Weekly News Recap (20-26 June 2022)

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The Philippines: The Prosecutor of the ICC Seeks to Resume Investigation in the Philippines

On 24 June 2022, the ICC Prosecutor filed an application before Pre-Trial Chamber I seeking authorisation to resume the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019, in the context of the Government’s so-called war on drugs. This application comes after the Prosecutor´s analysis of the Philippines’ request to the OTP to defer the investigation. The Prosecutor is of the view that the information provided by the Philippines does not warrant the deferral requested and that investigations need to be resumed as fast as possible. The Prosecutor considers that the Philippines has engaged in the criminal investigation and prosecution of a relatively small number of criminal cases, while in others the processes do not establish criminal responsibility but are limited to administrative measures. Finally, the Prosecutor informed that he remains ready and willing to cooperate with national authorities to deliver justice in the Philippines.


CAR: Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC Partners with National Authorities and International Experts to Conduct Investigations in CAR

On 23 June 2022, the Prosecutor of the ICC announced the completion of the stage of work of an expert forensics team deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR). This team is comprised of the OTP, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, and Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic. Together, this team worked to conduct exhumations and forensic examinations in support of the investigative efforts into the international crimes allegedly committed in the country during the 2013 conflict. More precisely, the work of the forensic team consisted of the identification of victims, carrying out autopsies and analysing artefacts, all in a manner that is respectful of local customs and the wishes of the families. The work of the OTP in CAR has also included the expertise of over 20 experts from 10 different countries such as archaeologists, pathologists, odontologists, anthropologists, ballistic experts, and morgue technicians. The purpose of the forensic team’s work, as noted by the Prosecutor, is not only to advance the independent investigation of the OTP but also aims to assist the work of national institutions, in particular, that of the Special Criminal Court (SCC).


The Gambia: Justice Minister Considers Setting Up of a New Hybrid-Court as Part of the Implementation of the Truth Commission’s Recommendations

On 23 June 2022, Gambia’s Justice Minister Dwanda Jallow said that the government plans to implement the Truth Commission’s conclusions. While there is not a clear prosecutorial strategy as to how the Minister said it would likely take the form of a hybrid court. This court, the Minister adds, will seat in The Gambia and it will be led by the Gambian people. However, it will also partner with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which gives the court its hybrid nature. A hybrid court, comments the American lawyer Reed Brody, would solve a lot of issues. For one, it would allow victims to have a greater role than that given to them in the Gambian criminal system. But mainly, partnering up with ECOWAS could facilitate cooperation with other states in the region.


Belgium: 6 Belgian Women and 16 Children that were Linked to ISIL were Repatriated

On 21 June 2022, Belgian authorities repatriated 6 Belgian women linked to ISIL and their 16 children born to ISIL fighter fathers that operated in north-eastern Syria. The mothers had already been convicted in Belgium for practicing the activities of the armed group. Upon arrival, the women were handed over to the Belgian judicial authorities. The children, on the other hand, underwent medical examinations and were handed over to the youth protection services. From 2012 onwards, more than 400 Belgians joined ISIL and travelled to Syria to engage in hostilities. This is the largest group of any European nation. In July last year, Belgium brought back 10 children and 6 mothers from another camp in Syria.


Bosnia: Members of a Nationalist Chetnik Group Were Sentenced to Five Months in Prison over Inciting Hatred at a Rally in a Bosnian Town in 2019

On 22 June 2022, Dusan Sladojevic, Slavko Aleksic and Risto Lecic, members of the Serb nationalist Ravna Gora Movement, were sentenced to five months in prison for inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred in the Visegrad area in March 2019. Songs that threatened violence were sung, members of the nationalist group wore black uniforms and participants drove a noisy car convoy near the village of Dobrunska Rijeka, also known as Drazevina causing distress and fear among the local population, particularly among non-Serbs who fled the area during the 1990s war and have since returned. Originally, the three men were acquitted last December, but the appeals chamber overturned that decision. Judge Azra Miletic argued that, while it is true that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed, it is not an absolute right. This goes in line with the European Court of Human Rights’ stance on the need to sanction hate speech.


Ukraine: US Attorney General Visits Ukraine to Show Support for War Crimes Prosecution

On 21 June 2022, US Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Ukraine as a demonstration of support for the prosecution of the war crimes committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine that today range among 16,000 separate incidents. Garland met with Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova near Lviv, Ukraine, and announced the creation of a team focusing on war crimes accountability. The US Justice Department also launched its own task force called “KleptoCapture” which aims to seize the luxury assets of Russian oligarchs that support the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week, the U.S. took possession of a super yacht it had seized in Fiji.



China: Group of Lawyers Requests the ICC to Investigate China’s Treatment of Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslim Populations in the Xinjiang Region

On 23 June 2022, a group of American lawyers called on the ICC to open an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed by China against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities. The filing before the Court included a dossier with evidence of the crimes that the Chinese Communist Party denies. The filing argues that, despite China not being a state party to the Rome Statute, the ICC may still exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction as the Uyghurs and other minorities are being rounded up on the territory of ICC member states and later transferred to China. This argument draws upon the recent jurisdictional challenge in the Myanmar/Bangladesh situation in which a Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC ruled that Rome Statute crimes were being committed (at least partially) in the territory of a member state: Bangladesh. According to the lawyers responsible for the filing, international crimes commenced in the territory of an ICC member state and continue into China. This fact can grant the ICC jurisdiction over the alleged crimes against humanity committed against the Uyghur population.



Sri Lanka: Debt and Economic Crisis Threaten Socio-Economic Rights of its Citizens

On 20 June 2022, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Researcher expressed her concern over the economic crisis that has affected Sri Lanka in the past two months and stated that the response of the government could further deteriorate the economic and social rights. She stated this in response to the media reports received by Amnesty International regarding the Sri Lankan government’s talks with various lenders amid its economic crisis. She further reminded that Sri Lanka had ratified various human rights treaties and the government was under an obligation according to these human rights instruments to “respect, protect and fulfil all people’s economic and social rights” which were applicable even during an economic crisis. She further emphasises that the government should ensure that the austerity measures that would be introduced should be “temporary, legitimate, and necessary” and subject to adequate accountability procedures. While also emphasising that the government should urgently put social security measures for protecting people from the lasting impact of the economic crisis.


UNMISS: Eight More Months for South Sudan to Implement the 2018 Peace Deal and Transition from Prolonged Civil Conflict to Peace

On 20 June 2022, Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan while briefing the UN Security Council stated that the November 2018 peace deal should be implemented in its letter and spirit by the country as only eight months remain for meeting various goals to fully transition from the prolonged civil conflict. Mr Haysom also emphasised that in order to implement the agreement fully, full participation of women was also necessary. He highlighted that progress has been made – renewed legislative activity is witnessed in the country after the reconstituted transitional national and state level legislatures. He urged the members of the UN Security Council to agree on a blueprint which has been called by the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and the United Nations for completing the tasks that have been left unfinished. Haysom also emphasised the unfinished needed undivided attention on part of the international community. Even with progress, there still remain unresolved humanitarian challenges in the region as violence has continued which has further displaced people and put women and girls at the risk of gender-based violence.


WFP: Amidst Rising Food Insecurity Among Refugees, UN Agency Announces Ration Cuts in Food Assistance

On 20 June 2022, it was reported that significant cuts had been made in humanitarian aid with respect to providing food aid to vulnerable populations across the region of Sahel and elsewhere. The World Food Programme has been forced to make cuts because of insufficient funding and resources to provide for the refugees and other vulnerable populations. According to David Beasley, Exceptive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), without any new funds, refugee populations would starve. The 50 per cent of ration cuts have affected three in four refugees who have been supported by WFP in East Africa. WFP has been prioritising assistance in order to ensure that the most vulnerable families are able to have food assistance first. Even though the agency has received a generous amount of funds from donors, there would continue to be disruptions in the provision of food aid and assistance in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Despite existing challenges as to funding, the UN agency has been continuously working towards building and supporting livelihood programmes for refugees, and in 2021 alone, nearly 10 million refugees were assisted by the agency.



ECW: 222 Million Kids Living in Conflict Ridden Areas are in Need of Educational Support

On 21 June 2022, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), which is the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, released a new report in which it was stated that out of 222 million girls and boys, there are 78.2 million kids who are out of school globally with 120 million who have been attending schools do not meet the minimum proficiency criteria in maths or reading; with 24 million being able to attend primary/secondary schools in conflict-stricken areas are meeting the required proficiency standards. According to the report, 84 per cent of children are missing out on education that are living in areas affected by humanitarian crisis or conflict. The report also suggests that among the poorest population, education losses incurred because of COVID-19 have been more prominent among those who were already lagging behind in the aspect of learning. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, called foundations, governments and the private sector for more financial support for ensuring that every child around the world is able to attain quality education.


OCHA: Protracted Conflict & Lean Season Could Worsen Humanitarian Situation in Northeast Nigeria

On 21 June 2022, an alert was issued by the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) with regard to the worsening humanitarian situation for millions of people in northeast Nigeria, who still remain affected by the continuing armed conflict. In the regions of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states, there are eight million people who require humanitarian assistance while it is estimated that around 600,000 are facing extreme levels of food insecurity because of the ongoing violence. Matthias Schmale, UN’s top relief official for the country highlighted that the conflict has left 2.2 million people internally displaced, while the UN was aiming towards providing aid and support to 5.5 million people out of 8.4 million. With the country entering the lean season, Mr Schmale stated that there are 1.74 million children under the age of five who are bound to suffer from acute malnutrition in the coming months in the region. He further urged that if funding was not received urgently for an “initial multi-sector response plan” of $350 million, the crisis could further deepen.


Afghanistan: Deadliest Earthquake in Two Decades Exacerbates Acute Humanitarian Crisis

On 22 June 2022, early in the morning, a powerful earthquake hit south-eastern Afghanistan. Reports confirmed that at least 1000 people were killed and an additional 1500 injured, and numbers were only expected to rise. The mountainous, remote regions of Paktika and Khost were the most affected, as the earthquake caused severe damage. Unfortunately, this new impediment only intensifies the already alarming humanitarian crisis that has been compounded by Western sanctions. The Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan, Neil Turner, declared that the organization will support the affected communities with cash and will provide emergency shelter. The Afghan Red Crescent Society, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has mobilized to urgently support the communities affected. The IFRC’s Head of Delegation for Afghanistan Necephor Mghendi declared that staff and volunteers have been deployed from local branches for immediate response and assessments, while trucks with relief items and ambulances have been dispatched to the affected areas.



Myanmar: UN Special Rapporteur States that Military Attacks Against Civilians Constitute War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

On 23 June 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called on the international community to address the crisis triggered by the Military coup that has left a toll of 2000 victims. The UN Rapporteur concluded that the military attacks on civilians constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. According to Andrews those that manage to flee the country face difficulties in Malaysia such as police extortion, arbitrary arrest, inability to access the workforce or education, and deportation or refoulment back to Myanmar. Regarding these issues, the UN Rapporteur stated that under “no circumstances should anyone who has fled Myanmar be refouled back to Myanmar.”


EU: Ukraine and Moldova Officially Granted Candidate Status

On 23 June 2022, the leaders of the European Union approved granting the status of candidate country to Ukraine and Moldova. The decision had been considered a ‘historical moment,’ since Ukraine applied for the EU membership a few days after the Russian Invasion. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel congratulated the two countries, declaring that ‘our future is together’. However, this represents merely the first step towards integration, as the entire process of meeting the criteria could last years. The European Commission has already laid out a series of conditions for Kyiv and Chisinau before they can progress to the accession talks, which consequently are comprised of 35 chapters and grouped into six main clusters. Although the decision is merely symbolic, it nevertheless reflects the bloc’s intention to support the region and sends a politically important message.


UNDRR: Nine Central Asian Cities Have Been Introduced to the ‘Making Cities Resilient 2030’ Global Initiative

On 23 June 2022, local administrations of nine Central Asian cities participated in a workshop funded by the European Union and organized by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The meeting focused on introducing them to the Making Cities Resilient 2030 global initiative, which aims at facilitating access, preventing disasters and creating safe and sustainable conditions for city residents. By 2030, approximately 60 per cent of the global population is expected to be living in urban settlements. Simultaneously, the frequency of disasters has drastically increased in the past years, and by the year 2030, the number may rise to 560 per year. In this respect, the Making Cities Resilient 2030 initiative works to strengthen local resilience and support municipalities in the development and implementation of resilience strategies. The second stage includes inviting city administrations to join the initiative and make use of its instruments, network, and partners.



Libya: Joint Statement of Western Countries Calls for the Finalization of the Legal Basis Required for the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections

On 24 June 2022, the governments of the United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on the political situation in Libya, welcoming the discussion progress made between the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and High State Council in Cairo, facilitated by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. Subsequently, the governments called on the House of Representatives, the High State Council and their leaders to urgently finalise the legal basis for the presidential and parliamentary elections, as noted in the UNSCR 2570 (2021), the LPDF Roadmap, the Libya Stabilization Conference, the Berlin II conference conclusions and the declaration of the Paris Conference on Libya. On 22 June, the transitional phase established by the LPDF roadmap expired. Moreover, the Presidential and Parliamentary elections set for 24 December 2021 did not take place. Therefore, the statement stressed the need for a unified Libyan government able to govern and deliver these elections across the country, achieved through dialogue and compromise as soon as possible.



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