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International Legal News 29 January 2024

Updated: Feb 5

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 23 January to 29 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 for consideration. 

Honduras – 27 January

Honduran activists are facing harassment and killings in their campaign to protect the Guapinol and San Pedro rivers in the Bajo Aguán region. The Guapinol community has been fighting for two years against an iron mine that negatively impacts agriculture and fishing. They formed the Municipal Committee for the Defence of Common and Public Property in 2015 and the Guapinol Community Council in 2018.

Amnesty International declared them "prisoners of conscience" for exercising their human rights. Honduran activists face significant challenges in protecting natural resources, with 11 killings documented in 2022. The Escazú Agreement, the first regional environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, aims to set new environmental protection and human rights standards.

Estonia – 27 January

The Estonian government has approved the extradition of two alleged masterminds behind the “Hashflare” crypto mining Ponzi scheme to the United States. The Estonian Ministry of Justice has gathered sufficient evidence as demanded by the court, and the Estonian government believes it has met the conditions set by the Tallinn Circuit Court.

The duo, Ivan Turogin and Sergei Potapenko, are accused of operating a Ponzi scheme that fleeced $575 million from unsuspecting investors. The Estonian government believes it has met the conditions set by the court, and the men's extradition to the U.S. would be above board. The scheme reportedly took money from hundreds of thousands of Estonian and non-Estonian investors who were promised high investment returns.

Israel – 26 January

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to comply with a provisional order to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The ruling, which ordered six provisional measures, includes refraining from acts under the Genocide Convention, preventing and punishing direct and public incitement to genocide, and providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

Amnesty International has warned of the risk of genocide in Gaza due to the high death toll among Palestinians, widespread destruction caused by Israel's bombardment, and the deliberate denial of humanitarian aid. The ICJ's decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes. Amnesty International calls on Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups to suspend all military operations in Gaza, lift its siege, and allow the flow of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.


Mali – 26 January

Mali's junta has announced the end of a 2015 peace agreement with armed separatist groups. The agreement was signed in June 2015 by the Malian government and a coalition of ethnic Tuareg armed groups. However, the deal began to fray in August 2023 due to renewed hostilities between the rebels and Malian forces.

The conflict has escalated, with a surge in attacks by armed Islamist groups across Mali. As UN peacekeepers withdraw, there are concerns about the rights monitoring and accountability for security force abuses. The parties must take necessary measures to minimise harm to civilians and end unlawful attacks on civilians and property.

Belarus – 25 January

Belarusian authorities have detained several dozen individuals, primarily relatives of those imprisoned for political reasons, in a crackdown on dissent. Amnesty International's Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, Marie Struthers, criticised the severity of the crackdown, stating that all those arbitrarily detained, including those involved in peaceful political activism, must be immediately released.

The Viasna Human Rights Centre reported that police raided the homes of around 160 individuals. The pattern of targeting political prisoners' relatives is not new in Belarus, with previous detentions involving political prisoners' relatives and those engaged in the INeedHelpBY project.

USA – 25 January

A US judge has blocked Changpeng 'CZ' Zhao's request to travel to the UAE for an unnamed individual's hospitalisation and surgery. Zhao's lawyers had requested his $4.5 billion Binance US equity as security for his return. Zhao pleaded guilty in November 2023 to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program at Binance and agreed to step down as CEO as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

As part of the settlement, Binance was required to exit the U.S. market and pay $4.3 billion in penalties for AML and sanctions violations. The judge ruled that Zhao must remain in the U.S. pending his sentencing, citing his wealth abroad and lack of ties to the U.S.

Burkina Faso – 25 January               

Three Burkina Faso, military drone strikes, targeting Islamist fighters have killed at least 60 civilians and injured scores more at two crowded markets and a packed funeral in Burkina Faso and Mali between August and November 2023.

Human Rights Watch accuses the Burkinabè military of violating laws-of-war prohibitions against attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets and are apparent war crimes. The Burkinabè government should investigate these attacks, hold those responsible accountable, and provide adequate support for victims and their families.

The conflict between the JNIM and the Islamic State has resulted in at least 7,600 deaths in 2023 alone, forcing 2.1 million people from their homes and shutting over 6,100 schools since 2021. Human Rights Watch has documented serious abuses by the Burkinabè security forces and pro-government militias during its counterinsurgency operations, including unlawful killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.

Sri Lanka – 24 January

The Sri Lankan Parliament has passed an Online Safety Act, which is a significant blow to freedom of expression in the country. The Act provides broad powers to an 'Online Safety Commission'. It includes provisions restricting the enjoyment of freedom of expression and privacy online and vaguely worded offences such as 'prohibited statements'.

Amnesty International Regional Researcher for South Asia Thyagi Ruwanpathirana argues that many parts of the Act do not meet international human rights standards, including overbroad provisions restricting the enjoyment of these rights.

The Act also includes a prohibition on 'communicating a false statement' that threatens national security, public health, or public order, promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of people.

Iraq – 24 January                         

Iraq's inmates at Nasiriyah prison are facing imminent execution without warning if President Abdul Latif Rashid approves their death sentences. Human Rights Watch has called for a moratorium on all executions and judicial system reforms to abolish the death penalty.

The executions were to be carried out without regard for the fundamental rights of those facing the death penalty, and the Iraqi government should immediately declare a moratorium on all executions. The government should reiterate to judges that they are obligated to dismiss any evidence obtained by torture. Iraqi judges have sentenced defendants to death on the overbroad charge of mere "membership of a terrorist organisation" without reference to any acts of violence.

The country has one of the highest rates of executions in the world, and it is deeply troubling to see the country revert to the death penalty instead of making meaningful reforms in the judiciary that would ensure fair trials.

China's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) focuses on its human rights record. Amnesty International's China director, Sarah Brooks, states that the review should have been a reckoning for the Chinese authorities.

Brooks criticised China for denying the scale of human rights violations documented in UN reports and offering up its anti-human rights approach as a model for other countries. She also noted that many states recommended that China cooperate more meaningfully with the UN system, including implementing expert policy recommendations and unfettered access for international rights experts.

Brooks emphasised that China's time-tested tactic of repressing human rights defenders means that those best placed to take this work forward are silenced, in prison or otherwise detained, under surveillance, in exile.

USA – 23 January

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has affirmed its regulatory authority over specific cryptocurrency assets following a legal battle with Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange. SEC lawyers argued that the Howey Test, a critical legal test, can be used to regulate specific crypto assets.

Binance's attorney, Matthew Gregory, argued that the SEC must establish clear cryptocurrency sector regulations. SEC lawyers challenged Binance's definition of securities, emphasising the flexibility of the test.

Binance has requested Judge Amy Berman Jackson to dismiss the charges against the company and its related parties. Judge Jackson questioned Binance's fair notice defence, stating that regulators are not obligated to notify parties about potential violations.

The SEC's allegations are partly based on the premise that many ongoing activities involving relevant crypto assets are associated with a "reasonable expectation of profit."

UN - 23 January                                                                   

Human Rights Watch has urged over 100 global groups to reject the draft global cybercrime treaty, which risks facilitating a crackdown on human rights. The groups encouraged states to ensure the treaty is narrowly focused on tackling cybercrime and incorporates strong human rights safeguards. The draft convention contains broad criminal provisions, weak human rights safeguards, and excessive cross-border information-sharing requirements.

The group argues that the convention's overreach could undermine its objectives by diluting efforts to address actual cybercrime while failing to safeguard legitimate security research, leaving people less secure online.


Global - 22 January

Alameda Research has dropped its lawsuit against Bitcoin fund manager Grayscale, allowing the failed crypto brand's new management to sell shares in its recovery fund. The lawsuit alleged Grayscale had an "improper redemption ban" and was dropped today.

Grayscale responded by stating that the legal action was "without merit." FTX, Alameda's affiliate, went bankrupt in November 2022, and its new management has been working to recover customers' lost cash. FTX's new management has been working on regaining money for clients who lost out after the exchange's collapse.


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