Weekly News Recap (17-23 July 2023)

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ICC: 25th Anniversary of Rome Statute Commemorated, Strengthening Global Justice Commitment

On 17 July 2023, the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute. Discussions took place concerning strengthening the rule of law, evolving and adapting in the light of emerging crises globally, ensuring effective remedies and realisation of victims’ rights, and implementing the Independent Expert Review for better functioning of the Court and its mechanisms. France and Belgium reached voluntary agreements with the Court concerning the enforcement of sentences and final release, respectively. Many representatives of states and international organisations expressed their ongoing support and commitment to the Court and its mandate.


ECtHR: Court Drops Russia’s Case Against Ukraine Over Failure to Pursue the Application

On 18 July 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) struck out the application of Russia against Ukraine over failure to pursue an application under Article 37 § 1 (a) of the European Convention and Rule 44E. Russia lodged the inter-state case against Ukraine in 2021 alleging that there has been a pattern of administrative practice in Ukraine since 2014 resulting in violation of the right to life (Article 2), prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), right to liberty and security (Article 5), right to respect for private and family life (Article 8), freedom of expression (Article 10), right to effective remedy (Article 13), prohibition of discrimination (Article 14) and other violations. Russia claims that Ukraine is responsible for “killings, abductions, forced displacement, interference with the right to vote, restrictions on the use of the Russian language”. Among other allegations was that Ukraine was responsible for the deaths of MH17 victims due to failure to close its airspace. In 2022, Russia provided 2000 sets of documents in support of its application but failed to reply to the Court’s request to provide translation for the documents and whether Russia intends to pursue its case against Ukraine. Consequently, the Court decided to strike the application out of the list of cases.



ICC: Authorization to Resume Investigation in the Philippines Confirmed by Appeals Chamber

On 18 July 2023, the Appeal Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I authorising the ICC Prosecutor to resume investigation concerning the situation in the Philippines for alleged crimes committed during the Government’s campaign on the ‘war on drugs’. The investigation pertains to the crimes committed in the Philippines’ territory between 2011 and 2019. The Philippines requested deferral of the investigation but the Pre-Trial Chamber I decided in favour of the Prosecution’s request to resume investigation. Philippine’s appeal on the jurisdictional grounds was refused due to its withdrawal from the Rome Statute by a majority of Judges on the argument that the issue was not raised properly and that the Pre-Trial Chamber I’s decision does not constitute a decision that concerns issues of jurisdiction. Regarding the request for deferral, the Court found that the Philippines had the burden of proof to provide evidence that it was taking proper action and effective investigation of the alleged crimes. The Court also refused the claims of the Philippines for the wrong admissibility threshold related to the principle of complementarity, deciding that the Pre-Trial Chamber properly assessed the admissibility of the request for investigation given the Philippines’ inactivity concerning the alleged crimes.


Kosovo: Former Intelligence Head Found Guilty Over Unlawful Deportation of Six Turkish Citizens

On 19 July 2023, Pristina Basic Court sentenced Driton Gashi, former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency to four years and eight months in prison over the unlawful deportation of six Turkish citizens allegedly known as “Gulenists”. In 2018 Kosovo Intelligence Agency and Kosovo Police launched an operation resulting in the arrest and immediate deportation of six Turkish citizens. The Turkish citizens boarded a plane of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in what seemed to be a coordinated intelligence operation between Kosovo and Turkish intelligence agencies. At the time of their deportation from Kosovo, the Turkish citizens in question, who were associated with exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, and whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds responsible for the 2016 coup attempt, were lawfully residing there. The former Intelligence head was thus found guilty on the charges of abuse of official position or authority and unlawful deprivation of liberty.



France: Russian Soldier Suspected of War Crimes in Ukraine Granted Political Asylum

On 19 July 2023, it was announced that a soldier from the Russian airborne forces, who may have participated in war crimes in Ukraine was granted political asylum in France. Pavel Filatyev is a former soldier who left the military in the summer of 2022 and applied for asylum in France in October 2022. Filatyev wrote a book titled ZOV 56 which is an anti-war autobiography. He recounted his time in the Russian military with a Swedish daily newspaper. During this interview, Filatyev reported how Ukrainians captured by Russian soldiers were eventually shot or hanged. The Russian human rights organization Gulagu.net claims that Filatyev is concealing his participation in war crimes committed in Ukraine. On the contrary, Filatyev contends that France’s granting of his political asylum indicates their recognition that he was not involved in any war crimes.




Bangladesh: Four War Criminals Sentenced to Death for Committing Crimes Against Humanity During Liberation War

On 20 July 2023, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Abdul Mannan Howlader,  Ashrab Ali, Maharaj Howladar, and Nurul Amin Howladar to death for their role in committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. Initially, there were seven individuals accused of war crimes however, three passed away during the period of the trial. The accused were charged with illegal detention, torture, kidnapping, looting, arson, rape, murder, and genocide. The investigation into these crimes began in 2016 and lasted about seven months. The report of the investigation submitted in November 2018 identified thirty-three witnesses in the case. The International Crimes Tribunal’s sentencing of these war criminals marks a significant stride in the pursuit of justice for the atrocities committed during the Liberation War.


CAR: Appeals Chamber Overturned Issa Sallet’s Convictions, Altered Sentencing for Other Accused

On 20 July 2023, the Appeals Chamber in the Central African Republic delivered a judgment in which it reversed the convictions of Issa Sallet, modified the sentencing of the others accused and identified errors in sentencing for all accused. It considered the sentence imposed on Issa Sallet to be disproportionate. The Appeals Chamber ruled that Issa Sallet should not be subjected to life imprisonment due to the diminished level of his culpability. This was attributed to the fact that he acted in accordance with an order he received. The Appeals Chamber found a legal error regarding the consideration of non-cooperation as an aggravating circumstance due to the accused’s right to remain silent. The Appeals Chambers reversed Issa Sallet’s sentencing of life imprisonment to thirty years and acquitted him of the crime against humanity of other inhumane acts and of the war crime of committing outrages upon personal dignity for the events in Koundjili in May 2019. Other accused, namely Ousman Yaouba and Mahamat Tahir, were sentenced to twenty years in prison. The Appeals Chambers also declared that the time spent in detention by the accused would be deducted from the overall sentence imposed.



Egypt: Apartment Building Collapses Killing 12

On 17 July 2023, a five-story apartment building in Cairo’s Hadaeq el-Qubbah collapsed, leaving at least 12 people dead, and injuring four. Rescue teams found bodies in the rubble while searching for survivors. The cause of the collapse is still unclear, but initial investigations suggest that earlier maintenance work by a ground floor resident, who removed walls, may have been a contributing factor. The resident was arrested and questioned. The government promised financial aid to the victims’ families and is monitoring nearby property damage. Building collapses are common in Egypt due to poor construction practices and lack of maintenance, particularly in impoverished neighbourhoods and rural areas. The day before, on 16 July 2023, four people died in another building collapse in Northern Egypt, and in June 2023, 10 people were killed in a similar collapse in Alexandria, Egypt. Despite attempts to crack down on illegal buildings, the issue persists, and additional floors are often constructed without proper permits to maximise profits, exacerbating safety risks.


UN: Russia Terminates Black Sea Grain Deal

On 17 July 2023, Russia terminated the Black Sea Initiative and UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep regret over the termination which served as a critical “lifeline” for millions facing hunger and rising food costs worldwide. The UN-brokered accord, enabling the export of over 30 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain through three Black Sea ports, expired after weeks of negotiations. The termination also means the withdrawal of security guarantees for ships in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. Guterres emphasised the importance of the initiative in reducing food prices by over 23% since March the previous year and supporting humanitarian operations in conflict-affected regions. Despite the setback, Guterres remains committed to ensuring food security and global food price stability, even in the face of the suffering that may result from Russia’s decision. UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi called for the parties to engage in dialogue and find solutions to the complex challenges, while also urging an end to the conflict in Ukraine in accordance with international law and the UN Charter.


Haiti: WFP Forced to Reduce Emergency Food Assistance by 25% in July

On 17 July 2023, The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced that insufficient funding has forced them to reduce emergency food assistance in Haiti by 25 per cent in July. As a result, 100 000 vulnerable Haitians will go without WFP support this month. With only 16 per cent of its response plan for Haiti funded so far this year, WFP lacks resources to provide food assistance to a total of 750 000 people in urgent need. The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with nearly half of the population, 4.9 million people, suffering from food insecurity. WFP urgently requires $121 million through the end of 2023 to continue vital humanitarian assistance in Haiti. The lack of funding threatens WFP’s goal to reach 2.3 million people in the country in 2023. Despite challenges, WFP has already provided support to 1.5 million people in the first half of the year, including hot school meals for over 450 000 school children. Without additional funds, many vulnerable Haitians will be left without assistance, jeopardising their access to food and livelihoods. WFP emphasises the critical need for immediate funding to continue supporting those most affected by the crisis.


UN: Sudan Conflict Displaces 200 000 People in One Week

On 18 July 2023, the UN announced that over the past week, fighting in Sudan has led to nearly 200 000 people being internally displaced, with a total of 2.6 million people displaced since the conflict began on 15 April 2023. Additionally, more than 730 000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and the head of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, visited a refugee camp in Chad and emphasised the need for more international support for refugees and their host communities. Various UN agencies and partners are providing essential services to those affected, including water, healthcare, and reproductive health kits. The situation highlights the urgent humanitarian needs of the displaced populations in Sudan and the importance of assistance from the international community.


Afghanistan: Unexploded Weapons Pose Grave Threat to Afghan Civilians Returning Home

On 18 July 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that unexploded and abandoned weapons are posing a significant threat to civilians returning to their homes in Afghanistan after decades of fighting. Despite reduced violence, efforts to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) have not been entirely successful, leading to an increase in casualties since August 2021. Children are particularly vulnerable to fatal or life-changing injuries as they inadvertently encounter these hazardous items while playing or doing chores. ICRC recorded 640 children killed or injured in 541 UXO-related incidents between January 2022 and June 2023, comprising nearly 60% of civilian casualties. The lack of awareness about unrecognised explosive objects remains a major challenge, especially as people return to previously inaccessible areas after the decline in fighting. The ICRC conducts programs to raise public awareness, but a significant drop in funding after the change in authorities in Afghanistan has hindered efforts to clear landmines and UXOs. Urgent technical and financial assistance from the international community is required to mitigate the human toll of unexploded devices and to protect civilians from these deadly remnants of conflict.



Bangladesh: With a Second Ration Cut for the Rohingya, Current Funding Efforts Still Not Enough

On 20 July 2023, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), current funding efforts that are providing support to Rohingyas living in camps in southern Bangladesh are still not enough as reduction in resources is forcing the agency to make a second ration cut in three months. In March this year, the food vouchers for the Rohingyas were reduced from $12 per person per month to $10 and in June to just $8, which is equivalent to 27 cents a day.  Dom Scalpelli, WFP Country Director in Bangladesh, highlighted that ration cuts are the last resort as the funding they are currently receiving is still not enough. More than 950 000 Rohingyas continue to remain stranded in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the assistance provided by WFP is the “only reliable source they can count on to meet their basic food and nutrition needs.” The agency further highlighted that the only solution is to prevent the situation from deteriorating further and restore full rations for the entire Rohingya population immediately. Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR Representative to Bangladesh urged that the only way to prevent the humanitarian situation of Rohingyas from deteriorating in camps was by investing in education, skills training and livelihood opportunities.


Libya: New Policy Issued by the Government Cracks Down on Women’s Right to Travel Abroad

On 20 July 2023, UN independent experts urged the Libyan Government of National Unity to withdraw the new discriminatory policy they issued which restricts women and girls from travelling abroad without a male guardian. According to this new policy, women and girls would be required to fill out a detailed form providing personal information, reason and previous history of travelling without a male guardian, and those who refuse to complete the same would be denied exit. The experts urged that the policy was not just discriminatory but also restricted the freedom of movement of women and girls. The experts expressed their grave concern over the policy and urged that it was “in contradiction with Libya’s international and national obligations on non-discrimination, equality and the right to privacy.” They also highlighted that the policy further erodes the rights of women and girls in the region and their equality and dignity should be ensured.


USA: Supreme Court Ethics Bill Passed by Senate Judiciary Committee

On 20 July 2023, the United States (US) Senate passed a bill mandating an ethics code for the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve legislation that would require Supreme Court Justices to disclose financial benefits received and recusal from cases in which they may have conflicts of interest. This bill will be voted by the full Senate and then by the House of Representatives to become law. Currently, the nine justices of the Supreme Court do not have any binding ethics code of conduct. Multiple US-based news outlets have reported on Justice Clarence Thomas’s, Justice Samuel Alito’s, and Justice Neil Gorsuch’s failure to disclose financial information and lavish gifts by Republican donors. The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee hopes to protect the trust of the public in the highest court of the United States by imposing high ethical standards.


Syria: Children Forcibly Separated from Their Mother and Arbitrarily Detained at the Infamous Al Hol

On 21 July 2023, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, is the first independent expert who has gained access to infamous places of detention Al Hol and Al Raj in northeast Syria. Following her six-day visit to the region, she highlighted that she witnessed arbitrary and indefinite mass detention of children with no recourse to legal or judicial process. She also witnessed the practice of boys being separated from their mothers in camps, “most frequently in the middle of the night or the marketplace.” She highlighted that “the fear of boys below the age of ten being taken away is palpable”, and stated that eight in ten of the boys are under the age of 12, including a two-year-old boy “who doesn’t get returned home and lives in a situation of a mass, arbitrary detention throughout his or her life.” She made an appeal to the 57 countries whose nationals are detained in northeast Syria to respect their fundamental human rights obligations and make efforts to repatriate their nationals. Only 36 countries have repatriated their nationals since 2019 until now, and 77 per cent of those who have been repatriated constitute women and children. The experts noted that most countries were not returning adult men, which added to further separation concerns.


Ukraine: Russia’s Bombardment of Ukrainian Ports May Further Compound the Already Existing Food Insecurity Across the Globe

On 21 July 2023, Rosemary DiCarlo, UN political affairs chief condemned Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv along the Black Sea and highlighted that it could affect global food security. The attacks occurred after Russia effectively decided to end the Black Sea Initiative on 17 July 2023, which is a UN-brokered accord that facilitates shipping of Ukrainian foodstuff and grains to international markets at a time when the world is reeling from rising hunger. She emphasised that the decision of Russia to withdraw from the Black Sea Initiative and also bombard the crucial ports would “further compound the crisis.” According to her statement, the air raids in Iodesa on 19 July led to the death of one civilian and left eight others injured. Additionally, in Mykolaiv, two people were reported killed as a result of the bombings. She further underlined that the UN was committed to ensuring that food and fertilisers from both Ukraine and Russia continued to reach the global markets. The same was reiterated by Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who highlights that 362 million in 69 countries are dependent upon aid to survive and Russian withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative was “immensely alarming”.


Sahel: Threat of Humanitarian Crisis in Sahel Poses Risk to Peace and Stability in Nearby Regions

On 21 July 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) highlighted that the ongoing conflict in Sudan was affecting food security and migration across West and Central Africa, further depleting already scarce resources and intensifying inter-communal tensions. The agency warned that the spillover of the conflict into other regions would affect both peace and stability in a region that is already going through political instability, climate shocks, famine and drought and economic decline. Chad hosting the largest number of refugees is reeling through climate shocks, conflict and increased food and petrol prices which is pushing millions into hunger and malnutrition. The situation in Chad is becoming increasingly dire as the needs of its people grow, yet funding shortages are hindering crucial aid efforts. The World Food Programme is facing challenges in fulfilling its objective of providing emergency assistance to two million refugees and vulnerable Chadians, as it has been unable to secure sufficient funding, reaching only a fraction of its target. The agency is in urgent need of $157 million in order to stabilise the deteriorating situation.


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