Weekly News Recap (29 May-4 June 2023)

© Photo by UNMISS via Flickr




MICT: Court Dismisses Appeals in Case of Prosecutor v. Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović

On 31 May 2023, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) dismissed the appeals of Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović who challenged their verdicts for aiding and abetting murder as well as other charges, on the grounds that the evidence presented during their trial demonstrated that they organised and trained the Serbian forces who participated in the takeover and crimes committed. The Appeals Chamber instead found that the Trial Chamber had erred in not finding the defendants guilty of joint criminal enterprise and increased the defendants’ sentences from 12 to 15 years of imprisonment. The Appeals Chamber found that the defendants shared a “common criminal purpose [holding]… Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović liable as members of a joint criminal enterprise for crimes committed by various Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992, [and]… in 1995.” The Court noted that this is the last appeal judgement before the Mechanism, which was established following the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2017.




Brazil: Former President Sentenced to Jail on Corruption Charges

On 31 May 2023, Brazil’s Supreme Court voted to sentence former President Fernando Collor de Mello to prison for corruption and money laundering. The former President received an eight-year, and 10-month sentence. The prosecutor’s office accused Collor, 73, of receiving roughly 30 million reads ($6 million) in bribes from Petrobras, a state-run oil company. Collor was Brazil’s first democratically elected president in 1989 but resigned after three years after the lower house of Congress impeached him. He continued in the political arena by serving as a senator for 26 years in the northern state of Alagoas. Collor’s attorney has reiterated his client’s innocence, and that he would be exonerated.


USA: United States Defense Department is Preventing Cooperation with International Investigations for War Crimes in Ukraine

On 31 May 2023,  Beth Van Schaack stated at a Foreign Relations Committee that the Pentagon has been blocking efforts to aid the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating alleged war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine. The Pentagon fears that cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) could lead to the prosecution of United States forces in relation to alleged crimes in Afghanistan in 2017. Ms. Van Schaack proclaimed that assisting in the investigation and providing relevant information would not raise legal risks for United States troops. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has assured the United States government that it would not intervene if the United States legal system addressed the possible war crimes committed by the American military during its time in Afghanistan.


Senegal: Opposition Leader Sentence to Two Years in Jail for ‘Corrupting Youth’

On 1 June 2023, protests erupted in Dakar, Senegal, after a court sentenced the leading opposition figure Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail for “corrupting youth.” Sonko, 48, was accused of raping a woman in a beauty salon in 2021, allegations he has denied. The court acquitted Sonko of the rape charges but found him guilty on a separate criminal offence for immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21. The case has triggered violent protests, with Sonko’s supporters denouncing the charges against him as ‘politically motivated.’ Sonko’s Patriots of Senegal (PASTEF) party called on ‘citizens to take to the streets.’


Australia: Newspaper Outlets Won Defamation Case Bought by Australian Soldier Ben Roberts-Smith

On 1 June 2023, an Australian court ruled that Mr. Ben Roberts-Smith likely killed unarmed Afghans, which was consistent with the reporting by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,  and Canberra Times. Mr. Roberts-Smith is a recipient of the Victoria Cross medal for bravery and a former soldier with the Special Air Services Regiment of Australia. Mr. Roberts-Smith brought a defamation lawsuit against the three publication houses, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age,  and Canberra Times, after the publications reported Mr. Roberts-Smith murdered Afghans during his time in the country as a soldier. Mr. Roberts-Smith argued that the news articles published by the outlets “undermined his reputation and made him out to be a man who ‘broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement’ and ‘disgraced his country and the Australian army.’” The defence used a “truth” defence. The judge ruled that four out of six of the publications accusing Mr. Roberts-Smith of murder had “substantial truth.”  This case exposed the inner workings of the elite special forces of Australia and potential misconduct within regiments of the Australian military.



Libya: Swiss Court Convicts Liberian Warlord of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity 

On 1 June 2023, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court upheld the conviction of Mr. Alieu Kosiah for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the first Libyan civil war. Mr. Kosiah was the leader of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy. Mr. Kosiah was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the killing of civilians and unarmed soldiers, rape, using child soldiers, pillaging and other war crimes. Mr. Kosiah’s lawyers adamantly denied the charges brought against him and even denied his presence during the time of the war crimes. The trial however brought forward Liberian witnesses and victims who recounted acts committed by Mr. Kosiah.  No other Libyan has been convicted of war crimes for the Libyan civil war until Mr. Kosiah.  Some warlords still hold significant roles in Libyan society.



USA: Haitian-Chilean Man Receives Life in Prison Sentence for Role in the Assassination of Haitian President

On 2 June 2023, a Haitian-Chilean man received a life sentence for his role in the assassination of then-Haitian President Jovenel Moise. Rodolphe Jaar pleaded guilty to the charges, with 11 other defendants who are accused of helping obtain vehicles, firearms, and hiring former Colombian soldiers, who assassinated President Jovenel Moise, in his bedroom in 2021. Jaar signed a plea statement in March, where he acknowledged providing personnel and funds to kidnap Moise. Jaar was sentenced by the Southern District Court of Florida after being detained by the neighbouring Dominican Republic in early 2022. The assassination of Moise has left Haiti in political turmoil with powerful gangs taking control over portions of the country.


Iran: Three European Prisoners Released from Detention

On 3 June 2023, two Austrian-Iranian and one Danish citizen were released by the Iranian Authorities after being imprisoned for several years. This comes after a prisoner exchange was negotiated between Belgium and Iran to release a Belgian aid worker, as well as the three Europeans who were swapped, in exchange for an Iranian diplomat Asadollah Assadi. Mr. Assadi was convicted in Belgium in 2021 “in connection with a foiled bomb plot in France and sentenced to 20 years in prison.” The two Austrian-Iranian men, Massud Mosaheb and Kamran Ghaderi had spent 1 586 and 2 709 days respectively, in prison. The Belgium government stated that the “two dual nationals were ‘wrongfully arrested in … January 2016 and January 2019’, while the Dane was arrested in Iran in November 2022 in connection with women’s rights demonstrations.” Iran’s top human rights official said the three men were released on humanitarian grounds. Oman assisted in the prisoner exchange, as the government has good relations with both Iran and Western countries. There are currently 22 Europeans in Iranian prisons.




FAO and WFP: Warn of Worsening Hunger and the Need to Take Urgent Action

On 29 May 2023, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a report warning about worsening hunger in 18 “hotspots” worldwide. Sudan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, and Mali have been elevated to the highest alert level, joining Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. The report emphasises the need for urgent humanitarian action to prevent starvation and death, urging interventions in the agricultural sector and long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity. The conflict in Sudan is leading to mass displacement and hunger, with millions expected to face acute hunger in the coming months. Economic shocks, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, continue to drive acute hunger in several hotspots. The report also highlights other countries with very high concern for critical acute food insecurity. Meanwhile, the WFP has started distributing food assistance in Sudan, aiming to reach 500 000 people and expand support to reach 5.9 million people across the country.


Ukraine and Russia: The Conflict Escalates as Moscow and Kyiv are Hit by Drone Attacks

On 30 May 2023, Moscow experienced a drone attack, which Russia claimed to be the most severe assault since World War II, while Kyiv was also targeted by air strikes for the third time in 24 hours. The early morning raid struck affluent areas of Moscow, including zones where President Vladimir Putin and the elite reside. Russia’s defence ministry reported shooting down or diverting eight drones sent by Kyiv, although other sources suggested more than 25 were involved. In Moscow, two individuals were injured, and some residential buildings were briefly evacuated. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties, mass displacement, and significant damage to infrastructure. Both sides continue to engage in attacks, with Ukraine vowing a counter-offensive supported by Western weaponry.


UK: Government Launches Ad Campaign to Deter Channel Crossings

On 30 May 2023, the UK government announced plans to launch an advertising campaign targeting individuals, specifically Albanian nationals attempting to cross the English Channel. In a bid to deter such crossings, the Home Office plans to release posters warning of potential “detention and removal” for those involved. The campaign, which will be conducted in Albanian on Facebook and Instagram, also aims to highlight the risks associated with the journey. One of the posters suggests that individuals entering the country illicitly could be sent to a “safe third country,” potentially referencing the government’s proposal to relocate asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Critics have raised concerns about the campaign’s cost, its perceived inhumanity, and its potential violation of international law. The initiative comes amidst an increase in net migration to the UK, which reached 606 000 in 2022, 164 000 higher than in 2021. In 2022, Albanians accounted for the highest number of people crossing the channel, at 12 301. There has also been a notable rise in arrivals with 114 000 arriving from Ukraine due to the conflict. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak considers the numbers too high and has made addressing small boat crossings across the English Channel a priority in reducing immigration figures, despite Brexit promises.


Kosovo and Serbia: 30 NATO Troops Injured As Conflict and Tensions Escalate

On 30 May 2023, NATO announced that clashes between NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR and ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo have resulted in 30 injured NATO troops. The clashes erupted when Serbs attempted to take over municipal offices held by ethnic Albanian mayors. Among the injured were 11 Italian soldiers and 19 Hungarian soldiers, with injuries including fractures, burns from improvised explosive incendiary devices, and gunshot wounds. KFOR commander, Major-General Angelo Michele Ristuccia called on both parties to take responsibility and prevent further escalation. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who ordered high alert status for the country’s military, reported 52 Serb injuries in the clashes, with three being serious. The violence is the latest incident following attempts by ethnic Serbs to block newly elected ethnic Albanian officials from entering municipal buildings. Kosovo and Serbia have a long-standing dispute, with Serbia refusing to recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. Efforts by the US and EU to resolve the conflict have intensified.


China: Tensions Rise as China Gives Protesters Deadline Over Mosque Demolition Blockade

On 30 May 2023, Chinese authorities in the southwestern province of Yunnan gave protesters who blocked demolitions at an ancient mosque a deadline to turn themselves in, accusing them of “disrupting social order” and engaging in “criminal acts.” The clashes occurred in Nagu, a predominantly Muslim town, where plans were underway to demolish four minarets and the dome roof of the 13th-century Najiaying Mosque. Local residents had expanded the mosque in recent years, but a court ruled the additions to be illegal. The incident reflects the broader crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities in China, as President Xi Jinping aims to “Sinicise” the country’s diverse groups. The Chinese government has been enforcing strict control over religion, claiming to combat terrorism and extremism. The crackdown has resulted in the detention of approximately one million Uighurs, Hui, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang since 2017. Mosque demolitions and renovations to align with Chinese aesthetics have also been reported outside of Xinjiang.


Colombia: Peacebuilding Continues to be Derailed by Human Trafficking 

On 31 May 2023, Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, highlighted that human trafficking is a serious human rights violation, and one that continues to undermine peacebuilding, sustainable development and social justice. She welcomed the Colombian Government’s commitment for protecting the rights of victims and combating impunity, but also urged that this commitment should be implemented throughout the country. She highlighted that conflict-related displacement “contributed to increased risk of trafficking in persons due to loss of livelihood, loss of shelter and a breakdown of community and family networks.” She further emphasised that children were the most affected. She further called upon the Colombian authorities to ensure prompt investigations into human trafficking. She urged that access to reparations for victims of conflict-related trafficking should also be ensured  by the authorities. The UN expert welcomed the Government’s commitment to adopting human-rights based response to trafficking in person and to expanding safe, regular and orderly migration, and further urged the authorities to include the issue of trafficking in the country’s Peace Policy.


Bangladesh: WFP Enforces Second Round of Rations Which May Have “Devastating Consequences” 

On 1 June 2023, the United Nations expressed its concern over the second cut in food rations enforced by the World Food Programme (WFP) for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The cuts would be reducing the value of rations to $8 per month or 27 cents per day. Gwyn Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh urged that the nutritional and health consequences of the ration cuts would be “devastating”, especially for children and women. Refugees had been receiving $12 per person per month at the beginning of the year, but on 1 March 2023, the ration was cut to $10 due to lack of funding support. Mr Lewis also highlighted that Rohingya refugees were barred from working by the Bangladeshi authorities, stating that they are “completely dependent on international community funding.” His call was further reiterated by three of the UN Human Rights Council independent experts, Tom Andrews, Michael Fakhri and Olivier De Schutter, who warned that the consequences of the ration cuts would increase rates of acute malnutrition, infant mortality, and violence while also increasing regional instability. They urged that Member States should urgently provide support to fulfil the $56 million funding shortfall that led to the food ration cuts.


Ukraine: More Than A Thousand Children Killed or Injured Since the Russian Invasion 

On 1 June 2023, as Ukraine celebrated its Children’s Day, the celebrations were marred by the death of a girl alongside other civilians by a Russian missile attack in the capital of Kyiv. The attack killed three people and injured eleven. Denise Brown, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the country expressed her sympathy to the families of “over 1 500 children killed and injured in Ukraine” since Russia’s full-scale invasion began a year ago. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine highlighted that a total of 535 children were killed while 1 047 had been injured since the conflict began, with the vast majority of casualties having been caused by “explosive weapons with wide area effects.” Ms. Brown also highlighted the “devastating impact” the war had on the mental health and well-being of children while pledging for humanitarian community’s support to Ukraine’s children. There have also been reports of the transfer and deportation of children, which the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said in March amounted to war crimes. In the same month, a report was also released by the UN’s monitoring mission which documented cases of children being subjected to forced transfers, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment.


Chad: Arrival of Refugees from Sudan Tops More Than 100 000 

On 1 June 2023, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called upon the international community to provide support for the new arrivals of refugees that were crossing the border from Sudan into Chad. The number of people fleeing violence in Khartoum, Sudan has now increased to 100 000, since the conflict began in mid-April between rival militaries. The UNHCR highlighted that the majority of arrivals have been from the Darfur region, while also stating that new waves of arrivals were still ongoing, estimating that up to 200 000 people may be forced to flee in the coming months to eastern Chad. Before this crisis, Chad had already been hosting nearly 589 000 refugees which includes 409 819 Sudanese, 128 000 refugees from the Central African Republic, 21 287 Nigerians and 28 311 Cameroonians. In addition to the large number of refugees, an estimated 381 289 Chadians have been internally displaced in the region, who continue to face insecurity in the region and neighbouring countries because of food insecurity, malnutrition and the effects of climate change. The agency highlighted that to provide life-saving protection and assistance in the region, there is an urgent need for $214.1 million which includes $72.4 million for emergency response for refugees who are fleeing the conflict in Sudan.


UN: UNRWA Severally Underfunded, Putting Millions of Individuals in Danger

On 2 June 2023, the United Nations appealed for funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as the agency is already operating with a $75 million deficit. UNRWA assists roughly six million people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The agency, which is entirely funded by voluntary contributions, is seeking $1.6 billion for its operations, and Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini urged that an additional $75 is also needed to provide food aid for over one million people in Gaza. While another $30 million is required for maintaining food assistance for 600 000 people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General has urged the international community to ensure that the agency is fully funded while also warning that the agency is at the brink of a “financial collapse” and any further budget cuts would have catastrophic consequences.


Leave a Reply