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International Legal News - 11 March 2024

Updated: Mar 17

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 5 March to 11 March 2024.

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 for consideration.


Guernica 37 will provide weekly media updates from the International Criminal Court, European Court of Human Rights, United Nations, European Union and other sources
Guernica37 International Legal News

Sudan – 8 March

A near-total communication blackout in Sudan, following network and internet shutdowns in early February, poses severe risks to coordinating emergency assistance and humanitarian services for millions of people caught up in the conflict. The continued shutdown has limited millions of people's ability to communicate with their families, seek safe zones from fighting, access life-saving necessities, and receive mobile money services.

A complete restoration of communication services in Sudan is needed, as it is a lifeline for civilians. Over 20 people interviewed by Amnesty International have faced challenges communicating with their friends and family members since the beginning of the communication blackout in early February. Human rights monitors and defenders can also not legally document rights violations. The shutdown has also affected the work of frontline humanitarian aid providers, such as Emergency Response Rooms (ERR).

Haiti – 8 March

Haiti is facing a potential collapse as violent criminal groups threaten to overthrow the government. The attacks have disrupted economic activity, humanitarian assistance, and transportation. Regional and international partners need to support Haitians' calls for a rights-based international response, including a rights-based mission and the formation of a transitional government.

The UN Security Council authorised a Multinational Security Support mission in October 2023 to provide operational support and training for the Haitian National Police. Haitian human rights and civil society groups have called for international partners to stop supporting Prime Minister Ariel Henry's government and support a transitional government. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Claude Henry has yet to return to the country since he travelled to Kenya to finalise arrangements to deploy the Kenyan-led international security support mission.

Criminal groups have attacked two central prisons, resulting in the release of nearly 4,700 people and causing significant human and material losses. The US government has increased pressure on Henry and support for a transition, while legal, funding, and operational problems stall the deployment of the support mission.

Thailand – 8 March         

Thailand has been holding over 40 Uyghur asylum seekers in immigration detention for over a decade. The Chinese government has acted against Uyghurs who have fled persecution in China, with an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang being arbitrarily detained and imprisoned at the height of the campaign.

Since 2014, Thai authorities arrested as many as 350 Uyghur men, women, and children fleeing persecution in China. The Chinese government has acted against Uyghurs who fled abroad, with another five serving criminal sentences linked to their attempt to escape immigration detention in north-eastern Thailand’s Mukdahan province. Thai immigration authorities denied them access to lawyers, family members, humanitarian groups, and other services.

The Thai government is concerned about the adverse international reaction it faced in 2015 when it sent back the 109 others. A coalition of governments, including the US, Canada, and the European Union, are urging Thailand to release the remaining Uyghurs and allow them to travel to a safe third country.

South Africa - 8 March

Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have failed to protect women in informal cross-border trade (ICBT) from gender-based violence and economic exploitation. The report, 'Cross-border is our livelihood, it is our job', highlights the vulnerability of women in ICBT to diverse forms of abuse, combined with restricted access to justice.

The lack of robust legal frameworks and effective enforcement mechanisms further amplifies the injustices experienced by women in the ICBT sector. In 2018, the value of informal cross-border trade in the Southern Africa region reached USD 17.6 billion. Informal cross-border trade is predominantly conducted by women, comprising 60% to 90% of those engaged in this trade across subregions.

The report highlights systemic state failures in upholding the right to social security, with notable deficits in addressing the substantial care responsibilities borne by women engaged in ICBT. Governments must rectify these shortcomings and enact policies that prioritise human rights principles, ensuring the rights, safety, and well-being of women involved in ICBT.

Mexico – 8 March

Olga, a 45-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, needs a support system to study, develop professionally, exercise her political rights, live independently, and be included in the community. Since 2017, Mexican policymakers have been discussing care and support policies to address gender inequalities affecting women like Olga and older women.

Jalisco was the first Mexican state to pass a care law. Still, it doesn't align with the rights of people with disabilities and older people to live independently and be included in the community. The legislation portrays people with disabilities as dependent despite international standards for creating a respectful and rights-based care and support system. Policymakers should centre the rights, needs, and voices of women with disabilities and older women on International Women's Day.

Azerbaijan – 7 March                   

Six journalists were detained in Baku on March 6 after authorities searched the office of Toplum TV, an online news platform, as part of a crackdown on independent media in Azerbaijan. Nine other staff members were questioned and released, and the office was sealed off.

All six journalists are facing bogus smuggling charges. Toplum TV's YouTube and Instagram accounts were hacked, and all content was deleted. Akif Gurbanov, chairman of the Institute for Democratic Initiatives, was detained on smuggling charges.

In November, a similar wave of detentions targeted Abzas Media, with the platform's director, editor-in-chief, and four journalists remaining in detention. More journalists and political activists have been rounded up and sentenced to fake smuggling, forgery, and fraud charges.

Russia - 7 March          

Russian journalist Roman Ivanov has been sentenced to seven years in prison for spreading "knowingly false information" about the Russian Armed Forces.

Human Rights groups criticised the sentence as a blatant example of the Russian authorities' campaign of intimidation against those who speak out against the invasion of Ukraine or criticise the conduct of Russia's military, arguing that the authorities' punishment silenced Ivanov and sent a clear message to deter others.

Ivanov's case highlights the dire reality of freedom of expression in Russia today and the need to repeal the repressive "war censorship" legislation.

North Korea – 7 March                               

North Korea's government has sealed its northern border with China since 2020, imposing overbroad, excessive and unnecessary quarantines and restrictions on freedom of movement and trade, worsening the country's already grave humanitarian and human rights situation. The new limits exacerbated existing UN Security Council sanctions, which restricted most exports and some imports, unintentionally harming ordinary North Koreans' livelihoods and food security.

Human Rights Watch has called for the UN member states to urgently address North Korea's isolation and humanitarian crisis, encouraging authorities to end abusive measures and allow humanitarian aid with adequate oversight and monitoring. The report also highlights the government's increased isolation of the fundamental rights of North Koreans, who have long struggled to ensure food security, adequate childhood nutrition, and access to medicine.

The UN Security Council should urgently review current sanctions on North Korea and the measures states take to enforce them to evaluate their impacts on human rights and the delivery of humanitarian aid. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life in North Korea increasingly tricky, with people facing constant surveillance and restrictions on communication.

Former secret police officers, herbal medicine traders, factory workers, and traders from various regions have shared their experiences of living in constant fear and fear due to the authorities' constant surveillance. The blockade of informal trade with China has decreased rice and other essential goods, making it harder for people to survive.

Smuggling has become more difficult under Kim Jong Un's rule, with crackdowns on corruption and ideological education for soldiers. This has increased product prices, hunger, and reduced spending on necessities.

Former informal traders from Ryanggang province have expressed concerns about the potential death of people in Hyesan City if smuggling were blocked, as Chinese products are essential for the survival of North Korean people.

Zimbabwe – 7 March

Amnesty International has called on Zimbabwean authorities to reveal the whereabouts of journalist and pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, who was abducted in Harare on 9 March 2015. The journalist and activist was accused of stealing cattle before being handcuffed and driven off.

Amnesty International believes Dzamara is a victim of enforced disappearance, a crime under international law. The case is one of many in Zimbabwe's long history of abductions and enforced disappearances that authorities have yet to investigate and prosecute in fair trials.

The lack of an effective investigation sends a chilling message that activists seeking accountability from the government are no longer safe. The call for an independent, judge-led Commission of Inquiry into Dzamara's disappearance is reiterated, with the authorities ensuring the safety and protection of those with information to contribute to the Commission.

Bulgaria – 7 March

Bulgarian authorities should suspend plans to deport Abdulrahman al-Khalidi, a Saudi human rights activist, to Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch. Al-Khalidi, who has been in exile in Saudi Arabia for over a decade, has been at risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and an unfair trial if sent back there. He fled Saudi Arabia in 2013, fearing for his safety, and has since returned to Bulgaria to claim asylum.

The Bulgarian National Security Agency issued a deportation order on February 7, 2024, placing him at imminent risk of deportation. Al-Khalidi has been involved in the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (HASM) and has been involved in an online Saudi movement called the Bees Army. He has faced abuse from Saudi government-linked influencers, including calling him a "traitor" and accusing him of "treachery" and conspiring to "seek to destroy the homeland and sell it to the enemies."

Deporting al-Khalidi may violate Bulgaria's international obligations, including Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Article 33 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Bulgaria is a signatory to both conventions.

Sri Lanka – 6 March                                     

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has criticised Sri Lanka's government for handling the country's human rights crisis. He cited the 2022 protests demanding democratic reforms and accountability for economic mismanagement and corruption as evidence of the government's failure to fulfil these expectations.

Türk criticised the government's crackdown on dissent and the implementation of laws restricting civil liberties, such as the Online Safety Act, Anti-Terrorism Bill, Electronic Media Broadcasting Authority Bill, and Non-Governmental Organization Supervision and Registration Bill.

He also highlighted the government's failure to address grave rights violations and the increased poverty rate. Türk urged international financial institutions and creditors to provide Sri Lanka with fiscal space to protect social and economic rights. However, he warned that with little hope of justice for past abuses, UN member states should use evidence gathered by the UN to bring cases in their courts.

Japan - 6 March                      

Attention has focused on Japan to reform its refugee and immigration system to prevent further tragedies, according to Boram Jang, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International. Wishma Sandamali, a Sri Lankan refugee, arrived in Japan dreaming of teaching English.

Less than four years later, she died in an immigration detention centre in Nagoya, becoming the 18th person to die in such a facility since 2007. Japan is considered the least welcoming country for refugees and migrants.

Human Rights groups have urged the Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi to prioritise human rights during his second term. The "Human Rights Agenda" focuses on five key areas: rights to free expression, media freedom, peaceful assembly, protecting civilians in conflict areas, reforming the justice system, addressing corruption, providing accountability for serious crimes, and strengthening democratic institutions.

Tshisekedi's first term ended with uncertainty due to worsening violence, humanitarian crises, recurrent violations of civil and political rights, and growing mistrust in democratic institutions.

The second term presents a chance to reverse course on significant human rights backsliding and address the country's challenges. The report also calls for concrete steps to address recurring cycles of violence and restore the Congolese people's trust in democratic institutions.

Iran – 6 March

Iran's authorities are implementing a draconian campaign to enforce compulsory veiling laws through widespread surveillance and mass car confiscations, according to Amnesty International.

Tens of thousands of women have had their cars confiscated as punishment for defying Iran's veiling laws, while others have been prosecuted and sentenced to flogging or prison terms. The organisation has released excerpts of 20 testimonies from 46 individuals, including 41 women, one girl, and four men.

The campaign is aimed at terrorising women and girls by subjecting them to constant surveillance and policing, disrupting their daily lives, and causing them immense mental distress. The UN Human Rights Council is set to vote on extending a Fact-Finding Mission to investigate violations since the death of Mahsa/Jina Amini.

Women in Iran are frequently denied access to public places and services due to their headscarves, with state enforcers scrutinising their clothing and denying access to public transport, airports, and banking services. Women also report verbal abuse and threats of prosecution.

Amnesty International documented cases of 15 women and a 16-year-old girl in seven provinces prosecuted for wearing inappropriate hijab or wearing headscarves. Prosecutors and judges often threaten women with flogging, imprisonment, death, and sexual violence.

A bill aimed at codifying and intensifying the authorities' assault on women and girls for defying compulsory veiling is nearing adoption in Iran's Parliament.

Mexico – 6 March                    

A report by Human Rights Watch and the Community Center for Inclusion has highlighted the lack of a legal gender recognition procedure in Mexico's Tabasco state, which creates barriers for transgender people in employment, health, education, and access to banking.

The report reveals the socioeconomic disadvantages trans people experience due to a mismatch between their gender and their identity documents, leading to discrimination, harassment, and violence. The report calls for Tabasco to create a simple administrative procedure to allow trans people to reflect their self-declared gender identity on official documents accurately.

The report also highlights the need for Tabasco to uphold trans people's right to self-identification and non-discrimination, as many other Mexican states have already done.

Russia/Ukraine - 5 March

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash and Adm. Viktor Sokolov, two Russian commanders, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. The warrants are based on reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects are responsible for missile strikes against Ukrainian electric infrastructure from October 10 to March 9, 2023.

The ICC has served notice that those alleged to have committed war crimes will be brought to justice, regardless of their rank. The warrants are binding in 125 states, including Ukraine, which granted the ICC jurisdiction over its territory for crimes committed there since 2014.

Amnesty International has documented war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law for ten years. The international community must ensure that Kobylash or Sokolov are immediately arrested and surrendered to the ICC if they leave Russia.

Nepal – 5 March                             

Nepal's proposed bill on transitional justice, which includes provisions for reparations related to the country's civil war, needs significant amendments, according to Human Rights Watch and Advocacy Forum-Nepal. The bill risks shielding those responsible for severe crimes and denying some victims access to reparations.

The report highlights survivors' and victims' ongoing struggle for justice and calls for Nepal's leaders to agree to amendments and ask parliament to pass the bill into law. The UN special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence has identified five pillars of transitional justice: truth, justice, reparations, memorialisation, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

The current bill in Nepal provides reparations and interim relief for some victims, including victims of torture and rape. It guarantees the rights of families of victims of enforced disappearance to their relatives' property. It mandates the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to study the root causes and impact of the conflict. However, the bill excludes numerous severe crimes under international law, creating a significant accountability gap. Victims' groups call for a process that includes criminal accountability and reparations, as a lack of accountability has led to a crisis of impunity in Nepal.

Yemen – 5 March                    

Amnesty International has called on the Southern Transitional Council (STC) de facto authorities in Yemen to end their unlawful and arbitrary restrictions on the work of civil society organisations and human rights defenders in the southern governorate of Aden. Since early 2023, the STC has adopted measures that increasingly restrict the work of Yemeni civil society organisations, flouting existing local associations' laws and international human rights standards.

The restrictions include requiring organisations to apply for permits from the STC-run Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and the STC-run National Authority for Southern Media to conduct public activities or risk their activities being banned or shut down. The ministry has also denied funds or projects to organisations deemed politically opposed to the STC.

Amnesty International has said that the STC authorities are fostering a climate of intimidation and fear, restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association, and participation in public affairs.

France – 5 March                    

France's parliament has voted to add the freedom to have an abortion to the country's constitution, a historic move initiated by President Emmanuel Macron after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

This is a win for civil society organisations advocating for reproductive justice and upholding the right to autonomy, allowing people to make informed decisions about their lives, bodies, health, and well-being. However, France faces ongoing barriers to abortion care and varying access.

The newfound protection of abortion should not overshadow other areas of women's rights, such as persistent violence against women and restrictions on women's and girls' dress, which disproportionately impact Muslim women and girls.

The European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear a case brought by sex workers related to France's 2016 law criminalising the purchase of sex, which led to a spike in murders of sex workers.

India – 5 March

The Bombay High Court has re-acquitted activist and Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, who was jailed for over seven years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India, praised the re-acquittal as a triumph of justice over continued repression. He argued that Saibaba should not have been jailed in the first place and that the Indian authorities should not use the UAPA with stringent bail provisions to intimidate and harass activists like Saibaba.

Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of all other human rights defenders and activists who continue to be arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and standing up for the rights of the marginalised. Saibaba, who was initially arrested in 2014 and accused of links to banned Maoist organisations, was convicted in March 2017 under the UAPA and sentenced to life in prison. He has a disability due to polio and other severe health issues, including a heart condition.

According to Human Rights Watch, Egypt has issued new legislation to broaden the military's powers over civilian life. The legislation grants the military authority to replace certain functions of the police, civilian judiciary, and other civilian authorities and expand the jurisdiction of military courts to prosecute civilians. The law includes Law No. 3 of 2024 on Guarding and Protecting the State’s Public and Vital Facilities and Buildings, which the parliament approved without discussion or edits. Human Rights Watch argues that this law is a strategy to contain increasing discontent over the Egyptian government’s failures to uphold fundamental economic and political rights.

The new law also grants military personnel the authority to inspect and search places, arrest people, or confiscate materials to confront offences that harm society's basic needs, including food commodities and essential products. Egypt's Military Code of Justice has been amended to expand jurisdiction for crimes committed against public facilities and properties protected by the armed forces. Following a similar change in January, the amendments also introduce new military appeals courts for significant offences.

Human Rights Watch opposes military trials of civilians, stating that they often undermine due process rights and are used by authoritarian governments to punish peaceful dissent. The amendments aim to replace the civilian court system's function rather than limiting its mandate to military staff.


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