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International Legal News 22 January 2024

Updated: Jan 29

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 16 January to 22 January 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. 



USA -20 January

Ripple's legal team has rejected the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) request for additional financial documents, deeming it untimely and unjustifiable. The company argues that the request needs to be more relevant and manageable, citing previous discoveries and concerns about potential delays in proceedings.

Ripple Labs also expressed concerns that the SEC's summary procedure could deprive it of standard pre-suit investigation protections. The legal dispute between Ripple and the SEC continues, with the trial slated to commence in April, adding to the situation's complexities. Ripple's lawyers argue that the regulatory body cannot unilaterally extend its interrogatories in the case.

Singapore – 19 January

Singapore's most significant money laundering case has seized assets worth over S$3 billion ($2.24 billion) from S$2.8 billion in October. The case involved ten foreigners who allegedly laundered the proceeds of their overseas organised crime activities.

The number of assets seized rose from S$1.8 billion in early September to S$2.8 billion in October. Authorities are now reviewing the anti-money laundering legislation, inspecting financial institutions suspected of involvement, and considering regulating high-value assets, such as luxury cars and bags.

Eswatini – 19 January

Opposition activist Thulani Maseko was killed in Eswatini in January 2021. Despite a government statement stating that the police prioritised Maseko's murder and others following the June 2021 civil unrest, no credible investigation has been conducted. The government has made false accusations against Maseko's widow, Tanele Maseko, who blamed King Mswati III for her husband's killing.

Eswatini's regional and international partners and civil society organisations have called for an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation. If such an investigation is underway, it should ensure transparency and accountability for the family.

Taiwan – 19 January Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party's election has raised pressure on the digital assets sector, with President-elect Lai Ching-te aiming to set consumer protection standards for crypto firms. Despite the country's reputation as a "scam island," Lai has vowed to crack down on fraud, including those using cryptocurrencies.

The number of fraud cases reached a 10-year high; Lai has also promised to crack down. Deepfake AI videos of Lai and President Tsai Ying-wen began appearing on social media, encouraging people to invest in crypto. Deepfake AI videos of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also emerged in November.

A finance professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Zhang Xiaoyan, explained the government outlawed crypto speculation and Bitcoin mining, cracking down on their use by organised crime. She also worried about retail investors needing more financial literacy to manage their wealth and excessive risk-taking, ultimately hurting their long-term growth.

Burundi – 19 January

Burundi's president, Évariste Ndayishimiye, has sparked a growing fear of LGBT people in the country. He suggested that accepting homosexuality would attract a curse and that it would be better to stone LGBT people.

This has led to a surge of hate and violence, with some calling for more violence and punishments. The US and EU have called for Burundi's government to respect the rights of all Burundians but have not called out the remarks as homophobic.

The crackdown on LGBT rights is expected to worsen amidst Burundi's broader human rights crisis, including political repression and restrictions on freedom of expression.

EU – 18 January

The European Union has agreed to stricter anti-money laundering rules for crypto assets and luxury car dealers, warning that oligarchs and criminals could no longer hide in the 27-country bloc. The deal introduces a single EU rulebook for tackling money laundering across the bloc, completing a package with a new EU anti-money laundering authority (AMLA).

The latest deal gives AMLA powers to intervene if a member state needs to be faster in tackling money laundering. The scope of anti-money laundering rules broadens to include crypto assets, luxury goods traders, football clubs and agents, and "golden" visas granted by some EU states in return for property investment. Crypto asset service providers must make checks on customers carrying out transactions worth 1,000 euros or more and report suspicious activity.

Russia – 18 January

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the use of force by police in Bashkortostan protests. The protests were triggered by police using high-grade protective gear to deny peaceful assembly. Videos show protesters responding with snowballs to the police's use of tear gas. Amnesty International claims the criminal charges against the protesters and authorities' claim of responding to mass riots are baseless.

The protests intensified after the human rights activist Fail Alsynov's sentencing and led to arrests and confrontations. A criminal case was initiated under Russia's Criminal Code, resulting in 17 people being put under administrative arrest for participating in an unauthorised mass gathering.

USA – 18 January Donald Trump has launched a digital collectable promotion, a Bitcoin ordinal, that costs $9,900 but cannot be traded by its owners for almost a year. Collectors who pay $99 for 100 of his "mugshot edition" NFTs will receive a unique card in the form of an ordinal, an NFT-like digital asset on the Bitcoin blockchain. The offer aims to boost sales of Trump's latest NFT collection, but the ordinals and 100 NFTs can only be traded in December 2024.

Lebanon – 18 January

Amnesty International has criticised Lebanon's Cassation Court for suspending an arrest warrant against former public works minister Youssef Fenianos, who was charged with homicide and criminal negligence in the Beirut port blast investigation.

The suspension is seen as a sign of the ongoing obstruction of the investigation into the 2020 blast, which killed 235 and injured over 7,000. Amnesty International has called for an international, independent, and impartial investigative mission to uphold justice, truth, and reparation for the families of victims and survivors.

The suspension of the domestic investigation into the Beirut blast has been due to arbitrary legal challenges filed against Judge Tarek Bitar and other judges involved in the case. The UN Human Rights Council has been called upon to take decisive action and establish a fact-finding mission into the Beirut blast.

USA – 17 January

Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried's parents seek to dismiss a lawsuit against them, arguing that it was solely based on their relationship with their son. The lawsuit alleges that Bankman and Fried exploited their influence within the FTX empire to enrich themselves at the expense of debtors in the FTX bankruptcy estate.

Bankman and Fried's lawyers argue that the relationship is not actionable and that even if there was a fiduciary relationship, the plaintiffs have failed to allege a breach plausibly. They also say that the complaint must contain sufficient facts to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. FTX has been trying to claw back millions of dollars in cash and gifts from the couple.

Kyrgyzstan – 17 January

Amnesty International's Central Asia Researcher, Maisy Weicherding, has criticised Kyrgyzstani authorities for escalating their crackdown on freedom of expression. The authorities have detained journalists affiliated with independent media outlets and raided their homes and offices.

The actions are seen as a new attack on the right to freedom of expression and undermine the country's obligations under international human rights law. Weicherding argues that the use of vague and unsubstantiated charges, such as "inciting unrest" and "propaganda of war," exposes the arbitrary nature of criminal proceedings.

 

Andorra – 17 January

The abortion rights activist Vanessa Mendoza Cortés has been acquitted of defamation charges in Andorra. The acquittal is a significant victory. The Centre for Reproductive Rights, Women's Link Worldwide, and Front-Line Defenders welcomed the decision and called on Andorran authorities to publicly recognise the legitimacy of Mendoza Cortés' human rights work.

The acquittal upholds Cortés' right to freedom of expression and affirms the legitimacy of the efforts of all those defending women's rights and sexual and reproductive rights. The organisations called on Andorra to comply with its obligations to decriminalise abortion and make access to it safe and legal in the country.

Indonesia – 16 January

Indonesian authorities should “stop pushing back boats carrying Rohingya refugees and investigate assaults on them”, according to Human Rights Watch. The group claims that over 100 students assaulted 137 Rohingya refugees in Banda Aceh, forcing them onto trucks for deportation.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 11 Rohingya boats have landed in Aceh and North Sumatra since November, with at least 1,700 refugees, 70% of whom are women and children. The group also claims that Indonesia has faced a coordinated online campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech against refugees.

The group calls for greater regional and international cooperation to respond to boats carrying Rohingya refugees in distress, including coordinated search-and-rescue operations and timely disembarkation at the nearest safe port.

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