Weekly News Recap (31 October-6 November 2022)

© Photo by Direct Relief via Flickr




ICC: Judges Authorise Prosecutor to Continue Probe in the Afghanistan Situation

On 31 October 2022, Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a decision authorising the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to resume its investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place in the context of the Afghanistan situation. The Chamber reached this conclusion after determining that the Afghan Government is not presently carrying out genuine investigations nor has any interest to pursue the deferral request filed on 26 March 2020. It was the view of the Chamber that the documents submitted by the Afghan government do not justify the deferral of the OTP’s investigation, not even partially.  With this decision, the Chamber grants permission to the Prosecutor to investigate all crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the court and that are considered within the situation of crisis that led to the opening of the investigation.


ICC: Prosecutor Files Application Seeking Authorisation to Continue Investigation in Venezuela

On 1 November 2022, the Office of the Prosecutor filed an application to the Pre-Trial Chamber I, seeking authorisation to continue with its investigative efforts in the Venezuela I situation. This filing came after analysing a significant amount of information provided by Venezuela and other sources. Even though considerable efforts to investigate and prosecute have been carried out by the Venezuelan government, including legislative reform, at present those efforts do not change the circumstances that led to the opening of the situation in the first place. The Prosecutor aims to continue with its investigation while, at the same time, cooperate in good faith with the Venezuelan authorities to promote domestic investigations that satisfy the Rome Statute’s complementarity requirements. This reflects the “twin-track” approach to complementarity that has characterised the work of the Prosecutor thus far.


CAR: Special Criminal Court Reaches its First Conviction Over 2019 Massacre

As reported on 2 November 2022, the first trial at the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic was concluded. The Court found the three perpetrators (Issa Sallet Adoum, alias Bozizé, Mahamat Tahir and Yaouba Ousman), all members of the Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R) armed group, responsible for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the 2019 massacre in the Lemouna and Koundjili regions that resulted in the death of 46 civilians. The perpetrators were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment. This decision which was handed down on 31 October was celebrated by both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, and UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.



France: Kunti Kamara Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Crimes Against Humanity

On 2 November 2022, Kunti Kamara, former United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) was sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court for his involvement in crimes against humanity, mainly torture. The conviction refers to the involvement of Kamara in the crimes against humanity and torture committed in Lofa County between 1993 and 1994. The decision can still be appealed within 10 days of the final judgment. This is the first conviction for the crimes committed during the Liberian civil war from 1989 to 2003. This is also the first conviction in the French criminal system that relies on universal jurisdiction aside from the cases regarding the Rwandan genocide. The case was based on the testimony of 27 witnesses and experts and an investigation including eight reconstructions of the crime scenes.


Myanmar: Amnesty International Publishes a Report on the Supply Chain Fuelling War Crimes in the Country

On 3 November, Amnesty International released a report showing the supply chain behind the war crimes taking place in Myanmar, specifically, the airstrikes targeting civilian population and the use of cluster ammunition and unguided bombs, in the Kayah State region of eastern Myanmar. Puma Energy, majority-owned by global commodity giant Trafigura, has played a key role in supplying the military since 2015. Other global oil companies, maritime insurers, vessel owners, shipping agents and truck distributors are also involved in the crimes committed by the Burmese government due to their role as providers. Without the aviation fuel, the report argues, the airstrikes that amount to war crimes could have not occurred. The report concludes with a call from Amnesty International to states and companies to stop the supply chain of aviation fuel to Myanmar.


Yemen: UN Official Claims War Crimes have been Committed Since the Expiry of the Peace Agreement

On 4 November 2022, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, announced that three incidents have taken place since the expiry of the truce between Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-led coalition. The UN official is now calling for a resumption of an UN-mediated truce in Yemen. The incidents include shelling of government-controlled areas that killed a boy and a man, and sniper shootings. This conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and devastated Yemen’s economy, leaving millions hungry. In the words of Mr Türk, this conflict has led to nearly 6 million people having been displaced and an estimated 24 million needing humanitarian aid to survive.





Save the Children: Child Malnutrition Cases in Afghanistan Rise by Almost 50 Per cent

On 31 October 2022, Save the Children reported that the number of malnourished children admitted to mobile health clinics in Afghanistan increased by 47 per cent since January 2022. The organisation stated that in January the mobile health teams admitted 2 500 malnourished children which increased to 4 270 by September. The country’s food crisis has been driven by an ongoing drought that has affected crop harvests throughout the summer, as well as a collapse of the country’s economy which has caused unemployment, poverty and food prices to surge dramatically. The food crisis is Afghanistan’s worst hunger crisis on record with 50 per cent of Afghanistan’s population facing extreme hunger. Save the Children reported that families are unable to feed their children and doctors are overwhelmed with malnourished children. Humanitarian organisations have scaled up their responses since the Taliban took control in August 2021; however, they are calling for humanitarian aid and development assistance that was withdrawn to be reinstated urgently.


India: Death Toll from Bridge Collapse Reaches 134 

On 31 October 2022, Reuters reported that the death toll from a collapsed footbridge in India rose to 134, in one of the deadliest accidents in the country in the past decade. The pedestrian bridge in the western state of Gujarat was built in 1877 and reopened last week after repairs; however, it collapsed when the cables holding it together broke. There were around 400 people on or around the bridge at the time, with tickets to celebrate Diwali and Chhath Puja festivals. Video footage from just before the collapse shows a group of young men rocking the bridge from side to side. Local law enforcement stated that the organisation responsible for the repair, Oreva group (“Oreva”), did not inform them that they were reopening the bridge and blamed them for over-selling tickets. They added that the number of people on the bridge was previously limited to 20 at one time. Local police detained nine people as part of a criminal investigation into the collapse. 


Ukraine: 12 Vessels Leave Ukraine Despite Russian Withdrawal from Black Sea Grain Deal

On 31 October 2022, twelve vessels containing grain shipments left Ukrainian ports despite Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal. Russia suspended its participation in the deal that allowed Ukrainian agricultural products to be exported; however, the UN, Turkey and Ukraine have continued to implement the deal that allowed 40 000 tons of grain to leave for Ethiopia. Moscow withdrew from the deal that was initially signed in July 2022 after a drone attacked its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, which Russia blames Kyiv for. Kyiv accused Russia of ‘blackmailing the world with hunger’ and Russian attacks have continued to hit Kyiv, affecting the city’s energy infrastructure and power supplies. 


Iran: Protests Continue as the First Court Hearings Begin

Nationwide protests in Iran have continued to persist despite warnings from Iranian authorities. On 29 October 2022, Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps stated, “Today is the last day of the riots” and told people “Not to come to the streets today.” Despite this, videos on social media showed protests at universities across the country after an unknown number of students were suspended from their studies for protesting. The Iranian judiciary stated that approximately 1 000 indictments were issued for people participating in ‘riots’ and on 30 October, a court in Tehran held the first hearing. ‘Rioters’ are being accused of intentionally killing police officers, burning public and government property, “corruption on earth” and “waging a war against God”, of which the latter two carry the death penalty. The protests erupted in September when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after she was detained by Iran’s morality police. 


Canada: Members of Parliament Join Talks to Criminalize Ecocide as an International Crime

On 1 November 2022, Members of Parliament across all parties, together with Stop Ecocide International (SEI), held a meeting in Ottawa with the objective of holding accountable large-scale polluters by pushing for the prosecution of ecocide as an international crime. Amelie Wilkinson, youth for ecocide law co-lead for SEI said that unlike suing or fining corporations, allowing for ecocide to be prosecuted as an international crime means that those responsible could be arrested for polluting as well as be liable for damages. The strategy is to gather enough support for the Canadian Government to push for an amendment of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to include this as an international crime. SEI has also worked with the governments of Iceland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Finland and Spain all of which have expressed support at different levels.


South Korea: Police Admit Responsibility for Deadliest Disaster Since 2014

On 1 November 2022, South Korean police admitted responsibility for failing to prevent a crowd surge at a Halloween event in Itaewon, Seoul that killed at least 156 people and injured 151. The commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency, Yoon Hee Keun (“Keun”) stated that the officers did not handle earlier emergency calls about the disaster that could have prevented it. Keun stated that early findings of the investigation revealed that there were urgent calls by citizens about the potential danger of the large crowd; however, officers failed to respond sufficiently. Witnesses recalled falling on one another, people falling unconscious and breathing difficulties. In a cabinet meeting on 1 November, President Yoon Suk Yeol admitted that South Korea lacks research on crowd management and called for the use of high-tech equipment, such as drones, to develop their crowd control capabilities. The crowd surge is South Korea’s deadliest disaster since 2014. 


DRC: As Fighting Renews in the Region, Humanitarian Workers Provide Aid to Displaced

On 2 November 2022, Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson, while briefing journalists in New York, highlighted that thousands of people have been displaced following renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed groups in the eastern region of North Kivu. He also highlighted that more than 180 unaccompanied children had been identified as well as assisted by child protection workers, while 2 000 others were receiving psychological support. He also reported that a convoy of peacekeepers had been stoned by a violent crowd around 8 km north of the regional capital, Goma. Two peacekeepers were injured in the incident and one mission vehicle had been set on fire. 


Tigray: The Peace Agreement is a “Promising Start” according to UN Secretary-General 

On 2 November 2022, Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement said that the Agreement for Lasting Peace through Permanent Cessation of Hostilities was a “critical step” towards stopping fighting which had erupted in November 2020 after months of tension. The agreement has been brokered by the African Union and mediated by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. The agreement has been signed between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). According to the Secretary General’s Spokesperson, he has urged all Ethiopians including the international community to provide support. The Secretary-General also pledged to provide his support in the implementation of the agreement while urging both sides to “continue with negotiations on the outstanding issues in a spirit of reconciliation in order to reach a lasting political settlement.” He also urged all stakeholders to increase access to humanitarian aid for all civilians in the region. 


Haiti: “Urgent and Sustained Action” is Needed to Overcome the Root Causes of the Crisis 

On 3 November 2022, UN human rights chief Volker Türk highlighted that Haiti was “on the verge of an abyss” as gang warfare continues in the region. He warned that there is a need for “urgent and sustained action” in order to tackle the root causes of the ongoing crises in the region. He further warned that the human rights situation in the country has further deteriorated and that urgent solutions to the “protracted, multifaceted crisis” need to be found. In the past two months, heavy-handed arms have continued to block access to the country’s main fuel terminal and seaports, which has further hindered access to essential services like drinking water, food, and medicine. With rising food insecurity, 4.7 million people in the region are facing acute hunger, while 26 000 people have been affected by cholera due to poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water. 


Sudan: Ethnic Clashes Resurge in the Region Killing 359 and Injuring 469 

On 3 November 2022, the UN reported that inter-communal clashes have recurred in the Blue Nile Region of Sudan with 359 casualties reported, 469 injured and some 97 000 displaced.  Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide said in a statement that the clashes between the com united are rooted in longstanding issues that exist over land ownership and ethnic representation. The UN Special Adviser, expressing her concern over the ongoing violence, stated that the attacks had been triggered by hate speech and incitement to hatred which was further flared up through social media and ethnic gatherings. She called upon the international community to ‘do their utmost’ in establishing conflict prevention mechanisms and to hold perpetrators accountable. She further called upon the people of Sudan to increase their efforts for the enhancement of social cohesion and urged them to “stand in solidarity with the affected communities in line with the Fez Plan of Action.”


Myanmar: New Law on Registration of Associations Hampers Aid in the Region

On 3 November 2022, the Guardian reported that a new law passed by the Myanmar junta this past month could have “catastrophic” effects on humanitarian services, especially for those in need. The “registration of associations” law that has been introduced by the junta bans “indirect or direct” contact between humanitarian aid providers and groups that have been blacklisted by the junta, which is inclusive of political organisations acting as gatekeepers for those in need. The law would also be applicable to aid agencies and includes international organisations as well as local aid groups. According to the law, international and domestic organisations would be required to have a government-issued registration certificate in order to legally work with communities in need of aid. According to humanitarian officials in the region, many civil society organisations would refuse to register because it would legitimise the junta and the coup, which would put them at a huge risk. Humanitarian officials in the region highlighted that the ban would hamper access and make all humanitarian programmes “impossible.” 


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