Weekly News Recap (18–24 July 2022)

© Photo by Felton Davis via Flickr




USA: Parkland High School Shooter’s Death Penalty Trial Begins

On 18 July 2022, in the case of a man who killed 17 people at a Florida high school in 2018, the opening arguments determining the penalty of the accused have begun. In this month-long trial, it will be decided whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed or sentenced to life without parole. Cruz is an expelled student with a history of mental health and behavioural problems at the time of the shooting. He pleaded guilty to the premeditated murder of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Cruz’s lawyer informed the court that they would only give their opening statement when it is time for them to present their case. The trial has come to the limelight as the issue of gun violence in the US has been renewed since the recent shooting incidents.


USA: Judge Restricts Enforcement of Abortion Ban in West Virginia

On 18 July 2022, amid a legal battle concerning the abortion ban in the United States, a Judge blocked authorities from enforcing an abortion ban. A Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge, Tera L Salango allowed the only abortion centre in West Virginia to resume abortion services citing the irreparable sufferings and hardships of patients who are impregnated as a result of rape or incest. This case forms one among many that have taken shape in the post-Roe landscape in the US. Conservative states are aiming to enforce the abortion ban while the federal government and liberal states are finding ways to maintain access to abortion. West Virginia, in their defense, refers to laws on the books which date back to 1800 and provide that performing and obtaining an abortion is a felony and a punishable offense. Lawyers for the Women’s Health Center argued that the law is void as it has not been enforced in the last five decades and has been superseded by modern laws. Judge Salango while agreeing with the perspective of the Women’s Health Center observed that the laws were effectively repealed by modern and post-Roe statutes.  That landmark Roe v Wade (1973) decision set out the constitutional right to abortion in the country.


Turkey: President’s Move to Pull Out of a European Treaty Protecting Women from Violence Backed by the Top Court

On 19 July 2022, the top Court of Turkey found the President’s unilateral decision to pull out of a European Treaty protecting women from violence lawful. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew Turkey from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention last year which was signed in Istanbul in 2011. It sparked protests and condemnation by women’s rights groups and various western countries. A petition was filed on the ground that Erdogan did not have the power to unilaterally cancel the membership of Turkey in an international agreement.  The Court’s majority rejected the petition. The move to pull out of the treaty came after an official pointed out the inconsistent nature of the treaty when compared to the conservative Turkish values. It was believed that the treaty promoted divorce, undermined the traditional family unit, and supported homosexuality. The treaty requires member states to enact strict domestic legislation and punish domestic abuse and gender-based violence. In March, Turkey’s Parliament ratified a bill aimed at combating violence against women.


Iran: Jafar Panahi Sentenced to Six Years in Jail for Supporting Anti-Government Demonstrations

On 19 July 2022, a court in Iran stated that Jafar Panahi must serve a six-year sentence that was originally handed to him in 2010. It included five years in prison for “gathering and collusion” and one year for “propaganda against the establishment.” According to Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi, Panahi was arrested and sent to prison on 11 July to begin serving the sentence. He was sentenced to imprisonment for supporting anti-government demonstrations and was arrested after he went to inquire about two fellow filmmakers at the Prosecutor’s office in Tehran. The other two filmmakers were arrested for using social media to condemn the state’s response to the protests that took place in May in the southwestern city of Abadan.


USA: Thomas Lane Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Jail in the George Floyd Case

On 21 July 2022, one of the four policemen charged in the killing of George Floyd that led to mass protest globally against police brutality and racism was sentenced to two and a half years of jail term. He was sentenced to imprisonment for not providing Floyd with adequate medical aid and assistance while he was suffocating under another police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee. The Court observed, that Mr Lane did not stop the other police officer from suffocating George Floyd even after he became unconscious, which is a violation of the law. The incident sparked protests globally over the matter of racial injustices being committed by the police officers. Lane pleaded guilty in May in order to avoid a longer sentence. In July 2022, Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years in prison on federal charges and to 22 and a half years in June 2021 by a Minneapolis court. Both the sentences are to be served concurrently. The other two officers are free on bond pending sentencing.


ECtHR: Italy Held Responsible for Breaching Rights of Asylum Seeker to be Presumed as a Minor until his Age had been Properly Assessed

On 21 July 2022, in a case relating to a Guinean national who was seeking asylum in Italy, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held the Italian authorities responsible for placing him in the adult reception centre without properly assessing his age. The asylum seeker claimed to be a 1999-born individual and thus a minor at the time of placement in an adult reception centre. The Court held that the Italian authorities had failed to apply the principle of presumption of minor age which is important for the protection of the right to respect for the private life of a foreign unaccompanied individual declaring to be a minor. The authorities had failed to provide the applicant with a legal guardian or representative. The Court observed it to be essential to include all the procedural safeguards and emphasised the importance of the age assessment procedure in the migration context. The Court held that there has been a violation of Article 13 in conjunction with Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention.


ICJ: Court Rejected Four Preliminary Objections of Myanmar Concerning Rohingya Genocide Case

On 22 July 2022, in the case of the Gambia v. Myanmar, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected the four preliminary objections raised by Myanmar concerning the Rohingya genocide case. Myanmar filed the objections in February 2022. It raised objections with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of the Application filed by the Republic of The Gambia in 2019. The Court ruled that it has jurisdiction under Article IX of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to entertain the Application. The case involved the alleged genocide against the ethnic Rohingya population in Rakhine State. The Court held that The Gambia being a state party to the Genocide Convention has the right to hold Myanmar responsible for the alleged breaches of its obligations under Articles 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the Convention. The Court by rejecting the objections has allowed the case to proceed on the merits to examine Gambia’s genocide allegations.

https://www.icj-cij.org/public/files/case-related/178/178-20220722-PRE-01-00-EN.pdf https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/07/22/world-court-rejects-myanmar-objections-genocide-case


UN: Steep Rise in Child Abductions in 2020 and 2021 and New Guidance on Child Abduction During War

On 18 July 2022, the Office of Special Representative and Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict released new guidance on the protection of children who are abducted or experiencing home grave violations during an armed conflict. According to Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative, the guidelines were in aid of addressing the issues surrounding grave violations committed against children during the war. The following six grave violations have been identified as a premise for collection of data which include: killing and maiming of children, recruitment or use of child soldiers, sexual violence against children, abduction, attacks against schools or hospitals, and the final being denial of humanitarian access. Ms Gamba underscored that the need of the children abducted and facing grave violations should be addressed comprehensively and further encouraged the international community to provide their support on the ground. In 2020 and 2021, most child abductions have been witnessed in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the nations of the Lake Chad Basin. With the increase in child abduction over the years, the UN Security Council adopted resolution in 2015, formally recognising to hold parties accountable for abducting children.  


OHCHR: UN Experts Monitoring the Melilla Tragedy Call for Prompt Investigation Into the Incident

On 18 July 2022, UN experts expressed their concern over the deaths of 23 Africans that occurred during their attempt of crossing the Spain-Moroccan border in Melilla by climbing the high fences that surrounded the Spanish enclave. The experts urged that a prompt investigation be conducted by both governments into the incident. The experts from the UN International Independent Expert Mechanism (IIEM) have urged for providing them with detailed information on incidents from the Spanish and Moroccan Governments. The experts have also underscored that they would be making an assessment of the existing legislation and legislative practices of both nations against the human rights standards which include the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Official and the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.


Yemen: Immediate Action Needed to Begin Oil Tanker Salvage Operations and Prevent Another Humanitarian Crisis

On 18 July 2022, it was reported that a supertanker or an oil storage tanker that moored 32 nautical miles off Yemen’s coast in 2015 and spilt hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the Red Sea, poses an environmental and humanitarian threat if the salvage operation for removing it did not begin. On June 13 2022 the United Nations announced that there was a lack of funding in putting the salvage operations in motion and a $20 million crowdfunding campaign was launched to fill the funding gap. According to the estimates of the UN, the salvage operations would cost $20 billion, exclusive of the economic consequences it poses. A two-stage plan has been signed between the Houthi authorities and the UN on March 5 2022 for facilitating a two-staged coordinated plan to execute a salvage operation. The first step is transferring the oil from Safer to another secure vessel, which would be a four month long operation costing $80 million. In the second stage a replacement vessel would be installed with the whole operation costing $144 million. Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, stated that if donors contribute $20 million would only be helpful in averting not just the expensive cost of the whole operation but also other immeasurable humanitarian and environmental risks.


UNHCR: Agency Resumes Voluntary Repatriation of Refugees from Angola to DRC

On 19 July 2022, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID pandemic refugees from Angola were being voluntarily repatriated to the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Boris Cheshirkov, Spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency, on 19 July the first convoy of 88 Congolese refugees left from the location in northern Angola towards the DRC. About 7000 refugees have been hosted in the Lôvua settlement since 2017. Despite security concerns, UNHCR Spokesperson highlighted that in the west of DRC security situation was improving which had opened the possibility of returning Congolese back to their homes. 600 Congolese refugees have expressed their desire for voluntary repatriation. The UNHCR has stated that upon the arrival of the refugees in the DRC they would be provided with cash assistance for covering their essential needs. Around 57,000 refugees are being assisted by the UNHCR in Angola with the operation of the agency in the country has only received $10.3 million of the $29.8 million, which has significantly affected the operations in providing assistance to fulfil the basic needs of the refugees; with only 19 per cent of the $225 million for providing aid to the displaced in the DRC.


Nicaragua: Government Shuts down 770 NGOs as a Result of Restrictive Legislation

On 19 July 2022, it was reported that the government of Nicaragua had shut down hundreds of civil societies and non-governmental organisations as of highly restrictive legislation which subverted the right of freedom of association and freedom of expression. The registration of 770 NGOs has been cancelled by the authorities since June 6 2022, and the organisation not only included the ones working for the protection of the rights of children and women but also medical associations. Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting Americas director at Human Rights Watch, stated that the systemic crackdown on civil society by Nicaraguan authorities is a way to halt the efforts of human rights organisations in exposing the government’s “inability to provide services to the people.” No clear explanation has been provided by the authorities as to the shutdown of civil society, the government asserts that the action had been taken because the organisations did not comply with passed legislation.


Sri Lanka: Protesters Reject the New President Elected by Parliament

On 20 July 2022, protesters in Sri Lanka resumed demonstrations against the country’s leadership, expressing their dissatisfaction with the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe to the position of president. Protesters are outraged  by the fact that the new president was not democratically elected and has secured that seat ‘from the back seat.’ According to the leader of the Federation of Students, Wasantha Mudalige, people are unhappy because Wickremesinghe is a former ally of Rajapaksa and has played an important part in the degeneration of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. Moreover, he mentioned that ‘the people’s mandate is on the streets.’ Wickremesinghe has served as prime minister six times so far, and was a key ally of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He is considered partially responsible for the country’s unprecedented economic and political crisis. Moreover, protesters have also accused Wickremesinghe of making deals with the powerful Rajapaksa family to outmanoeuvre political rivals. The lack of governance experience of his main rival at the election, Dullas Alahapperuma, left people with another bitter apprehension.


UN: New Report on Afghanistan Since the Taliban Takeover Confirms Multiple Human Rights Violations and Abuses

On 20 July 2022, the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued the first report on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover last year. The report confirms many of the international concerns over the direction of human rights under the Taliban rule, proving that the de facto authorities have curbed protests and media freedoms. The report condemns arbitrary arrests of journalists, protestors, and civil society activists. The report summarises UNAMA’s findings on civilian protection, extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan, fundamental freedoms, and the situation in detention facilities. In addition, the report makes recommendations to both the de facto authorities and the international community. One of the most notable aspects prevalent eleven months after Afghanistan’s abrupt transition to Taliban rule is the erosion of women’s rights. Women and girls have seen their rights to access education, work, and public participation abruptly restricted.



Iraq: The Death of Nine Civilians in the Duhok Attack Caused Diplomatic Divergences between Turkey and Iraq

On 20 July 2022, the shelling of a resort located in the Kurdistan region of Dohuk Governorate, close to the border with Türkiye, ended the lives of eight tourists, wounding more than 20 others. According to news reports, Iraqi state media claimed that Turkish forces were responsible for the shelling, assumptions that triggered a  diplomatic row between Iraq and Turkey. In this respect, Turkey suggested that forces belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party carried out the strike. Nevertheless, Iraq is recalling its charge d’affaires from Ankara and summoning the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to demand an apology. Demonstrations fuelled in Baghdad, Nassiriyah, and Karbala, where the Turkish flag was burned by protesters outside a visa centre. The UN mission in Iraq has condemned the attack, consequently urging all parties to cease any violations against civilians.



Yemen: UN Special Envoy Urges the Government and Houthi Rebels to Extend and Expand the ‘Transformational’ Truce

On 21 July 2022, a press release issued by the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen conveyed Special Envoy Hans Grundberg’s call for the parties to support the implementation of all elements of the truce, and to explore possibilities for an expanded and extended truce. The truce was firstly designed for two months, yet it was renewed in June. It succeeded in marking the longest period of relative calm in more than seven years of conflict, and a significant decrease in the number of civilian casualties. However, both sides have raised concerns about alleged violations and incidents across multiple frontlines. Recently, in light of various disagreements, the parties have announced unilateral plans. Mr Grundberg stressed that unilateral actions alone are not enough to ensure the safety of civilians. Consequently, he highlighted achievements under the truce, such as the agreement on commercial flights between Sana’a and Amman, Jordan, and Cairo or the 26 vessels that have entered the port carrying more than 720,000 metric tons of fuel derivatives, marking an increase since last year.



Ukraine: Deal with Russia Allows Ports to Resume Grain Exports

On 22 July 2022, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed a deal to free up Ukrainian grain exports that have been blocked since February. The two representatives signed separate but identical “mirror” deals with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The United Nations plan, called the Black Sea Grain Initiative, marks the first major achievement between the two sides and has boosted hopes that a worsening food security crisis can be avoided. Mr Guterres referred to the event as a ‘beacon of hope.’ The agreement also paves the way for Russian food and fertilizer to reach global markets. Moreover, it is regarded as a way to help to stabilize spiralling food prices worldwide and stave off famine, affecting millions. Full details of the plan designed by Turkey and United Nations chief Guterres were not immediately released, however, assumptions expect that around 22 million tonnes worth of Ukrainian grain currently stuck will be released onto the global market. Mr Guterres thanked President Erdogan and his government for facilitating the talks that led to the deal, while also commending the Russian and Ukrainian representatives for putting aside their differences in the common interests of humanity.



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