MONTHLY WRAP FEBRUARY 2023
On 15 February, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), with the support of the Permanent Mission of Italy, launched its new Strategic Programme Framework (SPF) 2023 – 2026, which lays the foundation for its work over the next four years.
As the United Nation system’s only dedicated research and training institute focused on crime prevention, criminal justice, and the rule of law, this new Framework ensures that UNICRI’s work is suited to the changing landscape of our times.
The UN chief and agencies serving refugees and migrants urgently called for safer travel routes and bolstered rescue operations following a deadly shipwreck that left at least 45 dead on Sunday off the coast of Crotone, Italy. The UN refugee agency (UNCHR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in a joint statement, expressed condolences for the victims and called on countries to increase resources and capabilities to effectively meet their responsibilities.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked all nations to work harder towards abolishing the death penalty, an ongoing practice in 79 countries. The biennial panel’s theme is human rights violations relating to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to limiting the practice to only the most serious crimes. Experts in criminal justice, drawing on experience worldwide, advise that the proper response rests in controlling and preventing crimes. They recommend building functioning, human rights-based criminal justice systems that ensure accountability for perpetrators and afford victims and survivors access to justice, redress, and dignity.
From 7 to 10 February 2023 was held at UNESCO Headquarters the Sixteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The Committee examined proposals to facilitate consultations with micro, small and medium-sized cultural and creative enterprises. It also considered proposals to highlight the commitment of cultural institutions and organizations to promote access to diverse cultural expressions originating in their territory or other countries of the world, as well as proposals to streamline the quadrennial periodic reporting cycle.
On 21 February 2023, UNESCO celebrated the 24th edition of International Mother Language Day, with an event focused on the theme ‘multilingual education – a necessity to transform education’. UNESCO believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity for sustainable societies. It is within its mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others.
Since the outbreak of the war, UNESCO has been supporting the Ukrainian authorities and cultural institutions to digitize their archives and collections. Considering the growing consequences of the ongoing war on cultural property, UNESCO is scaling up its efforts to support the digitization of museum collections and documentary heritage in Ukraine.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
On 3 February 2023, the Preliminary Chamber II of the International Criminal Court set the beginning of the confirmation hearing in the Prosecutor v. Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka case for 22 August 2023. Mr. Mokom is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between at least 5 December 2013 and at least December 2014. The purpose of the prosecution confirmation hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds for believing that the person has committed each of the alleged offences. If the allegations are confirmed, the case will be transferred to a Chamber of First Instance, which will conduct the next stage of the proceedings: the trial.
On 10 February 2023, the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), sitting in a plenary session, elected Mr Osvaldo Zavala Giler as Registrar for a period of five years by an absolute majority by secret ballot. Mr Osvaldo Zavala Giler succeeds Mr Peter Lewis, whose five-year mandate ends on 16 April 2023.
EUROPEAN PUBLIC PROSECUTOR OFFICE
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Milan (Italy) has carried out a seizure of more than €170.000 against Ms Stefania Zambelli, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and four of her assistants, which is part of an investigation into possible fraud involving parliamentary allowances. The investigation, led by the EPPO and carried out by the Brescia branch of the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza), concerns a suspicion of fraud detrimental to the EU budget, regarding the remuneration of four parliamentary assistants hired in Italy.
On 21 February 2023, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) arrested 17 people during an operation carried out in eight countries against a criminal organisation headquartered in Spain, believed to have orchestrated a massive €25 million VAT fraud through the sales of mobile phones and other electronic equipment. One of the main suspects in this investigation was arrested in Milan (Italy), in the scope of another EPPO investigation. During the operation, led by the EPPO office in Madrid (Spain), 39 searches were carried out and 17 people were arrested in several countries, in a simultaneous investigation in Czechia, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Milan (Italy) have seized assets and arrested six people, believed to be part of a criminal organisation, in a operation against a massive VAT fraud scheme involving several countries, with estimated losses of €40 million. At risk is a suspected VAT carousel fraud, a complex criminal scheme that takes advantage of EU rules on cross-border transactions between its Member States, as these are exempt from value-added tax (VAT).
On 6 February 2023, the Naples Carabinieri Investigative Unit seized over €50 000, in an investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) of Naples into possible fraud involving EU agricultural funds. According to the investigation, the suspect had obtained funds from the Campania Rural Development Programme (PSR Campania) for an integrated youth activity project by forging the documentation when applying for the funds.
On 1 February 2023, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) arrested three individuals suspected of being part of a criminal organisation involved in smuggling tobacco into Italy and France, during an operation carried out with the help of the Genoa Provincial Command of the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza).
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Council of Europe Secretary General, Marija Pejcinovic Buric. Proposed to the governments that the organization plays a leading role in establishing a register to record and document evidence and claims of damage, loss or injury as result of the Russian aggression to Ukraine. The information document also discusses options for setting up a special tribunal.
The new counter-terrorism strategy adopted offers new tools to continuous and emerging challenges faced by member States. It follows the efforts and developments made under the previous 2018-2022 strategy and reflects the understanding that, while IS/Daesh or Al-Qaeda terrorist threats may have diminished, there’s need to find effective means to prevent their resurgence.
The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has published a new opinion about Italy’s protection of Roma and Sinti. According to the opinion no specific national legislative framework for the protection has been adopted and the authorities’ efforts and investments did not always result in major improvement in living conditions, social inclusion and access to rights and services for these communities.
Argentina has become the 35th State to sign the Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime. The Protocol aims to ensure the obtaining of electronic evidences that may be stored in foreign or multiple jurisdictions, providing tools such as direct cooperation with service providers, effective means to obtain subscribers information and traffic data and immediate cooperation in emergencies and joint investigations.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urges all member States to adopt a human rights-based approach to eliminating all “conversion therapies” for LGBTI people, aimed to suppress or change personal sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) in the fifth evaluation report on Ireland stated that measures to prevent corruption among top executive functions in central government and police should be adopted. The evaluation notes the central role of the Standards in Public Office Commission to help prevent corruption but calls for the Commission to be given more resources and stronger powers to supervise and implement integrity standards.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities will launch a new project in Ukraine “Strengthening multi-level governance, democracy and human rights at local level in Ukraine”, as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine “Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction” for 2023-2026. The event will be an opportunity for representatives of Ukrainian national and local authorities, national associations and members of the delegation of Ukraine to the Congress to discuss the strategic orientation of the project, explore synergies with other interventions and further strengthen co-operation for enhanced local democracy.
A new updated version of the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) course is available on the HELP e-learning platform. The free course aims to assist legals professional in Council of Europe member States to effectively apply the standards in the prohibition of ill-treatment.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has published a new report about the situation in Lithuania, raising concerns over the numerous allegations of serious violences and the ineffectiveness of measures taken.
In a decision adopted during a extraordinary meeting, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers reaffirmed the need for a strong and unequivocal international legal response to Russia’s aggression. The decision invites the Secretary General to present modalities, in cooperation with Ukraine, for establish a register to record and document evidence and claims for damage, loss, injuries because of the aggression.
The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) has published its fifth evaluation report on Austria. GRECO considers that is necessary to adopt an integrity policy regarding government officials, especially when it comes to the management of conflict of interests.
The Commissioner for Human Rights stressed the necessity to establish concrete mechanisms and solutions to identify and reunite children transferred to Russia and Russian-occupied territories with their families.
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In the case V.V.K. and Others v. Russia and Ukraine the Court has refused the interim measures under the Rule 39 of the Rule of the Court. The application has been brought on behalf of ten minors who in 2014 were wards of the Ukrainian State living in childcare facilities in Crimea. The legal representative of the children submitted a request in which they argued that there were imminent risks the applicants could be adopted. The Court refused the measure on the basis that the event took place after 16 September 2022, being date on which the Russian Federation ceased to be Party of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Polish government has informed the Registry of the Court that interim measures indicated by the Court in the cases Leszczyńska-Furtak v. Poland, Gregajtys v. Poland and Piekarska-Drążek v. Poland will not be respected. The government referred to a statement by the President of the Warsaw Court of Appeal finding that there were no factual or legal grounds for the measures and pointing to a Constitutional Court judgment questioning the authority of the European Court to intervene in cases concerning the judiciary.
The Grand Chamber decided to join inter-State application Ukraine v. Russia, concerning Russian military operation in Ukraine, to the inter-State applications in Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia, concerning Eastern Ukraine and downing of flight MH17, which was already pending. The decision was taken in accordance with Rules 42 § 1 and 71§ 1 of the Rules of the Court in the interest of the efficient administration of justice.
ITALIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
The Constitutional Court, with a judgment filed on 09/02/2023, reiterated the existence of vaccination obligations for health professionals and health workers who carry out their activities in health, social health and social-welfare facilities, public and private, in pharmacies, parapharmacies and professional offices, allowing the omission or deferral of vaccination only in case of ascertained danger to health, in relation to specific clinical conditions.
ITALIAN SUPREME COURT OF CASSATION
The First Civil Section, on the subject of international protection, has ordered the hearing of the case in public, given the particular relevance of the question relating to the autonomous or concurrent relief – for the purposes of granting special protection – of the nature and effectiveness of the family ties of the applicant and his socio-labor integration in the national territory, as well as the relationship that this assessment entails with respect to the provisions of art. 13, paragraph 2 bis, of d.l.gs n. 286 of 1998, also in light of the notion of family as not limited only to relationships based on marriage, as accepted by art. 8 ECHR.