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International Legal News

Weekly update: 1 February 2021 – 7 February 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 01 - 07 February 2021.

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.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 5 February 2021

Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers submitted an Amicus Curiae to the ICC regarding the situation in the State of Palestine in March last year. We are proud to see the fruits of our work and welcome the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC. It was decided, by majority, that the Court's territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, a State party to the ICC Rome Statute, extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. On 20 December 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor concluded a nearly five-year-long preliminary inquiry into the Palestine situation and determined that all the necessary criteria to proceed with a formal investigation of alleged serious crimes by Israelis and Palestinians in that territory had been met. Pre-Trial Chamber I examined the Prosecutor's request as well as the submissions of other States, organisations and scholars who participated as amicus curiae and groups of victims. Many Palestinians see a ruling by the ICC that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories as a belated chance of justice for victims of Israeli attacks.

Myanmar’s military has taken power in a coup and detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior figures from the ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Military television said that the army had taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency for one year, in response to “fraud” during the 2020 general election, in which the NLD secured 396 of the 498 seats. The Election Commission has denied fraud. A number of ethnic party and student leaders, as well as prominent activists and human rights defenders were also reported to have been arrested.

Serbia – 2 February 2021

A Belgrade Court found Milorad Jovanovic, a former Bosnian Serb policeman, guilty of torture of non-Serb civilians detained at the Simo Miljus Memorial Museum in 1992. The Court sentenced Jovanovic to nine years of imprisonment. The indictment was issued against Jovanovic in 2015 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2017, Serbia took over the case.

The Court found that in June and July of 1992, Jovanovic with his commander Slavko Vukovic (now deceased) and other unidentified police officers, brought villagers from around Sanski Most in Bosnia and Herzegovina and detained them in the museum. Subsequently, the detainees were subjected to torture, including kicking and beating. In making its decision, the Court took into account aggravating circumstances including the gravity and consequences of the crime and brutality displayed towards the victims, as well as mitigating factors, such as the perpetrator’s lack of previous convictions and young age at the time of the commission of the crime.

Russia – 2 February 2021

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in a case widely seen as an attempt to neutralise President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic. The court stated that since he’s already served a year under house arrest in 2014, he’ll have to serve 2 years and 8 months behind bars. Mr Navalny said, “the main goal of this trial is to scare a huge number of people. That’s how it works. They jail one person to scare off millions”.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) – 3 February 2021

The ICJ found it had jurisdiction in respect of all claims brought by Iran against the United States in the case concerning Alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights(Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America). The Applicant claimed that, through the “8 May sanctions” and further sanctions that had been announced, the United States “[had] violated and continued to violate multiple provisions of the 1955 Treaty”. Accordingly, Iran requested the Court to adjudge, order and declare that the United States has breached its obligations under the Treaty of Amity, that it must put an end to such breaches and that it must compensate Iran for the harm caused.

Iran – 4 February 2021

UN independent human rights experts condemned the execution of Iranian Baluch prisoner Javid Dehghan Kheld by the Islamic Republic and expressed their concern. They said, “[w]e informed the Iranian Government of grave concerns that Mr Dehghan’s death sentence followed serious violations of his fair trial rights, including claims he was tortured, held in prolonged solitary confinement, subjected to enforced disappearance, and forced to confess, concerns that do not appear to have been investigated by the Iranian authorities”. The rights experts voicing their concerns included the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and on minority issues; as well as the members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Syria – 4 February 2021

The UN disarmament chief urges Security Council to not only identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, but also to hold them accountable for their actions. The UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, said that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) continues to study all available information related to allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria as well as its engagement with the Government and other States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Lebanon – 4 February 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a prompt, independent, and transparent investigation into the murder of the prominent Lebanese writer and Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim. He was an outspoken critic of the Shiite movement Hezbollah and an advocate for preserving the memory of his country's civil war. He advocated curbing the influence of Hezbollah, the pro-Iran and anti-Israel political party and armed group that has millions of followers in Lebanon but is labelled a terrorist group by the US, EU and other governments. The deputy Middle East director at HRW, Michael Page, said that “Lebanon needs to reverse the culture of impunity for grave crimes that has pervaded since the civil war.”


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