Weekly News Recap (20-26 March 2023)

© Photo by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) via Flickr




UK: Meeting of Justice Ministers to Gather Support for ICC

On 20 March 2023, justice ministers from all over the world gathered in London for a vital meeting on international war crimes. Ministers from over 40 nations and representatives of many international organisations came together to increase support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it ordered the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting’s aim, in the words of British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, is “to hold war criminals to account for the atrocities committed in Ukraine during this unjust, unprovoked and unlawful invasion.” The meeting was co-hosted by the government of the UK and the Netherlands, to discuss providing extra support to war crime investigations through funding and sharing of resources.



Chad: Over 400 Members of the Rebel Group FACT Sentenced to Life in Prison

On 21 March 2023, a court in Chad sentenced 441 members of the rebel group to life in prison over the death of former president Idriss Deby. The members of the Libyan-based rebel group, Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) were found guilty of acts of terrorism and endangering the life of the head of the state. Deby, who had been consecutively in power since 1990, was shot dead while visiting frontline troops in 2021. The convicted included FACT leader Mahamat Mahadi. Along with their life imprisonment sentences, the defendants are also required to pay 30 million euros to the state for the damages caused and 1.5 million to the heirs of the late Chadian President.



IACHR: Hearing in the First Case on Access to Abortion Services

On 22 March 2023, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) began the hearing of the historic Beatriz vs El Salvador case, which appeals against the absolute ban on abortion in the Central American nation. Beatriz was a domestic worker who appealed for an abortion before the Supreme Court of El Salvador and IACHR as her fetus was unviable and the pregnancy was high-risk. She was denied an abortion by the Supreme Court of El Salvador, although the IACHR granted her an emergency C-section under a provisionary measure. The fetus died five hours after the C-section and Beatriz suffered severe medical complications as result. Beatriz later died in 2017 due to injuries from a minor motorcycle accident. All forms of abortion are banned in El Salvador without any regard to the risks and viability of the pregnancy. Any person who attempts to access an abortion is charged with criminal sanctions with a maximum imprisonment of up to 50 years. Activists of abortion rights in Latin America are hoping for a positive ruling in this case which can push towards a wider decriminalisation of abortion services.



ICC: International Criminal Court and Ukraine Signed an Agreement for Establishing a Field Office in Ukraine

On 23 March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Ukraine signed an agreement facilitating the establishment of a field office in the country, a week after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The agreement was signed by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Kostin Andriy, and the Registrar of the International Criminal Court, Peter Lewis. The centre will facilitate investigations into war crimes and other violations of international law committed during the invasion. The field office is expected to forge closer cooperation with international prosecutors and to hold those who are responsible for the atrocities accountable. The ICC has several field offices operating in other countries “to develop and maintain cooperate relationships with key stakeholder in situations countries and to support the Court’s mandate.”



ECJ: The European Court of Justice Condemns Poor Environmental Performance by Greece

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 23 March 2023, condemned Greece over its environmental performance, and Thessaloniki, the second largest city, for its air quality. The northern Greece city was found to have very high levels of microparticles in the air. In 2005, the European Commission began monitoring the levels of 10-micron diameter particulate matter (PM10) in Greece. The country was issued a warning in 2009 and again in 2013. Eventually, Greece was referred to the ECJ in 2021 after failing to take any efficient steps to tackle this issue over the years.



Italy: Anti-Torture Committee Publishes Report on the State of Prisons in Italy

On 24 March 2023, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published their report following periodic visits to Italy in March-April 2022. The committee examined four prison establishments and the treatment of patients in psychiatric wards of four civil hospitals. The report found that Italian prisons are overcrowded and are currently operating at 114 per cent of their total capacity. The delegation mainly examined the conditions of prisoners and their treatment towards them. The delegation recorded many instances of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation and a few cases of ill-treatment by the prison staff members. The committee stressed improved conditions for prisoners with a specific focus on women and transgender prisoners.



ECtHR: Hearing in Multiple Cases Suing the EU Governments for Climate Inaction

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is to hear the first of several cases which allege that EU state members’ inaction on climate change is a violation of human rights. The first case, which is due to be heard on 29 March 2023, is Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz and others v. Switzerland. The case was filed by a group of elderly women who are concerned about worsening health problems associated with heatwaves. The case was filed before the EtCHR following a long legal battle against the Swiss government. Another case which is also due to be heard on Wednesday is Carême v. France which was filed by the former Mayor of the municipality of Grande-Synthe, accusing France of failing to adopt an ambitious climate policy. These cases have the potential to show whether weak climate policies can be justiciable under the European Convention.




UN: 887 Conflict-Related Detainees Released in Yemen 

On 20 March 2023, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen announced the planned release of 887 conflict-related detainees in Yemen. The decision came, along with other gains, after 10 days of negotiations organised to address the eight-year civil war. The conflict began in 2014 between rebel-backed Houthis and a coalition backed by government forces, with both sides only agreeing to their first truce since the start of the war in April 2022. In 2018 both parties signed the Stockholm Agreement, which outlined three areas for action; prisoner exchanges, a ceasefire and civil society participation in the road to peace. After the latest rounds of negotiations, both parties agreed to release detainees and to reconvene in May 2023 to discuss further potential releases. Despite this positive step, the consequences of the war in Yemen have been devastating for civilians, with aid agencies helping 11 million people every month in 2022.


Uganda: Parliament Passes Bill Criminalising Identification as an LGBTQ Member to Life Imprisonment

On 21 March 2023, Ugandan Parliament passed one of the toughest crackdowns on LGBTQ+ rights by criminalising even identifying as part of the community as a criminal offence, risking life imprisonment. The bill also mentions the death penalty, if found to be guilty of aggravated homosexuality. The bill focuses on cracking down on any institutions or media houses promoting discourse on or supporting LGBTQ activists by subjecting them to prosecution if found to be promoting homosexuality under any conditions. The bill has been met with widespread criticisms and backlash among human rights institutions and the White House, which warned the country of the effects of passing such a harsh law. The bill is now awaiting approval from the President, Yoweri Museveni, who may exercise his veto power to protect the nation’s geopolitical interests with western partners.




OHCHR: Urgent Action Needed In Haiti As Gang Violence Escalates

On 21 March 2023, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”) expressed their growing alarm for the deteriorating situation in Haiti and stated that a specialised force must be urgently deployed to help Haitian authorities. The country is facing “extreme violence” with, violent gang attacks, including rapes, sniper killings and kidnappings which are a daily occurrence, as clashes between gangs continue in an attempt to expand their territorial rule. Gang violence has destabilised Haiti for several years; however, in the first two weeks of March alone, clashes among gangs resulted in 208 dead, 164 injured and 101 kidnapped. The OHCHR is calling on the international community to consider deploying specialised support forces that conform to international human rights laws and norms, to help the Haitian authorities. The Commission added that those responsible must be brought to justice, prosecuted, and tried with reparations to all victims. Chronic instability in the country has led to half the population not having enough to eat, with hunger reaching alarming levels in some areas, and as of mid-March, 160 000 people have been displaced.


Pakistan and Afghanistan: 6.5 Magnitude Earthquake Kills At Least 12

On 21 March 2023, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan and Afghanistan killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 200. Nine deaths were reported in the northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and ten in a mountainous region of Afghanistan in the northeast on the border with Pakistan. Tremors were felt in a 1 000 km range reaching India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. The BBC reported that the remoteness and rugged terrain of the affected areas is likely to slow rescue operations; however, emergency workers reported that the damage so far was less than they feared. Many families had been outside their homes celebrating Persian New Year when the quake happened, and civilians faced near-freezing temperatures to sleep outside after the quake, fearing further tremors. In June 2022, Afghanistan suffered the country’s worst earthquake in almost a quarter of a century, where more than 1 000 people were killed.


Russia and China: Xi and Putin Demonstrate Solidarity in Chinese Visit To Russia

On 22 March 2023, China’s president Xi Jinping (“Xi”) concluded his two-day visit to Russia having demonstrated strong solidarity with Russian President Vladamir Putin against the West. Xi’s Ukrainian peace deal proposed in February 2023, was barely mentioned during his visit and on 21 March 2023, he stated that China had an “impartial position” in the war. Xi and Putin referred to each other as dear friends and promised cooperation between the two countries. In a joint statement both the leaders accused NATO of overstepping into the Asia-Pacific region and the West of undermining global stability; while reaffirming that the China-Russian alliance was not a “military-political” one. The White House commented that China was not impartial, and the proposed peace deal was a way of biding time for Putin to solidify his control on occupied lands and regroup his forces.  


Syria: Second Israeli Attack on Aleppo Airport Causes “Material Damage”

On 22 March 2023, Israel launched an air attack on Syria’s Aleppo airport causing “material damage.” The attack is the third attack on Aleppo International Airport in the last six months, and the second this month. In a statement issued on 22 March 2023, the Syrian defence ministry stated that Israel launched “a number of missiles from the Mediterranean Sea, west of the coastal city of Latakia, at 3:55 am.” There were no reports of any deaths or injuries and the Israeli military declined to comment. Aleppo airport has been a major junction for humanitarian aid flowing into the country since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria on February 6, which killed more than 50 000 people including more than 6 000 in Syria. The previous, attack on 7 March 2023, damaged the runway in Aleppo forcing the rerouting of relief supplies to Damascus and Latakia. Al Jazeera reported that the Israeli attacks are part of an escalation against Iran-linked targets in Syria that support President Bashar al-Assad. 


For Previous Developments See: https://peacehumanity.org/2023/03/13/weekly-news-recap-6-12-march-2023/#13 

Southern Africa: Countries Reel from Effects of Cyclone Freddy with More than 1.4 Million Affected

On 23 March 2023, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique has furthered outbreaks of cholera and malaria, as well as malnutrition. The storm destroyed more than 300 health facilities, limiting access to healthcare in the affected areas. WHO highlighted that while Malawi was reeling from the “worst-ever” cholera outbreak, they are seeing a decline in cases. In Mozambique however, the cases have doubled to almost 2 400 this week alone. More than 1.4 million people have been affected in the three countries by torrential rains and flooding. Currently, $7.9 million has been provided by WHO and over 60 experts have been sent to provide emergency response to affected countries.


WFP: Amid Increasing Levels of Hunger, 4.9 Million People Struggle to   Access Food in Haiti

On 23 March 2023, Jean-Martin Bauer, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for Haiti warned that a higher number of people were being pushed towards hunger in Haiti, highlighting that an immediate response was needed to avoid disaster. According to the new Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis, currently, 4.9 million people are unable to have access to food, with the number tripping since 2016. The WFP operations in the region continue to remain underfunded and require $125 million in order to provide support and humanitarian aid over the next six months. Mr. Bauer highlighted that there is a need for prioritising “resilience and safety-net initiatives” to address the drivers of the hunger crisis in the region. He also urged the need for an increase in funding. WFP continues to put its efforts towards strengthening the national social protection and food systems which are crucial towards the recovery and development of Haiti’s economy.


Nepal: Transitional Justice Bill Provides Amnesties for Crimes under International Law

On 23 March 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported a bill to amend the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Act (2014), which is widely referred to as the transitional justice bill of Nepal, does not meet the country’s domestic and international legal standards. The organisation further urged that the amendment will not provide justice to victims if adopted in its current form. According to HRW, if the bill is adopted, it would not provide adequate and effective prosecution of serious crimes under international law. The bill provides amnesties for murder, sexual violence that does not amount to rape, beating and mutilation, abduction, forced displacement and other crimes under international law. As a result of this, perpetrators of serious crimes would enjoy amnesty from prosecution. Mandira Sharma, Senior International Legal Adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, urged the Government of Nepal to recognise victims’ needs and revise the bill to ensure that it respects the country’s international and domestic legal obligations.


Thailand: Myanmar Nationals Interrogated by Thai Authorities Face Risk of Deportation

On 24 March 2023, Amnesty International reported that immigration, military and local authorities searched the apartments of Myanmar nationals in the border town of Mae Sot on 22 and 23 March. An estimated 100 people were interrogated by the Thai authorities outside their apartments. Nang Sein, Amnesty International’s Myanmar Researcher urged authorities not to deport Myanmar nationals back to their home country, where they are at risk of imprisonment, torture and even the death penalty. He further highlighted that Thailand should uphold the principle of nonrefoulement which is enshrined in their country’s Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance, and uphold its “long history of hosting and providing humanitarian support to refugees across the region.”


India: UN Expert Calls for Ending Crackdown on Kashmiri Human Rights Defenders

On 24 March 2023, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders urged that India must immediately put an end to its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders, in the aftermath of the arrest of renowned Kashmiri human rights defender, Khurram Parvez. Mr. Parvez, who had already been detained on terrorism charges, was arrested again after the National Investigation Agency, India’s main terrorism body interrogated him for two days. He has been accused of financing terrorism under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), through his work with the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Ms. Lawlor highlighted that the Indian Government has been called upon numerous times to address “fundamental issues with the country’s anti-terrorism framework and its misuse to smear and silence human rights defenders.” She also urged that the arrest and detention of human rights defenders were arbitrary and that there must be accountability for such abusive actions. She called for the release of Kamhmiri human rights defenders and the closure of investigations against them.


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