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International Legal News - 13 May 2024

Updated: 6 days ago

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 7 May to 13 May 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 nenadv@guernica37.com for consideration.

 

Round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world
Guernica 37 International Legal News

Nepal – 10 May

Amnesty International has reported that Nepal's authorities are failing to protect Dalits, particularly women and girls, from systemic caste-based discrimination. The report, "No One Cares": Descent-Based Discrimination against Dalits, reveals that the country's existing legal and protective measures are insufficient and fail to secure their human rights. The caste-based system perpetuates a culture of impunity, with Dalits distrusting the police and justice system.

The report also highlights that police often refuse to register cases for crimes of untouchability and gender-based violence, leading to widespread impunity. The report also highlights the lack of thorough, impartial, fair, and timely investigations into suspicious deaths of Dalit victims. Ajit Dhakal Mijar, an 18-year-old Dalit man, has been buried in a morgue in Maharajgunj, Nepal, for eight years. His father, Ajit's father, claims that the police showed wilful negligence in investigating his death and covered up the cause.

Amnesty International interviewed Ajit's father and his lawyer, who claim that the police showed allegiance to non-Dalit suspects and covered up the actual cause of his son's death. The case, challenging lower courts' verdicts, is still pending at the Apex Court.

USA/Israel – 10 May

Joe Biden has temporarily halted at least one shipment of 3,500 bombs and artillery shells to Israel, stating that the US would not transfer certain weapons if Israel attacked Rafah's densely populated areas. This move is seen as a shift from the unconditional support the US has offered Israel, as it acknowledges that civilians have been killed as a result of the bombings and other attacks. There has been a call for the suspension of arms transfers to Israel and Palestinian armed groups, as weapons could be used to commit grave abuses. Other human rights organisations and UN experts have also called for the suspension of transfers to Israel. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has considered Nicaragua's legal challenge to bar Germany's military assistance to Israel.

Several US Western allies have revised their policies of supplying weapons to Israel, such as Canada, Italy, and Spain, and legal action has effected changes in state policies. Public and legal pressure is making it harder for governments like the UK, Germany, France, and Denmark to continue selling arms to Israel. Biden's shift in tone will add to the pressure, as these countries need to stop sending weapons now.

Georgia – 9 May

Georgia's parliament has introduced a bill requiring certain nongovernmental groups and media outlets to register as "organisations serving the interests of a foreign power," threatening fundamental rights in the country. The bill, which has passed two readings and is scheduled for final adoption on May 13, requires nongovernmental groups and media outlets that receive 20% or more of their annual revenue from a foreign power to register with the Ministry of Justice.

If adopted, the bill will impose additional reporting requirements, inspections, and administrative liability, including fines of up to $9,300. The Georgian bill, which would restrict foreign funding to civil society organisations, has sparked widespread protests and police violence. The bill, similar to the US Foreign Agent Registration Act, does not equate receiving foreign funding with being under the direction of a foreign principal.

International organisations and Georgia's international partners have criticised the bill, calling for prompt investigations into allegations of ill-treatment and its withdrawal. The draft law is incompatible with legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

USA – 9 May

Amnesty International has criticised the CBP One mobile application as violating international human rights and refugee law. The CBP One application, which is the sole means of seeking asylum in the US, requires individuals to use the app to schedule appointments at ports of entry. This process adds complexity and obstacles to the already challenging process, making it difficult for some people to access asylum.

The application also faces technological barriers, language and literacy limitations, misinformation, and arbitrary appointment allocation. The application's mandatory use of facial recognition and GPS tracking raises concerns about privacy, surveillance, and potential discrimination. This highlights the dire situation faced by asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for CBP One appointments, who are often subjected to extortion, kidnapping, and discrimination.

Sudan – 9 May

A recent report highlights the ethnic cleansing campaign by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias in El Geneina, Sudan, from April to November 2023. The attacks killed at least thousands of people and left hundreds as refugees. The report calls for an arms embargo on Sudan, sanctions for those responsible for serious crimes, and a mission to protect civilians.

The report also highlights the possibility that the RSF and their allies have the intent to destroy the Massalit in West Darfur, indicating genocide. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Sudan's military, and the RSF have been involved in violence in El Geneina, Sudan, since April. The RSF and its allied groups attacked the majority Massalit neighbourhoods, targeting unarmed civilians.

The violence culminated in a large-scale massacre on June 15, where the RSF and militias opened fire on a convoy of civilians trying to flee. Twelve children and five adults from several families were killed. The RSF and allied militias escalated their abuses again in November, targeting Massalit people in the El Geneina suburb of Ardamata, killing at least 1,000 people.

Qatar – 9 May                         

FIFA has been called on to publish its review into compensation for workers harmed during the 2022 Men's World Cup in Qatar. The independent review, which FIFA's Council approved in March, recognises FIFA's responsibility to remedy a range of abuses endured by hundreds of thousands of migrant workers while helping Qatar host the 2022 World Cup. It is believed that FIFA should make public the review and respond positively and rapidly to its recommendations.

The delay only prolongs the suffering of families who lost loved ones and workers who were abused while delivering FIFA's flagship event. The review reveals that FIFA contributed to over a decade of abuses not remedied by awarding the tournament to Qatar in 2010, without ensuring sufficient safeguards were in place to protect human rights.

Indonesia – 8 May

Indonesia's Ministry of Education has agreed to have the National Press Council mediate all defamation disputes involving student journalists and publications. This move is essential to protect student media. Previously, criminal defamation cases involving student journalists and publications were handled by universities or the police, who were more likely to be swayed by influential local elites pressing cases against student publications. The new agreement, signed on March 18, provides a mechanism that no longer requires these defamation disputes to be referred to the police or public prosecutors.

The Indonesian government has been asked to work with the Press Council and set up a mechanism to support and protect student media. Most Indonesian universities have student media outlets, such as magazines, online news sites, or radio stations, which often operate like traditional independent newsrooms. Between 2020 and 2021, the Indonesian Student Press Association recorded 48 university administrators intimidating or shutting down student media outlets among 185 alleged press-related abuses on campuses nationwide.

Chile – 8 May

Chilean Attorney General Angel Valencia is facing pressure for not explaining the delay in the arraignment of Carabineros commanders following the murder of three officers. A letter was sent to him arguing that there had been interference with and multiple attacks on prosecutors Xavier Armendáriz and Ximena Chong, who led the judicial investigation against the High Command of Carabineros de Chile, threatening the investigation and adding insult to injury for the hundreds of victims awaiting justice.

The Attorney General's independence is now under scrutiny, forcing the arraignment, initially scheduled for 7 May, to be postponed. The arraignment was postponed just one week before the hearing was set to take place, amidst multiple attempts by senior officers to delay it.  Attorney General Valencia must use his authority to ensure the autonomy and independence of prosecutors, especially when the crimes in question are grave human rights violations allegedly committed by high-ranking state officials.

Ghana – 8 May

Ghana, a United Nations Human Rights Council member, has been a leader in providing free education to its children. The country began offering tuition-free elementary education for children aged 6 to 12 in 1952, followed by fee-free compulsory primary and middle school compulsory education in 1961. In 2008, Ghana became the first in Sub-Saharan Africa to expand free education to kindergarten, guaranteeing two years of free and compulsory pre-primary education. 2017 President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo started the Free Senior High School program to make free education cheaper than an uneducated and unskilled workforce.

In pre-primary and secondary school, Ghana has the third-highest enrolment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations Education Organisation recently rated Ghana as one of seven lower-middle-income countries making "fast progress" on upper secondary completion. Expanding free education in Ghana has been challenging, but it is pursued because equal educational opportunities are everyone's right. Updating international law to reflect today's realities, through a treaty explicitly guaranteeing all children free education from pre-primary through secondary school, would accelerate global progress and focus world attention on removing the cost to families.

Mali – 8 May

Two attacks by the Islamist armed group JNIM and an ethnic militia on Ogota and Ouémbé villages in central Mali in January 2024 have been reported, which violate international humanitarian law and are considered war crimes. The attacks occurred amid recurrent tit-for-tat killings and communal violence in central Mali. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has called for an impartial investigation and justice for those responsible.

The Dozo militia, mainly ethnic Bambara, have been acting as village self-defence forces since 2014, where there have been reports of severe abuses against Fulani civilians and allegations that they have acted as Malian army proxies. The Dozo militia attacked Kalala, killing 13 people and burning at least one home, huts, and 20 sheds. Witnesses claim that the militiamen came with motorbikes, wore distinctive brown hunting clothes and amulets, and carried Kalashnikov-style assault rifles.

Hong Kong – 8 May

Hong Kong's Court of Appeal has been criticised for approving the "Glory to Hong Kong” protest song ban. The ban is a "worrying sign" of shrinking freedoms and violates international human rights law; the government refuses to respect human rights and uphold their obligations. The Hong Kong Court of Appeal overturned a lower court's decision in July 2023, which had rejected the ban due to concerns it would have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The song's lyrics and melody would also be banned. The government has previously said that people who engage with the music could be prosecuted under the National Anthem Ordinance or charged with "secession" under the National Security Law. The ban would be a powerful deterrent to freely expressing views through reference to "Glory to Hong Kong."

Vietnam – 8 May

Vietnam has been accused of providing false information to the US and other economic partners to secure or maintain preferential trade preferences. The US Department of Commerce held a public hearing about Vietnam's trade status on May 8, 2024, and is considering reclassifying Vietnam under the US Tariff Law as a "market economy." The Vietnam government claims that its labour law standards align with international standards and that workers' wages in Vietnam are determined by free bargaining between labour and management.

Vietnam does not allow independent unions to represent workers, and Vietnamese government appointees lead the government-led Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL). The Vietnamese government has also issued a directive requiring enhanced scrutiny of labour groups, civil society, and foreign organisations in the context of Vietnam's implementation of new trade agreements with other countries and the International Labour Organization.

Trinidad & Tobago/Iraq – 7 May

Trinidad and Tobago should urgently bring home Trinidadian children and their mothers imprisoned in Iraq due to their alleged association with the Islamic State (ISIS). Four Trinidadian women and their seven children have been held in Iraq for nearly seven years. On May 2, 2024, Iraqi prison authorities forcibly removed two Trinidadian brothers, aged 13 and 15, from their mother's cell in Rusafa women's prison in Baghdad and transferred them to a cell with other youths. Their mother expressed fear that the two boys would be transferred to another prison. The children, who are not responsible for any crime, should be in school in Trinidad and Tobago, not languishing in an Iraqi prison.

The imprisoned women are willing for their children to be returned to Trinidad and Tobago without them but have had no response from the government regarding their or their children's situation. The Iraqi authorities' apparent denial of the children's right to education, possible responsibility for their lack of access to healthcare and adequate food, and recent separation of children from their mothers should galvanise Trinidadian authorities to seek their nationals' repatriation urgently.

Mexico – 7 May                                                 

Journalists in Mexico face threats from state actors and organised crime despite injunctions preventing surveillance. Despite obstacles, they remain committed to reporting corruption and violence. Alberto Amaro Jordán, a journalist and owner of Prensa de Tlaxcala, has been enrolled in the federal government's Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists due to repeated threats he has received. He has faced multiple attacks, including shootings, home invasions, and attacks by a former mayor.

The Mechanism has requested cooperation from Tlaxcala authorities, which has increased risks due to criticism of local police commanders. Jordán was arrested in November 2021 for filming extortion by state police officers. He was assigned private bodyguards, which the Federal Protective Service replaced in September 2022. In November 2022, he was targeted by two unusual vehicle assaults.

In December 2022, he was threatened by an organised criminal gang. The Mechanism justified the withdrawal of his bodyguards, but the debate sparked controversy. Jordán remains committed to his journalism and the defence of human rights in his state. He calls for justice and protection for journalists in Mexico, emphasising the importance of protecting the truth and a just society.

Philippines - 7 May

The Philippines has seen progress in media murder cases, with arrests in the Jumalon and Lapid cases and a sentence for the gunman responsible for Lapid's murder. However, the arrests do not address the more significant issue of the individuals who masterminded these murders. The Marcos administration needs to do more to protect journalists and ensure an environment where they can do their jobs safely.

Harassment and threats to Filipino journalists also come from authorities, with at least one journalist in police detention for over four years. Many journalists have been subjected to government "red tagging," accusing them of being members or sympathisers of the communist insurgency. The Marcos administration should end red-tagging journalists and ensure full investigation and prosecution of harassment and killings.

Guatemala – 7 May

There has been another unjustified delay in the trial of former prosecutor Virginia Laparra Rivas. The suspension of the hearing scheduled for 6 May has resulted in a further delay in the start of the criminal trial against Laparra. Laparra has defended herself in this unfounded criminal case for six years despite continuous attacks. Amnesty International has condemned the judicial harassment suffered by the former prosecutor and documented numerous irregularities and violations of her human rights in the two criminal cases against her.

The first trial, which did not respect due process guarantees, ended in December 2022 with a four-year prison sentence for the former prosecutor. The second case started in 2018 but was delayed by multiple actions brought by the adhesive plaintiffs. It is believed that Laparra is being persecuted solely for her anti-corruption work and was declared a prisoner of conscience in November 2022. The organisation also claims that Laparra is still a prisoner of conscience as she continues to be held under house arrest as an alternative to prison.

South Africa – 6 May

South Africa's general elections are focusing on migration, particularly irregular migration, with harmful rhetoric and threats to foreign nationals. The country's electoral code of conduct prohibits language that provokes violence and requires candidates to speak out against political violence. Candidates are pushing narratives that migration is out of control and blaming undocumented migrants for the country's ills. The government has also been stoking anti-immigration sentiment, with some calling for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants.

Despite a five-year National Action Plan to combat xenophobia, racism, and discrimination, sporadic incidents of xenophobic discrimination and violence have continued. The anti-immigrant rhetoric used by politicians during the election campaign risks fuelling more xenophobic violence, jeopardising protections in the South African constitution and international law for foreign nationals and citizens.

Somalia – 6 May

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into two strikes that killed 23 civilians during Somali military operations supported by Turkish drones. The strikes on 18 March 2024 targeted the Jaffey farm in the Lower Shabelle region. The attacks were conducted with MAM-L glide bombs, which are dropped from TB-2 drones manufactured by Turkey. The attacks were conducted following heavy ground fighting between the armed group Al-Shabaab and Somali security forces.

The attacks were indiscriminate and may amount to war crimes. The two countries signed a Défense and Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in February 2024, and Amnesty International has requested details on the 18 March operation. The Jaffey farm strike resulted in the deaths of five families belonging to the Gorgaarte clan and the deaths of Maalim Adan Hussein Hassan Adow, his wife, three children, and two nephews.

The Somali government has a history of not providing reparations for civilian casualties of military actions and ignoring violations against marginalised communities, such as the Gorgaarte clan. The conflict between Somalia and Al-Shabaab continues to have a devastating impact on the country's civilian population, with all parties committing severe violations of international humanitarian law.

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