Weekly News Recap (4-10 July 2022)

© Photo by UN Women via Flickr




USA: Arbitrarily Detained and Abused Men in the Aftermath of 9/11 Attack Granted $98,000 Settlement Amount

On 5 July 2022, in a lawsuit concerning arbitrary detention and abuse of men held in a federal jail after the 9/11 attack, the US justice department settled the matter for $98,000 which is to be split among the six people that filed the suit. They were held in abusive and harsh conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York without any charges. According to the plaintiffs, they were held in restrictive conditions and were subjected to abuse by the staff members. Many Muslim, Arab and South Asian men were detained in the days after the September 11 attack. More than 1000 were arrested across the New York metropolitan area and nationwide.



Argentina: 19 Former Military Officers Sentenced to Prison for Crimes Against Humanity

On 6 July 2022, in a trial following the Colombian Truth Commission Report which was released last week, the Argentine judge sentenced 19 former military officers to imprisonment for crimes against humanity which included forced disappearances, homicides, torture, as well as the abduction of children, crimes committed against some 350 victims during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. Approximately 30,000 people disappeared during the regime. Gen Jorge Videla seized power in Argentina on 24 March 1976 and began to wipe out the left-wing opponents. Former General Santiago Riveros who has previously been convicted of several human rights violations and crimes was among the people sentenced to prison. The conviction included charges of kidnapping of seven workers working at the Mercedes Benz plant in the Buenos Aires suburbs. The victims were tortured in the Campo de Mayo detention centre run by General Riveros outside Buenos Aires.



ECtHR: Greek Authorities Held Responsible for Violation of Convention in the Migrant Boat Sinking Case

On 7 July 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the Greek authorities were responsible for violation of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. A shipping boat transporting 27 foreign nationals in the Aegean Sea sunk on 20 January 2014 and resulted in the death of 11 people. The applicants filed an application stating the Greek coast guard sank the boat when they towed it at high speed towards Turkey. A Syrian refugee was found guilty of the shipwreck and drowning and was sentenced to 10 years in jail which was later overturned as it was found that the shipwreck could not be prevented. The survivors and several international organizations appealed against Greece before the ECtHR. According to them, the coast guard did not take the necessary steps for rescuing the refugees and made ineffective and incomplete investigations. The refugees were also forced to undress in public upon arriving on the Greek island which caused humiliation and led to degrading treatment. The Court observed that there was a lack of a thorough and effective investigation by the national authorities. The Court ordered Greece to pay for the damages sustained by the applicants.



USA: Appeal Filed by Ghislaine Maxwell Against Sex Trafficking Conviction and a 20-Year Prison Sentence

On 7 July 2022, Ghislaine Maxwell filed for an appeal against her sex trafficking conviction and a 20-year jail term. She was convicted in December on five charges which included sex trafficking of minors. She groomed four girls for abuse by her boyfriend Epstein between 1994 and 2004. She filed for an appeal nine days after the sentencing by US Circuit Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan. According to Maxwell’s lawyer, Maxwell played an “instrumental” role in the abuse and her conviction was corrupted as it did not prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. She was not allowed to prepare for the trial adequately. The prosecutors on the other hand propounded that she made her own choices. She has been under detention for two years at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, New York.


USA: Five Individuals Indicted for Crimes Related to Transnational Repression Scheme to Silence Critics of China

On 7 July 2022, the federal grand jury in Brooklyn indicted five individuals for crimes relating to a transnational repression scheme orchestrated on behalf of the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Three defendants were charged in March 2022 for carrying out a transnational repression scheme that targeted US citizens who criticised China or disfavoured the country’s political actions. Two other defendants were arrested after a complaint was filed against them in June 2022. Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen stated that the right to free speech of citizens of the United States will be defended even if it includes the views that China is seeking to silence. Such an attempt further shows that China is trying to suppress the dissenting voices within the United States. The defendants are separately charged with various criminal acts which cumulatively include – conspiring to act as agents of the PRC government, conspiring to commit interstate harassment and criminal use of a means of identification, obstruction of justice and making a false statement to the FBI.


Bosnia: International Arrest Warrant Issued for Brane Petkovic

On 8 July 2022, the Bosnian state court issued an international arrest warrant for Brane Petkovic who did not appear at two prior scheduled hearings of the court. Petkovic is currently in Serbia and his custody may last up to three years from the time of his detention. His indictment was confirmed in November 2020. He was charged on the grounds that as a superior officer to the commander of the District Headquarters of the Territorial Defense, TO, of Gorazde Serb Municipality, and commanders and members of the TO Municipal Headquarters’ Company, he failed to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes. He failed to punish the crime perpetrators even though he was aware or ought to have been aware of their plans. According to the prosecution, in an attack on the civilian population of Lozje-Kokino Selo in the municipality of Gorazde, at least 16 people were killed. Seven Bosniaks were taken in unknown directions and killed. Their remains were found in a mass grave in the village of Siseta, in Gorazde municipality.


Ukraine: DPR has Lifted a Moratorium on the Death Penalty of Two British Nationals and One Moroccan National

On 8 July 2022, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine which has been supported by Russia ever since the annexation of Crimea eight years ago, lifted a moratorium on the death penalty of two British nationals and one Moroccan national. Donetsk is a centre of tension between Russia and Ukraine. In a ruling which is not considered legitimate by the international community, the DPR sentenced the three prisoners of war to death. The two British nationals and a Moroccan national fought for Ukraine in the war and have been accused of being “mercenaries” by Moscow. They were charged with violation of four articles of the DPR’s legal code. The three accused are prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention and thus cannot be killed. The DPR is not recognized by Ukraine and many other foreign governments. The verdict has widely been condemned internationally.


Serbia: Ex-Fighter Zoran Raskovic Testified in the Kosovo War Massacre Trial

On 8 July 2022, Zoran Raskovic testified before the Belgrade High Court and stated that Predrag “Madzo” Vukovic was a part of the group of Serbian fighters that abducted and killed Albanian civilians in the village of Cuska/Qyshk, in Kosovo in May 1999. However, Raskovic specified that he did not see Vukovic shooting. He further stated that Vukovic along with two other fighters took 15 or 20 people to an unfinished home and killed them. Vukovic is one among the 11 former members of the 177th Yugoslav Army Unit on trial for committing war crimes in the western Kosovo villages. They allegedly killed a minimum of 118 ethnic Albanians. Vukovic was arrested in 2018 and appeared before court in 2019. Raskovic, a former member of a Serbian paramilitary unit known as the Jackals, testified in Vukovic’s defence. He pleaded before the court to revive his status of protected witnesses claiming he has received death threats.



Libya: UN Fact-Finding Mission Uncovers Undiscovered Mass Graves

On 4 July 2022, a Human Rights Council probe reported that a new suspected mass gave has been discovered in the Tarhuna region of Libya, which highlighted the human rights abuses in the country especially against children. The report has furthered gathered evidence as well as testimonies which show the “widespread and systematic perpetrations of enforced disappearances, murder, torture amounting to crimes against humanity” which were committed by Al Kani militias. Mohammad Aujjar, the chair of the Independent Fact-Finding Commission also highlighted those were 200 individuals still missing from the region and its surrounding areas. The Mission’s chair further highlighted that with the help of advanced technology undiscovered mass graves – located 65 kilometres from Libya’s capital, Tripoli – were identified.


DRC: Latest Ebola Outbreak in the Region Comes to an End

On 4 July 2022, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared the end of the 14th Ebola outbreak in the region after it broke out less than three months ago. The UN World Health Organisation stated that 2104 people got vaccinated in the recent outbreak. The outbreak had occurred in the region of Mbandaka, and it was with the help of WHO that the DRC was able to implement a strong national strategy at the earliest to respond swiftly to the outbreak, along with “decentralizing operations to the lowest level to work closely with communities; basing the response on evidence; regularly analysing the epidemiological risk to rapidly adjust the response.” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, stated that previous outbreaks had provided “crucial lessons” because of which an effective response was deployed during this outbreak in order to control it.


OHCHR: Violence Against Protesters in Uzbekistan Should Be Promptly Investigated

On 5 July 2022, Michelle Bachelet, UN Human Rights Chief on receiving reports regarding the serious violence that occurred during protests in Uzbekistan and killed at least 18 people, called for conducting a “prompt, impartial and transparent investigation.” The protest occurred in the Uzbek region of Karakalpakstan on 1 July 2022 and in the violent clashes 243 people were injured. Even though the reported number of casualties is 18, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), the actual number could be larger. The protests had occurred as a result of the planned constitutional changes that were being made around the autonomous region of the Republic of Karakalpakstan on the basis of a national referendum, which would have resulted in preventing the region from seceding. According to media reports, a heavy military presence was witnessed in the city after the occurrence of the violence and emergency regulations along with a curfew were imposed by the government. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Chief urged that all protestors who had been detained by the authorities should have access to a lawyer and a fair trial. Bachelet also reminded the Uzbek authorities that the restriction imposed should be in line with international law and non-discriminatory.


UNFPA: One-Third of Women Across Developing Countries Give Birth in their Adolescence

On 5 July 2022, the United Nations Population Fund released a new report which noted that the total fertility rate across the globe has fallen, as they examined rates between the years 2015 and 2019, women who had begun childbearing had given only five births till they reached the age of 40. The report has further highlighted that gender-based and economic inequalities are factors contributing highly to teen pregnancies. According to Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director, the world has failed adolescent girls as one-third of women in the developing states are becoming pregnant during their teenage years. The report further states that most of the births by girls under 18 in 54 developing countries are most often within a marriage but do not occur by the choice of the girl. The UNFPA Executive Director underscored that the governments should focus on expanding the opportunities for adolescent girls by investing in them in order to avoid early unintended adolescent pregnancies. According to the UNFPA, the decline in teen pregnancies has only been at three percentage points per decade. The report recommends providing girls with proper health care services, social support and comprehensive sexuality education while also calling for providing economic support and recognising the rights and needs of adolescent girls.


Iraq: Mosul’s Young Generation Face Education and Employment Crisis

On 6 July 2022, marking the fifth Mosul retaking anniversary, the Norwegian Refugee Council emphasized the dire situation regarding jobs and education opportunities for youngsters living in the city. The organization conducted a series of interviews with 20 school teachers, students’ parents and young people between 18-24. The interviews showed that the quality of education has been impaired by conflict, resulting in infrastructure damage, overcrowding, poverty and mental health issues. According to the analysis undertaken by the Norwegian Refugee Council, 50 per cent of all students are enrolled in schools with damaged structures, while one in three schools in Mosul either needs repair or is considered not fit for use. Subsequently, Iraq hosts 57 prefabricated schools, referred to as caravans, which gather 19,904 students and face overcrowding as well as teacher shortages. In this respect, the organization uncovered instances in which one teacher had to manage 51 students. In some cases, 80 children were joining a classroom of only 15 square metres of space while it is also common that a group of students to share the same book. In effect, there is an increase in dropout rates. Such impediments have been highlighted in final exam results in one of the schools in West Mosul, where only 3.3 per cent of sixth-graders passed the exam.


Mali: UNSC Condemns the Death of Two UN Blue Helmets Caused by an Improvised Explosive Device

On 6 July 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed strong condemnation for the killing of two Egyptian UN peacekeepers, emphasizing the concern over the precarious security situation in Mali. The logistic convoy was composed of the two deceased soldiers, accompanied by nine other blue helmets that were seriously injured. The convoy’s armoured vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device, 60 kilometres on the Tessalit to Gao highway. The event might be considered a war crime, as such occurrences are often used in order to “paralyze the operations of the UN Mission and to obstruct the return to peace and stability in Mali.” Since the establishment of the mission ten years ago, 177 of its soldiers have been killed. The northern region of Mali is particularly problematic as it has been the nexus of Islamic State-affiliated terrorists who have established themselves in the centre of the country, Burkina Faso and Niger.


Lebanon: The Plan to Deport Syrian Refugees Might Cause Safety Issues

On 7 July 2022, a statement made by the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor emphasized the risks and security implications of Lebanese authorities’ plan to deport 15,000 displaced Syrians per month. Such an initiative would represent a clear violation of the principle of nonrefoulement that protects refugees from expulsion or forcible return to countries where their safety and security are at risk. The plans are supported by the Lebanese Minister of Displaced Persons, Issam Sharaf al-Din, who claimed that Syria has become safe, and the war has ended. Moreover, he declared that dissidents can either return to Syria, or the UNHCR will ensure their transfer to a third country. However, a report issued by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in September 2021 showed that the country is still an unsafe or stable place. Lebanon hosts approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, from which 950,000 are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They generally suffer from very poor living conditions, with nine out of 10 living in extreme poverty.


ICRC: Access to Essential Healthcare for Women and Girls in Yemen is being Hindered

On 7 July 2022, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued an overview of the deteriorating health conditions keeping women and girls from being able to access essential healthcare. According to an analysis and estimation done by UNICEF, less than 50 per cent of births are attended by skilled health professionals in Yemen. Moreover, one mother and six new-borns die every two hours. While this happens due to complications during pregnancy, in most cases the causes are almost entirely preventable, yet the limited access to health services creates an issue. There are approximately 4.2 million people displaced in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict, and among them, 73 per cent are women and children. Moreover, more than 20.1 million people currently lack access to basic health care, as only 51 per cent of health facilities still function across the country.


Syria: UNSC Fails to Adopt Two Draft Resolutions Aimed at Renewing Cross-Border Humanitarian Operations

On 8 July 2022, during a meeting, the UN Security Council failed to reauthorize border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria. The drafts of two competing resolutions have been voted on, one submitted by Norway and Ireland and the other by the Russian Federation. The first one was bound to offer a six+six-month extension of the mechanism for cross-border humanitarian assistance in an effort to reach a fair compromise. Despite receiving 13 votes in favour and one abstention, the former one was vetoed by the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the competing draft provided for a six-month extension. It was nevertheless rejected by a vote of three against (France, United Kingdom, United States,) two in favour (China, Russian Federation) and 10 abstentions. The failure of both drafts was met with dissatisfaction on the part of the delegates. Unable to pass either of them, the Council failed to reauthorize the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria. Any measure would have been crucial for more than 4.1 million people located in the country’s northwest region.


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