MONTHLY WRAP APRIL 2023
The Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, H.E. Mr. Sergey V. Lavrov. They discussed the war in Ukraine, as well as the situations in Afghanistan and Syria. With regard to the “Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian Ports” (also referred to as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, BSGI), the Secretary-General expressed concerns about the recent obstacles encountered by the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in its daily operations. He presented the Foreign Minister with a letter to President Vladimir Putin, outlining a proposed way forward aimed at the improvement, extension and expansion of the BSGI, taking into account positions recently expressed by the parties and the risks posed by global food insecurity. A similar letter has been addressed to the two other signatories to the agreement. The Secretary-General also took note of the concerns expressed by the Russian Federation on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the Secretariat of the United Nations on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world markets. He provided a detailed report on the progress already achieved in this regard and reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to continue working to address remaining issues. The Secretary-General also updated Foreign Minister Lavrov on the efforts of the Secretariat to address host country issues, notably in relation to visas for Russian officials.
UN HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN SUDAN
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan issued a strong statement on 21 April 2023 calling on both sides in the military power struggle to “implement humanitarian pauses” allowing civilians and aid workers to access essential supplies. “I am horrified by the toll the clashes are having on civilians”, said Abdou Dieng. “At least 331 people have been killed nationwide, including five aid workers, and nearly 3,200 have been injured.”The fighting between troops from the national army and a powerful rival militia known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted six days ago, and has had a devastating impact on civilian life and the major on-going humanitarian aid operation across Sudan. Latest news reports indicate that bombing, shelling and gunfire have continued unabated, especially in the capital Khartoum, and the UN migration agency, IOM, reported on Friday that one of its staff members had become a victim of the violence.
UN HIGHT COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
New tools must be deployed to keep the global spotlight on ongoing gross violations and crimes against humanity in Libya and serve justice to its victims, the UN rights chief said on Monday at the Human Rights Council’s latest session. In its final report, the FFM (Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya) recommended that the UN Human Rights Office establish a distinct and autonomous mechanism with an ongoing mandate to monitor and report on gross human rights violations in Libya, with a view to supporting Libyan reconciliation efforts, and assisting the Libyan authorities in achieving transitional justice and accountability.
On 15 April 2023, on the occasion of World Art Day, the online forum “Art & Human Dignity: Human Rights and Healing Arts for a Culture of Peace” was held, organized by Dr Guila Clara Kessous Under the patronage of UNESCO, in collaboration with the Jameel Arts & Health Lab in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Peace Education Network (GPEN). This aims to examine the positive impact of the arts in promoting global peace, human rights, health, and well-being. Moreover, aligned with UNESCO’s mandate to promote the arts as a bridge across cultures, ideologies, languages and geographies, reflects the crucial use of arts as an enabler for healing and social cohesion, contributing to consolidating a culture of peace.
On 19 April 2023, the Provisional agenda of the 216th session of the Executive Board (216 EX/1) have been published on the UNESCO site and will be examined by the Executive Board at the beginning of its 216th session. According to the agenda, in the future session will be follow up decisions and resolutions adopted by the Executive Board and the General Conference at their previous sessions about elimination of racial discrimination, racial hatred and racial hate crimes in the world, about the implementation of the Road to Peace initiative as a complement to the existing programme on racism and discrimination. Moreover, it will be present a plan of action based on the proposal of the International Scientific Committee (ISC) in relation to the project “Routes of Enslaved Peoples: Resistance, Liberty and Heritage”. In addition, it is on the agenda the UNESCO’s actions and emergency assistance programme for Ukraine and the report on the progress achieved on the outcomes of the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – MONDIACULT 2022.
A group of experts from all regions of the world met in Stockholm, Sweden, from 19 to 21 April 2023 to explore how to share good safeguarding experiences of living heritage more broadly and how to bring to the fore the voices of communities and their aspirations for safeguarding their living heritage. During the global reflection on the listing mechanisms of the 2003 Convention (2018-2022), the sixteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee in 2021 (Decision 16.COM 14) decided to launch a separate reflection to explore the full potential of Article 18 of the Convention, which provides that the ‘Committee shall periodically select and promote national, sub-regional and regional programmes, projects and activities for the safeguarding of the heritage which it considers best reflect the principles and objectives of this Convention.’
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
The Assembly of States Parties will elect six judges of the International Criminal Court at its twenty-second session from 4 to 14 December 2023. Paragraph 9 of the due diligence process provides that ‘For the purposes of this due diligence process, “misconduct” refers to human rights violations, incidents of harassment, including sexual harassment, abuse of authority, discrimination and bullying in the workplace, as well as other ethical or legal breaches of a serious nature such as fraud or corruption.’
On 25 April 2023, judge Piotr Hofmański, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Catherine De Bolle, the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation – Europol, signed a Working Arrangement at Europol Headquarters in The Hague. The Arrangement provides a legal framework to establish cooperative relations between the ICC and Europol, for the two institutions to enhance their cooperation and encourage the exchange of information, knowledge, experience and expertise. Under this arrangement, the cooperation may include the exchange of specialist knowledge, evidence gathering, information on criminal investigation procedures, information on crime prevention methods, the participation in training activities as well as providing advice and support in individual criminal investigations.
Thaci and three co-defendants face 10 counts of persecution, murder, torture and enforced disappearance of people during and in the aftermath of the 1998-99 uprising that ultimately brought Kosovo’s independence from Serbia and made him a hero among many compatriots at home and abroad. The four defendants, all top leaders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrilla and later of the small Balkan country’s peacetime politics, all pleaded not guilty shortly after the hearings began. Prosecutor Alex Whiting said the four had targeted political opponents, Serb and Roma ethnic minorities, imprisoning hundreds of people across Kosovo in appalling conditions and killing 102.
This decision opens the way, for the first time in France, to the trial of very high officials of the Syrian repressive apparatus: Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian secret services and close adviser to Bashar al Assad, Jamil Hassan, director of the Air Force and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, head of investigations of the aforementioned service at the Mezzeh military airport in Damascus. In October 2016, Obeida Dabbagh – brother and uncle of the disappeared – FIDH and LDH, with the support of SCM, filed a complaint to report the November 2013 unjustified arrest of Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh. The father and son had been taken to the Mezzeh military airport detention center in Damascus, known for its inhumane conditions of detention and the brutality of its torture sessions. After their arrests, the family of Mazzen and Patrick Dabbagh had no information about their whereabouts. Only in July 2018 were the death certificates released for Patrick and Mazzen Dabbagh who, according to the Syrian authorities, died in January 2014 and November 2017 respectively.
The United Nations Human Rights Council overwhelmingly voted in favour on Tuesday of extending the mandate of an investigative body probing possible war crimes committed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.Twenty-eight countries voted in favour of extending the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine by a year.
Russia, which refused to address the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, vigorously denies committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine.
Delegates sitting on the UN commission discussed whether a new convention on crimes against humanity would fill the gaps in the current international legal framework and whether such an instrument, based on the draft articles of the International Law Commission, should build on existing texts , including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and international conventions addressing genocide and torture. During the meeting, many delegations also paid tribute to Mr. Ferencz, addressing the complex issue of not only defining crimes against humanity, but also debating the best approach to ensure the prevention and prosecution of such crimes.
The seven members of the Eurojust-supported joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine have agreed to not only investigate alleged war crimes, but also crimes of genocide committed in Ukraine. Assistant Attorney General Gentile said that in mid-April, in Vilnius, Lithuania, he had the honor of meeting with the Joint Investigation Team of Ukraine, which is investigating major international crimes committed in Ukraine.” One of the main items on the agenda of the coordination meeting concerned the stages of implementation of the ICPA and the future working arrangements. The ICPA will be part of the existing support structure for the JIT at Eurojust, with a specific focus on supporting and scaling up investigations into the crime of aggression.
Maric, 63, extradited to Croatia on April 5, will stand trial along with 11 others. He allegedly committed attacks on civilian detainees in the Baranja area in 1991, which at that time was occupied by separatist Serbian forces and part of the autonomous region unrecognized Serb of Krajina.
Maric was tried for the same offenses and acquitted in 2017 after being extradited from Britain for the first time (where he has lived for more than 25 years). But the Croatian Supreme Court overturned the verdict due to a “significant procedural violation” and remanded the case to a new trial, so he was extradited again.
EUROPEAN PUBLIC PROSECUTOR OFFICE
On behalf of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), the State Police of Latvia on the 26 April 2023 carried out searches in 10 locations and arrested eight suspects, in an investigation into a €2.5 million fraud involving agricultural funds.The searches were carried out in the premises of companies and residences of the suspects under investigation, located in three municipalities of the Zemgale region (Latvia), and were executed by the State Police of Latvia – 2nd Division of the Economic Crime Combating Department of the Main Criminal Police Department (Valsts policijas Galvenās kriminālpolicijas pārvaldes Ekonomisko noziegumu apkarošanas pārvaldes 2.nodaļa). At stake is a probe into fraud involving EU funds for rural development, amounting to €2.5 million. The investigation established that, within the framework of four projects to build new infrastructure for companies, supervised by the Rural Support Service of the Republic of Latvia, multiple fictitious procurement procedures were organised. The timely investigation, carried out jointly by the EPPO and the State Police of Latvia, prevented the disbursement of funds amounting to €2.5 million to the suspected fraudulent projects. In addition, one of the contracting authorities had already submitted a loan application for private co-financing of approximately €1.5 million. Thanks to the investigation, the interests of credit institutions and guarantors, who were unaware of the suspected illegalities, were also safeguarded.
On 4 April 2023, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Milan (Italy), a judge of the Tribunal of Brescia convicted a public official of corruption.
The official was charged with having received bribes of €50 000 from a businessperson, with the purpose of softening or excluding the businessperson’s responsibilities, and those of some of his family members, from a criminal investigation. The public official was a police officer of the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza), and an important member of the team that was carrying out an investigation into a large-scale VAT fraud, which was also coordinated by the EPPO’s office in Milan, in which the businessperson and his family members were suspects. The investigation into corruption revealed that the public official failed to provide the prosecutors with relevant evidence and information against those suspects. The investigation into the large-scale VAT fraud handled by the EPPO is still ongoing. The judge sentenced the defendant to 5 years of imprisonment – taking into account a punishment reduction of one third, for having opted for an accelerated procedure. The judge also ordered the confiscation of €50 000 as proceeds of the crime, and the extended confiscation of additional property – believed to derive from criminal conduct – with a value of €473 775, having considered that the defendant could not justify the legitimate origin of these properties, the value of which was disproportionate to his lawful income and tax statements. The investigation into corruption had been initially opened by the national public prosecutor’s office of Brescia. The case was then evoked by the EPPO, but the decision was challenged by the national prosecutor. The Italian Prosecutor General at the Court of Cassation decided that the EPPO correctly evoked the case in application of the EPPO Regulation, in the first and only case of conflict of competence between the EPPO and an Italian prosecutor’s office.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The European Committee om Social Rights has published its Conclusions 2022, concerning the respect of the European Social Charter relating to Labour Rights by the Member States. Regarding the right to just conditions of work the ECSR found that in some countries the law does not guarantee the right to reasonable weekly working hours for certain categories of workers and noted that in some jobs the working day may exceed 16 hours and even be as long as 24 hours. The information provided to the ECSR on fair remuneration revealed that in a number of countries, the statutory minimum wage or the lowest wages fixed by collective agreements were too low in comparison with the average wage and did not ensure a decent standard of living. n several countries, the ECSR noted the lack of appropriate and effective redress in cases of sexual harassment, and the absence of adequate prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has called on European governments to protect foreign nationals deprived of their liberty under immigration legislation from ill-treatments and to put an end to pushback at land or sea borders. n its annual report for 2022, the CPT recalls that since 2009 it has received numerous allegations of ill-treatment of foreign nationals by police and border guards and has visited immigration centres close to borders with appalling conditions. The report calls on governments to reinforce safeguards to significantly reduce the risk of ill-treatment and collective deportations at borders. Every foreign national intercepted or apprehended at the border should be individually identified and registered, undergo health screening and a vulnerability assessment, and be offered the opportunity to apply for asylum.
The Committee of experts on the protection of the environment through criminal law held its first meeting in Strasbourg. The Committee has emphasised that environmental crime has been growing at 2-3 times the rate of the global economy, with proceeds from environmental offences being on the same scale as other financial crimes. On 23 November 2022, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the Terms of Reference for a new Committee of Experts on the Protection of the Environment though Criminal Law (PC-ENV).
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The 30th March the Chamber judgement in the case J.A. and Others v. Italy, the ECHR held, unanimously, the there have been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 5 § 1, 2 and 4 (right to liberty and security) and Article 4 of Protocol no. 4 (prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The case concerned the applicants’ presence at the “hotspot” on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they had been taken having been rescued by an Italian ship in the Mediterranean Sea, and their later removal to Tunisia. The Court found in particular that the Government had failed to rebut the allegations that the conditions at the hotspot had been inadequate; that their presence there was deemed to be detention which had neither been a result of an official order, nor had it been a limited period to clarify their situation or to send them elsewhere, as required by law; and that their situations had not been individually assessed before their being issued with refusal-of-entry orders, which had effectively amounted to collective expulsion.
In the inter-State case Georgia v. Russia the Court has unanimously declared the application admissible. The case concerns the alleged deterioration of the human-rights situation along the administrative boundary lines between Georgian-controlled territory and Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was lodged by the Government of Georgia on 22 August 2018. It is the fourth Georgia v. Russia inter-State application. There have been three other applications lodged by Georgia against Russia before the Court. There are also almost 250 individual applications before the Court against Georgia, against Russia or against both States concerning the armed conflict in 2008 or the process of “borderisation” which started in 2009.
COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on a question referred for a preliminary ruling by the Higher Court of Bamberg, concerning, on the one hand, the validity of art. 55(1). Letter b) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement, and on the other hand, the interpretation of Articles. 54 and 55 of the CISA, as well as Articles. 50 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, on the subject of ne bis in idem, confirming the possibility of derogating from the same in the cases provided for by law.
On 5 April 2023, the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Regulation on the transfer of criminal proceedings between Member States. Increasing cross-border crime has led to more and more cases where several Member States have jurisdiction to prosecute the same case. Parallel or multiple prosecutions can be inefficient and ineffective, but also possibly detrimental to the rights of the individuals concerned as a person may not be prosecuted or punished for the same offence twice. This proposal will therefore help prevent duplications of proceedings and avoid cases of impunity where surrender under a European Arrest Warrant is refused. Furthermore, it will help ensure that criminal proceedings are conducted in the best-placed Member State, for example, in the State where the major part of the crime occurred.
In the biggest operation about firearms ever coordinated by INTERPOL, authorities in Central and South America have made 14260 arrests and seized over 8000 illicit firearms and over 300000 rounds of ammunition. This traffic is closely associated with the proliferation of a wide range of other crimes, such as drug smuggling. During the operation, INTERPOL agents rescued 11 victims in Paraguay, dismantling a human trafficking ring.
The Brazilian Federal Police arrested a suspect member of an organized criminal group involved in document fraud and migrant smuggling. The Iranian national has been in INTERPOL’s radar since the beginning of 2021. The man sold fake passport to migrants for prices between 30,000 and 60,000 USD.
EUROPEAN ANTI-FRAUD OFFICE
On 24-25 April 2023, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (MPI-CSL) welcomed 80 legal practitioners and academics to Freiburg, Germany, for a conference dedicated to legal anti-fraud research. The Union Anti-Fraud Programme (UAFP in short) is a line of EU funding that is managed by OLAF on behalf of the Commission to support the fight against fraud at national level. The national associations on the protection of the EU’s financial interests/European criminal law form a unique network that has been bringing together academics and practitioners from all over Europe since the beginning of the 1990s. Discussions and presentations focused on recent anti-fraud legal studies – for example, on the EU anti-fraud legal framework; on procedural rules and on evidence in criminal and administrative anti-fraud investigations; on cooperation and information exchange between authorities. OLAF also updated attendees on the Union Anti-Fraud Programme. Special mention was given during the conference to eucrim, a one-stop platform for legal professionals in the field to access and share information.
EUROPEAN UNION AGENCY FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE COOPERATION
On 21 april 2023, The Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms Věra Jourová, visited the Agency to discuss Eurojust’s work towards accountability for Ukraine. Since the onset of the Russian invasion, Eurojust has been actively supporting the international efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine. Today’s talks between Ms Jourová and Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran focused on the upcoming International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA) and the Agency’s contributions to the EU Freeze and Seize Task Force.
The seven members of the Eurojust-supported joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine have agreed to not only investigate alleged war crimes, but also crimes of genocide committed in Ukraine. Joint investigation team to also investigate genocide crimes in UkraineIn a working meeting of the JIT that took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, during 13-14 April, the JIT also welcomed the U.S. Department of Justice’s pledge to second a prosecutor to the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA).