Armenia Knowingly Conscripts Sick Man Leading to His Death

By: Rachel H Sanders

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France – Armenia was found guilty of right-to-life violations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights for the 2009 death of an Armenian national conscript. This decision was the result of a protracted legal fight after the complainant brought a case for his son, 22-year-old Ashot Malkhasyan who was found to have been put unjustifiably in danger through compulsory military service leading to his death.

European Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg, France. Photo Courtesy of Aravot

The unjustifiable danger was predicated by Malkhasyan’s diagnoses of: (i) cardial incompetence; (ii) reflux oesophagitis; (iii) laceration of the mucous membrane of the cardia; (iv) Mallory-Weiss syndrome; (v) superficial gastritis and established bleeding; (vi) hiatal hernia; and (vii) Gilbert’s syndrome. Despite numerous submissions of Malkhasyan’s medical records, each highlighting the severity of these diseases, the Arabkir military commissar, A.U., initially refused to allow Malkhasyan a thorough medical examination.  In fact, the A.U. stated that Malkhasyan would be found fit for conscription even with an exam.

This A.U.’s assertion was proven true when the Erebuni Medical Centre delivered its final diagnosis of gastrointestinal motility disorders induced by psychological stress; a diagnosis which did not acknowledge any of the previous diagnoses nor the results of medical tests carried out that week by the center. Additionally, the A.U. ordered the removal of several documents from Malkhasyan’s medical records. The day after this diagnosis, Malkhasyan was sent to military service with no recourse. As a result, after approximately ten days, on July 5th, 2009, Malkhasyan died from his diseases which were later reconfirmed at autopsy.

Malkhasyan’s father brought a claim post-mortem to the European Court of Human Rights (hereafter “the Court”) after the charges he had filed against the Head of the Conscript Assembly Point Medical Commission and two members of the Central Medical Commission were dismissed as being time-barred effectively ending all criminal proceedings into the matter. An initial investigation ordered by the Minister of Defense found that, had the A.U.  and the Central Medical Commission properly examined Malkhasyan’s medical records, he would not have been found fit for conscription. Despite this, as of July 2014, the investigator had discontinued all proceedings forcing the applicant to submit multiple complaints as well as appeals to the Armenian courts. It took until June 2015 for the Court of Cassation to issue an order quashing the decision to terminate the case, which resumed in in November 2015.  However, by July 2017, the investigator fully ended all proceedings without indictments despite finding that the A.U. had overstepped his public authority.

The complainant submitted the case to the Court claiming violations of Articles 2 (right to life) and 13 (right to an effective remedy). The Court held that military authorities and medical professionals involved in Malkhasyan’s conscription disregarded his medical history which led to the decision that he was fit for military service.  Additionally, the Court found that the lengthy and ineffective eight-year investigation did not satisfy the procedural obligation imposed by Article 2. The Court concluded that Armenia violated both the substantive and procedural limbs of Article 2 of the Convention and required the country to pay the applicant 35,000 euros (EUR) in non-pecuniary damages and EUR 2,500 in costs and expenses.

 

For further information, please see:

Aravot – European Court’s judgement on the death of a conscript in Armenian army: military authorities put his life in danger – 11 Oct. 2022

ECHR – Military authorities put conscript’s life in danger by finding him fit to perform military service despite serious health issues – 11 Nov. 2022

ECHR Demands Poland Pay Pop Singer Ten Thousand Euros in Damages for Violating their Article 10 Freedom of Expression Right

By: Marie LeRoy 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – Dorota Rabczewska, also known as Doda, was issued a bill of indictment for offending two people by insulting the Bible during a television interview. On January 16, 2012, Doda was convicted under Article 196 of the Criminal Code and fined 5,000 Polish zlots (i.e., $1,021.18), fifty times the minimum provided by the law. 

Picture of pop singer, Doda, smiling at camera. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

The conviction was based on statements Doda made during a broadcasted 2009 interview. In the interview Doda was asked about her religious beliefs and she replied that she was more convinced by scientific discoveries, and not by “all those guys who wrote those incredible biblical stories” and were “wasted from drinking wine and smoking some weed.”

The government argued that Doda’s statements were blasphemous and meant deliberately to shock and insult the public. The government believed that they had a duty to protect the religious feelings and beliefs of the Poland population, who were overwhelmingly Catholic.

Doda appealed, arguing that she had not meant to offend but had made the statements jokingly, and that the conviction had been an unjust and a severe infringement of her right to freedom of expression. The government believed that Article 196 of the Criminal Code justified the interference of Doda’s rights, as she should have known that she could be prosecuted for her words.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reversed, holding that the conviction amounted to an interference in Doda’s freedom of expression right. The ECHR held that while, under Article 10, the government did meet the “prescribed by law” and “necessary in a democratic society” prongs to convict, the court failed to consider whether Doda’s statements amounted to hate speech. The ECHR noted that Article 10 could protect speech that shocked or disturbed but would become inapplicable if the statements were determined to be hate speech.

The ECHR stated that, for Doda’s comments to be considered hate speech, the court should have assessed whether her statements had been capable of “arousing justified indignation” or whether they were meant to incite hatred or otherwise disturb religious peace or tolerance. Because the lower court failed to consider whether Doda’s statements amounted to hate speech, the ECHR found that there was not sufficient reason to justify the conviction and interference with her freedom of speech, and therefore there had been a violation of Doda’s Article 10 right.

The ECHR’s reaffirmation of the necessity of court’s adhering to the careful analysis of individual rights verses governmental competing interests reinforces the fundamental, but delicate, balance between freedom of expression and governmental oversight.

 

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Polish Pop Star Vindicated Over Blasphemy Case – 15 Sept. 2022

ERCH – Rabczewska v. Poland – 15 Sept. 2022

Bipartisan Legislation Seeks to Combat Forced Uyghur Labor; No Clear International Legal Solution

By: Matthew Flug

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, DC, USA Nearly ten months after the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) came into effect, a widespread humanitarian crisis continues to unfold against the Uyghur population. The Uyghurs are an ethnic Muslim group of approximately 11 million who primarily live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of Northwest China. Since 2017, it has been alleged by the United Nations and several countries that more than one million Uyghurs have been detained in internment camps, which the Chinese government called “vocational education and training centers.” The population has reportedly been subject to large scale humanitarian abuses, including torture, forced labor, sterilization, and rape. The White House has publicly stated a genocide is occurring.

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021.
A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the No. 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Photo courtesy of AP, published in VOA News.

As a result of these atrocities, Congress passed the bipartisan UFLPA to deny the importation of goods produced utilizing forced labor. While other federal laws also bar the entry of goods using forced labor, the UFLPA specifically strengthens enforcement authorities regarding goods which originate from the XUAR. The UFLPA sets forth a “rebuttable presumption” that all raw or completed goods believed to have passed through the XUAR supply chain involved forced labor, unless US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) certifies otherwise; creating a significant “clear and convincing evidence” burden of proof for industry to overcome. CBP maintains entity lists and “withhold release orders” for designated companies and goods know to come from the XUAR, but immediate identification can be far more difficult given a variety of factors. While a step in the right direction, enforcement against companies or importers does not resolve the likely abuses taking place against the Chinese Uyghurs.

Thus far, no state or international tribunal has ruled on China’s conduct in the XUAR or the alleged humanitarian crisis among the Uyghur community. Most recently, a criminal complaint was filed by two human rights groups in the Federal Criminal Court of Argentina with claims of genocide and crimes against humanity. A similar case was recently filed with the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey. While these courts may be able to try defendants in absentia, the moves are likely symbolic and would not be recognized by Chinese authorities. After being urged to consider on more than one occasion, the International Criminal Court (ICC) declined to pursue an investigation of the mass detention of Uyghurs in 2021. This past summer, renewed calls for the ICC to investigate were made; however, China is also not a signatory to the Rome Statue and as such the Court lacks any real territorial jurisdiction.

A “people’s” Uyghur Tribunal – not a state-recognized court – was established in 2020 as an independent organization in the United Kingdom. This tribunal is led by Geoffrey Nice, who was lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia trial against Slobodan Milošević. This tribunal takes testimony and collects evidence with hopes of using against Chinese authorities now and in the future, and the US and other national government have offered to support their efforts.

 

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Uighurs in Turkey file criminal case against Chinese officials – 4 Jan. 2022

Center for Strategic & International Studies – The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Goes into Effect – 27 June 2022

Council on Foreign Relations – China’s Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang – 22 Sept. 2022

Gibson Dunn – Enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Begins in the United States – 23 June 2022

Just Security – China’s Forced Sterilization of Uyghur Women Violates Clear International Law – 29 July 2020

Lawfare – What Is the U.S. Government Doing About Uyghur Forced Labor? – 27 Jan. 2022

The New York Times – I.C.C. Won’t Investigate China’s Detention of Muslims – 10 May 2021

The New York Times – U.S. Says China’s Repression of Uighurs Is ‘Genocide’ – 27 July 2021

Voice of America – Criminal Case Filed in Argentina Over China’s Treatment of Uyghurs – 26 Aug. 2022

Vox – China’s genocide against the Uyghurs, in 4 disturbing charts – 10 Mar. 2021

Civil Unrest in Iran Following the Untimely Death of Mahsa Amini

By: Marissa Freeman

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Articles Editor

TEHRAN, Iran – The wearing or not wearing of the hijab has been a controversial topic in Iran for many years, mainly because the way Iranian women dress is very different based on their socioeconomic, religious, cultural, and political backgrounds.  The use of the hijab first became the subject of legislation in 1936 by Monarch, Reza Shah. Shah wanted women to remove their veil or “hijab” under his “unveiling” order. Shah’s vision of modernity included changing what Iranian women had to wear. As such, from 1941-1979 there were no laws requiring Iranian women to wear hijabs. However, the 1979 Islamic Revolution reintroduced the idea of hijab guidelines and since April 1983, Iranian women have been legally obligated to wear their hijab in public–including non-Muslims and foreigners visiting Iran. It is important to note, however, that the crimes of “bad hijab” or “improper hijab” are not defined by law, therefore, morality police are given wide discretion and may “crackdown” on women at their choosing. If a woman is found to be improperly wearing her hijab in public, she is usually escorted by the morality police to a class where she is mandated to sign a form assuring that she will never commit such an offense again. These women are also forced to learn Islamic values as a means of “rehabilitation”.

Protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a hijab protest in Istanbul on September 20, 2022. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a hijab protest in Istanbul on September 20, 2022. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

During the past few decades, Iranian women’s groups (and men) have protested, seeking change in the current hijab laws. Iranian women have fought this notion of “proper dress” by wearing the clothing and makeup they choose to, putting themselves at risk of criminal punishment. This resistance and unrest in Iran has skyrocketed following the death of Mahsa Amini–a twenty-two-year-old woman–while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini was accused of improperly wearing her hijab or “cover” and was taken by Iranian morality police where she was beaten into a state of unconsciousness. Sadly, Amini passed away, succumbing to a heart attack as a result of her severe injuries. Following Amini’s death, thousands have joined protest efforts throughout Iran. In response to these demonstrations, Iranian security forces have responded with live ammunition– killing, injuring, and arresting protesters. As of September 27, the death toll was 41, but this number has likely increased.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (“OHCHR”)–the leading United Nations (“UN”) entity in the area of human rights–has expressed great concern with Iran’s violent response to the growing hijab protests. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has publicly pleaded with Iranian security forces to stop using “unnecessary or disproportionate force”. Further, the OHCHR has publicly reminded Iranian authorities to “fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association, as a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” With this rise in protests and public support from UN members, there is hope among Iranians that the mandatory hijab laws will be reformed in accordance with modern belief.

 

For further information, please see:

The Conversation – Hijab law in Iran over the decades: the continuing battle for reform – 7 Oct. 2022

Deadline – Hackers Interrupt Iranian State TV News Bulletin In Protest Following Death of Mahsa Amini – watch – 9 Oct. 2022

MSNBC – Why Mahsa Amini’s death could be a turning point for women in Iran – 30 Sept. 2022

UN News – Iran: UN condemns violent crackdown against hijab protests – 27 Sept. 2022

“The Beauty of the law is that There is no Place to Hide.” Trial of Mahamat Said Opens

By: Nikolaus Merz

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On Monday September 26th, 2022, the trial of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani began in the sixth chamber of the International Criminal Court with opening remarks by the prosecution.

Mr. Said at the opening of his trial. For his role as de facto commander of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry, Mr. Said is accused of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity under the Rome Statute. Photo courtesy of the International Criminal Court.

The Central African Republic (“CAR”) devolved into civil conflict in 2012, as the anti-government militia group the “Seleka” began armed resistance against President François Bozizé’s government. As the Seleka advanced and occupied the CAR capital of Bangui, they incorporated existing institutions and structures into their organization. In particular, the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry, or “OCRB,” was repurposed by the Seleka to suppress perceived resistance to the militia. Mr. Said, having been appointed de-facto commander of the OCRB by his superiors, had full authority over the Seleka elements within the OCRB in Bangui.

Shortly after establishing a basis of control, Seleka began persecuting people believed to be threats to its power; predominantly targeting Christians, members of the Gbaya tribe, and others with perceived ties to the government of François Bozizé. The OCRB under Seleka control is accused of extorting, harassing, and abducting civilians – often without evidence or justification.

Once in OCRB custody, victims would be held under inhumane conditions, including cramped, overcrowded cells, as well as pits in the earth. Witnesses are expected to testify that the few times they could leave the cells were to be beaten by members of the Seleka. Victims were frequently tortured by a variety of methods, including (but not limited to): being whipped while having gravel on their backs (so as to enhance the pain of the whipping), having their body parts be pulled with pliers, and having their limbs bound in such positions to cause extreme agony and even partial paralysis.

The arrest warrant for Mr. Said was issued in 2019, and he only recently entered International Criminal Court (“ICC”) custody in late 2021. Following a pre-trial decision confirming the charges, Mr. Said stands accused of seven counts of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity stemming from eighteen instances of “attritional violence.” The counts include deprivation of liberty, torture, outrages upon personal dignity, and persecution among others.

At the beginning of his trial, Mr. Said pled not guilty to all charges against him.

Prosecutor Khan, delivering the opening statement of the prosecution, highlighted the resolve of Mr. Said’s victims, as well as the long and arduous journey the case has endured to date. Prosecutor Khan further emphasized the sense of justice the case invoked, which reverberated to the core principles of the ICC, saying in simple yet powerful terms “the beauty of the law is that there is no place to hide.” The prosecution is expected to call 43 witnesses during the course of the trial.

The Court will convict Mr. Said only if the charges have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

For further information, please see:

ICC – Case Information Sheet – The Prosecution v. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani – Aug. 2022

ICC – Decision on the confirmation of charges against Mahamat Said Abdel Kani – 9 Dec. 2021

ICC – Public Redacted Version of ‘Warrant of Arrest for Mahamat Said Abdel Kani’ – 7 Jan. 2019

ICC – Said trial opens at International Criminal Court – 26 Sept. 2022

IntlCriminalCourt – Said case: Trial opening, 26 September 2022 – 1st session FLOOR – 26 Sept. 2022