Weekly News Recap (9-15 January 2023)

© Photo by World Meteorological Organization via Flickr




Bosnia: State Court Confirms Verdict for Ex-Policeman’s Involvement in the Killings of Civilians

On 10 January 2023, the Bosnian state court upheld the verdict of Dusan Culibrk, to 20 years in prison for his involvement in killing more than 50 Bosniaks and Croats in the Bosanska Krupa area in 1992. Culibrk, was a member of the reservist police force, at the Public Security Station in Bosanska Krupa, where in July of 1992, 44 Bosniak and Croat detainees were removed to the village of Donji Dubovik and tied up and shot. Culibrk was also found guilty of participating in the murder of seven Bosniak civilians in August of 1992. Culibrk was indicted with fellow ex-policeman Milorad Kotur. Culibrk’s lawyer stated that their appeal against the first-instance verdict was rejected by the court, as unfounded.


Romania: 30-day Detention Upheld of British-US Social Media Personality

On 11 January 2023, a Romanian court upheld the 30-day custody of Andrew Tate, who was arrested on charges of organised crime, human trafficking and rape. Romanian anti-organised crime agency DIICOT, said a court in Bucharest rejected an appeal by Tate ‘against the judge’s earlier decision to extend his custody from 1 to 30 days.’ Tate was arrested on 29 December along with his brother Tristan. The Bucharest Court of Appeals rejected all appeals against the judge’s decision on 30 December, granting the prosecutor’s request to extend the arrest period, on the grounds that the defendants could easily evade the ongoing investigation and settle in countries that do not allow extradition. DIICOT has identified six victims in the trafficking case, who were ‘kept under surveillance and subjected to other control tactics while being coerced into performing pornographic acts.’ The spokeswoman for DIICOT, Ramona Bolla said prosecutors can prove that the Tate brothers gained money through human trafficking and have seized several of their assets. Following this decision, the Prosecution can request another extension of up to 180 days.


Peru: Genocide Investigation Against President Opened in the Aftermath of Protest Deaths

On 11 January 2023, the Guardian reported that an inquiry has been launched into Peru’s newly elected president Dina Boluarte and members of her cabinet by the country’s top prosecutor’s office to investigate the allegations of genocide made against her after violent clashes that have killed at least 40 since December 2022. The inquiry comes in the aftermath of the death of 17 civilians who had been killed in the country’s southern Puno region on 9 January 2023. The attorney general’s office clarified that the investigation was being made on the charges of “genocide, qualified homicide and serious injuries” and that Boluarte, Otarola, as well as Defense Minister Jorge Chavez and Interior Minister Victor Rojas were being investigated. The attorney general’s office further stated that it would also investigate former prime minister Pedro Angulo and former Interior Minister Cesar Cervantes, who served under the newly elected president for a few weeks, for their involvement in handling the protests. 


Singapore: Government Resumes Executions of Prisoners on Death Row

On 12 January 2023, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) World Report 2023, highlighted the resumption of executions of death row prisoners, as well as the government’s attempts at repressing the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. Singapore has executed at least 11 people in 2022, all of which were for nonviolent drug offences. Moreover ‘activists and lawyers [continually face] systematic harassment’ in working to support defendants and their families, and challenging the racial bias on death row. The government uses ‘restrictive public order laws, threats of defamation suits, and contempt of court actions’ to curtail activists and media outlets who critique the government. Singapore also passed, on 29 November 2022, a new constitutional amendment defining marriage ‘as being between a man and a woman, effectively blocking any legal challenges relating to the definition of marriage.’


ICJ: Public Hearing Announced in the Armenia v. Azerbaijan Case

On 13 January 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that public hearings in the case concerning the Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Armenia v. Azerbaijan) will be held on 30 January 2023 at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The hearings will deal with the Request for provisional measures which was submitted by the Republic of Armenia on 27 December 2022.


IRMCT: Court Orders Preparation for the Hearing of the Appeals in Stanišić and Simatović case

On 13 January 2023, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), announced the ‘order for the preparation of the Hearing on the appeals’ in the case of Prosecutor v. Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović (Case No. MICT-15-96-T). The Appeals Chamber, in the course of reviewing the Prosecution’s appeal, invited the prosecution to discuss a number of issues including whether the prosecution is arguing that the Trial Chamber erred in law. The Mechanism Trial Chamber found Stanišić and Simatović guilty under all counts of the indictment and sentenced each of them to 12 years of imprisonment for aiding and abetting the crime of murder, deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution committed by Serb forces. Stanišić, was the Head of the State Security Service (“Državna bezbednost” or “DB”) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Republic of Serbia (“Ministarstvo unutrašnjih poslova” or “MUP”) and Simatović, was employed by the Second administration of the DB of the MUP.



South Korea: Police Seek to Charge 23 Officials for the Crowd Crush in Seoul

On 13 January 2023, South Korean police said that they are working on charging 23 officials with involuntary manslaughter and negligence over public safety failures that resulted in the crowd crush that killed 159 people in a popular nightlife area. Son Je-han, who is heading the special investigation into the tragedy, said on Friday that his team will send the case file to the prosecutors. The police investigation confirmed that police and public officials ‘failed to employ meaningful crowd control measures for the expected number of Halloween revelers and essentially ignored emergency calls placed to police hotlines that warned of a swelling crowd.’ The failure to adequately respond to the situation, as well as poor cooperation efforts, lead to the high number of fatalities. The crowd crush resulted in the death of 159 people. Among the 23 officials recommended for indictment Seoul’s Yongsan district mayor, Park Hee-young, and former district police chief, Lee Im-jae, are included. Two people have already been arrested in connection with the incident.


Greece: Charges Against Aid Workers Are Rejected by Lesbos Court

On 13 January 2023, a Lesbos court rejected several cases brought against a group of aid workers and volunteers on procedural grounds. The case revolves around 24 individuals who were charged over their work with migrants – who arrived on the island of Lesbos. Sarah Mardini, a prominent Syrian human rights worker, and Sean Binder, a fellow volunteer, spent three months in jail on the island in 2018, following their arrest on misdemeanour charges including espionage, forgery and unlawful use of radio frequencies. The court on Friday accepted that the prosecution had failed to adhere to proper procedures and dismissed the charges over radio frequencies- as this law has since been abolished. Sarah Mardini and Mr. Binder, however, are still under investigation over the felony charges.  UN Human Rights Office has stated that trials such as this are ‘deeply concerning because they criminalise life-saving work and set a dangerous precedent.’


Iran: Iranian-British Citizen Executed for Charges of Spying

On 14 January 2023, former defence official Alireza Akbari, was executed by Iranian authorities. He was given the death penalty by the Iranian judiciary for ‘corruption on Earth and for harming the country’s internal and external security by passing on intelligence.’ According to a statement from the intelligence ministry, he was a ‘key spy for the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service- MI6- because of the importance of his position.’ James Cleverly, the foreign minister for the United Kingdom, had called for Akbari’s immediate release citing the decision as ‘politically motivated.’ The United States and France had also called for his execution to be halted with France summoning Iran’s top diplomat in Paris. Mr. Akbari had been invited to Iran by an Iranian diplomat and once he was there, he was ‘accused of obtaining top secret intelligence’ and arrested. Iran has reportedly sentenced eighteen people to death, since mid-September, when protests broke out across the country following the death of Mahsa Amini. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk has called out Iran for using the death penalty as a weapon to dispel dissent, and ‘punish people for exercising their basic rights.’




Senegal: Bus Collision Kills 38 and Injures Dozens

On 8 January 2023, Senegal suffered its deadliest motor accident in recent years, when a bus collision killed at least 38 people and injured dozens. The incident occurred near the city of Kaffrine, 250 km south of Dakar, and involved two buses. According to local authorities, one of the vehicles, a public transport bus, had a burst tire which caused it to go off track and collide with another oncoming bus. On 9  January 2023, three days of national mourning began, as well as, an inter-ministerial meeting to review and act on vehicular public transport safety.


Taiwan: Taiwan Condemns Second Round of Chinese Military Drills Near Taiwan in Less than a Month

On 8 January 2023, China held military combat drills around Taiwan. This marks the second military drills around the island in less than a month and on 9 January 2023, Taiwanese defence authorities stated that it detected 57 Chinese aircraft in the previous 24 hours, including 28 that flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone. The Chinese Eastern Theatre Command, a branch of the principal military force of China, the People’s Liberation Army, stated that drills aimed to “resolutely counter the provocative actions of external forces and Taiwan independence separatist forces.” However, Taiwan’s presidential office stated that these were “groundless accusations” and the Taiwanese standpoint has been very clear, it will “neither escalate conflicts nor provoke disputes, but will firmly defend its sovereignty and security.”  China views Taiwan as its own territory and has been increasing military, political and economic pressure based on these claims.


Israel: The Palestinian Flag is Held as a Symbol of ‘Terrorism’ and Removed from Public Spaces

On 9 January 2023, Israel’s far-right security minister ordered the removal of the Palestinian flag from public places declaring it a symbol of “terrorism.” The display of Palestinian flags in Israel has always been tightly regulated and although not illegal, authorities have the right to remove it when they deem it to be a threat to public order. The statement comes after a mass anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv on 8 January 2023 where some protestors waved Palestinian flags. Demonstrators claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government threatens equality and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis. According to Al Jazeera, the security minister’s statement represents an “uncompromising attitude” towards Palestinians’ identity and freedom of speech, leaving many Palestinians fearful of the new government’s policies towards them. Palestinian citizens of Israel account for roughly one-fifth of the population with most being descendants of the Palestinians who remained with the state after its formation in 1948.


UN: Security Council Agrees to Extend CrossBorder Humanitarian Assistance into Northwest Syria

On 9 January 2023, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously voted to extend a resolution that authorises cross-border humanitarian operations between Syria and Türkiye that provide aid to 4.1 million people in northwest Syria. The decision authorised another six months of support as humanitarian needs in Syria have reached their highest since the conflict began in 2011. The US ambassador to Syria, however, reported that the resolution “represents the bare minimum” and renewing the resolution should never have been a debate. On the other hand, Russia took the “difficult decision” to support the resolution and stated that the humanitarian aid is going to “a Syrian enclave that is inundated with terrorists”, and that the cross-border mechanism implemented by the resolution fails to recognise Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. 


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UN: Levels of Insecurity in the Sahel Region Continue to Decline

On 10 January 2023, according to the briefing by Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Officer-in-Charge of the UN Office for the region, UNOWAS, West Africa and the Sahel region continues to face unprecedented humanitarian, security and political challenges. Despite this region being a “land of immense opportunities”, the UN Security Council (UNSC) heard that insecurity has deteriorated large parts of the region, with instability being further compounded by climate change and the rising food uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine. Conflicts caused by violent extremists, armed groups and criminal networks have forced the closure of approximately 10 000 schools and 7 000 health centres, significantly affecting vulnerable people and children. The UN Office for the region, UNOWAS, is urging ambassadors to continue to support a strategy centred on building the stability of the region and strengthening peace and security through good governance.


Mozambique: Video Showing Soldiers Burning Corpses is the Latest Evidence of Atrocities Being Committed in Cabo Delgado

On 11 January 2023, Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa in response to a video being circulated on social media which shows soldiers hewing dead bodies on a pile of burning household items in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, urged that the video was “another horrific event” that provides a glimpse of what is actually going on in the region. He also highlighted that incidents of violence against civilians, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations were still continuing in the region. The video which gained attention on social media on 10 January 2023, ‘is believed to have taken place in November 2022 in Cabo Delgado, where the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) regional force, which includes troops from the South African National Defence Force, has been fighting armed rebel groups since 2021 alongside Mozambique government forces.’ Mr. Chagutah also highlighted the incident recorded on video is “deplorable” and likely constitutes a violation of humanitarian law which ‘prohibits the mutilation of corpses and requires that dead bodies be disposed of’ respectfully. He further urged that a prompt and independent investigation be launched into the incident to determine the circumstances of the killings as well as the burning of the bodies. 


Indonesia: New Criminal Code Curtails Individual Freedoms

On 12 January 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its 2023 World Report, where they highlighted Indonesia’s new criminal code which will affect already marginalised communities including women and girls, lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and religious minority communities. The new criminal code went into effect on 6 December 2022. The code allows the government to restrict individual freedoms including freedom of religion, privacy, and expression. Furthermore, the code makes consensual sex or cohabitation outside of marriage a criminal offence, allowing the law to intrude into individuals’ most intimate decisions. The code also expanded the chapter on blasphemy, from one to six articles and includes ‘an article that makes apostasy- leaving a religion or belief- a criminal offence.’ The Asia director of HRW, Elaine Pearson, has called upon President Joko Widodo to take action to ensure that the new code does not ‘violate the rights of the country’s religious minority communities.’


Germany: Government Set to Recognise the 2014 Massacre of Yazidis by the Islamic State as Genocide

On 13 January 2023, Germany’s lower house of Parliament is posed to recognise the 2014 massacre of Kurdish-speaking Yazidis as genocide. In August 2014, the Islamic State (IS) jihadist massacred over 1 200 Yazidis in Northwest Iraq. In May, a special UN investigation team collected what they described as ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that IS had committed genocide. This follows the decision by the Bundestag last July to recognise the 2014 massacre as genocide. Germany has what is ‘believed to be the world’s largest Yazidi diaspora, having taken in roughly 150 000 people.’ The decision in recognising the genocide will allow the German judicial system to further pursue criminal cases against suspects in Germany, as well as ‘increase financial support to collect evidence of crimes in Iraq and boost funding to help rebuild shattered Yazidi communities.’


UN: 30 Million Children Under the Age of Five, Risk Suffering from Wasting Due to the Global Food Crisis

On 12 January 2023, five UN agencies including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) made an urgent call for taking action in order to protect 30 million children under the age of five, who have been affected by acute malnutrition that has been brought on by continuous conflicts, climate change, COVID-19 pandemic and the increased costs of living. Eight million children are suffering from severe wasting, which is considered to be the deadliest form of malnutrition, and children suffering from it are 12 times more likely to die from it. The appeal made by the five UN agencies urged the international community to step up their efforts on the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting, to prevent the crisis from further intensifying. The Global Action Plan aims to prevent, detect and treat acne malnutrition among children, especially in countries which have been affected by the crisis the most. The Plan also highlights a “multi-sectoral approach” while the five UN agencies have stressed five specific actions that will be effective in addressing acute malnutrition, which include an enhanced analysis of the factors or causes of child wasting, ensuring essential maternal and child nutrition interventions for early prevention, and increasing the accessibility, availability and affordability of healthy diets for young children along with pregnant and breastfeeding women while also introducing specialised nutritious food products as part of the emergency food assistance.


WMO: As 2022 is Confirmed as One of the Warmest Years on Record, UN Agency Warns Warming Could Continue Without Any Stop

On 12 January 2022, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) highlighted that 2022 was the fifth or sixth warmest year on record and also the eighth consecutive year when global temperatures rose at least one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. WMO also highlighted that there also existed a likelihood of the 1.5-degree Celsius limit of the Paris Agreement, being breached. Although the cooling impact of the La Niña phenomenon prevented 2022 from being the warmest ever, various disasters still occurred which were linked to climate change, such as the flooding in Pakistan,  the drought in the Horn of Africa and many more. WMO Secretary-General, Professor Petteri Taalas urged that the international community should be prepared for extreme weather events while also highlighting that “only half of the 193 (UN) Members have proper early warning services.’ WMO also stated that each decade would continue to get warmer, and the data analysis by the agency has shown that the average global temperatures in 2022 were about 1.15C (34.07F), which was above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels. This compares with 1.09C (33.96F) increase from 2011-2020, which indicates that long-term warming would not stop.


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