European human rights court finds Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law discriminatory

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

One of the activists involved in the case speaks after the hearing. Image courtesy of AP.

STRASBOURG, France – Russia’s law that banned the “promotion of homosexuality to minors” was ruled discriminatory on June 20 by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The law, introduced in 2013, made it illegal to engage in any event or act that attempted to “promote” homosexuality to minors. Three activists were fined for violating the law when they staged pro-LGBT protests between 2009 and 2012.

The fines ranged from around 85 US dollars (USD) to upwards of 8,400 USD.

The activists were unsuccessful in their first appeals to Russian courts, where they argued that the laws were discriminatory. As a member of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR has the power to hear the cases that Russian courts refused.

The ECHR found that the activists had been discriminated against. They opined that the laws encouraged prejudice and homophobia in a democratic society. Even though the intent of the law, to protect minors, was in the public interest, the Court found that the application of the laws were “arbitrary” and lacked a clear definition.

They also found that the law served no legitimate public interest.

The Court held that the discriminatory effect of the law was a violation of the people’s right to freedom of expression. The Russian government was ordered to pay the activists almost $55,000 (USD) in monetary damages.

Discrimination against the LGBT community in Russia has been prevalent for several years. Until 1993, homosexuality was a punishable criminal offense. Until 1999, homosexuality was considered a “mental illness.”

Nearby Chechnya has also been in the news lately regarding LGBT rights. It has been reported that the republic, located within Russia, has been detaining gay men in detention camps.

Though Russia is a member country of the Convention on Human Rights, a law was adopted in 2015 that would allow Russia to overrule judgments from the Court. The law, supported by President Putin, aimed to give the country the right to ignore ECHR decisions if they “conflict” with the constitution.

The Justice Ministry in Russia has spoken out against the decision, claiming that the law did not establish any measures “aimed at banning homosexuality…or its official censure.” The Ministry has stated that it will appeal the ruling within three months.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Laws Are Illegal, European Court Rules – 20 June 2017

The Guardian – Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law ruled discriminatory by European court – 20 June 2017

Reuters – European court angers Russia with ‘gay propaganda’ ruling – 20 June 2017

BBC News – European Court blasts Russia ‘gay propaganda’ law – 20 June 2017

NBC News – European Court Angers Russia With ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ruling – 20 June 2017

CNN – Russian ‘gay propaganda’ law discriminatory, European court rules – 20 June 2017

BBC News – Russia passes law to overrule European human rights court – 4 December 2015


War Crimes Prosecution Watch: Volume 12 – Issue 8


Michael P. Scharf

War Crimes Prosecution Watch

Volume 12 – Issue 8
June 26, 2017

James Prowse

Technical Editor-in-Chief
Samantha Smyth

Managing Editors
Rina Mwiti
Alexandra Mooney

War Crimes Prosecution Watch is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that compiles official documents and articles from major news sources detailing and analyzing salient issues pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes throughout the world. To subscribe, please email and type “subscribe” in the subject line.

Opinions expressed in the articles herein represent the views of their authors and are not necessarily those of the War Crimes Prosecution Watch staff, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law or Public International Law & Policy Group.




Central African Republic

Sudan & South Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Lake Chad Region — Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon





Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)





Court of Bosnia & Herzegovina, War Crimes Chamber

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Domestic Prosecutions In The Former Yugoslavia





Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal

War Crimes Investigations in Burma

Israel and Palestine


North & Central America

South America


Truth and Reconciliation Commission



Gender-Based Violence

Commentary and Perspectives


Martial Law Continues In Mindanao

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

MANILA, Philippines – On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines declared 60 days of martial law in Mindanao. Currently, 21 million people are living under martial law. The order came after the failed attempt to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, a terrorist leader associated with the Islamic State. Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups is known for kidnapping and decapitating westerners.

President Rodrigo Duterte addressing the country. Photo courtesy of CNN.

An estimated 400-500 fighters took over parts of Mindanao and attempted to create an Islamic caliphate. According to the head of military command in Western Mindanao, the militants control around 20 percent of the town. Around 200,000 civilians fled once the conflict began and hundreds are being held hostage. Currently, 100 militants are still fighting.

The conflict in Marawi City entered its fourth week as of June 13, and President Rodrigo Duterte stated that martial law will continue. More than 180 government troops and 200 militants have died from the battle.

Recently, President Duterte stated that he is willing to extend martial law for the region and continue the battle until the militants are completely destroyed. However, according to the constitution, martial law in the country cannot last longer than 60 days.

The opposition party in the country argued that the imposed law is unconstitutional and have asked the country’s supreme court to rule on the matter. President Duterte stated that he will revoke marital law if the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. Nevertheless, President Duterte also commented that if the militants continue to attack Mindanao, he will be “forced to declare martial law again.” He went further and said that he will “not consult anybody” and there is “no telling when it will end.”

President Duterte compared his order to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former president ruled the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981 to control communist rebels. During this time, many organizations have reported that the order allowed for human rights abuses by the administration.

Under the current order, many groups also fear human rights abuses in the country as President Duterte attempts to extend martial law in Mindanao.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Duterte: Martial law in Mindanao to continue until I am ‘satisfied’ conflict has ended – 18 June, 2017

Reuters – Philippines army struggles as city siege enters fourth week – 13 June, 2017

Washington Post – Duterte has put part of the Philippines under martial law. Here’s how dangerous that can be. – 14 June, 2017

ABC – Philippines President Duterte revives Marcos-era memories in threat to extend martial law – 17 June, 2017


Syria Deeply: “De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

“De-escalation” discussions, the many fights against ISIS and renewed clashes between rebels and regime

Syria Deeply
Jun. 23rd, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

“De-escalation zone” discussions: Ahead of the next round of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana set for early July, discussions have started about foreign troop deployment to secure four proposed “de-escalation zones.”

At last month’s set of Astana talks, Russia, Iran and Turkey signed off on the memorandum to create four “de-escalation zones” in the country, including areas in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, the eastern Ghouta region in the Damascus suburbs and in the southern provinces.

This week Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkish troops would “probably be most prominent in the Idlib region with the Russians; mostly Russia and Iran around Damascus, and a mechanism involving the Americans and Jordan in the south in the Daraa region is being worked on,” according to Turkey’s Haberturk television.

Russia said it was discussing options to send Kazakh and Kyrgyz troops to Syria, Vladimir Shamanov, head of the Russian Duma defense committee, told RIA news. However, Kazakhstan denied that negotiations were taking place, adding that it would only send peacekeeping troops to Syria under a United Nations mandate, according to a statement from the Kazakh foreign ministry.

Syrian deputy foreign minister Fayssal Mikdad said Damascus is “checking every letter” of the Astana agreement and “will not allow anything thing to pass from which Syria’s enemies could benefit,” according to Syria’s state-run media SANA.

The many fights against ISIS: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their advance on Raqqa along the southern bank of the Euphrates River. The SDF pushed toward the eastern edge of the suburb of Kasrat al-Farj, in the area between the new and old bridges into Raqqa on Wednesday.

On Sunday, a U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian army warplane for the first time since the conflict broke out in 2011. The Syrian regime SU-22 jet in the southern Raqqa countryside “dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah,” according to a U.S.-led coalition statement.

The coalition and U.S. Central Command also said pro-government forces attacked the SDF-held town of Ja’din, south of Tabqah on Sunday, driving fighters out of the town. On Monday, SDF spokesman Talal Selo said “if the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa province, we will be forced to retaliate … and defend our forces.”

Syrian government allies also stepped up their operations against the so-called Islamic State. On Sunday, Iran fired medium-range missiles from its western provinces into Syria, targeting an ISIS command base in Deir Ezzor, killing several militants and destroying weapons and equipment.

Russia fired six cruise missiles from warships and a submarine based in the Mediterranean on ISIS positions in Hama province, destroying an ISIS command post and ammunition depots, and killing a number of militants, Moscow’s TASS news agency reported on Friday.

Renewed Fighting Between Rebels, Regime: Pro-government forces resumed their campaign against rebels in the southern city of Daraa on Tuesday, after a brief 48-hour cessation of hostilities. Ground clashes and intense aerial bombardments, including barrel bombs and airstrikes, were ongoing in Daraa on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Also on Tuesday, Syrian troops and allied forces launched a new offensive against Western-backed Syrian rebels, pushing into the Bir Qassab area, located 45 miles (75km) southeast of Damascus, toward an eastern desert region near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders known as the Badia. The area recently came under Free Syrian Army control after rebels pushed ISIS militants out.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

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Analysis: The Battlefield in Syria’s Southernmost City, Daraa

In recent weeks Daraa has witnessed the most intense clashes and aerial bombardments it has seen for years. Despite the plan for “de-escalation zones,” civilians in the city are likely to be caught in the newest battlefield for foreign power proxies and the warring Syrian sides.



A Teenage Syrian Refugee on a Mission to Educate Her Generation

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Why States Are Still Investing in Syria Amid Continued Instability

Reema Hibrawi,  Assistant Director at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The impact of geopolitical dynamics on the economy, potential losses incurred from the ongoing violence and containing the threat of radicalized fighters, are factors pushing countries to invest in Syria, despite the instability, according to the Atlantic Council’s Reema Hibrawi.



Crowdfunding a Stable Financial Future for Refugees and Hostst

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We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

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Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.

Another Murder of Social Leader in Colombia Adds to Disturbing Trend As the Country Feels Aftereffects of the Peace Treaty with FARC

By: Max Cohen
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BOGOTA, Colombia – Over the past year at least 41 human rights activists and social leaders have been murdered in Colombia with the number of possible deaths reaching as high as 100. The latest victim of the disturbing trend is Jose Maria Lemus, a local leader of indigenous people. Back in May the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights confirmed 14 murders of human rights defenders, a difficult process in part because there is disagreement over who is to be considered a human rights leader. The only thing people seem to agree upon is that the number of murders of human rights leaders is higher than in previous years.

Colombian protestors hold inflatables to represent the number of human rights activists and social leaders killed so far. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The attacks are concentrated in areas previously controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who famously signed a peace treaty with the Colombian government back in 2016. Since then, the power vacuum has been left to be filled by a variety of criminal groups. In taking control over these areas it is believed that a major reason for the deaths of these activists and leaders is because they are a threat to the criminals. The vacuum had such devastating consequences that in February, residents of the Choco region begged the country’s only remaining guerilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), to take over the vacuum.

Currently within the Choco region ELN is competing against the paramilitary group Gaitanist Self-defenses of Colombia (AGC) over stretches of the San Juan River, a conflict which has been going on for years. Human Rights Watch has documented evidence of numerous human rights abuses by both sides including but not limited to killings, child recruitment, planting landmines, and other threats. Approximately 1/5th of the people living in Litoral de San Juan were displaced by the violence in 2016, and during the first two months of 2017 that number went up by 1,300 people.

One of the places citizens have fled to is the city of Buenaventura, a place embroiled in problems of its own. In mid-May, there were protests by citizens of the city seeking better living conditions, which after the protesters’ demands were ignored by the government erupted into chaos. Even with the Colombian riot police in the city, and reports of looting, some peaceful protesting is continuing in the city.

For more information, please see:

teleSUR – Another Social Leader Murdered in Colombia – 14 June, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Colombia: Armed Groups Oppress Riverside Communities – 7 June, 2017

Atlanta Black Star – Afro-Colombian City Burns In Protest As Citizens Fight for Basic Human Rights – 1 June, 2017

BBC – Why has Colombia seen a rise in activist murders – 19 May, 2017

The Guardian – Colombia death toll rises as gangs fill vacuum left by Farc rebels – 18 February, 2017