Weekly News Recap (3-9 October 2022)

© Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid via Flickr




France: Trial of Kunti K for Crimes Against Humanity in Liberia

On 5 October 2022, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights issued a statement on the trial of Kunti K scheduled to begin on 10 October 2022, in France. Kunti K was a former armed group commander and is said to have played a role in the commission of crimes against humanity during Liberia’s first civil war. Elise Keppler, Associate International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch, underlines the importance of this trial “amid the failure of Liberian authorities to hold to account those responsible for serious crimes during the civil wars.” Mrs Keppler added that “these crimes can and should be prosecuted, and a long-recommended war crimes court should be established in-country without delay.” Kinti K’s trial is possible because French laws allow for universal jurisdiction. However, recently France’s highest court annulled a case of crimes against humanity on the basis of jurisdiction raising concerns that the country could become a safe haven for those responsible for serious crimes.


The Netherlands: Ethiopia Extradites Eritrean Citizen to the Netherlands to Face Trial for Migration Crimes

On 5 October 2022, Ethiopian authorities extradited to the Netherlands an Eritrean national who is a suspect in an international investigation for the smuggling of migrants from 2014 to 2020. The migrants, coming from Eritrea to the Netherlands were subjected to brutal violence in camps, which included beatings, starvation and sexual violence, in which several migrants died. Meanwhile, family members in the Netherlands were extorted and forced to pay large sums of money to allow the migrants to continue their journey, crossing the Mediterranean sea on overcrowded boats. This criminal investigation is conducted together with Italy, Europol, Interpol and the ICC, among others.


Ukraine: Members of the Azov Regiment Testify to Russian War Crimes

On 5 October 2022, upon their release from captivity, members of the Azov Regiment provided statements to government investigators for the future prosecution of Russian officials for alleged war crimes including torture. The Azov Regiment members were captured by Russian troops in Mariupol on 20 May and subsequently released on 21 September. The conditions for release were that neither return to Ukraine nor fight against Russia. The Azov Regiment members who returned to Ukraine gave statements on multiple war crimes committed by Russian soldiers and officials. This evidence was already handed over to the United Nations, the European Parliament and the United States. 


Argentina: Authorities Launch Probe into Alleged Crimes Against Humanity in Nicaragua

On 6 October 2022, Argentinian prosecutors launched an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed under Daniel Ortega’s administration in Nicaragua. This investigation is possible as the Argentine Constitution recognises universal jurisdiction. Previous universal jurisdictions cases include international crimes committed during Franco’s regime in Spain, and more recently the crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The investigation in Nicaragua focuses primarily on President Ortega and his wife, as well as those within the state or state-like structures that could be held responsible for the crime of persecution against political and religious dissidents. This repression has led thousands of Nicaraguans to flee the country.


ICC: Civil Society Organisations Briefed on Guidelines for Documenting International Crimes

On 7 October 2022, experts from civil society discussed the newly released guidelines for the documentation of international crimes issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Eurojust. One of the main topics discussed was the role of civil society as first responders when taking the accounts of victims and witnesses without over-documentation and re-traumatization. Video statements on the guidelines by Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran and Mr Karim A.A. Khan KC, ICC Prosecutor, were made for this occasion. The guidelines aim to help fight impunity and were built on the expertise of Eurojust, the Genocide Network, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC, civil society organisations (CSOs), prosecutors and international partners.


Sri Lanka and Venezuela: UN Human Rights Council Renews Mandate to Collect and Preserve Evidence of Alleged Crimes

On 7 October 2022, the UN Human Rights Council decided to renew its mandate to search for accountability for international crimes that may have occurred in Sri Lanka and Venezuela. In both instances, the UN body highlighted that there is evidence of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. The resolutions by the council were “categorically” rejected by the officials of the two countries. In the case of Sri Lanka, China voted against arguing the “politicization” of human rights issues while Pakistan called the resolution “intrusive.” Regarding Venezuela, the resolution presented by countries in the region with different ideological perspectives was approved by a vote of 19 to 5, with 23 abstentions. The resolution stresses issues with the independence of the judiciary, impunity and human rights violations.




Israel: Amnesty International Urges the EU to Hold Israel Accountable for Supporting their Apartheid System

On 3 October 2022, EU officials met with Prime Minister Yair Lapid in the context of the EU-Israel Association Council. This is the first time in ten years that the EU-Israel Association Council took place. The dialogue centred around energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine, leaving behind the Palestine-Israel conflict. Amnesty International sees this as a worrying sign of “watered-down” language on “key human rights concerns.” These key human rights concerns include the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Initially, the EU representatives called for an independent inquiry into the killing, but later watered down the statement to call for “a thorough investigation that clarifies all the circumstances that led to Shireen Abu Akleh’s death.”




Nicaragua: Shut Down of Civic Space in the Country Shows a Clear Pattern of Repression

On 3 October 2022, Clément Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, and Pedro Vaca Villareal, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression stated in a joint declaration that they had written several letters to the Government of Nicaragua highlighting how the cancellation of licences of various non-governmental organisations in their region was representative of “a clear pattern of repressing civic space.” They highlighted that since April 2018, a “censorship strategy” had been adopted by the Nicaraguan Government. They urged that the government should immediately halt all judicial persecutions of all dissenting voices while releasing all those who have been imprisoned for political reasons and ensure that a prompt and impartial investigation has been conducted into the human rights violation. The joint declaration also provided steps for the promotion and defence of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression. They highlighted that there remained 200 political prisoners in Nicaragua, many of whom were being held up in unhealthy conditions, without any access to health and medical care facilities, were being subjected to solitary confinement and were being prevented visits from their families. They reiterated that all persons who had been deprived of their liberty had the right to life and to be treated with dignity while calling upon the government to comply with the same.


Ethiopia: Protracted Conflict in Region Increases the Risk of Women & Children to Being Sexually Trafficked and Exploited

On 3 October 2022, UN-appointed human rights experts warned that the protracted conflict in the northern regions of Ethiopia had increased the risk of women and girls being trafficked for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict. The experts further stated that throughout Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls were highly vulnerable to being sexually trafficked and abducted as they flee the conflict. Furthermore, they raised various other concerns as to the Eritrean refugee women and children being vulnerable to sex trafficking. They urged that prompt and urgent action was required for preventing trafficking and also ensuring that assistance and protection were being provided to all victims irrespective of race, gender, age, nationality, disability or ethnicity. They also highlighted that adequate measures weren’t being taken for identifying the victims of trafficking or supporting their recovery in full. They underscored that the failure to hold perpetrators accountable for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes, along with the environment of impunity was furthering the continuance of trafficking. They called upon all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the victims had access to medical and healthcare facilities including sexual and reproductive healthcare facilities.


UNHCR: Violence Continues in the Region with 1 Million Displaced in Five Years in Mozambique

On 4 October 2022, Matthew Saltmarsh, Spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a statement that nearly 1 million have fled Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique since the violence erupted in the region. He further highlighted that the situation in Cabo Delgado had further declined with displacement having increased by 20 per cent (i.e., 946 508) in the first half of this year alone. He also highlighted that the conflict had spread over to the province of Nampula, where in September four attacks by armed groups have affected over 47 000 people with 12 000 displaced. He called upon the international community to provide support to the people in the region to reduce the suffering of internally displaced people. The UNHCR has been continuously responding to the humanitarian needs of the people in the regions of Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa.  The security situation in the region has been considered by the UNHCR as fragile and not fit for facilitating the return of people to the province. The agency has been closely working with the government to provide support and advocate for the inclusion of internally displaced people in national services. The UNHCR needs $ 36.7 million to deliver life-saving protection services and assistance in the region and only 60 per cent has been funded so far.


Pakistan: As the Country Remains Affected by the Floods, Funding Appeal Raised

On 4 October 2022, Julien Harneis, Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan stated that in the aftermath of the floods the Pakistan Government was in need of support to provide health, nutrition, water and sanitation services across the nation. The UN Floods Response Plan that was published highlighted that 33 million people had been affected by the flooding, with 1 700 killed and 20.6 million in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the Government figure, around 84 districts have been “calamity hit” with 7.9 million having been displaced and 600 000 living in relief camps. The funding request had been raised from $160 million to $816 million to avert a “second wave of death and destruction.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General also highlighted that 10 per cent of the healthcare facilities in the country has been damaged by the floods. He reiterated that the Pakistani Government needed overwhelming support from the international community.


UNICEF: Cholera Outbreak in Haiti Puts Lives of 1.2 Million Children at Risk

On 4 October 2022, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that with the recurrence of the cholera outbreak in conflict-stricken Haiti, the health and well-being of 1.2 million children living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital was at a risk. The agency also highlighted that seven deaths have been reported in the region with five positive cases confirmed, while 60 suspected cases were being investigated in the capital region. Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti highlighted that with an increase in violence and insecurity in the region, the poorest families have no access to clean drinking water and have resorted to drinking unsafe water. The cholera outbreak has occurred after three years amidst unrest and violence, which has also impacted the delivery of basic services including at hospitals. Due to a lack of fuel 17 of the 22 water structures are at risk of being closed down, with 50 000 children and newborns unable to get medical care in the upcoming weeks. Furthermore, three-quarters of all major hospitals across the nation have been unable to provide regular services due to the fuel crisis. The humanitarian response plan for the country remains seriously underfunded, with only 20.2 per cent funded so far. The response plan aims at providing two million people with access to clean water with one of the main aims being to protect children from waterborne diseases and prevent malnutrition in the region.


UN: Call for International Response to North Korea Missile Launch

On 5 October 2022, Assistant-Secretary-General Khaled Khiari (“Khiari”) called on the international community to increase efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons in response to North Korea’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile on 3 October. The missile was launched from the northern province of Jagang and marked the first time North Korea has flown a missile over Japan since September 2017. Khiari stated that the launch was a violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions, signifying an escalation of tensions in the region and called for North Korea to cease any further destabilising acts. The UN also repeated its concerns about the humanitarian situation in North Korea, stating that the UN is prepared to send staff and assistance to help the North Korean government address the medical and humanitarian needs in the country.


China: UN Human Rights Council Votes No to Discussion on Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang

On 6 October 2022, the UN Human Rights Council decided not to move forward with the proposal presented by Britain, Turkey, the United States and other, mostly Western countries to discuss the alleged human rights abuses committed against the Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region of Xinjiang in China. This was considered a close diplomatic victory for China as 17 countries voted in favour of moving on with the debate, while 19 voted against it and 11 abstained. The failed proposal tried to capitalize on the momentum built by the former UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet’s report released on 31 August which found possible crimes against humanity had occurred in Xinjiang. China’s diplomatic victory resulted from securing “no” votes among its allies and many African countries and Persian Gulf states, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.


Iran: US Introduce Sanctions Against Iranian Officials Over Suppression of Protests 

On 6 October 2022, the Biden administration announced new sanctions against top Iranian officials over the “violent suppression of protests” that have spread across Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody on 16 September. The penalties targeted Iran’s head of interior and communication ministers, Ahmad Vahidi and Eise Zarepour, respectively, the head of the Iranian cyber-police force, Vahid Mohammad Naser Majid, and four other security officials. The administration accused the individuals of committing violence against peaceful protesters and shutting down Iran’s internet access. The sanctions come amidst continuing protests in which dozens of people have been killed and arrested by the Iranian authorities. On 5 October another round of counter-demonstrations were organised by the government, and earlier in the week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed Israel and the US for orchestrating the protests which he referred to as “riots.” 


UN: Nearly Half of the World’s Terror Victims in 2021 were African  

On 6 October 2022, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (“UNODC”) chief Ghada Waly (“Waly”) stated that nearly half of the world’s terror victims in 2021 were African and warned that organised crime is depriving millions in the region of a decent livelihood. Waly announced that the Sahel region has become home to some of the world’s most active and deadly terrorist groups, and in 2021 almost 500 million Africans, of a population of 1.3 billion, were living in extreme poverty. Criminal gangs continue to exploit African resources which provide huge profits for traffickers, for example, the illegal ivory trade generates USD 400 million each year. Illicit trading and trafficking also rob people who depend on natural resources for their livelihood, as well as exacerbate conflict and instability. Waly announced that the UNODC remains dedicated to bringing down criminal gangs and the networks that fund them.


Thailand: 34 Killed in Mass Shooting at Children’s Daycare in Thailand 

On 6 October 2022, a former policeman killed 34 people, including 23 children in a gun and knife rampage at a daycare in northeast Thailand. The attacker began by shooting officials at the daycare before forcing his way into a locked room where children were sleeping, and later shooting his wife, child and himself. The event is one of the world’s worst child death tolls by a single killer in recent history, with the age range of the children varying between two to five years. Police identified the attacker as a former member of the force who was dismissed in 2021 over drug allegations and was currently facing trial on a drug charge. Thailand’s government announced that it would provide financial aid to the families to cover medical treatment and funeral expenses.


Yemen: End of Yemeni Ceasefire Brings Concerns of the Return to Violence and Instability

On 7 October 2022, Al Jazeera reported that efforts by the UN to renew the six-month Yemeni peace deal that began in April 2022 remains unsuccessful, endangering the longest break in fighting since the civil war began eight years ago. The two sides of the Iranian-aligned Houthis and Saudi-Arabia led military coalition that supports the internationally recognised government, blame each other for allowing the deal to expire. Al Jazeera reported that many Yemeni citizens fear the return of instability and violence, as according to Save the Children, during the ceasefire the number of civilian deaths declined by 60 per cent and displacement nearly halved. The import of fuel and goods also increased, positively affecting the livelihoods of Yemenis and the stability of essential goods. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree announced that the group was ready for another round of fighting and for their part the discussions had reached a “dead end.” The Yemeni government stated that it is adamant that fighting is the only way to defeat the Houthis. The UN and US have continued efforts to renew the deal, and as of 7 October, some of the main gains of the truce, such as the increase in fuel shipments and flights to Sanaa International Airport have remained. However, Yemeni civilians remain worried about a return to heavy fighting and humanitarian groups have warned that failure to renew the ceasefire will affect aid to 23 million out of a total population of 30 million.


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