Turkey: Free activists | Justice needed in Mosul | Green light for UK arms to Saudi

Director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser, and nine other human rights defenders continue to be detained in Turkey. C: Amnesty

Turkey: Activists' detention condemned

As the director of Amnesty International Turkey, Idil Eser, and nine other human rights defenders (HRDs) continue to be detained in Turkey on alleged suspicion of membership of an armed organization, civil society groups around the world have joined forces in demanding they be freed.

"With each passing day, the demand for the release of our colleagues grows louder and it will not be silenced," pledged Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch also joined the call, criticizing the incommunicado detention of the activists, who had been attending a HRD training workshop at the time of their arrest, as "a repressive new low for the Turkish state".

The 10 activists, along with two information security consultants, were reportedly apprehended by Turkish police at a hotel on the island of Büyükada in Istanbul on the basis of an unspecified tip and their detention authorized for seven days with the possibility of extension. Concerns were raised by a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the detainees were at risk of torture and other abuses after a UN special rapporteur "found evidence of widespread abuse, particularly during initial detention" on a visit to the country last year.

40 national and international NGOs added their voices to the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the prisoners, writing in a joint statement published by the World Organisation Against Torture: "Human rights work should not be criminalized. Civil society work for human rights is an important contribution to a healthy society. Holding a meeting on human rights is not a terrorist conspiracy."


Mosul: Justice needed for a city in ruin

A new report by Amnesty International has highlighted the devastating toll that the battle for west Mosul has taken on trapped civilians being used as human shields, calling for a probe into crimes committed by all parties to the conflict.

On Monday, Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition fighting ISIS celebrated the culmination of a 9-month operation to push the militant group from the northern city of Mosul. However, while a press release from the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve commended the "remarkable progress against ISIS while making extraordinary efforts to safeguard civilian lives", a parallel report from Amnesty International accused Iraqi and coalition forces of subjecting the city's population to a "terrifying barrage of fire from weapons that should never be used in densely populated civilian areas."

While in some parts of Mosul residents may begin to consider returning and rebuilding their lives, up to 3,000 civilians, including disabled people, the elderly and children separated from their families, are thought to still be trapped in the area.

"The horrors that the people of Mosul have witnessed and the disregard for human life by all parties to this conflict must not go unpunished," stated Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, who urged the rapid establishment of an independent commission to acknowledge the scale of civilian deaths and investigate potential violations of international humanitarian law. "Entire families have been wiped out, many of whom are still buried under the rubble today. The people of Mosul deserve to know, from their government, that there will be justice and reparation so that the harrowing impact of this operation is duly addressed.”

The challenges ahead were similarly addressed by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who stressed the need for accountability and reconciliation in order to move forward and urged the Iraqi government to consider becoming a state party to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"Violations and abuses need to be fully documented," he said. "Evidence, including of some 70 mass graves discovered to date, must be preserved, and legislative reforms passed so that those accused can be tried in courts that meet international standards and held to account."


Green light for UK-Saudi arms trade

A UK court ruling entitling the government to maintain arms supplies to Saudi Arabia has dealt a disappointing blow to campaigners and will result in a "deadly blow" to Yemeni civiliansAmnesty International stated following the verdict.

“This is a deeply disappointing outcome which gives a green light to the UK authorities – and potentially Saudi Arabia’s other arms suppliers – to continue authorizing arms transfers to the Kingdom despite the clear risk they will be used to commit violations,” said James Lynch, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based organization, had instigated the judicial review of the government's plan to continue issuing weapons-export licences to the Middle Eastern country, citing humanitarian concerns and highlighting the UK's Export Control Act which prevents licenses from being granted if there is a risk they will be used in contravention of international humanitarian law. The campaign's primary argument was that subsequent British arms purchases have been used by Saudi forces in the nearly 3-year long conflict in Yemen, in which at least 10,000 civilians were killed by the beginning of the year, according to United Nations figures. 

Despite "a substantial body of evidence" from various international agencies and NGOs attesting to alleged bombings of civilian infrastructure in Yemen, judges at London's high court concluded that arms transfers could continue, pointing to investigations into the allegations by the Saudi government as testament of the latter's efforts to improve its targeting processes.

Campaigners consequently announced plans to appeal the verdict, with Rosa Curling of Leigh Daythe law firm which brought the legal action on behalf of CAAT, stating: "The law is clear: where there is a clear risk UK arms might be used in the commission of serious violations of international law, arm sales cannot go ahead. We hope very much the court of appeal will consider CAAT's claim as a matter of priority. Our government should not be allowing itself to be complicit in the grave violations of law taking place by the Saudi coalition in Yemen."


ICC investigations

CAR: A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has called on the ICC and the Special Criminal Court to break the cycle of impunity in CAR that has allowed armed groups to continue committing apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity.

DRC: A Congolese military court has convicted eight soldiers of killing civilians in the country's Kasai region, with resulting sentences including two 20-year terms, three 15-year terms, one 1-year term and two to life imprisonment.

Uganda: Former Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen returned to the ICC on Monday following the trial's 3-week recess.

Kenya: Restructured political and legislative units, competitive positions and a record number of candidates vying for them have been argued as factors contributing to the country's 2017 elections being "its most interesting yet."

Darfur, Sudan: Actor George Clooney has weighed in on US sanctions against Sudan, chastising an American lobbying firm for agreeing to represent a country, whose head of state is an ICC suspect, in lifting said sanctions.

Why does Darfur need you now more than ever?


ICC preliminary examinations

Iraq: A former Iraqi army chief has launched a bid under the European Convention on Human Rights for former British prime minister Tony Blair and several other politicans to be prosecuted for the UK's involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

Colombia: HRW has voiced concerns over several justice components within the peace accord, including a provision enabling unrestricted political rights for Farc guerillas even while serving sentences for war crimes. 

Nigeria: The Igbo World Assembly has announced an intention to file a communication at the ICC regarding a recent quit notice to Igbo people residing in the north of Nigeria.

Ukraine: The Advocacy Advisory panel, a Coalition member, has submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor apparent evidence of Russian officials' involvement in crimes against humanity committed by senior officials of Ukraine during civilian demonstrations in 2013.


Campaign for Global Justice

The Danish and Cypriot embassies in the Netherlands have collaborated to launch a #Join social media campaign promoting the universality of the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, in recognition of International Justice Day

Drawing on case studies from around the world, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has helped produce a report aiming to support civil society protesting against land grabbing and environmental degradation.

How can the ICC help with these two global challenges?

French bank BNP Paribas has been accused by three NGOs of complicity in war crimes and genocide in the 1994 Rwandan genocide for reportedly approving a $1.3million transfer to an arms dealer in contravention to a UN embargo.

The ICC ruled that South Africa failed to comply with its obligations by not arresting Omar Al-Bashir on his visit to the country, confirming, for Amnesty International, that the Sudanese president "does not have immunity from arrest."

Civil society REACTS TO South Africa decision


Around the world

Italy has passed a law criminalizing torture, although some civil society organizations have criticized the law's definition as "restrictive" and not fully in line with international law.

Human Rights First has called on the US government to take action in light of reports of summary executions and a campaign of arresting and detaining men based on their sexual orientation in Chechnya.

Concerning media reports of raids, mass arrests and detainee abuses in several Syrian refugee camps by the Lebanese army has led the Lebanese Center for Human Rights to demand an inquiry from the Ministry of Defense into four cases of death under torture.


How have you been recognizing International Justice Day? Let us know in the comment box below, or tweet us @ngos4justice.