Weekly News Recap (13-19 June 2022)

© Photo by Emily Abrams via Flickr




IRMCT: Felicien Kabuga Fit to Stand Trial Ruled by the Trial Chamber

On 13 June 2022, the trial chamber ruled that 87-year-old, Felicien Kabuga is fit to stand trial. Kabuga is accused of financing the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed more than 800,000 people. He was arrested in May 2020. The Court observed, in consideration of Kabuga’s fragile health conditions and his fundamental rights to a fair and expeditious proceeding, it would be best to commence the proceedings at the Hague Branch of the Mechanism. The defence has not yet established that Kabuga is unfit for trial. If his health conditions improve, the trial would eventually be moved to the Arusha Bench. The court further ruled that Kabuga will be subject to periodic monitoring by three independent medical experts who shall submit his fitness report every 180 days from the filings of the decision.


ECtHR: Urgent Interim Measure Granted to Asylum Seekers Facing Deportation to Rwanda

On 14 and 15 June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted interim measures to asylum seekers that were scheduled to be deported to Rwanda on Tuesday. On Monday, the court received their first request to indicate an urgent interim measure to the United Kingdom government by an Iraqi national who was to be deported to Rwanda. The court held that the applicant should not be removed until three weeks from the delivery of the final domestic decision, in his ongoing judicial review proceedings. Subsequently, five other applications requesting interim measures to halt their removal were filed before the court by the asylum seekers who were due to be removed to Rwanda. The court applied interim measures in two of the applications and rejected the other two as they had not yet made use of other remedies available before the national courts. The court granted the interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court.



ICC: Proceedings against Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli Terminated

On 15 June 2022, the Pre-trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) terminated the proceedings against former Commander in the Al-Saiqa Brigade Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli. The Court terminated the proceedings following a notification provided by the Prosecution of his death and a request to withdraw the arrest warrant issued. Mr Al-Werfalli was accused of ordering the commission of murder in seven incidents that involved 33 people in Benghazi, Libya as well as another incident in 2018 wherein he shot and killed 10 people. The Court after considering the witness statements, photographs, and social media material considered the death of Mr Al-Werfalli to be established. The Registrar was instructed to “inform all the States that were notified about the warrant that it is no longer in effect and to withdraw any request for arrest and surrender.”



STL: Two Men Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Hariri Bombing

On 16 June 2022, the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) sentenced two men to life imprisonment for a 2005 bombing that was planned to assassinate Lebanon’s ex-prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. The bombing killed 21 other people and injured 226. The convicts, Habib Merhi and Hussein Oneissi were tried in absentia and were found guilty of terrorism and murder by reversal of an earlier acquittal in March. The Court observed that both convicts were well aware of the fact that the bombing would kill Hariri and thus amounted to terror activities. In 2020, a lower trial chamber convicted another man named Salim Jamil Ayyash, who was also found guilty of killing Hariri and 21 others. All the three men remain at large as the Hezbollah leader has refused to recognise the court and hand over any of the suspects.




IRMCT: Stanislav Galić’s Application for Early Release Denied

On 17 June 2022, Judge Carmel Agius held that Mr Stanislav Galić is not yet eligible for early release and denied his application. Galić was arrested in Bosnia and Herzegovina and found guilty by the Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) for murder and various other crimes against humanity. He was originally sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment but the Appeals Chamber quashed the verdict and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was transferred to Germany in 2009 to serve his sentence. In his application he requested an early release on three grounds, including 1) that his conduct in detention has been exemplary, 2) he has already served 22 years in jail and might never reach the two-third eligibility threshold, and 3) that he has undergone several medical complications while under detention. Submissions with regard to the severity of the crime, the complexity of his case before the ICTY, and his cooperation with the Prosecutors were also made. The Court considered each of the submissions and held that nothing indicates that Galić’s state of health is an impediment to his continued detention and that upon consideration with other Judges it was held that he is not eligible for release at this stage.


UK: Julian Assange’s Extradition to the US Approved by the British Home Secretary

On 17 June 2022, Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States was approved by British Home Secretary Priti Patel. Assange faces spying charges and is wanted by the US on 18 counts. He is accused of leaking confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. According to the US, this has placed many lives in danger. Assange can still appeal this decision. Initially, the court had ruled against his deportation to the US due to the risk of suicide once convicted and placed in jail. However, the US has assured the UK of his safety and pledged to transfer him to Australia to serve his sentence. Thus, his deportation was approved by the court. This decade-long battle is still appealable if London’s High Court gives its approval for a challenge to proceed. If his appeal is refused, he will be extradited within 28 days.


Bosnia: Appeals Chamber Upheld the Conviction of Two Bosniak Fighters

On 17 June 2022, the first instance verdict was upheld by the appeals chamber of the Bosnian state court. The accused, Senad Dzananovic was sentenced to 11 years in prison and Edin Gadzo was sentenced to 5 years in prison. They were convicted of committing crimes against Serb civilians in the Alipasino Polje neighbourhood of Sarajevo. The appeals chamber rejected their appeal and held that it was “unfounded.” In 2021, the first instance verdict found that the accused had taken part in unlawfully detaining Serbs at the Stela Territorial Defence premises in Alipasino Polje. More than 100 Serb civilians were detained in poor and unhygienic conditions, and subjected to torture, beatings, humiliation, rape, disappearances, and forced labour between May and August 1992. The verdict is no longer appealable.


USA: Iowa Supreme Court Ruled that Right to Abortion is Not Guaranteed by the State’s Constitution

On 17 June 2022, the Supreme Court of the US State of Iowa ruled that the right to abortion is not guaranteed by the State’s Constitution. This ruling will make it easier for legislators to limit or ban abortions if federal protections are lifted. Four years ago, the same body ruled that abortion is a fundamental right guaranteed by both Iowa and federal law. The lawsuit was filed by abortion providers who challenged a 2020 law that prescribed women to wait for 24 hours before they could get an abortion. Justice Edward Mansfield opined that the court is not bound by precedent and is not obligated to abide by them, especially in matters of constitutional rights. In the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, Justice Brent Appel, the only Democratic appointee to the court wrote a dissenting view. Further, Chief Justice Susan Christensen disagreed with overturning the 2018 decision.




Myanmar: Widespread Crisis in the Country has Disintegrated its Social & Economic Infrastructure

On 13 June 2022, Noeleen Heyzer, UN Special Envoy expressed concerns over the widespread conflict across Myanmar and stated that the country has been spiralling into a multidimensional crisis which has left over one million people internally displaced with “serious regional and international ramifications”. She also noted that because of the 1 February 2021 coup, the challenges being faced by the country have further deepened, with the collapse of state institutions, destruction of social and economic infrastructure with an increase in criminal activities. According to Heyzer, one-quarter of the Myanmar population is in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the enrolment in schools in Myanmar has dropped by 80 per cent which has left 7.8 million children out of school. She also noted that the conflict has highly affected vulnerable communities like the Rohingyas, putting them in danger. She urged that in order to strengthen the rights and support for Rohingyas there was a need for a unified and compressive humanitarian action.


Ukraine: New Report on Hundreds of Killings in Kharkiv Region Reveals Indiscriminate Use of Banned Cluster Munitions by Russian Troops

On 13 June 2022, Amnesty International reported that in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv there have been recorded hundreds of killings of civilians by Russian troops with widely banned cluster munitions. A new report titled “‘Anyone can die at any time’: Indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine” has documented how the widespread death and destruction in the region has been caused by Russian Troops continuously bombarding neighbourhoods in the city. The evidence of Russian troops using the cluster munitions “9N210/9N235” as well as scatterable mines have been found in the vast investigation conducted by the organisation. 606 civilians have been killed while 1248 have been injured in the Kharkiv region since the beginning of the conflict according to the Director of the Medical Department at the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration. The report released by Amnesty International investigated 41 strikes which have killed at least 62 people while injuring 196. The organisation also interviewed 160 people in the Kharkiv region over a span of 14 days in April and May which included, survivors, relatives of the victims, witnesses and doctors who had treated the injured. Material evidence for providing data had been analysed by the researchers of the organisation and it included munitions fragments along with digital materials.


India: Government Using Excessive Force in Response to Large Scale Protests

on 14 June the Amnesty International urged that Indian authorities should put an end to the excessive use of force right away in response to the large scale protests that have been occurring in the country calling for the arrest of Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, former spokesperson for the Bhartiya Janta Party for making insulting remarks against Prophet Mohammed on prime time TV news debate. The organisation also called for an immediate release of people who have been arrested arbitrarily for protesting peacefully and exercising their right the freedom of expression. Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India Board stated that the Indian Government was selectively cracking down on Muslims who are peacefully protesting against the discrimination against them. He further stated that the Indian authorities were in complete violation of their commitments under the international human rights treaties by arbitrarily detaining and using excessive force against protestors. He further urged that the response of Indian authorities towards the peaceful protests is the latest “escalation in suppression of dissent”.


Yemen: Prolonged Humanitarian Crisis Could Undermine the Progress of the Truce Between the Government and Houthi Rebels

On 14 June 2022, two UN Officials while briefing the United Nations Security Council updated the members on the agreement between the Government and the Houthi rebels which had been renewed for two additional months. Hans Grundberg, UN Special Envoy for Yemen commended the impact the agreement has had in Yemen with there has been a reduction in airstrikes and civilian casualties. Even though there has been a reduction in fighting in the region, the reports of alleged violations – drone attacks, shelling and redeployment of forces – continue from both sides. Mr Grundberg expressed his hopefulness and stated that the agreement provides a window of opportunity for moving towards peace. Though there has been considerable impact of the agreement in the region, the humanitarian crisis remains unresolved with more than 160,000 people at risk of hunger and 19 million in need of humanitarian aid. According to Ghada Mudawi, a senior official with the UN’s humanitarian wing OCHA underscored that the progress made by the truce could be undermined if the humanitarian needs of Yemenis are not addressed urgently.


South Sudan: As WFP Works in a “Famine-Prevention Mode” in the Region, Food Aid Funding Suspended for 1.7 Million

On 14 June 2022, the World Food Programme cited that there has been a scarcity in funding due to which the food assistance to 1.7 million in South Sudan has been suspended. WFP Acting Country Director in South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo-Sanogo stated that the agency had planned for providing 6.2 million people with food assistance this year, but with the insufficiency in funds, the food aid has been suspended in the region. The WFP official further highlighted that there are 8.3 million people who would be facing “acute hunger” during the lean season and two out of every three people are facing extreme humanitarian and protection crisis and need aid to survive. The WFP Official also stated that a flash-flood for the fourth consecutive year could be witnessed in the region according to the forecasts about above-average rainfall, which puts almost 600,000 people at risk of displacement as the expanding waters fall in their way. According to Ms Badejo-Sanogo, the agency is in a “famine-prevention mode” as the food reserves of families have fully run out and they are bound to suffer “acute levels of hunger” with the dry season continuing.


IEP: Annual Global Peace Index Reveals Lowest Level of Peacefulness in 15 Years

On 15 June 2022, the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) launched the 16th edition of the world’s leading measure of peacefulness, the Global Peace Index. The report uncovered that due to the follow-up of the COVID pandemic and the current conflict in Ukraine, the average level of global peacefulness has deteriorated by 0.3%. At the same time, in the last 14 years, 90 countries have improved, while 71 others deteriorated. At the top of the Index, we find countries such as Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria. The least peaceful countries are Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Russia, and South Sudan. The report found that, despite current contexts, militarisation has decreased in 113 countries since 2008 and the threat of terrorism continued to decrease, with 70 countries recording no attacks last year, marking the best result since 2008. However, global food insecurity and political instability have amplified and in the political terrorism index levels of political insecurity, neighbouring country relations, refugees and internally displaced persons reached their worst score since the inception of the project.



UN: Secretary-General António Guterres Strongly Condemned Attack in the Sahel

On 15 June 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced that the organization strongly condemns the attack which occurred on 11 June in Burkina Faso. On Saturday, armed men launched an assault on the town of Seytenga, located in the north of the country, which ended with at least 79 civilians dead and many more displaced. A UN Spokesperson announced that the Secretary-General prompts authorities to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice. The town had already fallen victim to another jihadist attack a few days before the second incident, which allegedly ended the lives of 11 military policemen. According to a previous declaration of the Secretary-General, the terrorism threat in Africa is increasing, as groups such as Al-Qaida and Da’esh are spreading in the Sahel region.


Syria: UNHCR Urges the Renewal of Cross-Border Aid Authorization to Northwest Syria

On 16 June 2022, UNHCR issued a statement calling for the renewal of cross-border aid authorization to northwest Syria that is soon to expire. The signatory parts emphasized the importance of the decisions for the fate of the lives and well-being of 4.1 million people trapped in the non-Government-controlled northwest of Syria bordering Türkiye. Many of the people trapped rely on humanitarian aid to survive, while 3.2 million people are experiencing food insecurity.  The office highlighted that their top priority is providing humanitarian aid to families who need it in the safest, most direct and efficient way, away from external political influences. The Agency urged the members of the Security Council to renew the UN Security Council Resolution 2585, recalling that a failure to renew the resolution will have dire humanitarian consequences. 


UN: Ireland Presented the Final Draft of the Declaration on the Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons

On 17 June 2022, governments met at the United Nations in Geneva to conclude the final text of the draft Declaration on the Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. According to Human Rights Watch, the declaration holds great potential to protect civilians in armed conflict. Not only do explosive weapons such as aerial bombs, rockets, artillery projectiles, and missiles kill and injure civilians, damaging infrastructure, but also cause environmental damage and affect displaced communities. Such statements advance the protection of civilians in several ways, mainly by recognizing the negative effects of explosive weapons. Among the provisions of the declaration, the most important one is the government’s commitment to undertake national policies and practices that strive to avoid civilian harm by “restricting or refraining from” the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Among other important provisions, we find the commitments to assist victims, facilitate humanitarian access, collect and share data about the effects of explosive weapons, and hold follow-up meetings to promote the aforementioned responsibilities.



UNHCR: Urgent Support Needed to Assist Approximately 16,000 Newly Displaced Burkinabé Required

On 17 June 2022, UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh addressed the recent escalation of violence against civilians by armed groups in Burkina Faso during a press briefing at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva. After fleeing an attack in Seytenga, almost 16,000 Burkinabe have arrived in eastern Burkina Faso and more are expected to arrive in the coming days. Among the newcomers, approximately two-thirds are under 18. Burkina Faso’s displacement crisis has been one of the world’s fastest growing. While some have been sheltered by the host community or in refugee reception and transit centres, hundreds still are sleeping by the roadside. According to the UNHCR, the most urgent needs include shelter and essential items, water, sanitation, hygiene services, and psychosocial support. 


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