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International Legal News - 18 September 2023

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

Sri Lanka - 18 September 2023

Sri Lanka: Abuses Undercut Proposed ‘Truth Commission’

The Sri Lankan government’s ongoing abuses are undermining the purported goals of its newly proposed truth and reconciliation commission, Human Rights Watch said in a report published today. Victims of past violations, their families, and human rights defenders have rejected the government’s initiative because the government has not consulted them, ignores evidence gathered by past commissions, and it exposes them to security force abuses and retraumatization if they participate.

The 39-page report, “‘If We Raise Our Voice They Arrest Us’: Sri Lanka’s Proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” documents abusive security force surveillance and intimidation of activists and campaigners from minority Tamil families of those who “disappeared” during Sri Lanka’s civil war. The authorities are using draconian counterterrorism laws to silence dissenting voices, including those calling for truth and accountability, while government-backed land grabs target Tamil and Muslim communities and their places of worship.

“Sri Lanka profoundly needs truth and accountability, but a credible process requires the support of victims’ families and an end to government abuses against them and their communities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “As the government’s own public statements suggest, this latest commission seems to be aimed at deflecting international pressure over continuing impunity, rather than revealing the fate of the disappeared or bringing those responsible to justice.”

The full article can be found here.

China/Russia - 18 September 2023

China's Wang Yi visits Russia ahead of possible Xi-Putin meeting

China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, begins on Monday a four-day trip to Russia during which both nations are expected to pledge deeper mutual political trust, readying for a possible landmark visit by President Vladimir Putin to Beijing in October.

Wang, who heads the foreign ministry as well as the ruling Communist Party's foreign affairs office, will meet Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev for annual security talks, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

The veteran diplomat's talks with counterpart Sergei Lavrov will cover a "wide range of issues" including "contacts at higher and the highest levels," the Russian foreign ministry said last week. Wang is expected to lay the groundwork for Putin's visit to the Chinese capital for the third Belt and Road Forum after an invitation by President Xi Jinping during a high-profile visit to Moscow in March.

Putin attended China's first two Belt and Road Forums in 2017 and 2019. But he is not known to have travelled abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him on grounds of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

The full article can be found here.

USA - 18 September 2023

Tens of thousands march against fossil fuels in New York ahead of climate summit

Yelling that the future and their lives depend on ending fossil fuels, tens of thousands of protesters on Sunday kicked off a week where leaders will try once again to curb climate change primarily caused by coal, oil and natural gas.

But protesters say it's not going to be enough. And they aimed their wrath directly at US President Joe Biden, urging him to stop approving new oil and gas projects, phase out current ones and declare a climate emergency with larger executive powers.

“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” said 17-year-old Emma Buretta of Brooklyn of the youth protest group Fridays for Future. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”

The March to End Fossil Fuels featured such politicians as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and actors Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. But the real action on Broadway was where protesters crowded the street, pleading for a better but not-so-hot future. It was the opening salvo to New York’s Climate Week, where world leaders in business, politics and the arts gather to try to save the planet, highlighted by a new special United Nations summit Wednesday.

Democratic US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a climate rally in New York ahead of the UN General Assembly.

The full article can be found here.

UN - 18 September 2023

New UN Guidance on Children’s Rights and the Environment

Protect Children from Effects of Climate Change, Other Environmental Crises

Today, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child launches new guidance for governments on protecting children’s rights in the face of climate change and other environmental crises.

From toxic pollution in Zambia and harmful plastics recycling in Turkey, to rising sea levels affecting housing in Panama and higher temperatures diminishing food supplies in Canada, environmental crises pose immense risks to children worldwide. Children from poor and marginalized communities are particularly at risk.

The Committee’s new general guidance is the result of consultation with over 16,000 children from 121 countries, governments, and environmental and human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch. It provides fresh interpretation of the obligations of states under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to uphold the rights of children affected by climate change and other environmental crises.

The Committee emphasizes that “the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and pervasive pollution, is an urgent and systemic threat to children’s rights globally” and calls governments to action. For example, it specifies that states are responsible not only for protecting children from immediate harm, but also for “foreseeable environment-related threats” due to state action or inaction now. It says states should ensure businesses rapidly reduce their emissions and require them to assess actual and potential risks to children's rights, reminding governments that “delaying a rapid phase out of fossil fuels will result in … greater foreseeable harm to children’s rights.”

Children are increasingly making their voices heard on the environment, urging world leaders and governments to protect their rights and those of future generations. They are also taking their governments to court, despite barriers for children to access justice and seek legal remedies. The Committee’s guidance emphasizes that states are obligated to provide effective, child-friendly, and inclusive legal pathways for children affected by environmental harm. They also need to ensure children can safely exercise their right to freedom of expression, including when engaging in peaceful protests on environmental matters.

Read the full article here.

Belarus - 17 September 2023

Continuing the Fight for Jailed Rights Defenders in Belarus; Members of Viasna Human Rights Center Remain Behind Bars

Two years ago today, a group of international and Belarusian human rights organizations gathered to discuss how best to support our detained colleagues from the prominent Belarusian rights group Viasna.

At the time, seven Viasna members were behind bars on trumped-up criminal charges in reprisal for their courageous human rights work in Belarus. Many other Viasna activists and their family members were designated witnesses in criminal cases and faced interrogation and searches.

On September 17, 2021, we launched the #FreeViasna campaign. Today, five members of the group remain behind bars on politically motivated charges. Ales Bialiatski, Viasna’s head and the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for Peace co-laureate; Valiantsin Stefanovich, his deputy; Uladzimir Labkovich, the group’s lawyer; Maria (Marfa) Rabkova, volunteer network coordinator; and Andrey Chapiuk, volunteer, are serving prison sentences between six and fifteen years.

Since September 2021, the climate of fear in Belarus has only deteriorated, with politically motivated repression reaching new levels of cruelty.

There are currently over 1,500 Belarusian political prisoners on Viasna’s register, including other jailed rights defenders such as Nasta (Anastasia) Loika, well known for her work on migration and human rights. Authorities have effectively outlawed rights work in the country, equating it to extremist and subversive activities, and shutting down more than 900 nongovernmental organizations.

Jailed rights defenders and other political prisoners in Belarus face harassment from prison authorities, restrictions on visits and correspondence, solitary confinement, and inadequate healthcare

The full article can be found here.

Morocco - 18 September 2023

Photos: The earthquake in Morocco that shattered thousands of lives

With arms around each other, three boys walked through the streets of their town at the foot of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. In Amizmiz, the boys made their way through rubble, one week after an earthquake rattled their community’s homes, schools, mosques and cafes. Their possessions were buried beneath tonnes of mud and clay bricks along with an untold number of people whom the boys knew.

A little girl held her palms to her cheeks, stunned at the destruction. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit Morocco on September 8, causing mass deaths in mountain villages that have collapsed in on themselves. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. Entire villages higher up in the mountains were levelled. In many, at least half of the population appears to have died. “It felt like a bomb went off,” 34-year-old Mohamed Messi of Ouirgane said.

When mud and clay brick, the traditional materials used for construction in the region, turn to rubble, they leave fewer air pockets than more modern structures made with concrete and rebar.

The day after the quake, hundreds of residents of the mountain town of Moulay Brahim gathered for funerals, praying on rugs arranged neatly in the street before carrying blanket-covered bodies from the town’s health centre to its cemetery.

The United Nations reported that roughly 300,000 people were likely affected by the earthquake. UNICEF said that number likely included 100,000 children.

The full article can be found here.

UN - 18 September 2023

UN General Assembly: What to expect as world leaders gather this week

The climate crisis and the war in Ukraine are expected to figure prominently at the United Nations this week, as more than 140 leaders and state representatives from around the world descend on New York to address the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The high-level General Debate, which begins on Tuesday following two weeks of meetings, is the most widely watched event in the UN’s annual calendar.

It provides world leaders and heads of state the opportunity to lay out their priorities for the coming year, urge cooperation on pressing issues, and often, call out their adversaries.

“It is a one-of-a-kind moment each year for leaders from every corner of the globe to not only assess the state of the world but to act for the common good,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters last week. “And action is what the world needs now.”

This year’s General Debate is being held under the theme, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”. A series of bilateral discussions will also be held on the sidelines of the event.

The full article can be found here.

Taiwan - 18 September 2023

Taiwan urges China to stop ‘continuous military harassment’

Appeal comes as 103 Chinese military aircraft and nine navy ships detected around the self-ruled island.

Taiwan’s defence ministry has called on China to stop its “military harassment” of the self-ruled island after detecting more than 100 Chinese military aircraft in the latest of a series of military manoeuvres designed to assert Beijing’s claim to sovereignty.

The ministry said that since Sunday, it has spotted 103 Chinese military aircraft, including fighter jets, over the sea, a number it called a “recent high”. It also said it detected nine navy ships.

Its map of Chinese activities over the past 24 hours showed 40 of the planes crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides until China began regularly crossing it a year ago.

Other aircraft flew south of Taiwan through the Bashi Channel, which separates the island from the Philippines.

Beijing claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goal.

The full article can be found here.

Armenia/Azerbaijan - 18 September 2023

Aid supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh resume after separatists reach accord with Azerbaijan

Months-long tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh eased a notch on Monday as aid supplies resumed following agreement between Armenian separatists and the Baku government, Azerbaijan and the Red Cross said.

Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of fuelling a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku last year blocked the sole road linking the mountainous region with Armenia, the Lachin corridor policed by Russian peacekeepers.

The closure has led to shortages of food and medicine in the region, with Yerevan accusing Baku of pursuing the "policy of ethnic cleansing.”

Azerbaijan has rejected the accusation, arguing Nagorno-Karabakh could receive all the supplies it needed via Azerbaijan.

Baku has said that the separatist authorities had simply refused its proposal to simultaneously reopen both the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with the rest of Azerbaijan.

The months-long crisis as well as Baku's deployment of troops near Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border with Armenia have sparked fears of a fresh all-out conflict between the arch-foes locked in a decades-long dispute over the region.

On Monday the "Simultaneous passage of the Red Cross cars was ensured" through the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy advisor to Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said on social media. "The whole international community once again witnessed that there was no so-called blockade but deliberate self-blockade, weaponisation and politisation of humanitarian issues and theatrical dramas (...)," he said.

The full article can be found here.


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