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International Legal News - 18 March 2024

Updated: Mar 18

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 12 March to 18 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.

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

Democratic Republic of Congo – 15 March

Amnesty International has condemned the DRC government's decision to resume executions after a two-decade hiatus to combat armed groups and gang violence. The decision is seen as a gross injustice and a sign of the Tshisekedi administration's backtracking on human rights. Amnesty International argues that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment and calls for an immediate moratorium on executions and the establishment of an official moratorium to abolish it.

The last known executions in the DRC took place in 2003. Numerous problems plague the Congolese justice system, and trials rarely meet fair trial standards. President Tshisekedi has publicly complained about the malfunctioning of the justice system, describing it as "sick" earlier this year.

Ethiopia – 15 March

Ethiopian authorities have released former president Abdi Illey after serving over five years in prison. The move is seen as a setback to ending impunity for crimes involving senior officials. Abdi Illey was initially arrested in 2018 for human rights violations and inciting conflict in the Somali region.

However, authorities never brought charges against him for crimes during his decade of abusive rule. Human Rights Watch documented abuses against civilians during counterinsurgency campaigns, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape. The decision to drop charges is a devastating blow for victims of abuse under Abdi Illey's rule, as it sends a message that impunity remains.

Gambia - 15 March

Amnesty International's senior researcher, Michèle Eken, has urged Gambia's parliament to vote against a bill to reverse the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM).

Eken believes the bill would set a dangerous precedent for women's rights and tarnish Gambia's human rights record. She argues that legalising FGM would violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Eken also calls for the Gambian government to address the root causes and drivers of FGM and implement comprehensive policies for women and girls' empowerment.

India – 15 March

India's BJP-led government has started implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which fast-tracks citizenship requests from non-Muslims fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The law, which was enacted in 2019, has sparked protests, with thousands fearing it could disenfranchise Indian Muslims and strip them of their citizenship rights.

The Supreme Court has yet to hear petitions challenging the amendments for religious bias and violating fundamental rights. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the law, calling it a "breach of India's international human rights obligations." Opposition leaders have criticised the government for enforcing a law that fosters religious discrimination.

Guinea – 14 March

The trial of Guinea's former president and ten others, including former ministers, has requested the reclassification of charges to crimes against humanity. The trial examines a brutal event in 2009, where security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, resulting in at least 150 deaths and over 100 rapes. The prosecution team invoked Guinean criminal procedure law and relied on provisions for crimes against humanity in Guinea's 2016 criminal code. The civil parties supported the prosecution's request in court. If the reclassification is approved, it would be the first crime against humanity prosecuted in Guinea. The judges will decide on the reclassification request, addressing specific allegations concerning the individuals on trial. Reclassifying the charges could increase the justice process's impact on victims, survivors, and communities most affected by these crimes.    

Japan – 14 March                  

Japan's Sapporo High Court and Tokyo District Court have ruled that the Japanese government's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, marking a significant step towards achieving marriage equality. The rulings emphasise the trend towards acceptance of same-sex marriage in Japan and highlight the need for the Japanese government to be proactive in moving towards legalising same-sex marriage.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that the current legal framework, which does not recognise same-sex marriage, cannot be reasonably justified in light of the dignity of the individual and the fundamental equality of the sexes. The Sapporo ruling is the first time the judiciary has recognised that the current law prohibiting same-sex marriage violates all three clauses of the Constitution.

The Japanese government's law passed in June 2023 calls for 'promoting understanding' of LGBTI people but has been widely criticised for failing to address the protection of LGBTI rights from discrimination definitively.

Afghanistan – 14 March              

Afghanistan is facing an economic crisis due to the Taliban's takeover in 2021 and the suspension of the Central Bank. The Taliban's violations of women's rights, including employment, education, and freedom of movement, have worsened the situation.

The UN estimates that 23.7 million people, more than half of the country's population, will need humanitarian assistance in 2024. Prolonged drought, limited water access, and a collapsed healthcare system worsen the situation, particularly for women.

The UN has requested $3 billion to address the crisis but has yet to receive less than 3% of the required funds. Governments should support measures to normalise payments, restore public services, address income-related poverty, and improve climate adaptation.

Poland/Belarus – 13 March

The Polish government is facing pressure to stop migrant pushbacks at the country's border with Belarus to restore the rule of law. The Border Guard has established search and rescue teams to provide medical and humanitarian aid to migrants stranded in a forested border area. However, this leaves underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Human Rights Watch has documented severe abuses against migrants by Polish border guards, including violent pushbacks to Belarus, which have led to at least 55 deaths, including those of children. The previous government declared the area close to the Belarusian border a restricted zone, blocking humanitarian organisations' access.

The government should, ideally, immediately restore legal order at the border by granting access to the Polish asylum procedure, repealing unlawful border regulations, stopping criminal prosecution and harassment of activists and humanitarian workers, and allowing medical and humanitarian organisations access.

Nigeria - 13 March                        

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu and his government are facing criticism for not urgently addressing the country's increasing number of abductions targeting children in schools and internally displaced persons camps. In the last ten days, nearly 700 people have been abducted by gunmen in Borno, Kaduna, and Sokoto. Amnesty International reports daily abductions in Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger states. The consistent failure of Nigerian authorities to protect children and schools means a generation of children could miss out on education.

The Tinubu government must prioritise the security and safety of everyone in the country. Amnesty International has documented at least 17 cases of abductions in less than a decade, and the inability of Nigerian authorities to bring perpetrators to justice is further emboldening impunity.

Zambia – 13 March                       

Zambia's government is delaying action to clean up lead contamination in Kabwe, a city known as one of the world's worst pollution hotspots. The Alliance for Lead-Free Kabwe, a coalition of Zambian and international civil society organisations, has called for a technical proposal and support from donor agencies and companies responsible for the pollution to undertake a comprehensive clean-up of the former Kabwe mine.

The toxic waste from the mine, which was closed in 1994, continues to pollute the area, exposing up to 200,000 people to high levels of toxic lead. In March 2022, the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment was instructed to establish a technical committee to address the remediation process in Kabwe, but it was never formally set up.

The World Health Organization lists lead as one of 10 chemicals representing a "major public health concern," with over 95% of children living near the former mine in Kabwe having elevated lead levels in their blood. The South African High Court refused to let the case proceed, stating it was an "unmanageable claim that would set a grave precedent."

Ecuador – 12 March

The escalation of violence and organised crime in Ecuador is affecting children's rights, mainly due to the temporary switch to online learning and threats from criminal groups. The education ministry suspended in-person classes and shifted to online learning, affecting nearly 4.3 million children. However, online learning can expose children to sexual violence both online and offline.

Civil society representatives have said that online learning makes it difficult for school staff to detect and report incidents. In some provinces, masked individuals have entered online classes to threaten students and teachers. The government should ensure survivors can report sexual violence and that threats and violence against staff are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.

Ghana's anti-LGBT bill has been criticised by prominent figures, including former parliament member Samia Nkrumah, who called it "brutal, harsh, and unjust." The bill, passed in February, criminalises consensual same-sex conduct, individuals advocating for LGBT rights, and failure to report an LGBT person to authorities. Nkrumah's father, Kwame, is a prominent figure in Ghana's history.

The bill has already led to unlawful arrests and detentions of 21 LGBT activists in 2021. Protests have gathered worldwide to demonstrate pan-African and global solidarity against the bill. President Nana Akufo Addo has pledged to uphold human rights and the rule of law.

Denmark - 12 March

Denmark faces legal action from four prominent NGOs, including Amnesty International Denmark, Oxfam Denmark, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (Action Aid Denmark), and Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, to stop arms exports to Israel.

The organisations argue that Denmark's arms and military equipment exports to Israel could be used to commit serious crimes against civilians in Gaza, violating international rules on arms trade and potentially leading to war crimes and a plausible genocide.

Denmark has joined the UN Arms Trade Treaty and the EU Common Rules for Arms Exports, which obliges Denmark to ensure that exports do not contribute to violations of international law. Organisations believe that the risk of military equipment being used in violation of the rules of war alone should make the Danish state stop exporting under international law.

The lawsuit seeks to assess whether Denmark fulfils its obligations to ensure that arms exports to Israel do not contribute to violations of international humanitarian law.


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