Weekly News Recap (24-30 October 2022)

© Photo by UNICEF Canada via Flickr




Bosnia: Serb Ex-Policeman Sentenced to 35 Years in Jail for War Crimes

On 24 October 2022, the Bosnian state court rejected Predrag Bastah’s appeal and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for the killing of 34 Bosniak civilian prisoners at Mracni Dol in 1992. He was previously sentenced, in 2011, to 22 years in prison for his participation in the murder of civilians, unlawful detentions and forced disappearances in the Vlasenica area. Thus, the state court imposed a combined sentence of 35 years. The Court observed that he committed crimes against humanity as a member of the reservist police force. Bastah’s lawyer said that he will continue to challenge his conviction and will appeal before the Constitutional Court next. He believes that his client’s rights have been violated during the trial.


UN: Australia in Breach of its Obligations Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

On 24 October 2022, the United Nations (UN) officially suspended its anti-torture mission to Australia after the inspectors were barred from several jails. The inspectors were responsible for touring the facilities under a voluntary agreement to prevent cruelty to detainees but had to make the sudden decision of suspending the mission after being barred from entering several jails. Lead inspector of the mission, Aisha Muhammad, a Supreme Court judge in the Maldives called the barring of inspectors a clear breach of international obligations by Australia. Australia ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2017 which aims for committing to reform safeguarding detainees and making facilities subject to inspection. Australia has until January 2023 to meet its obligations.


USA: Former Police Officer Pleaded Guilty in the George Floyd Case

On 24 October 2022, in the case of George Floyd’s killing, an ex-police officer of Minneapolis, Minnesota pleaded guilty to abetting and aiding the second-degree manslaughter of the victim. J. Alexander Kueng is the second officer to have pleaded guilty to the state charges following Thomas Lane. Keung waived his rights to a jury trial. The plea deal for Keung calls for three and a half years in prison, with prosecutors agreeing to drop the count of aiding and abetting the second-degree murder. Another convict in the case, Tou Thao rejected a plea deal this year and the jury trial for his criminal case will begin next week. All three accused were convicted in Federal court in February for willfully violating the civil rights of Floyd. Lane was sentenced to 2 and a half years; Kueng was sentenced to three years and Thao was sentenced to three and a half years.


UK: Uyghur Rights Group Challenges British Government for Failure to Investigate the Cotton Imports Produced by “Slave Labours” in Chinese Province

On 25 October 2022, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an organisation working for the rights of Uyghur groups took legal action against the British government for failure to appropriately investigate the importation of cotton produced by slave labours in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The organisation is taking legal actions against the state’s Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and National Crime Agency (NCA). According to the organisation’s lawyer, the Home Office refused to investigate the importation of foreign goods made by prisoners. Almost 85 per cent of the cotton comes from Xinjiang where it is common to engage internment camp detainees in the factories. Lawyers on behalf of the Home Office, the NCA and HMRC informed the court that there needs to be a clear link between “the alleged criminality and its specific product.” The WUC has failed to provide any evidence of identifiable criminal property but if there is enough evidence provided the NCA “may commence an investigation.”


Russia: Court Rejected Brittney Griner’s Appeal and Upheld the Nine-Year Prison Sentence

On 25 October 2022, a Russian court while rejecting the appeal of US basketball player Brittney Griner upheld the nine-year prison sentence. Griner was found guilty and sentenced on drug charges in August. She was arrested at the Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil which is categorised as illegal in Russia. Griner was arrested a few days prior to the Russia-Ukraine war which has further affected her release due to tense relations between the United States and Russia. The US considers her imprisonment a sham and an unjustifiable move. Griner’s lawyer argued that “the punishment imposed does not correspond with the gravity of the crime.” According to Griner, she did not intend to bring the vape cartridges to Russia. Another person named Paul Whelan; a US Marine veteran was sentenced to 16 years in jail on espionage charges in 2020. The Joe Biden administration has been trying to bring the two wrongfully imprisoned Americans back home.


The Netherlands: Government Probing Alleged Establishment of Two Illegal Police Stations by China

On 26 October 2022, the Dutch government announced that it will be investigating the reports of two illegal police stations set up by China in the Netherlands. The media reported that the Chinese posts in Amsterdam and Rotterdam purported to offer diplomatic assistance but have yet not been declared to the Netherlands’ government. According to the Chinese dissidents living in the Netherlands, the police stations are being used to silence political opponents. China has completely denied all the allegations and said that the “service stations” were used to help overseas citizens to renew their driving licenses and other paperwork. The Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman said that the activities of the so-called police centres will be investigated for a better understanding and proper actions will be taken if required.


Turkey: Human Rights Defender Detained for Terror Propaganda

On 26 October 2022, Şebnem Korur Fincanci, the head of Turkey’s Medical Association was detained on the charges of spreading terrorist propaganda and insulting the country.  Korur Fincanci was detained after giving an interview to pro-Kurdish TV on 19 October. She called for an investigation into the army’s use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants. Turkey has completely denied the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK on the other hand declared that 17 members have been killed recently by such weapons in northern Iraq. It has become a pattern of President Erdoğan’s government to detain critics or opponents. The Turkish government is determined to silence the voice of experts through such politically motivated cases. It has also detained 10 Kurdish journalists this week while 16 journalists were incarcerated in June. Recently, Turkey adopted a new media law that sentences any person disseminating false information about Turkish security and triggers “fear and disturb public order” to three years in jail. The President is trying to get a grip on the media before next year’s elections.



France: Kunti Kamara Denied All Charges

On 28 October 2022, Kunti Kamara accused all ten plaintiffs of being criminals and completely denied all the charges of cannibalism, torture, rape, murder and forced labour. He was a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (Ulimo) during the four-month occupation of Foya in Lofa County, Liberia in 1993. It is alleged by dozens of witnesses that he was involved in various crimes against humanity and that he either commit those crimes himself or directed others to do it. Kamara has repeatedly questioned the witnesses’ honesty. According to Kamara, all the plaintiffs are forming a network and have conspired to lie about his actions during the war. He claimed that the accusers belonged to the Kissi ethnic group, and the trial is an attempt to fight an ongoing tribal conflict between the Mandingo and Kissi. The civil parties’ closing arguments were heard on Friday.



UNHCR: Rising Prices and Shrinking Aid Impacts Refugees and Displaced People

On 24 October 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed the Ukrainian war is causing a rise in prices and that less aid is available for refugees and internally displaced people. The UNHCR stated that the impact of high prices is forcing affected people to make tough decisions, such as choosing between food for their children or medicine for their elderly relatives. The UNHCR adds that as vulnerable people’s needs are increasing, so are the costs of delivering humanitarian aid. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 27 million people are facing food shortages and 5.5 million people have fled their homes due to decades of conflict. However, at the end of September 2022, UNHCR’s operations were only 40 per cent funded. These shortfalls will force UNHCR to limit resources on essential programmes and the Director of UNHCR’s Division for External Relations appealed to donors to help save the millions of people who depend on UNHCR aid. 


Palestine: Six Palestinians Killed in Israeli Raid in Nablus

On 25 October 2022, it was reported that six Palestinians have been killed in one of the biggest Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) targeted the recently formed “Lion’s Den” group in Nablus which was formed following the near-daily arrest raids by the IDF. The IDF had locked down Nablus, for the past two weeks, to search for the individual responsible for killing an Israeli soldier. The Israeli military claims the group, which comprises a few dozen members, have carried out attacks or attempted to, around Nablus and in Tel Aviv. The IDF troops blew up the apartment which they claim was the headquarters of the group. Five Palestinians were killed in the raid and a sixth was shot dead by Israeli troops, who were attacked with stones in a Palestinian protest against the raid. More than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israelis have been killed since January this year. 


UNFPA: Women and Girls Disproportionately Affected by Climate and Conflict Crises in Ethiopia

The United Nations Population Fund (“UNFPA”) reported that as of 25 October 2022, women and girls are being disproportionately affected by conflict and climate disasters in Ethiopia. In northern Ethiopia conflict between federal and regional forces has caused 2.1 million people to be displaced, and southern Ethiopia has been subject to long droughts. These ongoing conflicts and climate disasters have left 25 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the UNFPA women and girls are disproportionately affected as health facilities have been damaged and destroyed, medical supplies are in short supply and access to sexual and reproductive services has been severely disrupted. The availability of maternal health care has been compromised with many women unable to gain access to treatment for life-threatening pregnancy complications. The UNFPA is working with women-led organisations to build the capacity to respond to these urgent needs, including the delivery of reproductive health kits and essential medicines to support safe births and the clinical management of rape. 


UNHCR: Malaysia’s Forced Return of Myanmar Asylum Seekers Must Stop

On 25 October 2022, the UNHCR announced that Malaysia’s forced return of asylum seekers to Myanmar breaches international law and must stop. Myanmar has been affected by a civil war since February 2021 and Malaysia has sent hundreds of Myanmar nationals back, against their will, in the last couple of months. The UN stated that sending people back will expose them to “harm and danger” and that the principle of non-refoulement is “a cornerstone of international law” that is “binding on all States.” Human rights organisations have warned of a worsening situation in Myanmar and on 23 October unconfirmed reports emerged of airstrikes killing 50 people at a concert held by opposition forces. Since the beginning of the civil war 1.3 million people have been displaced inside Myanmar, 28 000 homes destroyed, and more than 13 000 children killed. 


UN: Political Solution is the Only Way to Achieve Sustainable Peace in Syria 

On 25 October 2022, the UN Special Envoy declared that a political solution remains the only way to ensure sustainable peace in Syria. An 11-year conflict has engulfed Syria and the country is now facing its worst economic crisis since the war began, as well as a deadly cholera outbreak. Seven years ago, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2254 which outlined a peace process roadmap for Syria and on 25 October the UN Special Envoy appealed to the Security Council to support efforts to move parties closer to a political solution. In addition to health and economic crises, the country is still facing threats from violent conflict. One of ISIL’s largest weapons caches since its fall was recently discovered, and pro-government strikes were reported after a suspended period with drone strikes between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Türkiye, and armed opposition groups. The country is also facing a water crisis after poor rainfall in many areas and the number of people needing aid this winter has increased by 30 per cent compared to the previous year. The UN Special Envoy continues to attempt to reconvene the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which comprises representatives from the Government, opposition parties and civil society. However, the UN stated that government nominees recently did not attend meetings in Geneva after Russia cited concerns over the venue. 


Israel & Palestine: UN Human Rights Expert Report Highlights Israeli Occupation as “Strategic Fragmentation and Settler Colonialism” 

On 27 October 2022, Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory in her new report highlighted that the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel was illegal and should end immediately so that Palestinians can exercise their right to self-determination. The report further highlights that the occupation by Israel violates Palestinian sovereignty by way of “annexing, seizing, fragmenting and transferring its civilian population to the occupied territory.” The report also emphasises that there is a need for recognising Israel’s “intentionally acquisitive, segregationist, and repressive settler-colonial occupation” with Ms Albanese urging that the international community should be formally recognising and condemning the settler-colonial nature of the occupation. She also called for the immediate end of the occupation along with calling upon Israel to withdraw its military from the territory. The report also noted that the international community had failed in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict in its approach. She also emphasised that the occupation was also “endangering the cultural existence” of Palestinians erasing symbols which expressed their cultural identities. The report also highlighted that there was a need for shifting from the narrative of “conflict” between Israel and Palestine and recognising Israel’s “strategic fragmentation” of the occupied territory.


OHCHR: Iran Fails to Conduct Impartial and Prompt Investigation into Crackdown on Peaceful Protesters 

On 27 October 2022, Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur urged that the international community should take action for addressing the rights violations that have been occurring in Iran amid the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, while in custody, last month. He highlighted that the UN and other international bodies must take “concrete action” as condemnation towards the continuous crackdown of protests in Iran is not enough and further called for an establishment of an international investigative mechanism. He also highlighted that Iran had failed in conducting investigations with impartiality. The UN human rights experts expressed their grave concern over continuous reports regarding the unlawful use of force by Iranian security forces against peaceful protesters. They also noted that numerous protesters had already been detained and killed, including children, women and the elderly. Mr Rehman has also highlighted that the State has not only ignored calls for conducting an imperial and promote investigation into the crackdown on protesters but has also intensified the violence against protesters. 


UNHCR: With Millions Displaced by Flooding in Central Africa, Humanitarian Operations Remain Seriously Underfunded

On 28 October 2022, Olga Sarrado, UNHCR Spokesperson stated that 3.4 million displaced people and their hosts require humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of destructive flooding in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Cameroon. The flooding in Nigeria has been the worst in a decade, displacing 1.3 million people and affecting more than 2.8 million. The UNHCR has been assisting, including aid and shelter, to thousands of families by providing 14 900 tarpaulin sheets and 550 kits with basic household items. In the countries of the Central Sahel i.e., Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, above-average rains and flooding have killed hundreds while displacing thousands. More than 41 000 people have been affected by flooding in Mali this year, while in the Diffs region of Niger 32 000 people have been affected by flooding with more than 13 000 having been displaced. With humanitarian operations in the regions of West and Central Africa remaining highly underfunded, only 43 per cent of the funds in Chad have been received as of yet. While the humanitarian operations in Burkina Faso have only been 42 per cent funded. 


USA: Sanctions Imposed on Iranian Foundation Accused of Putting Out Multimillion Dollar Bounty on Salman Rushdie

On 28 October 2022, sanctions against the 15 Khordad Foundation, an Iranian foundation, were announced by the United States for putting out a multimillion-dollar bounty on British-American author Salman Rushdie. Rushdie was stabbed at a literary festival in New York and lost the functioning of an eye and a hand. The sanctions include freezing any US-based assets that the foundation may have and preventing any transaction to be carried out from those assets. The foundation has committed millions of dollars to anyone willing to carry the heinous act of killing Rushdie. In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader, called for Rushdie’s assassination for committing blasphemy by publishing his book ‘The Satanic Verses.’ In 2019, Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the order was irrevocable. The man accused of stabbing Rushdie has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder.


UNICEF: The Climate Crisis in Pakistan has Affected Millions of Children and has Become a Precursor for Further Catastrophe

On 28 October 2022, George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, after visiting the flood-affected areas in Pakistan highlighted those 10 million children in the region required life-saving support, with hundreds having already lost their lives. He also highlighted that one in nine children was suffering from severe acute malnutrition. He noted that climate-induced floods in the regions of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have affected 15 million boys and girls. He stated that children, having not played any part in the creation of the climate catastrophe are the ones paying the price, with their health and well-being threatened, and the survival of 616 million boys and girls in the region remains a concern. He urged that governments must take immediate steps in protecting water, sanitation, health, hygiene and education services on which boys and girls are highly dependent. He urged that without any immediate global action, the climate catastrophe being witnessed in Pakistan would increase in measure. 


HRW: Kyrgyzstan Authorities Continue to Censor and Control Media

On 28 October 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that, in Kyrgyzstan, authorities had further intensified their efforts in controlling and censoring the media amid recent crackdowns on the right to freedom of expression. The Kyrgyz government had ordered a two-month blockage of the websites of Azattyk Media, the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, for covering the recent border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The authorities claimed that the video made use of hate speech and false information, i.e., that Kyrgyzstan attacked Tajikistan. Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch highlighted that the blockage of the media service clearly reflects an attempt by the authorities to control and censor independent journalism in the country which is in clear violation of the international human rights obligations of the country. On 27 October 2022, dozens of representatives of Kyrgyzstan’s media community published an open appeal requesting authorities to withdraw the Protection from False Information Law and also cease all control on freedom of speech and expression. Sultanalieva urged that the authorities should immediately halt their attempts of controlling and censoring fundamental human rights by withdrawing the proposed amendments and also uphold its commitment and respect towards fundamental human rights. 


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