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International Legal News

Weekly update: 10 – 16 November 2020

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 10 – 16 November 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.

Cambodia – 08 November 2020

Ao An, a former Khmer Rouge official and suspect in Case 04/02 before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has died at the age of 87 in Battambang province, Cambodia.

Ao An was initially charged with genocide against the Cham people in Kampong Cham province, crimes against humanity, and violations of the 1956 Penal Code including premeditated homicide. There was, however, disagreement between the national and international co-investigating judges over whether the ECCC had jurisdiction over Ao An’s case. The national co-investigating judge argued that Ao An could not be considered one of the most responsible people for the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Although the international co-investigating judge said that there was sufficient evidence to prove the allegations, the case had been halted.

China – 09 November 2020

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China has written to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, urging her to accept a complaint against China alleging genocide against the Uighurs. The letter alleges that the Chinese government may be committing crimes amounting to genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uighur and other Turkic peoples, including mass incarceration of millions of Uighurs, widespread forced labour, and forced sterilisation of ethnic minority women.

On 10 November 2020, the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, presented her Office’s 20th report on the Situation in Libya to the United Nations Security Council.

In her statement, Bensouda updated the UNSC members on her Office’s activities, reporting that it is engaging with Libyan authorities to investigate on the mass graves discovered in Tarhunah and South of Tripoli. Over 100 bodies have been recovered there so far. The Prosecutor further informed the Council of the increasing evidence of indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling of civilian areas, enforced disappearances, detention and torture of civilians, pillaging of civilian properties, and arbitrary abductions, that her Office is receiving. These crimes form part of a pattern of violence committed against civilians in multiple areas, according to Bensouda.

Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) – 11 November 2020

Kadri Veseli, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and co-founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army (“KLA”), pleaded not guilty to charges at the KSC. Pexhep Selimi, former director of operations for the KLA and senior opposition party figure in the Vetevendosje Movement, also pleaded not guilty at the KSC.

Veseli, Selimi, Kosovo’s former President Hashim Thaci, and former KLA spokesperson Jakup Krasniqi stand accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity including torture, murder, enforced disappearances, removing those perceived as opponents, and illegal detention is between March 1998 and September 1999. These crimes were allegedly committed as part of a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of taking control of Kosovo. Most of the alleged crimes occurred in KLA detention centres in Kosovo and Albania.

Rwanda – 11 November 2020

The initial appearance in the case of Prosecutor v. Felicien Kabuga before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) was held on 11 November in The Hague before Judge Iain Bonomy (United Kingdom), the Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber. Mr Felicien Kabuga stands charged of seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. At the request of Kabuga’s Counsel and in accordance with the Mechanism’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Judge Bonomy entered a plea of not guilty on Kabuga’s behalf and indicated that it could be changed at any time.

Uganda – 12 November 2020

On 12 November 2020, Trial Chamber IX issued a scheduling order in the case against accused, Dominic Ongwen, for the Chamber to deliver its Trial Judgment on 21 January 2021 at 10am CET.

Ongwen is charged with 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda. Ongwen is charged with the war crimes of attacking a civilian population, murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, destruction of property, pillaging, the conscription and use of children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities; and the crimes against humanity of murder and attempted murder, torture, sexual slavery, rape, enslavement, forced marriage as an inhumane act, persecution and other inhumane acts.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) – 12 November 2020

The Prosecutor of the ICC, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, published her Office’s Guidelines for Agreements Regarding Admission of Guilt.

The purpose of these guidelines is set forth the Office of the Prosecutor’s policy with respect to agreements regarding admission of guilt, in particular, whether and when it may be appropriate for the Office to enter into such agreements, and if so, under what circumstances and subject to which terms. International Court of Justice (ICJ) – 12 November 2020

On 12 November 2020, the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations elected five Members of the International Court of Justice for a term of office of nine years, beginning on 06 February 20201.

Judges Xue Hanqin (China), Peter Tomka (Slovakia), Julia Sebutinde (Uganda) and Yuji Iwasawa (Japan) were re-elected as Members of the Court. Mr Georg Nolte (Germany) was elected as a new Member of the Court.

France – 12 November 2020

In the case of Honner v. France the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been no violation of the Convention.

The case concerned the refusal to award contact rights to the applicant in respect of the child which had been born to her former partner in Belgium using ART while the two women were a couple, despite the fact that the applicant had raised the child during his early years.

Cambodia – 16 November 2020

On 16 November 2020, UN human rights experts expressed concerns about tightening restrictions on civil society in Cambodia and called for an immediate end to the systematic detention and criminalisation of human rights defenders, as well as excessive use of force against them.

“I am alarmed by credible reports that at least 21 human rights defenders have been subjected to threats, arbitrary arrets and detentions in the past three months,” said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.


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