Weekly update: 19 July 2021 – 25 July 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 129 July 2021 to 25 July 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.
Israel – 19 July 2021
Thirty-seven smartphones owned by journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women connected to the slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were targeted by "military-grade spyware" licensed by an Israeli company to governments, according to an investigation by a consortium of media organisations, including The Washington Post. The Post reported that the phones were "on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens" and are known to be clients of the company, NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware is ostensibly licensed to track terrorists and major criminals.
China – 19 July 2021
The Chinese government has been accused of "systematic cyber sabotage" in statements by the UK and allies, including the US and Canada. The allies are announcing that they believe Chinese state-sponsored hackers were responsible for an attack earlier this year which "indiscriminately" compromised an estimated 400,000 servers worldwide, leaving them exposed to criminals. More than 70 organisations in the UK were compromised by the hack, perpetrated by a group associated with Beijing according to the National Cyber Security Centre. This attribution has been supported by allies.
European Union (EU) – 19 July 2021
A European Commission publication seeks views on an initiative which evaluates Directive 2012/29 (Victims' Rights Directive) to assess to what extent it has achieved its objectives in terms of its implementation and practical application in EU countries. Comments by 25 October 2021.
European Union (EU) – 20 July 2021
The European Commission has presented a package of legislative proposals to strengthen the EU's anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing (AML/CFT) rules. The package also includes the proposal for the creation of a new EU authority to fight money laundering. This package is part of the Commission's commitment to protect EU citizens and the EU's financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing. The aim of this package is to improve the detection of suspicious transactions and activities, and to close loopholes used by criminals to launder illicit proceeds or finance terrorist activities through the financial system.
United Kingdom (UK) – 21 July 2021
The government is laying the foundations for what could be considered a new way to curb judges' powers with the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, which lord chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP will present to parliament. The bill will enable judges to modify quashing orders to delay the point at which a government action is overturned or to determine the government’s action unlawful without invalidating any prior actions. The legislation will also reverse the effect of the Supreme Court’s 2011 judgment in Cart, which would prevent Upper Tribunal appeals being subject to judicial review.
United Kingdom (UK) – 22 July 2021
An “unprecedented” coalition of more than 220 organisations has attacked proposed changes to the Human Rights Act and judicial review as a threat to freedom and justice. The judicial review and courts bill introduces restrictions on challenges to Government decision-making in the courts, while a review of the Human Rights Act has yet to be published, but there are fears it will lay the path for its dilution. The coalition, including charities, trades unions, human rights bodies and religion or belief groups, is believed to be the largest of its kind in UK history, according to Humanists UK, which established it. The groups say: “While every system could be improved, and protecting rights and freedoms for all is a balancing act, our Human Rights Act is a proportionate and well-drafted protection for the fundamental liberties and responsibilities of everyone in this country”.
France – 22 July 2021
France has failed to take necessary steps to prevent and remedy ethnic profiling by the police during identity checks, a form of systemic discrimination, six French and international human rights organisations said in filing a class action lawsuit against the French state. Antoine Lyon-Caen, a lawyer before France’s Council of State and Court of Cassation, took the case to the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, on behalf of the Maison Communautaire pour un Dévelopement Solidaire, Pazapas, Réseau Egalité, Antidiscrimination, Justice Interdisciplinaire, Amnesty International France, Human Rights Watch, and Open Society Justice Initiative. The organisations began the procedure in January 2021 when they sent a letter of formal notice to the prime minister, the minister of the interior, and the minister of justice to press for structural reforms and concrete measures to put an end to discriminatory police practices, a problem that has been recognised by the president of the republic. The authorities did not respond in the four-month period provided for under the class action procedure. The class action is an innovative procedure under French law that allows civil society groups to ask the court to order the authorities to take measures to put an end to the widespread illegal practice of ethnic profiling.
Russia / Ukraine – 23 July 2021
The Government of Russia has lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights against Ukraine. The case concerns the Russian Government’s allegation of an administrative practice in Ukraine of, among other things, killings, abductions, forced displacement, interference with the right to vote, restrictions on the use of the Russian language and attacks on Russian embassies and consulates. They also complain about the water supply to Crimea at the Northern Crimean Canal being switched off and allege that Ukraine was responsible for the deaths of those on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 because it failed to close its airspace. There are currently 10 other inter-State applications pending before the Court, four of which have been brought by Ukraine against Russia.
European Union (EU) – 23 July 2021
The launch of the European Commission’s latest report on the state of rule of law in the European Union should be a milestone. It contains dozens of pages of analysis for each EU country on threats to democratic institutions, covering judicial independence, media freedom, and attacks on civil society. But beyond the depth of the analysis, the report demonstrates the Commission’s lack of vision on how to end the erosion it exposes. In the Commission’s own words, a key goal of the report is to “raise awareness and promote an open discussion.”
Philippines – 23 July 2021
Responding to the news that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is still refusing to allow the government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) if it opts to launch a formal probe into his murderous “war on drugs”, even after the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled to the contrary, Amnesty International’s Philippines Researcher, Rachel Chhoa-Howard stated: “Despite President Duterte’s stubborn refusal, Amnesty International welcomes the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Philippines remains obliged to cooperate with the ICC during formal probes into the deadly “war on drugs” – even if the state has withdrawn from the Rome Statute.”