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International Legal News

Weekly update: 23 January – 29 January 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 23 January to 29 January 2023.

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.

Mexico – 23 January 2023

The trial of a former top Mexican law enforcement official got under way in a Brooklyn court on Monday, one of the most significant drug trafficking cases since the prosecution of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán more than four years ago. Genaro García Luna, who ran Mexico’s version of the FBI before being appointed to lead the country’s security ministry – and therefore its war on drug trafficking groups – is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for granting protection to the violent Sinaloa cartel.

Turkey / Sweden – 23 January 2023

Sweden should not expect Turkey to back its Nato membership bid, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, days after a copy of the Quran was burned in a Stockholm protest. Sweden applied to join Nato after Russia invaded Ukraine - but needs Turkey, already a member, to approve. Kurdish protesters in Sweden hung an effigy of Mr Erdogan this month, followed by the Quran burning.

Syria / Australia – 24 January 2023

Five Yazidi women held as slaves by an Islamic State fighter are appealing to the UN to intervene in their case for compensation in a move lawyers hope will help fix a “lawless” global system that is failing torture survivors. The women, captured in Iraq in 2014, were taken to Syria as slaves by IS fighters, including the Australian citizen Khaled Sharrouf, who was pictured standing next to his young son holding a severed human head. The women, in a case due to be filed next week, want the UN’s Committee Against Torture to remind Australia of its obligation to provide survivors of violence with redress under the UN’s torture convention, which the country has ratified. The Australian authorities have so far denied all requests for compensation.

Syria – 24 January 2023

Amnesty International said that Syrian government forces must lift a brutal blockade on civilians in predominantly Kurdish areas in the northern Aleppo region that is obstructing residents’ access to fuel and other essential supplies. Since the government imposed the blockade in August 2022, tens of thousands of civilians, including internally displaced people, have faced severe shortages of fuel and aid. Medical supplies are now all but exhausted and people are burning household items and plastic to try and keep warm in freezing temperatures.

United Kingdom (UK) / Russia – 25 January 2023

The Treasury must explain how the Russian founder of a mercenary army was given permission to circumvent sanctions, to attempt to silence a British journalist. In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, seen by the Guardian, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden, said that No 11 had to say why it had granted the permission and whether similar allowances had been made for other sanctioned oligarchs to use libel lawsuits. The revelations, published on OpenDemocracy, concern a libel case brought by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key ally of Vladimir Putin, against Eliot Higgins, the founder of the investigative group Bellingcat. The documents and leaked emails show how Prigozhin’s lawyers were given permission by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), a department inside the Treasury, to represent him despite the fact he was under sanctions.

United States (US) / Germany – 25 January 2023

After weeks of reluctance, Germany has agreed to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in what Kyiv hopes will be a game-changer on the battlefield. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the decision to send 14 tanks, and allow other countries to send theirs too, at a cabinet meeting. US President Joe Biden's administration is also expected to announce plans to send at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks. A Kremlin spokesman earlier said the tanks would "burn like all the rest". Dmitry Peskov said there was an overestimation of the potential the tanks would bring to the Ukrainian army, and called the move a "failed plan".

European Court of Human Rights – 25 January 2023

The European Court of Human Rights is set to announce whether it will hear a Dutch case against Russia over the downing of flight MH17 in 2014. All 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight were killed when it was shot down by a Russian-made missile fired by Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatists. The Dutch government argues that Russian disinformation about Moscow's role in the incident is a violation of the relatives' human rights. Russia denies the allegations.

Azerbaijan / Armenia – 26 January 2023

Azerbaijan has launched a landmark legal challenge against Armenia for allegedly destroying its environment and biodiversity during nearly three decades of occupation of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. An international tribunal will consider evidence of widespread environmental destruction during the conflict between the two nations, including deforestation and pollution, and will be asked to order Armenia to pay reparations. It is the first time any country has sought inter-state arbitration under the Bern convention. If Azerbaijan wins, it will set a precedent for putting an economic value on biodiversity and environmental destruction.

Russia / Ukraine – 26 January 2023

On 26 January, Russia launched a wave of missiles at Ukraine, a day after Germany and the US pledged tanks to aid Kyiv's fight against the invasion. Eleven people died and 11 others were injured after 35 buildings were struck across several regions, the state's emergency service said. It added the worst damage to residential buildings was in the Kyiv region. Officials also reported strikes on two energy facilities in the Odesa region. The barrage came as Russia said it perceived the new offer of military support, which followed a UK pledge to send Challenger 2 battle tanks, as "direct" Western involvement in the conflict.

United States (US) / Somalia – 26 January 2023

A US military raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden this week killed a key regional leader of the Islamic State group, Bilal al-Sudani, according to US officials. Sudani was killed during a gunfight after US troops descended on a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia hoping to capture him. Around 10 of Sudani’s Islamic State associates at the scene were killed, but there were no American casualties.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 26 January 2023

On 26 January 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC granted the Prosecutor’s request to resume investigation into the Situation of the Republic of the Philippines. Following a careful analysis of the materials provided by the Philippines, the Chamber is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle. On 24 May 2021, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) requested authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber to initiate an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of the Philippines' "war on drugs" campaign. On 14 June 2021 the OTP Request was made public. On 15 September 2021, the Pre-Trial Chamber authorised the investigation.

Serbia – 27 January 2023

Amnesty International made preliminary comments on the Draft Law on Internal Affairs of Republic of Serbia, which is currently open for public consultation. The document presents Amnesty International’s concerns about the provisions that seek to legalise the use of biometric mass surveillance in public places (Article 44). These provisions would allow for the capture, processing and automated analysis of peoples’ biometric and other sensitive data in public spaces, including for purposes of remote identification. They would also enable access by state authorities to the video surveillance feeds of other (including private) actors. The use of facial recognition and other biometric mass surveillance constitutes a very significant interference with individual rights and freedoms. Amnesty International therefore considers that this proposal is likely to be incompatible with Serbia’s treaty obligations under both the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – in particular, its obligations regarding the right to privacy (Article 8 ECHR and Article 17 ICCPR).

Russia / Poland – 27 January 2023

For the first time a Russian delegation was not invited to a ceremony marking the liberation of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in modern-day Poland. Russia is usually represented at the event, as the camp in occupied Poland was liberated by the Soviet Army. But this year, following Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum declined to invite Russian officials and its director likened the Ukraine war to the horrors of the Holocaust. In response, Russia accused the museum of attempting to "rewrite history".


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