Weekly News Recap (17-23 October 2022)

© Photo by Joachim Tüns via Flickr




Guinea: Trial of the Conakry Stadium Massacre Commences with the Defence

On 17 October 2022, the first defendant, in the 28 September 2009 massacre of 156 people, was given the floor in the trial of Moussa Tiégboro Camara and Marcel Guilavogui. The two defendants were, the Secretary of State and the bodyguard (respectively) of the junta leader at the time the massacre occurred. The trial commenced on 28 September in a new building built specifically for the Conakry stadium massacre trial. The two defendants, along with nine others are accused of having participated in the massacre. Mr Camara is charged with murder, assassination, rape, torture, kidnapping and sequestration. He has pleaded not guilty, and has denied that he participated in the events, explaining “that he did not go inside the stadium […].” In the Guinean judicial system, the accused take the floor first, followed by the witnesses and victims. The trial which is taking longer than initially expected is suspected to last for several months.


For previous developments see: peacehumanity.org/2022/10/02/weekly-news-recap/#2

Ukraine: UN Independent Commission of Inquiry Found War Crimes were Committed in Ukraine

On 18 October 2022, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine found reasonable grounds to believe that a series of war crimes, human rights violations and international humanitarian law (IHL) infractions took place in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy from February to March 2022. These violations are of such gravity that accountability is needed, the Commission states, as it emphasises that the loss of lives is in the thousands and the destruction of infrastructure is devastating. The Commission found instances where explosive weapons were used indiscriminately in populated areas thus violating the distinction principle under IHL. In addition to that, the Commission also documented instances in which Russian forces directed attacks towards civilians trying to flee. While Russian forces are responsible for the majority of the crimes, the Commission found that Ukrainian forces have also committed war crimes.


France: Cement Firm Found Guilty of Supporting ISIS

On 18 October 2022, a French cement maker, Lafarge, pleaded guilty before US courts to providing support to the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations. As a penalty, the firm agreed to pay $777.8 million for having provided payments to IS in order to allow the firm to function in Syria after the war broke out in 2011. This case marks the first time that a company has pleaded guilty to having aided a terrorist organization. Lafarge’s representatives lamented the incident saying that they “deeply regret” the events and “accept responsibility for the individual executives involved.” The US prosecutor said that the cement manufacturer paid IS and another group, al Nusra Front, the equivalent of $5.92 million to protect the staff and the plant in the country. The executives considered these payments as “taxes.” As a result of this deal, the company gained in sales $70.3 million.


Ukraine: Trial of a Ukrainian Man for Revealing Army Positions

On 20 October 2022, Roman Shmarev was convicted for having shared with his daughter maps showing the location of the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk, a city in the eastern Donetsk region. While there were no victims, nor was there any damage, under martial law and the Criminal Procedure Code, this conduct constitutes unauthorised dissemination of information about armed movements and military supplies. For this crime, the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the accused reached a plea agreement according to which Shmarev must serve five years with a probationary period of three years. Before entering the plea agreement, the accused stated that the maps were found on google and were therefore publicly available. He later added that “Now, as it has been explained to me, yes, I am guilty.” At the end of the hearing, Judge Olena Lukyanova approved the plea agreement and found the defendant guilty.


ECtHR: No Violation of European Convention on Human Rights Regarding Sweden’s Suspension of Family Reunification

On 20 October 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of M.T. and Others v. Sweden, found no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) nor Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination). The Court held in a 6 to 1 decision that Sweden ‘correctly balanced the needs of society and the applicants when denying them family reunification temporarily.’ The Court held that the treatment of the applicants was ‘objectively justified’ when taking into consideration the large number of refugees who had already been taken in. The applicants, who were Syrian nations, applied for family reunification but were denied on the grounds ‘that family ties to a minor with a temporary resident permit were no longer grounds for granting a residence permit for family reunification.’ The Court when reviewing the decision, held that the applicants had no ‘ties to the country other than A.A.K’s (one of the applicants) having been granted temporary protection there.’ The Court was satisfied that the decision was a fair balance between the ‘interest in being reunited and that of the community as a whole in protecting the economic well-being of the country by regulating immigration.’


ICC: Prosecutor Welcomes Recent Arrest in Ethiopia of Person in Relation to Crimes of Human Trafficking in Libya

On 21 October 2022, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A.A. Khan KC made a statement welcoming the arrest and extradition of suspects in a human trafficking case in Libya. The Prosecutor noted that the arrest of the two suspects is important in the efforts of Italian and Dutch authorities to hold perpetrators to account for crimes targeting migrants. These captures were assisted by the Office of the Prosecutor, through the sharing of knowledge, information, evidence, and joint witness interviews. This is important for the mandate of the ICC because, as the Prosecutor stated before the United Nations Security Council, crimes committed against migrants may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute. The Prosecutor also affirmed that these two cases are an example that international cooperation works and that complementarity should be positive.


Germany: Defendant in ‘Junglers’ Case Takes the Stand

As reported on 21 October 2022, Baboucar ‘Bai’ Lowe gave his first statement in six months of trial in Germany, regarding his alleged membership in the notorious killing squad referred to as the ‘Junglers.’ The Junglers are accused of crimes against humanity in The Gambia, working for ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh. Mr Lowe, an ex-militiaman in his country, broke his silence by having his lawyer read a statement contrary to the narrative given by the Prosecution. Mr Lowe claims that although such a squad existed, he was not part of it. He maintained that he did not participate in the crimes committed by the Junglers and that he posed as a member only to make all his knowledge public.


Colombia: The Special Jurisdiction for Peace Imposes its First Sentence

On 21 October 2022, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia (SJP or JEP) issued its first decision, imposing sanctions on 11 former army members, who were found responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of the Colombian armed conflict with the now demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Among the military personnel were high-ranking officers such as General Paulino Coronado, five Colonels and other four officers. This decision was taken by the Acknowledgement of Truth Judicial Panel after the accused provided detailed confessions of their crimes in the areas of Catatumbo and Norte de Santander. This decision was the first in the case of extrajudicial killings known as false positives at the JEP. While some of the officers acknowledged direct participation in the commission of the crimes, others recognised knowing they occurred and failing to take the necessary measures to prevent them or punish them. Among the sanctions imposed on the 11 perpetrators for their crimes, the Panel suggested the creation of a museum exhibit to commemorate the victims, memorials in public spaces like parks, and the creation of a documentary telling the truth of what happened.



UN: 23 Children Killed in Iranian Protests

As last reported on 17 October 2022, Iranian security forces have reportedly killed 23 children and injured, tortured and detained hundreds more in relation to the ongoing protests across Iran. The United Nations (“UN”) reported that families are being pressured to make false confessions and declare that their children committed suicide, despite some children being shot with live ammunition and others beaten by authorities. The Ministry of Education in Iran announced that the arrested children are being transferred to psychological centres “for correction and education.” The nationwide protest began one month ago after Mahsa Amini died in police custody. She was arrested by the morality police for violating the dress code relating to her hijab. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a statement on 17 October condemning the killings and urging all violence against children to stop.


UN: Political Solution No Longer Enough to Address Crisis in Haiti

On 17 October 2022, the UN reported that a political solution is no longer enough to address the rising insecurity, corruption and spiralling health crisis in Haiti. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres reported that the blockade of humanitarian and civilian supplies by armed gangs in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and the growing risk of cholera creates the need for “armed action” to initiate a humanitarian corridor that will save thousands of lives. Haiti’s basic infrastructure has been severely affected by the ongoing crisis which has impacted the country’s cholera response. Hospitals, as well as water supplies, have been affected, and the lack of fuel has impacted trash collection. This along with torrential rains has resulted in unsanitary conditions ripe for disease. In the past few weeks, many have died from cholera and hundreds more are suspected. In addition to this, nearly a thousand kidnappings have been reported in 2022 alone, with a record of 4.7 million people facing acute hunger including thousands who are on the “brink of starvation.” The UN Special Representative in Haiti stated that members of the UN Council must act urgently and decisively to help address the crisis.


UNFPA: Women in Kenya Facing Greater Health and Violence Risks Amidst Severe Drought

On 17 October 2022, the United Nations Population Fund (“UNFPA”) reported that women and girls in Kenya are at an increased risk of violence and health-related issues amidst the worst drought in 40 years. In some parts of Kenya, 90 per cent of the water sources have dried up and worsening hostilities amongst communities as they seek to secure the limited water available is making the situation more precarious. The UNFPA reported mainly women and girls, are responsible for getting water and this heightens their exposure to sexual exploitation and abuse as they search for water far from their homes. The UNFPA reported that there has been an increase in gender-based violence with a rise in female genital mutilation during the drought, and some families are cutting their daughters and marrying them to pay for food or livestock. Many are unable to access family planning or contraceptive services with an estimated 134 000 women currently pregnant or breastfeeding, many of whom are malnourished and anaemic which is life-threatening. The UNFPA is distributing maternal health and dignity kits and bringing essential medical services to remote areas of Kenya.


Australia: Reverses Decision to Recognise West Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

On 18 October 2022, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (“Wong”) announced that the Australian government will no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This reverses the decision taken by the government of the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison (in 2018) and Wong stated that this change reaffirms Australia’s longstanding position that “Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Israel regards the entire city as its capital, whereas Palestine wants to occupy East Jerusalem and have it serve as the capital of its future state. The Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid criticised the move as a “hasty response” while the Palestinian officials welcomed the decision.


Ethiopia: Ethiopian Forces Gain Control of Strategic City ‘Shire’ in Tigray

On 18 October 2022, Ethiopian forces seized control of three towns in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia from local forces; they have been fighting in a 23-month civil war. Fighting began in November 2020 when federal Ethiopian forces, backed by Eritrean allies, tried to wrestle control of the Tigray region from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (“TPLF”). The latest escalation included Ethiopian federal forces gaining control of Shire, a strategic city with transport links and a population of 100 000 residents, most of whom were fleeing from the fighting occurring elsewhere in Tigray. The federal government promised to take “maximum care” to protect civilians from harm and to work with humanitarian agencies to bring vital aid to all parts under its control. The federal government imposed a virtual blockade on most of the Tigray region in June 2021, after Tigrayan forces recaptured most of the area. Thousands of residents are beginning to flee Shire, despite reassurances from the TPLF and the UN stated, the war has left 5.4 million people in need of food aid. Peace negotiations have been welcomed by both sides but are yet to yield results. 


South Sudan: Progress on the Implementation of 2018 Peace Accord “Extremely Slow”

On 19 October 2022, the members of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan made an appeal for renewed support for the implementation of a peace deal, as progress on the 2018 peace agreement had been “extremely slow.” The Commission was in Addis Ababa​​ for a meeting with the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from 12-18 October, during which they highlighted that the conflict in the region had become highly complex and was causing the suffering of millions. Barney Afako, the Commissioner, warned that with each day of inaction on the implementation of the agreement, it was not only time that was being lost but lives as well. The peace accord provided for the establishment of a Hybrid Court, a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) and a reparations process, which has not been implemented for two years. Yasmin Sooka, the Commission Chair stressed that the African Union should be taking the necessary steps for the establishment of these bodies and provide its support. Ms Sooka, also highlighted that nine million South Sudanese were still in need of humanitarian aid and assistance which constituted three-quarters of the population. She stated that South Sudan remains “a haven” for those who committed the most atrocious crimes. The Commission highlighted crucial areas which required completion including national consultations towards the establishment of a truth commission, and a permanent constitution.


WHO: Situation in Tigray ‘Spiraling Out of Control’ with Six Million People Facing Health Crisis

On 19 October 2022, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted that the crisis in Ethiopia needed the “attention it deserves” and that there existed a very narrow chance of preventing genocide in Tigray. He highlighted that there was no other conflict where six million people had been kept under siege for almost two years. He stated that it was a health crisis for six million and the situation in the country requires international attention. He further urged that hostilities in the region must end, including the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean armed forces from the country. He also highlighted that essential services like food, fuel, electricity, banking and health care were being used as weapons of war, with media coverage not being allowed, and atrocities against civilians continuing.


Israel & Palestine: Occupation of Palestinian Territory by Israel Clearly in Violation of International Law

On 20 October 2022, an UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry, in its very first report, highlighted that the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel was unlawful and illegal under international law. The Commission further stressed that the occupation of territory during wartime is a temporary situation, with statehood and sovereignty of occupied power remaining intact. Navi Pillay, the Commission Chair highlighted that according to recent statements made by the Secretary-General and various Member States, an “attempt at unilateral annexation of one State’s territory by another is a violation of international law and is null and void.” The policies and actions that have been taken by Israel for maintaining the occupation and annexation of part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory were also reviewed by the Commission. The Commission also focused upon the continuous sustenance and maintenance of permanent control over Palestinian territory as a violation of international law.  They further stated that Israel continues to remain accountable for the violations of the rights of Palestinians. The report has also stated the actions of the Israeli government, along with their policies, may constitute “elements” of crimes under international criminal law. The report has examined how various Israeli governmental policies have violated the human rights of Palestinian as well as impacted Palestinian women and children.  Chris Sidoti highlighted that international action was required with a referral to the International Court of Justice.


Africa: Education Systems in 4 out of 10 Countries Unable to Ensure Rudimentary Skills for Their Students

On 20 October 2022, a report titled “Born to Learn” was published by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at the United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Union (AU). The report highlights that children living in the continent were five times less likely to learn the basics than those living elsewhere across the globe. The report is the first of a three-part series of Spotlight, which focuses on foundational learning in Africa and primary education in the region. The report states that over the past three decades education systems, in four out of 10 African countries, have declined in their ability to provide even basic literacy skills to their students. A contributing factor to the decline in education is the lack of basic support for teachers. Manos Antoninis, Director of GEM Report stated that he hoped the report would be a guide for ministries for “making a clear plan to improve learning, setting a vision for change, working closely with teachers and school leaders and making more effective use of external resources.” Albert Nsengiyumva, the Executive Secretary of ADEA stated that the education system in Africa has been highly affected by “linguistic fragmentation, conflict, poverty and malnutrition that have weighed heavily on the education systems’ ability to ensure universal primary completion and foundational learning.” The report also found a number of factors that have hindered progress across sub-Saharan Africa, such as socioeconomic challenges, limited availability of textbooks, lack of proper teacher support, improper teacher training and inadequacy of provision of teacher guides.


UNHCR: Urgent Appeal Made for Immediately Halting Forced Returns of Myanmar Refugees

On 20 October 2022, Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, made an urgent appeal to countries to immediately stop the forced return of Myanmar nationals, who are seeking safety from serious harm. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR remains highly concerned after receiving multiple reports from countries in the region of refoulement- the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers; since February 2021. She also highlighted that indiscriminate violence against civilians in Myanmar was still continuing and people who are fleeing Myanmar should be provided access to seek asylum and should be provided with protection against refoulement. She further called on the nations neighbouring Myanmar to continue upholding their international legal obligations and providing humanitarian support to those who have been forced to flee.


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