Weekly News Recap (28 November-4 December 2022)

© Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid via Flickr




Uzbekistan: 22 Protesters on Trial for Undermining Constitutional Order

On 28 November 2022, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan confirmed the trial of 22 people for undermining constitutional order, which carries a 20-year jail sentence. The trial, while open to journalists, was made known one day prior, on Sunday 27 November with the court proceedings taking place in Bukhara, about 600 km (370 miles) from both Nukus and Tashkent, the national capital. The protest erupted in Nukus on 1 and 2 of July, over a move to remove Karakalpakstan’s right, under the constitution, to hold a referendum on self-determination. Karakalpakstain covers more than one third of Uzbek territory, although fewer than 2 million live in this region.


US: Jury Finds Oath Keeper Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy

On 29 November 2022, a US jury found Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right group, Oath Keepers, guilty of seditious conspiracy for his involvement in last year’s riot at the US Capitol. The charge, seditious conspiracy, is among the most serious to stem from the Capital Riot. The charge requires the Justice Department to prove that the defendant was ‘prepared and willing to use force to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.’ Prosecutors accused Rhodes and his fellow defendants of ‘bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons and supplies to the Capitol grounds.’ This is the first case since the 1995 foiled plot to bomb bridges and buildings in New York City, to successfully prosecute seditious conspiracy.


Japan: Trans Woman Won Harassment Case

On 29 November 2022, the government in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture awarded a transgender woman workplace compensation for the continual harassment she received from her supervisor, and the denial to refer to her with female pronouns. This case is a significant victory in Japan for transgender peoples’ legal rights. In Japan, trans people who want to legally change their gender face a number of obstacles, including appealing to a family court and undergoing psychiatric evaluation and being surgically sterilised. In 2017, Japan made a pledge to the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council to revise the law. However, in 2019, Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the law was constitutional.


Iraq: State Security Personnel and State-backed Armed Groups Not Held Accountable for Violence Against Peaceful Protesters

On 29 November 2022, a 40-page report by Human Rights Watch was released, detailing the failed promises of legal accountability for state security personnel and state-backed armed groups responsible for the killing, maiming and disappearing of hundreds of demonstrators since 2019. The report titled, ‘To Sleep the Law: Violence Against Protesters and Unaccountable Perpetrators in Iraq’ discusses the disappearance of nearly 500 protesters during the 2019-2020 uprising in central and southern Iraq. Al-Kadhimi, who took power in May of 2020, promised justice for the murders and disappearances but after leaving office in October of 2022, no progress had been made to hold those responsible.


Mozambique: A Court Handed Out Verdicts in the Country’s Biggest Corruption Scandal

On 30 November 2022, a Court in Mozambique handed down a series of verdicts in the country’s largest corruption scandal. Nineteen high-profile defendants, who include former state security officials and the son of an ex-president, faced charges that include money laundering, bribery and blackmail which related to a $2bn hidden debt scandal that crashed the country’s economy. The scandal arose after state-owned companies borrowed $2bn in 2013 and 2014 from international banks to buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance vessels. The government hide the loans from parliament and the public until 2016 when the debt was revealed. This, in turn, caused international donors including the International Monetary Fund to cut off financial assistance, triggering a currency collapse.


ICC: Appeals Chamber Set to Deliver Judgment in Ongwen Case in December

On 30 November 2022, the Appeals Chamber announced they will deliver, on 15 December, their judgment in the case The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen regarding his appeal against his conviction and sentence. The Defence raised 90 grounds of appeal consisting of alleged legal, factual and procedural errors. Mr. Ongwen was found guilty of a total of 61 crimes on 4 February 2021 for his role in the crimes committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. He was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment.


ICJ: Decline to Issue a Decision in Chile-Bolivia Dispute

On 1 December 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declined to issue a decision over the Silala River dispute between Chile and Bolivia. The Court said the two countries ‘appeared to be in agreement about the river’s status as ‘an international watercourse’ subject to international law. The Judges instead told the two neighbours to work together, saying it was a ‘shared resource [that] can only be protected through co-operation.’ The dispute over the Silala goes back to 1999, when Bolivia’s then Ministry of Foreign Affairs characterised the waterway as a wetland, originating from springs on the Bolivian side of the border. The dispute has since escalated, with Chile filing a lawsuit calling for the ICJ to declare the Silala an international waterway in 2016.



Israel: Palestinian Human Rights Lawyer Deported to France

On 2 December 2022, Israel’s interior minister Ayelet Shaked, ordered the deportation of jailed Palestinian-French human rights lawyer, Salah Hammouri after revoking his Jerusalem residency. Mr Hammouri had been working with a Palestinian rights group called Addameer which is based in occupied East Jerusalem. Amnesty International called the deportation a ‘shameless attempt by Israel to silence anyone who might be advocating for the Palestinian cause.’ Under Israeli law, the interior minister can revoke the residency of Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. Hammouri has been detained for nine months under the country’s administrative detention policy which allows suspects to be held without charge or trial for six months at a time and can be renewed indefinitely. Hammouri who has not lived in France for any length of time was deported on Sunday.


Bosnia: Constitutional Court Rejected Appeal to Suspend Election Law

On 2 December 2022, a Bosnian Court rejected an appeal to suspend the changes to an election law made by the High Representative to Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, on the election night on 2 October, just minutes after the polling stations closed. The changes raised the number of representatives in the Federation’s House of People and the way they are chosen. The changes also include a deadline for the formation of government after an election. According to some, this change is being used to keep the main Croat Party (HDZ) in power. The court said in its explanation that, ‘the applicants did not clearly state, beyond the abstract level, what types of irreparable damage could occur’ and that accepting the request could have a negative consequence on the rule of law.



UN: Violence in the Palestine – Israel Conflict Continues to Rise

On 28 November 2022, the United Nations (“UN”) Middle East envoy told the UN security council that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is “again reaching boiling point.” Violence between Palestinians and Israelis has escalated in the second half of 2022, with attacks launched by both sides, resulting in huge suffering. These included attacks against civilians and increased use of arms and settler-related violence. The UN stated that the “stalled peace process…entrenched occupation and…mounting economic and institutional challenges” were contributing to the surge in violence. The UN worked with partners to mediate peace in Gaza in the first half of 2022 and measures have been implemented to support local economies, such as providing assistance to more than 100 000 families in need. However, restrictions and delays continue to stall developments, and the UN stated that “without tangible movement on the political track” any progress will be short-lived. 


China: Clashes in Guangzhou and Several Detained Amidst Rare Covid Protests in China

On 29 November 2022, in Guangzhou, China, protestors clashed with riot police, and several have been detained nationwide in protests against the country’s strict ‘zero covid’ policy. Since 26 November 2022, protests have spread to some of China’s biggest cities, including university campuses, leading authorities to tighten security measures and in some cities arrest protestors. Chinese citizens are frustrated by the government’s zero-covid approach, which involves mass testing, quarantines and snap lockdowns. Through this policy, China has managed to keep its death toll low compared to other big countries; however, this has resulted in confining millions to their homes and disrupting the world’s second largest economy. Reuters stated that abandoning zero covid would be going back on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (“Xi”) insistence on the policy and also risk overwhelming the health system. The protests represent one of the biggest acts of public defiance since Xi came to power in 2012.



UN: Syria Needs Increased Political Processes and Less Military Activity

On 29 November 2022, UN Special Envoy warned against military escalation in Syria and urged for more political processes. The UN reported that mutual military strikes between the Syrian Democratic Forces (“SDF”) and Türkiye, with armed opposition groups, have slowly increased in northern Syria after a bombing in Istanbul on 13 November 2022 which killed 6 people. The Special Envoy stated that the increase in military operations threatens to disrupt the strategic stalemate which has brought relative calm in Syria for 3 years. In addition to this, pro-Government air and ground strikes have occurred in the northwestern area of Idlib, the last rebel-held area, hitting camps housing internally displaced people. As a result, the UN is calling for steps towards a Syrian-led political process and increased humanitarian aid for those in need. The UN reported that the number of people in humanitarian need in Syria will increase to 15 million in 2023 from 14.6 million in 2022, emphasising the need for increased and maintained peace in Syria. 


WFP and UNHCR: Urgent Need for Funding to Support Refugee Food Aid in Chad

On 29 November 2022, the United Nations World Food Programme (“WFP”) and UNHCR warned of an imminent cut to food assistance which provides life-saving support for refugees in Chad. The WFP requires $161 million (USD) by the end of 2022 to avert a suspension of services which support crisis-affected communities in Chad. Chad hosts 577 000 refugees which is more than any other country in West and Central Africa, and the refugee population has increased by 10 per cent since 2021. Currently, 42 per cent of these communities in Chad, are already facing chronic malnutrition rates and 19 per cent are facing acute malnutrition, with the UN expecting these figures to worsen as funding is cut. In June 2021, the lack of funding forced WFP to begin issuing half rations to refugees and they are concerned about the impact of further funding cuts, especially on vulnerable groups. Food insecurity can have a huge impact on vulnerable groups, such as children, who are being pulled out of school and forced to work or into marriage. As such, food is critical in not only saving lives but in providing stability and resilience in the future. 


Save the Children: Number of Children Living in the Deadliest Conflict Zones Increased

On 30 November 2022, Save the Children released a report stating that more than half of all children living in conflict areas in 2021 (230 million) lived in the deadliest conflict countries which is a 9 per cent increase from 2020. The publication reported that in 2021, an average of 22 children were killed or maimed a day and that this figure is expected to rise in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine. According to the report, in 2021, the worst country in the world for children was Yemen, and the Middle East was home to the highest proportion of children living in conflict areas (1 in 3). The report also found that Africa had the highest number of children affected by conflict (180 million), followed by Asia (152 million) and then the Americas (64 million). The report also revealed that despite the number of children living in the deadliest conflict countries increasing, the overall number of children worldwide living in conflict zones decreased from 450 million in 2020 to 449 million in 2021. Save the Children is calling on donors, world leaders and international organisations to prioritise funding to support children impacted by conflict.


 ILO: New Global Wage Report Highlights the Dangers of the Rising Inflation Levels

On 30 November 2022, in a newly published Global Wage Report 2022-23, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlighted that the rise in inflation has been causing an increased decline in the real monthly wages in many nations. The report highlighted that global wages had fallen to -0.9 % in the first of the year, which marked the first instance of negative growth in this century. The report also revealed that a severe inflationary crisis and a slowdown in economic growth which has partly been compounded by the Ukraine war and global energy crises, has affected wages across the globe. According to the report, the increase in inflation has been faster in high-income countries like Canada and the United States where the average real wage growth dropped to zero in 2021 and has fallen to -3.2 per cent in the first half of this year. The report recommended that collective arguing between governments, employers and workers’ representatives could help in achieving adequate wage adjustments. While other recommendations included providing vouchers to low-income households so that they were able to purchase essential goods, which would reduce the burden of inflation on them. 


OCHA: 6 million Children in Nigeria at the Risk of Severe Acute Malnutrition, as UN Agency Calls for Support

On 30 November 2022, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called upon the Nigerian government and the donor community to provide resources to support children amid the ongoing nutrition crisis. A food security analysis, which was conducted last week, highlighted that 6 million children under the age of five in the northeastern and western regions of Nigeria are suffering from acute malnutrition (from May 2022 to April 2023). It also estimated that more than 512 000 pregnant women are also suffering from acute malnutrition. Children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition are 12 times more likely to die than a healthy child, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will be scaling up its response to address the ongoing crisis in the region by producing and distributing supplementary powder to 10 000 households, with funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund. There is a need for additional funding for the humanitarian response plan for the northeastern region of Nigeria, as only 50 per cent of the requested funds have been achieved.


UN: Humanitarian Needs Across the Globe Grow as the UN Appeals for $51.5 Billion to Assist 230 million Across 70 Countries

On 1 December 2022, the United Nations highlighted an appeal for $51.5 billion for next year, which is 25% higher, is required to assist the 23 million people across the globe who constitute as the most vulnerable populations across 70 countries. Martin Griffiths, UN’s top humanitarian official stated that the needs were “shockingly high” and underscored that this year’s humanitarian crises could further accelerate into 2023. He also explained that at least 222 million people would be facing acute food insecurity across 53 countries by the end of this year. The Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) is the humanitarian community’s annual assessment report which highlights the global humanitarian needs and resources that are required to respond to them. The GHO 2023 report has projected that 45 million people across 37 countries would be at risk of starvation in 2023. Mr. Griffiths underscored that fulfilling the funding needs would be extremely difficult as this Global Humanitarian appeal alone has only been 47 per cent funded. He also highlighted that with respect to the situation in Ukraine, 13.4 million people had been provided with humanitarian assistance and that a total of $5.7 billion was needed for the country next year. 


IOM and UNHCR: Inter-Agency Platform Launched to Provide Socio-Economic Support to Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants

On 1 December 2022, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR and the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) launched the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V). The platform aims at responding to the needs of millions of refugees and migrants who are unable to afford three meals a day, safe and decent housing, are having trouble accessing medical and healthcare facilities, and are unable to work. The $1.72 billion plan has been launched by both agencies to support Venezuelan migrants and refugees across Latin America and the Caribbean. The funding “will complement and support host governments’ efforts, while also promoting socio-economic integration through access to employment, education, and efforts to provide full protection as refugees.” The 17 participating countries will have access to the program, which provides a coordinated operational plan with 228 partner organisations. 


Saudi Arabia: UN Experts Urge Authorities to Abolish Death Sentence in Case of Drug Related Offences 

On 1 December 2022, UN Human Rights Council appointed experts issued a statement raising their concern over the planned execution of a 57-year-old Jordanian citizen by Saudi authorities for carrying amphetamine pills across the border in 2014. They further reminded the authorities that drug offences did not meet the threshold for the “most serious crimes” under international law, which holds that states who have not abolished the death penalty utilise it only for ‘serious crimes.’ According to the 2005 Law on Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances, Mr. Abo-al-Kheir had been sentenced to death for the alleged crime in 2015. According to the UN experts, Mr. Abo al-Kheir had also been tortured, held incommunicado, forcibly disappeared and further coerced into signing a false confession. He had also been denied access to legal counsel after his arrest. Ending the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Abo al-Kheir as illegal and arbitrary, the UN Working group on Arbitrary Detention called for his release. Saudi authorities have ended an unofficial 21-month moratorium on the death penalty, with experts reiterating their calls for establishing an official moratorium on all executions and completely abolishing the death penalty. Since 10 November, Saudi Arabia has executed 20 individuals including 12 foreign nationals.


EU: New Migration Plan Facilitates Abuses and Fails Legal Frameworks

On 1 December 2022, the European Commission action plan on the Central Mediterranean was assessed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), as a missed opportunity to reset ‘myopic and harmful policies on this crucial migration route.’ The new plan provides Libya with greater capacity to police its borders. This was justified by the EU, as an effort to fight against smugglers and traffickers. However, HRW argues the plan ignores recommendations and evidence provided by the UN, of collusion between the Libyan Coast Guard and traffickers and smugglers. Rescue groups have emphasized that maritime law has already put in place a legal framework for rescues at sea and that it is time for the EU governments to follow suit.


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