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International Legal News - 2 October 2023

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 26 September to 02 October 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 nenadv@guernica37.com for consideration.


Slovakia - 1 October 2023


Slovakia elections: Pro-Russia former PM Robert Fico wins poll but must forge coalition


A pro-Kremlin, anti-American politician has staged a political comeback to win parliamentary elections in Slovakia.


The populist former prime minister Robert Fico is poised to return to power with more than 99% of votes counted, although with no party winning a majority of seats, a coalition government will need to be formed.


It means NATO will have its first leader sympathetic to Vladimir Putin's Russia, threatening to break a fragile unity over Ukraine.


Mr Fico, who has been compared to Donald Trump and previously resigned following mass protests against corruption, had vowed to withdraw military support for the neighbouring country if he was victorious.


Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people created in 1993 following the break-up of Czechoslovakia, had to-date been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded last February, donating arms and opening the borders for refugees fleeing the war.


The full article can be found here.


Ukraine/Russia/USA - 1 October 2023


Biden says US ‘will not walk away’ from Ukraine amid budget turmoil


United States President Joe Biden says aid to Ukraine will keep flowing for now as he seeks to reassure allies of continued support for the war effort.


But time is running out, the president said on Sunday in a warning to Congress, which has voted to avert a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding package that dropped assistance for Ukraine in the fight against Russia.


“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said.


“We have time, not much time and there is an overwhelming sense of urgency,” he said, noting that the funding bill lasts only until mid-November.


Biden urged the Congress to negotiate an aid package as soon as possible.


“The vast majority of both parties – Democrats and Republicans, Senate and House – support helping Ukraine and the brutal aggression that is being thrust upon them by Russia,” he said in an address from the White House.


“Stop playing games. Get this done,” Biden said, adding that he expected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to secure passage of a separate bill for Ukraine funding soon.


The full article can be found here.


Australia - 2 October 2023


Early voting begins in Australia’s Indigenous Voice referendum


Early voting has begun in parts of Australia for a landmark referendum on creating an Indigenous body that can advise Parliament on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


People eligible for early voting in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia will be able to cast their ballots from Monday, while voters in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory will be able to do so from Tuesday.


The referendum itself is scheduled for October 14, and voting is compulsory. As early voting began, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hit the streets of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, to rally support for the “yes” vote. “I sincerely think the key to the next fortnight is those one-on-one conversations with people to accept this request of the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he told reporters.


The proposal asks Australians whether the country’s constitution should be altered to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body called the “Voice to Parliament”.


The full article can be found here.


Serbia - 1 October 2023


Serbia denies US, EU reports of military build-up along Kosovo border


Serbia has denied reports of a military build-up along the border with Kosovo, alleging a “campaign of lies” against his country in the wake of a shootout a week earlier that killed four people and fuelled tensions in the volatile Balkan region.


“A campaign of lies … has been launched against our Serbia,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a video posted on Instagram on Sunday.


“They have lied a lot about the presence of our military forces …. In fact, they are bothered that Serbia has what they describe as sophisticated weapons.”


Earlier this week, the United States urged Belgrade to pull its forces back from the border with Kosovo after detecting what it called an “unprecedented” Serbian military build-up.


Serbia deployed sophisticated tanks and artillery on the border after deadly clashes erupted at a monastery in northern Kosovo last week, the White House warned. The European Union also expressed similar concerns.


Kosovo’s government on Saturday said it was monitoring the movements of the Serbian military from “three different directions”. It also urged Serbia to immediately pull back its troops and demilitarise the border area.


Clashes last week erupted when heavily armed Serb gunmen ambushed a patrol a few miles from the Serbian border, killing a Kosovo police officer.


Read the full article here.


Ethiopia - 28 September 2023


UN Rights Body Should Extend Ethiopia Investigations


Last week, an independent United Nations inquiry into serious violations committed since the outbreak of armed conflict in northern Ethiopia released a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Its findings are chilling.


The report, by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), exposes wide-ranging atrocities during the conflict, documenting 49 mass killings of Tigrayan civilians by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, widespread and systematic sexual violence against 10,000 Tigrayan women and girls, starvation, forced displacement, and arbitrary detention. It concludes that all warring parties, including Tigrayan forces, committed war crimes, and that federal government forces and their allies, including Eritrean forces, committed crimes against humanity.


ICHREE warned that neither the conflict nor violations in Tigray have ended, with abuses taking place on a national scale. It underscored significant violations in the regions of Amhara, Oromia, and elsewhere, pointing to mass arrests of ethnic Amhara since the government imposed a state of emergency in August.


ICHREE called for real accountability and questioned the Ethiopian government’s pledges to deliver on it. “Ethiopia has failed to effectively investigate violations,” the report says, noting that the government’s deeply flawed domestic process has served primarily to evade international scrutiny. “Impunity, rather than accountability, is the norm regarding past violations.”


The full article can be found here.


UN/Haiti - 2 October 2023


UN set to vote on international armed force for Haiti


For the past year, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for such a force to address the country's spiraling security crisis.


But given the challenges faced by past peacekeeping efforts in Haiti and the risks of sending an outside force into today's quagmire, finding a country willing to lead the effort has been difficult.


However, Kenya announced in late July that it was ready to take on the lead-nation role and deploy a 1,000-strong force to the impoverished Caribbean country.


The United States, which has expressed willingness to provide logistical support but no boots on the ground, indicated last month that several other countries were prepared to contribute to a multinational security force.


Those countries include Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda. Following weeks of internal debate over an appropriate mandate, Security Council members on Monday will decide whether to give their blessing to such a mission -- which would not be under UN control.


The full article can be found here.


Ukraine/Russia/EU - 2 October 2023


Live: EU convenes 'historic meeting' of foreign ministers in Kyiv


All of the European Union’s foreign ministers on Monday met outside of the bloc’s borders in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time. “We are here to express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, describing the meeting as "historic". Overnight, US President Joe Biden pressed congressional Republicans to back a bill for more aid to Ukraine after Congress stopped extended funding to the country in a bid to avoid a US federal government shutdown.


The full article can be found here.


Syria - 29 September 2023


No, Syria Is Still Not Safe for Refugee Returns


On September 15, Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou bemoaned that European Union member states cannot currently return asylum seekers to Syria, and said the EU should reevaluate whether Syria is safe for returns so that asylum seekers could be deported to or returned there. Cyprus has also taken measures to expedite asylum processing, reduce financial support to asylum seekers, and begin construction of a migrant detention center to, as Ioannou puts it,“make Cyprus an unattractive destination.”


Ioannou’s remarks come one day after United Nations Human Rights Chief Volker Türk warned of worsening security in Syria due to fighting in the country’s northeast. The UN Refugee Agency maintains that conditions in Syria prevent it from promoting or facilitating refugee returns.


Human Rights Watch has documented how Syrian security agencies arbitrarily detained, kidnapped, tortured, and killed refugees who returned to Syria between 2017 and 2021. That pattern of abuse and persecution has not ceased. As recently as July, Human Rights Watch found that returnees had been tortured in Syrian military intelligence’s custody and conscripted to serve in Syria’s military reserve force.


Ioannou cited the European Union Asylum Agency’s (EUAA) assessment that Damascus and other parts of government-controlled Syria are no longer experiencing generalized violence, but omitted the agency’s observation that people being returned to Damascus could still be at risk of persecution and that the capital’s general situation is such that sending people there who were not at risk of persecution would only be reasonable “in exceptional cases.”


The full article can be found here.

Philippines - 2 October 2023


Philippines' Marcos suffers 'significant' drop in approval rating


President Ferdinand Marcos has suffered a "significant" drop in his approval rating as soaring consumer prices in the Philippines undermines his support, a polling organisation said on Monday.


The Pulse Asia Survey, conducted from Sept. 10 to 14, found 65% of 1,200 respondents approved of the president's performance, down 15 points from 80% in a June poll, marking the first decline in approval scores for the son of the late Philippine strongman, also Ferdinand Marcos.


Marcos' presidential communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Marcos, who is also agriculture secretary, has struggled to keep inflation in check, with the pace of price increases still outside the government's 2%-4% target despite interventions like food tariff cuts.


The annual rate of inflation was 6.6% at the end of August. Last month, Marcos imposed price ceilings for rice.


The full article can be found here.


China/Taiwan - 2 October 2023


Two elves and a scroll: China military releases animation on Taiwan 'reunification'


The Chinese military released an animated short film on National Day showing pieces of a scroll painting torn in two more than 300 years ago being reunited, in a show of the mainland's determination to bring self-ruled Taiwan into the fold.


The pieces of the "The Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains", one of China's best-known ancient paintings, are kept separately in museums in China and Taiwan, the democratically governed island that Beijing claims as one its provinces, and which it reserves the right to take over by force.


On National Day on Sunday, the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command, known for belligerent videos of exercises around Taiwan, released an animated short film called "Dreams Come True on Fuchun River", appealing to the shared cultural roots of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.


The film featured two elves, representing the two pieces of the painting by Yuan dynasty master Huang Gongwang, which was torn apart in the 17th century by one of its owners.


The full article can be found here.

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