Weekly News Recap (27 March-2 April 2023)

© Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr




ICC: Appeal of Philippines Government to Suspend Investigation into “War on Drugs” Denied

On 27 March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) released its verdict wherein it rejected the request of the Republic of the Philippines to suspend the investigation into crimes committed between November 2011 and March 2019 in relation to the “war on drugs” campaign. The Appeals Chambers noted that the Philippines did not provide any reasons or arguments when filing for the request for suspensive effect.  Therefore, due to a lack of consequences in the implementation of the impugned decision by the International Criminal Trial Court, the Appeals Court denied the request of the Philippines government to suspend investigation in the “war on drugs’ campaign.  In response, the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. stated he would cut off contact with the International Criminal Court.



Australia: Australian Solider Arrested for War Crimes in Afghanistan

On 28 March 2023, former trooper Oliver Schultz was arrested after an investigation of war crimes committed in May 2012. Mr. Schultz was arrested and charged with murder for the killing of an Afghani man, Dad Mohammad. The prosecution claims that Mr. Mohammad was not actively participating in the hostilities in Afghanistan and Mr. Schultz was aware of this fact. The criminal investigation was in response to a report released in November 2020 that found multiple cases of abuses that amount to war crimes by the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. In March 2020, the ABC broadcasted footage of Oliver Schultz shooting Mr. Mohammad. This marks the initial trial among the forty to fifty cases currently under investigation by the Australian prosecution concerning war crimes perpetrated by the Australian special forces in Afghanistan.


Sweden: Swedish Woman Convicted of War Crimes in Syria

On 29 March 2023, a Swedish woman who shared photos of severed and impaled head in Raqqa, Syria was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to three months in prison. The women shared the pictures on her social media page and included comments about the people in the pictures. The women denied any wrong doing, however the Swedish court noted that the sharing of the gruesome photos was a serious violation of the personal dignity of protected persons under Swedish law. In addition to sharing the pictures, the women was also convicted of intimidation of a public servant and aggravated defamation. While all of the crimes committed by the women were online or over the phone the court looked at the nature of each crime and the individual context in which they were committed.


USA: Former President Donald Trump Indicted in New York in Relation to Hush-Money Payment

On 30 March 2023, Former United States President Donald Trump was indicted in relation to hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, before his 2016 presidential election. A New York grand jury voted to indict Mr. Trump with his arraignment taking place on Tuesday 4 April 2023. Mr. Trump is the first former United States President to face criminal prosecution. The formal charges against Mr. Trump have not been released, however the indictment is in relation to a $130 000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star and possible violation of elections laws that cap contributions to political candidates.


Congo: Congolese Police and Army Officers on Trial for Alleged Role in Violence in “Mulombodi” Case

On 30 March 2023, two top police officers and army officers were on trial for their alleged violence committed while in pursuit of militiamen during the September 2016 attack in Kinshasa. Prosecution claims that the Congolese National Police and Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo went door-to-door in pursuit of militiamen during which they raped women, killed eleven people, and forcefully removed men to attend the Kananga military academy camp. The two officers currently on trial, Brigadier General Emmanuel Lombe Bangwangu and Deputy Divisional Commander Gilbert Vumilia Tendilonge, were commanders of the region during these events. This case is a symbolic case identified the armed conflict between the Kamwina Nsapu militia and the security forces in the region. The trial is being held in Kinshaha however mobile court hearings are being requested to be held in Kananga for victim accessibility.  


Kosovo: Ex- Guerrilla Chief Faces War Crimes Trial on Monday

On 31 March 2023, it was announced that former Kosovo president Hasim Tachi will go on trial on 3 April 2023 in relation to the alleged war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 insurgency against Serbia. Mr. Thaci was indicted in November 2020 on ten counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including persecution, murder, torture, and enforced disappearance of persons during the insurgency. The crimes were alleged to have been committed against minority Serb civilians in Kosovo as well as Kosovo Albanian opponents.  Mr. Thaci helped guide Kosovo to Western-backed independence after the Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo. The defense team hopes to show Mr. Thaci’s sacrifices for the country and show that he was a truthful man.


Ukraine: Europol Identified More than 100 Cases of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

On 31 March 2023, Europol announced they have identified 150 war crime suspects in Ukraine after speaking to more than 500 witnesses and several thousand videos and photos. Europol is working with the International Criminal Court and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. In addition, to the suspects found by Europol, it is suspected that the Russian military has committed more than 75 000 war crimes and crimes of aggression in Ukraine since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war in February 2022. This number does not reflect the crimes committed in Russian occupied territories or in Ukrainian towns where there are intense hostilities. A war crime tribunal for Russian leadership is anticipated within the next two years.



UN: Libyan Government and Militias Found to Have Committed Widespread Human Rights Abuses in Investigation

On 27 March 2023, UN-appointed independent human rights investigators stated that there is evidence that the Libyan authorities and armed militias committed a “wide array” of war crimes and crimes against humanity in recent years. The report found that human rights violations were committed by State security forces to quash any dissent and to abuse vulnerable migrants through arbitrary detention, rape, torture, enslavement and enforced disappearance in Libya. The investigation also found that for the first time, migrants were forced into sexual slavery. The UN stated that the human rights situation in Libya is continuing to deteriorate, with security forces continuing to crack down on civil society organisations and women activists, highlighting an “urgent need for accountability to end this pervasive impunity”. Libya has been divided and subjected to widespread disruption by warring militias and rival administrations since former leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from his 50-year reign in 2011.


USA: 6 Killed in Nashville School Shooting

On 27 March 2023, a 28-year-old woman fatally shot three children and three adults at a Christian elementary school in Nashville. The woman, Audrey Hale (“Hale”), also from Nashville, entered the school at 10 am local time and was killed by police officers on the scene. The police reported that Hale had two assault weapons, and a pistol, and had left behind a manifesto and detailed maps of the school with its security protocols. With 131 mass shootings occurring in the United States in 2023, gun violence has emerged as the leading cause of death for children. Following the outpouring of grief and anger across the country, President Joe Biden called on congress again to enact gun-control legislation. 


Israel: Palestinians Attacked by Pro-Government Supporters During Widespread Anti-Government Protests

On 27 March 2023, Israeli right-wing protesters attacked Palestinian citizens of Israel in Jerusalem, with one being “savagely beaten”. On 26 and 27 March 2023, hundreds of thousands protested on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and initiated widespread strikes, against government plans to overhaul Israel’s Judiciary. In addition to this, pro-government demonstrators rallied in parts of the country, with groups being filmed as they attacked Palestinians near the rallies, leading to three people being arrested. The government eventually postponed the judicial decision designed to hand control over judicial appointments to the executive and to give parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court rulings. Earlier in the week, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was sacked after warning the plans would affect national security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement to postpone the plans quelled unrest in the short term however, it is unclear how long he plans to delay.  


Mexico: More than Three Dozen Dead in a Fire at Mexican Migrant Facility

On 28 March 2023, a fire broke out at a migrant facility near the US border in Mexico killing at least 39 people and injuring 29. The affected building at the National Immigration Institute in Ciudad Juarez, near El Paso in Texas housed 68 adult men from Central and South America. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the migrants set fire to mattresses at the centre after fearing that they will be deported, however, this has not been officially confirmed. Footage showed soldiers and firefighters helping the injured to safety at the National Migration Institute, with some treated at the scene and others being taken to nearby hospitals. The fire comes after months of frustration triggered by the new asylum process introduced by the Biden administration. The new system requires asylum seekers to book a meeting with US authorities before attempting to cross the border; however, the system has often been down or not working due to high demand.


Portugal: Two Killed in Fatal Stabbing in Lisbon

On 28 March 2023, two women were stabbed to death at a Muslim religious centre in Lisbon, Portugal. The attacker believed to be an Afghan was in possession of a large knife, and the police shot him in the leg at the scene before taking him to the hospital. The two victims were Portuguese. According to Portuguese authorities, the motives of the attack were being investigated, with home affairs minister Jose Luis Carneiro adding that the attacker was a “relatively young man” who had three children and his wife had died in Greece at a refugee camp. The president of the Afghan Community Association, Omed Taeri, stated that the offender was being aided by the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon, and he often visited the centre to study Portuguese and collect food donations and childcare. He also added that the two victims volunteered at the centre’s refugee support programme. Ismailism is a minority branch of Shia Islam and the community in Portugal is one of the largest in Europe.


OHCHR: UN Human Rights Office Expressed its Concerns Over Ongoing Arrests of Activists Advocating for the Rights of Women and Girls

On 29 March 2023, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), expressed its concern over the ongoing arrest of activists advocating for girls’ and women’s rights. Jeremy Laurence, OHCHR Spokesperson, urged that no one should be detained for speaking in defence of their fundamental rights and the rights of others. He further added that the arrests or detentions were arbitrary under international human rights law. The latest statement comes in response to the arrest that occurred on 27 March 2023, where Matiullah Wesa, head of PenPath, a civil society organisation campaigning for the reopening of girls’ schools was detained by unidentified individuals. Mr. Laurence further emphasised that the rights of detainees must be respected and that they should be informed of the reason for their arrest and the charges against them. He also urged that the Taliban leaders are obliged to respect and ensure the maintenance of rights to freedom of expression, opinion and freedom of peaceful assembly.


UNICEF: Continuous Insecurity and Conflict Having a Devastating Impact on Children’s Education in DRC

On 29 March 2023, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released new figures which highlighted that between January 2022 and March 2023, at least 2 100 schools in the regions of North Kivu and Ituri provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had been forced to operate because of increased insecurity and conflict in the region. According to UNICEF, the education of 750 000 children has been disrupted in both the provinces of DRC. The insecurity in the legion has affected 240 000 children displaced by the conflict and living in camps around Goma. According to UNICEF, the crisis is of such a scale that the majority of children living in displacement camps are unable to attend schools. UNICEF has supplied educational and recreational supplies to more than 10 320 displaced and host community children in the Ituri provincial capital Bunia. According to figures collected by the UNICEF-led education coordination group which is comprised of national authorities, a network of local and international non-governmental organisations in North Kivu and Ituri, 119 schools have been attacked, with 1 700 schools having been forced to close due to continuing insecurity and conflict, while more than 5.3 million people have been displaced due to the crisis according to other UN figures published earlier in the year. 


Uganda: UN Experts Condemn Anti-LGBT Legislation Mandating Death Penalty, Urge Immediate Withdrawal

On 29 March 2023, independent UN Human Rights Council appointed experts and condemned the egregious legislation passed by the Ugandan Government which criminalises people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and those who defend them. The experts highlighted that the punishment of the death penalty under the legislation was “per se an arbitrary killing and breach of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).” The UN experts urged that the new legislation would legitimise the ongoing stigmatisation, violence, harassment and discrimination against LGBT persons. According to the experts, the legislation has come after years of the State perpetuating discrimination against the LGBT community. The experts urged that the President of Uganda should veto the legislation and “tread a new path towards respect of human rights and acceptance of difference”. 


Israel and Palestine: Amid Rising Violence and Threat of Annexation, Firm Action Needed to Protect the Human Rights of Palestinians

On 30 March 2023, Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur, highlighted that the deadly violence in the West Bank region is an “inexorable consequence of an acquisitive and repressive occupation with no end in sight”. She urged that the international community should take a prompt a​​ction in order​​​​ to protect the human rights of Palestinians with the increase in the intensity of the violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She further noted that record high numbers of Palestinian deaths and injuries have been witnessed by the international community over the past decades, which is a reminder of “not addressing pervasive injustice and its root causes”. She further urged that the international community should recommit to the ideals of the UN Charter, highlighting that the UN must resolve the conflict “through the lens of legality and justice” and work in an effective manner in order to oppose any form of annexation of the occupied territory. 


Syria: UN Human Rights Experts Call for Repatriation of Children Detained in Northeast Syria

On 31 March 2023, in a joint statement, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, urged that children in conflict zones must be protected and not punished. They called upon the repatriation of children who had been detained in northeast Syria, highlighting that those children were entering their fifth year of detention. They also called upon all actors for ensuring immediate safety and protection of children irrespective of their location. Al-Hola and Roj are the two largest locked camps for women, girls and young boys, where 56 000 individuals have been held and around half of the population constitutes children, with 80 per cent of them being under the age of 12, while 30 per cent being under the age of five. The UN experts also highlighted that the mass detention of children was in clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They emphasised that the safe return of children to their home countries together with their mothers was the only solution and “eminently feasible”. 


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