Weekly News Recap (11-17 July 2022)

© Photo by UNICEF Ethiopia via Flickr




Romania: The Start of the Investigation into Crimes Committed in Ukraine

On 11 July 2022, the Romanian general prosecutor started an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in Ukraine following the Russian invasion. This adds to the efforts conducted at the international level by the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’) and other States and to the prosecution of international crimes by the Ukrainian general prosecutor. Like other states, Romania is exercising the principle of universal jurisdiction in order to prosecute crimes that occurred in Ukraine. Likewise, jurisdiction is granted in those cases where Romanian citizens were victims or Ukrainian victims were displaced into Romanian territory. Romania is an EU member that has faced criticism for having a corrupt and inefficient judicial system.


UK: Report by the BBC Reveals that the UK Special Forces in Afghanistan Unlawfully Killed Detainees

On 12 July 2022, the BBC revealed that the UK Special Unit SAS, deployed in Afghanistan may have been responsible for the killing of unarmed detainees in suspicious circumstances. This information was obtained from military reports detailing the death of 54 people in six months. The former head of UK Special Forces, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith had knowledge of the alleged killings, however, he failed to pass the information to the Royal Military Police. Former SAS members revealed that some operatives of this special unit participated in the killing of unarmed people during night raids and used “drop weapons,” which consisted of planting weapons like AK-47s at the scenes in order to justify the killing of unarmed individuals. Allegedly, the squadrons were competing with each other to get the most kills. Internal emails reveal that officers of the highest levels of the special forces were aware of this but failed to report the suspicions to military police despite a legal obligation to do so.


France: Former Rwandan Prefect is Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison by French Court

On 13 July 2022, Laurent Bucyibaruta was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his complicity in the Rwandan genocide that occurred 28 years ago against the Tutsi in 1994. While the 78-year-old was acquitted as a perpetrator of the crime of genocide, he was found guilty of ‘complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity’ regarding his involvement in four massacres. The court specified that there were “not sufficient elements to say that he had given instructions” for the acts committed at the parish of Kibeho, nor that he then knew “the full extent of the genocidal plan” at work. Bucyibaruta is the highest-ranking official tried in France for crimes related to the Tutsi genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) originally had jurisdiction over Bucyibaruta but decided to grant French court’s jurisdiction over this case.


https://www.lemonde.fr/en/le-monde-africa/article/2022/07/13/laurent-bucyibaruta-sentenced-to-20-years-for-complicity-in-rwandan genocide_5990018_124.html#:~:text=On%20Tuesday%2C%20July%2012%2C%20after,to%2020%20years%20in%20prison.

Ukraine: Forty-five States Support the Criminal Investigation Taking Place in Ukraine for International Crimes

On 14 July 2022, 45 countries agreed to cooperate in the carrying out of the ongoing criminal investigation dealing with proximately 23,000 war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. This agreement took the form of a political declaration during a conference at the headquarters of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The countries that signed the declaration included member states of the European Union, the UK, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Australia. The political declaration came with a promise to provide 20 million euros to assist the ICC and to support the prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy joined the conference via video link and urged the international community to set up a special tribunal to address the crime of aggression. While Ukrainian authorities say that tens of thousands of civilians have died, Moscow has denied all involvement or responsibility.


Sweden: Court Sentenced a Former Iranian Official to Life for Torture and Mass Execution

On 14 July 2022, a former Iranian official was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by the Stockholm District Court for his role in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners during the 1980s. Hamid Noury, age 61, was arrested at the Stockholm airport in 2019 for his involvement in the killing of individuals held as prisoners at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, in 1988. Upon learning of the decision, the government of Iran condemned it and branded it as “politically motivated” and therefore void of any “legal validity.” Noury’s lawyer, Daniel Marcus said he will appeal after analysing and reviewing the details of the court’s judgement. Noury is the only person so far to face trial over the purge that targeted members of the Iranian People’s Mujahideen, which was fighting in parts of Iran, as well as other political dissidents.


ICC: The Ukraine Accountability Conference was Held at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On 14 July, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered two key messages at the Ukraine Accountability Conference. First, the ICC must continue to work together with national authorities in the investigation and prosecution of international crimes. The ICC prosecutor reiterated that “too much has already been promised to survivors and victims’ for us to lose focus.” He continued by stating that he hopes that the “Conference assists in ensuring our continued vigilance and reinforces our commitment to work together towards accountability.” The second message is that, while action started locally in Ukraine, it must also remain international in the form of universal jurisdiction cases and the cases before the ICC. Finally, the Prosecutor highlighted the efforts undertaken by his office in the Ukrainian investigation as an example of a novel approach to the concept of positive complementarity; an approach that may be replicated in the future by the ICC in other situation cases.


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Trial of Five Former Military Police Officers for Crimes Committed in Rogatica in 1995 Begins

On 15 July 2022, Zoran Neskovic, Panto Pantovic, Slavisa Djeric, Nenad Ujic and Pero Despet are charged with 46 counts of inhumane treatment, murder and sexual abuse of civilians in Rasadnik detention facility in Rogatica, eastern Bosnia, between the end of July and 22 December 1995. The charges include physical violence against the detainees of the detention facilities, which included beatings, wrapping hoses around their necks, jumping on their back, forcing them to lick the floor and boots, eating pork – forbidden to Muslims – making them jump on one leg, jump into cold rivers, as well as hit each other. The indictment charges Neskovic and others with crimes against the civilian population according to the Criminal Code of the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. The first witnesses will be heard on 5 September 2022.


Switzerland: Swiss Attorney General Opens Investigation into the War Crime of Pillaging in Senegal and The Gambia

On 18 July 2022, the Attorney General of Switzerland requested international legal assistance from The Gambia in a case of rosewood looting involving Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu, a Swiss businessman with ties with former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. Mr Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu’s company, Westwood, was involved in the illegal exploitation and export of protected rosewood, in Casamance, from 2014 to 2017. The wood was removed from an area where armed conflict occurred. Therefore, the exploitation of natural resources could be considered an act of pillaging under international and Swiss law. This is one of three open investigations dealing with pillaging in African countries that have been filed by Trial International and involve economic actors. The other two cases relate to the illegal trade of minerals in Congo and the DRC and the plundering of fuel in Libya.



Yemen: UN Envoy Informs Ambassadors Regarding the Country’s Worsening Situation

On 11 July 2022, Hans Grundberg, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, and Joyce Msuya, the UN deputy relief chief, briefed the Security Council regarding the developments and challenges that Yemen continues to face. While outlining the achievements reached since the announcement of the current truce, Mr Grundberg emphasized that the details regarding its implementation remain behindhand. In this respect, the time allocated has not been efficiently used for the delivery of benefits to the population, or for setting Yemen on the path toward a durable political settlement. Mr Grundberg also mentioned that he expected that the agreements to open roads in Taiz and other governorates would have been reached by now. He continued by urging the sides to refrain from “worrisome escalatory rhetoric”, visible during the last weeks. Mr Grundberg’s statement was accompanied by Ms Msuya’s briefing. She started her statement by calling for greater international action, declaring that “Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe is about to get much worse.” In this respect, she emphasized that the work of the envoy will continue to promote the extension of the agreement and collaboration among parties.



Sri Lanka: UN Resident Coordinator Calls for Democracy, Accountability and Transparency

On 11 July 2022, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, gave a statement regarding the current developments in the country. The United Nations Chief called for dialogue to “ensure a smooth transition of government and solutions to the country’s deep economic crisis’’, mentioning that the organisation supports people’s request for democracy, accountability, and transparency from their leaders. Ms Singer-Hamdy emphasized the need for responsibility for violent incidents against journalists, peaceful protesters and harm to property. She added that the organisation calls for respect for human rights, rule of law and democratic governance in Sri Lanka. Considering the country’s multiple crises, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread protests have increased in the last months. President Rajapaksa has been blamed for inefficient management of the economic downfall, food, fuel and medical shortages, alongside a financial and humanitarian crisis. Currently, Sri Lanka is in dire condition, being unable to service its debt, having record inflation, and more than six million people living with food insecurity.



OCHA: New Report Addresses Gender Inequality Amid Conflict-Affected Areas of Northern Ethiopia

On 11 July 2022, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a situation report assessing gender inequality and the humanitarian situation in the affected regions of northern Ethiopia. Considering the dire circumstances, the Humanitarian Country Team commissioned an inter-agency rapid gender analysis in November 2021. At the start of the analysis, 91 per cent of the Tigrayan population are in urgent need of food assistance. Subsequently, the region amassed 2.1 million internally displaced persons. It was uncovered that 83 per cent of health facilities do not provide maternal services, while 50.3 per cent of pregnant and lactating women, alongside 22.7 per cent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition. A 2021 analysis done by the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security found that only 42 per cent of women are literate, compared to 69 per cent of men. Moreover, 2.6 million children, out of which 57 per cent are girls, are out of school, and 54 per cent of rural females do not have access to education, compared to 14 per cent of urban males. The recommendations issued by the UN agency revolve around four pillars of action, namely addressing food insecurity and nutrition needs, investing in rebuilding health care services, increasing the safety and security of all vulnerable groups and involving all population groups in the response.


Nigeria: Experts Fear Boko Haram Jailbreak Could Become Recurrent

On 12 July 2022, experts expressed worry over the escalating attacks on prisons across Nigeria could produce an unwelcome precedent. Last Tuesday, 900 inmates, including 64 Boko Haram members imprisoned at the Kuje medium-security facility, located 50 kilometers outside of Nigeria’s capital city, were released by a group of gunmen. The incident came only moments after another group attacked a presidential convoy in northwest Nigeria. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa Province, a militant group currently allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Nigeria’s prison issues commonly stem from the fact that the facilities are often overcrowded beyond official capacity. In this respect, in 2021 alone, more than 5,000 inmates escaped, and official statistics show that two-thirds of the entire prison population has yet to be convicted for any crime. Analysts claim that the attack is inherently different from the others and it could open a new set of movements for Nigeria’s battle against Boko Haram. The president expressed disappointment with the national intelligence agency, leaving the public perplexed, as many acknowledged that the statement was an admission of the authorities’ incapacity to deal with armed groups.


COP27: Organisations Concerned with Restrictions on Protest and Assembly in Egypt

On 12 July 2022, 36 organisations released a statement urging Egyptian authorities to ‘ease their grip’ on civic space and consequently support the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly for enabling the successful progress of the climate summit. Scheduled for November 2022, the COP27 summit will gather state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as numerous experts, journalists, and representatives from businesses and non-governmental groups. The organizations became concerned about Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s claims that the government will provide “a facility adjacent to the conference centre” where activists can hold protests and voice their opinions. According to international law, Egyptian authorities should unconditionally allow peaceful protests and gatherings. However, international and Egyptian civil society groups are concerned that the meaningful and complete participation of the civil representatives will be impaired. In this respect, authorities should pledge to always protect and support the right to peaceful assembly, including during international events and refrain from excessively restricting protests to a specific area.


Russia: Human Rights Experts Express Concern over the Suppression of Civil Society Members in the Country

On 13 July 2022, a group of senior UN-appointed independent rights appealed to Russia to put an end to the crackdown the authorities were imposing on civic space in the country. They further insisted that the situation in the country had deteriorated since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and highlighted that 20 media outlets had shutdown as social media sites became blocked in the country, among which is the Nobel Peace Prize winning Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. In addition, the authorities have detained over 16,000 people who were protesting peacefully against the war and used excessive use of force against peaceful protestors.


WHO & ILO: Women in Healthcare Sector Paid 24 per cent Less than Men as Revealed by New Report

On 13 July 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint report titled “The gender pay gap in the health and care sector: a global analysis in the time of COVID-19”, which revealed that there was a larger gender pay gap faced by women in the health and care sector than in any other economic sector. Further revealing that women earned 24 per cent less than men. The report has been the most comprehensive analysis on identifying inequity in gender pay in the health sector and highlights those factors such as age, education and working time for the existing gender pay inequity. With women comprising 67 per cent of the workforce in the health and care sector, the report highlights that the wage in the sector remains to be lowest in comparison to other economic sectors, which complements the finding that wages are lower in sectors where women in the workforce are predominant. Jim Campbell, WHO Director of Health Workforce highlighted that women comprised the majority of the workforce in the healthcare sector but because of “systemic biases”, they received lower wages. The report also informs that the differences in age, education, working time or the participation of men and women in private or public sectors only tries to highlight part of the problem, as many of the factors which contribute to the existing gender pay gap remain unexplained due to labour market factors across the globe.


Nigeria: German Government Provides $40 Million to the Humanitarian Project for Providing Support to Vulnerable Populations of the Country

On 14 July 2022, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP) launched the Resilience and Social Cohesion Project for providing support to vulnerable populations in the Borno and Yobe states of Nigeria for enhancing peace, providing education and various other essential facilities. Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, the project would be a “pathway to peace & sustainable development”. The $40 million worth humanitarian package from the German government aims to target children from birth till the age of two years, pregnant women, school going children, female-headed households and people with disabilities. The WFP Deputy Country Director in Nigeria, Simone Parchment thanked the German government for providing the humanitarian fund while further underscoring that this contribution would lead to building “resilience, social cohesion and peace in the affected communities.”


UNICEF: Backslide in Child Vaccination Leads to 25 Million Children Miss Out on Routine Immunisation

On 15 July 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in newly released data revealed that there has been a massive decline in childhood vaccinations. The same was revealed in the recorded data collected over 30 years. Between 2019 and 2021, children who had received all three doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) fell to 81 per cent, as a result of which 25 million children missed out on either one or more doses of the DTP in 2021 alone, and eight million increase in the number of children missing out on immunisation in the past two years. The majority of unvaccinated children live in low and middle income countries – Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines recording the highest numbers. The gap in immunisation and a catastrophic hunger crisis threatens to create conditions which would lead to a child survival crisis across these regions. Currently, WHO and UNICEF are working with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other partners for delivering Global Immunisation Agenda 2030.


South Africa: Rising Xenophobia against Foreign Nationals Leads to Violence

On 15 July 2022, human rights experts expressed their concern over “Operation Dudula” – a social media campaign which has become an outlet for mobilising violent protests, vigilante violence and targeting of migrant-owned houses or even killing of foreign nationals in South Africa. The Special Rapporteurs warned that the “xenophobic mobilisation” has become so broad that it has led to increased violence in the country against foreign nationals, refugees and migrants. They also highlighted that the country was on a brink of explosive violence against migrants and refugees. The UN human rights experts have further observed that the discrimination and violence against refugees and migrants have been embedded in governmental policies. The inherent discrimination against foreign nationals has further led to the violation of their basic human rights according to the human rights experts, while also highlighting that these violations are further compounded because of the inherent corruption in the South African asylum and migration systems. The human rights experts are currently in communication with the South African government to address the present allegations and also clarify the country’s obligations under international law. 


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