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International Legal News

Weekly update: 17 – 23 November 2020

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 17 – 23 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.

Ethiopia – 12 November 2020

Amnesty International has said it has evidence confirming that scores of civilians were deliberately attacked and killed in Tigray state, Ethiopia, on 09 November 2020. It says it has examined and verified photos and videos of bodies and used satellite imagery to geolocate the footage. It noted that the massacre appeared to be of day labourers in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive. Witnesses said that wound appear to have been inflicted with sharp weapons such as knives and machetes.

On 12 November 2020, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morison announced the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator to probe allegations of war crimes committed by the Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. The alleged misconduct includes cruel treatment and unlawful killings of non-combatants. The decision to establish the Office comes after a four-year inquiry looking into at least 55 incidents amounting to breaches of international humanitarian law.

On 13 November 2020, the Bureau of the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court decided to expand the pool of candidates for the next Prosecutor of the Court. In addition to the four shortlisted candidates, the remaining individuals who were interviewed originally and are still waiting to be considered will be listed on the expanded list. The extended nomination period will expire on 22 November 2020. The Bureau emphasised the exceptional nature of this new development, stressing that it should not be perceived as a precedent for future Prosecutor elections.

Myanmar’s military, also known as the Tatmadaw, allegedly forced a group of individuals that included children to walk ahead of troops to clear mines. This alleged incident occurred in an operation against the Arakan Army, an insurgent group in Rakhine state. Following this incident, fighting occurred, killing two boys and injuring a third.

Myanmar ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2019, which establishes 18 as the minimum age for direct involvement in hostilities. The Tatmadaw says it will investigate this incident.

On 19 November, in the case of Barbotin v. France (application no. 25338/16) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention read in conjunction with Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the compensation awarded to the applicant by the domestic courts in respect of his conditions of detention in Caen remand prison. The applicant complained of the ineffectiveness of the compensatory remedy of which he had availed himself, in view of the low amount awarded and the fact that he had had to pay the expert’s fees incurred to inspect the cells in which he had been held.

On 19 November, in the case of Dupate v. Latvia (application no.18068/11) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned surreptitiously taken photos of the applicant leaving a maternity ward and their subsequent publication with an accompanying article.

The Court found in particular that although the domestic courts had balanced the right to privacy of the applicant with the right to freedom of expression of the publishing magazine, they had failed to do so sufficiently or in line with the Court’s case-law.

On 19 November 2020, UN human rights experts said they were gravely concerned by increased reports of mass detentions, intimidation and torture, and called on authorities to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the excessive use of force and unlawful retaliation at peaceful protests.

UN human rights experts condemned the demolition by Israel of the homes and property belonging to a Palestinian Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank, amid a significant rise in property demolitions across the occupied territory.

In early November, at least 73 inhabitants of Khirbet Humsa, including 41 children, were displaced, and more than 75 structures – including tent homes, animal sheds and solar panels – were destroyed.

On 20 November 2020, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that the arrest of three human rights defenders in Egypt this week was a very worrying development that underscored the extreme vulnerability of civil society activists in the country.

Gasser Abdel Razek, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was arrested by security forces on 19 November. Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s director of Criminal Justice, was arrested on 18 November 2020 in Dahab, South Sinai, while on vacation.

On 20 November 2020, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that they had been receiving disturbing reports of continued detention of civilians, including humanitarian workers, in Idlib, north-western Syria, in areas under the control of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other armed groups. They have also been receiving deeply troubling reports of executions following the detentions and so-called trials by the de facto authorities.


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