top of page

International Legal News - 7 May 2024

Updated: May 13

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 30 April to 6 May 2024.

Guernica 37 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 at for consideration.

Round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world
Guernica 37 International Legal News

Cambodia – 5 May

The Cambodian government is coming under fire for its recent human rights abuses, including targeting political opponents and dissidents. The country will appear before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for the fourth Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights conditions on May 8, 2024. Since its 2019 review, Cambodia still needs to address the recommendations received, and the human rights situation in the country has worsened significantly. The government has not only failed to implement the recommendations it accepted during its last UN review regarding democratic space, elections, and political freedoms. Still, it has also continued to restrict free speech and media, labour unions and labour rights, and civil society. The government's UN submission claims that legal reforms have improved human rights, but despite this, recent legislative efforts have proven to be tools for repression.

On May 4th, it was the year anniversary of Russian theatre director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk being arrested on bogus charges of publicly "justifying terrorism" and spreading its propaganda over an award-winning play they staged together. They face up to seven years in prison, with the first hearing pushed back to October at the earliest.

The case against them was moved to trial in April, but the first hearing has been pushed back to October as soon as possible. Berkovich and Petriychuk were put on the government's list of "terrorists and extremists" earlier this spring, which blocked them from drawing any funds from their bank accounts except 10,000 rubles—just over $90—per month for necessities.

Many journalists and commentators suggest that the absurd case against them is in retaliation for Berkovich's bold and compelling condemnation of the war in a series of poems she wrote shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The play “Finist the Bright Falcon” is primarily based on court records from the case of Varvara Karaulova, a 19-year-old philosophy student from Moscow who attempted to leave for Syria in 2015 but was arrested and eventually sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.

El Salvador – 3 May                        

El Salvador's human rights situation has deteriorated significantly over the past five years, particularly in civil and political rights. The recent amendment of Article 248 of the country's Constitution limits people's right to participate in future constitutional reform processes. Raising concerns about the potential to undermine human rights and restrict public engagement.

The ruling party has used its supermajority in the Legislative Assembly to erode the court system's independence, weaken control and accountability mechanisms, and violate due process safeguards. There is a legitimate fear that this amendment could open the door to other amendments that will eat away at El Salvador's legal protections for human rights. The amendment creates a second path for changing the Constitution, allowing a single legislature to amend when three-quarters of the Legislative Assembly favours the change.

Columbia – 3 May

Artists from Cali and Colombia's Pacific region have collaborated on a song called "Pum! Cayó" to commemorate the 2021 National Strike, which saw the National Police shoot and kill at least three people and commit sexual and gender violence against 28. The song, produced by “We Could Be Music”, is part of Amnesty International's campaign for Colombia’s Repression in the Spotlight and fits within the global Protect the Protest campaign.

The song features Afro Legends, El Gioh, Carolina Mosquera, and El Gioh, who were victims of police repression during the protests. It is part of an open petition to urge the Gustavo Petro administration to enact comprehensive police reform.

Nigeria – 3 May

Nigerian military authorities have completed investigations into an erroneous airstrike in Tundun Biri Community, Kaduna state, which killed 85 people and injured dozens more in December 2023. Two officers have been indicted and will face court martial with the military's disciplinary process. Authorities should answer outstanding questions about the investigation, including the terms of reference, those responsible for conducting the probe, the methodology, and the findings.

The army should also disclose measures recommended or implemented to prevent more erroneous airstrikes. Since 2017, over 300 people have been killed in strikes that security forces claimed were intended against bandits or members of the Islamist armed group Boko Haram but instead hit local populations. Human Rights Watch documented the loss, devastation, and trauma resulting from the December airstrike and a prior erroneous airstrike by the Air Force in January 2023, which killed 39 people.

Bahrain – 3 May

Bahrain's human rights activist, Ali Husain al-Hajee, is facing further prosecution for protesting a travel ban. After serving a 10-year sentence for peaceful protests, al-Hajee was released in June 2023 but re-arrested on spurious charges five months later. The government imposed a travel ban on him pending payment of outstanding debts.

The government refused to lift the ban despite obtaining a court document confirming he had cleared his debt charges. Al-Hajee was directed to various departments and ministries to remove the prohibition without success. The new charges against him prove Bahrain maintains its zero tolerance for dissent.

He has posted bail and awaits the first hearing in his latest case. Bahrain's authorities consider his silence and obedience to arbitrary rights restrictions as the price of his release from prison. His trial starts on 5 May.

Niger – 3 May

Niger is facing a crisis as transitional authorities intimidate and arrest journalists reporting on the country's conflict and security-related issues. Since the 26 July 2023 coup, press freedom has been curtailed, leading to journalists self-censoring amid fear of intimidation and reprisals.

Nigerien authorities face pressure to unconditionally release journalists arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression or dealing with sensitive information of public interest. On 24 April 2024, the editor of the L'Enquêteur newspaper, Soumana Maiga, was arrested after his paper published a story about the alleged installation of listening equipment by Russian agents on official state buildings. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Ousmane Toudou, journalist and former communications advisor to the ousted president, was also arrested. The BBC international radio correspondent Tchima Illa Issoufou was threatened and accused of trying to "destabilise Niger" by reporting on the security situation in the Tillabéri region. In January 2024, the Maison de la Presse, an association that brings together several private and public media organisations in Niger, was suspended by the transitional authorities.

Afghanistan – 3 May

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) has been targeting Shia-Hazara mosques and schools in Afghanistan since 2015, causing widespread violence and destruction. The group has carried out a bloody campaign targeting these communities, with recent attacks resulting in the deaths of six people and multiple injuries.

Between 2015 and mid-2021, ISKP attacks killed and injured over 2,000 civilians, primarily in Kabul, Jalalabad, and Kandahar.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, these attacks have continued, killing and injuring over 700. The Taliban has long battled the ISKP, which has also targeted Taliban personnel. A suicide bombing outside a Kandahar bank on March 21 killed at least 21 people and injured 50, many of them Taliban ministry employees.

Attacks on Hazara and other religious minorities violate international humanitarian law, which still applies in Afghanistan. Deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes, causing lasting damage to physical and mental health, long-term economic hardship, and new barriers to education and public life. Taliban authorities have not taken adequate measures to protect Hazaras and other communities at risk, despite their responsibility for ensuring the safety of all Afghan citizens.

Lebanon – 3 May

Lebanon's authorities have used criminal defamation laws to harass and intimidate journalists and critics who report on corruption allegations. The General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) revealed that the Cybercrimes Bureau investigated 1,684 insult and defamation cases between January 2019 and March 2024. The investigations decreased in 2021 and 2022 but rose again in 2023 to 321 cases, including 35 insult complaints. The ISF also confirmed that they ask individuals to remove contentious content or sign non-repetition pledges "under judicial oversight," undermining due process and the right to freedom of expression.

There is now pressure on the Lebanese parliament to repeal laws criminalising insult and defamation and adopt a media law that meets international human rights standards. The country's defamation provisions, which carry criminal penalties of up to three years in prison, fail to meet international human rights standards and unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression.

France/China – 3 May

French President Emmanuel Macron is being asked to address the Chinese government's crimes against humanity and deepening repression during President Xi Jinping's visit to Paris. Macron should clarify to Xi that Beijing's crimes against humanity have consequences for China's relations with France. The Chinese government is accused of committing crimes against humanity, including mass detention, forced labour, and cultural persecution against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, adopting draconian legislation that has erased Hong Kong's freedoms, and intensified repression of government critics across the country.

In March 2021, European Union governments agreed to adopt targeted sanctions against a handful of Chinese officials and entities deemed responsible for the crackdown in Xinjiang. However, China immediately retaliated with countersanctions, cooling bilateral relations and suspending a bilateral trade deal.

Macron should change course and publicly raise human rights concerns during Xi's visit, urging Xi to end crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, release hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, end Chinese government oppression in Tibet, revoke two draconian national security laws imposed on Hong Kong, and press the Chinese government to end its relentless repression of peaceful activists.

Eastern & Southern Africa – 3 May

There is an ongoing crackdown on journalists in East and Southern Africa, highlighting the severe restrictions imposed on the right to freedom of expression and media, with widespread intimidation, harassment, and detention of journalists in the region as authorities continue to target and brutally crack down on those who dare to report corruption allegations and human rights violations.

There has been documentation of increased intentional disruption of internet connectivity and the enactment of strict cyber security laws aimed at silencing the media and controlling information dissemination. National security laws, such as counterterrorism and cybersecurity legislation, have been used to undermine the right to freedom of expression, punish journalists, and suppress media freedom.

Tajikistan – 2 May

Tajik authorities are facing pressure to confirm the detention and whereabouts of opposition activist Sukhrob Zafar, who disappeared in Turkey in March 2024. Zafar, a senior figure in Group 24, forcibly disappeared in Turkey despite holding official UNHCR asylum seeker status there. The Tajik State Committee on National Security is apparently keeping him in Dushanbe, torturing him periodically and denying him medical assistance.

International Human Rights groups have called for Zafar to receive his full due process rights, including contact with his family, access to a lawyer of his choosing, and necessary medical treatment. The Tajik government has been cracking down on the group and its members, imprisoning scores at home and driving large numbers into exile. The European Court of Human Rights has warned that any extra-judicial transfer or extraordinary rendition is an absolute negation of the rule of law and the values protected by the Convention.

Kenya – 2 May

Kenyan authorities have not adequately responded to flash floods resulting from heavy rains, leaving at least 170 people dead, displacing over 200,000, destroying property, infrastructure, and livelihoods, and exacerbating socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

The government has a human rights obligation to prevent harm from climate change and extreme weather events and to protect people when a disaster strikes. The country has identified flooding as a risk and has a national disaster management unit. However, the government has failed to implement a timely national response plan, and opposition leaders and clergy have called on the government to declare a national disaster and hold those responsible for inaction accountable.

Iraq – 2 May

Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) authorities are under pressure to end their assault on press freedom, including arbitrary detention, beating, and unfair trials of journalists. The region's authorities have called themselves a "beacon of press freedom." This is a ludicrous claim given their crackdown on press freedom and the harassment, intimidation, and prosecution of journalists, particularly those who have reported on corruption and criticised authorities' handling of social issues.

In 2023, the Metro Center recorded 37 arrests of journalists and 27 incidents of journalists facing attacks, threats, and insults. In the first three months of 2024, Amnesty International's documentation revealed that the KR-I authorities detained or summoned at least ten journalists about their journalism work. The authorities have created a culture of fear engineered to stifle peaceful dissent and perpetuate impunity.

Nepal – 2 May

Nepal's Finance Minister Barshaman Pun has the opportunity to extend the country's Child Grant program, which aims to advance Nepali children's economic and social rights. The Child Grant, also known as the Child Nutrition Grant, is a proven success story in Nepal. It involves monthly payments to families with children under five in 25 of 77 districts and all Dalit children under five across the country.

Successive governments must follow through on commitments to roll it out nationwide. Nepal's Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens, Bhagawati Chaudhary, announced this week that the government intends to extend the program to all districts and that the grant amount should be increased.

Studies underscore the transformative impact of the Child Grant, including increased birth registration rates, improved access to food and clothes, and a lower likelihood of child labour for recipients and their siblings. Nepal's Constitution guarantees social and economic rights, including the right to social security for all children, and the Children's Act of 2018 provides further guarantees.

Thailand – 1 May

The Thai government are facing pressure to bring to justice officials responsible for the deaths and injuries of ethnic Malay Muslim protesters in the Tak Bai district in 2004. Lawyers representing the victims and their families filed criminal charges against nine former officials in charge of the violent crackdown on protesters in the southern province of Narathiwat two decades ago.

Under Thai law, the 20-year statute of limitations will end in October 2024, preventing legal action after that time. The victims and their families filed criminal lawsuits directly with the Narathiwat provincial court, with a preliminary examination scheduled for June 24. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin should publicly signal his support for efforts to ensure accountability for the Tak Bai massacre.

Indonesia – 1 May

Indonesia's Constitutional Court has revoked three false news and defamation clauses from the country's 1946 criminal code to protect human rights. The code's vague definition of "fake news" could be used to punish legitimate criticism of the government. The ruling was sought by activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti, along with the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the Alliance of Independent Journalists, after facing criminal defamation charges brought by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, a minister in President Joko Widodo's cabinet.

A Jakarta court acquitted the activists in January 2024. Indonesia has dozens of criminal defamation laws that could undermine the right to free expression, including those recently passed as part of the 2022 criminal code and the 2023 Internet and Electronic Transaction Law. The 2022 criminal code, slated to come into force and replace the 1946 criminal code in January 2026, threatens fundamental freedoms and makes promoting news vaguely "uncertain," "exaggerated," or "incomplete" a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison.

Bangladesh – 1 May

Garment workers in Bangladesh face a climate of fear and repression as corporate impunity for human rights abuses remains unchecked. The Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashions factory fires highlight the human cost of systemic lack of regulation and the need for improved occupational health and safety. Compensation cases filed against state authorities and factory owners have not been resolved in the last eleven years.

Most workers still fight for decent wages in an industry that brings the most revenue to Bangladesh. There is an emphasis on the need for rights-based compensation and justice for occupational injuries. The lack of justice and the use of unlawful force against protesting garment workers have led to financial implications. Police case files from Bangladesh have been reviewed following wage protests, revealing unlawful force used against garment workers. The police dispersed workers by firing shots, tear gas, and sound grenades, resulting in injuries to six officers. Workers were ignored, threatened, sacked, and arrested when protesting.

Despite global reforms, occupational safety remains non-existent for many workers. Bangladesh must also ratify and comply with International Labour Organization conventions on occupational health and safety and minimum relief standards for victims of occupational injuries and deaths.

Azerbaijan – 30 April

Azerbaijani authorities have arrested prominent human rights defender Anar Mammadli, who is the Head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre and co-founder of the Climate of Justice Initiative in Azerbaijan. The government is facing pressure to end the intimidation campaign against civil society and the cynical detention of critics ahead of the COP29 meeting in Baku in November.

Mammadli's arrest follows a pattern of abuse of the criminal justice system to silence government critics, including illegal searches, denying access to lawyers, torture, and ill-treatment in detention. He is officially suspected of "smuggling by prior conspiracy by a group of persons" under Article 206.3.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. Mammadli was recognised as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International in 2014 for tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of office. He was pardoned in 2016 but has since faced repeated attacks from authorities and pro-government media, intensifying in the lead-up to COP29.

Saudi Arabia – 30 April

Saudi Arabia has sentenced fitness instructor and women's rights activist Manahel al-Otaibi to 11 years in prison for her online expression supporting women's rights. The decision contradicts the Saudi government's narrative of reform and women's empowerment. Al-Otaibi was found guilty of absurd "terrorist offences" under articles 43 and 44 of the kingdom's draconian Counter-Terrorism Law.

The Saudi authorities have subjected her to a relentless catalogue of abuses, from unlawful detention for supporting women's rights to enforced disappearance for over five months. The 2022 Personal Status Law, which was supposed to be a significant reform, serves to codify rather than abolish many restrictive elements of the system, including matters of marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

Al-Otaibi's sentencing comes amid an intensified crackdown on free speech in Saudi Arabia, including online expression. The Saudi government's response to the UN states that her case remained "under consideration before the courts".

Central Africa Republic (CAR) – 30 April

Amnesty International has called for the arrest of former President François Bozizé for crimes against humanity. The Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic has issued an arrest warrant against Bozizé, who is currently living in Guinea Bissau. The SCC, a hybrid court established in 2018, comprises Central African and non-Central African judges and personnel. Its mandate is to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the numerous crimes committed in the country.

The SCC has issued at least 25 arrest warrants, but the suspects are still at large. Amnesty International urges Guinea Bissau, where Bozizé currently resides, to arrest him immediately and transfer him to CAR authorities, who must bring him before the SCC. The SCC has been criticised for its challenges and calls for increased support and transparency.

Slovakia – 30 April

Slovakia has approved a bill that would label civil society organisations receiving over 5,000 Euros a year in foreign funding as "organisations with foreign support." The bill is seen as a "full-frontal assault on civil society" and a "near carbon copy" of Hungary's draconian NGO law. It would force organisations receiving more than €5,000 a year from foreign sources to label themselves "foreign-funded organisations" (FFOs).

NGOs would be obligated to disclose the identity and nationality of all donors, contributors, and creditors whose donations, contributions, or loans exceed €5,000 a year in an annual report. NGOs with a yearly income of more than €50,000 would have to submit an annual report to the Ministry of the Interior, which could fine and dissolve NGOs if they fail to comply with reporting and FFO labelling obligations.

In 2017, Hungary passed a similar law on foreign-funded NGOs. It was repealed in 2021 following a formal notice from the European Union and after the EU Court of Justice struck it down, saying that such restrictions violated EU law. The right of groups to seek, receive, and utilise resources from national, foreign, and international sources is protected under various treaties that Slovakia is a state party to, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Germany – 30 April

Germany is failing to protect Muslims effectively and people perceived to be Muslims from racism due to gaps in responses, a lack of understanding, and a lack of data. There is an absence of a working definition of anti-Muslim racism, as well as a lack of official data on incidents and investment in institutional support for victims. By the end of September 2023, the government's preliminary hate crime statistics had counted 686 "anti-Islamic" crimes, surpassing the 610 recorded for all of 2022.

German civil society groups have warned of a rise in anti-Muslim incidents since October, following the outbreak of hostilities in Israel-Palestine. The German government has yet to develop an infrastructure for countrywide monitoring and data collection based on clear indicators that would equip authorities with the necessary knowledge and tools to tackle the problem. Since 2017, the German government's hate crime system has classified hate incidents against Muslims and people perceived to be Muslims under the rubric of "anti-Islamic" motives.

A government-commissioned three-year study published in June 2023 recognised that anti-Muslim sentiments are widespread in Germany, recommending that the German government should no longer dissociate anti-Muslim hate from racism but recognise their connection. Anti-Muslim violence in Germany is neither a new phenomenon nor has it grown in a vacuum. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) stressed the need for independent monitoring structures and robust capacity-building by authorities to combat anti-Muslim racism and strengthen recognition and recording of such incidents.

Turkey – 30 April

Turkish authorities are facing pressure to lift a ban on a planned May Day solidarity demonstration in Istanbul's Taksim Square, citing a recent ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The ban, which dates back to 2013, has been based on security and public order grounds and goes against the recent Constitutional Court decision. The ban on May Day rallies in Taksim Square dates back to 2013 when police violently prevented trade unions and their supporters from gathering.

In October 2023, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the right to peaceful assembly of DİSK during the May Day celebrations in Taksim in 2014 and 2015 had been violated by law enforcement official’s bans and forceful dispersals of protesters. The Turkish authorities must fulfil their duty to enable peaceful assemblies and take all necessary steps to protect participants' enjoyment of their rights. The 2023 Constitutional Court ruled that preventing May Day celebrations at Taksim Square violated the constitutional right to organise public meetings and demonstrations, as safeguarded by Article 34 of the Constitution.                                    


bottom of page