Weekly News Recap (23-29 October 2023)

© Photo by Alisdare Hicksonvia Flickr




ICC: Appeals Chamber to Hold a Hearing Regarding Resumption of Investigations in Venezuela

On 23 October 2023, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Appeals Chamber announced its plan to hold a hearing on 7-8 November 2023 regarding the appeal by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela against a decision by Pre-Trial Chamber I. This decision authorised the resumption of an investigation into the situation in Venezuela. The upcoming hearing will address complex issues raised in the appeal, involving the Office of the Prosecutor, the representatives of Venezuela, and the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV). Although the hearing will not deliver a judgment, it aims to discuss the matter in depth. In terms of background, Venezuela ratified the Rome Statute on 7 June 2000. In September 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor received a referral from several State Parties to the Rome Statute regarding the situation in Venezuela since 12 February 2014. In November 2021, the Prosecution decided to proceed with investigations. In April 2022, Venezuela requested to defer the investigations to its national authorities. On 1 November 2022, the Prosecution requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to resume the investigation. Venezuela appealed this decision on 3 July 2023. The Appeals Chamber also invited the OPVC to submit written observations regarding the appeal’s impact on victims’ interests. On 13 September 2023, the Prosecutor filed a response to Venezuela’s appeal, and the OPCV submitted its observations.


USA: Colorado Court Rejects Trump’s Fifth Bid to Dismiss 2024 Election Lawsuit

On 25 October 2023, a Colorado judge rejected former President Donald Trump’s fifth attempt to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at preventing him from running in the 2024 presidential election under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.” This decision paves the way for an unprecedented trial set to begin shortly, determining whether Trump’s involvement in the 6 January 2021, insurrection disqualifies him from seeking the presidency again. The 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, disqualifies US officials from future office if they “engaged in insurrection” or provided “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists. However, the Constitution does not specify how to enforce this ban, and it has been applied only twice since the 1800s. In her ruling, Judge Sarah Wallace rejected Trump’s argument that questions about his eligibility should be handled by Congress rather than the courts. She also dismissed his claim that Colorado election officials lacked the authority to enforce the “insurrectionist ban” found in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The trial will examine whether the events of 6 January 2021 constituted an insurrection and whether Trump was involved in such activities. Trump has consistently denied wrongdoing in relation to the Capitol attack and has pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.


Romania: Bucharest Court of Appeal Rules Former President Iliescu to Stand Trial Regarding Alleged Crimes Against Humanity

On 25 October 2023, the Bucharest Court of Appeal ordered the commencement of the trial in the “Revolution case,” in which former Romanian President Ion Iliescu and two other former officials face charges of committing crimes against humanity. This case is related to the violent crackdown on a 1990 protest in Bucharest, which resulted in four deaths, 1 380 injuries, and 1 250 arrests. The trial had faced multiple postponements in the past, but the court has now dismissed the exceptions and requests made by Iliescu’s lawyers, confirming the legality of the indictment. This decision can still be challenged within three days of communication. The case has gone through various legal phases and challenges, with the Supreme Court excluding certain pieces of evidence and ultimately transferring the case to the Bucharest Court of Appeal due to jurisdictional issues.


Saudi Arabia: Two Young Men Face Execution After Supreme Court Ruling

On 25 October 2023, Amnesty International raised concerns over Saudi Arabia’s secret upholding of death sentences for two young men, Abdullah al-Derazi and Jalal Labbad, who were under 18 at the time of their alleged crimes. They were allegedly convicted in unfair trials primarily relying on torture-tainted confessions related to their participation in anti-government protests. The Saudi authorities had previously promised to end the death penalty for individuals who were children at the time of their alleged crimes. Amnesty International called on the King not to ratify their death sentences and to investigate the defendants’ claims of torture. The use of the death penalty for those under 18 at the time of the crime is prohibited under international conventions. In 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 196 people, the highest annual number recorded in 30 years by Amnesty International, and it has already executed 112 people in the first ten months of 2023. A UN expert has also expressed concern about the imminent execution of Abdullah Al-Derazi and called for a moratorium on the death penalty and a systematic review of death penalty cases involving child defendants.


Ukraine: In Absentia Trials of Russian Military Officers Ongoing in Ivankiv

On 27 October 2023, it was reported that a number of trials against Russian military officers have been ongoing in Ukraine, in which the defendants are mainly tried in absentia. The Ivankiv District Court recently sentenced Belik Bazarzhapov, a Russian military officer, to 11 years in prison for violating the laws and customs of war. The court found that Bazarzhapov, while participating in the attack on Ukraine, mistreated civilians in the Ivankiv village, northwest of Kyiv, threatening them and using violence. The defence argued that Bazarzhapov was unaware of international laws and customs of war, but the court dismissed this claim, stating that such awareness is assumed for military personnel. In a separate case, another Russian serviceman, Vladimir Nomokonov, stationed in Ivankiv district, was sentenced to nine years in prison for looting in Ivankiv village in March 2022. The court determined that Russian military personnel, including Nomokonov, intentionally looted local property during hostilities, causing material damage. The court found Nomokonov guilty of violating the laws and customs of war and sentenced him to nine years in prison. His sentence will begin upon his detention. Nomokonov was put on the international and national wanted list in February 2023, and the verdict was not subject to appeal.


Pakistan: Bail Denied for Former Prime Minister Imran Khan in State Secrets Court Case

On 27 October 2023, it was reported that a Pakistani court had rejected former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s bail plea in a case related to exposing state secrets, known as the “cipher case.” Khan is currently in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, and the case is linked to diplomatic communications between Washington and Islamabad. Khan alleges that these communications were part of a US conspiracy to overthrow his government. The Islamabad High Court Chief Justice announced the verdict, which had been reserved since 16 October. Khan’s legal team plans to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Khan has been facing several legal cases and was ousted through a no-confidence vote in April 2022. His indictment in this case, along with former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, occurred recently, with both pleading not guilty. The case revolves around Khan allegedly revealing an official secret when he displayed a confidential diplomatic letter during a rally. His arrest led to protests and the imprisonment of numerous supporters and party members.


Qatar: Death Sentences Imposed on Former Indian Naval Officers

On 27 October 2023, it was reported that Qatar recently sentenced eight former Indian naval officers to death on unspecified charges, and India is exploring all legal options in response. The men, who were working for a private company in Qatar, were arrested last year under suspicion of espionage. Both the counties have not disclosed the specific charges. India’s government expressed deep shock and plans to take up the verdict with Qatari authorities, emphasising the importance of the case. The arrest of these former officers had drawn much attention in India, but the charges against them remain unclear. As reported by The Hindu newspaper, the men were purportedly charged with ‘violating sensitive information,’ although neither government has verified these allegations. Experts suggest that this case could affect diplomatic relations between the two nations, given the significant Indian expatriate population in Qatar and their economic ties. Millions of Indians work in the Gulf, contributing to the region’s economies and remittances to India.


Russia: Moscow Court Sentences Physicist to Twelve Years of Imprisonment for Treason

On 27 October 2023, a Moscow court sentenced physicist Anatoly Gubanov to 12 years in a penal colony on treason charges. Gubanov, a former head of the Aerodynamics of Aircrafts and Rockets Department, was accused of passing secret hypersonic development materials to colleagues in the Netherlands with whom he collaborated on the HEXAFLY-INT project. He pleaded guilty and requested a penalty below the 12-year minimum sentence, which was denied. Russian authorities also allege that Gubanov conspired with fellow physicist Valery Golubkin, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in April 2021. Reports suggest that the shared information did not contain state secrets. These cases have raised concerns in the scientific community about the impact on scientific cooperation with foreign countries and the potential chilling effect on young researchers.



Bangladesh: Train Collision Kills 17

On 23 October 2023, a train collision near Dhaka, Bangladesh, resulted in the loss of at least 17 lives and over 100 injuries. The accident occurred in the Kishoreganj district, 45 miles east of the capital, as a passenger train was switching tracks en route to Dhaka. A freight train moving in the opposite direction struck the passenger train’s last two coaches, which were carrying approximately 300 passengers. The timing of the incident coincided with the Hindu festival of Durga Puja when many were travelling between cities. Bangladesh Railway initiated an investigation into the cause and suspended the driver of the freight train pending the probe committee’s report. Bangladesh has witnessed several fatal train accidents in recent years, highlighting ongoing challenges in upgrading infrastructure for its large population. This incident serves as a grim reminder of the need for improved rail safety and infrastructure in the country.


UN: Ongoing Security Challenges and Political Tensions in Kosovo

On 23 October 2023, UN envoy Caroline Ziadeh addressed the ongoing security challenges and political tensions in Kosovo. A recent, “serious” incident on 24 September, saw four people – including a Kosovo police officer – killed and others injured, and exacerbated the region’s security concerns, especially in northern Kosovo and among Kosovo-Serb communities. The Kosovo-Serb community’s boycott of local elections in April 2023 added to the security issues. Ziadeh called for political leaders to compromise and take responsibility for addressing security needs and socio-economic concerns for all. Inflammatory rhetoric and divisive politics have strained communication and fuelled tensions. Efforts to involve women and youth in peace and security initiatives have been ongoing, for example, the Barabar Centre, which aims to foster equality, has organised multiethnic events, offering a safe space for communities to transcend divisive political rhetoric in Pristina. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) supports these initiatives and reports positive outcomes despite challenges. The fifth anniversary of UNMIK’s trust-building agenda was noted, promoting dialogue and cohesion. 


Mexico: Three Separate Mass Shootings Kill Dozens 

On 23 October 2023, at least 24 people, including 12 police officers, were killed in three separate mass shootings in Mexico. In Guerrero state’s Coyuca de Benitez, unidentified attackers targeted a security patrol, resulting in at least 13 deaths and two injuries. Among the victims, at least 11 were municipal police officers. In Michoacan, a neighbouring state, a separate attack left four civilians and a policeman dead, with two others wounded. Gunmen targeted the mayor’s brother in the town of Tacambaro. A third incident occurred in the central state of Puebla, where a gunfight between alleged drug dealers led to at least six deaths and two injuries. Mexico has been plagued by cartel-related violence, with more than 420 000 people killed since the government’s war on drugs began in 2006, leading to a tripled murder rate. Disappearances have also exceeded 110 000, primarily attributed to criminal organisations. Guerrero and Michoacan are among the most violent regions due to confrontations between rival drug traffickers and security forces. The violence is particularly concerning in the lead-up to next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Despite President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” strategy focusing on addressing the root causes of violence through social programs, the security situation in Mexico remains dire.


UNDP: Aid Needed to Avoid a Second Emergency in Libya

On 23 October 2023, the UNDP launched an appeal for USD 71 Million to provide humanitarian and early recovery support to 250 000 people in Libya after Storm Daniel in September 2023. Heavy rains from Storm Daniel caused two dams to burst in Derna, Libya, leading to devastating floods that killed over 4 300 people and left an estimated twice that number unaccounted for. The catastrophe wiped entire neighbourhoods off the map, destroyed infrastructure, and displaced more than 43 000 people. There is an urgent need for food, clean water, shelter, healthcare, and financial support. The fishing industry has also come to a standstill, leading to economic hardship. The contaminated floodwaters pose a threat of disease, and the floods exposed landmines and unexploded ordnance of war, reviving a toxic legacy from the country’s past conflicts. UNDP deployed a team to support the Benghazi Derna Reconstruction Fund and as the threat of further rainfall looms, quick action is needed to prevent a second emergency in the region. The devastation adds to Libya’s existing challenges, as it has already faced a significant decline in GDP per capita and high unemployment. 


OCHA: 704 Palestinians Killed in 24 Hours

On 24 October 2023, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that Israeli airstrikes killed 704 Palestinians, including 305 children, within the past 24 hours. This marked the highest daily fatality count in the ongoing hostilities, worsening the dire humanitarian crisis. As of that date, the total Palestinian death toll in Gaza had risen to a shocking 5 791, with 68 per cent being women and children. An estimated 1 550 individuals, including 870 children, remained missing under the rubble of demolished buildings. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) issued a dire warning that without immediate access to fuel supplies, they would halt all operations from 25 October. Gaza’s healthcare system was strained, with hospitals and clinics closing due to hostilities and fuel shortages. The World Health Organization delivered medical supplies, but the scale was far from sufficient for Gaza’s 2.2 million residents. The situation was dire for over 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gaza, with overcrowded shelters. In the West Bank, Israeli forces and settlers killed 95 Palestinians, including 28 children, since 7 October. This ongoing crisis in Gaza and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict underscored the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire and comprehensive humanitarian assistance to alleviate the mounting suffering and devastation.


UNHCR: New Report Highlights 114 Million Forcibly Displaced Worldwide 

On 25 October 2023, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced that 114 million people had been displaced globally at the end of September 2023 due to war, persecution and human rights violations. According to the Mid-Year Trends Report of UNHCR, the leading causes of mass displacement were war in Ukraine and conflict in Sudan, while a combination of drought and floods in the Horn of Africa and continuous humanitarian crises in Afghanistan. According to the report, which analysed the forced displacement during the first six months, 110 million had been forcibly displaced worldwide by the end of June. The UNHCR has estimated that the number of people forcibly displaced increased by 4 million. Over 404 000 refugee returns have been recorded so far, more than double the returns recorded in 2022. While 2.7 million internally displaced people have returned home during the same period, the number of refugees resettling has also increased. 


USA: Strikes by Militants Linked to Iran Injures Dozens of Soldiers in US Bases in Syria and Iraq

On 26 October 2023, the Guardian reported that the United States military carried out airstrikes against two Iranian facilities in eastern Syria. The facilities were used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the groups it backs. According to Lloyd Austin, US defence secretary, the airstrikes were a response to a “series of ongoing attacks” against the US personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia. The airstrikes on US bases in Iraq and Syria have increased as Islamist militia linked to Iran has continued to attack them. There have been more than a dozen airstrikes on the US bases in both regions, and 24 US soldiers have been wounded. The White House said on 23 October that an increase in rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups on US bases had been witnessed, fearing the “escalation of these attacks”. Charles Lister, the director of Syria and countering terrorism and extremism programmes at the Middle East Institute in Washington, urged that the attacks highlighted the extensive network of “well-armed, aggressive and well-coordinated proxies” Iran had across the region. 


EU: Leaders Call for “Humanitarian Corridors and Pauses” to Provide Access to Essential Aid to Palestinians

On 26 October 2023, according to the Guardian, leaders of the 27 European Union member states unanimously called for “humanitarian corridors and pauses” in Gaza to allow the movement of aid and essential supplies to reach Palestinians. The leaders in the joint declaration expressed their “gravest concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza” while calling for continuous and “unhindered” humanitarian access to those in need in the region. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, announced that the bloc would send two more flights of humanitarian cargo to the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian side by 27 October and signed a €40 million contract with the UN agencies to triple its humanitarian aid. EU leaders have stated that they would work closely with regional partners to ensure that terrorist organisations do not abuse humanitarian assistance. 



Pakistan: In Latest Move to Expel Undocumented Migrants, Country to Set Up Deportation Centres 

On 26 October 2023, Al-Jazeera reported that Pakistan has been setting up deportation centres in its latest move to implement the planned expulsion of undocumented migrants, including 1.7 million Afghans. Jan Achakzai, spokesman for the southwestern Baluchistan government, stated that three deportation centres were being set up. From 1 November 2023, the authorities would track and arrest foreigners staying in the country without any registration or documents, sending them to temporary centres. According to Sarfraz Bugti, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, no deadline extensions would be provided while highlighting that no migrants living without authorisation in the country would be mistreated after their arrest. He also stated that migrants were allowed to take a maximum of 50 000 Pakistan rupees out of the country. The crackdown would not affect the 1.4 million Afghans registered as refugees. The UN and the United States have appealed to Pakistan to reconsider its move, as it may result in human rights violations and separation of families.



Israel: As Airstrikes by IDF Intensify, Communication in Gaza Disrupted and Civilians from Northern Gaza Urged to Move South

On 28 October 2023, it was reported that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) released an urgent message calling for residents of northern Gaza to evacuate and relocate south. An IDF spokesperson, in a video message, urged that moving back to northern Gaza would only be possible once hostilities come to an end, calling the appeal to move southwards as an “urgent plea”. Israel has further announced the expansion of its military operation and has shut down communication in Gaza, causing a blackout of information in Gaza. 1 500 underground targets were hit by Israeli fighter jets overnight in northern Gaza, with Palestinian telecom provider Paltel stating that “complete disruption” of internet, cellular and landline services have been caused as a result of the airstrikes. More than 7 300 Palestinians have now been killed in the airstrikes. 



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