Weekly News Recap (6-12 February 2023)

© Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid via Flickr




USA: ABA Urges USA Supreme Court to Adopt Judicial Ethics Code

On 6 February 2023, the American Bar Association (ABA) passed a resolution urging the Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code. They stated that the absence of such a code will threaten the legitimacy of the court. The association backed their demand by citing that Federal judges of the lower courts are bounded by a similar code of judicial conduct. The ABA submitted Resolution 400 in response to concerns regarding the public perceptions of the court. All members of the legal profession including federal judges and all lawyers are subjected to ethical codes of conduct, and the Supreme Court Justices are the only individuals within the legal environment that are not. The Resolution states that the absence of a clearly articulated and binding code of ethics is threatening the legitimacy of the judicial system.


ICC: Columbia Makes Voluntary Donations to ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims

On 6 February 2023, Columbia donated a voluntary contribution of USD 50 000 to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Trust Fund for Victims (TFV). The Ambassador of Columbia to the Netherlands, Ms Olarte-Bácares, stated that this donation is a demonstration of the nation’s commitment “to work towards total peace within and beyond its borders” and support the work of TFV which aligns with the priorities set by the Colombian government. The TFV is conducting country programmes in the following countries: Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Uganda, for the benefit of victims of Rome Statute crimes.


Germany: Court Rejected a Lawsuit Against BMW to Stop Selling Vehicles with Combustion Engines by 2030

On 7 February 2023, a Munich regional court rejected a lawsuit filed by environmental campaigners which demanded the automaker BMW stop selling vehicles that run on petrol and diesel by 2030. The group, Environment Action Company (DUH), claimed that entities like BMW pose a threat to people’s right to property, health and life. They supported their argument by pointing out that the vehicles produced by BMW were responsible for more CO2 emissions than countries such as Finland for the year 2021, which was around 62.2 million tones of CO2 worldwide. The court rejected the lawsuit by stating that “at present there is no threat of illegal encroachment on their rights.”


ICJ: Announces an Order Organising the Proceedings of Investigation Regarding Israeli Occupation of Palestine

On 8 February 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made public an Order organising the proceedings, as it relates to an investigation regarding the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. The announcement was in response to an earlier request from the United Nations General Assembly last month asking ICJ to provide an advisory opinion on the issue. The Court set 25 July as the deadline for written submissions by States and other organisations on the issue, and the 25 October 2023 as the deadline for receiving any written comments on the received submissions.


France: Six members of a Criminal Migrant Smuggling Gang Sentenced to Sixteen Years in Prison

On 8 February 2023, a French court sentenced six members of a criminal migrant smuggling gang to a collective sixteen years in prison. The gang set up their base in Douai, around 40 (km) south of Lille, France and allegedly charged migrants Euro 1 500 to cross the channel in boats provided by them. The ruling was the result of a joint investigation between the British National Crime Agency and the Anglo-French joint intelligence cell, which began in the summer of 2022. The group’s operations were monitored by immigration police until their arrest in October. The accused has been identified as belonging to Iraqi, Afghan, Sudanese and French nationalities.


Italy: UN Special Rapporteur Condemns Criminalisation of Human Rights Defenders involved in Sea-Rescue Missions

On 9 February 2023, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, condemned the criminalisation of human rights defenders involved in sea-rescue missions by Italian authorities. The statement was released ahead of the trial of NGO crew members in Sicily. In May 2022, preliminary proceedings against 21 people involved in humanitarian rescue activities started at the Court of Trapani, alleging collaboration with human smugglers. The list involves four members from the Iuventa crew, which was involved in the rescue of over fourteen thousand people, before its seizure in 2017. The charges before the court include “aiding and abetting unauthorized immigration in connection with several rescue missions conducted in 2016 and 2017.” In January 2023, the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Interior joined the case as Plaintiffs which the rapporteur mentioned as a very disturbing sign. The new regulation for civil search and rescue introduced by the Italian government in January 2023 imposed restrictions and warnings of heavy sanctions on humanitarian workers involved in sea-rescue missions.


Nicaragua : Bishop Alvarez Sentenced to 26 years in Prison

On 10 February 2023, Bishop Rolando José Alvarez Lagos, a vocal and outspoken critic of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, was sentenced to twenty-six years in prison and has been stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship. A Nicaraguan court announced the ruling on Friday, following the refusal of Alvarez to be expelled to the United States as part of a prisoner release.  Alvarez, the Bishop of Matagalpa diocese has been charged with treason and undermining national sovereignty. He was arrested earlier in August 2022, on charges of conspiring against the government and spreading false news. Alvarez is the first Bishop to be imprisoned since Ortega’s return to power in 2007.




Chile: Deadly Wildfires Kill 26 People As Heatwave Continues

On 6 February 2023, Reuters reported that wildfires in south-central Chile have killed 26 people and destroyed 667 000 acres of land. Chilean authorities stated that the hot and dry weather is expected to continue, in what is already the second worst year in terms of hectares burnt by fire storms after the “fire storm” of 2017. On 6 February 2023, the state national Forestry Corporation reported that there were 275 active fires with the heat and strong winds causing the fires to spread rapidly. The country’s interior minister stated that 11 people have been arrested concerning the fires, suggesting that some of the fires may have been started on purpose. On 5 and 6 February 2023, aid arrived from Argentina, Spain and Mexico with support expected from Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal and Venezuela.


Turkey and Syria: Deadly Earthquake Kills Thousands 

On 6 February 2023, a deadly earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, with the current death toll at the time of writing more than 19 000 and expected to rise with more missing. Rescue efforts in the affected areas have been hindered by damaged roads and bitterly cold weather conditions, forcing civilians to search through the rubble for relatives themselves. The first earthquake was of 7.8 magnitude and was followed by another of 7.6 magnitude and more than 100 aftershocks. The earthquake was the most powerful in the region in decades and will increase suffering in Syria which has already been devastated by 12 years of war and subsequent humanitarian crises. Control of the north and north-west of Syria is divided between the government, Kurdish-led forces and other rebel groups, with increased fighting in the region since 2022 leaving many areas destroyed and people displaced. Both countries have officially asked the European Union (“EU”) for support under the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism which provides support to countries suffering from natural disasters. The EU has provided (GBP) 3.1 m to Syria and GBP (2.7) m to Turkey and is distributing Syrian aid through existing humanitarian networks as it does not recognise Bashar al-Asssad as a head of state and many sanctions are imposed on his regime.




UN: Lack of Opportunities is the Main Factor Driving Violent Extremist Recruitment in Sub-Saharan Africa

On 7 February 2023, a report released by the United Nations (“UN”) stated that the lack of job opportunities is the main factor causing people to join violent extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa. The report ‘Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement’ highlights the importance of economic factors, such as poverty, inequality, lack of opportunities and perceptions of injustice, in recruitment. The report draws from 2 200 people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan with 25 per cent of all recruits citing lack of employment as the primary reason which is a 92 per cent increase from the last UN Development Project study on violent extremism in 2017. Sub-Saharan Africa has become the new epicentre of global terrorism with almost half of the global terrorism deaths recorded there in 2021. The second most common driver for recruitment is pressure from family or friends and religious ideology is the third most common (17 per cent, which is a 57 per cent decrease from 2017).


UN: OPCW Report Finds “Reasonable Grounds” to Believe the Syrian Government was Behind Deadly Syrian Chlorine Attack in 2018

On 7 February 2023, a report released by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) stated that there is “reasonable grounds” to believe the Syrian Government was responsible for the 2018 chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria that killed 43 civilians. According to the report, there is evidence that on 7 April 2018 at least one Syrian air force helicopter, operating under the control of the government, dropped two yellow chlorine cylinders and hit two residential buildings. Some individuals in these buildings sought refuge in the basement; however, others, knowing the gas is heavier than air moved to higher floors, although the report found that both “were lethal places to stay.” A senior official at the OPCW told the UN Security Council that this information was gathered based on multiple and diverse sources of information. He added that the report is now in the “hands” of the UN for them and the international community to take further steps deemed necessary. 


Ethiopia: Even After Progress on Ground, More Aid and Assistance Still Needed in the Region, Says UNHCR Chief

On 8 February 2023, Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) after concluding his three-day visit to Ethiopia highlighted the progress that had been made towards peace in the northern region of the country. The High Commissioner also stated that even though progress was visible on the ground, support was still required for “reconstruction and recovery efforts in the Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions.” The UNHCR also reported that more than 800 000 refugees and asylum seekers are being hosted by the country, who are from South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. In addition to refugees and asylum seekers, 4.2 million Ethiopians have also been internally displaced because of the conflict. The High Commissioner emphasised that a long-term strategy was required on the ground in order to assist those who had been displaced by drought and the impact of climate change. UNHCR also highlighted that its operations in the region were only half funded in 2022 and was also one of the 12 most underfunded humanitarian operations in the region.  In order to provide assistance to refugees and forcibly displaced, the UNHCR currently requires $370 million to find solutions to their situation. 


Syria: As the Region Continues to Suffer From Tremors of the Earthquake, Fresh Snowfall Compounds the Situation

On 8 February 2023, El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN Resident Coordinator for Syria highlighted that fresh snowfall in Syria had further compounded the situation that has affected millions in five governorates of the country. He also highlighted that the number of people who required humanitarian aid assistance was more than 15.3 million and reported that 10.9 million people have been affected by the earthquake in the northwestern governorates of the country.  While 100 000 are believed to be homeless in Aleppo alone, with 30 000 having found shelter. He further stressed that the rest 70 000 were “living in a terrible situation” because of the snow. Muhannad Hadi, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, also reiterated the call for providing urgent aid in the region. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that $25 million has been released as emergency funding for responding towards the situation in the region while deploying more than 50 emergency response, search and rescue teams in the country. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it had been providing food assistance in the region, having reached 64 000 people in need of urgent food assistance. The WFP along with its local partners has also delivered ready-to-eat rations and daily meals to 38 000 people. According to WFP, 4.1 million i.e. 90% of the population is already dependent upon humanitarian aid and assistance out of which three million people have already been displaced by the conflict more than once.


Somalia: Appeal for $2.6 Billion Made Amid Growing Drought and Famine Fears in the Region

On 8 February 2023, the United Nations Office for Coordination and Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)  along with its partners appealed for $2.6 billion to assist 7.6 million people in Somalia in 2023. Somalia is currently in the middle of its longest and most severe drought, with around 8.25 million people requiring lifesaving aid and assistance. Adam Abdelmoula, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, highlighted that the efforts by local communities, in addition to increased humanitarian assistance, prevented the famine threshold from increasing in 2022, but millions continue to need assistance. OCHA also highlighted that due to climate modification, the Horn of Africa has become hotter and drier, leaving 36.4 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance to survive. Currently, 8.3 million Somalis risk experiencing acute levels of hunger and food insecurity between April to June if there’s a reduction in humanitarian funding, creating a strong possibility of a famine.  In 2022, aid organisations, local communities and government authorities had scaled up the humanitarian response to reach 7.3 million people, but now they are calling for additional resources to assist those in urgent need.


European Parliament: Ukrainian President Zelensky Addresses the EP for a Special One Day Summit

On 9 February 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Brussels for a special one-day summit, addressing the European Parliament (EP). It is the first official visit from Zelensky to the European Parliament and one of the rare physical visits since the start of the war, indicating its importance. He used the address to call for greater cooperation between the EU and Ukraine and called for provisions of fighter jets and arms for the war. In this address, Zelensky also linked Russia’s aggression to fights against the European way of life and European values, projecting Ukraine as a symbol of these. He also mentioned Russia as the “biggest Anti-European force of the modern world.”


UNICEF: As Nine-Fold Increase in Violence Targeting Schools is Witnessed, Children’s Education in Jeopardy in Haiti

On 9 February 2023, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that in one year there has been a nine-fold increase in violence targeting schools in Haiti. Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti stated that violence has continued to take a “heavy toll on children’s lives” while also highlighting that there was continuous insecurity in the region. UNICEF highlighted that the violence and targeted attacks were starting to break down the education system of the country. In the first week of February alone, 30 schools have closed because of continued violence in the urban areas, while a quarter of schools have already been closed since October. UNICEF also reported that amid continued violence, shootings and looting an average of one and a half school days per week have been lost by children in January alone. While in the first quarter of the academic year i.e. October to February 72 schools have been reported to be targeted as compared to eight schools in the same period last year. UNICEF has urged all actors to refrain from actions which could further jeopardise the rights of children and their education.


UNSC: Terror Threat from ISIL Continues Even in Non-Conflict Zones, Highlights UN Counter-Terroism Chief

On 9 February 2023, Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General while briefing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) presented an updated UN report on the extremist group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Da’esh and highlighted the need for collective global action. He warned that ISIL continued to pose a threat to international peace and security despite there being leadership losses among the terrorist group and a reduction in their cash reserves. He further reported that the group has expanded in central and southern regions of Africa, and the Sahel. He also highlighted that according to previous reports, there had been an increased risk of attacks in non-conflict areas by “unaffiliated actors and small cells” which were inspired by the Da’esh. He emphasised that fighting foreign terrorist groups was not an issue limited to the regions of Iraq and Syria, but a global challenge. He further outlined recommendations in order to address the threats posed by the terrorist group, calling for adopting a multidimensional approach which is complementary to both security and preventative measures. He also stressed that these approaches should be gender-sensitive and human rights compliant.


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