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Hello, this is Michelle, with international Geneva’s major news headlines from October. The month started with a huge win for China, which managed to quash a western bid to raise rights abuses in Xinjiang at the Human Rights Council.

Countries are now gearing up for another tough encounter this time on climate change in Egypt, as pressure from the developing world grows on rich countries to quit stalling negotiations on climate compensation. The issue became strikingly real as unprecedented floods in Pakistan caused billions of dollars worth of damages. But expectations for significant climate action stemming from the summit are far from optimistic after a UN report found this month that countries have been slacking off since Cop26.

October was also packed with conferences around key issues, from the future of quantum computing to cancer to peace. One of the leading figures of South Africa’s post-apartheid era, now the leader of a peacemaking organisation in Geneva, shares with us wisdoms from her historic battle for freedom. Another inspiring name made Geneva headlines as the UN Refugee Agency honoured the former German chancellor for aiding Syrians fleeing the war.

In the latest edition of our international crimes round-up, we bring you updates from key cases against war criminals from Liberia, Russia and Kenya among others.

photo journaliste

Michelle Langrand


The must-reads

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Mahmoud Mohieldin, Egypt's climate champion, during an interview in Cairo, 12 September, 2022. (Credit: Keystone/Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt’s Cop27 climate champion: ‘loss and damage is being ignored’. Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin rebuked nations for taking a “reductionist approach” to climate change, telling international delegates in Geneva that critical issues such as how to compensate vulnerable nations for losses suffered due to climate catastrophes have been largely ignored until now.

Kasmira Jefford

Does the right to a healthy environment need a treaty? When the former president of the Human Rights Council Nazhat Shameem Khan struck the gavel on 8 October 2021, marking the approval of a resolution recognising the human right to a healthy environment, the room filled with applause. A year later, some advocates are calling for states to take it a step further and make it legally binding.

Michelle Langrand

Libya: torture and killings of civilians by law enforcement ‘endemic’. Extrajudicial killings and torture of civilians in Libya has become “endemic”, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has warned, following reports that at least 581 people were killed by law enforcement agents and militias between January 2020 and March 2022, with the real number thought to be much higher.

Pip Cook

What happened this month

Person of the month

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Angela Merkel receives the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award from UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi in Geneva, 10 October, 2022. (Credit: Keystone/Reuters Pool/Stefan Wermuth)

A protector of Syria’s refugees. While some European countries were closing their borders to refugees and asylum seekers, former Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her fellow Germans to reject divisive nationalism and be “compassionate and open-minded” to taking in people fleeing violence. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) awarded this month Germany’s first female head of state the Nansen Refugee Award for her efforts to welcome more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers into Germany between 2015 and 2016, at the height of the conflict in Syria.

Pip Cook

International justice corner

🕵️ International criminal hunt monthly round-up. “Once again our monthly round-up is a testimony of the importance of extra-territorial cases for international crimes, with cases on Ukraine, Liberia, and Kenya making significant progress this past month.

As I type, I am with my colleagues at a Paris court representing Civitas Maxima, plaintiff in a landmark case for torture and crimes against humanity committed in Liberia. Whether it will be an acquittal or a conviction, this is the first trial for crimes against humanity connected to the Liberian civil wars. With both the government and the international community having abandoned Liberian victims for almost 20 years, and impunity still rampant in the country, such cases outside of Liberia give the victims a lot of hope.”

- Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima

Read the latest round-up here.

Interview of the month

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Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, South African politician, Quaker, radical feminist and peacemaker, became director of the Quaker United Nations office in Geneva in 2021 – and the first African director of any Quaker international agency. (Credit: Geneva Solutions/KJ)

‘Freedom is a constant struggle’. Tucked away in one of Geneva’s quiet residential areas, the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) – though located not far from the Palais des Nations – feels a world away from the imposing neoclassical headquarters of the organisation it supports. The faith-based organisation’s first African director, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, spoke to us about going from South African women rights activist to a Quaker and peacemaker.

Kasmira Jefford

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