Weekly update: 5 December – 11 December 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 5 December to 11 December 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) – 5 December 2022
A report partially endorsed by the UK home secretary, Suella Braverman, calling for a radical crackdown on those seeking asylum has been criticised by a UN body for “factual and legal errors”. Braverman wrote the foreword to the report by the right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies that says “if necessary” Britain should change human rights laws and withdraw from the European convention on human rights in order to tackle Channel crossings by small boat. But the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) questioned the report’s description of “illegal” for people seeking asylum – a term also used by Braverman and the Home Office in official documents.
South Africa – 5 December 2022
Leaders of South Africa's governing party have backed President Cyril Ramaphosa as he faces corruption allegations and a possible vote in parliament on impeachment. He came to power pledging to tackle corruption but has now been caught up in his own crisis. An independent report said Mr Ramaphosa may have broken the law by allegedly covering up a theft at his farm. He has denied any wrongdoing and his spokesman said the report was "flawed".
Saudi Arabia / United States (US) – 6 December 2022
A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman that claimed he conspired to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the crown prince was entitled to sovereign immunity despite “credible allegations” that he was involved in the murder. Judge John Bates, a US district court judge with a long history of presiding over cases involving national security, acknowledged “uneasiness” in making the decision, but said that his hands were in effect tied by the Biden administration’s recent recommendation that Prince Mohammed be given immunity.
Israel / Palestine – 6 December 2022
The Al Jazeera network has submitted a case against Israeli forces at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the killing of Shireen Abu Aqla. The Palestinian-American journalist was shot in the head during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank in May. The Israeli military concluded that one of its soldiers probably killed her, but called her death unintentional. Al Jazeera said that was completely unfounded and that its evidence showed it was a "deliberate killing".
Indonesia – 6 December 2022
Indonesia’s parliament has overhauled the country’s criminal code to outlaw sex outside marriage and curtail free speech, in a dramatic setback to freedoms in the world’s third-largest democracy. Passed with support from all political parties, the draconian legislation has shocked not only rights activists but also the country’s booming tourism sector, which relies on a stream of visitors to its tropical islands. Newspapers in Australia have labelled the legislation the “Bali bonk ban” as the law will apply to Indonesians and visiting foreigners.
Argentina – 6 December 2022
A court in Argentina has sentenced Vice-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to six years in jail for corruption in a case that has shaken the country. Fernández de Kirchner, 69, was found guilty of "fraudulent administration" over the awarding of public works contracts to a friend. But she is unlikely to serve jail time. She has some immunity via her government roles and is expected to launch a lengthy appeals process. She has also been banned from public office for life, but will continue in her role as vice-president while the case goes through higher courts. Prosecutors had sought a 12-year jail sentence.
Russia – 7 December 2022
Vladimir Putin has admitted Russia’s war in Ukraine could turn into a “long-term process” as he sought to defend an invasion in which Russian troops have been forced to retreat and even airbases deep inside Russia have come under attack. Speaking to members of his personal human rights council, Putin claimed that Russia would not use nuclear weapons first in any conflict, denied that Russian troops were deserting en masse from the field of battle, and claimed he would not need to mobilise more troops, a process that has caused considerable upheaval in Russia. Putin dedicated some of his remarks to questions about the potential for nuclear war, which he said was growing more likely due to the conflict with the west.
Europe – 8 December 2022
Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are facing “an unprecedented rise in violence” at the EU’s border, including beatings, forced undressing and sexual assaults, according to a report exposing thousands of alleged illegal expulsions in harrowing detail.
Russia / United States (US) – 8 December 2022
The US and Russia have exchanged jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, held in an American prison for 12 years. President Joe Biden said Griner was safe and on a plane home from the United Arab Emirates.
Germany – 8 December 2022
The former head of disgraced German payment company Wirecard has gone on trial accused of involvement in the biggest fraud case in German history. Markus Braun, 53, presided over its meteoric rise from modest beginnings to one of Germany's big banking beasts. Financiers and politicians were dazzled by Wirecard's success until its equally spectacular collapse into ignominy. The setting for Thursday's trial is a high-security courtroom at Stadelheim prison in Munich. Mr Braun, who was Wirecard's chief executive, is being held at the jail in pre-trial custody and denies any wrongdoing. Two other ex-managers are also on trial. Oliver Bellenhaus was head of Wirecard's Dubai subsidiary while Stephan von Erffa was in charge of accounting. They face several years in prison if convicted.
European Union – 9 December 2022
A former member of the European Parliament is among four people who have been arrested in an investigation into suspected bribery by a Gulf state. Prosecutors suspect the country tried to influence parliament decisions with donations of money or gifts. Cash worth about €600,000 ($632,000; £515,000) was seized by Belgian police in searches of 16 Brussels locations. Police have not named the country in question, but unconfirmed local media reports have suggested it was Qatar. It is accused of targeting aides at the parliament.
Russia – 9 December 2022
Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that a Moscow court sentenced a Russian opposition politician to eight and a half years in prison with an additional four-year ban on use of the internet, in continued efforts to dismantle and decapitate Russia’s peaceful political opposition and silence any criticism of the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine. Ilya Yashin, who has long been a vocal critic of the Kremlin, was charged with violating Russia’s draconian war censorship laws. Yashin should be immediately and unconditionally freed, and the criminal case against him quashed.