Weekly update: 2 August 2021 – 8 August 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 2 August 2021 to 8 August 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.
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – 2 August 2021
Following its ratification by all 47 Member States, ECHR Protocol No. 15 comes into force on 1 August 2021. The changes introduced by Protocol No. 15 aim to address inefficiencies in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). This Protocol amends the Preamble to the Convention, which now includes a reference to the subsidiarity principle and to the margin of appreciation doctrine. In addition, the 6-month time-limit for submitting an application to the Court after the final national decision will be reduced to four months, starting from 1 February 2022. This Protocol also makes the following changes to the Convention: concerning the admissibility criterion of “significant disadvantage”, the second condition, namely that a case which has not been duly considered by a domestic tribunal cannot be rejected, has been amended and this proviso is now deleted; the parties to a case may no longer object to its relinquishment by a Chamber in favour of the Grand Chamber; candidates for a post of judge at the Court must be less than 65 years of age at the date by which the list of three candidates has been requested by the Parliamentary Assembly.
Germany – 2 August 2021
A 100-year-old man will stand trial in October accused of 3,518 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin during World War II. He is alleged to have been working at Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing. Despite his age, the centenarian, whose name was withheld in line with German privacy laws, is considered fit enough to stand trial.
United Kingdom (UK) – 3 August 2021
Investigative journalists in the UK are looking worriedly at a consultation from the Home Office related to plans it has to update the Official Secrets Act. This law, created in 1911 and last updated in 1989, makes it a criminal offence for government officials to reveal certain kinds of classified information – and for journalists to publish it. The Home Office is suggesting expanding the scope of what information should be covered by the Act and extending the punishments for breaking it.
Afghanistan – 3 August 2021
Ferocious fighting is taking place in a major Afghan city, amid fears it could be the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban. Lashkar Gah in southern Helmand province is under heavy assault from the militants, despite persistent US and Afghan air strikes. The Taliban are said to have seized a TV station. Thousands of people fleeing rural areas took shelter in buildings. Hundreds of Afghan reinforcements have been deployed to battle the militants. The Taliban have made rapid advances in recent months as US forces have withdrawn after 20 years of military operations in the country.
Belarus / Ukraine – 3 August 2021
The head of a group helping people flee Belarus has been found dead near his home in neighbouring Ukraine. Vitaly Shishov's body was found hanged in a park in Kyiv, a day after he failed to return from a jog. Police have opened a murder inquiry. Police said they were investigating whether he had been killed and his death made to look like suicide. Mr Shishov led the Belarusian House in Ukraine, helping those who left Belarus after a violent crackdown. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania in particular have become favoured destinations for those fleeing persecution following a disputed presidential election in Belarus in August 2020.
United Nations (UN) / Iraq – 3 August 2021
A new report released by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) makes clear that although laws in Iraq criminalise torture and set out procedural safeguards to prevent it, the practice continues in jails throughout the country. Covering 1 July 2019 to 30 April this year, the report is based on interviews conducted with 235 detainees, along with prison staff, judges, lawyers and detainees’ families. One prisoner told UN staff the following: “as soon as I arrived, the officers beat me using metal pipes. The following days, they used two exposed electricity wires to electrocute me”.
United Nations (UN) / Syria – 4 August 2021
During the latest Security Council meeting on Syria, a senior UN official asserted that identifying perpetrators of chemical weapon attacks and holding them accountable must remain a priority. Resolution 2118 calls for Syria to cooperate with UN partner, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and allow access to its territory. The Deputy to the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Thomas Markram, stated that “there is still work to be done” before the resolution can be considered fully implemented.
Afghanistan – 5 August 2021
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Afghan government’s failure to provide accountability for violence against women and girls has undermined progress to protect women’s rights. Gains by Taliban forces as the United States completes its troop withdrawal leaves the current Afghan state, and women’s rights in particular, uncertain. The 32-page report, “‘I Thought Our Life Might Get Better’: Implementing Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence against Women Law,” focuses on the experiences of Afghan women in their attempts to pursue justice against family members and others responsible for violence.
Nicaragua – 5 August 2021
On 2 August, the EU imposed targeted sanctions on eight Nicaraguans accused of “serious human rights violations” and undermining democracy, including Vice President Rosario Murillo. The sanctions include freezing assets, forbidding EU citizens and companies from making funds available to the people listed, and a travel ban that prevents them from entering the EU. Fourteen Nicaraguans have been sanctioned by the EU since 2020.
United Kingdom (UK) / Afghanistan – 6 August 2021
The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, stated that Afghans who worked with British journalists during the war and whose lives are threatened by the resurgence of the Taliban will be eligible to come to the UK under a government scheme. The scheme will consider “exceptional circumstances” where people’s lives are under threat because of their involvement with the UK.
United Kingdom (UK) – 6 August 2021
The Ministry of Justice has denied claims that lawyers will be forced to attend Crown court trials at the weekend following the publication of an open letter from members of the profession threatening boycotts of extended sitting hours. Hundreds of solicitors and barristers signed an open letter to HMCTS this week, refusing to attend a ‘single court listing outside of regular court hours’. The signatories – consisting of lawyers who regularly attend the criminal courts – claim that the government has ‘overseen the obliteration’ of the profession, despite repeated warnings.