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International Legal News

Weekly update: 20 – 26 October 2020

The following media round up of international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 20 – 26 October 2020.

The Guernica Group 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 for consideration.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – 16 October 2020

On 16 October 2020, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced Srecko Acimovic, a former Bosnian Serb Commander, to 9 years of imprisonment. The Court found Acimovic guilty of aiding the genocide of Bosniaks in Srebrenica in July 1995. While explaining the verdict, Judge Stanisa Gluhajic stated that Acimovic “deliberately offered assistance in the execution of the plan and the commission of genocide against the Bosniaks.” The sentence can be appealed as it is a first instance ruling. Sudan – 17 October 2020

On 17 October 2020, an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation, led by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, arrived in Sudan to discuss the prosecution of the former President Omar al-Bashir and two other former government officials with the transitional government. This is the first time that an official ICC delegation has visited Sudan since 31 March 2005, when the United Nations Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the Court.

The Sudanese transitional government has previously expressed willingness to cooperate with the ICC in bringing to justice those accused of international crimes, but it is not clear yet what form this cooperation will take. Talks of establishing a special court to prosecute war crimes suspects also emerged earlier last month in the peace deal signed between Sudan’s transitional authorities and Darfur rebels. The Netherlands/Indonesia – 19 October 2020

On 19 October 2020, the government of the Netherlands announced that it will pay compensation (€5,000) to the children of Indonesians who were executed by Dutch soldiers during the Indonesian War of Independence, between 1946 and 1947.

The announcement follows a court ruling passed earlier this year, which ordered the Dutch state to compensate the widows and children of 11 men executed between 1946 and 1947 in Indonesia’s Southern Sulawesi island. “Children who can prove that their father was a victim of summary execution as described…are eligible for compensation,” said the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, underscoring the eligibility criteria that will be set.

Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered a press briefing on 20 October 2020, addressing the latest developments in Sudan. This statement follows the Juba Peace Agreement signed at the beginning of October between the Sovereignty Council and the Sudan Revolutionary Front.

Over the last week, Bensouda met with top Sudanese officials, including the Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, and Prosecutor General. Bensouda noted the meetings allowed her to explain the ICC proceedings, and led to assurances of support and cooperation given by Sudanese authorities to “achieve justice for atrocity crimes.”

In the case of Perovy v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights found that there had been no violation of the Convention.

The applicants, a couple and their son who was 7 at the time, are members of the Church of the Community of Christ. They complained before the Court about a Russian Orthodox rite of blessing ceremony in their son’s municipal school, which they argued was incompatible with their rights to freedom of religion and to educate their child in accordance with their beliefs. The Court found that the ceremony had been a minor one-off event, limited in scope and duration, without any intention of indoctrination. It had been an error of assessment by the schoolteacher and had immediately been rectified through specific decisions and sanctions.

The European Court of Human Rights held a Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Denis and Irvine v. Belgium.

The case concerns the refusal of the Belgian courts to release the applicants, who were place in compulsory confinement in Belgium under the 1930 Social Protection Act for offences classified as theft (Mr Denis in 2007) and attempted aggravated burglary (Mr Irvine in 2002).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on 21 October 2020 strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on 20 October 2020. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disable prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

On 22 October 2020, the trial in Prosecutor v. Maximilien Turinabo et al. began before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in Arusha, Tanzania. The proceedings, before Single Judge Vagn Joensen, began with opening statements from both parties, and will continue on 26 October 2020 with the presentation of evidence.

The trial concerns criminal contempt and incitement to commit contempt charges against the six Accused – Maximilien Turinabo, Anselme Nzabonimpa, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana, Marie Rose Fatuma, Dick Prudence Munyeshuli, and Augustin Ngirabatware.

Mr. Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, has called on Israel to release a Palestinian detainee who has been on hunger strike for close to 90 days and end its practice of administrative detention, under which people can be held indefinitely without trial, sometimes for years.

Maher al-Akhras began a hunger strike in late July after he was arrested. Israeli security forces accuse him of being a member of Islamic Jihad, a charge he denies. The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected his petitions for release three times.

Prosecutors have ordered a university in Moscow to submit detailed information on students and faculty who participated in mass protests and had contacts with foreign groups, according to Human Rights Watch. The order is part of an inspection of the university by a local prosecutor’s office.

The inspection comes a year after mass protests in Moscow attracted thousands of students and other younger people. It seems aimed at intimidating students and faculty, limiting free speech and academic freedom, and falsely portraying critics and protesters as linked to foreign influence.


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