Weekly News Recap (12-18 June 2023)

© Photo by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation via Flickr




ICJ: Canada and the Netherlands File Application Against Syria for Violations of the Convention against Torture

On 12 June 2023, the Netherlands and Canada filed an application in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Syria. The two States allege violations of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (‘the Convention against Torture’) by Syria against civilians. Canada and the Netherlands claim that Syria has used violence in order to repress citizens from protesting. They claim that Syria has tortured detainees, committed enforced disappearances, as well as sexual and gender-based violence including violence against children. Canada and the Netherlands claim that since 2011 Syria has caused the civilian population injury, severe physical and mental suffering and death through violence and chemical weapons. In addition to the application requesting proceedings, the request includes a “request for the indication of provisional measures,” to protect the lives and physical and mental integrity of current and at-risk civilians being subject to torture and other cruel inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.


ICC: New MoU Signed after ICC Prosecutor Visits  Venezuela 

On 13 June 2023,  International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan released a statement upon the conclusion of his visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The prosecutors signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Venezuela that would create an Office of the Prosecution (OTP) of the ICC in Venezuela. This office will support the country and will provide advice and assistance to Venezuelan authorities, assistance in legislative developments, and accountability under the Rome Statute. In addition to signing this MoU, the Prosecutor observed how accountability can be achieved alongside the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Karim Khan hopes that the establishment of the OTP will increase the impact of the ICC, as well as domestic collaboration and support meaningful efforts for justice under the Rome Statute.


Venezuela: The Clooney Foundation Files Lawsuit Against Venezuela for Crimes  Against Humanity

On 14 June 2023, the Clooney Foundation for Justice filed a lawsuit against Venezuelan security forces for crimes against humanity. The suit which was filed in Argentina accuses the Venezuelan authorities of using ‘repressive methods’ including torture and extrajudicial executions against political opponents. The lawsuit was filed on ‘behalf of two families with relatives who were allegedly targeted by Venezuelan authorities.’ Human rights groups have called upon Argentinian courts to prosecute the case under ‘universal jurisdiction’ with the country demonstrating a history of investigating alleged crimes against humanity in other countries under the same principle. The Venezuelan government, however, has continued to ‘push back against the allegations that it has carried out human rights abuses.’


ICC: The Launch of Strategic Plans for 2023-2025

On 14 June 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) officially launched four strategic plans for the period of 2023-2025. It is the first time that all the four strategic plans have been developed and adopted concurrently. The ICC Strategic Plan 2023-2025 reaffirms the Court’s pledge to act with integrity and respect for the Rome Statute in all of its activities and acknowledges the crucial role of the Court’s staff in the achievement of its mission. The plan also reaffirms the importance of a Court that is responsible, flexible and resilient, and able to adapt to the challenges that it continues to face. The OTP Strategic Plan 2023-2025 reflects a renewed vision for implementing the mandate of the Office. It seeks to set a framework for implementing a vision for the work of the OTP based on rendering our work more dynamic, timely, efficient and closer to those impacted by Rome Statute crimes. The Registry Strategic Plan 2023-2025 builds on the progress of the previous Registry plan while taking full account of two key developments: the Independent Expert Review recommendations that the Registry is fully committed to delivering in the areas identified for improvement, and the substantial increase in judicial workload and the opening of new OTP investigations requiring the Registry’s support.The TFV Strategic plan 2023-2025 will be used to enhance the effectiveness and impact of the Trust Fund for Victims in delivering reparations for victims of crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court as awarded by the Chambers, and in implementing other programmes for the benefit of victims, as provided by the Rome Statute. The Strategic Plan prioritizes programme implementation, resource mobilization and visibility, knowledge sharing, and enhancing governance, collaboration and impact. 


Guatemala: Award-Winning Journalist Sentenced to Six Years in Jail for Money Laundering

On 14 June 2023, Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamore, 66, was sentenced to six years in jail for money laundering. Mr. Zamora has maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings with human rights observers calling the decision another blow to ‘pass freedom and democracy in the Central American country.’ The court, in announcing the verdict, claimed Mr. Zamora had ‘harmed the Guatemalan economy.’ Mr. Zamore an award-winning journalist, known for exposing corruption in Guatemala, is facing two more criminal cases which were filed days before his sentencing. The trial which lasted over 20 days has garnered widespread concern and condemnation, including the nature and length of the trial which suggest that the underlying influence behind the charges is related to Mr. Zamora’s profession. Mr. Zamora was arrested in July 2022 and kept in pre-trial detention without being able to make a first appearance before the Judge. Other irregularities have occurred throughout the trial, as well.


ICC: Prosecutor Will Conduct Preliminary Examination  in North Kivu, DRC Upon Referral 

On 15 June 2023,  the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) submitted a request to the OTP of the ICC to investigate the alleged crimes being committed in the North Kivu province of the DRC since the beginning of 2022. The referral to the OTP was accompanied by documentation stating particular armed forces and groups were involved in violations of the Rome Statute. The OTP responded to the referral by stating that they will review the referral and all alleged crimes and alleged perpetrators will be analysed. The prosecutor’s office will conduct a preliminary examination within the scope of the court. 


ECtHR: Application Concerning Remand for Hostile Social-Media Posts Threatening Latvia Inadmissible

On 15 June 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by a majority declared the application inadmissible in a case concerning the arrest in 2018 and subsequent detention of Mr Gapoņenko for various alleged criminal offences related to actions directed against national independence and incitement to hatred. Mr Gapoņenko had put a series of posts on social media concerning Russo-Latvian relations in which he had spoken about, among many other topics, NATO, language policy in Latvia, and the Russian minority in Latvia, with accusations that the NATO presence in Latvia was to intimidate Russophones, and threats of nuclear war on Latvian territory. The Court found there had been a “reasonable suspicion” that Mr Gapoņenko had committed offences, and that reasoning had not been arbitrary, when his remand had been ordered. It also held that it had not been unreasonable to place Mr Gapoņenko in remand given his attacks had been directed against the Latvian State at a time of Russian military action or control in both Georgia and Ukraine.


USA: Man Found Guilty on 63 Counts for Synagogue Massacre

On 16 June 2023, Robert Bowers was convicted on all counts related to a 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 which killed 11 people. The shooting was the deadliest targeting of Jews in US history. Mr. Bowers was tried on 63 charges including hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death. The defendant spewed anti-Jewish rhetoric including making statements that Jews were helping immigrants come to the US. The Prosecution had refused a deal offered by the defence which would have seen Mr. Bowers plead guilty in turn for a life sentence. Instead, the Prosecution took the case to trial and pursued the death penalty. Jurors will be sent to determine his death sentence at a later date.



DRC: Attack on Internally Displaced Persons Camp Kills 45 

From the early hours of 12 June 2023, fighters allegedly associated with the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) attacked a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), resulting in the death of over 45 people, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the region. The assault took place at the Lala displacement site in Djugu territory, close to a UN peacekeeping base. CODECO is a coalition of militia groups operating in the region that claims to protect the Lendu community from the Hema ethnic group and the DRC army. The UN condemned the attack as a serious violation of international humanitarian law and emphasised that deliberate attacks on civilians can be considered war crimes. Witnesses reported seeing numerous bodies and described the attackers using firearms and machetes. The victims will be buried in a mass grave. CODECO has targeted displacement camps in the past, including one of its deadliest massacres last year when it killed 60 people. The eastern DRC is plagued by numerous armed groups, a result of conflicts in the region since the 1990s. The country has the largest population of IDPs in Africa, with approximately 5.6 million people displaced due to ongoing fighting. In Ituri, where the attack occurred, there were already 1.5 million IDPs at the beginning of the year. 


Syria: Turkish Shelling in Syria Kills One Russian Soldier

On 12 June 2023, Turkish shelling in northern Syria reportedly caused the death of one Russian soldier and injured several others, as per reports from Syrian Kurdish media and an opposition war monitor. The incident occurred following clashes between US-backed Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops, which had already resulted in casualties on the Kurdish side. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the shelling targeted a road in Aleppo province. Kurdish news agencies confirmed the incident and mentioned casualties without providing specific details. In response, the Turkish Defence Ministry stated that their actions were in retaliation to a mortar attack the previous day by the Kurdish militia, which allegedly resulted in the deaths of at least 12 suspected militants as well. Tensions have been escalating in northern Syria since Turkey increased its attacks on Kurdish-held areas following the recent presidential elections. Russia joined the conflict in Syria in 2015, helping the Syrian government regain most of their territory. The war in Syria has persisted for 12 years and has caused significant loss of life, with hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced from their homes.


UNMAS: Unexploded Ordnance Incident Kills 27 Civilians in Somalia 

On 12 June 2023, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) expressed deep sadness and concern over the deaths of 27 civilians, including 22 children, and 53 injuries, in an incident involving unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on 9 June 2023. The incident in Lower Shabelle serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing threat faced by civilians, particularly children, in conflict-affected areas. UNMAS emphasised the critical importance of swift and decisive action to mitigate risks associated with explosive remnants of war. The UN, in collaboration with the Government of Somalia, international organisations, and relevant stakeholders, reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen mine action efforts and eliminate the risks posed by explosive ordnance. Somalia has been grappling with peace and security challenges since 1991, with the UN engaged in supporting peacekeeping efforts and countering the activities of Al-Shabaab militants. The incident also occurred on the same day as a deadly attack on a hotel in Mogadishu, resulting in 16 deaths, including a World Health Organization (WHO) staff member. The UN condemned attacks on innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers, offering condolences to the families affected by the hotel attack.


Nigeria: Boat Capsizes Killing Approximately 100 Lives 

On 12 June 2023, a boat accident occurred on the Niger River in northern Nigeria, resulting in the loss of around 100 lives, according to local residents and police. The victims were returning from a wedding in the village of Egboti near Kwara state, close to Niger state when the boat capsized. The victims included women and children. As of 15 June 2023, search and rescue efforts were still underway. Boat accidents are common in remote Nigerian communities, often attributed to overloading and the use of poorly maintained vessels. This incident highlights the pressing need for improved safety measures in water transportation to prevent such tragedies from occurring.


Sudan: UN Officials Warn Conflict in Sudan May Raise to Ethnic Violence and Crimes Against Humanity 

On 13 June 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced growing concern about increasing ethnic violence and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. He stressed that communities in Darfur are suffering from food scarcity, limited access to medicine, restricted movement, and sexual violence and that the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Mr. Volker Perthes, the head of the UN’s Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), also voiced his concern about the ethnic element emerging in the capital of West Darfur. The UN is working on gathering more details about the emerging pattern of violence against civilians. Mr. Perthes stated that the UN “condemns in the strongest terms all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, whatever the form and whoever the alleged perpetrators are.” The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, also expressed her deep concern about the ongoing fighting despite the ceasefire. Mr. Guterres restated his call to uphold a ceasefire and find a durable solution of cessation of hostilities.


UN: Action Needed to Address Escalating Climate-Related Security Risks

On 13 June 2023, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix addressed the Security Council, highlighting the escalating peace and security risks associated with climate change. He stated that with an estimated 3.5 billion people living in “climate hot spots,” the situation is set to worsen unless action is taken. Climate shocks have triggered security challenges from Afghanistan to Mali, prompting UN peacekeeping missions to adapt by reducing their carbon footprint and addressing climate-related consequences. Lacroix stressed the growing linkages between climate change, peace, and security and emphasised the need for ongoing adaptation. Many UN peace operations face increased dangers and political obstacles due to cross-border challenges, environmental degradation, and extreme weather events intensified by climate change. Lacroix emphasised the importance of investing in climate and security linkages, reinforcing the benefits of climate action, making environments safer, and ensuring peace missions do not exacerbate the problem. He called for bold policy actions, integration of climate considerations in UN operations, and cooperation among Council members to address the intersecting challenges of climate change and conflict.


UN: An Urgent Call for Implementing a New Strategy for the Mediterranean Migration Route

On 14 June 2023, a shipwreck off the coast of Greece in the Mediterranean was reported, with the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) estimating that at least 400 people had been onboard, of which bodies of 79 men, women and children had been recovered, and 104 survivors have been brought to shore by the middle of the day. The tragedy occurred 47 nautical miles (87 km) southwest of Pylos, off the Peloponnese coast, according to the Greek coastguard. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed his grave concern over the reports of dozens of deaths that occurred in the Mediterranean due to the shipwreck. He highlighted that this was another example of where member States needed to come together to create “orderly safe pathways” for people that have been forced to flee and also comprehensive action in order to prevent such perilous journeys. As of 16 June 2023, more than 500 passengers are still missing. On 17 June 2023, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called upon the EU to take ‘urgent and decisive action’ regarding the safety of the Mediterranean migration route. UN organisations reminded states that they have an obligation to “render assistance to those in distress at sea regardless of their nationality, status or the circumstance in which they are found” and welcomed an investigation into the matter by Greece.



Syria: UN Secretary-General Calls for a Sustainable Solution to End Conflict in the Region and $1.1B in Assistance

On 15 June 2023, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, at an international pledging conference for Syria organised by the European Union in Brussels highlighted the suffering of the Syrian people and made an appeal for $1.1 billion in order to support Syrians inside the country and those displaced. Mr. Guterres warned that there was “no time to spare” due to underfunding, as humanitarian aid would run out for 2.5 million Syrians next month. He further reiterated his call for a sustainable solution to the conflict which involves all Syrians. He urged that there was a need for progress towards “credible and comprehensive” negotiations, which should be in line with the Security Council Resolution 2544, which was adopted in December 2015 to create a blueprint for forging a peace process in Syria. Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria also reiterated the Secretary-General’s call stressing the need to “renew the intra-Syrian political process.”


Haiti: As Three Million Children Face Extreme Levels of Violence and Hunger, Funding Shortfall Unable to Fulfil Humanitarian Needs

On 15 June 2023, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that nearly three million children in Haiti need support, as they face staggering levels of violence which has been compounded by extreme hunger and malnutrition in the region. Bruno Maes, UNICEF Haiti Representative urged that children in the region “desperately need protection and  support.” UNICEF also highlighted that levels of hunger and life-threatening malnutrition were at a record high, and the number of children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition had risen by 30 per cent since last year, with only one in four children suffering from chronic malnutrition. The agency also highlighted that violence and poverty in the region were also driving children towards joining armed groups, with children being forced to join armed groups for protection. Due to underfunding, humanitarian needs in the region are not being fulfilled, with UNICEF’s funding appeal for $246 million having only been funded 15 per cent until now. The agency has scaled up its operations in the region and stated that it was delivering life-saving support together with its partners.


Darfur: As Conflict Enters its Third Month, People in the Region Continue to be “Trapped in Living Nightmare”

On 16 June 2023, Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator warned that the conditions in Darfur were dire as conflict in the region entered its third month. He warned that the people of Draur were “trapped in a living nightmare.” He condemned the ongoing inter-communal violence in the region, which has threatened to stir up the ethnic tensions that had caused a deadly conflict 20 years ago. Mr. Griffiths warned that the region was spiralling into a “humanitarian calamity.” The conflict in the region has continued to take a devastating toll on the people, with an additional 2.5 million people expected to slip into hunger, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Since the resumption of its operation on 3 May, the agency has provided food assistance to nearly one million people in 14 of the country’s 18 states, and the agency plans on increasing its support by assisting 5.9 million people by the end of the year.


Leave a Reply