Weekly News Recap (22-28 May 2023)

© Photo by IAEA Imagebank via Flickr




Netherlands: First Trial for Crimes Against Yazidis to Take Place in Netherlands

On 22 May 2023, it was announced that the first trial for crimes against the Yazidis will take place in the Netherlands. Hasna Aarab, a Dutch citizen, is being accused of committing slavery as a crime against humanity and engaging in acts of terrorism. The Netherlands will invoke the principle of universal jurisdiction in this case. Numerous individuals were compelled to escape, with men losing their lives and numerous women enduring the horrors of forced enslavement and various forms of sexual and gender-based violence. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights officially recognized these atrocities as genocide in 2015. The case of Ms. Aarab is expected to be heard during the winter season, with subsequent hearings scheduled every three months to allow the lawyers to present their investigative submissions.


ECtHR: Romania Found Guilty of Violating Rights of Same-Sex Couples

On 23 May 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) held that Romania violated Article 8 of the European Convention, which protects the right to respect for family life, by failing to provide the LGBTQ community with any means to legally secure their relationships. The couples claimed that Romania did not recognize them as families, discriminating against them in a number of ways, including health care decisions, joint health insurance, property rights and work rights that were granted only to married couples. The Romanian government has three months to decide whether it wants to ask the EU court to transfer the case to its highest chamber. The case of Buhuceanu and others v. Romania began when Romania rejected the marriage applications of 21 same-sex couples. According to current Romanian law, marriage is recognized only between a man and a woman.




DRC: Second Complaint against Rwanda Defence Force and M23 Group Filed before ICC

On 24 May 2023, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) lodged another formal referral to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), emphasizing the need for the court’s attention to be directed towards the reported systematic looting of its natural resources in the eastern region by the Rwanda Defence Force (“RDF”) and the M23 rebel group. According to the Congolese Justice Ministry, “the government is deeply concerned about the suffering of the populations in the part of its territory affected by the acts referred to in this case”. The goal of the referral is to hold anyone involved in human rights violations between 2022 and 2023 accountable. In March 2022, the Tutsi-led M23 group launched a new offensive in eastern DRC which forced more than one million people to flee the towns and villages in the area that borders Uganda. A 2022 United Nations experts’ report found “direct intervention” by Rwandan forces inside DRC. The already continuing ICC investigation into eastern DRC started in 2004 and it is unclear if the new referral will shift the court’s focus.


ACHPR: Families of Detained Tunisian Opposition Leaders Turn to African Court for Justice

On 24 May 2023, the families of more than 20 detainees from the Tunisian opposition parties approached the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (“ACHPR”) in Arusha, Tanzania. A case was filed before the court seeking intervention and urging for their immediate release. The move is considered to be a part of an ongoing global campaign against the Tunisian president Kais Saied. Saied dissolved Congress in July 2021 as part of a power snare allowing him to rule by decree. He has since rewritten a new constitution, taken control of the bar and adulterated the electoral commission to award himself near-unlimited control. Since February, more than 20 dissidents, activists, journalists, and opposition figures have been reportedly arrested, leading to widespread condemnation from the international community and human rights organizations.



Israel: Soldiers Convicted and Sentenced to Prison for Abusing Palestinian Man

On 25 May 2023, in a rare punishment granted by the Israeli military court against its own forces, three soldiers were sentenced to imprisonment for their mistreatment of a Palestinian man and for impeding the investigation into the incident. The Israeli army announced that the soldiers have been found guilty of committing acts of abuse, with one soldier also convicted of exceeding his authority and jeopardizing the life and well-being of an individual. According to the indictments, the three soldiers, along with a fourth individual, forcibly transported the Palestinian man in a military four-wheel drive to an undisclosed and remote location. Throughout the course of the drive and subsequent events, the victim was subjected to acts of violence before being abandoned at a remote site. Two of the soldiers were sentenced to 60 days in prison while the third was sentenced to 40 days in prison.


South Africa: Former Rwandan Police Officer Arrested in South Africa and Awaits Extradition to Rwanda

On 25 May 2023, Fulgence Kayishema, a former police officer, was arrested in Paarl, South Africa. Mr. Kayishema is accused of ordering the murder of about 2 000 Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Mr. Kayishema was indicted for the Rwandan genocide over his role in the destruction of the Nyange Catholic Church in Kibuye Prefecture by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”). Mr. Kayishema has been on the run since 2001 until a specialised South African police unit, the Hawks, found and arrested him. He was living under a false name at a grape farm in the Western Cape. The U.N. Secretary General’s office said that the arrest of Mr. Kayishema sends a strong message to those who commit genocide and helps ensure peace, security, and justice. 


Global: Adoption of New Convention to Help Deliver Justice to Victims of Crimes Under International Law

On 26 May 2023, the new Ljubljana-Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes, also referred to as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLA) was adopted by consensus of delegations from more than 70 states, international organizations and civil society. This sets out the obligations on the states regarding legal cooperation and extradition in the investigation of crimes under international law. The treaty is said to provide a framework for countries to collaborate in gathering evidence, sharing information, and apprehending suspects involved in such crimes. This treaty represents a significant step towards strengthening the international legal system’s ability to hold those responsible for grave human rights violations accountable.




UN: Power Loss at Ukrainian Nuclear Plants is a “Real Danger”

On 22 May 2023, the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (”ZNPP”) in Ukraine lost all power for several hours. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) highlighted the importance of protecting the facility and preventing an accident. According to the UN, this is the seventh time the plant has been disconnected from the national power grid since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. According to the IAEA head, Rafael Mariano Grossi (“Grossi”), this incident demonstrates the vulnerable nature of the plant and emphasised that it is necessary to “act now to avoid the very real danger of a nuclear accident in Europe”. Grossi explained how the plant does not have any operational backup power lines, since the last functioning one was damaged in March 2023 and has not been repaired since. The ZNPP was occupied by the Russians in the early stages of the invasion, although it is still operated by Ukrainian personnel who live in the nearby town.


Sudan: New Ceasefire Deal Raises Hope for Temporary Halt in Fighting 

On 22 May 2023, a week-long ceasefire came into effect in Sudan. The ceasefire was agreed upon by the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (‘RSF”) after five weeks of fighting. Saudi Arabia and the United States brokered the deal in Jeddah on 20 May 2023, and although fighting has continued through previous ceasefires, this is the first truce to be formally agreed upon following negotiations. The deal has been aimed at allowing humanitarian aid into the country and allowing civilians to move. However, hours before the ceasefire was set to take effect, Sudan’s army continued air strikes in the capital Khartoum. The ceasefire deal involves a monitoring mechanism involving the RSF and the Sudanese army, as well as representatives from Saudi Arabia and the United States. The deal has raised the hopes of civilians for a pause in the fighting which has displaced over one million people, including 250 000 who have fled to neighbouring countries. 


UN Women: Disastrous Effects of Cyclone Mocha Disproportionately Affecting Women in Myanmar

On 22 May 2023, UN Women reported that Cyclone Mocha has exacerbated an already dire situation in Myanmar which is particularly affecting women and girls. Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine on 14 May 2023 with a wind speed of up to 250 kilometers per hour. The UN stated that 5.4 million people are expected to have been in the path of the cyclone, with 3.1 million individuals considered among the most vulnerable to cyclone impacts, having already existing poor coping capacity, shelter and food insecurity. UN Women stated that the cyclone has disproportionately affected women and girls because they are more likely to experience increased violence, inequality and gender-specific barriers. Before the cyclone, the 2023 Humanitarian Response plan for Myanmar reported that 17.6 million people were in need of humanitarian aid and 52 per cent were women. The response plan requires 764 million, however, it is only 10 per cent funded to date. 


Ukraine: Russian Forces Capture Bakhmut as Ukraine Prepares for a Counteroffensive

On 22 May 2023, a report stated that Ukrainian forces are still advancing around the eastern city Bakhmut in Ukraine, aiming to encircle the city and regain it from Russian possession. On 20 May 2023, Russia announced it had taken the city and Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the Russian army and the Russian mercenary army, Wagner Group. However, on 21 May 2023, Ukrainian General Olekssandr Syrskyi (“Syrskyi”), stated that Ukrainian troops were advancing on Russian forces around Bakhmut and still defending the “industrial and infrastructure facilities”. Before the war, Bakhmut was home to 70 000 people, however, it has been subject to the longest and bloodiest battle since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 as it is in a strategic location for the Russians to advance deeper into the Donbas region. Taking Bakhmut is Moscow’s first big victory in the conflict in 10 months, and Kyiv is now reportedly preparing for a counteroffensive after six months of mainly defending against Russian advances. 


Horn of Africa: 7 Million Children Under the Age of Five Malnourished

On 23 May 2023, UNICEF stated that more than 7 million children under the age of five are malnourished in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The region in the Horn of Africa is experiencing a large-scale crisis of hunger, displacement, water scarcity, and insecurity after recovering from one of the worst droughts in 40 years. The crisis has forced families to take extreme measures to survive as vulnerable communities lost cattle, crops and entire livelihoods during the past three years of failed rains. While rainfall has brought relief to certain regions, it has also resulted in flooding in other areas, as the parched ground has been unable to absorb the water. These floods have led to further displacement and widespread destruction in several areas in the region. The flooding has also worsened health risks, including the risk of cholera, with Ethiopia experiencing one of the longest outbreaks of the disease recorded in the country. The crisis has also impacted the essentials of childhood, as they do not have enough to eat or drink, a home, or the ability to attend school.


Israel-Palestine: As Ceasefire Holds Between the Fighting Parties, Hunger Crisis and Mounting Violence Still Remain at the Core

On 24 May 2023, Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process while briefing the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) urged that there was a need for prompt action in order to “ensure Palestinian well-being and governance as an integral part of ending the occupation and restoring a political horizon toward a viable two-State solution”. He also highlighted that a ceasefire that brought an end to five days of conflict between Israel and Gaza continues to hold, and emphasised that conflict mitigation efforts were also needed in order to end continuous cycles of violence. He also expressed his concerns over the hunger crisis in the region highlighting that a funding crisis was being faced by the UN agencies in order to provide assistance to basic services and social support which included emergency food assistance to Palestinians. Without new funding support, the World Food Programme (“WFP”) will suspend cash assistance to some 200 000 Palestinians next week, and the UN relief agency, UNRWA would not have resources for delivering core services to the people affected in September. He also highlighted that violence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem remained high, with 17 Palestinians having been killed and 138 Palestinians injured by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes, search and arrest operations, and alleged attacks against Israelis. 


UN: As “Crisis atop Crisis” Threatens Million in the Horn of Africa, UN and Partners Pledge $2.4 Billion to Prevent Catastrophe in the Region

On 24 May 2023, it was reported that 43 million people in the Horn of Africa continue to suffer through one of the worst droughts which have been caused by five consecutive seasons of poor rains. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted that the “crisis atop of crisis” was threatening millions in the Horn of Africa, and the international community should act now in order to prevent the crisis from “turning into a catastrophe”. A pledging event has been organised at the UN headquarters in New York to raise $7 million for the region, where the Secretary-General urged that urgent action and support was needed on the part of the international community. $2.4 billion had been pledged by donors at the event. He also called for an increased support for the humanitarian response plans in place for the region, as they were 20 per cent less funded. According to the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) and the UN Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) in the past year, the drought had claimed 40 000 lives among which half were children under the age of five in Somalia. Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abshir Omar Huruse was also among senior representatives from the affected countries who addressed the pledging conference where he urged that donors should consider increasing their funding for the region. 


Malawi: UNHCR Raises Concern over Detention and Forced Relocation of Refugees to Dzaleka Refugee Camp

On 24 May 2023, the UN Refugee Agency (“UNHCR”) expressed its concern over the recent arrest and detention of 377 refugees, including 117 children on 17 May and also their subsequent forced relocation to the Dzaleka refugee camps by the Malawi authorities. The Malawi Government issued a directive on 27 March 2023 to enforce its encampment policy by ordering arrests and closure of all shops and businesses owned by refugees and asylum seekers. Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa urged the authorities to rescind their relocation decision as the conditions prevailing in the Dzaleka refugee camp were already stretched to a limit, which he highlighted would only cause “immense human suffering and dependency on humanitarian assistance” and further urged that any return to the camp should be done in accordance with the human rights principles. The agency has appealed for $ 27.2 million which is required for providing support to refugees and asylum seekers in the region this year. Only 9 per cent of the appeal has been funded as of now. 


DRC: Reports of Increased Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in the Region “A Matter of Concern”, Says UN Official 

On 25 May 2023, Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative expressed her concern over the increasing allegation of grave cases of sexual violence against civilians especially women and girls which were being carried out in camps for internally displaced people (“IDPs”) around Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”).  She highlighted that it was a “matter of profound concern” that required urgent action. She also noted that an alarming number of Gender Based Violence (“GBV”) cases had been reported in 2022 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”), with 38 000 cases having been reported in North Kivu alone. With IDP camps representing a “volatile security environment”.  She urged that the best way to protect women and girls in such conditions in the region was by providing “medical and psychosocial assistance accompanied by protection measures in order to ensure women and girls who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and insecurity are able to access these services and are not at further risk of sexual violence.” She further called upon the authorities to fulfil their human rights obligations and urged them to ensure that their national police secure all IDP camps in accordance with their obligation to protect civilians under international humanitarian law. 


Yemen: Ongoing Threat of Hunger Persists in the Region, Despite ‘Slight’ Improvement

On 26 May 2023, in a new report released by UN agencies, it was highlighted that in the first five months of the year, the food security situation in government-controlled districts of Yemen has “slightly improved”. David Gressly, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Country highlighted that the UN and its partners have made progress in reducing food security in the region in the past year while 17 million people still face food insecurity. The report titled “Yemen: Acute Food Insecurity and Malnutrition Snapshot” by the three main UN agencies, Food and Agricultural Organisation (“FAO”), the World Food Programme (“WFP”), and the UN Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”) highlighted that there was an increase in the number of acutely malnourished people in 2023 as compared to 2022, further indicating that more funding was required in order to combat extreme hunger. The report also highlighted that the country continues to remain one of the most food-insecure countries across the globe. Peter Hawkin, UNICEF’s representative in the country, urged that a “multisectoral approach” was required in order to address all forms of malnutrition. He highlighted that in 2022, the agency and its partners had reached around 420 000 children suffering from severe and acute malnutrition with lifesaving interventions. 


Sudan: Attacks on Hospitals Are Potential War Crimes in Sudan Conflict

On 26 May 2023, it was reported that both sides involved in the Sudan conflict may be committing war crimes against medical facilities and staff. Hospitals have been targeted by airstrikes and artillery fire while patients were still inside, and doctors have also been singled out for attack, which could constitute potential war crimes. Only a few hospitals in the capital, Khartoum, remain operational after weeks of fighting. The World Health Organization (WHO) denounced the attacks as a clear violation of international humanitarian law, urging their immediate cessation of attacks on hospitals. The WHO reported that fighters from one side or the other have taken over nine hospitals, indicating a preferential treatment of soldiers over civilians, which may violate the laws of war. Hostilities erupted in Sudan on April 15, sparked by a power struggle between erstwhile allies—the regular army commanders and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).


Leave a Reply