Weekly News Recap (10-16 October 2022)

© Photo by Michael Swan via Flickr




France: First Trial on Liberia’s Civil War Commences

On 10 October 2022, in the fifth universal jurisdiction trial to be held in France, a former Liberian rebel, Kunti Kamara went on trial in Paris on charges of crimes against humanity, torture, and acts of barbarism during the civil war of Liberia in the 1990s. The allegations against Kamara date back to 1993-1994. He was one of the leaders of the Ulimo armed group and the conflict led to the death of 250 000 people between the years 1989 and 2003. The inhuman acts of torture included rape and mutilation, mass murder and chopping off people’s limbs. After a complaint was filed by a Swiss-based group Civitas Maxima, Kamara was arrested in 2018 in Paris. In 2006, a truth and reconciliation commission was set up to investigate the crimes and in 2009, a report was published but it had largely remained unimplemented to maintain peace. Kamara has denied all the charges but has acknowledged being a battlefield commander during the investigations.



ECtHR: Armenian Military Authorities Found Guilty of the Death of a Young Conscript Soldier

On 11 October 2022, in the case of Ashot Malkhasyan v. Armenia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the Armenian military authorities had failed to comply with their obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights which included the substantive and the procedural aspect of the right to life (i.e., obligation to conduct an effective investigation) to protect the applicant’s son’s life. In this case, military authorities had drafted the applicant’s 22-years-old son into the army despite multiple health issues. The applicant’s son died within ten days of being drafted into the army. The military authorities and the medical professionals recklessly disregarded his medical history and actively participated in the final decision that he was fit for military service.  The Court found that the authorities had put the applicant’s son’s life in danger and had failed to conduct a proper investigation into the matter. The Court held that Armenia was to pay the applicant 35,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 in respect of costs and expenses.


Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi Sentenced to Additional Years in Prison

On 12 October 2022, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three more years in prison. Her combined jail term will be 26 years now. She was found guilty of two counts of corruption and was sentenced to a three-year jail term for each count. The sentences for each count would run concurrently. She has denied all the charges. Currently, Aung San Suu Kyi is held in solitary confinement and is awaiting five more trials of corruption charges. All her trials are conducted behind closed courts, and no one is allowed to share the details of what goes on in the trials. It appears that the main aim of the Myanmar military authorities is to completely remove Aung San Suu Kyi from the political realm so that there is no scope of challenging the military’s rule in Myanmar. Millions of people have been displaced since the February 2021 coup.


For previous developments see: https://peacehumanity.org/2022/10/02/weekly-news-recap/

Finland: UN Child Rights Committee Ruling Held Finland Responsible for Child Rights Violations

On 12 October 2022, in the case of six Finnish children that were held captive in Syrian Camps under terrible conditions, the United Nation Child Rights Committee ruled that Finland has failed to repatriate them and thus is responsible for the violation of their right to life and right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatments. The children were born in the Syrian Arab Republic, with parents who had allegedly collaborated with the ISIL terrorist group. They were held in Al-Hol camp in the northeast Syrian Arab Republic. Their relatives filed a case before the committee in 2019, and since then three of the children left the camp on their own with their mother’s assistance, arriving in Finland. The other three children between the age of five and six years old are still held captive in those closed camps. The committee found that Finland has the power and responsibility to protect the children and repatriate the remaining three. The Committee has ordered Finland to take urgent action and to take other measures to save the lives of children while they remain in northeast Syria.



USA: Florida Jury Suggested Life Imprisonment for the Parkland Shooter

On 13 October 2022, in a 2018 Florida school shooting case that led to the death of 17 people, the jury recommended that the gunman should not be sentenced to death and instead be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The accused Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty to the deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The jury heard arguments recommending the death penalty for three months. The Jury observed that in each of the 17 murders, mitigating circumstances outweighed aggravating factors, and thus the accused could not be sentenced to death. The February 2018 shooting became a devastating reminder of the issue of gun violence in the United States and sparked debates on finding a solution to the ever-growing issue of gun violence.



Iran: Chief Justice Ordered Judges to Issue Harsh Sentences Against the “Main Elements of Riots”

On 13 October 2022, as the protests in Iran over the custodial death of Mahsa Amini continued, the judiciary chief ordered judges to give harsh sentences to the “main elements of riots.” The Chief Justice further said that the judges should avoid showing sympathy and eliminate the less guilty people from such tough sentences. Earlier, he ordered courts to fast-track the cases of those arrested in relation to the riots. The protest began in mid-September when a 22-years -old woman died in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” for a breach of the country’s strict dress code for women. Amini’s family denied the reports provided by the medical examiners who did not clearly mention the cause of her death and further denied the authorities’ account that she was not beaten. Her death triggered the biggest protest in Iran since 2019. Many people have been indicted in relation to the riots.


Nigeria: Court Drops Charges Against Separatist Leader Nnamdi Kanu

On 14 October 2022, all three judges of Nigeria’s Court of Appeals hearing the terrorism case of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu unanimously dropped the charges brought against him by the government. The lead judge held that Kanu was extraordinarily extradited to Nigeria and that the lower court had no jurisdiction to try the case. The court held that the appeal was admissible since the due process of law was not followed in extraditing Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria. Thus, the court discharged the appellant. Kanu is a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Nigerian authorities have classified IPOB as a terrorist organisation. Kanu denied all the charges with regard to the social media posts he issued between 2018 and last year.


ICC: Court Terminates Paul Gicheru’s Case

On 14 October 2022, the Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), upon confirmation of Paul Gicheru’s death, terminated the proceedings against him. As per the ICC legal framework, the Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction over a deceased person. The ICC registry confirmed Gicheru’s death through an official communication from the Republic of Kenya. Gicheru was accused of offences against the administration of justice. In particular, he allegedly influenced witnesses in various cases regarding the situation in Kenya. The trial began in February 2022 where he pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Several witnesses appeared on behalf of the prosecution while the defence decided to not call any witnesses. The closing statements of the case were heard on 27 June 2022. The Court was yet to deliver a verdict on the case, but Paul Gicheru’s death has terminated the proceedings altogether.


DRC: Military Colonels Sentenced to Death Penalty for Murdering Chinese Mine Workers

On 15 October 2022, a court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) sentenced six men, including two army colonels the death penalty while four other military personnel were sentenced to 10 years in jail for the murder of two Chinese mine workers. The two army colonels were accused of planning an attack on a convoy last March to steal four gold bars and $6 000 in cash which was being transported by the victims. Attacks on Chinese mine workers are a common affair in the resource-rich eastern DRC. The verdict is expected to set an example for the armed forces, although the defence team plans to appeal the decision.



Ukraine: Russia Launches Biggest Airstrikes Since the Start of the War

On 10 October 2022, Russia launched its most widespread air attacks since the start of the war in which 11 major infrastructure targets were hit, knocking out power, water and heat in many parts of the country. Ukrainian officials reported that at least 11 people were killed and many injured and that they had to suspend electricity exports to Europe whilst it tried to end country-wide blackouts. Russian President Vladamir Putin (“Putin”) said that the strikes were a response to an attack on the bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimea peninsula that happened on 8 October. Putin declared that “to leave such acts without a response is simply impossible” and threatened future strikes if Ukraine hit Russian territory. Russia has faced several setbacks since September with Ukrainian forces recapturing territory and triggering Putin to mobilise thousands of reservist troops and repeatedly threatening to use nuclear weapons.


Bangladesh: Political Clashes in Bangladesh as National Elections Get Closer

On 10 October 2022, as Bangladesh begins to prepare for national elections in 2023 opposition groups are reporting an escalation of repression by Bangladesh authorities and attacks by supporters of the ruling party, the Awami League. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asserts that Bangladesh is a democratic country that conducts peaceful elections; however, mass arrests and police raids of opposition party members’ homes raises concern about the level of violence and intimidation surrounding the upcoming elections. Authorities have failed to prosecute members of the ruling Awami League who have targeted opposition meetings and their participants. Since August 2022 at least four people have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes between the police, supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League.


Palestine: Worst Year for Violence with Palestine-Israel Clashes since 2015

On 10 October 2022, Al Jazeera reported that 2022 has been the worst year for violence in the occupied territories since 2015 with about 160 Palestinians being killed since January 2022 with nearly a sixth of those being children. According to Al Jazeera, Israeli forces have been conducting near-daily raids in the West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus where resistance is reportedly becoming more organised. The latest Palestinian death was reported on 10 October, as 12-year-old Mahmoud Khalil Samoudi who was shot in the stomach on 28 September, died two weeks later. On 8 October two Palestinian teenagers were killed and on the same day, an Israeli female soldier was killed at a checkpoint outside the Shufat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The United Nations has expressed alarm at the rising numbers and urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restore calm.


Venezuela: Rescue Workers Conduct Search to Find Missing Residents After Landslide Kills 36

On 11 October 2022, 3 000 officials and rescue workers conducted a search to identify 60 missing residents of a central Venezuelan town, Las Tejerias after it was hit by a landslide that killed at least 36. On 9 October, unusually heavy rains in Venezuela caused a major river and additional streams to overflow causing a flow of mud that washed away cars, destroyed 317 homes and damaged 757 homes in the region. President Nicolas Maduro (“Maduro”) visited the affected neighbourhoods asserting that everyone affected would be given new homes. Maduro also told journalists that he would welcome international assistance when his administration has previously only accepted food and medical supplies from Russia and China. Local authorities have erected refugee centres and announced the distribution of 300 tonnes of food.


Save the Children: Girls in Conflict Facing a Higher Risk of Child Marriage

On 11 October 2022, Save the Children reported that girls living in conflict zones face a 20 per cent higher risk of child marriage. The research revealed that almost 1 in 5 girls globally are living in a conflict zone which has a detrimental impact on their health and future opportunities. The organisation reported that West and Central Africa, an area affected by conflicts and climate emergencies, have the highest rates of child marriages in the world. Approximately 25 million child marriages were prevented between 2008 and 2018 which is far behind the target of ending child marriages by 2030. The pandemic, climate crisis, food shortages and ongoing conflicts are all threatening progress, and Save the Children is calling on governments to increase funding and scale up their initiatives and action plans to end child marriage.


UNHCR & IOM: Millions of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants in Latin America & the Caribbean Struggle to Access Basic Amenities

On 12 October 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and International Organisation on Migration (IOM) released the Refugee and Migrant Needs Analysis (RMNA) which highlighted that some 4.3 million Venezuelans were facing problems in having access to basic essentials like housing, food, etc. The UN report also highlighted that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased cost of living, Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean have been unable to integrate into society. According to the latest data more than 7.1 million Venezuelan refugees are scattered across the globe and the majority of them living in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report also revealed that there were increased humanitarian needs as half of the Venezuelan refugees were unable to afford three meals a day, with 86 per cent of those living in Ecuador do not have enough income to afford basic needs, while 13 per cent are living in some parts of Chile, where they are living below the poverty line. According to the analysis nearly 30 per cent of children aged between six and 17 years have been unable to go to school in Colombia, as their families are unable to afford the school fees. Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela highlighted that there was an urgent need for international support and regularisation was the only way towards integrating refugees and migrants to make them more self-reliant.



UNGA: Assembly Passes Resolution Demanding Reversal of “Attempted Illegal Annexation” by Russia of Four Ukrainian Regions

On 12 October 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution which called upon all countries to not recognise the annexation of four regions of Ukraine by Russia. The resolution noted that the occupation of the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia by Russia has been a result of aggression, which has violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence. The resolution passed with a majority in its favour, with 143 countries in support, five against it and 35 abstentions. Countries that voted against the resolution were Russia, Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and Syria with the majority of abstentions being African Nations, along with India and China. The resolution has now been passed by the UNGA, which calls upon all States to not recognise Russian annexation claims and has further demanded the reversal of the declaration of annexation.


Latvia: New Report Reveals Arbitrary Detention, Unlawful Treatment of Refugees and Migrants Stranded at the Latvian Border

On 12 October 2022, a new report titled “Latvia: Return home or never leave the woods” released by Amnesty International revealed that there have been grave human rights violations against refugees and migrants at the country’s border with Belarus. The report also revealed that migrants and refugees have been meted out brutal treatment with children having been arbitrarily detained in undisclosed locations in Latvian forests and have been unlawfully returned to Belarus. Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office stated that refugees and migrants have been given an ultimatum of either returning “voluntarily” to their countries or remaining stranded at the border facing unlawful detention and torture. She also highlighted that unlawful detention at the border may also amount to enforced disappearance. Refugees and migrants have been forced to spend prolonged periods either stranded at the border or in tents which had been set up in isolated areas in the forest by Latvian authorities. Even though the authorities have denied the use of tents for anything other than assisting the refugees and migrants, Amnesty International’s report highlights that the tents were used for arbitrarily holding refugees and migrants and were also heavily guarded.


Yemen: Uncertainty Looms Over the Region with a “Heightened Risk of War” as the Truce Comes to an End

On 13 October 2022, Hans Grundberg, UN Special Envoy while briefing the Security Council highlighted that the truce between Government forces and the Houthi rebels, which brought six and half months of relative peace, ended 11 days ago and brings new uncertainty with “a heightened risk of war” across Yemen. He highlighted that the parties must either choose to preserve and build on the peace or return to conflict. He further reminded that the truce was not supposed to be “an end in itself but as a ‘building block'” for inculcating trust among parties and establishing a suitable environment for finding a political solution to the conflict. He also reminded that the benefits of the truce should not be underestimated, as there had been a 60 per cent reduction in civilian casualties in the past six months.


Turkey: Parliament Passes New “Disinformation Law” Increasing Governmental Control Over Social Media Platforms and Silencing Dissent

On 13 October 2022, the Turkish Parliament passed the so-called “disinformation law” which criminalises the sharing of information that is deemed to be false and also increases the government’s control over social media platforms. Güney Yildiz, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International stated that today was “a dark day” for online freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. He further highlighted that the new measures enable the government to further censor and silence dissent ahead of the upcoming election. He also stated that this law furthers the draconian crackdown of the government on online freedom of speech and expression. The law that has been introduced provides penalties for anyone publicly disseminating false information concerning internal and external security, public order, and public health of the country with an intention that is likely to disturb public peace. The penalty, which is vaguely defined, prescribes up to three years of imprisonment which would include people who merely retweet. Moreover, if anyone conceals their real identity while disseminating such information, the punishment would be increased by half.


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