Weekly News Recap (5-11 June 2023)

© Photo by United Nations Photo via Flickr




Argentina: Corruption Charges Against Vice President Fernandez de Kirchner Dropped

On 5 June 2023, a judge dismissed a long-running money laundering case against Vice President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner after no evidence was produced by either the Prosecution or any state agencies. The case, also known as the “‘K money trail’ involved alleged kickbacks and money laundering by businessman Lazaro Baez on behalf of Fernandez de Kirchner’s family.” The Prosecutor in the case said last month that there was no evidence that the Vice President was involved in the corruption which sent Baez to 10 years in prison. This is the latest instance in which the Vice President and former President (2007- 2015) has been accused and later dismissed from a corruption-related investigation. In December, Ms. Fernandez de Kirchner was found guilty of fraudulent administration and sentenced to 6 years in prison with a lifetime ban on holding public office.


Slovakia: Charges Brought Against Ex-Justice Minister for His Statements Supporting Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

On 5 June 2023, the Slovak top prosecutor’s office announced that it charged Mr. Stefan Harabin, Ex-Justice Minister and former Supreme Court Chief Justice, for his Facebook post supporting Russia. In February 2022, Mr. Harabin posted that he “would have done exactly the same thing as Putin.” Mr. Harabin is charged with “the defamation of a nation, race, and persuasion and the endorsement of a crime,” by the top prosecutor’s office in Slovakia. Mr. Harabin faces three years in prison. Despite the criminal legal implications, Mr. Harabin has stated he is proud of his statements and that it was “Russia’s duty to liquidate all Ukrainian Nazis… who have killed 14 000 children, women and elderly people in Donbas since 2014.” Mr. Harabin also claims that his statements about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are justified because Russia’s actions are in line with international law. The criminal proceedings against Mr. Stefan Harabin are currently underway. 



IRMCT: Rwandan Genocide Suspect Held Unfit to Stand Trial

On 6 June 2023, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) ruled that Felicien Kabuga, a Rwandan genocide suspect is unfit to stand for trial. Kabuga, 88, had been living under a false name and was only recently apprehended in Paris in 2020. He was extradited to The Hague, and went on trial in September of last year but ‘refused to appear in court or remotely at the start of his trial.’ In March 2023, the court put the trial on hold over health concerns. Kabuga is a former businessman who made his fortune in the tea trade and is one of the last remaining suspects sought by the IRMCT for participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He is accused of financing the Hutu militias, as well as encouraging hate speech through the media outlet he founded, called Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines.




ICC: New MoU Signed between DRC and ICC to Renew Cooperation for Justice

On 6 June 2023, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A.A. Khan concluded his first visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, renewing cooperation towards justice in the DRC. The MoU sets out several bases for cooperation among the two, including providing a “joint DRC-ICC comprehensive mapping of cases that may be taken forward by the DRC authorities or by [the ICC] in line with the principle of complementarity.” The Prosecution office will also provide support to the DRC authorities with the “deployment of forensics experts to support national efforts to protect and excavate mass grave sites [as well as] securing crucial evidence.” The MoU, and in particular the terms of the agreement, will set the basis to combat impunity, and provide a path for justice in the DRC.


KSC:  Panel Rejects Prosecution’s Request to Caution Co-Counsel for Mr. Thaçi for Misleading Public Statements

On 6 June 2023, the Trial Panel II rejected the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) request for the Panel to “caution Co-counsel for Mr. Thaçi and Mr. Dastid Pallaska for public statements made on the RTK Prime show.” Instead, the Panel directed Lead Counsel to remind “Co-counsel and other team members of their obligations under the Code of Conduct and the Order on the Conduct of Proceedings, and to issue warnings where appropriate.” This decision comes after Mr. Pallaska stated that the “Kosovo Liberation Army is on trial in this case and that the SPO’s goal is to declare Kosovo a criminal state” which are, according to the Prosecution, ‘knowingly misleading statements’ and further are comments on ongoing litigation before the Panel which are prohibited.


Mexico: Soldiers in Extrajudicial Killings Will be Held Accountable

On 7 June 2023, the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated that the execution of five men by Mexican soldiers will be investigated. On Tuesday, media outlets released a video (dated 18 May) that showed a group of soldiers “pulling the men from a crashed pick-up truck..[followed by] the soldiers [beating] the occupants before lining them up against a wall and shooting them.” President Lopez Obrador has promised accountability, holding that his administration will not allow extrajudicial killings to be permitted, and that the soldiers involved in the incident will be turned over to prosecutors. This is the second known case of state forces committing extrajudicial killings in Nuevo Laredo this year, after five men were executed on 26 February.



ICC: ICC Prosecutor and Colombia Sign New Action Plan for Continued Accountability Efforts

On 7 June 2023, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan KC, finished his second visit to Colombia. During his visit, Mr. Khan gathered information on Colombia’s accountability efforts and the status of the Cooperation Agreement signed between the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and the Government of Colombia in 2021. The prosecutor heard updates from the President of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) on the progress of the eleven macro cases currently before the court. They also discussed challenges being faced by the JEP and how the ICC can help address those challenges with respect to sexual and gender-based crimes. The Prosecutor also met with the President of the Republic of Colombia, the Attorney General, and a range of civil society organisations. At the conclusion of Mr. Khan’s visit, a new Action Plan between the Office of the Prosecution at the ICC and the Government of Colombia was signed and clear objectives and common objectives were been highlighted. 


UN: Special Adviser Reports Significant Evidence on International Crimes Committed by Da’esh in Iraq

On 7 June 2023, Mr. Christian Ritscher, Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), reported that there is “no shortage of evidence,” for the crimes committed by Da’esh in Iraq. The evidence has been gathered into a unified repository of digital information including the digitization of physical evidence. Mr. Ritscher stated that in addition to gathering the evidence, he aims to ensure that the evidence is admissible before the court and hopes the central archive will play a key role in holding Da’esh perpetrators accountable. The categorization of the evidence also helps show the impact of biological and chemical weapons, which was difficult to visualise and analyse. UNITAD will continue the mission by identifying, bringing to trial, and convicting Da’esh/Islamic State perpetrators for their crimes. 


ICJ: Court Decides on the Admissibility of Declarations of Intervention Under Article 63 of the Statue filed by Thirty-Three States

On 8 June 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released their decisions on the admissibility of the declaration of intervention filed by multiple States in the case concerning “Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v Russian Federation).” The Court ruled that the declaration of intervention under Article 63 of the State submitted by the United States of America is inadmissible. However, it declared that declarations of interventions under Article 63 of the statute submitted by Australia, United Kingdom, Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Malta, Slovakia, and various other European countries are admissible at the preliminary objections stage of proceedings as long as the intervention concern the construction of Article IX and provisions under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to determine the jurisdiction of the Court. The thirty-two States whose declaration of intervention has been decided to be admissible must file their findings by 5 July 2023. 


USA: Former President Donald J. Trump Charged for Mishandling Classified Documents by Federal Prosecutors

On 9 June 2023, United States Federal Prosecutors charged Former President Donald J. Trump with thirty-seven counts for mishandling sensitive documents that included information on the United States nuclear program and potential domestic weak areas in event of an attack. The documents were found stored around Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. The classified documents found at Mr. Trump’s residence posed a risk to national security, foreign relations, and intelligence gathering for the United States. He faces twenty years in prison if convicted for mismanaging sensitive information that is critical to the safety and security of the United States. Special Counsel Jack Smith is leading this investigation and is seeking a speedy jury trial in Florida. Mr. Trump maintains his innocence and remains in top position for the Republican presidential nomination for the United States presidential election in 2024. 



Haiti: Deadly Flooding Kills 42 and Displaces Thousands

On 5 June 2023, the New York Times reported that widespread flooding in Haiti in the previous days killed at least 42 people and left thousands displaced. According to the country’s disaster response agency, more than 13 000 homes were flooded, over 85 people were injured and 11 are still missing. Western portions of Haiti were the hardest hit, with over 5 500 homes affected and 2 500 people displaced. The floods also damaged schools and other buildings, particularly in the western and northwestern regions. The country is already facing a major humanitarian crisis, as well as recovering from other climate-induced disasters, including the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake which killed more than 200 000 people and destroyed most of Port-au-Prince, and the more recent magnitude-7.2 earthquake in August 2021 that killed 1 900 people. According to the UN, prior to the flooding, nearly half of the country’s population, about 5.2 million people, was already in need of assistance.


Afghanistan: 80 Primary School Girls Hospitalised After Poisonings at Two Schools

On 5 June 2023, the number of primary school girls hospitalised after two separate poisoning attacks at a school in northern Afghanistan reached almost 80. According to local officials, the two schools are close to each other, with 60 students at Naswan-e-kabod Aab School being poisoned, and 17 at Naswan-e-Faizabad School in the district of Sar-e Pol. Officials reported that all the hospitalised girls have recovered and the investigation into who orchestrated the attacks is still ongoing, but no arrests have been made. Female students in neighbouring country Iran have also been subject to a wave of poisonings since November 2022 but there is no information on who is behind these incidents and the type of chemicals they use. Since 2021, the Taliban have put bans on female education, forbidding them from education beyond sixth grade, including university. Women are also banned from most jobs and public places.


UN: Dam Destruction in Ukraine Endangering Thousands of People

On 6 June 2023, the Nova Kakhovka dam in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast was destroyed, releasing huge amounts of water downstream and endangering thousands of Ukrainians.  The dam had previously held back 18 cubic kilometres of water in the Kakhovka reservoir and was also used to cool the nearby Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (ZNPP). The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters outside the Security Council in New York that the UN did not have access to independent information to verify how the catastrophe occurred, with both sides blaming each other. The facility is currently under Russian control, on the southern and eastern sides of the river, however, Ukrainian forces control territory on the opposite bank. Guterres added that since the time of the incident, at least 16 000 people have lost their homes and declared that it is a “monumental humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.”  He concluded with “an appeal for a just peace, in line with the UN Charter, international law and the resolutions of the General Assembly.” 


Palestine: Palestinian Toddler Dies After Being Shot by Israeli Soldiers

On 6 June 2023, hundreds of Palestinian mourners gathered in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank to bury two-and-a-half-year-old Mohammed al-Tamimi who died after being shot by Israeli forces the previous week. Mohammed’s mother, Marwa al-Tamimi recalled that on 1 June 2023, she and her family were getting ready to attend a family celebration when Mohammed accompanied his father, Haitham, to the car. As Haitham drove the car away from the shooting, Mohammed was fatally hit in the head and Haitham was injured as well. Mohammed was taken to Tel Aviv hospital but pronounced dead on 5 June 2023. The family stated that shootings regularly occur in their neighbourhood. The Israeli army said on 5 June 2023 that soldiers had “responded to live fire,” “regrets harm to civilians,” and that an investigation was underway. 27 Palestinian children have been killed in 2023, with Israeli forces shooting and killing 20 children in the occupied West Bank alone, and six were killed in the May 2023 military offensive in the Gaza Strip.


UNICEF: UN Verifies 315 000 Child Rights Violations in Global Conflicts from 2005 to 2022

On 6 June 2023, UNICEF stated that at least 120 000 children have been killed or maimed by wars around the world since 2005. The UN also verified 315 000 grave violations against children between 2005 to 2022 in more than 30 conflicts across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. These violations include children killed or maimed, recruited by armed forces or groups, abducted and subjected to sexual violence. The figures for Iraq, recorded from 2008 to the end of 2022, were disproportionately high, with over 9 000 children killed or maimed. Although these numbers have reduced in recent years, the figure represents an average of more than one child killed every other day and one child maimed on a daily basis in the reported period. These numbers are likely to be far higher as not all cases have been reported or verified. In addition to this, millions of children have been displaced, lost family or friends, and separated from their caregivers. UNICEF has supported the care and protection of these children, with reintegration programmes, or other protective support, however, the scale of the issue and funding shortfalls is presenting significant barriers.


Haiti: As Country Reels from the Impact of Flood and Landslides, Earthquake Causes Further Devastation in the Region

On 6 June 2023, the United Nations expressed its deep concern as another deadly earthquake hit the Haitian city of Jerémie, which claimed the lives of at least three people. The earthquake of 5.5 magnitude struck the department of Grand’Anse following torrential rains which have displaced more than 13 000 people. UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric stated that the UN and other partners were working with Haitian authorities to help ease the suffering of people impacted by the earthquake. The World Food Programme stated that it was already providing immediate assistance to people who have been affected by the massive rainfall over the weekend and also providing hot meals to those who have been displaced. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is working with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organisation for Migration in order to provide support and aid to communities that have been hit hardest by the floods and landslides in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Dujarric highlighted that the WFP is ready to distribute some 350 000 hot meals and other food assistance to those who need it the most. According to UN humanitarians, at least 51 people have been killed, 140 have been injured and 18 are still missing because of the natural disaster.  


Myanmar:  Bangladesh Must “Immediately Suspend” Repatriation Plans to Return Rohingya Refugees 

On 8 June 2023, Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urged that Bangladesh must “immediately suspend” its pilot repatriation project for Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar as the current conditions in the country were not conducive. According to Mr Andrews, the Bangladesh authorities have been planning to send back 1 140 Rohingya refugees very soon by using a combination of threats and financial rewards. The refugees that would be repatriated would reportedly pass through “transit” centres in Rakhine state before they are resettled in a “designated area of 15 newly constructed villages,” which they will not be allowed to leave freely. Mr Andrews urged that the return of Rohingyas under such conditions would be in violation of Bangladesh’s obligations under international law and would further “expose Rohingyas to gross human rights violations and potentially, future atrocity crimes.” Further, he urged the international community to stand with Rohingya refugees in order to reverse the “failure to provide a humane level of support” for the refugees in Bangladesh who are unable to pursue livelihoods and face malnutrition and hunger.


OHCHR: Human Rights Experts Condemn Detention of Baha’i Minority in Yemen

On 9 June 2023, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed its grave concern over detention of followers of the minority Baha’i faith in the Yemen capital of Sana’a and a subsequent sermon by a leading cleric targeting them and other religious groups. OHCHR urged the de facto Houthi authorities in Sana’a, to immediately release the detainees. According to OHCHR, in June 2023, Shamseddin Sharafeddin, the Mufti appointed by the leaders of the Houthi rebel movement had accused the detained Baha’is of being traitors and stated that if they did not repent, they “should be killed.” Jeremey Laurence, OHCHR Spokesperson condemned the use of language that incited discrimination and violence, especially against minorities. He reminded the de facto authorities that they must respect the human rights of people living under their control. He also urged that pre-trial detention “should be the exception” and should only be used if reasonable and necessary. 


Central African Republic: Following Sexual Exploitation Allegation, UN Secretariat Repatriates Tanzanian Peacekeepers 

On 9 June 2023, it was reported by the United Nations that an entire unit of 60 peacekeepers from Tanzania which was formerly based in the western part of the Central African Republic (CAR) had been repatriated following serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson, told correspondents that the decision to repatriate the unit had been made by the Secretariat in New York following consultations with the peacekeeping mission in the CAR, MINUSCA. Mr. Dujarric stated that the decision was taken after a preliminary investigation into the allegation which found credible information that 11 members of the unit had allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse of four victims. Mr. Dujarric further added that the identified victims were being provided with care and support by the Mission’s humanitarian partners. The Tanzanian authorities have also noted the seriousness of the allegations while reaffirming their commitment to zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse. Mr. Dujarric also noted that the decision taken by the Secretariat was in accordance with the Security Council resolution 2272, which provides clear support for decisions made by the UN Secretary-General to repatriate peacekeeping personnel. 


Mali: UN Strongly Condemns Attack on Peacekeepers, Resulting in One Death and Eight Severe Injuries

On 9 June 2023, the United Nations condemned the attack on peacekeepers deployed in Mali, which left one of them dead and eight others severely injured. El-Ghassim Wane, the Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the country (MINUSMA) called the attack on the security patrol in Ber town “a cowardly attack.” The Mission stated that the patrol was targeted in an attack which involved an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), which was followed by direct fire. MINUSMA urged that the safety and security of its peacekeepers remained its priority while reaffirming its commitment towards the people of Mali. The Mission also stated that “it will work closely with the Malian authorities in order to investigate the incident and bring the responsible individuals to justice.” 


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