Weekly News Recap (24-30 April 2023)

© Photo by Prachatai via Flickr




Gambia: Former Interior Minister of Gambia to be Prosecuted in Europe under Universal Jurisdiction

On 25 April 2023, it was reported that Ousman Sonko, former Gambian Interior Minister was indicted on 17 April for crimes against humanity in Switzerland. The trial will be held before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona and will be tried under universal jurisdiction. Mr. Sonko is charged with having supported, participating in, and failing to prevent systemic and general attacks against all opponents of the regime of the President of Yahua Jammeh. The prosecution has charged Mr. Sonko over five events between 2000 and 2016 involving killings, acts of torture, acts of rape, and numerous unlawful detentions. Mr. Sonko is expected to plead not guilty to all charges. No official trial start date has been announced.


Singapore: Tangaraju Suppiah Executed for Conspiring to Traffic Cannabis

On 26 April 2023, Tangaraju Suppiah was executed by hanging in Singapore for conspiring to traffic one kilogram of cannabis. Mr. Suppiah was convicted of “abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic” cannabis from Malaysia to Singapore in 2013. Advocates plead for clemency alongside Mr. Suppiah’s family and the UN. Advocates argued that during Mr. Suppiah’s prosecution, he had limited legal access and there are many unanswered questions about the evidence against him. Mr. Suppiah was not found with any drugs nor was he present during the delivery. The prosecution claimed that Mr. Suppiah was coordinating the delivery and traced two phone numbers back to him. Singapore has one of the most stringent anti-drug laws which includes the use of capital punishment.



South Africa: Office of South African President States Leaving the International Criminal Court was a Mistake

On 26 April 2023, South Africa clarified that the nation would remain a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) stating that it was a communication error from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Earlier, the ANC had projected the intention to withdraw South Africa from the court, with Ramaphosa saying that the ANC thought it “prudent that South Africa should pull out of the ICC.” The issue of withdrawing South Africa from the ICC was discussed by the executive committee in regard to the imbalance and discriminatory application of international law by the ICC. This discussion has sparked considerable interest because of South Africa’s role in detaining Putin when he arrives for the summit being held in the country between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.



Sudan: Omar al-Bashir, Overthrown Sudanese President, Being Held in Army Hospital After Fighting Surrounded Prison

On 26 April 2023, Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and thirty other prisoners were moved to the army hospital, Aliyaa Hospital after fighting broke out and surrounded the prison where he was being held. Thousands of other inmates escaped during a jailbreak when fighting commenced, surrounding the jail.  Mr. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court due to his alleged involvement with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in Western Darfur between 2003 to 2018. This jailbreak was in addition to five other prison breaks where all detainees were released. The release of over 25 000 convicted criminals has caused widespread looting and gangs roaming the streets in Khartoum, Sudan.


Iran: Jamshid Sharmahd’s Death Sentence Upheld by Iran Supreme Court

On 26 April 2023, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty against Jamshid Sharmahd. Mr. Sharmahd is an Iranian-German national who was convicted of charges of corruption on earth. The Supreme Court stated, “there is no reason or proof that would create the grounds for dismissing the initial verdict, and the sentence of the convicted has been issued in accordance with the law based on presented evidence.” M.r Sharmahd is accused of being the leader of the US-based group named Tondar which has said it seeks to restore monarchy that was toppled in 1979. The main charge he was convicted of was of organising the bombing of a mosque in Shiraz. Sharmahd’s family and the German government have accused Iranian authorities of not conducting a fair trial and maintain Mr. Sharmahd’s innocence.


US: Brain Kolfage, Air Force veteran, Sentenced to Prison for his Role in Border Wall Fraud

On 26 April 2023, a United States Air Force veteran was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for defrauding donors in a scheme to raise funds for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border. Brian Kolfage had set up a campaign called “We Build the Wall,” in 2018 and promised to use the funds to construct a border wall. However, prosecutors said Kolfage used the funds for personal expenses, including a luxury SUV, a golf cart, and home renovations. Mr. Kolfage was sentenced with his co-defendant Andrew Badolato who was sentenced to three years for aiding the scheme. Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato previously pleaded guilty to the charges. In addition to their prison sentence, they are ordered to pay $25 million in restitution. The “We Build the Wall,” campaign had raised more than $25 million from donors, including high-profile supporters of former President Donald Trump.


Norway: Court Sentences a Former Contractor of the Wagner Group for Disorderly Conduct and Carrying an Air Gun in a Public Place

On 27 April 2023, a former contractor for the Wagner Group, a private Russian Military company, was sentenced to fourteen days in jail for disorderly conduct and for carrying an air gun in a public place. Andrey Medvedev was acquitted of the charge of committing violence against police officers. Mr. Medvedev was charged after his involvement in a barfight in Oslo, Norway. Mr. Medvedev is seeking asylum in Norway and has said he is willing to testify about any possible war crimes he witnessed. He fled to Norway after leaving the Wagner Group and has said he fears for his life if he is sent back to Russia.




UN: Russian Foreign Minister Attended the United Nations Security Council Meeting in New York

On 24 April 2023, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited the United Nations in New York. During his visit, Mr Lavrov met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and addressed the UN General Assembly. In his speech, Lavrov called for the UN to play a greater role in global affairs, arguing that the UN should be a “center of multilateral diplomacy.” He also criticised Western countries for imposing sanctions on Russia and accused the United States of interfering in the affairs of other countries. Mr Lavrov’s visit to the UN comes amid tensions between Russia and Western countries, particularly over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The United States has recently imposed new sanctions on Russia in response to its military buildup near Ukraine’s border, and Western countries have expressed concern over Russia’s actions in the region.


UN: Gutterres Affirms UN Commitment to Sudan and Calls Again for Fighting to Stop as Death Toll Rises

On 24 April 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (“Guterres”) welcomed the relocation of hundreds of UN staff out of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum amidst continued and intense fighting; however, he emphasised that “the United Nations is not leaving Sudan.” Guterres reaffirmed his commitment to the Sudanese people and stated that the UN was in “constant contact” with the warring parties, the Sudanese Armed Forces (“SAF”) and Rapid Support Forces (“RSF”), calling on them to cease hostilities and return to negotiating. Violence between the two forces escalated after they failed to agree on an integration plan in a transition to a democratic, civilian-led government. The continued violence in Sudan has led to shortages of food, water and medicines, resulting in the price of these essential items increasing drastically.


UN: Member States Must Work Multilaterally to Find Solutions to Global Crises

On 24 April 2023, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (“Guterres”) stated that the world’s multilateral system is under strain as the world is facing “unprecedented and interlocking crises” as “tensions between major powers are at a historic high.” Guterres stated that the system is under its greatest strain since the creation of the UN in 1945 and Member States have a responsibility to “make multilateralism work” and “find common solutions” to these international crises. Guterres evidenced the Russian invasion of Ukraine, global dislocation triggered by Covid-19 and conflicts in Myanmar, the Sahel, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as examples of areas needing immediate attention and cooperation. He added that multilateral responses are also needed to resolve economic uncertainty and address the “unregulated development of dangerous technologies”, including nuclear weapons. Guterres stated that these “global challenges can only be solved through respect for international law” and Member States complying with their obligations. 


Central America: One in Three People in Need of Aid Due to Extreme Levels of Violence and Instability

On 24 April 2023, the Norwegian Refugee Council (“NRC”) released a report stating that almost one in three people in North Central America are in urgent need of aid. The NRC stated that violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador specifically, is compounding humanitarian needs and ruining the lives of civilians in the region. In Honduras alone, 3.2 million people require aid, with the majority requiring both protection and food assistance. Drug traffickers, armed gangs, and criminal organisations fuel corruption and gender-based violence in North Central America, which is also a region intensely affected by climate change and extreme weather events. North Central America also has one of the highest levels of homicide in the world, with rates of sexual violence and femicide far exceeding global averages. Despite the violence, millions of desperate migrants cross through the region in search of refuge and protection in North America. According to the NRC, the region is extremely underfunded, with funding for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras only reaching between a quarter and half of the required amounts in 2022. 


Mozambique: Worst Cholera Outbreak in Two Decades Affects Pregnant Women 

On 24 April 2023, the United Nations Population Fund (”UNFPA”) stated that Mozambique is facing its worst cholera outbreak in two decades after Tropical Cyclone Freddy. Cyclone Freddy swept through Mozambique in February killing 183 people and causing more than 640 000 to be homeless. As of 14 April 2023, more than 27 000 cases of cholera had been recorded across 10 of Mozambique’s 11 provinces. The UNFPA stated that among those affected by the disaster are 31 000 pregnant women, and cholera, a water-borne disease, can be especially harmful to pregnant women, increasing the risk of maternal mortality and stillbirths. An obstetrician-gynaecologist providing medical support in the Quelimane, Zambezia province stated that up to three pregnant women have come to the hospital with cholera over the last month. Cyclone Freddy partially or completely destroyed 55 maternity wards in the region of Zambezia, leading to the UNFPA setting up a dedicated space to treat pregnant women with the disease. The humanitarian community in Mozambique is calling for (USD) 138 million in assistance for 815 000 people affected by the triple crises of cholera, floods and Cyclone Freddy.


Sudan: Humanitarian Fears as Sudanese Refugees Flee to Chad and Neighbouring Countries

On 25 April 2023, the UN announced that at least 20 000 people fleeing the fighting in Sudan have arrived in Chad, with 100 000 set to arrive. According to the UN, Chad, to the west of Sudan’s western region of Darfur, has received the highest number of refugees compared with other neighbouring countries, and humanitarian agencies have warned about the impact of a large flow of refugees into an already fragile country. Aid workers described the majority of refugees arriving at the border as women and children who had been walking for two days with little food or water. Aid agencies also expressed concern about their capacity to support a new wave of refugees in Chad, stating that their services are already over capacity and underfunded. The UN also warned that more refugees will begin to arrive in South Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt, with the number of refugees increasing as the conflict continues and intensifies, which the UN warned requires preparation. Since 15 April 2023, when the fighting broke out, more than 420 people have died and almost 3 700 have been injured.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/26/humanitarian-fears-as-thousands-of-sudanese-flee-to-chad-on-foot https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/25/as-sudan-fighting-rages-aid-groups-halt-people-suffer 

For Prior Developments See: https://peacehumanity.org/2023/04/23/weekly-news-recap-17-23-april-2023/#11

Haiti: Mounting Gang Violence and Unprecedented Insecurity Calls for Urgent Action

On 26 April 2023, Maria Isabel Salvador, UN Special Representative, in her first briefing to the Security Council, highlighted the continuously deteriorating security situation in Haiti. She highlighted that gang violence was expanding at an alarming rate in the capital Port-au-Prince. She urged that any delay in addressing the “unprecedented insecurity” in the country could further spread in the region and that urgent action was needed on behalf of the international community. She noted that half the population in the country requires humanitarian aid, i.e. 5.2 million people and reiterated that although a plan has been outlined for engaging in dialogue with Haitians to “restore democratic institutions”, without addressing the continuous insecurity in the region, it would be difficult to move forward. In the first quarter of 2023 alone, 1 647 criminal incidents have been recorded, according to the data from the Haitian National Police and the UN Mission in the country, BINUH. The figure is double the number of incidents recorded in the past year during the same period, with the previous month witnessing the highest incident rates in nearly two decades.


Ukraine: One Journalist Shot Dead and Other Injured in Sniper Attack in Ukraine

On 27 April 2023, a prominent Ukrainian journalist and writer, Bogdan Bitik was killed in what is believed to be a sniper attack by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Mr. Bitik was an interpreter for La Repubblica reporter Corrado Zunino and was reportedly shot after passing three Ukrainian checkpoints. His Italian colleague, Corrado Zunino was shot in the shoulder. The Ukrainian government has condemned the attack and called for an investigation. Both men were wearing press vests when they were shot. The killing has raised concerns about the safety of journalists in Ukraine, where several journalists have been killed or injured in recent years while covering the conflict in the country’s east.


Syria: Renewed Diplomatic Efforts Needed to Find Durable Solutions and Unlocking Stalled Peace Efforts

On 27 April 2023, Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria told the UN Security Council that in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquakes in Syria, a renewed commitment towards finding a political solution should be made to unlock the stalled peace efforts. He highlighted that to progress towards a political solution “many will need to take concrete steps- not just one set of actors”, emphasising that “the UN cannot do this alone” and needs the support of all key players. The envoy highlighted that he would continue to engage directly with the Syrian parties and the Government so that they take this opportunity to move forward on substantive issues. The envoy also expressed his concern over the intensifying violence in the northwest region of the country, which involved pro-Government forces, armed opposition forces and the terrorist group HTS. Lisa Doughten, Resource Mobilization Director for the UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA), highlighted that the current humanitarian situation in the region was dire, reminding that nearly seven million Syrians are displaced nationwide, with 80 per cent having been displaced “for at least five years.” She also urged the need for finding durable solutions to put an end to the conflict.


UK: New Legislation Cracks Down on Peaceful Right to Protest

On 27 April 2023, Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called the recent legislation passed by the United Kingdom, the Public Order Bill, “deeply troubling legislation.” He expressed his concern over how the law expands the powers of the police to stop and search individuals, along with defining new offences and imposing unnecessary and disproportionate criminal sanctions on people organising or participating in peaceful protests. He appealed to the UK Government to reverse the legislation. The High Commissioner further criticised the legislation for its potential to limit the freedoms of protestors, urging that the legislation could “preemptively limit someone’s future legitimate exercise of their rights.”


Afghanistan: Landmark Resolution Calls on De Facto Authorities to “Swiftly Reverse” the Ban on Women Working for the UN

On 27 April 2023, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the decision of Taliban leaders to ban Afghan women from working for the UN and calling upon the de facto authorities to reverse their decision. The landmark resolution calls for the “full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and girls in Afghanistan”, urging all countries and organisations to “promote an urgent reversal” of the decision. The resolution outlines specifically the concerns ambassadors have over the ban, highlighting that along with the erosion of basic rights it “will negatively and severely impact” the UN aid operations throughout the country. The resolution also highlighted that the UN Mission in the region, UNAMA would also be unable to implement its humanitarian mandate until the ban ends, emphasising that the ban “is unprecedented in the history of the United Nations.”


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