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International Legal News

Weekly update: 13 September 2021 – 19 September 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 13 September 2021 to 19 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.

United Kingdom (UK) – 13 September 2021

Hundreds of experts and a report have warned that a new policing bill that will be debated this week risks deepening racial and gender disparities in the justice system while forcing professionals to betray the trust of vulnerable people. In a letter to the home secretary, 665 GPs, nurses, social, youth and outreach workers and teachers have warned that the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is “oppressive” and would force frontline professionals to betray the trust of vulnerable people and become complicit in surveillance, ahead of a debate in the House of Lords. The government intends to put a statutory duty on public agencies, such as healthcare and education providers, to reduce and prevent serious violence by disclosing information on service users.

United Kingdom (UK) / Africa – 13 September 2021

A BBC Panorama investigation has found evidence that suggests one of Britain's biggest companies paid a bribe to the former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. Documents show British American Tobacco (BAT) was involved in negotiations to pay between $300,000 and $500,000 to Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in 2013. The documents also reveal BAT was paying bribes in South Africa and using illegal surveillance to damage rivals. BAT says it is committed to the highest standards of corporate conduct. President Mugabe's 37-year rule was secured through elections marred by allegations of fraud and violence. He was ousted in 2017 and died in 2019. In a joint investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the University of Bath, Panorama obtained thousands of leaked documents. They show how BAT funded a network of almost 200 secret informants in southern Africa.

North Korea – 13 September 2021

State media said that North Korea has tested a new long-range cruise missile capable of hitting much of Japan. The weekend tests saw missiles travelling up to 1,500km (930 miles), the official KCNA news agency said. It suggests North Korea is still capable of developing weapons despite food shortages and an economic crisis. The US military said the latest tests posed threats to the international community, and neighbouring Japan said it had "significant concerns". A picture in the North Korean Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a missile being fired from a launch vehicle, while another could be seen in horizontal flight. The missiles are "a strategic weapon of great significance", the KCNA agency said. UN Security Council sanctions forbid North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles such as these.

United Kingdom (UK) – 13 September 2021

A lawyer who defrauded two employers of more than £600,000 has been jailed for a total of seven and a half years. Joshua Brien was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of three counts of fraud by abuse of position and one count of fraud by false representation, and was sentenced on Friday. Brien worked for 12 years for the Commonwealth Secretariat until 2016, when he was dismissed for an unrelated offence. During his time with the organisation, which provides administrative and legal support to the countries of the Commonwealth, he used his knowledge of the internal system for making payments to siphon off around £150,000. Working as the sole liaison for a contractor employed by the Commonwealth Secretariat, he fabricated correspondence using a fake email address he had set up that was very similar to the genuine one used by them. He then channelled funds intended to be paid to the contractor into a bank account in Australia which Brien had set up to carry out the fraud.

United States (US) / United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 14 September 2021

Three former US intelligence operatives, who went to work as mercenary hackers for the UAE, are facing federal charges of conspiring to violate hacking laws, according to justice department court documents. The three men named Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke, are accused of having been part of a clandestine unit named Project Raven, first reported by Reuters, that helped the UAE spy on its enemies. The defendants are also being charged with violating military export restrictions. The court document states that “defendants used illicit, fraudulent, and criminal means, including the use of advanced covert hacking systems that utilized computer exploits obtained from the United States and elsewhere, to gain unauthorized access to protected computers in the United States and elsewhere and to illicitly obtain information”.

China – 15 September 2021

In just two sentences, the United Nations human rights chief signalled that time is up on the Chinese government’s attempts to evade international scrutiny for its human rights abuses. After noting possible areas of cooperation, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council the following: “I regret that I am not able to report progress on my efforts to seek meaningful access to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In the meantime, my Office is finalising its assessment of the available information on allegations of serious human rights violations in that region with a view to making it public.” This certainly sends a strong message that no country is above international law.

United Kingdom (UK) – 15 September 2021

Dominic Raab MP was named as justice secretary following the dismissal of Robert Buckland MP QC in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. Buckland had held the role since July 2019 and faced controversies over constitutional reform and delays in the justice system. Raab will be the eighth lord chancellor since the Conservatives came into government in 2010.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 15 September 2021

The Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC granted the Prosecutor's request to commence an investigation in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 November 2011 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the so-called 'war on drugs' campaign. Philippines, State party to the Rome Statute since 1 November 2011, deposited a written notification of withdrawal from the Statute on 17 March 2018. While the Philippines' withdrawal from the Statute took effect on 17 March 2019, the Court retains jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes that occurred on the territory of the Philippines while it was a State Party, from 1 November 2011 up to and including 16 March 2019.

France – 16 September 2021

President Macron announced that the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi, was killed by French forces. He stated that “this is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel”.

United States (US) / United Kingdom (UK) – 17 September 2021

The US and UK are facing growing international criticism over a new security pact signed with Australia. The deal, seen as an effort to counter China, will see the US and UK give Australia the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines. But this move angered France, which said it had been "stabbed in the back", while China accused the three powers of having a "Cold War mentality". The pact has raised fears that it could provoke China into a war. This alliance, known as Aukus, was announced by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. Although they did not mention China, Aukus is being widely viewed as an effort to counter Beijing's influence in the contested South China Sea.

Venezuela – 17 September 2021

A UN fact-finding mission has found that Venezuela's justice system has played "a significant role" in the state's repression of government critics. A report concluded that Venezuela's judiciary lacked independence and had allowed serious human rights violations to go unchecked. It found that detainees had been subjected to torture, including sexual violence, and that some had been "arbitrarily deprived of life". The report added that public officials have been able to commit crimes with impunity.


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