United States Lifts Sanctions Against ICC Officials
On April 2, President Joe Biden reversed one of former President Donald Trump’s executive orders, which imposed sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, Phakiso Mochochoko. Visa restrictions on ICC officials were also lifted. The Trump measures were in response to the ICC’s intention to investigate alleged war crimes committed by all sides of the war in Afghanistan, including the U.S. military. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the now defunct policies both “inappropriate and ineffective.” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and the ICC both issued statements on Saturday, April 3, welcoming the U.S. decision.
COVAX’s Equitable Vaccine Strategy Implemented in Over 100 Countries to Date
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Thursday, April 8, “more than 38 million doses” of vaccine have been disseminated worldwide by COVAX, the U.N.- and WHO-led COVID-19 vaccine distribution initiative. COVAX forecasts over 2 billion doses of vaccines will be delivered over the course of 2021. A significant portion of these will be the AstraZenca vaccine; despite concerns over recent reports of the rare blood clotting side effects, the WHO and other health officials have reaffirmed the efficacy of the vaccine. Of the nearly 190 million doses of AstraZeneca administered globally, only 182 confirmed cases of clotting have been reported.
UN Commemorates Day of Awareness of Landmines; President Biden Will Maintain U.S. Use of Land Mines – For Now
The U.N. recognized the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4. In commemoration of the day, Secretary-General António Guterres called on all nations who have yet to sign onto the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention to do so “without delay.” 164 countries are currently party to the treaty, but the United States remains notably absent. The day coincided with a U.S. Defense Department announcement on Tuesday, April 6, that the U.S. would to reserve the right to use antipersonnel land mines in scenarios of warfare. Several human rights groups have spoken out against the decision, citing the propensity of mines to indiscriminately kill or injure civilians and harm communities.
U.S. Restores Funding for UNRWA
President Biden’s administration will restart “economic, development and humanitarian assistance” to Palestine, including $150 million dollars earmarked for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The aid includes $75 million for the West Bank and Gaza, and $10 million in peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development. This is a shift from the Trump Administration, which cut UNRWA funding by $300 million. Just hours before the United States’ announcement, Phillippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General of the UNRWA reported on the desperation of many Palestinian families, who wonder “whether [they] would die from COVID, from hunger, or while trying to cross the Mediterranean on a dinghy.”
Thousands of Refugees in Mozambique Seek Safety After Series of Violent Attacks
Armed groups in the northern province of Cabo Delgado recently engaged in violent attacks, leaving thousands of civilians stranded and in search of safety and housing. Prior to the most recent incidents of violence, which began on March 24, almost 700,000 people were already internally displaced. According to the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the U.N. Population Fund, hundreds of pregnant women have been left without access to critical prenatal care and delivery services. Further, there is deep concern that women have been targets of sexual and gender-based violence. The U.N. is working with the government to support the transportation of supplies and family reunification efforts.
Violent Clashes Between Myanmar’s Military and Regional Armed Groups Claim Civilian Lives
On April 6, in its weekly humanitarian update, the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that several thousand people have been forced from their homes as hostilities between independent armed forces, like the Karen National Union, and Myanmar’s security forces ramp up. At least 17 civilian lives have been lost due to indiscriminate air strikes by the Myanmar military, bringing the death toll to over 600 people since the military seized power on Feb. 1, although there are fears the total is likely much higher. Vulnerable populations continue to bear the brunt of the burden. Institutions like medical clinics and schools, which are traditionally protected by international humanitarian law, continue to be targeted. Further, the sharp increase in produce and fuel prices spurred by the coup’s disruption to the country’s supply chain have left the poorest populations unable to reliably access food.
Libya Failed to Hold Individuals Responsible for Kidnapping and Torture
On Wednesday, April 7, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) declared that Libya’s inaction in response to the unlawful detainment and torture of Libyan women rights activist Magdulein Abaida constituted a “clear rights violation.” On Aug. 9, 2012, several armed men forced Abaida to leave a women’s rights workshop in Benghazi. Later that day, she was kidnapped from her hotel room and detained for several days by an extremist group allegedly financed by Libya’s Defense Ministry. While detained, Abaida was harassed, beaten, and violently interrogated about her work. After her release, death threats compelled Abaida to shut down the operations of Hakki, or “My Right,” the women’s rights organization she founded. Despite Abaida filing a complaint with CEDAW in 2017, Libya has yet to hold any of the perpetrators accountable. CEDAW has requested Libya provide reparation for Abaida and to punish the individuals involved in her torture.
Several Peacekeepers Killed in Attack on UN Base in Mali
On April 2, armed attackers assaulted a U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) camp in Aguelhok, killing four peacekeepers from Chad and injuring 19 others. Both the U.N. Mission and the head of U.N. Peacekeeping condemned the attack and offered condolences to the government of Chad, and the families of the peacekeepers who bravely defended the compound. MINUSMA has maintained a presence in Mali since the military coup in 2013. The motivations for the attack remain unclear, but the U.N. Security Council issued a statement calling for Mali to bring the attackers to swift justice.
Several Women Abducted in South Sudan Released; Many More Remain Missing
58 women and children have been reunited with their families in South Sudan, and the U.N. is “…supporting efforts for the return of the remaining women and children.” The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with support from the United States and the United Kingdom, has been working for the past four months to broker a peace deal between the Lou Nuer, Murle, and Dinka Bor ethnic groups. The conflict between the groups has resulted in widespread violence and against women in the Jonglei State region, with nearly 700 women and children abducted in the last year.
Commemorating Rwandan Genocide, Secretary-General Urges Nations to Prioritize Combatting Hate-Driven Movements
In commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Secretary-General António Guterres called for nations to take up concerted efforts in defeating hate and preventing history from repeating itself. He warned that “the dehumanization of communities, misinformation and hate speech…” continue to stoke “… the fires of violence.” He then lauded the Rwandan people for rebuilding their country “from the ashes,” and noted that Rwanda is a world leader with more than 60 percent of its parliamentary seats held by women.