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International Legal News

Weekly update: 30 August 2021 – 5 September 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 30 August 2021 to 5 September 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.

Yemen – 30 August 2021

At least 30 soldiers were killed and 60 wounded on Sunday in Houthi strikes on a military base belonging to forces of the Saudi-led coalition in southwest Yemen. Yemeni southern forces spokesman Mohamed al-Naqeeb said that the Houthis have carried out several attacks using armed drones and ballistic missiles on the al-Anad military base. Naqeeb said that between 30 to 40 soldiers were killed and at least 60 wounded, adding the death toll may still rise as rescuers were still clearing the scene. The southern forces are part of the Saudi-led coalition. Two medical sources said several bodies had arrived at Lahj province's main hospital along with another 16 wounded people. It was unclear if civilians were among the casualties.

Afghanistan – 30 August 2021

Talks are under way in Doha and New York to try to reach an international consensus on the conditions for recognising the Taliban government in Afghanistan. There are signs of tensions between superpowers after Russia called on the US to release Afghan central bank reserves that Washington blocked after the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul earlier this month. The leading western G7 powers are meeting Turkey, Qatar and Nato in Doha to discuss further details of the how Kabul’s civilian airport could be reopened to allow those that want to leave Afghanistan with valid documents to do so. More than 100 nations signed a joint statement saying the Taliban has agreed to facilitate this.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) / Afghanistan – 30 August 2021

Human Rights Watch joined Access Now, Amnesty International USA, and Mnemonic today in issuing the following statement, saying that social media platforms need to preserve and archive content that may provide evidence of past or ongoing serious human rights abuses in Afghanistan and that could be used for future efforts to provide justice and accountability, while ensuring the privacy and security of vulnerable individuals associated with that content.

Philippines – 30 August 2021

The authorities in the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines have adopted a counterinsurgency strategy drawn from methods used in President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous “war on drugs.” Known as tokhang, a Visayan word meaning “to knock and plead,” police and local authorities visit the homes or offices of activists they accuse of supporting or “fronting” for the communist New People’s Army to “plead” with them to stop supporting the insurgency. These measures put leftist activists and others at grave risk by “red-tagging” them, a long-time government practice of linking individuals to the communist insurgents. Over the years, many of those “red-tagged” had been harassed, arbitrarily arrested, or killed.

Russia - 31 August 2021

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Estemirova v. Russia held that there had been a violation of Article 2 (investigation), and a failure by the Government to comply with their obligations under Article 38 relating to the obligation to furnish necessary facilities for the examination of a case. The case concerned the abduction and murder of a well-known human-rights activist, Natalia Estemirova, and the effectiveness of the ensuing investigation. The Court found that the Government’s failure to provide a full copy of the criminal case file had undermined its ability to assess the quality of the investigation. Given the above failure, the Court was unable to conclude that the investigation had been carried out thoroughly, particularly taking into account the material in the Court’s possession and that certain contradictions in the expert evidence remained unsolved led it to doubt that the investigation had been effective.

United States (US) – 1 September 2021

One of two British-born men charged in the US with joining Islamic State and conspiring to torture and behead American and European hostages in Syria is scheduled to plead guilty to criminal charges. Court records show a change of plea hearing has been scheduled in a district court in Alexandria, Virginia, for Alexanda Amon Kotey, one of four IS members who were nicknamed “the Beatles” by their captives because of their British accents. Kotey and another man, El Shafee Elsheikh, were brought to the US last year to face charges, having been stripped of their UK citizenship. In order to obtain their extradition, the Department of Justice promised that neither defendant would face a death sentence.

United States (US) – 1 September 2021

The report, ‘The psychological impact of remote hearings’, by consulting firm Berkeley Research Group (BRG), is based on interviews with expert witnesses, lawyers and psychologists in jurisdictions around the world. It found the experience of remote hearings was largely positive. However, the majority of respondents acknowledged there was a psychological impact, both positive and negative. Expert witnesses pointed out that aggressive cross-examination was not as effective remotely as it would be face-to-face. Psychologists highlighted how subliminal processes can sway decision-making, such as associating the frustration of technical issues with those providing evidence. The report noted decisions were being reached considerably more quickly than in in-person hearings.

Denmark – 2 September 2021

A former Danish immigration minister will go on trial over a 2016 order aimed at separating asylum-seeking couples where one partner is under 18. A rarely used impeachment court will determine whether Inger Stojberg violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The court, which only tries former or current members of government, is convening for the first time in 26 years. Stojberg has been charged with illegally initiating the separation of cohabiting couples where one partner was a minor while being in the care of the Danish asylum system. According to prosecutors, she also misled parliamentary committees on four separate occasions when informing them of her decision. Addressing parliament in February when MPs voted to try her, Stojberg said she did "the only political and humane thing" to combat forced child marriages.

El Salvador – 2 September 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the two laws passed by El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly on 31 August 2021 threaten judicial independence by allowing authorities to dismiss all judges and prosecutors who are 60 years old or older. The bills passed by the Legislative Assembly, which is controlled by supporters of President Nayib Bukele, said that judges and prosecutors age 60 or above will immediately “cease their functions.” While it is not clear how many judges will be affected, some estimates indicate that over 200 of the about 700 judges in the country may be ousted and replaced by judges appointed by the Supreme Court, which Bukele’s allies in the Assembly recently packed.

United Kingdom (UK) / Myanmar – 2 September 2021

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced sanctions against Myanmar businessman U Tay Za and his business empire, the Htoo Group, for supporting February’s military coup. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) alleged that U Tay Za is linked to the military because of his significant ties to the previous and present junta regimes. His role in aiding the military in obtaining weaponry led to serious human rights violations. Further, U Tay Za’s business network has also been accused of providing monetary support to the perpetration of crimes against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.

United Kingdom (UK) / Afghanistan – 3 September 2021

A Foreign Affairs Committee call for evidence in relation to an inquiry that will examine the FCDO’s role in the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, including how effectively it planned and coordinated with other powers. It will also look ahead to the objectives of the UK’s future relationship with Afghanistan, including the security, counter-terrorism, human rights and humanitarian impact of the Taliban’s takeover, and the implications for wider UK foreign policy.


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