Weekly News Recap (12-18 September 2022)

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ICC: Appeals Chamber Ordered Trial Chamber to Issue a New Reparation Order in the Ntaganda Case

On 12 September 2022, in the case of Mr Bosco Ntaganda, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber ordered the Trial Chamber to issue a new reparations order. The Appeals Chamber found several inadequacies and errors in the Trial Chamber’s March 2021 reparation order against Mr Ntaganda. It found that the Chamber did not appropriately determine the number of actual victims, failed to provide an appropriate calculation and did not provide sufficient reasoning for the amount of the monetary award against Mr Ntaganda (30 million USD). Further, the Court found the Trial Chamber did not consider the victims’ application for reparations and failed to provide reasons in relation to the concept of transgenerational harm and the evidentiary guidance to establish such harm. Between 2002-2003, Ntaganda committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and was found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2019. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 



Argentina: Former Police Officer on Trial for Alleged Torture and Disappearance of Left-wing Activist

On 14 September 2022, Mario Sandoval, a former Argentine police officer went on trial for the alleged torture and disappearance of an architecture student and left-wing activist Hernan Abriata in 1976. He is accused of the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of hundreds of people during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. Two years after the military junta fell, Sandoval fled to France in 1985 and started working as a defence and security consultant. He obtained French nationality in 1997 and was arrested at his home in the Paris suburbs. After he failed to prevent his extradition before France’s Council of State, he was extradited to Argentina. Carlos Loza, a survivor who shared a cell with Abriata will testify in the trial. Such cases and investigations are ongoing against several other dictatorship figures.


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Former Bosnian Soldier Convicted for Committing War Crime

On 14 September 2022, former Bosnian Army soldier Ibrahim Ceco was found guilty of abusing and torturing Serb civilians in Dobrinja, a neighbourhood of Sarajevo, in 1992. He was sentenced to one and a half years of imprisonment for committing war crimes against civilians. The court gave the verdict based on the testimony provided by victim Slobodan Vucicevic. The court further took into account Ceco’s age and medical conditions and the fact that he did not have any prior convictions. In 2012, Ceco was previously sentenced to two years of imprisonment for the crime but the Supreme Court quashed the verdict and referred it back for retrial. The current verdict is appealable for the next 15 days.


Burkina Faso: Two Canadian Mining Executives Found Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

On 14 September 2022, two executives of a Canadian mining firm Trevali were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after deadly flooding. The disaster happened in April at the Perkoa zinc mine and led to the death of eight miners. The family of the victims filed a complaint against the company for involuntary homicide for causing ‘dander to life and failure to help people in danger.’ The government launched an extensive investigation to find traces of the missing men, who might have reached the rescue chambers but none of the miners survived. The last body was found in June. The executives were prohibited from leaving the country during the period of investigation. Both Trevali and the government worked toward investigating the matter. One of the executives was given a two-year suspended sentence while the other executive was given a one-year suspended sentence.


UK: Suspected War Criminal Milenko Maric Ordered to be Extradited to Croatia

On 14 September 2022, Central London magistrates ordered suspected war criminal Milenko Maric’s extradition to Croatia. Maric lost an eight-year-long battle to stay in Britain. He is wanted in Croatia for his alleged role during the Balkans war and had been living silently on a UK council estate. If convicted Maric may face 20 years of imprisonment. According to the prosecutors, as a Croatian Serb police officer, he assaulted non-Serb civilians in a prison in August and September 1991. Maric was one among the 50 suspected war criminals listed in 2001 in Croatia. The Prosecutor’s office issued an arrest warrant against him for crimes against humanity but by then he had already taken asylum in the UK. In a trial conducted in Croatia, Maric was found innocent in absentia but the Supreme Court overturned the verdict and issued a new international arrest warrant. The date of extradition has not been decided.



France: Yemenia Airways Found Guilty for the 2009 Plane Crash Incident that Killed 152 People

On 15 September 2022, in the case of the 2009 Indian Ocean plane crash incident, the French court found Yemenia Airways guilty of involuntary homicide that killed 152 people. In June, it was charged by the court with “manslaughter and unintentional injuries.” Yemenia was ordered by the court to pay a 225,000 euros ($224,500) fine. It was further ordered to pay one million euros ($998,000) in damages and legal costs to the lone survivor and the families of 65 French citizens who were killed. The company has denied responsibility and did not appear for the hearing, citing Yemen’s civil war. According to Yemenia’s lawyers, the matter will be appealed.


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Former Bosnian Soldier Sentenced to Jail for Shooting Prisoners of War

On 16 September 2022, a former Bosnian Army military policeman Zijad Padalovic was convicted of crimes against prisoners of war (POWs) in Buturovic Polje and sentenced to seven and a half years of imprisonment. He was found guilty of killing and wounding prisoners. The indictment further specified that he fired several shots into the room where POWs and members of the Croatian Defence Council were held.  The incident led to the death of one of the prisoners while two other prisoners were hit and severely injured. The court observed that the punishment of seven and a half years was enough to express social condemnation of the crime committed and to provide a lesson for perpetrators or anyone else, not to commit such criminal offences. The Cantonal Prosecution filed an appeal against the verdict citing the lenient nature of the punishment.


Guinea: Justice Minister Announced Trial Date for the 2009 Sports Stadium Massacre

On 17 September 2022, the Justice Minister of Guinea announced that the alleged perpetrators of the 2009 sports stadium massacre will be put on trial on the 13th anniversary of the massacre. The stadium massacre took place on 28 September 2009. According to the United Nations international commission of inquiry, at least 157 people were killed and more than 100 women were raped in the incident. The incident involves more than a dozen suspects including the country’s former military coup leader, Moussa Dadis Camara. Camara fled into exile in Burkina Faso after surviving an assassination attempt several months after the massacre. A delegation was sent to Guinea by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in early September to assess the trial preparations.



Myanmar: Surge in Crimes Against Humanity Witnessed Since the Military Coup in February 2021

On 12 September 2022, the Human Rights Council was briefed by the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), on the situation of human rights in the country. Nicholas Koumjian highlighted that they had gathered evidence concerning sexual and gender-based violence that was being committed against children and women in the region. They had also gathered reports as to torture and arbitrary detention of children being committed in the country. The latest report by the mechanism highlighted that massive crimes against humanity were being committed by the military junta since its takeover in February 2021. Furthermore, the execution of four pro-democracy activists in July was also highlighted in the report, with Mr Koumjian focusing on the non-fulfilment of basic requirements of a fair trial in the imposition of a death sentence, which could amount to crimes against humanity. He also underscored that there existed “strong indications” that the executions were done without any due process and that such proceedings had no transparency. He also expressed his gratitude and called upon the international community to be committed to ending violence in Myanmar. He further added that the perpetrators of international crimes in Myanmar should be aware that the international community is united in its effort to “break the cycle of impunity and ensure that those responsible for such crimes would face justice.”


IOM: 50 Million People in Modern Slavery, with Children and Women the Most Vulnerable

On 12 September 2022, the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) published the latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery which highlighted that 50 million people across the globe were living in modern slavery, with 28 million in forced labour and 22 million in forced marriages. Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General expressing his shock stated that the situation of modern slavery did not seem to be improving and there existed no justification for the continuous abuse of human rights. The global estimates were compared to 2016 and in 2021, there was a jump of more than 10 million people in modern slavery, with women and children the most vulnerable. The report further highlighted that 86 per cent of cases of forced labour were in the private sector with commercial sexual exploitation representing 23 per cent. State-imposed forced labour accounted for 14 per cent of forced labour, of which 3.3 million are children. The report also estimated that based on regional population, Asia and the Pacific had 65 per cent of forced marriages. Furthermore, the report also states that migrant workers were three times more likely to be forced into labour. IOM Director-General António Vitorino highlighted that there was a need “for reversing the trends” and it was crucial to ensure that all migration was “safe, orderly and regular.” The report also lays down measures that should be taken towards ending modern slavery, which are improving and enforcing laws, labour inspection, ending State-imposed forced labour, extending social protection and various other measures.


Mexico: UN Expert Urges Government to Make Comprehensive Legislation for the Protection of Human Rights of Internally Displaced People

On 12 September 2022, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) called upon the Mexican government for legislating human guarantees for IDPs and also provides adequate funding for their protection.  She also stated that various governmental institutions should be able to prevent displacement and protect victims while urging the government to create a federal registry of IDPs and provide comprehensive financial assistance to them. In the wake of her visit to the state of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Mexico City and Guerrero, she also stated that the registration of IDPs in the federal registry should be able to provide them with not just legal status but also provide such protection and humanitarian assistance that meets their both collective and individual needs. She also encouraged that IDPs  participate in the decisions that affect them.


Sudan: Exponential Humanitarian Needs Amid Worsening Socio-Economic Situation in the Region

On 13 September 2022, Volker Perthes, United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) chief and UN Special Representative, while briefing the Security Council highlighted that amid the worsening socio-economic condition, the situation would be compounded if no political solution was found to “restore a credible, fully functioning civilian-led government.” He further stated that after the military takeover in October 2021, “a fully functioning legitimate government” in the region was still lacking and what was needed urgently was a government which could “re-establish the authority of the State across the country.” He also highlighted that the humanitarian needs of Sudanese were at a record high because of socio-economic conditions, political instability, rising inter-communal violence, along with flooding. He stated that the UN and partner organisations had been able to reach 7.1 million people since January, but there remained 12 million people who were facing acute hunger in the region with the number still on the rise.


UNICEF: UN Agencies Make Urgent Funding Appeal to Prevent Deaths of Children at Risk of Severe Acute Malnutrition

On 13 September 2022, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) World Food Programme (WFP)  and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) made an urgent appeal for funding to assist vulnerable communities in Somalia who were hit badly by droughts, high prices and conflict. The UN agencies also warned that more than 513 000 children are facing unprecedented levels of hunger and were at risk of dying. FAO estimated that between October and December this year 6.7 million across the region were bound to face high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above). The agency also stated that it was inclusive of “more than 300 000 who have been left ’empty-handed’ by the country’s triple emergency and who are expected to fall into a famine.” UNICEF’s Mr Elder highlighted that deaths of children were already being witnessed in the region, and with more funding, more severe and acutely malnourished children could be provided lifesaving food. He also highlighted that children who were severely malnourished were 11 times more likely to die from diseases like diarrhoea and measles than healthy children. The UNICEF reported in June that 386 000 children between the ages of six to 59 months required treatment for severe acute malnutrition; the number of which has increased by 33 per cent to 513 000, meaning that 127 000 more children were at the risk of dying from malnutrition.


Iraq: Approximatively One Million IDPs and Returnees Lack Civil Documentation

On 14 September 2022, a joint report released by seven aid groups on International Identity Day found that up to one million Iraqis still lack essential identity documents. The ‘Life in the Margins’ report highlighted the bureaucratic and administrative obstacles Iraqi people face when trying to acquire critical documents such as those that prove residence, marriages, births, and deaths or the new Iraqi unified ID card, required for accessing monthly food rations. One-third of households surveyed had members who were missing legal identity documents. Access to government offices is especially troublesome for families allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) or led by women. The main challenge stems from the lack of accessibility of civil affairs directorates (CADs) and courts, as only 44 per cent of existing offices in the assessed regions were reported as fully open. In reality, the offices are open for less than five hours per day and working at less than 50 per cent capacity. The lack of civil documentation restricts households’ ability to freely move and return to their areas of origin, as well as, receive critical humanitarian assistance. The effects are also felt by students, as more than three-quarters of unenrolled youngsters surveyed stated that they do not attend school primarily because they do not have the required documents for enrolling in educational institutions. 


Hungary: Worsening Human Rights Situation

On 14 September 2022, Amnesty International published a press release, urging the European Union Member States to continue using all political, legal and financial means available to stop the human rights decline in Hungary. The statement came in the light of a report which highlighted the decline of human rights in Hungary since the EU Parliament triggered Article 7 procedures against the country ‘for serious breaches of EU values’ four years ago.  The European Parliament’s report may be used as a mechanism for the Council to take effective actions, such as adopting specific, mandatory recommendations for the Hungarian authorities to implement, or, in grave situations, move towards sanctions, such as the removal of voting rights.  The Director of Amnesty International’s EU office,  Eve Geddie, declared that the Parliament’s action backs the organization’s longstanding concerns about the human rights crisis in Hungary, which has been developing for four years. Article 7 procedures were meant to be used, as a way of holding governments of the Member States accountable for actions that threaten the European Union’s founding principles. Unfortunately, Hungary’s human rights record has only continued to deteriorate. Authorities have attacked the independence of the judiciary, refused to ratify a treaty protecting women from violence, passed homophobic and transphobic laws, cracked down on refugees and asylum seekers, and suppressed freedom of expression and association. 


Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan Announce Cease-fire Agreement 

On 15 September 2022, Armenian officials announced a new ceasefire with neighbouring Azerbaijan, in the aftermath of the renewed conflict in the Karabakh region. The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, declared in a public statement that the participation of the international community has enabled the settlement of the ceasefire, which entered into effect at 8 P.M. local time. Previous peace talks, brokered by Russia, had been unproductive. During the two-day escalations, Azerbaijan claimed that 71 soldiers have been killed, while Armenia declared the loss of 105 troops of their own. The events triggered anti-government protesters in Yerevan, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the Armenian prime minister amid rumours that he was planning on agreeing to further concessions with Azerbaijan. The recent outbreak of fighting is reportedly the most severe since the two neighbouring states went to war in 2020 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh. The region, de facto controlled by Armenia, is located within Azerbaijan and its inhabitants are largely Armenian. Reportedly, the 2020 conflict was brought to an end by the involvement of Russian peacekeeping forces, however, approximately 6 500 troops from both sides were killed, while Armenia was forced to give up control of the contested region.


Afghanistan: New Investigation Uncovered Targeted Attacks on the Hazara Ethnic Minority by Taliban Fighters 

On 15 September 2022, Amnesty International published its findings of a new investigation regarding the torture and execution of Hazaras by the Taliban. The recent murder of six Hazara people indicates a deliberate attack on the ethnic minority group in Afghanistan’s Ghor province. According to Amnesty, such ongoing killings indicate a pattern of attacks on ethnic minorities and members of the former security forces. The attack is part of a wider pattern of unlawful targeted killings of people whom the Taliban perceives as adversaries, in this case, the victims being both members of the Hazara community and associated with the former Afghan government. Amnesty International conducted eight remote interviews, analyzed 38 photos and three videos that were taken in the aftermath of the attack, consulted a forensic pathologist to review the images of the bodies, and reviewed satellite imagery of the area to confirm the location of one of the killings. Amnesty International documented similar extrajudicial executions of Hazara people in Ghazni province in July 2021 and Daykundi province in August 2021. Despite publicly promising not to target former government officials, the Taliban have still not investigated or prosecuted anyone for the killings.


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