Weekly News Recap (26 June-2 July 2023)

© Photo by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid via Flickr




ICC: Authorised Continued Investigation in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

On 27 June 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision from the Pre-Trial Chamber I authorising the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to continue its investigation into the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In April 2022, Venezuela requested the OTP to defer its investigation because of the actions being carried out by national authorities. Subsequently, in November 2022, the OTP requested to resume an investigation into the situation. The Chamber ruled that Venezuela’s investigative steps do not “sufficiently mirror,” the scope of the Prosecution’s intended investigations. The Chambers found that it was not investigating factual allegations underlying the contextual elements of crimes against humanity and the focus of Venezuela’s investigation seems to be on direct or low-level perpetrators. This decision does not prevent Venezuela from producing material in the future.


France: Court Sentences Rwandan Gendarme to Life in Prison for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

On 28 June 2023, after thirty-one days of hearings, a French court convicted Philippe Hategekimana on almost all counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, complicity in crimes against humanity and conspiracy to participate in listed crimes. The gendarme, Mr. Hategekimana, was convicted of multiple murders and massacres committed on the territory of the Nyanza in the southern Rwandan province of Butare. The accused pleaded not guilty and maintained, until the end of the trial, that he was not present during the time the massacres occurred in the region. Testimonies from victims were the main evidence presented in court. After long deliberation, the court decided that there was no doubt that Mr. Hategekimana was guilty of almost all charges and sentenced him to life in prison.


ECtHR: Court Found Extradition Request Did Not Violate the Convention

On 29 June 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Bijan Balahan v. Sweden found the applicant’s extradition to the United States (US) would not violate Article 3 of the Convention. The applicant contends that Sweden’s decision to extradite him to the US would violate the Convention that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment” because the applicant risks receiving either an “irreducible sentence of life imprisonment without parole or a minimum term of imprisonment of sixty-one years, which would amount to a de facto” life sentence. The Court held that the imposition of a “sentence of life imprisonment on an adult offender is not in itself prohibited by or incompatible with Article 3 or any other Article of the Convention.” Further, the Court reiterated that “‘grossly disproportionality’ is a strict test and it will only be on rare and unique occasions that this test will be met.” The Court also noted that the applicant had not yet been tried and that it would be difficult to speculate on whether he will be convicted, and if so, what the possible sentencing determinations might be.


ECtHR: The Court Finds Violation of Right to Fair Trial for Unfairness of Criminal Proceedings

On 29 June 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Khavshabova v. Georgia found a violation of Article 6 Section 1 and Section 3 (c) and (d) relating to an alleged unfairness of criminal proceedings. The case concerns Ms. Khavshabova’s criminal proceedings regarding an assault against an Azerbaijani tenant. During the proceedings Ms. Khavshabova contested that “two main prosecution witnesses had been examined during the pre-trial investigation stage in her absence with the participation of a legal aid lawyer appointed without her knowledge, [and] that those witnesses had not been heard at trial, and that her conviction had been primarily based on their evidence.” The Court found that the manner of the hearings, as well as the Ms. Khavshabova’s lack of knowledge with the ‘decisive[ness]… of the two absent witnesses’ evidence, the scarcity of other incriminating evidence and lack of procedural measures which could compensate for the lack of opportunity to directly examine the witness at trial” is in violation of Article 6. The State is to pay Ms Khavshabova 1 200 euros in non-pecuniary damages, with the Court dismissing the rest of the claims.


Ukraine: Prosecutors Charged  Russian Politician and Two Collaborators with War Crimes for Deportation of Dozens of Orphans

On 30 June 2023, Ukrainian prosecutors charged a Russian politician and two Ukrainian collaborators with war crimes for their role in the deportation of dozens of children from the southern city of Kherson. The three individuals are the first to be charged for the transfer of close to 20 000 children from Ukraine to Russia or Russian-held territory. The Russian politician and two Ukrainian collaborators allegedly transferred forty-eight orphans from a Ukrainian Children’s Home to Moscow and Russian-occupied Crimea. Transfer of Children during the time of war is a violation of the laws and customs of war under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and is punishable by up to twelve years. The orphans are between the ages of one and four years old and are not able to be located at this time. Ukrainian prosecutors allegedly showed one of the suspects loading the children into beds marked with a pro-Russian symbol. 


Brazil: Ex-President Bolsonaro Barred from Running for Political Office until 2030

On 30 June 2023, Brazil’s highest electoral court, in a majority decision, decided to bar former President Jair Bolsonaro from public office until 2030 for his conduct during last year’s contested election. The seven-member Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) voted to convict ex-President Bolsonaro for ‘abuse of power’ in his push to cast doubt on the electronic voting system. Bolsonaro is accused of rallying supporters to reject the outcome of the country’s election, which culminated in an assault on government buildings earlier this year. Bolsonaro has “described the decision as a ‘stab in the back’ and has pledged to keep working” to support the right-wing politics in Brazil.


Poland: Russian Hockey Player Detained on Spying Allegations

On 30 June 2023, a Russian ice-hockey player was detained in Poland on suspicion of spying. The hockey player plays for a top-tier Polish club and is allegedly the 14th member of a spy network. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the arrest and called for an explanation. Poland’s National Prosecutor’s Office said that the man was “accused of participating in an organised crime group and of acting on behalf of foreign intelligence… [and] regularly passed on information”  including monitoring the railways and spreading propaganda.



Syria: Russian Airstrikes Kill Nine Civilians

On 26 June 2023, Reuters reported that on 25 June 2023, Russian jets carried out airstrikes on villages and towns near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, resulting in the deaths of nine civilians and injuring at least 30. This marked a major escalation of violence in the country’s last opposition stronghold. According to witnesses and rescue workers, the airstrikes took place at a crowded vegetable market in Jisr al-Shughour, targeting shoppers who were preparing for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. The bombings also struck villages in the Jabal al Zawya region and the western outskirts of Idlib city, both of which are located within a buffer zone established by Russia and Turkey to halt major fighting five years ago. No immediate comment was received from Russia or the Syrian army regarding the airstrikes. In the past, both parties have claimed to only target insurgent groups while denying any indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The densely populated northwest region, which is held by the opposition and borders Turkey, is home to over four million people who have been displaced by previous Russian-led offensives aimed at reclaiming rebel-held territories. Recent tensions have risen between Russia and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey of not doing enough to remove jihadist groups from the buffer zone.


Egypt: 14-Story Apartment Building Collapses Killing Five People

On 26 June 2023, a building in Alexandria, Egypt collapsed, killing at least five people, including a child, and injuring four others. The number of individuals trapped is still unknown. The 14-story building constructed approximately 50 years ago, housed 16 families and was also used by domestic tourists during the summer months. Search operations are ongoing, with one victim still unidentified. Witnesses described the moments as the structure crumbled, recounting how their family members were trapped under debris. Authorities have detained the owner of the collapsed floor and a contractor for investigations related to involuntary manslaughter and unauthorised construction. Reports suggest that around 7 000 inhabited buildings in Alexandria are at risk of collapse, highlighting the urgent need for attention and preventive measures.


Sudan: Fighting Increases as the RSF Claim Control of Armed Police Unit in Khartoum

On 26 June 2023, The Guardian reported on Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announcement from 25 June 2023, that it had seized the main base of a heavily armed police unit in Khartoum. The RSF claimed full control of the base belonging to the Central Reserve Police in southern Khartoum and shared footage of their fighters celebrating inside the facility. They reported capturing a significant amount of military equipment, including 160 pickup trucks, 75 armoured personnel carriers, and 27 tanks. The authenticity of the footage and the RSF’s statements could not be immediately verified. The army and police had no immediate comment on the situation. Witnesses reported increased violence in Nyala, the largest city in the western Darfur region, and the UN expressed concern over ethnic targeting and killings of people from the Masalit community in West Darfur. Previous ceasefire deals brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia failed to hold, leading to intensified clashes. The army has been using airstrikes and heavy artillery to dislodge the RSF from various neighbourhoods in the capital. The conflict has resulted in a dire humanitarian situation, with displacement and violence impacting the lives of many Sudanese. Approximately 2 million people have been internally displaced, and nearly 600 000 have fled to neighbouring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The UN has called for safe passage for those fleeing and access for aid workers to provide assistance in affected areas.


Russia: Exiled Head of Wagner Group Arrives in Belarus

On 27 June 2023, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary Wagner Group, arrived in Belarus following a brief armed mutiny in Russia. Prigozhin’s exile in Belarus was previously announced by the Kremlin as part of the deal to end the rebellion. Lukashenko stated that Prigozhin and some of his troops would be allowed to stay in Belarus “for some time” at their own expense. Lukashenko attributed the rebellion to a breakdown in relations between Wagner and the Russian army, emphasising that there were “no heroes in this story.” Russian authorities have dropped mutiny charges against Prigozhin and other Wagner members, stating that their activities ceased, thereby closing the case. On 27 June 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the army for preventing a “civil war” during the Wagner uprising. Despite the crisis being the biggest challenge faced by Putin during his reign, the Kremlin denied any weakening of Putin’s position. The fighters have been pardoned, but the Wagner Group has been ordered to surrender its heavy weapons. Putin paid tribute to the army and observed a moment of silence in honour of the military pilots killed by Wagner Group forces.


Palestine: Palestinian Authority Faces Criticism Over Lack of Palestinian Protection from Rising Israeli Settler Attacks

On 27 June 2023, Al Jazeera reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing mounting criticism as Palestinians express anger over its failure to protect them from the escalating number of violent attacks carried out by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. These attacks have seen a sharp increase in recent months and have included shootings, arson, rock-throwing, and physical assaults. Entire Palestinian communities have been forcibly displaced due to settler attacks and Israeli army restrictions, and the PA’s inability to effectively confront or prevent these attacks has sparked calls for action. Residents and analysts are demanding that the PA establish mechanisms to protect Palestinian communities, arguing that while the PA may lack the military capabilities to confront the Israeli army directly, it should at least provide measures to safeguard its people against settler attacks. Suggestions have been made to form protection committees comprising PA security forces, ambulances, and civil defence teams to deter attacks and provide immediate assistance to victims. The PA’s current limitations stem not only from its lack of military power but also from structural issues and political constraints. The Oslo Accords, which established the PA, imposed restrictions on the number of officers, their areas of operation, and the types of weapons they could possess—all subject to approval by Israel. 


Nigeria: Catastrophic Situation in the Region with 4.3 Million Affected by Extreme Hunger

On 28 June 2023, Matthias Schmale, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the country informed journalist in Geneva that severe hunger has been affecting 4.3 million people in the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states of Nigeria; with the number of children under the age of five at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition doubling in one year to reach 700 000. The current situation of severe hunger has been exacerbated by climate change and soaring food prices. The current situation in the country is mainly the result of more than a decade of insecurity which has been linked to non-State armed groups, which has prevented people from earning any income. The humanitarian funding appeal of $1.3 billion remains seriously underfunded with only 25 per cent of having only been funded until now.


Syria: UN General Assembly Adopted Historic Resolution to Establish            International Institution for Missing Syrians 

On 29 June 2023, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish an institution to assist in identifying, locating, and searching for the whereabouts of missing individuals in Syria. The resolution was supported by a majority, with eighty-three member states. The international institution will provide representation to victims, engagement of women organisations and civil organisations, and coordination with existing organisations to ensure complementarity. The international institution will be set up in the coming months to provide support to over 100 000 victims, survivors, and their families. 



Ukraine: Influx of Weapons into the Country Raises Concerns as to Increasing Civilian Casualties

On 29 June 2023, Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs while briefing the United Nations Security Council reported that there has been an influx in the transfer of heavy conventional weapons which includes battle tanks, combat aircraft, artillery and missile systems. She further urged the implementation of measures to prevent further instability and insecurity. She also highlighted the importance of pre-transfer diversion risk assessment, end-user certificates, non-retransfer clauses, and effective legal and enforcement measures; while underscoring the importance of supply chain transparency and information exchange which covered all States involved. She also reminded that the parties involved in the conflict should “take all feasible precautions in the conduct of military operations to avoid, or at least minimise incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.” She also called for a cessation of attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and condemned the recent attacks.


Haiti: “The Current Situation of Insecurity is Unacceptable” UNICEF Chief

On 29 June 2023, Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) while briefing correspondents at the UN headquarters in New York, following her visit to Haiti, stated that the current security situation in the region was “unacceptable.” Currently, 5.2 million people in the region need humanitarian support which includes three million children. She further warned that the institutions and services on which children rely “are barely functional”, while 60 per cent of the capital of Port au Prince is being controlled by violent armed groups. She further recounted the shocking stories of women and girls at the centre for survivors of gender-based violence. She highlighted that an amount of $720 million is required to provide humanitarian aid and support but only less than a quarter has been received until now. She further outlined urgent steps which need to be taken to provide humanitarian supper, which includes providing immediate extra funding, relentless humanitarian effort, preparedness and resilience-building.


Syria: Country Facing, “Ever Worsening Humanitarian Crisis” UN Special Envoy for the Region

On 29 June 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution for creating a “first of its kind institution” for addressing the issue of more than 100 000 people who are missing or have been forcibly disappeared in Syria. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 83 in favour 11 against, with 62 abstentions. Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria highlighted that a “nationwide ceasefire” is needed in accordance with the Security Resolution 2254, as the security situation in the region was worsening because of recent reports of deadly drone attacks, shelling and terrorist attacks. She emphasised that Syrians were facing an “ever-worsening humanitarian crisis” along with massive displacement and acute economic crisis. She urged that humanitarian action be “depoliticized” with Martin Griffins, the UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator echoing the call. He added that 12 years of conflict along with other factors has pushed most of the population towards the brink of poverty. He also called for increased international support as there were limited means for helping the most vulnerable in the region as the $5.4 billion appeal has only been funded 12 per cent, so far. He also highlighted that the $200 million deficit will force the World Food Programme to slash 40 per cent of its emergency aid to Syria for the upcoming month.


Myanmar: Report Highlights Worsening Security Situation and Obstruction of Humanitarian Aid

On 30 June 2023, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) chief of the Myanmar team, James Rodehaver highlighted that the military coup in Myanmar has been destroying food and homes, along with installing a “climate of fear” to subjugate the civilian population. He highlighted that the military’s tactics included the usage of heavy weaponry and airstrikes on civilian areas, along with the burning of villages and making use of landmines to prevent those who have been forced to flee from returning to their homes. In the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, further restrictions have been imposed upon humanitarian assistance, with over 17.6 million currently requiring aid in the region. OHCHR Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, while briefing upon the human rights for Myanmar at Geneva, emphasised that the obstruction of humanitarian assistance by the military coup may amount to violations of international law.  She highlighted that an estimated 1.5 million have been displaced internally with 60 000 civilian structures having been destroyed. She also highlighted that the report underscores that the security situation in the region has worsened for humanitarian workers, with aid workers being constantly exposed to risks of arrest, harassment or other mistreatment.


Ethiopia: United States Lifts Aid Restrictions on Ethiopia After Cessation of Hostilities

On 30 June 2023, the United States lifted its aid restriction in Ethiopia. The United States lifted the restriction after they noted an improvement in human rights after an agreement signed by the Ethiopian government and forces from the Tigray region. The United States limited economic and security assistance to Ethiopia, as well as cut access to the trade benefits available to Ethiopia through the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The United States has decided to lift some of the restrictions and paused food aid while maintaining assistance that would support peace and reconciliation in the area.


France: Continued Protest After Deadly Shooting of 17-Year-Old Nahel

On 2 July 2023, France faced continued protests after the police killed 17-year-old Nahel in a Paris suburb on Tuesday during a traffic stop. Thousands of people took part in a memorial march on Thursday to demand justice for Nahel with France deploying tens of thousands of police across cities in France. As of Saturday, over 700 individuals, mostly teenagers have been arrested in what is described as one of the “worst social upheavals in years.” The situation on Saturday night was noticeably calmer than the previous four nights, although tension in central Paris and sporadic clashes have taken “place in the … [the] cities of Marseille, Nice and the eastern city of Strasbourg.” Several hundred shops, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses have been “ransacked, looted, [with some]… burned to the ground.” The shooting of Nahel, who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent “reignited longstanding complaints by poor and racially mixed urban communities of police violence and racism.” President Macron has “denied there is systematic racism in French law enforcement agencies.”



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