Weekly update: 9 May – 15 May 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 9 May to 15 May 2022.
Guernica 37 will provide weekly media updates from the International Criminal Court, European Court of Human Rights, United Nations, European Union and other sources. Should you wish to contribute or submit a media summary, opinion piece or blog, please send to Ned Vucijak at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
United Kingdom (UK) / Ukraine – 9 May 2022
According to experts, traumatised Ukrainian refugees who have sought sanctuary in the UK may have to wait two years before they can get specialised therapy to help them heal from the horrors of war. Therapists who specialise in treating war trauma say they have seen NHS waiting lists of two years before refugees can access the specialist treatment they need.
Saudi Arabia – 9 May 2022
The Saudi Arabian authorities are using arbitrary travel bans as a tool to punish and control activists, writers and journalists by locking them inside the country, or, in the case of those living abroad, by preventing their families from travelling overseas, Amnesty International said as it launches a new campaign. The campaign, ‘#LetThemFly’, documents the cases of 30 Saudi Arabian human rights defenders who were sentenced to prison following grossly unfair trials, with travel bans coming into force as soon as they complete their sentences. It further documents 39 cases of relatives of activists who found themselves – by no official order or other forms of notification – also under travel bans, effectively forcibly separating families. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated that “the Saudi Arabian authorities’ arbitrary use of travel bans against activists and human rights defenders reflects a bleak reality in the country, where dissenting voices continue to be ruthlessly silenced while leaders speak of progressive reform”.
United Kingdom (UK) – 10 May 2022
Priti Patel has admitted that it will take time to establish the government’s high-profile plan to send people who arrive in the UK without authorisation to Rwanda, amid growing suspicion that it will not solve the migration crisis in the Channel. In a further attack on the legal profession, the home secretary blamed “specialist lawyers” as the main reason for the delays in setting up the scheme.
France / Guantánamo Bay – 10 May 2022
An Algerian preacher who spent eight years in the US-run Guantánamo Bay prison has gone on trial in France for allegedly encouraging several young men to join the Islamic State group. Saber Lahmar, a 52-year-old Algerian released by the US in 2008 and taken in afterwards by France, has been charged with encouraging jihadists to head to Iraq and Syria to fight for the extremist group in 2015. Speaking mostly in Arabic at the start of his trial in Paris, Lahmar denied having links to Islamist groups in France and suggested he was being persecuted because of his religion.
France – 11 May 2022
French judges opened an investigation into torture allegations against Interpol President Maj. Gen. Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi of the United Arab Emirates. Two British citizens, Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad, who had both been detained in the UAE before al-Raisi was elected president of the France-based world police agency, gave evidence against him at the Paris Tribunal’s special unit for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The two Britons filed a criminal complaint against al-Raisi with the prosecutors of the Paris Tribunal in October under the principle of universal jurisdiction. In January, they filed a criminal complaint directly with the tribunal’s judges to open an investigation into claims against al-Raisi. The new Interpol president was on French territory at the time, visiting the international police agency’s headquarters in Lyon.
United Kingdom (UK) – 11 May 2022
The UK has agreed mutual security pacts with Sweden and Finland, agreeing to come to their aid should either nation come under attack. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited both countries to sign the deals, amid debate about them joining Nato. The pacts also state that Finland and Sweden would assist the UK in a crisis.
Israel / Palestine – 12 May 2022
UN Secretary General António Guterres says he is "appalled" by the killing of veteran Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. He also called for an independent investigation into her death. She died while covering a raid by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. Her producer was injured. Al Jazeera said Israeli troops "deliberately" shot her. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli government fully responsible for what he described as a "crime of execution". In a statement issued via his spokesperson, Mr. Guterres called on "the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation into this incident and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
Iran – 12 May 2022
Iranian authorities have arrested a French teaching union official and her husband and threatened to execute a Swedish-Iranian man who has been held in jail for six years by 21 May, in fresh moves against foreign and dual nationals. The threat to execute Ahmadreza Djalali, a scientist, is widely seen as a reprisal for Sweden starting the trial in Stockholm of Hamid Nouri, who is accused of war crimes and murder committed during and after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Palestine – 12 May 2022
The Palestinian president says he will immediately refer the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla to the International Criminal Court. In a speech at a remembrance service attended by thousands of people, Mahmoud Abbas declared that Israel was "fully responsible" for her death. She was shot while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera said Abu Aqla was killed by Israeli troops. Israel said she might have been shot by Palestinian gunmen. The United Nations, United States and European Union have called for an independent and transparent investigation.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 12 May 2022
The closing statements in the case The Prosecutor v. Paul Gicheru are scheduled to take place on 27 June 2022 at the seat of the ICC. Statements will be made by the Office of the Prosecutor and the Defence for Mr Gicheru, before Judge Miatta Maria Samba of ICC Trial Chamber III.
Netherlands / Rwanda – 13 May 2022
Dutch prosecutors have said that a Rwandan man has been arrested in the Netherlands based on an extradition request from Rwanda on suspicion that he was involved in the central African country’s 1994 genocide. The 65-year-old man, who was not identified, has been living in the Netherlands since he was granted asylum there in 1999. He was arrested on 11 May in the town of Ermelo, 44 miles east of Amsterdam. The prosecutors stated that “in 1994, the man was an officer of the gendarmerie in Rwanda. According to the Rwandan authorities, he played a prominent role in the massacres committed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali and the municipality of Mugina”.
Ukraine / Russia – 13 May 2022
Ukraine has started its first war crimes trial since the beginning of Russia's invasion, with a 21-year-old soldier appearing in the dock accused of killing an unarmed civilian. Vadim Shishimarin appeared at a preliminary hearing in Kyiv. He faces life in prison if convicted. Ukraine says it has identified thousands of potential war crimes committed by Russia. Russia has denied targeting civilians and made no comment on the trial. Prosecutors say Mr. Shishimarin was driving in a stolen vehicle with other soldiers in the north-eastern Sumy region when they encountered a 62-year-old cyclist using a phone. According to the prosecutors, he was ordered to shoot the civilian to stop them from telling Ukrainian defenders about their location.
Israel / Palestine – 13 May 2022
Israeli police have hit mourners at the funeral of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqla, whose killing in the occupied West Bank has caused a surge of anger. Her coffin almost fell as police, some using batons, waded into a crowd of Palestinians gathered around it. Police said they acted after being pelted with stones. Footage showed a standoff between police and Palestinians gathered around the coffin in the hospital compound, before officers push the crowd back, with some beating and kicking mourners. Police said officers "were forced to use riot dispersal means".