Weekly News Recap (22-28 August 2022)

© Photo by IRIN Photos via Flickr




South Sudan: ICC Prosecutor Expresses Frustration for Lack of Accountability in the Darfur Conflict

On 23 August, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr Karim Khan, told the UN Security Council his frustration over the lack of accountability in the Darfur conflict. The Prosecutor told the members of the Security Council that the survivors of the Darfur conflict “need action, not words.” According to the UN, 300,000 people have been killed and two and a half million were forcibly displaced since the start of the conflict in 2003. Khan called on the Council to hold a session in Sudan where unrest deepens, the economy is in a spiraling crisis, and there is a spike in ethnic clashes, including in Darfur, since last year’s coup. Bashir remains wanted by the ICC over his role in the Darfur conflict, which pitted ethnic African minority rebels complaining of discrimination against his Arab-dominated government.


Mexico: Former Attorney General was Linked to the Investigation for Enforced Disappearance and Torture

On 24 August 2022, former Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam was arrested and charged with the enforced disappearance and torture of 43 students back in 2014. Murillo will also have to face charges committed against the administration of justice. The 43 students were from a rural school in Ayotzinapa (South Guerrero State). After being detained in Mexico City, a government commission released a report which disputes the “historical truth” and suggests the participation of civil and military authorities in the disappearance of students that could amount to crimes against humanity.


Ukraine: Ukrainian Officials Propose an International Court to Investigate Russia’s Alleged Crime of Aggression

On 25 August 2022, Andrii Smirnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration put forth a proposal for an international court to prosecute the crime of aggression allegedly committed by Russia. This crime was established in 2010 in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) and a similar notion of “crimes against peace” was already used during the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. While the ICC is already looking into war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Ukraine, this Court cannot investigate accusations of the crime of aggression because it lacks jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine or Russia. Even though the accused will not be part of the proceedings, the proposed Court “will serve to make sure that these people are labelled as criminals, and that they cannot travel in the civilized world,” Smirnov stated. The Statute of the tribunal has been drafted and it is ready to be signed by governments. In practice, this means that convicted individuals could be arrested in the territory of the signatory countries.


USA: Iranian President Faces Complaint for Crimes Against Humanity in New York

On 25 August 2022, a legal complaint was filed before a US Court against Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi for crimes against humanity and genocide. The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act. Raisi was Deputy Prosecutor and a member of Tehran’s Death Commission in 1988 when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa to execute all members and sympathizers of the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK). Thirty-thousand political prisoners of the MEK were hanged because of the fatwa. Raisi also served as a Judiciary Chief in 2019, during which time he allegedly oversaw the execution of at least 1,500 people during and after the November 2019 uprising.


India: British Investigators Expose India’s War Crimes in Jammu and Kashmir

On 25 August 2022, the Stoke White Investigations (SWI) issued a report entitled “India Silencing Journalism and Human Rights in Kashmir” and identified 450 incidents of violence allegedly committed by Indian military forces against the Kashmiri people that amount to war crimes. About this report, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said, “Indian massacres in occupied Kashmir are similar to Israel’s illegal actions against the Palestinians.” Prominent Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Mashaal Mullick praised the SWI report on Indian abuses against journalists and human rights defenders and commented that all human rights violations of India in the Jammu and Kashmir territories should be documented.


Germany: Court Begins Trial of Palestinian Man for War Crimes in Syria

On 26 August 2022, the Berlin Supreme Court began the trial of a Palestinian-Syrian man who allegedly launched an attack against a group of civilians in Syria eight years ago that resulted in the death of seven people. The charges brought against the 55-year-old man include war crimes, seven counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and three counts of dangerous bodily harm. This man, who identifies as a Palestinian-Syrian, came to Germany in 2018 and was arrested in August 2021. According to the lawsuit, he was affiliated with the Free Palestine Movement militia at the time of the crimes, and before that he belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.


Syria: Massacre at Daraya Linked to the Syrian Regime

On 25 August 2022, the Syrian British Consortium (SBC) released a report into the attacks perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad forces that left 700 people dead in the town of Daraya between 24 and 26 August 2012. The report includes the testimonies of survivors and witnesses. The findings of the report, the SBC team hopes, may be used by UN bodies and legal institutions to prosecute some of the alleged perpetrators. At the time of the events, Daraya was considered the worst massacre during the Syrian civil war, and it is considered to be largely undocumented with the exception of a UN report in 2013. Witnesses say that Assad’s forces shelled neighbourhoods in the city killing and wounding civilians. The military campaign in Daraya, which included bombardments in the city, started the second day of Eid (19 or 20 August). The report said investigators were able to identify government forces and Iranian and Hezbollah militias involved in the attacks by their uniforms, insignia and weaponry.


Argentina: Criminal Case is Filed over China’s Treatment of Uyghurs

On 26 August 2022, the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) filed a criminal case at the Federal Criminal Court of Buenos Aires. In the complaint, the organizations accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against this ethnic minority and other Turkic Muslim ethnic groups. This case is based upon the principle of universal jurisdiction contained in the Argentinian constitution. The Chinese government has avoided legal scrutiny because of their influence over international institutions, says Michael Polak, director of Justice Abroad and a lawyer representing the WUC and UHRP. However, he adds, “the universal jurisdiction provisions give the possibility that their escape from responsibility may soon be over.” Argentina has other universal jurisdiction cases, mainly those linked to the international crimes committed against the Rohingya population in Myanmar and those committed by Spanish individuals during the Franco dictatorship.



Iran: “Systematic Persecution” of Religious Minorities Continues in Iran

On 22 August 2022, a group of independent UN human rights experts expressed their concern over the continuous systematic persecution of minorities by the Iranian authorities. The persecutions of Baha’i faith minorities include arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and the destruction and confiscation of their property. The independent experts stated that these acts were part of a broader policy of targeting a particular religious practice as well as Christians, Gonabadi dervishes and atheists. According to the experts the Baha’i community is one of the largest targeted religious minorities. A huge increase in the arrests of members of this minority group has been observed. Further reports have been received regarding the awaited imprisonment of 1,000 members of this community. The experts further expressed concern over the use of the penal code provisions for the prosecution of individuals on the grounds of religious affiliation and world views expressed against the dictates of Islam. They called upon Iranian authorities to abolish the existing provision on criminalisation of blasphemy as it furthered ‘extremism and violence’. They further urged that the authorities should ensure that there exists the right to freedom of religion and freedom of opinion and expression without any discrimination.


UNICEF: 972 Children Killed or Maimed in Ongoing Ukraine War, With Numbers Predicted to be Higher

On 22 August 2022, Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed her concern over how lives of children are put at extreme risk because of wars. UNICEF reported that nearly 1,000 children had been killed in the Ukraine war, and the number could be higher than what has been verified so far. According to UNICEF, nearly 972 children have been either injured or killed in the past six months of the Ukraine war. The UNICEF Executive Director stated that the war has destroyed the education system. 1 in 10 schools in the country has been either damaged or destroyed. UNICEF has continued to call for an immediate ceasefire of hostilities. Catherine Russell also reiterated that Ukrainian children are in urgent need of safety, psychosocial support, and access to safe learning and child protection services.




Sri Lanka: Need to Repeal Draconian Law on Terrorism and End Crackdown on Protestors

On 22 August 2022, Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director stated that the crackdown on protestors under the Prevention of Terrorism Act is a new low for the Sri Lankan government. She further highlighted that the use of this law reflected the government’s unwillingness to allow any kind of dissent and is implemented in an excessive way violating international law. The anti-terrorism law allows detention of suspects for one year without any charges. The national and international community called for the repeal of this draconian law, which has a long history of abuse in the country.


Horn of Africa: Children Facing Water Insecurity at High Risk to Die in “Devastating Numbers”

On 23 August 2022, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that if there is no immediate intervention, children in the Horn of Africa and Sahel region could die in “devastating numbers”. The number of people not having access to safe water has surged from 9.5 million to 16.2 million in the regions of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. With increased water insecurity children have become prone to acute malnutrition and face the risk of serious water-borne diseases. Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director stated that with the unavailability of safe drinking water the risks for children’s wellbeing would multiply. She expressed serious concern that millions of children were just “one disease away from catastrophe”. The WHO’s World Health Statistics data pinpoint that around 40 million children are facing high to extremely high levels of water vulnerability. In the Sahel region there are already 2.8 million malnourished children and with increased water insecurity 11 times more children would be at risk of dying, two-thirds of these children being under the age of five. The agency’s appeal to improve the long-term resilience of families is only three per cent funded, while there has been no funding received to improve water, sanitation and climate resilience. The funding appeal for the Central Sahel region has only been 22 per cent funded in order to provide water, sanitation and hygiene.


UNHCR: 2022 Marks Five Years Since 700,000 Rohingyas Fled Military Persecution in Myanmar

On 23 August 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that this week marks five years since 700, 000 Rohingyas fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh in the fear of military persecution. UNHCR spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, stated that the flight of Rohingyas from Myanmar can now be described as a “protracted situation”. The living conditions for one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is extremely difficult as they are highly reliant on humanitarian aid and assistance. Decreased funding and overcrowded camps caused the most unmet needs to be the lack of proper nutrition, shelter materials, hygiene and sanitation facilities along with livelihood opportunities. The UNHCR spokesperson reiterated that the support from the international community was imperative in providing lifesaving humanitarian support and aid to Rohingyas and host communities. The response plan for 2022 seeks $881 million to provide lifesaving support for more than 1.4 million people including Rohingya refugees and more than half a million of the most affected host communities. Until now only 49 per cent of the funds or $ 426.2 million have been received.


Ethiopia: UN Secretary-General Emphasised the Urgency of a Ceasefire

On 24 August 2022, the Tigray military command issued a statement claiming that the Ethiopian forces, along with Amhara special forces and Amhara militias, “launched a large-scale attack in the direction of Alamata, southern Tigray” at 2:00 AM GMT. In the light of the resumed fighting, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded the stakeholders and public of the urgency of a ceasefire. Mr. Guterres stated that he was deeply shocked by the renewed escalations that occurred despite the five-month truce. He nevertheless called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” the restoration of peace efforts, comprehensive humanitarian involvement, and the restoration of public services in Tigray. The government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels have both accused each other of resuming hostilities and undermining a five-month-old ceasefire. Following reports of new offensives, Ethiopia’s air force announced the downing of a plane carrying weapons for the rebels. Last week, an Ethiopian committee has put forward a Tigray “peace proposal” that was dismissed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.


Horn of Africa: OCHA Released a Call to Action for Humanitarian Aid 

On 24 August 2022, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report outlining the dire humanitarian situation occurring in the Horn of Africa. Due to four consecutive failed rainy seasons in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, an event not seen in the least 40 years, civilians face starvation due to prolonged droughts. The report provided a regional humanitarian overview and appealed for a call to action. According to the assessment, at least 36.1 million people across the Horn of Africa are affected since the beginning the drought in October 2020. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, at least 20.5 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are already facing high levels of acute food insecurity and rising malnutrition. Moreover, according to the same institution, this figure could rise to between 23 and 26 million by September 2022. Even more, over 8.9 million livestock, on which pastoralist families rely for their survival, have died in the region. Food prices are rising in many drought-affected areas as a result of a combination of macroeconomic challenges, lower-than-average harvests, and rising food and fuel prices on international markets. Unfortunately, across the Horn of Africa, more than 16.2 million people lack access to safe drinking, cooking, and cleaning water.


UN: The Spokesperson of the Secretary General Urged the International Community to Find Thorough Solutions to Mass Displacement of Rohingya Refugees

On 24 August 2022, marking five years since the start of the forced mass displacement of Rohingya and various other communities from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, a statement issued on behalf of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged for “comprehensive, durable and inclusive solutions” with regard to the brutal military crackdown on ethnic Rohingya. Currently, approximately one million refugees still remain in Cox’s Bazar’s camps, with little to no prospects of returning home. According to the statement, more than 150,000 civilians, mostly Muslim Rohingya, remain in camps located in their native Rakhine state. Moreover, since the February 2021 military coup, Myanmar’s humanitarian prospects have further deteriorated. As the military forces deepened their operations against civilians in residential areas in the southeast, northwest and central regions, the use of air power and artillery against villages has reportedly increased. Currently, over 14 million civilians need humanitarian assistance. Rohingya communities have been frequently targeted by both the Tatmadaw and the rebel Arakan Army fighters.


Colombia: New Government Announced It Will Suspend Aerial Bombings Targeting Armed Groups

On 25 August 2022, the newly elected government of Colombia announced that it is planning to halt aerial bombings against armed groups. Currently, The National Liberation Army (ELN) is the last active armed group operating in Colombia. The 2016 peace deal ended five decades of war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, and the government. Bombing rebel camps has been a contentious issue in Colombia, where a brutal civil war raged for nearly six decades, killing over 450,000 people. The measure comes as an effort to reduce the number of civilian and children victims. Colombia’s Defence Minister, Ivan Velasquez claimed that the move serves as a symbol of the government’s willingness to engage in possible talks with armed groups. It represents a shift in Colombia’s strategy against leftist rebels and drug-trafficking gangs in the aftermath of a recent spike in violence, particularly in remote areas of the country.


UN: Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Addressed the UN Security Council Meeting on the Situation between Palestinians and Israelis

On 25 August 2022, during a United Nations Security Council meeting, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, stated that managing the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis requires a real political process, adding that “the status quo is not a strategy.” Consequently, he urged delegates to turn their attention to a broader strategy for ending the conflict and moving towards the two-State solution. He highlighted that such a strategy would require to strengthen the ability of the Palestinian authorities to engage with Israel on all levels, including on political, economic and security issues, as well as working towards the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to the Gaza Strip. Moreover, he called for the reduction of tensions and violence across the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Although the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad remains in effect and a “fragile calm” has been restored in Gaza, violence has increased across much of the occupied West Bank.


IOM: Continuous Rains and Unprecedented Flooding Uproots 340,000 People from their Homes in Chad

A new report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed that 340,000 people in Chad have been affected by an unprecedented flood, which was caused by torrential rains across the country. The figure has surpassed the numbers witnessed in 2021, where 250,000 people were affected by flooding across the country. The recent report by OCHA that was released on 21 August 2022 also described that close to 2700 hectares of crops, farming land and hundreds of homes have been destroyed by swollen rivers. The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) is doing everything to respond to the emergency situation and provide humanitarian and emergency assistance to people affected by the unprecedented flooding in Chad. There remains a funding shortage in providing humanitarian aid to people affected by the flood. Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission, stated that the rainy season will last till October, but the humanitarian situation in the region is already critical. An even higher number of people is expected to be displaced because of the continuous rains. As of August 2022 only 33 per cent of the required funding for Chad has been received. In a joint flash appeal made by the Government of Chad and the humanitarian community, both actors called for an additional funding of $ 5.2 million to provide shelter, essential services and protection to people affected by the floods.


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