Weekly News Recap (23-29 January 2023)

© Photo by manhhai via Flickr




Ukraine: Russian Soldiers Convicted for Torture

On 23 January 2023, four Russian soldiers, and members of the special forces were convicted of torture by a district court in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. The four soldiers were captured by the Ukrainian army after they regained control of the Kharkiv region, which had been occupied by the Russian Federation. The accused, in early September in the village of Borova, tortured three residents who were previously part of military operations in Donetsk and Lugansk regions during the ‘first episode of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014-2015.’ However, at the time of the events, the men who were tortured were no longer part of the military. The Russian soldiers were following instructions from their leader to bring the three victims in for questioning, as they were former members of the Anti-Terrorist Operations (ATO). The victims were repeatedly threatened and beaten with a hammer. The defendants pleaded guilty to the charges which simplified the procedure. As a result, not all evidence in the case was examined, instead, the court limited itself to questioning the defendants. Each defendant was sentenced to 11 years in prison.


ECtHR: Eastern Ukraine and Flight MH17 Case Declared Partly Admissible

On 25 January 2023, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has declared the case of Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia (applications nos. 8019/16, 43800/14 and 28525/20) partly admissible. The case concerns complaints related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine involving pro-Russian separatists which began in spring 2014. The Government of Ukraine principally complained about alleged administrative practices of violations of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights by separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic and by members of the Russian military. The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands complained about the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, which resulted in the deaths of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals. This decision relates to the admissibility of the applications. In the next stage of the procedure, the question whether there has been a violation of the Convention in respect of the admissible complaints will be examined by the Court. There are currently four other Ukraine v. Russia inter-State applications and over 8,500 individual applications pending before the Court concerning the events in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, the Sea of Azov and the armed attack which began in February 2022.


USA: Five Memphis Police Officers Arrested for Murder Following the Killing of Tyre Nichols

On 26 January 2023, five former Memphis police officers were charged with murder for the death of motorist, Tyre Nicholas, for injuries he sustained in a violent encounter following a traffic stop. Nicholas, a 29-year-old father, died while in the hospital on 10 January, three days after his confrontation with the five police officers. A video of the arrest was released on Friday. The video shows the five officers dragging Mr. Nicholas out of his car and throwing him to the ground. From the beginning of the encounter, the police are very aggressive with the victim, and no clear motive for his arrest has been indicated. Officers had initially said Mr. Nicholas was pulled over for foolhardy driving, but there has been no evidence to substantiate that claim. The officers had repeatedly beaten Mr. Nicholas and left him ‘laying there on the ground like a piece of garbage.’



ICC: Pre-Trial Chamber Authorises Resumption of Investigation in the Philippines

On 26 January 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) granted the Prosecution’s request to resume an ongoing investigation into the Situation of the Republic of the Philippines. This decision follows a careful review of the materials provided by the Philippines, which demonstrate that the Philippines is not undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations under the complementarity principle. In 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) requested authorisation to initiate an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019, concerning the government’s ‘war on drugs’ campaign.


USA: NYC Bike Path Killer Convicted of Murder

On 27 January 2023, Sayfullo Saipov, an Islamic extremist who killed eight people in 2017, when he intentionally drove down a New York City bike path has been convicted of murder. Saipov, shouted ‘God is great’ in Arabic as he emerged from his truck. Saipov was shot by police and survived. He now faces the death penalty for the city’s deadest terrorist attack since 9/11. Six people died at the scene which happened on Halloween with 12 more suffering serious injuries. Five of those killed were from a group of nine Argentine friends who were visiting the city. During the trial, the jury heard how Mr Saipov spent a year planning the attack and specifically chose Halloween, as he thought more people were likely to be out. The justice department has said they would seek the death penalty for Saipov.


Liberia: Massaquoi’s Appeal Case Set to Commence in April

On 27 January 2023, it was reported that Finnish judges, prosecutors and lawyers will arrive in Liberia on 31 January to commence the appeal trial of former Sierra Leonean rebel commander, Gibril Massaquoi. Mr Massaquoi was acquitted of all charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the first instance trial in April of 2022. The appeal trial began in January in Turku, Finland and will continue in Monrovia, Liberia, until April as long as the Sierra Leonean authorities agree to the Finnish court’s visit as part of a bilateral judicial assistance agreement. According to the prosecution, they disagree with the findings of the trial court, especially the weight of the evidence which the trial court held was insufficient. As a result, the prosecution will provide new testimony from a criminology expert, although it ‘is expected to be very similar [outcome] to the [previous case] in 2021.’


USA: Department of Justice Has Charged 3 Individuals in an Alleged Assassination Plot Against Iranian-American Journalist

On 27 January 2023, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged three people in an alleged, foiled murder-for-hire scheme to kill an Iranian-American journalist. The plot is believed to be directed from Iran, as US Attorney General stated that the government had previously targeted the intended victim, who is a critic of Tehran and human rights activist. The charges arise from an ongoing investigation. This is not the first time Iran has been linked to plots on US soil. In 2021, DOJ charged 4 Iranians over an alleged plot to kidnap an American journalist.


El-Salvador: Large Scale Abuses and Arbitrary Arrests During State of Emergency, Highlighted by Leaked Ministry Database

On 27 January 2023, Human Rights Watch and Cristosal reported that it obtained a database which listed the names of people who have been prosecuted between March to late August 2022 in El Salvador during the country’s state of emergency. According to Tamara Taraciuk Broner, acting Americas Director at Human Rights Watch, the leaked database clearly highlights the serious human rights violations that have been committed during the state of emergency. The database appears to belong to the Ministry of Public Safety and highlights the thousands of people that have been detained including children, who have been charged with broadly defined crimes which violate their basic due process guarantees. The database indicates that roughly 1 082 children have been arrested, of which 918 are boys and 164 are girls. The database further illustrates that 39 000 people had been charged with the crime of “unlawful association” and 32 people had died while in custody. Human Rights Watch and Cristosal stated that ‘Salvadoran authorities should replace the state of emergency with a rights-respecting strategy for addressing gang violence and protect the population from gang abuses.’


Romania: Andrew Tate’s Detention Extended

On 28 January 2023, a Romanian judge following the extension of Andrew Tate’s detention described the ‘particular dangerousness of Andrew and his brother Tristan in terms of their ability to target women.’ The comments come from a written statement by the judge in his decision to extend the brothers’ detention last week. The Tates are being held in custody until 27 February, while the police investigate allegations of rape and human trafficking. The judge further highlighted that the prosecution considers the brothers to be the ‘culprits rather than the traffickers who obtain huge profits from exploiting them.’ Investigators allege the brothers and two Romanian women, who are also being held, organised a criminal group to ‘recruit…shelter and transport victims…in order to perform pornographic events distributed on websites such as TikTok and Only Fans.’ Both deny the charges against them.


India: Police Detain Students over Documentary Screening of Modi

On 28 January 2023, police detained 24 students in the Indian capital, New Delhi, over the screening of a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role during the deadly Gujarat sectarian riots in 2002. Earlier this week, the federal government used their emergency powers to block the airing of the documentary and ban its sharing on social media. Many gathered to watch the documentary on laptops and phones including students at Delhi University, in defiance of the government’s efforts to stop the film’s streaming. The documentary says that Modi had ordered the police to turn a blind eye to deadly riots while he was chief minister of Gujarat state, where roughly 2 000 individuals, mostly Muslims, were killed. The riots were in response to a deadly fire on a train that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims, and in which 31 Muslims were later convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder over that incident. The documentary quoted a “previously classified British foreign ministry report which said the violence was ‘politically motivated’ and ‘the aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas.'”


Israel: 42 Individuals Arrested Following Deadly Shooting in East Jerusalem Synagogue

On 28 January 2023, Israeli police arrested 42 individuals in connection with a deadly shooting that took place on Friday at a Synagogue in East Jerusalem that killed seven and injured at least three. On Saturday following the attack at the Synagogue, another attack carried about by a 13-year-old boy, injured two, outside the Old City. As a result of the two attacks, authorities have positioned officers from a counter-terrorism unit ‘permanently in the Jerusalem area to promptly respond to expectational events whenever necessary.’ Palestinian militant groups praised the attack but did not claim responsibility. Tensions have been high since nine Palestinians were killed during a raid by Israeli forces in Jenin, on Thursday, killing both militants and civilians.



USA: Back-to-back Mass Shootings in California 

On 24 January 2023, seven people were killed in a mass shooting in the northern California city of Half Moon Bay. The suspect opened fire on a group of farm workers at two locations, leaving many badly wounded in addition to those killed. At the time of the attack, the California governor was visiting survivors from another shooting in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park where on 21 January, 11 individuals were killed. Authorities stated that no motives had been found for either of the attacks and both suspects were of retirement age, which is much older than the typical perpetrators of America’s deadly mass shootings. 


Central Sahel: Number of Children Facing Severe Hunger to Rise by Mid-2023

On 24 January 2023, Save the Children reported that by mid-2023 the number of children facing severe hunger in the Central Sahel region will reach 7.5 million, up from 5.3 million between October to December 2022. In three countries in this region, children make up half of the population and face greater hunger than adults because it is more difficult for them to adapt to challenging circumstances. The humanitarian crisis in the region has also led to widespread school closures, leaving 1.66 million children directly impacted and most of them without any access to education. Many factors are causing the region’s crisis, including conflict, poverty and climate change. Save the Children is calling on world leaders, donors and members of the UN to prioritise funding in the region. 


Ukraine: Ukrainian War has Disrupted Education for 5 Million Children 

On 24 January 2023, UNICEF reported that the ongoing war in Ukraine has disrupted education for more than five million children. The use of explosive devices by Russian forces across the country has resulted in thousands of schools and educational facilities being severely damaged or destroyed. Parents and caregivers of children are also hesitant to send their children to open schools because of unpredictable Russian attacks. UNICEF reported that they are working with the government to increase accessibility, and although 1.9 million children are accessing online education and 1.3 million are enrolled in in-person and online classes, recent blackouts caused by attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have made this an ongoing challenge. The situation outside Ukraine is also concerning as two out of three Ukrainian refugee children are not enrolled in the host country’s education system. This is due to the educational facilities’ capacity, as well as families enrolling their children in the online system in hope that they would be able to return to Ukraine quickly. UNICEF stated that it will continue to work with the Government of Ukraine and host countries to “deliver solutions to help children in conflict areas.”  


Afghanistan: Coldest Winter in a Decade Kills 124 People as Lack of International Aid Continues 

On 24 January 2023, Taliban officials reported that in the previous two weeks, 124 people died in Afghanistan due to freezing temperatures in the country’s coldest winter in a decade. According to the BBC, most of the people who died lived in rural areas with little access to healthcare, and about 70 000 livestock had also died due to the weather. The acting Minister of Disaster Management told the BBC that many areas of Afghanistan had been cut off completely because of the snow and that rescue efforts were hampered as helicopters could not land in the affected mountainous areas. The tough winter is compounded by the country’s lack of international aid as many aid agencies have suspended their operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women from working for non-governmental organisations. UN officials are trying to work with the Taliban to lift this ban and increase the country’s aid; however, the Taliban stated that it cannot be lifted and the international community must accept Afghanistan’s Islamic culture. 


Iran: Tehran Announces it Will Target Western Entities in Response to New EU and UK Sanctions on Iran

On 24 January 2023, Iran announced that it will target individuals and entities in the West that “violate human rights” in response to European Union (“EU”) and United Kingdom (“UK”) sanctions against Iran. The EU and UK imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters, including the execution of dual British-Iranian citizen Alirezaa Akbari on 14 January 2023 for “spying.” The EU imposed sanctions on more than 35 Iranian officials and organisations, including four commanders and 12 units of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, who hold significant power in Iran. Tehran “strongly condemned” the new sanctions and warned that “the Islamic Republic will soon announce a list of new sanctions against the human rights violators of EU and England.”  Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson also stated that the EU and UK’s actions “is a sign of their mental inability to properly understand the realities of Iran.” The sanctions represent the latest response to Iran’s brutal crackdown on nationwide protests which were triggered by the death of 21-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. The protests began in September 2022 and according to the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency 516 protestors have been killed, including 70 children and the authorities have arrested approximately 19 200 people. 


For prior developments see: 




OCHA: Increased Needs Put 17.3 Million in Yemen in Need of Humanitarian Aid and Protection 

On 25 January 2023, the UN Humanitarian Affairs Office OCHA, called for $4.3 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to 17.3 million of the most vulnerable population in Yemen. According to the UN’s Humanitarian Plan which was published on the same day, two-thirds of 21.6 million Yemenis would need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023. There has been a slight decrease in the number of people requiring aid from 23.4 million in 2022 to 21.6 million in 2023, with the overall target being reduced from 17.9 million to 17.3 million. According to the Humanitarian Response Plan, the projections are not reflective of “an across-the-board improvement in the humanitarian outlook” as the humanitarian situation remains fragile. Three strategic objectives are at the centre of the plan: the first is to promote life-saving activities; second, resilience-based durable solutions; and the last, providing protection which is the core of the plan. According to the OCHA, 5.4 million people have been affected by access constraints, while 4.5 million have been displaced, which constitute 14 per cent of the population in the region.


UNSC: 15.3 Million in Dire Need of Humanitarian Aid in Syria

On 25 January 2023, Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria, while addressing the UN Security Council (UNSC) highlighted that the humanitarian situation in Syria is of an “unimaginable scale.” He further stated that the country remains in a deep economic crisis with stunted political progress and that 70 per cent of the population (roughly 15.3 million people) requires humanitarian aid. Furthermore, he reiterated that “a nationwide ceasefire” remained crucial in terms of resolving the conflict. He further urged for peace on the ground, as well as humanitarian support from the UN Security Council. The UN Special Envoy also highlighted that Syria’s Constitutional Committee had been making progress towards resolving the conflict and should resume their efforts as this would be a “door-opener and […] contribute to the wider political process.” Furthermore, the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2672 (2023) was praised by the UN Special Envoy, as the resolution would be able to execute cross-border aid operations for the next six months and addressed the needs of vulnerable populations in the region.


FAO: Increased Food Insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean Region Calls for Urgent Measures to be Taken

On 25 January 2023, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlighted that between 2019 and 2021, the number of people who went hungry in Latin America and the Caribbean region had increased by 30 per cent (i.e. 56.5 million). The rising food insecurity in those regions is alarming as they are the world’s largest net food exporting regions, and had also outperformed other regions in reducing hunger and poverty in the decade leading up to 2015. Qu Dongyu, FAO chief called upon the ‘Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) to expand food supplies in the Caribbean’ while also highlighting that continuous poverty and increased inequalities largely impact rural populations. He further urged that collective action was required to tackle the situation in these regions while also highlighting that States should cooperate in tackling the climate crisis along with the crises of eroding biodiversity, water scarcity and deforestation.


Israel & Palestine: Alarming Violence in West Bank Calls for Reducing Tensions, While OCHA Launches New Humanitarian Response Plan to Assist 2.1 Million Palestinians

On 26 January 2023, Tor Wennesland, a top UN Official for the Middle East Peace Process expressed his concerns over the continued violence in the West Bank region, in the aftermath of nine Palestinians who were killed during an Israeli military raid. He highlighted that the deaths that occurred during the military raid were another “stark example” of the intensifying violence in the region. Mr Wennesland further highlighted that since the beginning of 2023, the same trends in violence are being witnessed, as were seen in 2022, while calling for reducing tensions in the region immediately to prevent further loss of life. An appeal of $502 million has also been launched by the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) along with humanitarian partners working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt). According to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, the Humanitarian Response Plan would support 1.6 million of the most vulnerable population and has estimated that 2.1 million Palestinians need humanitarian aid and assistance, who represent 58 per cent of the population in Gaza and a quarter of people living in the West Bank.


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