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International Legal News - 22 April 2024

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 16 April to 22 April 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 nenadv@guernica37.com for consideration.


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

Jordan – 19 April

Jordanian authorities are on the verge of deporting a 24-year-old Syrian communications student who faces a significant risk of persecution if forcibly returned to Syria. Atia Mohamad Abu Salem, a 24-year-old Syrian student, and a Jordanian friend were arrested on April 9, 2024, while filming a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Abu Salem and his family members, known for their opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's rule in Syria, have been registered as asylum seekers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 2013. Jordanian authorities later ordered Abu Salem's deportation without a court order or realistic ability to challenge the order.

 

Gambia – 19 April    

Gambia's National Assembly is considering a bill to reverse a 2015 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), which is regarded as a significant threat to women's rights. The country is among the top 10 countries with high levels of FGM, and if the bill is adopted, it would become the first to overturn an FGM ban.

FGM involves the removal of female external genitalia for non-medical reasons, has severe physical, psychological, and emotional consequences and is a serious public health issue. The UN reports that over 230 million girls and women worldwide have survived FGM, and the Gambia Demographic and Health Survey data shows a slight decrease in FGM cases.

 

Sudan – 18 April

Civilians in El Fasher, Sudan, are facing a surge in large-scale fighting following a prolonged truce between the two warring parties. Several villages near the city have been burned to the ground, and people in a camp for internally displaced people have been killed by shelling and clashes.

The conflict has led to an increase in civilian casualties, with many killed and injured in attacks by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Arab militias on non-Arab villages west of El Fasher. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned of catastrophic levels of malnutrition among children in the city and further fighting risks cutting off already malnourished displaced people from critical care.

 

Armenia – 18 April            

Armenia's parliament has adopted amendments to strengthen its domestic violence law, addressing gaps in protection and accountability measures. The amendments remove the reference to "family harmony" and include additional acts of physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence that can be considered domestic violence.

It criminalises stalking as a standalone crime and includes partners and former partners as aggravating factors. The amendments also specify that causing a child to witness domestic violence is tantamount to an act of violence. The amendments also set a minimum period for urgent intervention measures and extend the period for protective orders.

It also specifies that survivors have priority access to free healthcare services, and shelters must be accessible to people with disabilities. Armenia has yet to ratify the Council of Europe's convention on preventing domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention.

 

Peru – 18 April

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found the Peruvian government responsible for violating the right to a healthy environment in La Oroya, a town exposed to toxic pollution from a mine and smelter complex. The town is so polluted that 99.9% of children under six years old have high lead levels in their blood.

This led to the deaths of two residents, one of whom was 17 years old. The affected families did not receive adequate health care, and the government failed to investigate harassment and threats against victims who had publicly denounced the contamination.

The court ordered Peru to provide free health care for victims, pay compensation for harm, assess and clean up contaminated areas, and continue to monitor air, ground, and water quality.

 

Germany/China – 18 April

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's trip to China has been seen as a wasted opportunity, as he did not publicly mention human rights during his visit. The Chinese government's human rights record has become increasingly repressive since Xi Jinping took power in 2013. Scholz spoke with Xi, campaigned for freer trade for German industries, and sought Chinese support on critical foreign policy issues.

He assured journalists that he had addressed "all the difficult issues" but did not once mention "human rights." The German China Strategy, which recognises China as a security threat and geopolitical competitor, broadened Sino-German relations from their traditional focus on improving market access for German industries to a more multifaceted one.

Instead of steering Sino-German relations on a new course consistent with its strategy by publicly promoting respect for human rights, it is felt that Scholz defaulted to the well-worn path that would not further Germany's long-term interests nor the fundamental human rights of the people in China.

 

Syria – 17 April

Over 56,000 people in northeast Syria are facing systematic violations and deaths due to inhumane conditions, including torture methods. The autonomous authorities, the principal partner of the US government and other coalition members who defeated IS are thought to be responsible for the large-scale violation of their rights.

Tens of thousands of people remain arbitrarily and indefinitely detained, with many subjected to torture. The US government has apparently played a central role in the creation and maintenance of this system, which has failed to deliver justice and accountability for the victims and survivors of IS crimes.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Iraq are detaining men and boys in Panorama, a facility managed by a US-led coalition. The number of boys in detention facilities is expanding, with Syrian boys being arrested for perceived IS affiliation. As of December 2023, over 46,600 people, primarily children and women, are held in Al-Hol and Roj detention camps.

 

Israel/Palestine – 17 April          

Israeli settlers are accused of having displaced people from 20 West Bank communities and uprooted at least seven since October 7, 2023. The settlers have assaulted, tortured, and committed sexual violence against Palestinians, stolen their belongings and livestock, threatened to kill them if they did not leave permanently, and destroyed their homes and schools under the cover of ongoing hostilities in Gaza.

Many Palestinians, including entire communities, have fled. The UN has recorded more than 700 settler attacks between October 7 and April 3, with soldiers in uniform present in nearly half of the attacks. Israeli police have jurisdiction over settlers and the army over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The majority of Palestinian complaints against settlers and the Israeli military do not result in indictments.

 

Venezuela - 16 April

There has been International condemnation of the intensification of Maduro's government's repression policy in Venezuela, focusing on arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and opposition activists, as well as proposed laws that violate human rights.

There has been a spike in arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, misuse of criminal law, violations of due process and fair trial guarantees, stigmatising campaigns, and possible acts of torture against people perceived as critical of Maduro's government. The government has also been pushing forward repressive legislative bills to persecute civil society organisations and political dissidents with harsh punishments like prison sentences.

 

Italy - 16 April                                                   

Amnesty International has called for an imminent court decision on the Iuventa Crew in the final preliminary hearing of the Iuventa Trial. The crew of the Iuventa saved 14,000 lives, including children, but they have been dragged through Italian courts for years. The Prosecutor has recognised that charges against the Iuventa ship's crew members and other crews should be dropped.

The work of the Iuventa crew and others carrying out search and rescue at sea should never be criminalised. It is high time to end the prosecution of members of the Iuventa crew, as well as other human rights defenders who have served on rescue ships operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children, as well as legal action and against the NGOs themselves. The last session of the preliminary hearing is expected to take place on 19 April in Trapani.

 

Georgia - 16 April

Georgian authorities have tried to impose repressive legislation on the country's civil society, the proposed bill "On transparency of foreign influence" directly threatens freedom of association and expression. Countries across the post-Soviet region have considered similar legislation modelled on Russia's infamous "foreign agents" legislation.

The Georgian government's Legal Committee endorsed the bill on 15 April 2024, which is currently being considered in the first reading. The bill compels civil society organisations with foreign funding to register as "organisations carrying out in the interests of a foreign power." The bill has been criticised for potentially undermining Georgia's EU accession ambitions by targeting civil society organisations and independent media, delegitimising their work, and restricting their parliamentary access.

 

Uganda/Tanzania – 16 April          

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), one of the most significant and controversial fossil fuel projects under development, is causing considerable damage to local communities and contributing to climate change. The pipeline, stretching from oil fields in western Uganda to the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania, will increase greenhouse gas emissions and harm local communities.

The initial land acquisition process has devastated thousands of people's livelihoods in Uganda, causing food insecurity and household debt. Civil society groups in Uganda and Tanzania have called for the pipeline not to be built, citing climate, environmental, and social risks. Insurance companies are enabling these projects by providing insurance despite new oil projects being inconsistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

 

Guatemala - 16 April                                                             

Amnesty International has demanded a public hearing for Claudia González, a human rights defender and lawyer, in Guatemala. Ana Piquer, Amnesty International's Americas Director, emphasised the importance of holding public hearings to ensure the impartiality and independence of the judicial process, the right to freedom of expression, and to maintain society's confidence in the justice system.

In March, the tenth trial court ordered González to stand trial for the crime of abuse of authority related to her work at the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG). Amnesty International has observed that Guatemalan authorities have illegitimately restricted public access to hearings in wrongful criminal proceedings against justice workers and human rights defenders, including González and Virginia Laparra. These restrictions do not have the strict justifications required for the right to a fair trial.

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