who, at the relevant time, was Chairperson of the Turkish branch of the NGO Amnesty International. Mr Kılıç was arrested in June 2017 on suspicion of belonging to the organisation FETÖ/PDY. The authorities accused him, in particular, of using the ByLock messaging service, and of other offences.


France: Three NGOs Brought Criminal Charges Against Arms Manufacturers for Involvement in the Yemeni Conflict

On 2 June 2022, three NGOs announced the filing of criminal complaints against Dassault, Thales and MBDA, three of France’s weapon manufacturers for complicity in the alleged war crimes in Yemen. These companies have exported arms to the Saudi-led coalition knowing it has allegedly been responsible for war crimes committed since the beginning of the conflict in 2015. The NGOs behind the complaint, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Yemeni rights group Mwatana and the Frances’s Sherpa, say that French-made fighter jets, missiles and guidance systems are being used by the coalition in the commission of said war crimes that include strikes targeting civilian homes, markets, hospitals, and schools. Cannelle Lavite of the ECCHR stated that “if you provide arms to the suspected perpetrator of repeated crimes, you’re enabling them to commit those crimes.” Likewise, Mwatana and Sherpa estimated that “at least 3.000 dead and 4.000 wounded” in around 1,000 attacks on civilians with “modern weapons.” None of the arms manufacturers have responded to the criminal complaint.


ECtHR: Judgment Concerning Hungary’s Use of Handcuffs and Leash on Asylum Seeker

On 2 June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights and a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) of the Convention in a case concerned an Iraqi family’s detention in a transit zone at the border between Hungary and Serbia after fleeing Iraq. The applicants complained about the conditions and the unlawfulness of their confinement and the way they had been treated in the transit zone. The Court considered that, while the mother appeared to have received the necessary medical attention, the constraints she had suffered throughout her advanced stage of pregnancy had to have caused anxiety and mental health issues which, given her vulnerability, were serious enough to engage Article 3 of the Convention. As regards the children, in keeping with previous case-law, the Court found a violation of Article 3 on account of the conditions they had faced during their more than four-month-long stay in the transit zone. The Court did not find that the general conditions in the transit zone had been particularly ill-suited in the father’s circumstances. However, the fact that he had been handcuffed and publicly attached to a leash on one occasion was humiliating. The key was to determine whether the use of restraints had been necessary, as resorting to physical force when it was not called for diminished human dignity and was in principle an infringement of the rights set forth under Article 3 of the Convention.


South Africa: Pretoria Reconsiders Withdrawal from the International Criminal Court

On 3 June 2022, South Africa revoked its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the High Court ruled such a withdrawal to be unconstitutional. The High Court argued that such a decision by the government required a priori parliamentary approval. South Africa’s intention to withdraw from the ICC resulted from a dispute over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to the country in 2015. Even though South Africa was at the time (and still is) a state party to the Rome Statute, authorities of the country refused to arrest Mr Bashir over alleged war crimes arguing that the ICC undermined the sovereignty of African states. Together with South Africa, other African states including Burundi and The Gambia have threatened to leave the Court, with the latter changing its position under recently elected President Adama Barrow.



Sri Lanka: Economic Crisis Hit Compounds the Situation by Causing a Health Crisis 

On 30 May 2022, The Guardian reported that with the current economic and financial crisis the country has also begun to face an alarming health crisis because of default on its international loans the country is unable to import essentials like food, fuel and medicine. With Sri Lanka being an importer of more than 80 per cent of supplies, there is a shortage of more than 200 items which include essential medical items like blood-thinner medicine for heart stroke patients, antibiotics, rabies vaccines and drugs for cancer chemotherapy. Furthermore, with the anaesthesia and surgical equipment running out, only emergency patients, heart surgeries and cancer treatments have been allowed with other treatments and surgeries being put on hold. A doctor in Colombo Ruvaiz Haniffa that the health workers themselves were facing an “ethical dilemma” and that patients were being forced to find their own medical supplies by having to pay prices 40 per cent more than usual. On 29 May 2022, 25 tonnes of medical supplies were delivered by India to the country while some essential equipment was donated by France.


Myanmar: New Atrocities Committed by Military that May Amount to Crimes Against Humanity

On 31 May 2022, Amnesty International issued its latest report on the ongoing situation in Myanmar documenting the widespread and systematic atrocities committed against civilians in recent months. The report entitled “Bullets rained from the sky: War crimes and displacement in eastern Myanmar” mentions unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions and forcible displacement of civilians. The report focuses on several States of eastern Myanmar like Karen, where collective punishment of the Karenni population took the form of widespread aerial and ground attacks, torture, looting and burning of villages. In other States like Kayin and Kayah hundreds of civilians have been killed and at least 150.000 have been forcibly displaced. With regard to the report, Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International said that “the world’s attention may have moved away from Myanmar since last year’s coup, but civilians continue to pay a high price. The military’s ongoing assault on civilians in eastern Myanmar has been widespread and systematic, likely amounting to crimes against humanity.” The report was completed after work in the Thailand-Myanmar border between March and April 2022. It consisted of 99 interviews with victims and witnesses of the attacks and three defectors from Myanmar’s military.


Yemen: Migrants in Need of Urgent Humanitarian Assistance

On 31 May 2022, according to the Displacement Tracking index (DTM) of the International organisation for Migration at least 278,000 people have migrated to war-torn Yemen from Horn of Africa in the first five months of 2022 alone. While in the past year the IOM has reported that there were 27,700 migrants who entered Yemen through the Eastern Route which was less than the number witnessed in 2019 due to the COVID-19 restrictions. IOM and its partners have reported that thousands of migrants have been injured or killed by attacks in the region and every month there are hundreds who have been shot and are treated at an IOM-supported hospital in the region. Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen’s Chief of Mission stated that there are 190,000 migrants who are in need of humanitarian assistance while also expressing her concern over the safety of migrants moving through and across Yemen.  In order to support the stranded migrants in Yemen to voluntarily return to Ethiopia under the Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme, the IOM is urgently appealing for $7.5 million while also appealing for $9 million to continue its activities relating to displacement and mobility tracking.


FAO: $12 Million Funding received by UN Food Agency to Provide Agricultural Assistance to Affected Communities in Sudan

On 31 May 2022, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) welcomed a $12 million funding contribution from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for responding to the affected farming and pastoral communities in Sudan and providing them with urgent agriculture and livestock supplies. Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Representative to the Sudan, welcomed the contribution and stated that this fund would be able to help vulnerable farming households and provide them with enough resources for producing food to fulfil their needs. 180,000 households which cover 900,000 people would be targeted by the project to provide for the vulnerable farming communities. The project would be providing crops, legumes and a vegetable seeds along with various other livestock supplies like veterinary vaccines and animal feed as it aims at reducing the dependency of the people in Sudan on emergency food assistance. Even though the funding by CERF has come at a very crucial time, the FAO still requires an additional $35 million for ensuring that the two million farming and pastoral households are provided adequate support.


UNDP: Italian MFA Continues Support for Iraq’s Stabilization Process with an Additional 2 Million Euros

On 1 June 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy reaffirmed its commitment to Iraq’s stabilization by providing the United Nations Development Programme’s Funding Facility for Stabilization with additional funding of two million euros. The new contribution was formalised on the occasion of the first visit to Iraq of the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation H. E. Marina Sereni. The funding will be used for providing assistance to the communities affected by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Since the creation of the Funding Facility for Stabilization, meant to retrieve internally displaced Iraqis to their homes, Italy has provided more than 20 million dollars. Over the years, the FFS has benefited from the support of 30 partners and the Government of Iraq, succeeding in completing over 3,100 projects in areas liberated from ISIL, while facilitating the return of 4.8 million Iraqis to their land.


East Africa: War in Ukraine deepens the Worst Hunger Crisis in Decades 

On 1 June 2022, the American Red Cross published an article addressing the catastrophic growth in food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. As nearly one-third of East Africa’s cereal supply came from Russia and Ukraine, the conflict is leaving those in the Horn of Africa without a critical supplier of food. As a consequence, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are close to starting the fourth season of drought, expected to be the worst in 40 years. There are growing concerns that the situation in Africa will be overlooked, as the conflict and the devastation in Ukraine are dominating the headlines. In this respect, the Red Cross reinforced its commitment to providing immediate humanitarian assistance to all those in need. Currently, more than 14 million people need urgent food aid, as the widespread impacts of climate change, COVID-19, invasions and conflict in the region have further exacerbated the crisis. Notwithstanding, as conditions worsen, the numbers are expected to rise to more than 20 million.


EU: Additional Support Will Be Provided to Management of the Moldova-Ukraine Border

On 2 June 2022, The European Commission granted executive powers to the European Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine. The initiative, requested by Moldova and/or Ukraine, will enable the mission’s staff to be directly involved in border control and management of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). This action will provide additional support available to Moldovan Border Guards and ensure the efficient and secure management of arrivals at its borders with Ukraine. The financial support of €15 million will be invested in the recruitment of additional staff and equipment, as well as for the training of the future newly-hired Moldovan border guards. Moreover, in order to support effective and dignified first line processing and transit of affected Eastern Partnership citizens, as well as safe and dignified voluntary returns of vulnerable third country nationals to their countries of origin, a new action worth €15 million will be implemented.


Yemen: The Truce Between the Government and Houthi Rebels Has Been Renewed Once More

On 2 June 2022, the UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, announced that the truce in Yemen has been renewed for an additional two months. The renewal will come into effect under the same terms as the original UN-brokered agreement, initiated on 2 April. Mr Grundberg added that, since the enforcement of the truce, the citizens have noticed consistent improvement and experienced the benefits of it. After six years, civilian casualties have dropped, fuel deliveries have increased, and commercial flights at the main airport in Sana’a have finally resumed. Moreover, the parties have met for the first time in years, in order to negotiate the opening of the roads in Taiz and other regions, as well as for the implementation of nationwide military de-escalation mechanisms. Mr Grundberg declares that he will continue his involvement toward stabilizing each aspect of the truce, while consequently supporting a ‘sustainable political settlement.’


Mali: Two Egyptian Peacekeepers Serving with UN Mission Were Killed

On 3 June 2022, two blue helmets were killed and another injured, by the cause of an improvised explosive device, marking a second fatal attack of the week on a peacekeeping convoy in the West African country. The UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric declared that the incident simultaneously marked the sixth time a mission convoy has been hit since May 22. Mr Dujarric added that the Secretary-General highly condemns this new attack on peacekeepers that are fulfilling the challenging mandate given to them by the Security Council, wishing a prompt recovery to the injured ones. The attack has also been condemned by El-Ghassim Wane, head of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Consequently, he said that the week has been an extremely challenging one, as the day before, a MINUSMA logistics convoy in Kidal came under direct fire from suspected members of a terrorist group for approximately one hour. The attack ended with four injured peacekeepers from Jordan, one of whom died from his wounds after being evacuated. Moreover, even the head of the UN Peacekeeping, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, condemned what he referred to as “yet again another cowardly attack against our peacekeepers.”


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