Morning Massacre in Mozambique

By: Alexis Eka

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

PALMA, Mozambique – On March 29, 2021, hundreds of people remain missing several days after an Islamic State (ISIS) associated group referred to as Al-Shabab raided Palma in Mozambique’s northern province near Cabo Delgado. Since March 25, 2021, there has been an increase in violence when this group raided the gas-rich town of Palma. There has been a recent increase in killings and wounding, subsequently causing the flight of a numerous number of civilians. Several hundreds of militants invaded Palma targeting shops, banks, and military barracks.

Mozambican army soldiers patrol the street of Mocimboa da Praia in March 2018. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.

The attack in Palma began hours after Mozambique’s government and Total, the French oil and gas company, announced that they would continue work outside of the Provenience on the natural gas project near Mozambique’s northeastern border with Tanzania. Palma Provenience is a large gas project run by a France energy giant. As a result of this violence, approximately 200 workers sought shelter in the Palma hotel. News reports state that many people were running and shooting, alluding to the fact that Al-Shabab was present.  Omar Saranga, a representative for Mozambique’s defense department, expressed to journalists that “[o]n March 24, a group of terrorists penetrated the headquarters of Palma village and unleased actions that culminate with the assassination of dozens of defenseless people including both locals and foreigners working in the region.”

The violence has left more than 2,500 people dead and approximately 700,000 displaced and severely injured since the beginning of the insurgency in 2017. Reports from the media and witnesses from Palma indicate that many citizens have been beheaded and their remains lie along the streets of the Palma provenience. Phone lines to Palma have been down; therefore, making it difficult to obtain information.

Mozambican civilians continue to look to their governmental authorities to ensure their safety and security. Security forces and resources deployed to Palma have been advised to respect humanitarian law and to maintain all civilians in their custody with decency and humanely.

For further information, please see: 

AP News – Rebels besiege town in northern Mozambique for fifth day – 29 Mar. 2021

BBC – Mozambique Dozens dead after militant assault on Palma – 29 Mar. 2021

CNN – Foreigners and locals among dozens killed in Mozambique terror attack – 29 Mar. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Mozambique: Protect Residents Fleeing Northern Town – 26 Mar. 2021  

Human Rights Watch – Hundreds Missing After Mozambique Attack – 29 Mar. 2021

NPR – Insurgents Kill Dozens In Attack On Natural Gas Complex in Mozambique – 29 Mar. 2021


Ireland Signals Continued Commitment to ICC through Artwork Donation

By: Jamie McLennan

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On March 18, 2021, the Ambassador of The Netherlands and the Ambassador of Ireland unveiled a new artwork that will stand at the International Criminal Court. The newly elected ICC President, Judge Piotr Hofmanski accepted the sculpture at a ceremony. President Judge Piotr Hofmanski will serve as President for a three-year term, alongside two other Vice Presidents. Responsibilities of the ICC President include attendance of all ceremonial events of the ICC, including the unveiling of such art.

President Judge Hofmanski and Ambassador Kelly at the ICC. Photo Courtesy of the ICC.

The ICC holds a series of art pieces from other member countries that reflect each country’s cultural heritage and the international community’s fight against impunity. The donated artwork includes of the Government of Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, and The Netherlands.

The newly donated artwork is a set of two green benches sculpted by Irish artist Fergus Martin. The benches titled “Oak” were placed alongside the Court’s landscape and signify an oak tree’s strength, a traditional symbol of justice in Ireland. 

Ireland has a longstanding relationship with the ICC. In 1998, the country signed the Court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, and ratified their membership in 2002. Despite recent criticism of the ICC, Ireland vocalizes their support of the Court by commissioning the art piece.

As one of the founding State Parties, Irish Ambassador Kevin Kelly spoke about the importance of peace and justice to achieve stability and development. He also spoke about Ireland’s continual approval of the ICC and their commitment to ending impunity for those who commit grave crimes against humanity. Kelly commended the many victorious cases of the ICC that punished individuals involved in war crimes and genocide.

In response, President Judge Piotr Hofmanski thanked Ireland for its generosity to the ICC and other related institutions. Since 2004, Ireland has donated nearly 1.3 million euros for the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV). The TFV advocates and assists the most vulnerable victims of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The fund provides court-ordered reparation awards and other payments for victims of genocide and war crimes.

Ambassador Kelly promised that Ireland would continue to aid and support the ICC in its endeavor for peace, justice, and mediation. 

For further information, please see:

ICC – Ireland Continues its Support of Reparative Justice – 14 Dec. 2020

ICC – Irish Delegation Unveils Artwork Donation – 18 Mar. 2021

ICC – New ICC Presidents Elected for 2021-2024  – 11 Mar. 2021

ICC Closes Preliminary Examination into War Crimes Committed by British Troops in Iraq

By: Rebecca Buchanan

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On December 9, 2020, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) closed the preliminary examination into alleged war crimes committed by British troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2008. The Prosecutor’s decision to close this examination marks an end to a long and tumultuous push for justice by Iraqi civilians and international human rights organizations.

British Troops in Iraq during Operation Telic. Photo Courtesy of Anadolu Agency.

The preliminary examination into the situation in Iraq was filed in 2004 but was closed by the ICC on February 9, 2006, when it failed to unearth a sufficient number of claims to meet the gravity threshold of the Rome Statute. The requirements of the gravity threshold established in Article 17(1)(d) of the Rome Statute are indistinct. Historically, the Court has considered whether the alleged conduct is systematic or large scale, the number and severity of the complaints, and the position of the persons or institutions responsible for the harm.

On May 13, 2014, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the re-opening of the Iraq/United Kingdom examination after reports from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) alleged that the detainee abuse, rape, and torture by British troops in Iraq was widespread and systematic. In its 2017 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor announced that the examination had yielded enough evidence to believe that members of the British armed forces had committed war crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction against Iraqi civilians in their custody.

The Final Report on the Situation in Iraq/UK issued by the Office of the Prosecutor on December 9, 2020 affirmed the findings of the 2017 report. The Prosecutor underscored the believability of the allegations of willful killing, murder, torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, and rape and sexual violence by British forces against Iraqi detainees. The Final Report highlighted the failure of the British Government to effectively address these reports at the time of the alleged offenses and noted the Army’s “lack of genuine effort” to carry out active investigations during the conflict. The report stated that ongoing national efforts to investigate and prosecute these crimes were largely insufficient.

According to the Prosecutor, the decision to close the preliminary examination was an issue of the charter, not of the sufficiency of evidence. The Rome Statute allows the ICC to pursue an investigation only if evidence shows that no relevant proceedings have been undertaken by the responsible nation, or that proceedings have been disingenuous as a result of the Nation’s unwillingness to prosecute or its desire to protect perpetrators from justice. Although the nature, severity, and prevalence of the crimes committed by British troops fell within the ICC’s jurisdiction, the Prosecutor could not find sufficient evidence that the United Kingdom was disingenuous or obstructionist in its domestic proceedings.

This decision has angered the international community. Human Rights Watch said the decision not to open an investigation would “fuel perceptions of an ugly double standard in justice, with one approach for powerful states and quite another for those with less clout.” Amnesty International called the decision a “road-map for obstructionism” that “rewards bad faith and delays” in the prosecution of war crimes. In the conclusion of the Final Report, the ICC Prosecutor noted that although the UK’s domestic legal process fell short of unwillingness or disingenuity, there “continue to be areas of concern.”

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – ICC Decision on UK Military in Iraq Rewards Obstructionism – 10 Dec. 2020

Human Rights Watch – United Kingdom: ICC Prosecutor Ends Scrutiny of Iraq Abuses – 10 Dec. 2020

International Crimes Database – Gravity Threshold Before the International Criminal Court: An Overview of the Court’s Practice – Jan. 2016

International Criminal Court – Preliminary Examination Iraq/UK Closed – 9 Dec. 2020

International Criminal Court – Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, Re-opens the Preliminary Examination of the Situation in Iraq – 13 May 2014

International Criminal Court – Situation in Iraq/UK Final Report – 9 Dec. 2020

Freedom of Assembly and Expression Threatened in Senegal as Protesters are Beaten and Killed in Response to the Arrest of Prominent Opposition Leader, Ousmane Sonko

By: Chiara Carni

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

DAKAR, Senegal –  Protests arose on March 3, 2021, after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko over rape allegations. Ousmane Sonko has denied the rape accusations and believes that his arrest was a political move called for by President Macky Sall and Sall’s government. Subsequently, Senegalese activists called for protests over a three-day period to combat the arrest of the opposition leader. “The Movement for the Defense of Democracy (M2D), a coalition of groups demanding change in the West African nation, announced the decision in a press conference.”  The press conference also demanded the release of political prisoners held by President Sall and his government.

Protesters shout slogans near the Justice Palace of Dakar, Senegal. Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch.

Following his arrest, Ousmane Sonko was charged with disturbing public order and participating in an unauthorized demonstration while he was on his way to court to respond to the rape accusation. According to Amnesty International, the protests in Senegal have already led to the deaths of at least eight individuals, some of them caused by excessive use of force and firearms by government security forces. Additionally, approximately 235 people were injured during the protests on March 5th in Dakar, and around 100 people have been arrested since March 3rd.  

Security forces fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters. Ida Sawyer, the deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said “the recent deaths and injuries of protesters should be credibly investigated, and security force members” should be held responsible for unlawful or excessive use of force. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported nationwide internet disruptions throughout “the day on March 5, making it difficult for national and international journalists, human rights activists,” and others to communicate, gather information, or report on current events.

Senegalese citizens and human rights activists are concerned with the lack of protection afforded to them by the Senegalese Constitution to protect their right of freedom of assembly and expression, and uphold the prohibition of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. The United Nations Human Rights Council has previously condemned internet shutdowns by governments and stated that human rights apply offline and online.  

President Sall addressed the nation on March 8th, calling for “calm.” He offered his condolences to the families affected by the protests but failed to mention any investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the protestors.

The Movement to Defend Democracy called for a national day of mourning on March 12th and for more demonstrations to occur on March 13th. Ida Sawyer told Human Rights Watch that “instead of cracking down on peaceful protesters, the authorities should work to address their concerns, including by advancing democratic governance and the rule of law and protecting basic economic rights for everyone.”

While it is unclear whether the national internet shortages will continue, it appears evident that the Senegalese citizens do not plan to stop the protests, citing issues including a general deterioration of the economy related to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increasing lack of jobs for its citizens and youth in particular.

For further information, please see:

Africa Times – At least 4 dead as Senegal’s opposition calls for new protests – 6 Mar. 2021

Amnesty International – Senegal: Restraint needed as country-wide protests planned after eight died last week – 8 Mar. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Senegal: Respect Free Expression, Assembly – 12 Mar. 2021


The ECHR issues ruling on COVID-19 related human rights violations

By: Ryan Ockenden

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On March 11, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) awarded compensation to Joseph Feilazoo after a nearly 13-yearlong immigration battle. In 2008, Mr. Feilazoo was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Malta for drug trafficking. He was also fined €50,000 but was unable to pay the fine. As a result, two years were added to his sentence.

Prisoners like Joseph Feilazoo are kept in detention at Safi Barracks where they are subject to forced quarantine with COVID-19 patients. Photo Courtesy of the Council of Europe.

In 2019, he was scheduled for release. He made it known that he intended to return to Spain, which is where he was living prior to his arrest in 2008. However, Spain refused his return. Shortly after his release, he was charged with violence against prison officers and was resentenced to imprisonment. The sentence was changed from imprisonment to deportation and a fine. Mr. Feilazoo could not pay that fine and Nigeria refused to issue a travel document for his deportation. Malta ultimately placed him in the Safi Barracks immigration detention center.

Mr. Feilazoo complained to the ECHR, based on European Convention of Human Rights, alleging violations of: (1) inhuman and degrading treatment; (2) denial of his right to liberty; and (3) denial of his right to individual petition. First, per the European Convention on Human Rights, Malta is required under Article 3 to provide detention conditions that respect human dignity and avoid unnecessary hardship. The ECHR found that Mr. Feilazoo was subjected to non-functioning toilets, pest infestations, solitary confinement without natural light for 77 days, no exercise, and was forced to be in proximity of people in COVID-19 quarantine. Thus, the ECHR found that Malta violated his Article 3 rights by keeping him in inhuman and unacceptable conditions.

Second, under Article 5, Malta is required to protect detainees against arbitrary interference of their right to liberty. The ECHR found that Maltese authorities had not diligently pursued the travel documentation from Nigerian officials; they essentially gave up on trying. Thus, the ECHR found Malta violated Mr. Feilazoo’s Article 5 rights by keeping him detained for a period of time beyond necessary to complete deportation proceedings.

Third, under Article 34, Malta is required to ensure that a detainee’s access to the courts and judicial process is uninhibited. Unfortunately, the ECHR found that Mr. Feilazoo had not been allowed to access his documentation which was needed to submit a complaint to the ECHR. In addition, there were insufficient lawyer-client contacts and Maltese authorities were found to have done nothing to rectify this except to blame COVID-19 for the issues. Thus, the ECHR found that Maltese authorities inhibited his right to petition.

This is the ECHR’s first ruling on COVID-19 related detention issues. The ECHR makes it clear that placing someone in unfair detention with people who were exposed to COVID-19, and blaming COVID-19 for preventing a detainee from accessing the necessary documents and legal assistance to access justice, is unacceptable. This should set precedent in the ECHR that COVID-19 is not an excuse to deny detainees, or anyone, any rights granted to them by the European Convention on Human Rights.

For further information, please see:

Council of Europe – Torture prevention committee calls on Malta to improve treatment of detained migrants – 10 Mar. 2021

European Court of Human Rights – Deportation Detainee Housed With COVID-19 Quarantine Patients, And Multiple Other Violations – 11 Mar. 2021

Times of Malta – Man Wins €25,000 Compensation For Degrading Treatment At Detention Centre – 11 Mar. 2021