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International Legal News

Weekly update: 13 February – 19 February 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 13 February to 19 February 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.

Russia / United Kingdom (UK) – 13 February 2023

A security guard spying for Russia while working at the British embassy in Berlin was driven by an intense hatred for his own country and pro-Putin views, a UK court has heard. David Ballantyne Smith pleaded guilty to eight charges under the Official Secrets Act in November 2022 for sharing confidential and sensitive material. Smith, who was arrested in 2021 after an undercover investigation, appeared at the Old Bailey on Monday to hear legal argument about his motivation. The 58-year-old is alleged to have received a “substantial” amount of money from the embassy in Germany in exchange for confidential and sensitive information.

United Kingdom (UK) / Afghanistan – 13 February 2023

Eight former BBC journalists who had their applications to relocate from Afghanistan to the UK rejected are expecting their cases to be reconsidered after they successfully challenged the rationale behind the refusals at the high court. Mr Justice Lane said the decisions had been made on an incorrect basis and, but for the error, there was a “more than fanciful prospect of a different outcome”.The journalists worked in high-profile roles for the BBC and other media agencies in Afghanistan before British troops withdrew last year. They are now in hiding, claiming they and their families are at “high risk” of being killed because of their work, which supported the UK government.

Sudan – 14 February 2023

Three Sudanese men have been sentenced to hand amputation for stealing, the first time in almost a decade that such a punishment has been handed down in the country’s courts. The three men in their 20s were convicted of stealing gas cylinders in Omdurman, Sudan’s most populous city, which sits across the Nile River from the capital, Khartoum. The verdict was handed down two weeks ago but has just come to light, in a case that will further worry many who fear Sudan is sliding back into state extremism, 15 months after the military coup which destabilised the country and halted its transition to democracy.

Syria – 14 February 2023

The UN said that Syria's government has agreed to allow the UN to use two more border crossings to deliver aid to opposition-held north-western areas devastated by last week's earthquakes. But the White Helmets rescue group criticised the UN for waiting for President Bashar al-Assad's permission. Many Syrians have been angry over the lack of aid for their war-torn nation. Countries with friendly relations with Mr Assad, including Russia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, began flying supplies to government-controlled areas of Syria soon after the earthquakes struck neighbouring southern Turkey eight days ago.

Haiti – 14 February 2023

US police have arrested four more people for alleged roles in the plot to assassinate Haitian President Jovenel Moise in 2021. One of the suspects is the owner of a Florida-based security company, which authorities say hired Colombian ex-soldiers for the mission. President Moise was shot and killed at his home in Port-au-Prince, reportedly by Spanish-speaking foreign mercenaries. Eleven suspects are now in US custody.

Thailand – 15 February 2023

Human Rights Watch said that the Thai government’s decision to delay enforcement of key provisions of the new torture and enforced disappearance law should be immediately reversed. On 14 February, the Thai government approved a decree to postpone enforcement of Articles 22 to 25 of the Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance from 22 February to 1 October. The government claimed more time was needed to ready officials nationwide and procure equipment – such as cameras and voice recorders – required by the law to prevent abuses during arrest and interrogation.

Ukraine – 15 February 2023

The Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has admitted that his mercenary group is facing difficulties in Ukraine and will soon decrease in size, amid growing evidence that his political influence in the Kremlin is waning. His comments followed a recent announcement that the mercenary group will no longer recruit prisoners to fight in the war, ending a months-long campaign in which Wagner signed up about 40,000 convicts from Russian prisons. The businessman has offered no explanation, but observers say the move is part of growing backlash against him from the Russian security services.

United Kingdom (UK) – 16 February 2023

Joint enterprise prosecutions in England and Wales are to be monitored after a legal challenge from campaigners who argued it disproportionately targets black males and young men. Under the doctrine, an individual can be jointly charged with the crime of another if the court decides they foresaw that the other party was likely to commit that crime. This has resulted in bystanders, or people involved in much lesser criminal offences, being convicted of murder or manslaughter.

Italy – 16 February 2023

A proposed new law in Italy on humanitarian search-and-rescue (SAR) operations could hinder the provision of lifesaving assistance in the Central Mediterranean and result in more deaths, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk warned. Mr. Türk expressed his serious concerns a day after the Italian Parliament approved legislation that imposes stricter requirements on humanitarian ships which are attempting to save migrant lives on the high seas.

United States (US) – 17 February 2023

The US scores surprisingly badly in a new ranking system charting abuses of power by nation states, launched by a group co-chaired by former UK foreign secretary David Miliband. The US comes close to the median of 163 countries ranked in the Index of Impunity, reflecting a poor record on discrimination, inequality and access to democracy. The country’s arms exports and record of violence are an even bigger negative factor.

Germany – 17 February 2023

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Germany will soon be able to deploy its first Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference just days before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, he called on allies to expect a long war. France's Emmanuel Macron also said now was not the time for dialogue with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The event is an annual gathering of leaders, officials and diplomats; its focus this year is transatlantic.


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