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International Legal News - 25 September 2023

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 19 September to 25 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.

Iraq - 25 September 2023

Iraq: Torture Survivors Await US Redress, Accountability

No Clear Path to Compensation for Iraqis Abused in Detention by US Forces

The United States government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse two decades after evidence emerged of US forces mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and its coalition allies held about 100,000 Iraqis between 2003 and 2009. Human Rights Watch and others have documented torture and other ill-treatment by US forces in Iraq. Survivors of abuse have come forward for years to give their accounts of their treatment, but received little recognition from the US government and no redress. Prohibitions against torture under US domestic law, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, as well as customary international law, are absolute.

“Twenty years on, Iraqis who were tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for filing a claim or receiving any kind of redress or recognition from the US government,” said Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “US officials have indicated that they prefer to leave torture in the past, but the long-term effects of torture are still a daily reality for many Iraqis and their families.”

The full article can be found here.

Ukraine/Russia - 24 September 2023

War crimes dossier to accuse Russia of deliberately causing starvation in Ukraine

Human rights lawyers working with Ukraine’s public prosecutor are preparing a war crimes dossier to submit to the international criminal court (ICC) accusing Russia of deliberately causing starvation during the 18-month-long conflict.

The aim is to document instances where the Russian invaders used hunger as a weapon of war, providing evidence for the ICC to launch the first prosecution of its kind that could indict the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Yousuf Khan, a senior lawyer with law firm Global Rights Compliance, said “the weaponisation of food has taken place in three phases,” starting with the initial invasion where Ukrainian cities were besieged and food supplies cut.

Among the incidents documented was when 20 civilians were killed in Chernihiv in the early morning of 16 March 2022, when Russian fragmentation bombs exploded outside a supermarket in the city where Ukrainians were queueing for bread and food.

Investigators are also focusing on the siege of Mariupol, Khan added. Food supplies were cut to the city and humanitarian relief corridors blocked or bombed, making it very difficult or impossible for desperate, starving civilians to escape.

The second phase includes the destruction of food and water supplies as well as energy sources across Ukraine during the fighting, which the lawyer described as “objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population”.

Such attacks, Khan argued, were “not crimes of result but crimes of intent” because “if you are taking out objects that civilians need, like energy infrastructure in the dead of winter, there is a foreseeability to your actions”.

The full article can be found here.

Myanmar - 25 September 2023

‘Still my people’: Myanmar diaspora supports democracy struggle back home

Until recently, Myanmar was little but a distant memory for Bawi Tin Par. The 26-year-old left her native Chin State when she was nine and was resettled as a refugee in the United States city of Indianapolis.

In the 17 years afterwards, her connection to Myanmar gradually faded, but when the country descended into crisis following the February 2021 military coup, she felt compelled to act.

So in December of 2022, she went back.

Visiting armed resistance groups and camps for the conflict-displaced during her one-month trip, she became acutely aware of the vast differences between her life and that of her peers who had stayed.

“Our parents would always teach us that you need to care for your roots,” she said. “I think you’re immune to it if you live far from where you come from. But now, it hits home.”

The full article can be found here.

ICC - 21 September 2023

ICC war crimes tribunal hobbles on despite hacking

The Netherlands-based International Criminal Court was operating on Thursday with disruptions to email, streaming and document-sharing after a hacking incident earlier in the week, sources and lawyers at the tribunal said.

The high-profile ICC in the city of The Hague handles sensitive information about war crimes cases. It disclosed the hack on Tuesday but has given no more information as it seeks to continue core work including an ongoing trial of two men accused of leading Central African Republic militias.

In March, the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of illegally deporting children from Ukraine. The Kremlin rejects the accusations and the court's jurisdiction.

Prosecutors are also conducting investigations of alleged war crimes in Ukraine, Sudan and Afghanistan, among others. On Thursday, the court was disconnected from most systems that can access the internet, meaning employees cannot read e-mail and documents cannot be viewed remotely, according to two sources.

Read the full article here.

UN/Russia/Ukraine - 22 September 2023

Russia ‘mocks the UN’ with Ukraine invasion, Penny Wong tells general assembly in New York

Russia “mocks the United Nations every day it continues its illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine”, foreign minister Penny Wong has told the UN General Assembly, reiterating calls for reform of the security council on which Russia sits.

Australia is seeking a non-permanent seat back on the powerful council at the end of the decade, but says it risks becoming an anachronism without fundamental reform

“We must ensure greater permanent and non-permanent representation for Africa, Latin America and Asia, including permanent seats for India and Japan,” Wong told the general assembly in New York on Saturday Australian time, arguing the global community must demand the five permanent members be constrained in their use of their veto powers.

“With its special responsibility as a permanent member of the security council, Russia mocks the UN every day it continues its illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

“The rest of the permanent members and all member states must be unyielding in our response to Russia’s grave violation of Article II of our shared UN charter,” Wong said. Article II of the UN charter prohibits, inter alia, “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

The full article can be found here.

Americas (Venezuela) - 21 September 2023

Growing exodus of Venezuelans highlights failure of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile to comply with obligations

In its new report published today, Regularize and Protect: International obligations for the protection of Venezuelan nationals, Amnesty International reveals that Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile are failing to comply with their obligations under international law to protect those fleeing Venezuela in order to safeguard their lives, integrity and human rights.

“In the face of an unprecedented crisis in the region, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile have either not been able to or not wanted to protect those fleeing Venezuela. The various measures and programs they are implementing to offer them regular migrant status do not comply with the standards outlined by international law. These states have the opportunity and obligation to protect the more than 5 million Venezuelans in their territories as a matter of urgency,” said Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile are home to 70% of the 7.71 million Venezuelans who have fled Venezuela due to the complex humanitarian emergency and massive human rights violations. The report analyses the temporary protection measures, migratory regularization and procedures for the recognition of refugee status considering their accessibility, scope, and effectiveness. Using those three criteria, Amnesty International concludes that none of the four states complies with their obligations under national and international law to offer international protection or supplementary protection to Venezuelans.

The full article can be found here.

Armenia - 25 September 2023

The first refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have arrived in Armenia after Azerbaijan’s military captured full control of the disputed region.

Tens of thousands of people have been impacted by the latest fighting with hundreds entering Armenia as of Sunday night.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence reported its peacekeepers, who were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, helped transport 311 civilians, including 102 children.

In December, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, alleging the Armenian government was using it for mineral extraction and illicit weapons shipments to separatist forces.

The closure denied basic food and fuel supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 people.

The region, whose population is majority ethnic Armenian, is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

The full article can be found here.

China/Cambodia - 25 September 2023

The shadowy Chinese firm that owns chunks of Cambodia

The highway runs through the forest like a black ribbon, down to the sea and to what must be one of the world's largest tourism projects.

Fifteen years after it began, there is still not much to see of the Dara Sakor Seashore Resort in southern Cambodia.

It is a grandiose scheme by a Chinese company to build a self-contained tourist city. A Chinese colony, some have called it a venue for "feasting and revelry", according to the company, complete with international airport, deep-sea port, power stations, hospitals, casinos and luxury villas.

The airport is still unfinished. A single casino, with an attached five-star hotel and apartments, sits alone near the sea, fronted by an unmade road, and surrounded by a construction site.

As a tourist business it has barely got started. But it has already had a damaging impact on one of Asia's richest natural environments, and on the thousands of people who live there.

China's economic footprint in Cambodia now dwarfs that of any other country. It provides half of all direct investment and most of its foreign aid.

Cambodia is an enthusiastic partner in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping's strategy for expanding Chinese built-and-funded-infrastructure around the world. A lot of this is clearly beneficial. But a great deal of Chinese investment is speculative, rushed and poorly planned.

The once quiet coastal town of Sihanoukville, for example, across the bay from Dara Sakor, was transformed in just a few years into a huge construction site to feed Chinese demand for casinos.

It fuelled a crime wave and then a collapse of the gambling economy during Covid, littering the town with half-built, empty tower blocks. There are good reasons to fear Dara Sakor may suffer similar problems.

"It's like baking without flour," says Sophal Ear, a Cambodian academic at Arizona State University. "You cannot rely on unsustainable practices to achieve sustainable development. What about the Chinese real estate bubble? When China sneezes, Cambodia will catch a cold."

The full article can be found here.

Ethiopia/UK - 23 September 2023

Ethiopian Prince Alemayehu's lock of hair returned after 140 years in UK

A lock of hair from a young Ethiopian prince, who died over 140 years ago, has been handed over in the UK to representatives from his home country.

In 1868, British soldiers took Prince Alemayehu away after invading the fortress of his father, Emperor Tewodros II, who then killed himself.

The crown prince died aged 18 in 1879 after an unhappy upbringing in Britain.

He was buried at Windsor Castle near London, but recent requests to have his body returned have been turned down.

One of the prince's relatives, Fasil Minas, expressed hope that the handing over of the prince's hair could pave the way for his body to go back to Ethiopia.

The full article can be found here.

Libya - 23 September 2023

Haftar’s sons rise in Libya’s east, bringing ‘corruption, death, destruction’

Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of eastern Libya, has placed his six sons in positions of political and military power. The deadly floods in Derna have seen his youngest, Saddam, rise to head of disaster relief management and the top of his succession charts. For Libyans, it spells more bad news.

Wearing camouflage fatigues and his customary scowl, Saddam Haftar pours over a map of Libya in an airy chamber identified as the “Libyan Emergency Room” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. At his side are three Russian officials, part of a Russian defence ministry team that arrived in eastern Libya days after dams collapsed in Derna, unleashing a disaster of biblical proportions.

“Brigadier General Saddam Haftar, Head of the Libyan Emergency Room, follows up on the latest developments of search and rescue operations,” notes the post by a Libyan local news site barely a week after the September 11 catastrophe, which has been dubbed “Libya’s 9/11”.

The full article can be found here.


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