Weekly News Recap (16-22 January 2023)

© Photo by USArmy via Flickr




Italy: Most Wanted Mafia Boss Matteo Messina Denaro Arrested

On 16 January 2023, Matteo Messina Denaro was arrested by the Italian authorities after being on a run for 30 years. According to the prosecutors, he is a boss of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia. Denaro was sentenced in absentia to a life term for his involvement in the killings of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992. He is also facing another life sentence for his participation in bomb attacks that took place in Florence, Rome, and Milan in 1993, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people. Further, prosecutors accuse him of being solely or jointly responsible for several other murders that occurred in the 1990s. The arrest happened a day after the capture of convicted “boss of bosses” Salvatore “Toto” Riina, in a Palermo apartment after 23 years on the run.


UK: Court Approved Appeal Against UK’s Rwanda Asylum-Seeker Plan

On 16 January 2023, the High Court in London granted permission to a group of asylum seekers to challenge a decision that holds the UK’s plan of sending migrants to Rwanda as lawful. In December, two High Court judges held that the policy was legal and rejected the lawsuit from several asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union. The same judges allowed the claimants to challenge the verdict on issues including whether the plan is “systemically unfair” and whether asylum seekers would be safe in Rwanda. According to Britain’s interior ministry, the policy is a fundamental part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to tackle the record number of migrants and refugees arriving in small boats. In June, the first deportation flight was blocked by a last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling imposed an injunction preventing any deportations until the conclusion of legal action in Britain.


ECtHR: Illegal Migrant Detention Centre Fire Killed Three in Croatia, Investigation Revealed Lack of Preparation and Accountability

On 17 January 2023, in the case Daraibou v. Croatia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held that there were two violations of Article 2 (right to life/ investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case pertained to a fire that broke out in the basement room of Bajakovo police station, which at the time was being used as a detention centre for illegal migrants. Three detained migrants died in the fire and the applicant in the case who was also detained with them suffered severe injuries. The Court observed that the police station and its staff had not adequately prepared for a potential fire and that many questions remained unresolved despite the investigation beginning promptly. The Court found that the police officers did not properly search and watch the detainees, which allowed them to start the fire by keeping a cigarette lighter. The Court held that the authorities had failed to provide the applicant with sufficient and reasonable protection of his life and limb, in violation of Article 2 of the Convention and thus Croatia was to pay the applicant 15 000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 5 000 euros in respect of costs and expenses.


Germany: Ghanaian Survivor Martin Kyere Testified Against Bai Lowe

On 19 January 2023, Martin Kyere testified before the German court against Bai Lowe. Kyere survived the massacre of 59 West African migrants in July 2005 by a paramilitary ‘death squad’ in Gambia. The death squad was set up by the then Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh allegedly believed the migrants to be part of a group planning to overthrow him, and as a result, he ordered the “Junglers” death squad to carry out the unlawful killings. Kyere was the only migrant that managed to escape and has since then been advocating for the rights of the families of the victim and working for justice to be served. Bal Lowe was an alleged member of the Junglers and was arrested in March 2021 in Germany. He is facing charges by German prosecutors for his alleged involvement as a member of the death squad which includes the murder of journalist Deyda Hydara and political opponent Dawda Nyassi and the attempted murder of lawyer Ousman Sillah. His trial began in April 2022 and is the first universal jurisdiction trial judging the atrocities committed during Jammeh’s rule.



Bosnia: Boban Indjic Convicted in Train Massacre Case

On 19 January 2023, Boban Indjic, a commander of the Interventions Company of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Visegrad Brigade, was found guilty of participating in the abductions and subsequent murders of 20 civilians who were seized from a train at Strpci station in Bosnia on 27 February 1993. The key witnesses testified that an armed group, including Indjic and Bosnian Serb paramilitary chief Milan Lukic, went from the Visegrad Brigade’s command post to Strpci, and that a train despatcher was ordered to halt the train that was travelling from Belgrade to Bar in Montenegro via Strpci. The Court found that Indjic, Lukic and others checked the passengers’ identity documents and took 20 of them off the train and drove them by military truck to a school building in the village of Prelovo, near Visegrad. At the gym, the victims were physically assaulted and beaten and later transported to a burned-out house in the village of Mrsici, where Lukic killed 18 of them while Indjic stood next to him. Other fighters killed the remaining two civilians and threw their bodies in the River Drina. This is a first-instance verdict and can be appealed.


Israel: Second Longest Serving Palestinian Prisoner Maher Younis Released After Four Decades

On 19 January 2023, Maher Younis, the second longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, was released from Eshel prison near Beer Sabe’ (Beer Sheva) in southern Israel after serving four decades. He and his cousin, Karim Younis, were arrested in 1983 and were found guilty by Israeli courts of killing an Israeli soldier in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in 1980. Karim was released two weeks ago and was the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner as he was arrested earlier than Maher. Maher and Karim were originally sentenced to death but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison and then further reduced to 40 years in 2011. Roughly 4 700 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, including 150 children and 835 people held without trial or charge.


Bolivia: Court Ordered Santa Cruz Governor to Remain in Custody

On 19 January 2023, Judge Rosmery Lourdes Pabon upheld the December verdict given by a different judge and held that Luis Fernando Camacho will continue to be held in custody as he faces trial for the charges of “terrorism.” Following the recommendation of prosecutors who expressed concern that he may attempt to flee or interfere with the ongoing investigation the court ruled that he will be held for four more months in pre-trial detention. Fernando Camacho, a prominent right-wing politician and governor of the South American country’s largest department, is facing charges that he played a role in instigating the political crisis of 2019, which led to the resignation of Evo Morales, the first Indigenous president of the country. Fernando Camacho has denied any wrongdoing and his sudden arrest in December caused a major uproar in Santa Cruz.


ECtHR: Court Found Georgian State Security Services Responsible for Lack of Effective and Thorough Investigation in Fatal Anti-Terrorism Operation

On 19 January 2023, in the case of Machalikashvili and Others v. Georgia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 2 procedural aspect (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights and by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 2 substantive aspect (right to life). The case dealt with an anti-terrorism operation carried out in Georgia by the State Security Service. The applicants’ relative, T.M., was suspected of providing material support to a group linked to the Islamic State. He was allegedly killed in the hospital after being shot while attempting to detonate a grenade during his arrest. The applicants alleged that they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse. The Court rejected the applicants’ complaint of ill-treatment under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) as manifestly ill-founded and further held that the authorities had failed to comply with the requirements of an effective and thorough investigation for the purposes of Article 2 of the Convention. However, the Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence of State responsibility for T.M.’s death.


Bosnia: Serb Ex-Soldier Convicted of Killing Civilian Prisoner

On 19 January 2023, the Cantonal Court in Bihac held that Milenko Macanovic was guilty of murdering one civilian prisoner and mistreating another. The court found that Macanovic entered the Nikola Mackic School gym in Kljuc while a group of Bosniak civilians were being held and interrogated there. He told the policemen that the detainees ‘should not be interrogated, but killed.’ He approached Fikret Zukanovic and Ifet Vuckic and assaulted them by beating and kicking them all over their bodies. The Judge held that ‘it was indisputable that a large number of civilians, Bosniaks from Krasulje, Sanica, Vukovska Brda, Hripavci and other Kljuc villages, were brought to the gym, where they were beaten and mistreated.’ Defendant Macanovic and his lawyer failed to appear at the verdict hearing in contempt of court. This was a first-instance verdict and can be appealed.



UN: Stable Situation in Yemen Provides Opportunity for Long Term Peace

On 16 January 2023, the United Nations (“UN”) stated that the current stable situation in Yemen provides warring parties with an opportunity to advance peace talks. Both sides, the coalition-backed Government, and Houthi rebels failed to extend a landmark six-month peace truce in October 2022. Despite this, the overall situation in Yemen has remained stable, with some military activity on the frontlines causing civilian casualties; however, there have been no major escalations. As such, UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg (“Grundberg”) encouraged both sides to “extend the longest period of relative quiet…which offers a much-needed reprieve for the Yemeni population.” According to the UN, discussions have focussed on securing military de-escalation as well as efforts to prevent further economic deterioration and reduce the war’s impact on civilians. Grundberg also advised against short-term measures and to focus on a comprehensive settlement that includes a political process and nationwide ceasefire.


Burkina Faso: Armed Groups Abduct At Least 50 Women

On 16 January 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the abduction of at least 50 women on 12 and 13 January 2023 in Burkina Faso and called for their immediate release. Unidentified armed groups reportedly kidnapped the women in the northern town of Arbinda in broad daylight whilst they were searching for food. Arbinda is one of many towns in the Sahel region that has been plagued by armed groups since 2019, making it extremely difficult for civilians to access food, water, and other basic supplies. In addition to this, the armed groups have forced the closure of thousands of schools and health centres and caused the displacement of millions. On 17 January 2023, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged authorities to “spare no efforts in bringing those responsible for this crime to justice” and underlined the UN’s commitment to Burkina Faso in supporting their efforts towards lasting peace.



UN: Recommitment to Libya Ceasefire Needed to End Crisis

The head of the UN Mission in Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily (“Bathily”) urged Libyan national authorities to recommit to supporting the implementation of Libya’s 2020 ceasefire agreement during Joint Military Commission talks in the Libyan city of Sirte on 16 January 2023. Since the 2011 Arab Spring, and the overthrow of former ruler Muammar Gadaffi, Libya descended into multiple crises that divided the country between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar. Bathily urged the government to step up political efforts to end the stalemate, reunify military and security institutions, as well as to re-establish legitimacy to Libyan institutions through elections. He also stressed the UN’s support in engaging neighbouring countries to end their presence on Libyan soil in support of the agreement which is “an instrument of hope for all Libyans.” The impact of Libya’s 12-year war on civilians has been huge, with the number of casualties and those needing assistance continuing to rise.


Palestine: 15th Palestinian Killed by Israeli Forces in the West Bank in 2023

On 17 January 2023, Israeli forces shot and killed the fifteenth Palestinian in the occupied West Bank since the start of 2023. This figure includes four minors, such as 14-year-old Omar Khaled Lutfi Khmour (“Khmour”) who was shot in the head by Israeli forces during a raid on the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem on 16 January 2023. The Palestinian Ministry of Education condemned Kmour’s killing, who was a student in the ninth grade at a UN refugee school in the camp. Al Jazeera reported that after Israeli forces invaded the camp, confrontations with Palestinian youth broke out and Israeli troops opened fire in response to Molotov cocktails, rocks and improvised explosive devices being thrown at them. The fifteenth man killed on 17 January was Hamdi Abu Dayyeh (“Abu Dayyeh”), who was shot by Israeli forces during a shooting attack at a checkpoint. No injuries were reported on the Israeli side and the Israeli army claimed Abu Dayyeh opened fire at their soldiers. Witnesses reported that the Israeli military prevented ambulances from approaching Abu Dayyeh as he lay on the ground. UN Security Council Mr Wennesland highlighted that 2022 was the one of the “deadliest years’ in the history of the Palestine conflict. He had reported on 19 December 2022, that more than 150 Palestinians and 20 Israelis had been killed in the West Bank and Israel. 




Afghanistan: Freezing Winter Leaves Many Without Food or Heating

On 17 January 2023, it was reported that provinces in Afghanistan are facing an extremely cold winter, as low as -21 degrees Celsius in Kabul, leaving many families with the choice of either food or warmth. Freezing temperatures are normal at this time of year in Afghanistan; however, this year, people are struggling to find fuel to stay warm due to the global energy crisis and the country’s international isolation since the Taliban took control in August 2021. After the Taliban took over, the US froze billions of dollars of cash revenues leaving the Taliban short of money and struggling to provide basic services leaving the country to spiral into an economic and humanitarian crisis. As there is no humanitarian aid for civilians, families are forced to use what little money they do have on food, sacrificing heating in their homes. Many families came to Kabul after experiencing extreme droughts and landslides in the countryside this summer; however, they are now facing a freezing winter in Kabul. The Taliban said it is considering a cap on domestic fuel prices but it is unclear how much help it can offer. The UN World Food Programme warned that the country is facing its worst famine in 20 years.


OHCHR: Human Rights Office Urged Sri Lankan Government to Compensate Victims of 2019 Easter Sunday Terrorist Attacks 

On 18 January 2023, UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) stated that victims of the Easter Sunday 2019 terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka should be fully compensated by the government after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the former President and three other senior officials to provide compensation to the victims because they had failed to prevent the tragedy. The terrorist attacks killed more than 270 people. Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence highlighted that the judgement marked itself as a step “in the victims’ struggle for recognition of harm suffered and their rights to truth, justice and reparation.” The Supreme Court had further ruled that the fundamental rights of the victims had been violated by former President Maithripala Sirisena, the former defence secretary and two other former security and intelligence officials as they failed to prevent the attacks. OHCHR further called upon the Sri Lankan Government for ensuring adequate compensation is received by the victims and also urged that complete findings of the previous inquiries into the Easter Sunday bombings be released.


Germany: Lower House Recognised the 2014 Yazidi Massacre by ISIL as Genocide

On 19 January 2023, the 2014 massacre by the armed group ISIL (ISIS) against the Yazidi minority group in Iraq and Syria was recognised by the lower house of Germany as “genocide.” The parliamentarian strongly denounced the horrific acts of violence and oppressive injustice committed by ISIL, intending to annihilate the Yazidi population. In 2014, after gaining control over significant territories in Iraq and Syria, ISIL committed genocide against the Yazidi people, resulting in the deaths of over 1 200 individuals, the enslavement and rape of 7 000 Yazidi women and girls, and the forced displacement of the community of 550 000 Yazidi population from their homes in northern Iraq.


Northern Ireland: “Immunity” Legislation Proposed by the UK Could Impinge the Rights of Victims

On 19 January 2023, the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Volker Türk questioned the plans of the United Kingdom (UK) to offer limited immunity to persons accused of crimes during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles.’ This comes after a drafted amendment to the Legacy and Reconciliation Bill was made public for examination. Further, he warned that conditional immunity for investigation should not be provided to those who have been accused of serious human rights violations and other international crimes. He further highlighted that such an amendment to the Northern Ireland Troubles Bill would not comply with the UK’s international human rights obligations. The High Commissioner further insisted that providing the victims, survivors and families justice and reparation was important for reconciliation. He urged the UK to reconsider its approach towards addressing the legacy of the Troubles while also engaging in meaningful consultations to find a human rights-centric approach towards it.



Lebanon: IPC Analysis Reveals Food Insecurity to Worsen in the Region with 2.26 Million to be Affected

On 19 January 2022, UN agencies highlighted that two million people in Lebanon are suffering from food insecurity as a result of multiple crises in the region. Among two million people, 1.29 million Lebanese and 700 000 Syrian Refugees are suffering from acute food insecurity, with the country’s first-ever Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity Analysis predicting that the situation is bound to further deteriorate between January and April, with 2.26 million people expected to be needing urgent assistance. The study was conducted by 55 national experts in September 2022, which revealed that the district of Akkar had the highest level of food insecurity among the Lebanese residents, while among Syrian edges, the Zahle district registered the highest level of food insecurity. According to Nora Ourabah Haddad, FAO representative in Lebanon, the study provides an opportunity for national and international stakeholders to adopt an integrated approach to assist and provide support to the people most in need in the region.


Yemen: As Humanitarian Situation Further Deteriorates, Authorities Fail to Protect Fundamental Human Rights of Yemenis

On 19 January 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in releasing its submission to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlighted that the Yemeni authorities are failing in their obligation to protect the socio-economic rights of the Yemenis.  Currently, 23 million people in the region remain in need of humanitarian assistance which includes 13 million children, and after more than seven years of conflict, there has been no progress made by the Yemeni government in meeting its obligation of protecting the right to health and an adequate standard of living. Niku Jafarnia, Yemen and Bahrain researcher at HRW highlighted that the Yemeni authorities were not respecting the basic human rights of people in the region, and urged the parties to the conflict to take prompt action to reduce the existing health crisis in the region. According to the UN World Food Programme, 17.8 million hope did not have access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services with 17 million being food insecure and 6.1 million facing “ emergency” levels of food insecurity by the end of 2022, yet nothing has been done by the Yemeni government to alleviate the existing humanitarian situation in the region.


Leave a Reply