Weekly update: 20 June – 26 June 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 20 June to 26 June 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) – 20 June 2022
The criminal bar has voted to escalate action over the government’s refusal to meet their legal aid demands – with the first court ‘walkouts’ scheduled to begin next week. Since April, hundreds of barristers have adopted ‘no returns’ in response to the government’s refusal to uplift their fees by 25% as well as other changes. After being balloted on whether and how to escalate the action, the Criminal Bar Association announced this morning that the majority of members have voted for the highest form of escalation: court walkouts and refusing to accept new instructions as well as no returns.
China / United States (US) – 20 June 2022
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the United States government should vigorously enforce a new law that aims to prevent imports linked to forced labour by Uyghurs and other persecuted groups in China. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which goes into effect on June 21, 2022, gives US authorities increased powers to block the import of goods linked to forced labour in China. Jim Wormington, senior researcher and advocate for corporate accountability at HRW, stated that “the new US law means it’s no longer business as usual for companies profiting from forced labor in China, and Xinjiang especially”, adding that “companies should swiftly identify any supply chain links to Xinjiang and exit the region or risk violating US law and seeing their goods detained at the US border.”
Africa / Russia – 20 June 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called Africa "a hostage" of Russia's war during an address to the African Union (AU). Russia's invasion, and its blockade of Ukraine's grain exports, have sparked grain and fertiliser shortages and put millions of people at risk of hunger. The chair of the AU commission said there was an "urgent need for dialogue" to restore global stability. Western countries have urged Russia to release Ukraine's vast grain stores. The blockade has sent food prices soaring.
United Kingdom (UK) - 21 June 2022
A group of high-level British lawyers have been working privately on compiling evidence to show that one or more countries failed in their international obligations to prevent genocide against the Yazidis in northern Iraq. The lawyers, who formally announced their collaboration as the Yazidi Justice Committee (YJC), have been working over the past two and a half years to investigate the genocide committed from early 2013 by Islamic State. The group includes five international human rights organisations and is chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, formerly a lead prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Its lead patrons are the peers Helena Kennedy QC and David Alton. The YJC is expected to name three countries in a report next month when the work is complete. It would be one of the first times that states have faced the risk of proceedings being instituted against them for failing to prevent genocide, and could open up a new form of human rights accountability.
United Nations (UN) – 21 June 2022
An ex-senior UN member said that claims of sexual abuse and corruption at the UN should urgently be investigated by an independent panel. Purna Sen's comments follow a BBC investigation which revealed the sackings of a number of UN staff who tried to expose alleged wrongdoing. Ms Sen said the UN should "step up" and adopt any suggestions made by a panel. A spokesperson for the UN told the BBC it was focused on ensuring that people felt safe to report abuse. The BBC documentary, The Whistleblowers: Inside the UN, details allegations of corruption, management turning a blind eye to wrongdoing and sexual abuse. Staff members who tried to report allegations told the BBC they had been penalised after speaking out - and some were sacked.
United Kingdom (UK) / Rwanda – 22 June 2022
The European Court of Human Rights block on sending asylum seekers to Rwanda could be overturned by ministers under new proposals. The plan, being introduced to Parliament, would allow ministers to ignore the court's injunctions. It is an addition to planned changes to the Human Rights Act, and could also affect future cases involving migrants.
Ukraine / United Kingdom (UK) – 22 June 2022
Teenagers who fled the war in Ukraine will be allowed to come to the UK alone under new rules. About 1,000 unaccompanied minors had previously been left in limbo because the Homes for Ukraine scheme required young people to travel with a guardian. One 17-year-old, Valya, spent months alone in a single room in central Ukraine with air raids overhead. Valya, who is on her way to the UK, said her parents would be happy she is now safe. She left her family home in Khershon in southern Ukraine, where there has been heavy fighting, in the hope she could travel to the UK and live with a sponsor family in the Midlands.
Ukraine / European Union (EU) – 23 June 2022
Ukraine is set to be approved as an EU candidate at a Brussels summit, after the European Commission gave the green light. Ukraine applied days after the Russian invasion in February, and the process has since moved at a record speed. Its ambassador to the EU told the BBC it would be a psychological boost for Ukrainians. But Vsevolod Chentsov admitted "real integration" could only start when the war was over. Candidate status is the first official step towards EU membership and France said this week there was "total consensus" on Ukraine. But it can take many years to join and there's no guarantee of success. The Western Balkan countries of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have been candidate countries for years; in some cases for over a decade. Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for candidacy in 2016 but has still not succeeded.
Ukraine / United Kingdom (UK) – 23 June 2022
Ukrainian refugees face being sent to Rwanda if they travel to the UK without authorisation, Boris Johnson has said in an escalation of government plans to deport those who travel across the Channel seeking sanctuary. During a visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, the prime minister also urged Nato and G7 countries not to settle for a “bad peace” in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, saying it would lead to escalation by Vladimir Putin’s war machine. Previously, Johnson had said the prospect of Ukrainian refugees being sent to Rwanda under the controversial government scheme unveiled in April was “simply not going to happen”. But asked before the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) whether Ukrainians arriving by boat could face deportation to east Africa, he said: “The only circumstances in which people will be sent to Rwanda would be if they come to the UK illegally, and thereby undermine the safe and legal routes that we have. I think we are giving 130,000 visas to Ukrainians and they have at least two very good routes for coming to this country.
United States (US) – 24 June 2022
The US Senate has passed a gun control bill - the most significant firearms legislation in nearly 30 years. Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress to approve the measure by 65 votes to 33. It follows mass shootings last month at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead. The bill will now have to pass in the House of Representatives before President Biden can sign it into law. The bill is also significant because it is the first time in decades that proposed reforms have received this level of support from both Democrats and Republicans. Historically, efforts to strengthen US gun laws have been blocked by the Republican party.
United States (US) – 24 June 2022
The Supreme Court has ruled there is no constitutional right to abortion in the United States, upending the landmark Roe v Wade case from nearly 50 years ago in a rare reversal of long-settled law that will fracture reproductive rights in America. The ruling, handed down a day after the court overturned a New York gun control law, came in the case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the last abortion clinic in Mississippi opposed state efforts to ban abortion after 15 weeks and overturn Roe.
Ukraine – 24 June 2022
Ukrainian forces have been ordered to withdraw from Severodonetsk, according to the top regional official. The eastern city has endured weeks of bombardment, as Russian forces try to take complete control of the region. A Ukrainian retreat would be significant because it would leave all of Luhansk under Russian control, except for the city of Lysychansk. Luhansk, a mainly Russian-speaking region in east Ukraine, is a key priority for President Vladimir Putin. Together with the Donetsk region it makes up what is collectively known as the Donbas - a large, industrial area which has been the focus of a Russian-backed separatist movement since 2014.