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- Belgium: Trial of Ten Men Accused of the 2016 Bombing Attack Commenced
- Chad: More than 260 People Sentenced to Imprisonment Over Anti-Government Protests
- Iran: Five Men Sentenced to the Death Penalty for Murdering Basij Troop Paramilitary Member
- USA: Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Dismissed
- Bosnia: Serb Ex-Soldiers Charged with Committing Crimes Against Humanity Over Execution of 20 Civilians
- Indonesia: Bali Bomber Umar Patek Released on Parole
- Russia: US Basketball Player Britney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap
- USA: Former Warden of Women’s Prison Found Guilty of Sexual Abuse
- Sudan: Protests Break Out as Transition Deal Signed
- Ukraine: Renew Russian Airstrikes Across Ukraine
- Kenya: 80 000 Forced to Flee Somalia for Kenyan Refugee Camps
- DRC: Continued Conflict is Causing the Number of Displaced Persons to Increase and Major Challenges to Humanitarian Aid
- Afghanistan: Human Rights Office Strongly Opposes the Public Execution Conducted by the De Facto Authorities, Urging for an Immediate Moratorium on Death Penalty
- UNHCR: Continuous Violence and Conflict in South Sudan Displaces Thousands
- Iran: First Protestor Executed and the Status of Morality Police Remains Unclear as Protests Continue
- UNICEF, WFP & FAO: 48 million People Projected to Become Food Insecure in the Next Year in West and Central Africa
- Bangladesh: Amnesty International Calls for Ending Excessive Use of Force Against Peaceful Demonstrations
- EU: New Report Documents Illegal Detention and Violent Pushbacks of Migrants and Refugees at EU Borders
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
Belgium: Trial of Ten Men Accused of the 2016 Bombing Attack Commenced
On 5 December 2022, in the case of two suicide bombings in Brussels in 2016, ten men have gone on trial for participating in the attacks before the Court of Assizes. The attacks caused the death of 32 people and injured more than 300 people. ISIS took responsibility for the attacks. Three alleged perpetrators from the group – Khalid el-Bakraoui, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui died. During the next hearing, which will be held on Monday, Judge Laurence Massart will confirm the identity of all parties to the case. It is believed that the Brussels bombings trial is directly linked to the French trial over the November 2015 Paris attacks. In June, among those accused of the Brussels bombings, six men were sentenced to jail terms of between 10 years and life, in France. What differentiates the two trials is that the Belgian trial will be settled by a jury and not by judges. One of the ten accused will be tried in absentia. The trial is expected to last for seven months.
Chad: More than 260 People Sentenced to Imprisonment Over Anti-Government Protests
On 6 December 2022, a court in Chad sentenced 262 people to imprisonment for two to three years, for conducting anti-government protests in October. A mass trial of 401 individuals was arranged at Koro Toro prison, a high-security jail located in the desert. The trial which lasted four days charged the defendants with participating in an unauthorised gathering, destroying belongings, arson and disturbing public order. According to the public prosecutor, Moussa Wade Djibrine said that 262 people were given jail sentences, 80 suspended terms, and 59 were acquitted. Approximately 50 people were killed, including 10 security force officers, when the police opened fire on demonstrators in N’Djamena, the capital, on 20 October.
Iran: Five Men Sentenced to the Death Penalty for Murdering Basij Troop Paramilitary Member
On 6 December 2022, five men were sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court for killing a member of a paramilitary force affiliated with the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The sixteen defendants included thirteen men and three minors. They were charged with killing Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer branch of the IRGC. According to Iran’s state news agency (IRNA), the accused chased and attacked Ajamian with knives and stones in November. He was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi. The incident took place in Karaj, near Tehran. The other eleven defendants received lengthy jail terms. The sentences are appealable.
USA: Lawsuit Against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Dismissed
On 6 December 2022, a US district court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The allegations against him claimed that he conspired to kill Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The court observed that Prince Mohammed was entitled to sovereign immunity despite “credible allegations.” Judge John Bates said that his hands were in effect tied by the Biden administration’s recent recommendation that Prince Mohammad be given immunity. The case was brought forth by Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, and Dawn, a pro-democracy group founded by the murdered journalist. Such dismissal of the case would now mean that Prince Mohammad and two of his close associates can freely travel to the US and other jurisdictions. According to Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Khashoggi was subjected to deliberate and premeditated execution for which Saudi Arabia was responsible.
Bosnia: Serb Ex-Soldiers Charged with Committing Crimes Against Humanity Over Execution of 20 Civilians
On 7 December 2022, an indictment was released by the Bosnian state prosecution in which Marinko Vidovic, and Pero Vujovic were charged with committing crimes against humanity in the village of Ljesevo, near Ilijas. The suspects were allegedly responsible for conducting an attack on the Bosniak civilian population in the village of Ljesevo on 5 June 1992. The civilians were lined up in the yard of one of the houses and were shot dead by the two suspects and five other members of the same unit. The victims were mostly members of the Fazlic, Masnopita and Avdukic families and included women and elderly people. The suspects also severely wounded two civilians and arrested and forcibly confined the remaining Bosniak population. The indictment has been filed before the Bosnian state court for confirmation.
Indonesia: Bali Bomber Umar Patek Released on Parole
On 8 December 2022, Umar Patek was released on parole after completing more than half of his sentence. He was previously convicted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people. In 2012, he was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, for mixing the bombs used in the attack on two busy nightclubs in the resort town of Kuta. Patek, a member of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 after nearly 10 years on the run. He was also convicted over a series of bombings in Jakarta in 2000 that targeted Christmas Eve church services and killed 19 people. According to the ministry of law and human rights, Patek will be required to join a “mentoring programme” until April 2030.
Russia: US Basketball Player Britney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap
On 8 December 2022, in an exchange that took place at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates, basketball player Britney Griner was released from a Russian prison. She was exchanged with convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was serving a 25-year jail term in the US. Griner was convicted for carrying cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage which is banned in Russia. In August, she was sentenced to nine years in prison and was sent to a penal colony to serve her sentence. Another US prisoner, Paul Whelan, a marine veteran is still serving a sixteen-year sentence in Russia. He was sentenced to prison in 2020 on espionage charges. The Biden administration has promised to continue to push for Whelan’s release.
USA: Former Warden of Women’s Prison Found Guilty of Sexual Abuse
On 8 December 2022, Ray Garcia, an ex-warden of a federal women’s prison was found guilty of abusing inmates at the federal correctional facility in Dublin, California – reportedly known as the “rape club.” He was the first of five defendants to go on trial for abusing detained women in the prison. He was found guilty of eight charges and faces up to 15 years in prison. He retired in 2021 after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found nude photos of inmates on his phone. According to the prosecutors, Garcia’s abusive conduct followed a pattern of flattery and promises to transfer to lower security prisons, but later escalated to sexual assault. He was arrested in September 2021.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
Sudan: Protests Break Out as Transition Deal Signed
On 5 December 2022, Al Jazeera reported on the outbreak of protests in Sudan after the military and political parties signed a deal that permits a civilian-led two-year transition towards elections. The stand-off between the two sides was triggered by a coup in October 2021 and the new agreement introduces limits on the military’s role in Sudanese society; however, it leaves issues such as transitional justice and the reform of the security sector in need of further discussion. In response to the signing, pro-democracy Resistance committee leaders called for protests as, according to Al Jazeera, they believe the deal “doesn’t meet their aspirations” and that they had been “excluded from the talks.” Protests broke out in Khartoum over the signing; however, the United States and several other countries welcomed the deal.
Ukraine: Renew Russian Airstrikes Across Ukraine
On 5 December 2022, Russia renewed air strikes on Ukraine, destroying homes and knocking out power in the southeast- on the day the emergency blackouts were due to end. Moscow has been hitting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since October 2022. In the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, two people were killed in the renewed strikes and now 40 per cent of the Kyiv region is without electricity. The strikes have put many parts of the country back into darkness and temperatures across Ukraine have reached below zero degrees Celsius. A number of explosions have damaged arms stores and military points in Russian regions near Ukraine; however, Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for them and stated that they are “karma” for the Russian attacks in Ukraine.
Kenya: 80 000 Forced to Flee Somalia for Kenyan Refugee Camps
On 6 December 2022, the UNHCR announced that approximately 80 000 people have arrived in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps, the majority from Somalia, in the past two years. Approximately 24 000 refugees have fled to the camps since the end of September 2022 as ongoing insecurity in Somalia, and the longest and most severe drought in decades has heavily affected civilians. The UNHCR found that the existing refugees in the camps have welcomed new arrivals and shared their limited resources; however, adequate space is running out and overcrowding is further challenged by a cholera outbreak which has infected 350 people, mainly children, since the end of October 2022. The UNHCR is providing new arrivals in the Dadaab camp with clean drinking water, and malnourished children are being screened and admitted to stabilisation centres. Outside the camps, around 4.5 million Kenyans are suffering the consequences of a devastating drought and UNHCR is calling upon more support, not only for Kenya but also for Somalia and Ethiopia where humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate.
DRC: Continued Conflict is Causing the Number of Displaced Persons to Increase and Major Challenges to Humanitarian Aid
On 6 December 2022, the International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC”) reported on the humanitarian disaster caused by the resumption of conflict in the region of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”). In October 2022, fighting restarted between the Congolese army and the March 23 Movement (“M23”) causing more displaced persons to seek refuge, in already short-supplied camps, in the territory of Nyiragongo. The UN stated that Nyiragongo is hosting over 177 400 displaced persons, with the majority in Kibati or Kanyaruchinya. The needs of those living in the camps are acute, and although aid generally arrives unobstructed, agencies have experienced difficulties in Lubero, which hosts over 98 000 displaced persons, due to conflict and destruction caused by heavy rainfall. The ICRC reported that the number of displaced persons is increasing daily and “if the fighting doesn’t stop, we’re going to be facing a humanitarian crisis that will be difficult to control.” The UN estimates that since the fighting began in Rutshuru in March 2022, over 280 000 people have fled their homes.
Afghanistan: Human Rights Office Strongly Opposes the Public Execution Conducted by the De Facto Authorities, Urging for an Immediate Moratorium on Death Penalty
On 7 December 2022, Jeremy Laurence, Spokesperson of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) criticised the public execution that occurred in the Farah province of Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban. It has been the first public execution since the Taliban took over in 2021. He called the development “deeply disturbing” and highlighted that public executions constituted a form of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” He also stressed that the right to life was protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Afghanistan is a State Party. The man who had been executed was accused of murder, after fatally stabbing another man five years ago. Mr Laurence underscored that the death penalty was not in compliance with fundamental human rights and urged that the de facto authorities in power should “establish an immediate moratorium” on further public execution and fully prohibit the use of the death penalty as a punishment.
UNHCR: Continuous Violence and Conflict in South Sudan Displaces Thousands
On 7 December 2022, Arafat Jamal, UNHCR’s Representative, highlighted that thousands have been displaced because of the escalating conflict and violence in South Sudan’s Greater Upper Nile Region. Currently, 20 000 people have been displaced since August, with around 3 000 people having already fled to neighbouring Sudan- further escalating South Sudan’s refugee crisis, which is already the largest in Africa. The UN Official highlighted that the protection of civilians is ensured. Even though UNHCR has been continuously providing support in the region, 6.8 million have been left in need of urgent humanitarian aid because of armed conflict, localised violence, flooding, food insecurity and a deteriorating economy. Due to underfunding, the UNHCR has been scaling up its response in the region; and only 46 % of the $ 214.6 million has been received until now.
Iran: First Protestor Executed and the Status of Morality Police Remains Unclear as Protests Continue
On 8 December 2022, Iranian state media announced that the first anti-government protester, Mohsen Shekari (“Shekari”), was executed after being found guilty by a Revolutionary Court of “moharebeh” (enmity against God). On 1 November, Iranian courts found Shekari guilty of being a “rioter” and injuring a member of the Basij Resistance Force, a volunteer paramilitary force deployed to quell protests, with a machete whilst blocking a road in Tehran on 25 September 2022. Iran Human Rights state that Shekari was “denied access to his lawyer throughout the interrogation phase [and] legal proceedings” with him being convicted after a “show trial.” The Iranian judiciary announced that at least 11 other people have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests. Prior to this, on 3 December 2022, Iran’s chief prosecutor reportedly stated the closure of the morality police; the authority which has enforced the country’s strict dress code since 2005 and was responsible for the arrest of Mahsa Amini for violating the rules, and who later died in police custody. However, no further details have been given and analysts warned the reported closure may be a way to appease the public without making any real concessions. Meanwhile, anti-government protests have continued across Iran and non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) reported that roughly 470 people, including 64 children, have been killed in the protests since September 2022. Human rights activists reported that approximately 18 000 people have been arrested in the 11-week-long demonstrations which are among the largest in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Tehran continues to blame the unrest on “hostile foreign powers” although it has not provided any evidence.
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UNICEF, WFP & FAO: 48 million People Projected to Become Food Insecure in the Next Year in West and Central Africa
On 8 December 2022, at the annual meeting for the Prevention of Food Crisis in West Africa (RPCA) held in Lomé, Togo, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) released a joint statement urging governments across West and Central Africa to scale up their support for food insecurity and nutrition programmes in order to reduce the risk of people falling into acute food insecurity. It was reported that the number of people who are on the verge of being food insecure has reached an all-time high of 48 million (in West and Central Africa). The latest food security analysis shows that 35 million people, including 6.7 million children, are currently unable to meet their basic food and nutrition needs. The analysis highlighted a 20 per cent increase in food insecurity in the regions of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo, when compared to the past year. Furthermore, 25 million men, women and children are facing moderate to acute food insecurity in Nigeria, which means that they are on the brink of falling into an emergency food security situation. Acute malnutrition in children under the age of five continues to remain a concern especially in Sahel countries and in Nigeria. The global acute malnutrition rate has also exceeded 10 per cent in many areas around the Lake Chad Basin and its bordering areas. UNICEF and WFP have been working together on a joint social protection programme in Mali, Mauritania, and Niger which supports 1.8 million people, through cash-based transfers and complementary services. FAO has been working in Burkina Faso providing support to 620 000 people to boost their agricultural production capacities and protect their livelihoods. FAO has also been providing the social protection system through cash-based transfers and complementary services like UNICEF and WFP which targets 408 000 people in the country.
Bangladesh: Amnesty International Calls for Ending Excessive Use of Force Against Peaceful Demonstrations
On 8 December 2022, Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Asia condemned the clash that occurred between the supporters of the opposition party and the police in Dhaka on 7 December. She stated that the incident highlighted the disregard of Bangladesh authorities for those practising their human rights and further urged the authorities to immediately put an end to the excessive use of force in responding to protests. She highlighted that an increase in repression by the authorities had been witnessed in the region, with mass arrests being carried out. She urged authorities to “end impunity for [the] repression of peaceful protests, and … effectively investigate cases of excessive use of force by the police.”
EU: New Report Documents Illegal Detention and Violent Pushbacks of Migrants and Refugees at EU Borders
On 8 December 2022, a new report released by collaborative journalism NGO, Lighthouse Reports, documented the violence and abuse against migrants and refugees across European Union Borders. The new report includes disturbing audio and video evidence which show security forces detaining migrants along the European Union’s borders before forcing them back across the border. The report primarily documented abuses that occurred in Bulgaria, Hungary and Croatia. Human Rights Watch, has also documented the violence and abuse that has been committed by border officials in those countries against migrants and asylum seekers, highlighting that their earlier reports as to shootings at the Bulgaria-Turkey border had been corroborated by evidence from Lighthouse Report’s recently published video of Bulgarian border guards shooting a 19-year-old asylum seeker from entering Bulgaria (in October). Jelena Sesar, Amnesty International’s Western Balkans Researcher also reacted to the findings of the report and highlighted that “people are often held in tents, containers and police vans, usually off-grid in isolated forests or others inaccessible areas, in a deliberate attempt to keep them near the EU’s external borders. This intentional tactic allows the authorities to quickly perform illegal pushbacks, ignore their asylum claims and commit other abuses.” She also highlighted that numerous cases of people being forced to spend from several hours to days in unofficial detention sites on EU borders had also been documented by the organisation, which occurred recently in Greece, Croatia, Poland and Latvia. She also underscored that the report’s finding confirmed the disturbing trend of unlawful detention which had previously been witnessed by the organisation at the EU borders.