Weekly News Recap (19-25 June 2023)

© Photo by Global Panorama via Flickr




Nigeria: Criminal Complaint Filed before ICC Over Mass Killings in Southeast Nigerian State

On 19 June 2023, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) filed a criminal complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC), urging an inquiry and legal action against Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and 31 additional individuals regarding the widespread killings in the southeastern region of Nigeria. According to a statement by Intersociety, Governor Uzodinma and 31 co-defendants were accused of actively supporting and facilitating “mass atrocities including mass murders, abductions, disappearances, acts of torture and burning down or wanton destruction of civilian houses and other properties and failed woefully to act to stop them.” Intersociety further asserted that there are compelling suspicions of ongoing and past crimes against humanity occurring in Nigeria’s Imo State, spanning from January 2021 to May 2023, and beyond.



USA: Retired Sergeant and Two Others Convicted for Involvement in Forced Repatriation Scheme to China

On 20 June 2023, authorities reported that a former sergeant from the New York Police Department and two other individuals were found guilty of participating in a plot to forcibly send American residents back to China. Retired sergeant Michael McMahon, 55, and Zhu Yong, a 66-year-old resident of Queens, were both convicted by a jury in Brooklyn. They were found guilty of unlawfully acting as agents for the Chinese government, conspiring to engage in interstate stalking and interstate stalking. Zheng Congying was also convicted of the same offence. The three individuals were involved in “Operation Fox Hunt,” which US authorities have labeled as China’s “global and extralegal repatriation effort” aimed at targeting dissidents and individuals who oppose Chinese leader Xi Jinping.


Germany: ISIL Member Sentenced to Jail for Enslaving a Yazidi Woman

On 21 June 2023, a woman member of ISIL (ISIS) was sentenced to over nine years in prison by a German court. The court found her guilty of enslaving a Yazidi woman and providing support to war crimes and genocide. The 37-year-old defendant, Nadine K, was also convicted of crimes against humanity and for being a member of a foreign terrorist organization. She kept a 22-year-old Yazidi woman imprisoned by ISIL in 2014 as a slave since April 2016 and ensured that the woman had no chance to escape, while also forcing her to perform domestic chores and adhere to strict Islamic customs. Nadine’s husband repeatedly subjected the Yazidi woman to sexual assault and physical abuse, all of which the defendant was aware of and complicit in. The Yazidi woman was freed after the Kurdish fighters arrested the family. Nadine returned to Germany last year and was arrested on arrival.


USA: Rioter Involved in US Capitol Incident Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Stun Gun Attack

On 21 June 2023, a man from California was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez, 40, committed a serious offence by thrusting a stun gun into the neck of a police officer. This punishment is among the most severe penalties given thus far and only two other individuals involved in the Capitol attack have been handed lengthier prison terms. The attack took place on 6 January 2021 and on that day the followers of the then-President Donald Trump forcefully entered the Capitol building, aiming to obstruct the certification process of the Electoral College votes from the 2020 election. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was attacked in the incident and suffered a heart attack, burns and traumatic brain injuries. He was subjected to physical violence, including being beaten and forcibly dragged down the steps of the Capitol.


Germany: Criminal Complaint Filed against Iranian Judges

On 21 June 2023, Gazelle Sharmahd, daughter of Jamshid Sharmahd, filed a criminal complaint with the support of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin against eight high-ranking members of the judiciary and the intelligence service in Iran. Jamshid Sharmahd, a German-Iranian citizen, was sentenced to death in Iran on charges of “corruption on Earth” in connection with an alleged terrorist bombing in Shiraz in 2008. Gazelle alleges that her father was kidnapped and is being tortured in Iran. He also has no access to medication to treat his Parkinson’s disease. The ECCHR stated that since Jamshid is a German citizen, the German judiciary is obligated to investigate this case and further believes that the German legal system has additional means that it is not fully employing.



Russia: Thirty Ukrainian Nationalists Receive Lengthy Jail Terms in Russian-Held Ukraine

On 21 June 2023, thirty Ukrainians were convicted of committing serious crimes such as killing civilians and were given long sentences in Russian-held Ukraine. Russia’s Investigative Committee stated that they are focusing on detaining individuals that fought on the Ukrainian side against the Russian forces. Mr Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, stated that almost ninety criminal cases had been brought before the court involving crimes against peace and human security and based on the evidence gathered, more than thirty defendants have already been convicted. According to Russian media, a former deputy commander of a Ukrainian militia received sixteen years in penal colony for being part of an illegal armed group and receiving terrorist training in Russian-held Ukraine. 


Kosovo: Former Serbian Policeman Indicted for War Crimes, Accused of Targeting Civilians in Conflict

On 23 June 2023, the Kosovo Prosecution indicted an ex-policeman, M.Dj., for attacking Albanian civilians during the war in 1999. The prosecution alleged that on 7 May 1999, the ex-policeman as a member of the Serbian police and military forces was involved in surrounding the village of Ozdrim. The indictment claims that the forces started shooting at the civilian population and killed 19 Albanian civilians. M.Dj. is currently under detention. Earlier in the week, another Serbian man was arrested for a different war crime case which instigated a protest. Protesters claim Serbians are being arrested for simply being Serbian. 


Bangladesh: Two Individuals Arrested for Crimes Against Humanity During Liberation War in 1971

On 24 June 2023, Rajshahi police arrested two men, Mofix Uddin and Khetab, for their involvement in crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. The case was filed fourteen years ago against Mofix Uddin, Khetab, and four other individuals. Of the six individuals charged, three have passed away and one is still at large. The two individuals arrested had went into hiding when the charges were first filed and had recently returned home. Police officials say that both detainees are being processed to be transferred to the International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh) through the Rajshahi court. 



UN: Overcoming Political Divisions a Necessity for Libya’s New Democratic Future

On 19 June 2023, Abdoulaye Bathily, the UN’s Special Representative for Libya, called on Libyan political leaders to prioritise the interests of the people above all else and set aside their differences for the sake of a new democratic future. He acknowledged the efforts of the “6+6” Committee working towards new elections as a positive step, although insufficient to resolve the most contentious issues. The eligibility criteria for the presidential poll, the link between presidential and parliamentary elections, and the formation of a new unified government remain highly contentious and require a political agreement across the spectrum. Bathily warned that further polarisation and destabilisation are likely without the cooperation of the internationally recognized government and rival political power centres like the Libyan National Army. While endorsing the principle of a “Libyan-Libyan solution” for lasting peace, he emphasised that it should not be a mere slogan to prolong the status quo at the expense of the Libyan people’s political rights and aspirations. Bathily also highlighted the potential destabilisation caused by the military power struggle in neighbouring Sudan, including the risk of refugee influx and cross-border movements. He called for increased support to Libya and stressed the importance of backing the mandate entrusted to the UN Support Mission in Libya to exert pressure on the political class. 


UN: Urgent Appeal to Help Millions in the DRC from Violence, Displacement and Hunger 

On 20 June 2023, UN humanitarians issued an urgent appeal for assistance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to combat a severe hunger crisis fueled by chronic violence and displacement. Over 5.7 million people have been displaced in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri since March 2022, contributing to a total of 6.2 million internally displaced individuals across the country which is the highest in Africa. Access to vulnerable communities remains challenging due to non-state armed groups, hampering the delivery of vital relief. Projections indicate that a staggering 25.8 million people in the DRC will face acute food insecurity in 2023, despite the country’s rich natural resources. The DRC is also grappling with the consequences of the climate crisis, including recent flooding and further displacement. The humanitarian response remains critically underfunded, with only 15 per cent of the required funding secured. Urgent investments in infrastructure, basic services, and peace are necessary to address this multifaceted crisis.


Palestine: Increasing Violence in the Occupied West Bank

On 20 June 2023, in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, two Palestinians shot and killed at least four Israeli settlers and injured four others. The attack occurred a day after Israeli troops carried out a deadly raid in the Jenin refugee camp, where six Palestinians were killed and 91 were wounded. The Israeli military reported that the gunmen arrived by car and targeted a gas station and a restaurant near the Eli settlement. The Palestinians involved in the attack were identified as Mohannad Faleh Shhadeh, 26, and Khaled Mostafa Sbah, 24, from the village of Urif near Nablus. Following the shooting, Israeli settlers engaged in violent acts, attempting to damage property and attacking Palestinians. This incident adds to the ongoing violence in the region, with Israeli forces conducting frequent raids and killings of Palestinians in the West Bank. Since the start of 2023, at least 160 Palestinians, including 26 children, have been killed by Israeli forces. The situation is exacerbated by the expansion of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law, which house hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United Nations has expressed concern over increasing settler violence and has announced plans to investigate the situation further. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Israel to cease all settlement activities, recognizing their contribution to tensions and violence.


Honduras: At Least 41 Women Die After Riot Breaks Out in Women’s Prison

On 20 June 2023, according to the public prosecutor’s office, at least 41 people have died in a women’s prison in Honduras following an apparent prison riot. The incident took place at the Centro Femenino de Adaptacion Social, a women’s penitentiary located approximately 20 kilometres from the capital city of Tegucigalpa. A spokesperson from the office stated that authorities are working to identify the bodies and noted that some individuals died from burns while others were shot. The president of an association for prisoners’ families informed Reuters that a brawl erupted in the early hours of the day, between rival gangs Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) within the prison. The government has not yet confirmed the precise details of the incident. Images released by local media depicted black smoke emanating from one of the prison buildings. Concerned relatives of the inmates gathered outside the prison seeking information about their loved ones. Honduras has experienced previous deadly prison incidents, including a gang fight in 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 18 inmates and a fire in 2012 where over 350 people lost their lives.


Lebanon: Worsening Economic Crisis Reveals Increasing Poverty and Lack of Access to Basic Needs

On 20 June 2023, a new survey released by UNICEF reveals that families in Lebanon are struggling to meet their basic needs due to the ongoing socio-economic crisis in the country. The survey highlights that families are resorting to extreme measures, such as sending their children as young as six years old to work, in order to survive. The survey indicates that nearly 90 per cent of households do not have enough money to buy essentials, forcing them to make drastic cuts in education and healthcare spending. 15 per cent of households have stopped their children’s education, while 52 per cent have reduced spending on education. Additionally, three-quarters of households have reduced spending on healthcare. The crisis has also resulted in period poverty, with over half of respondents reporting a lack of female hygiene items. The situation is taking a toll on children’s mental health, with a significant number of caregivers reporting anxiety, nervousness, and depression among children. UNICEF is calling on the Lebanese government to implement the National Social Protection Strategy, which includes plans for social grants to support vulnerable families raising children. Additionally, investment in education, health, and social protection is urged to mitigate the impact of the crisis, ensure the well-being of future generations, and contribute to economic recovery.


Afghanistan: Restrictions on Women and Girls in the Region Costing De Facto Authorities their Legitimacy Both Domestically and Globally 

On 21 June 2023, Roza Otunbayeva, UN Special Representative, while briefing the UN Security Council highlighted the dire situation being faced in Afghanistan. She stated that the national staff in the region has been asked to not report at the office, in order to not put them in danger and highlighted that the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) in the region also had no intention of replacing them with male staff. Further, she highlighted that no explanation had been given by the Taliban, the de-facto authorities in the country, regarding the ban. She also stated that she has conveyed to the de-facto authorities that as they continue to crack down on human rights of women and girls, “it is nearly impossible that their government will be recognized”. Further the UNAMA chief has called upon the international community to ensure stability of the Afghan economy. She also urged that the decrees by the Taliban have cost them their legitimacy both domestically and internationally as these decrees are highly unpopular among the Afghan population.


Iran: New Human Rights Report Highlights Record Executions and Large-Scale Arrests and Detention

On 21 June 2023, Nada Al-Nashif, UN deputy human rights chief, while presenting the latest report on the human rights situation in Iran to the Human Rights Council highlighted that the situation in the region had deteriorated considerably in the light of the continuously deteriorating socio-economic condition which has been aggravated by sanctions and the lingering impact of COVID-19. The report highlights the development that has occurred since the nationwide protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022. The report has noted that there have been a high number of death penalty sentences and executions during the reporting period. The Deputy High Commissioner of OHCHR highlighted that 582 people were executed in 2022, which is a 75 per cent increase to the execution of 333 people in 2021. Among the people executed in 2022, three were children, while 256 executions were for drug-related offences. The report also highlighted that the number of people detained for taking part in protests has been estimated to be 20 000; while it also stated that thousands of children have been among the people arrested, with 44 children having been killed by security forces. The report has also noted the failure of the Iranian government in protecting the physical and mental well-being of female students and attacks on their right to education. 


Somalia: Challenges and Risks Lie Ahead, Despite Making Gains in Tackling Terrorism

On 22 June 2023, Catriona Laing, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia, warned the Security Council that despite making progress in tackling terrorism in Somalia and advancing the electoral process, there still remained many challenges and risks in the region. She raised concerns about the terrorist attacks and violence, including in Laascaanood, which is the capital of the Sool region, which has been long disputed between “Somaliland” and Puntland. According to the UN Secretary-General’s latest report, clashes between the “Somaliland” forces and local Dhulbahante clan militia continued at varying levels of intensity, which has to date caused 308 civilian casualties, killing 36 and injuring 272. She also highlighted the significant political developments that have been made by the Government in advancing key national priorities including the electoral process, and its leadership fight against terrorism. She highlighted that the humanitarian situation in the country remained sensitive as from January and March 430 000 people have been displaced by violence and 580 000 are living in areas that are controlled by non-State armed actors. 


ICRC: Continuous Violence Exacerbates Healthcare Crisis in Oromia Region of Ethiopia

On 22 June 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that violence in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, has affected critical infrastructure, with health care and water systems having been affected the most. In the Begi district, 42 existing health posts have been looted or damaged, and patients who have life-threatening medical conditions cannot receive urgent care because of the non-functioning of health facilities. Dr. Alemayehu Kiri, the medical director of Guduru Primary Hospital stated that there is a shortage of emergency drugs along with water supply and the community pharmacy has also been destroyed. The ICRC has been working with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS)and they are facing numerous challenges in addressing the needs of the people in the region. Hundreds of thousands of people have been highly affected by the ongoing violence, with many in need of humanitarian aid and assistance. Even then the situation remains dire in the region of Oromia. The ICRC since January has provided 62 000 people humanitarian aid and assistance including food, household supplies, shelter and cash; while also facilitating access to clean water for 187 000 people, including those in detention places and has continuously provided support to 12 health facilities with medical supplies. 


Israel & Palestine: UN Human Rights Chief Warns Escalating Violence Driving Israelis and Palestinians “Deeper into an Abyss”

On 23 June 2023, Volker Türk, High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) highlighted the situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory’s (OPT) West Bank, where violence involving airstrikes and drone attacks had intensified. He urged that the latest killings “serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss,” further warning of the “terrible impact on both Palestinians and Israelis” of the escalating violence and called for an immediate end to the violence. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, condemned the violence being meted out to civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and deplored the loss of life. The Israeli military raid that occurred on 19 June 2023 in the Jenin refugee camp in northern West Bank killed at least seven Palestinians, the airstrikes were associated with the conduct of armed hostilities, according to the UN human rights chief. He urged that Israel should urgently “reset its policies and action in the West Bank in line with international human rights standards.” According to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), in this year at least 126 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, and East Jerusalem have been killed by the Israeli Security Forces. As compared to 2022, when 155 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Security Forces which represents the highest number of Palestinians killed in past 17 years. 


Leave a Reply