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- IRMCT: Trial Chamber Considers Indefinite Stay on Kabuga Proceedings After Appeal Chamber Confirms Unfitness for Trial
- ICJ: 57 Written Statements Filed in Advisory Proceedings on Legal Consequences of Israel’s Policies in Occupied Palestinian Territory
- USA: Former Minneapolis Officer Tou Thao Sentenced to Nearly 5 Years in Prison in George Floyd Killing
- Bosnia & Herzegovina: Prosecutor’s Office Files 13 Indictments of War Crimes Charges against Army Members
- Ukraine: Ukrainian Intelligence Arrests Woman Accused of Planning to Assassinate Zelensky
- Myanmar: IIMM Reveals Evidence of More Frequent and Brazen Attacks in Myanmar in its Annual Report
- ICJ: Three-Month Extension Granted for Submission of Written Statements in the Advisory Proceedings on the Obligations of States in Respect of Climate Change
- China: UN Appointed Human Rights Experts Demand Details Upon the Whereabouts of Nine Imprisoned Human Rights Defenders
- Switzerland: Authorities Arrest Four Syrians Accused of Supporting Al-Nusra Front Terrorism
- Ukraine: Russia Attacks on Civilians in Ukraine
- Nigeria: Farmers Facing Attacks by Armed Groups
- Azerbaijan: Former ICC Prosecutor Warns of Pending Genocide by Azerbaijan against Armenians
- Sudan: Fighting in Sudan Intensifies
- Niger: Coup Leaders Accuse France of Attempting to Destabilise the Country
- Syria: New Agreement with Syria Reopens Main Border Crossing from Türkiye for Humanitarian Aid Delivery
- Ecuador: Assassination of Presidential Candidate Before Upcoming Election Raises Grave Human Rights Concerns
- Ethiopia: International Experts Call for De-escalation of Tensions in Amhara
- Bay of Bengal: Boat Carrying Rohingya Refugees Capsizes in the Bay of Bengal, Killing 17
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
IRMCT: Trial Chamber Considers Indefinite Stay on Kabuga Proceedings After Appeal Chamber Confirms Unfitness for Trial
On 7 August 2023, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (“Mechanism”), delivered its decision on the appeals filed by Mr Félicien Kabuga and the Prosecution against the Trial Chamber’s decision issued on 6 June 2023 concerning Kabuga’s unfitness to stand trial and the consequences thereof. The background of the Appeal’s Chamber decision today was the Trial Chamber’s majority decision of 6 June 2023 that Kabuga was not fit to stand trial and was very unlikely that he would regain fitness in the future. The Trial Chamber also determined to continue the proceedings in accordance with an “alternative finding procedure”. The Appeals Chamber comprising a panel of five judges, unanimously dismissed the Prosecution’s appeal, finding that the Prosecution failed to show that the Trial Chamber applied an incorrect legal standard or erred in evaluating the evidence when determining that Kabuga was not fit to stand trial. The Appeals Chamber unanimously granted the second ground of the Defence’s appeal and found that there is no legal basis in the Statute and previous jurisprudence that allows for an “alternative finding procedure” in lieu of a trial. Therefore, the Trial Chamber’s adoption of this procedure exceeded its authority under the Mechanism’s framework, amounting to a legal error that nullified its decision. The Appeals Chamber sent the matter back to the Trial Chamber, directing an indefinite stay of proceedings due to Kabuga’s unfitness for trial and prompt consideration of his remand detention.
ICJ: 57 Written Statements Filed in Advisory Proceedings on Legal Consequences of Israel’s Policies in Occupied Palestinian Territory
On 7 August 2023, the Registry of the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) reported that 57 written statements were filed in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. On 3 February 2023, the ICJ set a time limit of 25 July 2023 for the submission of such written statements. 55 written statements were submitted in advance of the time limit and the ICJ exceptionally permitted the late submission of two further written statements. Pursuant to Article 106 of its Rules, the ICJ may now decide to make the written statements accessible to the public on or after the opening of the oral proceedings in the case.
USA: Former Minneapolis Officer Tou Thao Sentenced to Nearly 5 Years in Prison in George Floyd Killing
On 7 August 2023, former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for aiding and abetting the killing of George Floyd. Thao’s role in the incident, where he held back bystanders as former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, was captured on video. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill expressed disappointment at Thao’s lack of remorse during the trial. Thao had rejected a plea bargain and opted for a trial, where he was found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the second degree. The other officers involved, Chauvin, Lane, and Kueng, also faced legal consequences for their roles in the incident. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in state prison, while Lane and Kueng received sentences of three and a half years and three years, respectively.
Azerbaijan: Former ICC Prosecutor Warns of Pending Genocide by Azerbaijan against Armenians
On 8 August 2023, former International Criminal Court (“ICC”) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo issued a report warning of pending genocide by Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. According to the report, the blockade of the only route from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh has resulted in over 120 000 people having limited access to food, medical and other supplies. Nagorno-Karabakh, initially part of Azerbaijan, fell under Armenian control after fighting until 1994. A subsequent six-week war in 2020 saw Azerbaijan reclaim substantial territory, facilitated by a Russia-brokered armistice. This left the capital, Stepanakert, linked to Armenia solely via the Lachin Corridor, with Russian peacekeepers tasked to guarantee movement. Based on the UN Convention’s definition of genocide, Ocampo claims that there is a reasonable belief that genocide is being committed through starvation methods and calls on the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, a step that would be necessary for the ICC to take up the matter due to Azerbaijan not being a signatory to the Rome Statute. There have been reports of food and medical aid and crisis management shipments not being permitted by Azerbaijan to be transported across the only route into the region. An Azerbaijan governmental representative dismissed Ocampo’s report, claiming that it contains unsubstantiated allegations and accusations.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Prosecutor’s Office Files 13 Indictments of War Crimes Charges against Army Members
On 8 August 2023, officials from the Special Department for War Crimes at the Prosecutors Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina filed indictments against 13 former members of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, charging them with several war crimes offences allegedly committed against victims of Serb nationality. The indictable charges include the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the civilian population, violations of laws or customs of war, organising a group of people and inciting the commission of crimes of genocide. The charges arise from an armed attack by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which 56 civilians of Serb nationality were killed and 10 wounded, along with damage and destruction to property, agricultural and ancillary facilities by fire, in the town of Jošanica near Foča in December 1992.
Ukraine: Ukrainian Intelligence Arrests Woman Accused of Planning to Assassinate Zelenskyy
On 8 August 2023, Ukraine’s intelligence service announced it apprehended a woman accused of gathering information to aid in a potential assassination attempt on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by providing his travel details to Russian forces. The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, attempted to collect Zelenskyy’s whereabouts during a trip to Mykolayiv in June 2023. She aimed to relay coordinates to her Russian handler, enabling targeted strikes on Zelenskyy’s location. Meanwhile, another operation resulted in the arrest of four women operating as a spy ring in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on 8 August 2023. They allegedly gathered photos of Ukrainian military bases and equipment, sending them to a Federal Security Service (FSB) agent and an individual connected to the Wagner paramilitary group. Three of the women were detained, while their leader escaped to Russia. Collaboration and spying have posed persistent challenges for Ukraine during the conflict, involving individuals motivated by factors such as money, circumstances, and ideology.
Myanmar: IIMM Reveals Evidence of More Frequent and Brazen Attacks in Myanmar in its Annual Report
On 8 August 2023, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) issued a press release launching its Annual Report, in which it outlined the occurrence of more frequent and brazen war crimes committed by the Myanmar military and affiliated militia against civilians. IIMM describes these attacks on civilians as indiscriminate including aerial bombing, mass executions of civilians and detained combatants, and large-scale and intentional burning of civilian homes and buildings, destroying entire villages in some cases. It also described the ongoing occurrence of sexual and gender-based crimes committed against the Rohingya who were displaced in 2016 and 2017. In its report, IIMM highlighted the need for commanders’ responsibility and potential criminal liability in relation to not taking preventative measures and penalising their subordinates who engage in such war crimes. IIMM is a fact-finding mechanism that was created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and became operational in August 2019, tasked with collecting evidence of violations of international criminal law and preparing files for criminal prosecution.
ICJ: Three-Month Extension Granted for Submission of Written Statements in the Advisory Proceedings on the Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change
On 9 August 2023, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) reported that in its order dated 4 August 2023, the President of the ICJ permitted an extension of three months to the time limit for the submission of written statements and written comments in the advisory proceedings on the Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change. The time limit was extended to 22 January 2024 for written statements on the questions put to the ICJ to be submitted, and to 22 April 2024 for the States and organisations having presented written statements to the Court to submit written comments on the other written statements. The extension to the time limits was granted at the request dated 24 July 2023 submitted by Vanuatu, along with 14 co-signatory States, and supported by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law and by Chile.
China: UN Appointed Human Rights Experts Demand Details Upon the Whereabouts of Nine Imprisoned Human Rights Defenders
On 10 August 2023, UN appointed human rights experts called upon the Chinese Government to provide information about nine Tibetan human rights defenders (HRDs) who were serving prison sentences of up to 11 years. The experts expressed their grave concern over the lack of information provided by the Government, as between 2010 and 2019, nine environmental HRDs were arrested and imprisoned for protesting against the alleged illegal mining activities and hunting of endangered species in the Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province and the Tibetan Autonomous Province. They highlighted that very little information was available about the whereabouts of those HRDs, regarding their detention, trial and sentencing conditions. The experts have urged the Chinese authorities to provide them with information on why and where the activists have been held, their health condition and details as to whether they have adequate medical care. The experts also stated that if China was committed towards combating the impacts of climate change, it should release all the nine activists immediately.
Switzerland: Authorities Arrest Four Syrians Accused of Supporting Al-Nusra Front Terrorism
On 10 August 2023, Swiss authorities carried out coordinated raids in Vaud and Neuchâtel, resulting in the arrest of four Syrian nationals suspected of supporting the Al-Nusra Front, a former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. The suspects, aged between 28 and 57, were apprehended based on investigations conducted between January and September 2022. The arrests were initiated by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) and involved seven house searches. These individuals were accused of supporting or participating in a criminal organization and aiding banned Islamist terrorist groups. The cantonal police in Vaud and Neuchâtel, alongside the Federal Police (Fedpol), executed the operations, leading to the detainees’ questioning by the OAG. The presumption of innocence was emphasized by the authorities. The OAG is also liaising with foreign countries as part of the ongoing criminal proceedings against the individuals.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
Ukraine: Russia Attacks on Civilians in Ukraine
On 7 August 2023, Russian missiles struck the city of Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine twice, resulting in the deaths of nine people, numerous injuries, and significant property damage. The attack targeted the city centre, approximately 45 miles southwest of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk, hitting a popular hotel called Druzhba (Friendship) Hotel, which was frequently used by journalists, aid workers, and military personnel. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reported that 82 individuals were wounded in the assault, including two children. Rescue operations were completed in Pokrovsk, a city about 75 km southwest of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk. In addition to this attack, Russian forces also struck private houses in Kruglyakivka, Kharkiv Oblast, with guided aerial bombs, killing at least two civilians. Meanwhile, on 8 August 2023, Russian-installed Donetsk Mayor Alexei Kulemzin accused Ukraine of shelling the city of Donetsk, leading to three deaths and ten injuries. Witnesses recounted the harrowing experience of the attacks, with residents describing the devastation caused by the missile strikes. Multiple individuals sustained injuries, with some requiring medical attention for cuts and wounds. The strikes further escalate tensions in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
Nigeria: Farmers Facing Attacks by Armed Groups
On 7 August 2023, Save the Children, an international, non-government-operated organization, warned that relentless armed group attacks on Nigerian farmers are jeopardising food supplies and subsequently intensifying a hunger crisis in the country. The escalating assaults are causing displacement, market disruptions, and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups have killed over 128 farmers and abducted 37 between January and June 2023, with 19 farmers killed in a single month in Borno State. The UN projected that over 25 million Nigerians could face food insecurity this year, a 47 per cent rise from the initial 17 million, due to insecurity, prolonged conflicts, and projected food price increases. Additionally, around two million children under five in northeastern states might experience acute malnutrition, compounded by climate-related extreme weather events. Despite Nigeria’s state of emergency declaration for food security, addressing the climate crisis is also essential for sustainable farming and food security.
Azerbaijan: Former ICC Prosecutor Warns of Pending Genocide by Azerbaijan against Armenians
On 8 August 2023, former International Criminal Court (“ICC”) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo issued a report warning of pending genocide by Azerbaijan against ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. According to the report, the blockade of the only route from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh has resulted in over 120 000 people having limited access to food, medical and other supplies. Nagorno-Karabakh, initially part of Azerbaijan, fell under Armenian control after fighting until 1994. A subsequent six-week war in 2020 saw Azerbaijan reclaim substantial territory, facilitated by a Russia-brokered armistice. This left the capital, Stepanakert, linked to Armenia solely via the Lachin Corridor, with Russian peacekeepers tasked to guarantee movement. Based on the UN Convention’s definition of genocide, Ocampo claims that there is a reasonable belief that genocide is being committed through starvation methods and calls on the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, a step that would be necessary for the ICC to take up the matter due to Azerbaijan not being a State Party to the Rome Statute. There have been reports of food and medical aid and crisis management shipments not being permitted by Azerbaijan to be transported across the only route into the region. An Azerbaijan governmental representative dismissed Ocampo’s report, claiming that it contains unsubstantiated allegations and accusations.
Sudan: Fighting in Sudan Intensifies
On 8 August 2023, it was reported that the conflict in Sudan is escalating as the army intensifies efforts to regain control of Khartoum and Omdurman, where heavy battles have been ongoing between rival factions led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Vice President Mohammedi “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo. The Sudanese army has launched air attacks and artillery strikes to control a bridge used by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to transport reinforcements. The RSF, which initially occupied much of the capital during the conflict’s onset, fiercely responded, causing civilian casualties and displacement. The conflict’s impact is compounded by seasonal rains causing displacement and concerns about waterborne diseases. Health facilities have been targeted, leaving the healthcare system near collapse, while infrastructure and institutions are destroyed. The United Nations warns of the risk of major disease outbreaks, especially cholera, due to decomposing bodies, water shortages, and inadequate sanitation. Over four million people are displaced, with more than 900 000 fleeing to neighbouring countries, exacerbating existing conflicts and crises. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation have so far failed to yield results.
Niger: Coup Leaders Accuse France of Attempting to Destabilise the Country
On 9 August 2023, coup leaders in Niger accused French forces of releasing “terrorist elements” and violating airspace restrictions to destabilise the country, a claim France has refuted. Following the July 26 incident that deposed President Mohammad Bazoum, the spokesperson for the coup leaders, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, asserted that France had freed 16 “terrorists” who then plotted attacks on Nigerien military positions along the border. The coup leaders also alleged that a French military plane violated the airspace ban. France denied the allegations, stating that their aircraft movements were part of a prior agreement with Nigerien forces stationed there. Experts have expressed concerns that armed groups could exploit a power vacuum resulting from the coup. Tillaberi, the region mentioned in the coup leaders’ claims, is known for the presence of al-Qaeda and ISIL-linked groups. The ECOWAS regional bloc has convened to address the Niger crisis, considering military intervention if democracy is not restored. This coup marks the ninth such incident in the Sahel region within three years.
Syria: New Agreement with Syria Reopens Main Border Crossing from Türkiye for Humanitarian Aid Delivery
On 9 August 2023, it was reported that a deal had been reached with the Government of Syria to reopen the main border called the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Türkiye for allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The border has been used since 2014, when the UN Security Council allowed authorised cross-border relief deliveries “across conflict lines” and since then 85 per cent of humanitarian aid deliveries have passed through this border from Türkiye. The deal that has been brokered with the Syrian Government also includes authorisation for the UN to use the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee border crossing for an additional three months. As humanitarian needs in the region have reached an all-time high, 12 million people in the region don’t have access to adequate food, with 2.9 million at the risk of famine, according to the UN. In June, Martin Griffiths, UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned that “twelve years of conflict, economic collapse and other factors have pushed 90 per cent of the population below the poverty line.” The northwest region in Syria remains the last opposition stronghold, and an effort was made in July 2023 to renew the agreement for cross-border relief deliveries in the UN Security Council but had failed due to a veto from Russia. Even though there continues to be an “unprecedented” funding crisis in Syria, the latest agreement will see the delivery of life-saving supplies to populations in the northwest. According to Ramesh Rajsingham of the UN Humanitarian Affairs Office (OCHA), the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is only 12.4 per cent funded until now.
Ecuador: Assassination of Presidential Candidate Before Upcoming Election Raises Grave Human Rights Concerns
On 10 August 2023, the assassination of a presidential candidate in Ecuador was condemned by the United Nations, calling for prompt investigation into the crime. According to news reports, Fernando Villavicencio, 59 was the presidential candidate who was shot dead after he was leaving a campaign rally at a school in the capital, Quito. The attack occurred just two weeks before the election which is to be held on 20 August; furthermore, nine other people were also injured in the attack, which included a candidate for the legislature and two police officers. The UN called for an investigation in order to ensure that there “is no sense of impunity”. Farhan Haq, the UN Deputy Spokesperson, speaking in New York emphasised that carrying out a point and transparent investigation to hold those responsible was important. He urged that violence against political candidates is a “serious threat to the electoral process and the people’s ability to express their democratic will”. He further urged the authorities to strengthen protection measures for political candidates, public officers and journalists and also protect the lives of people along with their personal integrity which is in compliance with international human rights standards. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General also condemned the assassination, urging that such attacks represented a “grave threat to democracy”.
Ethiopia: International Experts Call for De-escalation of Tensions in Amhara
On 10 August 2023, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts expressed their concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Amhara, the northwest region of Ethiopia, while taking note of the state of emergency that had been declared on 4 August by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers. The Commission highlighted in their statement that the previous states of emergency that had been imposed included various violations of human rights, and therefore urged the Ethiopian Government to “strictly adhere to the principles of necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination in accordance with its international legal obligations under Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”. They also called for de-escalating the country’s situation and working towards a peaceful resolution of differences.
Bay of Bengal: Boat Carrying Rohingya Refugees Capsizes in the Bay of Bengal, Killing 17
On 10 August 2023, it was reported that a boat carrying Rohingya refugees which was headed to Malaysia capsized in the Bay of Bengal, killing 17 while 33 still remain missing. The boat was carrying 58 passengers and crew. Volunteers stated that eight people were rescued from the boat, and it was unclear from where the boat had set off. Min Htal Wah, chairperson of Shwe Yaung Metta Foundation, a rescue organisation based in the coastal Rakhine state of Myanmar highlighted that they had begun to find dead bodies on August 7, and in three days they recovered 17 bodies. According to Bya Latt, spokesperson for the rescue group the eight rescued people are being held at a local police station. According to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR), 3 500 Rohingyas in 39 vessels have attempted crossing the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in 2022, with at least 348 Rohingyas either dying or going missing at sea in the past year.