Weekly News Recap (10-16 April 2023)

© Photo by Matt Hrkac via Flickr




ECtHR: Hearing Concerning Anti-Covid Measures Prohibiting Public Events in 2020 in Switzerland

On 12 April 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held a Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Communauté genevoise d’action syndicale (CGAS) v. Switzerland. The case concerns an association which complains about being deprived of the right to organise and participate in public events following the adoption of measures to tackle COVID-19 under Ordinance O.2 COVID-19, enacted by the Federal Council on 13 March 2020. On the basis of O.2 COVID-19, public and private events were prohibited with effect from 16 March 2020. Failure to comply with the prohibition was punishable by a custodial sentence or a fine. As of 30 May 2020 the ban on gatherings was relaxed (maximum of 30 participants). Events involving more than 1,000 participants continued to be prohibited until the end of August 2020. Relying on Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicant association complains that it was deprived of the right to organise and participate in public events following the measures adopted by the Government under O.2 COVID-19. In its judgment of 15 March 2022, the Court held, by four votes to three, that there had been a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention. On 5 September 2022 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the Swiss Government’s


Philippines: Top Government Lawyer States They Will Appeal the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court

On 12 April 2023, a top government lawyer stated that the Philippines will appeal the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) jurisdiction and authority to investigate the killings linked to the former President’s ‘war on drugs.’ The Philippines has accused the ICC of prejudice and states that the ICC does not have jurisdiction since the Philippines is no longer a signatory to the international court. However, Prosecutor Karim Khan states the ICC maintains jurisdiction because the Philippines was a signatory to the ICC during the time the alleged crimes were committed. The allegations include the murder of over 30 000 civilians during anti-drug operations conducted by individuals in coordination with the police.


Palestine & Israel: United Nation Experts Highlight War Crimes in East Jerusalem

On 13 April 2023, independent rights experts who were appointed by the UN reported on the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes and the “deliberate intention to colonize” territory held by Israel. The experts stated this amount to a ‘prima facie war crime.’ The experts warned that the laws enacted by the Israeli government alter Jerusalem’s demographic and are discriminatory towards Palestinians. Hundreds of Palestinian properties have been taken over by settlers under a law that claims to allow the reclamation of pre-1948 property to the “original Jewish owners” or their “heirs.” Under Israelian occupation, Palestinians continue to be forced out of their homes and land in a blatant violation of international law. The experts further stated that the expansion of the Israeli settlements is a “grave breach of international law, prosecutable under the Rome Statute.” The experts highlighted the need to end Israel’s 56-year-long occupation to avoid making a mockery of international law and the creditability of the system in charge of enforcing international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations.


Ukraine: President Zelenskyy Provided Remarks in Response to Online Video Showing Beheading of Ukrainian Servicemen

On 13 April 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russian forces “beasts” in response to a video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian soldier. Two videos have surfaced, one of two Ukrainian soldiers whose heads and hands were cut off and another of a Ukrainian prisoner being beheaded. The Ukrainian Secret Service has started an investigation into these videos. The European Commission also pledged to hold Russia accountable for their crime of aggression. Russia has denied any involvement in war crimes in Ukraine despite multiple reports of Russian war crimes and the International Criminal Court’s release of an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin over war crimes.


United States: Jack Teixeira Arrested in Relation to Pentagon Leak Investigation

On 13 April 2023, the United States Attorney General announced the arrest of Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira for his role in the Pentagon leak of classified U.S. intelligence documents. The documents included information on the war in Ukraine and the United States surveilling their allies. Mr Teixeira reportedly shared the documents in an online gaming chatroom. He is facing charges under the Espionage Act. The leak is claimed to be a “deliberate criminal act.” Mr Teixeira is expected to have his first court appearance on 14 April 2023. He began leaking the classified documents on an online chatroom called Discord. The documents eventually were posted on pro-Russia channels. The documents are still being evaluated to determine the impact of the leak. 


ECtHR: Advisory Opinion Concerning Adoption of an Adult in Finland

On 13 April 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered an advisory opinion in response to a request made by the Supreme Court of Finland, under Protocol no. 16 to the European Convention on Human Rights, on issues that arose out of proceedings for the adoption of an adult. The Supreme Court of Finland notably asked for guidance on the procedural rights and status of a biological mother in the adoption proceedings of her son, C, now an adult. C had gone to live with his aunt at the age of three. The aunt had applied to the courts to adopt C when he was 25 years old and he had moved out to live independently. The mother had objected, but the national courts had granted the adoption. Her appeal is currently pending before the Supreme Court. Firstly, the Court found that legal proceedings concerning the adoption of an adult child affected a biological parent’s private life and that Article 8 (right to respect for private life) was therefore applicable in the case. It concluded that safeguards, such as the right to be treated as a party to such proceedings and the right to appeal, were not required to satisfy the procedural requirements of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights from the biological mother’s perspective. Furthermore, it was for the Supreme Court of Finland to determine whether the legal proceedings concerning the adult adoption involved any right of the biological mother that was recognised under national law. In the negative, Article 6 (right of access to Court) would not be applicable in the case pending before it.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures Granted in Favor of Indigenous People Deprived of Liberty in Nicaragua

On 13 April 2023, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of the Mayangna indigenous people, after considering that they are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable harm to their rights in Nicaragua. The Mayangna people are deprived of their liberty in the Jorge Navarro Penitentiary Center after being convicted of acts related to the Kiwakumbaih Massacre. The IACHR observed that these beneficiaries are without adequate and timely medical attention, suffering from health problems and subjected to constant threats by the guards and other persons deprived of liberty. The allegations indicate that they were also victims of physical and sexual assault.


Austria: Ex-Officials on Trial in Vienna for Allegedly Granting Asylum to Ex-General Suspected of Crimes Against Humanity

On 14 April 2023, five former Austrian officials were put on trial for allegedly granting asylum to a Syrian ex-general who is suspected of crimes against humanity. Khaled al-Halabi served as head of state security in Syria between 2009 to 2013. Mr al-Halabi has been accused of committing crimes against humanity including murder, torture, and sexual offences. The Austria authorities were provided with information on the allegations against Mr al-Halabi back in 2016. Although, allegedly the five former Austrian officials secured a deal with Mossad, Israel’s secret service, to provide Mr al-Halabi asylum in 2015 from France to Austria. Prosecutors claim that the former Austrian officials assisted in getting Mr al-Halabi with asylum in Austria “under false pretenses” in response to a “cooperation agreement.” The trial is ongoing and is projected to last five days.



UN: Condemns Military Attack in Myanmar Killing at Least 100 

On 11 April 2023, military aircraft from the Myanmar Armed Forces dropped bombs and fired on a crowd of people killing at least 100 civilians. The targeted area was Kanbulu Township, an opposition stronghold in the northwest of the country. The UN strongly condemned the attacks which targeted people who had gathered that morning for the opening of a new town hall, including school children performing dances with a helicopter gun firing on those fleeing the violence. Myanmar’s military took power in a coup in February 2021, detaining the democratically elected leader and other top officials. Thousands of people have been killed since the coup and the UN has repeatedly called for an end to the violence, reiterating the need to stop the repression and human rights violations and abuses. The UN rights chief noted that despite the legal obligations of the military to take care of its citizens, in the case of Myanmar, “there has been blatant disregard for the related rules of international law.”


UN: Greater International Support Needed for Somalia  

On 11 April 2023, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (“Guterres”) visited the Somali capital of Mogadishu to raise awareness about the need for international support in the country to alleviate its worsening humanitarian situation. Guterres, who last visited Somalia six years ago, visited families who have been forcibly displaced due to terrorism and climate change, such as severe droughts. He stressed that “although Somalis make virtually no contribution to climate change” they are amongst those greatly affected by it and that now nearly five million people experience acute food insecurity. Somalia needs (USD) 2.6 billion to assist 7.6 million people, but it currently has 15 per cent of that target and so Guterres called on the international community to “step up their support.”


Save the Children: Half the Children in Haiti Face Acute Hunger as the Security Situation Continues to Deteriorate

On 11 April 2023, Save the Children stated that almost half of the children in Haiti are facing acute hunger. On 14 August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, and this, combined with gang violence, political instability and climate stressors has led to a dire humanitarian situation in the country, with nearly half the population (5.2 million people) being in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Reconstruction efforts after the earthquake have also been slow, hampered by logistical difficulties experienced in a spiralling security and economic situation. Due to this, the likelihood of the situation becoming one of the worst hunger crises in the Americas is increasing. According to Save the Children, in terms of food crises, children are always the most vulnerable and are easily susceptible to malnutrition. In addition to food shortages, communities are struggling to access water, healthcare, education, fuel, telecommunication, and other basic needs. 


Ukraine: Senior Zelensky Adviser Accuses Hungary of Perpetuating War Crimes Through Energy Deals

On 12 April 2023, Oleg Ustenko, economic advisor for Ukraine, accused Hungary of funding Russian war crimes. Recently, Hungary entered a series of energy deals with Russia to allow for increased gas imports along with other energy deals. Budapest has been a strong opponent to the imposition of sanctions on Russia. Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, claims the energy deals were signed to ensure that there is uninterrupted transportation of gas, oil, and nuclear fuel for the security of Hungary. In turn, Mr Ustenko accused Hungary of sponsoring war crimes by providing Russians with more financial capacity to escalate the Russian-Ukrainian war. Although Russian gas delivered via seaborne crude oil and other fossil fuel exports have been sanctioned, delivery by pipeline and natural gas is not. Hungary receives eighty per cent of their gas from Russia, the largest amount among other European Union countries.


China: Taiwan President Visits America and China Declared No-Fly Zone in Airspace North of Taiwan 

On 12 April 2023, Reuters reported that China’s military plans to declare a no-fly zone in the airspace north of Taiwan in the coming week. Taiwan reported that the no-fly zone will be for about 30 minutes, reduced from an original three days, and is due to a falling object from a satellite launch vehicle. The announcement follows days of military drills around the island which were launched in response to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen (“Tsai”) meeting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the US last week. Tsai stated that her visit showed Taiwan’s commitment to defending democracy and freedom. The no-fly zone is reportedly located 85 nautical miles north of Taiwan and would impact air traffic between northeast and southeast Asia, as well as flights between Taiwan and South Korea, Japan and North America. The last time China imposed similar restrictions in August 2022, there were significant disruptions to flights in the region.



IOM: 441 Migrant Deaths Recorded on the Dangerous Central-Mediterranean Route, Raising Concerns Over Delayed State-Led Rescue Operations

On 12 April 2023, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) highlighted that 441 (documented) migrants died this year while attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean between January and March, making it the deadliest first quarter on record since 2017. The Central Mediterranean Route is considered to be the deadliest, which stretches overseas from North Africa to Italy and a lesser degree, Malta. The agency highlighted that deaths at sea have increased due to delays in State-led rescue responses and the impediments to search and rescue operations (SAR) that are being carried out by non-governmental organisations. IOM Director General António Vitorino urged that the continuous crisis in the region was intolerable, highlighting that more than 20 000 deaths have been recorded on this route since 2014. According to the agency, the delays in State-led rescue were cited as one of the factors in at least six incidents that occurred on this route, in which 127 fatalities occurred. IOM  Director General urged that “proactive State-led coordination” was needed in search and rescue efforts.


Mali: Fragile Security Situation and Resurging Terrorist Violence Puts Civilians Lives at Risk

On 12 April 2023, El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission Mali, MINUSMA, while briefing the Security Council highlighted the major developments that had occurred in Mali over the past three months. He highlighted that the security situation in the region was fragile, as there remained terrorist violence. He briefed the UNSC on various aspects of the peace process and the advances that had been made in transitioning to civilian rule. He noted that the security situation in the region of Ménaka has worsened, and fighting between the Islamic State in the Great Sahara (ISGS) and the militant jihadist group JNIM had also resurged since the beginning of the year. The humanitarian situation in the region remains dire, with more than 30 000 people having been displaced and 2 400 having been sheltered near a MINUSMA camp. The Director General highlighted that the operations of Malian forces have disrupted the extremist activities at the centre to some extent; but because of their operations, the extremist groups have begun to make use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to hamper the operations of Malian security forces to disrupt extremist activities.


Norway: Fifteen Russian Embassy Officers Were Removed for Operating Under the Cover of Diplomatic Positions

On 13 April 2023, Norway removed fifteen Russian embassy officials who were intelligence officers but were acting under the cover of diplomatic positions in the Russian embassy. The Norwegian Foreign Minister stated the Russian officials’ activities had increased since the invasion of Ukraine and posed a threat to Norway. The Russian Foreign Minister responded by stating there will be retaliation for the officials’ expulsion. Currently, forty Russian diplomats are endorsed in Oslo. Aside from Norway, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Austria have all expelled Russian diplomats from their countries. Norway still currently holds diplomatic relations with Russia, unlike other European Union countries.


Colombia: Implementation of Peace Agreement and Promoting Dialogue with Armed Groups

On 13 April 2023, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, UN Special Representative while presenting the latest report of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia to the UN Security Council highlighted that the full implementation of the Colombian Government’s Total Peace Policy was crucial for consolidating peace in the country. The UN Mission was established after the peace agreement between the authorities and the FARC-EP militia group was signed in 2016. The agreement which ended five decades of conflict in the country also promoted dialogue between armed groups, to reduce violence. He urged that given the realities on the ground, the government’s effort to implement the agreement and promote dialogue with illegal armed groups were two important aspects that had become ”inextricably linked.” The UN report on Colombia, for the very first time, also covered matters concerning sections of the peace agreement on comprehensive rural reform and ethnic issues. These provisions range from providing required investments and infrastructure to remote rural areas to redress the impacts that have been suffered by ethnic communities during the conflict.


Nigeria: Children Continue to be Affected in Northeast Nigeria by Armed Conflict

On 14 April 2023, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), highlighted the need for protecting children in Nigeria, where nearly a decade ago 276 schoolgirls had been abducted from their dormitory by Boko Haram in Chibok in northeast Nigeria, where 96 remain in captivity. UNICEF also stated that on 7 April 2023, at least 80 children had been abducted by militants in the Tsafe Local Government Area in Zamfara state. Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, states that the “nightmare” still continues as many children in the region are still being abducted, kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured. According to UNICEF, since 2014 there have been over 2 400 verified incidents of grave violations affecting 6 800 children in northeast Nigeria, with the most common concern being recruitment by armed groups followed by abduction, killing and maiming. UNICEF welcomed the Government’s efforts; they signed an agency-supported protocol on the handover of children encountered in the course of armed conflict as well as financing a plan for school safety. The handover agreement, which was signed in September 2022, aims at preventing the detention of children encountered by military and security forces. Children that are allegedly associated with armed groups would be transferred to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development within seven days, according to the agreement.


Sudan: Military Exchanged Gunfire in a Struggle for Control

On 15 April 2023, Sudan’s main paramilitary group and armed forces clashed with its army in Khartoum and other areas of Sudan to gain control. Sudan is struggling with an economic breakdown, tribal violence and a prolonged confrontation between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the army, which has resulted in widespread conflict in Sudan. The exchange of gunfire began after mounting tensions between the army and the RSF after the RSF’s integration into the military. The clashing has delayed the signing of an agreement between political parties for a transition to democracy. Reports are stating that a “very large number” of civilians are being killed and injured in the clash because the fighting is extending into residential neighbourhoods across the Sudanese capital.


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