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International Legal News - 26 February 2024

Updated: Mar 3

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 20 to 26 February 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.



Ukraine/Russia – 24 February

Four Western leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Belgian Alexander De Croo, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, arrived in Kyiv to show solidarity with Ukraine on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion.

The Italian government announced that the leaders travelled together overnight by train from Poland. Meloni was due to host a videoconference later in the day from Kyiv involving leaders from the Group of Seven major democracies, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited to join the discussion.

Hong Kong – 23 February

Over the past three years, cryptocurrency crimes in Hong Kong have almost tripled, with 2023 cases involving approximately $611 million. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has intensified its information disclosure efforts since September last year, publishing a list of suspicious trading platforms.

The SFC and the Police have exchanged intelligence concerning over 100 trading platforms or related activities. The JPEX case was major in Hong Kong last year, causing thousands of customer complaints and a loss of over $152 million. The Treasury Department initiated a public consultation on licensing virtual asset trading service providers to enhance the regulatory framework.

The government aims to submit a draft regulation on the licensing regime to the Legislative Council. HTX, previously known as Huobi, has applied to provide cryptocurrency services in Hong Kong, joining a growing list of applicants.

Tunisia – 23 February

Tunisian authorities face pressure to release six political opponents who have been held for a year while being investigated on unfounded accusations of "conspiracy against state security".

The detainees are perceived as political opponents for exercising their right to freedom of assembly. Amnesty International has called for their immediate release and the dropping of all charges against them. The Tunisian government has been investigating 17 individuals and affiliated persons under several charges, including "conspiracy against state security."

Since February 2023, judicial authorities have summoned at least 42 additional political activists, members of the opposition, businessmen, former members of parliament, lawyers, human rights defenders, and former security officials for investigation in the same case.

The authorities have failed to demonstrate that the pre-trial detention of the six detainees is necessary and proportionate as required under international law. Amnesty International has reviewed the statements and found they are all protected speech under freedom of expression.

UN/Indonesia - 22 February

The UN has urged Indonesia to address discrimination against women and people with disabilities following a dialogue with the country's government officials in Geneva.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights urged the government to repeal provisions found to be discriminatory against women and adopt a human rights-based policy for the promotion of persons with disabilities. However, the country still faces 73 local mandatory hijab regulations, leaving women and girls in psychological distress.

Domestic workers in Indonesia are not recognised as workers under national labour laws, and they face harassment, exploitation, and violence. Community-based mental health, support, and independent living services are still lacking for people with disabilities.

Algeria – 22 February

Algerian authorities continue to repress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly five years after the Hirak protest movement began. After the movement was halted due to COVID-19 in 2020, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, while dozens of peaceful protesters, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders continue to languish behind bars for criticising the authorities.

Amnesty International's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef, calls for the immediate release of those detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

The authorities should also stop harassment of opponents and perceived critics and reform key legislation, including repealing vague provisions used to repress human rights. Amnesty International launched a campaign in September 2023 to demand the release of dozens of detainees, including Slimane Bouhafs, Mohamed Tadjadit, and Ihsane El-Kadi.

The president of Algeria has issued pardons and clemency measures for thousands of prisoners and detainees, including 160 detainees and prisoners linked to the Hirak movement in February 2021 and April 2022.

Saudi Arabia – 21 February

Saudi Arabia has faced pressure to release fitness instructor, human rights defender, and blogger Manahel al-Otaibi, who has been forcibly disappeared since November 2023.

Al-Otaibi has been in detention for a year and a half and awaits her trial before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) on cybercrime law charges. She is being tried for posting photos of herself without the abaya and for social media posts in support of women's rights and calling for the removal of Saudi Arabia's repressive male guardianship laws.

Amnesty International has called for her release and the ludicrous charges against her. The Riyadh Criminal Court examined her case in January 2023 and referred it to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) because her actions "violate religious principles and social values and disrupt public order and undermine the security of society." Both of Manahel al-Otaibi's sisters have also faced criminal charges for campaigning for women's rights.

Switzerland – 21 February

A Swiss court has acquitted three authors of a report alleging that Kolmar Group AG may have violated international law by buying smuggled Libyan oil.

The decision, a step towards justice, helps protect the right to freedom of expression and the work of human rights defenders trying to hold companies accountable. Amnesty International's Head of Business and Human Rights, Mark Dummett, said the decision to acquit the report's authors helps protect the right to freedom of expression and the work of human rights defenders trying to hold companies to account.

Kolmar's ongoing civil litigation still poses an existential threat to Public Eye and TRIAL International, the non-governmental organisations which published the report. The Swiss authorities should take all necessary measures to ensure that corporations cannot use their laws to silence and intimidate human rights defenders.

UK/Global – 20 February

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has launched an international campaign targeting LockBit, the world's most harmful cybercrime group. The group has infiltrated its network and taken control of LockBit's services, compromising its entire criminal enterprise. LockBit has operated for four years, with prolific ransomware attacks targeting thousands of victims worldwide.

The group provided ransomware-as-a-service to a global network of hackers, supplying them with the tools and infrastructure required to carry out attacks. The NCA has taken control of LockBit's primary administration environment, the group's public-facing leak site on the dark web and obtained the LockBit platform's source code and intelligence from their systems. The NCA and international partners have been covertly investigating LockBit as part of a dedicated task force called Operation Cronos.

The US Department of Justice has announced that two defendants responsible for using LockBit to carry out ransomware attacks have been criminally charged and will face trial in the US. The NCA and international partners are in a position to assist LockBit victims and will continue to work with domestic and international allies to identify, disrupt, and deter cyber threats.

Democratic Republic of Congo – 20 February

Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Tigere Chagutah, has called for the immediate end of deliberate attacks on civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the Congolese army and the Movement of 23 March (M23).

The group, which claims to be fighting for the safe return of Congolese Tutsi refugees, has resumed attacks in North Kivu, resulting in at least 35 civilian deaths, dozens of injuries, and over 135,000 forced to flee. Chagutah urges all parties involved to provide immediate and unrestricted access for humanitarian actors seeking to deliver life-saving assistance to civilians.

She also urges states and intergovernmental organisations to reconsider their response to the crisis and ensure accountability for nearly 30 years of crimes committed in the DRC.

Lebanon – 20 February

Thousands of people in Tripoli, Lebanon, are living in unsafe buildings that pose a risk to their right to adequate housing and life. The earthquakes exacerbated existing structural issues, posing additional risks to residents.

The Lebanese government has failed to carry out comprehensive surveys of buildings at risk or provide support to residents, and their interventions have been limited to serving eviction notices and, in some cases, fines.

Amnesty International's Lebanon researcher, Sahar Mandour, found that the government has drastically failed in its responsibility to establish a clear plan to repair damaged buildings and ensure that residents are offered support, including compensation and alternative housing where applicable.

In the last six months alone, eight people in Lebanon have been killed after their buildings collapsed. The government urgently needs to fulfil its obligations and protect the right to safe and adequate housing despite the economic crisis.

Australia – 20 February

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in Australia has accused a federal police officer of stealing a Trezor hardware wallet containing 81.62 Bitcoin at a crime scene.

The wallet was discovered during a drug raid but was not found. The wallet, valued at $309,000 then, is now worth around $4.2 million. An associate initially suspected the theft of a crime syndicate. However, a link to Wheatley was found after investigating the IP addresses used to access the stolen Bitcoin using crypto tracing software.

The theft comes amid Trezor's acknowledgement of a security breach affecting nearly 66,000 users. Wheatley pleads innocent and is prepared to contest the charges regarding the stolen Bitcoin.

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