ECHR Finds Russian Law Enforcement Data Access Laws Violate European Convention of Human Rights

By: Karla Lellis

Impunity Watch News Visiting Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On February 13, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against extensive Russian surveillance laws that mandated companies store all internet communications and provide decryption keys to security services upon request. The Court held that such practices violate the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, especially regarding end-to-end encryption decryption requirements.

Telegram app download page. | Photo courtesy of PhysOrg.

The ruling in Podchasov v. Russia represents a resounding victory for advocates of online privacy and free expression. The ruling considers Russia’s indiscriminate data retention and decryption requirements a violation of the fundamental right to privacy enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Russian legislation in question had forced internet companies, including the encrypted messaging app Telegram, to retain transcripts of all user communications for six months and metadata for one year. The laws also required firms to hand over any encrypted data to state security agencies like the FSB upon demand, with no sufficient safeguards against misuse.

The case was brought by the applicant Podchasov, a Telegram user investigated for suspected terrorism ties. He challenged the Russian data hoarding and decryption rules as violating Article 8’s privacy guarantee in communications. Ruling in favor of Podchasov, the ECHR found that the Russian mass surveillance regime permitted “public authorities to have access, on a generalized basis and without sufficient safeguards, to the content of electronic communications” — an unacceptable impairment of privacy rights.

The ruling underscores encryption’s crucial role in safeguarding digital privacy and free expression in the modern era. As the United Nations has affirmed, encryption is vital for protecting rights and enabling open communication on sensitive issues without the fear of unwarranted surveillance or repression.

While acknowledging that encryption creates obstacles for policing, the Court made clear that blanket data seizures and decryption mandates are disproportionate solutions that undermine online privacy and security for all.

For further information, please see:

ECHR – Guide on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – 31 Aug. 2022

ECHR Docket – Podchasov v. Russia, App. No. 33696/19 – 13 Feb. 2024

ECHR Docket – Roman Zakharov V. Russia, App. No. 47143/06 – 4 Dec. 2015

ECHR Docket – Telegram Messenger Llp and Telegram Messenger Inc. Against Russia, App. No. 13232/18 – 16 Nov. 2020

Humans Right Watch – Russia: Growing Internet Isolation, Control, Censorship Authorities Regulate Infrastructure, Block Content – 18 Jun. 2020

Phys Org – Telegram must give FSB encryption keys: Russian court – 20 Mar. 2018

Russian Federation – Criminal-Procedural Code Of The Russian Federation No. 174-Fz – 18 Dec 2001

Russian Government – Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – ND

Telegram – FAQ – ND

ICC Issues Arrest Warrants for Russian Military Officers

By: Sarah Sandoval 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer 

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 5, 2024, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber II issued warrants for the arrest of two Russian military officers, arising from the ICC’s investigation into the ongoing situation in Ukraine.

The International Court of Justice located at The Hague. | Photo courtesy of ICC.

The Court issued arrests warrants for Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov regarding their involvement in attacks directed at civilian objects, causing excessive incidental harm to civilians, and inhumane acts. These offenses are in direct opposition to the Rome Statute, the treaty which governs the ICC. The Pre-Trial Chamber II, consisting of Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, Presiding, Judge Tomoko Akane and Judge Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez, found that there are reasonable grounds that Kobylash and Sokolov are responsible for missile strikes against Ukrainian electric infrastructure from October 10, 2022 to March 9, 2023. These alleged missile strikes were carried out by forces under the command of Kobylash (Commander of the Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Force at the time) and Sokolov (Commander of the Black Sea Fleet during the time of the strikes). The strikes were either directed at civilian objects, or the damage to civilians would have been clearly anticipated and excessive. 

In a statement released by the ICC, Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC says, “all wars have rules. Those rules bind all without exception.” Kobylash, a Lieutenant General in the Russian Armed Forces, and Sokolov, an Admiral in the Russian Navy, join only two others in the list of individuals with outstanding warrants arising out of the situation in Ukraine. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation, and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, also have outstanding warrants for the unlawful deportation of children and the unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. Both warrants were issued on March 17, 2023. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that Russia does not recognize the ICC’s arrest warrants, as they are not under the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute. As such, it is unlikely that Kobylash and Sokolov will be extradited into the custody of the ICC.

For further information, please see: 

ICC – Ukraine

ICC – Situation in Ukraine: ICC judges issue arrest warrants against Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov – March 5, 2024

ICC – Statement by Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC on the issuance of arrest warrants in the Situation in Ukraine – March 5, 2024

ICC – Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – July 1, 2002

BBC – Russia-Ukraine war: Moscow ignores arrest warrants for Putin commanders – March 6, 2024


Nicaragua Files Application to Commence Proceedings in the ICJ Against Germany

By: Marya Al Khoury

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – On March 1, 2024, the Republic of Nicaragua filed an Application commencing proceedings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Federal Republic of Germany regarding Germany’s aid and support of Israel.


The International Court of Justice, located at The Hague. | Photo courtesy of the ICJ.

In its Application, Nicaragua alleges that, by providing aid to Israel and defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case has failed in its obligations to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide.” Such obligations, Nicaragua argues, stem from being a member to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Geneva Convention of 1949, and the basic rights afforded by general international and humanitarian law. Nicaragua claims that, by providing, political, financial, and military support to Israel, Germany is allegedly contributing the death, displacement, and starvation of Palestinians.

Though the ICJ has yet to render a determination on whether genocide has occurred, Nicaragua claims that there is, at the very least, a recognizable risk of genocide against the Palestinian population. Nicaragua’s claim against Germany is along a similar vein as South Africa’s case against Israel. Nicaragua, much like South Africa, is pursuing urgent provisional measures to be released by the Court while they await adjudication of the claim’s merits.  

The International Court of Justice has yet to set a date for this hearing. However, the ICJ usually sets hearing dates for emergency provisional measures within weeks of filing the case, and so, the Court is expected to set a date in the near future.   

For further information, please see:

AlJazeera – Nicaragua drags Germany to ICJ for ‘facilitating Israel’s genocide’ in Gaza – 2 Mar. 2024.

CNN – Top UN court says Israel must take ‘all measures’ to prevent genocide in Gaza but stops short of calling for ceasefire – 26 Jan. 2024.

CTV News – Nicaragua files case at World Court against Germany for aiding Israel – 1 Mar. 2024.

International Court of Justice – Application instituting proceedings and request for the indication of provisional measures – 1 Mar. 2024.

Reuters – Nicaragua files case at World Court against Germany for aiding Israel – 1 Mar. 2024.

UNRWA – UNRWA Situation Report #88 on the Situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Including East Jerusalem – 11 Mar. 2024.


IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures to Protect Three Individuals in Nicaragua Amid Ongoing Concerns Over Human Rights Violations

By: Rabiya Shamim

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently issued Resolution 7/2024, granting precautionary measures for three individuals held in Nicaragua. The resolution directly benefits Eddy Antonio Castillo Muñoz, Nelly Griselda López García, and Juan Carlos Baquedano, who are allegedly being attacked, denied access to necessary medical care, and detained in multiple prisons in substandard conditions, according to the Commission press release.

Crosses are seen on top of a Nicaraguan flag during a demonstration to commemorate Nicaragua’s National Day of Peace. | Photo courtesy of Jose Cordero / AFP via Getty Images)AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES.

The IACHR serves as an advisory body on human rights issues and is made up of seven independent members elected by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). The precautionary measures requested by the Commission include providing access to medical care and medication, facilitating communication with family members and legal representatives, ensuring the safety and well-being of the beneficiaries, and considering alternative measures to detention. These measures are intended to mitigate the risks faced by individuals and prevent further violations of their rights.

Precautionary measures are granted to highlight the urgency of addressing the reported human rights violations in Nicaragua, without prejudging any potential petitions that may be filed to the inter-American system. As required by the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, it is part of a broader effort to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the area.

Due to ongoing concerns about political repression and human rights abuses in Nicaragua, the situation has drawn international attention. The involvement of the IACHR highlights the significance of independent oversight mechanisms in ensuring that governments are held accountable for their actions and safeguarding the rights of individuals, particularly those who are vulnerable to discrimination or persecution.

In addition to the IACHR’s resolution, several organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have reported on the situation and challenges faced by the people of Nicaragua.

Human Rights Watch has reported cases of judicial harassment and political persecution targeting opposition leaders and government opponents. Similarly, Amnesty International’s annual reports on Nicaragua highlighted attacks on human rights defenders, censorship and arbitrary arrests and The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has demanded independent investigations into allegations of abuses of human rights in Nicaragua.

For further information, please see:

Amnesty International – Nicaragua – 2022  

Human Rights Watch – Nicaragua Events of 2023 – 2023

IACHR – IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures to Eddy Castillo Muñoz, Nelly López García, and Juan Carlos Baquedano in Nicaragua – 2 Mar. 2024


United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Group of Human Rights Experts on Nicaragua – N.D.





European Parliament Passes Resolutions Addressing Human Rights Abuses in China, Sudan, and Tajikistan

By: Neha Chhablani

Visiting Impunity Watch News Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On January 18, 2024, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions regarding recent human rights violations in China, Sudan, and Tajikistan. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) condemned the repression of religious freedom in China, the ongoing conflict and resulting food insecurity in Sudan, and Tajikistan’s crackdown on independent media.

Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. | Photo courtesy of the European Federation of Journalists.

According to the European Parliament’s resolution, China has engaged in systematic persecution of the religious group Falun Gong since 1999. This includes frequent unwarranted detainment and reported exposure to psychological abuse, physical torture, and organ harvesting.

On May 12, 2023, Falun Gong practitioners Ding Yuande and his wife Ma Ruimei were arrested without a warrant. While Ma Ruimei was released on bail, Ding Yuande remained incarcerated for eight months before being sentenced to three years in prison. The European Parliament’s resolution called for the unconditional release of Ding Yuande and all wrongfully detained Falun Gong and the end of persecution of all religious minorities in China, including the Falun Gong, Uyghurs, and Tibetans. It implored EU member states to pursue punitive measures for entities contributing to religious repression in China. This included banishment from EU territories, imposing sanctions, refusing visas, freezing assets, and suspending extradition treaties.

Additionally, MEPs called for an immediate ceasefire between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, as their conflict continues to be the primary driver of food insecurity and other human rights abuses in the country. In Sudan, over 5 million people suffer from emergency levels of hunger and 7.5 million are internally displaced. Recent increases in attacks on Sudan’s Masalit community have raised the risk of ethnic cleansing.

In its resolution, MEPs strongly deplored the continuous attacks on humanitarian workers and civilians and the use of sexual violence in the conflict. MEPs asked international actors contributing to the war to refrain from interference. The resolution then called on the UN to expand their arms embargo on Dafar to the rest of Iran due to the use of alleged Iranian-supplied weapons in the war.

Finally, the European Parliament adopted a resolution addressing the declining role of independent media in Tajikistan, stating that “Tajikistan’s media are in their worst state since independence in 1991.” In the last two years, Tajikistan’s authorities have incarcerated several journalists for reporting on human rights abuses in the country. The two primary independent media outlets regularly face threats by government authorities, while other independent media sources are consistently shut down.

The European Parliament condemned Tajikistan’s regulation of its media, including the closure of websites, persecution of journalists, and politically motivated sentencing of government critics, human rights activists, and independent lawyers. The resolution called for the fair treatment of the prisoners, investigations into the conditions of their detainment, release for those wrongfully detained, a safe environment for independent media outlets, increased international support for independent media sources in Tajikistan, and increased monitoring of media repression in Tajikistan by international organizations.

European Union citizens directly elect MEPs, so the Parliament represents the general opinion of EU Member States. All three resolutions passed by a majority vote, underscoring the EU’s continued commitment to protecting global human rights. The Parliament instructed its President to forward the resolutions to the other EU institutions.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera – US claims seizure of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen’s Houthis – 16 Jan. 2024

European Commission Press Corner – Sudan: EU commits €190 million in additional humanitarian and development aid – 19 Jan. 2024

European Parliament – Tajikistan: state repression against the independent media – 18 Jan. 2024

European Parliament – The ongoing persecution of Falun Gong in China, notably the case of Mr Ding Yuande – 18 Jan. 2024

European Parliament – The threat of famine following the spread of conflict in Sudan – 18 Jan. 2024

European Parliament Press Room – Human rights breaches in China, Sudan and Tajikistan – 18 Jan. 2024

European Parliament – Welcome to the European Parliament – 3 Mar. 2024

NPR – In South Sudan, People Are Dying Of Hunger As Civil War Continues – 21 Feb. 2017