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International Legal News

Weekly update: 29 November – 5 December 2021 The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 29 November to 5 December 2021.

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.

United States (US) – 29 November 2021

Ghislaine Maxwell’s much-awaited sex trafficking trial in Manhattan will finally go before a jury, with opening statements. The panel of 12 jurors and six alternates that will weigh Maxwell’s fate was decided around 10am local time. Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty on six counts related to her alleged involvement in the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of teen girls, some as young as 14. The charges include conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.

Palestine / Israel – 29 November 2021

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security. In a message to mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the UN chief warned that persistent violations of the rights of Palestinians, along with the expansion of Israeli settlements, risk eroding the prospect of a two-State solution. Despite being ‘encouraged’ by recent engagements between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, the UN chief said that “containing the situation is not sufficient”. Mr. Guterres reiterated that the overall goal of two States living side-by-side in peace and security remains.

Argentina – 29 November 2021

Argentina’s justice system will investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the Myanmar military against that country’s Rohingya minority under a court ruling upholding the principles of “universal justice”. The appeals court decision, which Agence France-Presse has seen, overturns a lower court ruling rejecting a request for an investigation by the British-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation (BROUK).

United Kingdom (UK) – 29 November 2021

A shocking culture of abuse by staff towards detainees at Brook House immigration detention centre was described by a whistleblower giving evidence to a public inquiry into widespread mistreatment of detainees at the G4S-run site. The former Brook House officer Callum Tulley described repeatedly witnessing abusive behaviour by officers towards detainees, and told the inquiry that he was so disturbed by it that he had felt compelled to contact the BBC and begin undercover filming at the centre.

China – 30 November 2021

A newly published cache of documents directly links top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping to the state's crackdown on Uyghur Muslims. The documents include speeches which analysts say prove senior government leaders called for measures that led to mass internment and forced labour. China has consistently denied that it is committing genocide against Uyghurs. Some of the documents were the subject of an earlier report, but the latest leak has previously unseen information. The documents, branded the 'Xinjiang Papers', after the region which is home to most of China's Uyghurs, reveal how Chinese Communist party (CCP) leaders including Mr Xi and Premier Li Keqiang made statements which directly led to policies affecting the Uyghurs and other Muslims. These include forced internments, mass sterilisations, forced assimilation, "re-education", and coercion of detained Uyghurs to work in factories.

Germany – 30 November 2021

In a landmark verdict, a former member of the Islamic State group has been found guilty of genocide by a German court over the death of a five-year-old Yazidi girl he had bought as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die. The Frankfurt regional court also convicted Taha Al-J of crimes against humanity, war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death. The 29-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to pay the girl’s mother €50,000 (£42,600). German news agency dpa quoted the presiding judge, Christoph Koller, saying it was the first genocide conviction worldwide over a person’s role in the systematic persecution by IS of the Yazidi religious minority.

Saudi Arabia / Yemen – 1 December 2021

According to sources with close knowledge of the matter, Saudi Arabia used “incentives and threats” as part of a lobbying campaign to shut down a UN investigation of human right violations committed by all sides in the Yemen conflict. The Saudi effort ultimately succeeded when the UN human rights council (HRC) voted in October against extending the independent war crimes investigation. The vote marked the first defeat of a resolution in the Geneva body’s 15-year history. Speaking to the Guardian, political officials and diplomatic and activist sources with inside knowledge of the lobbying effort described a stealth campaign in which the Saudis appear to have influenced officials in order to guarantee defeat of the measure.

Honduras looks set to elect its first female president, Xiomara Castro, after the ruling party conceded defeat. Ms Castro, the candidate for the left-wing Libre (Free) Party, has a preliminary lead of almost 20 percentage points over her rival. Her victory will bring an end to the 12-year reign of the right-wing National Party, which has been plagued by scandals and corruption accusations. Ms Castro will replace the divisive President Juan Orlando Hernández. He has been dogged by allegations of ties to the drugs trade after his brother Antonio was jailed for trafficking in the United States.

Argentina – 2 December 2021

Argentina's former President Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on relatives of 44 sailors who died when the Ara San Juan submarine sank in 2017. Judge Marin Bava says Mr Macri has violated the country's intelligence laws by demanding a dossier on the victims' families. They accuse the Navy of negligence. Mr Macri, who was president in 2015-19 and is now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

Japan / Myanmar – 2 December 2021

Since the February 1 military coup in Myanmar, the junta’s security forces have killed nearly 1,300 people, arrested more than 10,000, and continue to detain nearly 7,400. The junta-controlled courts have sentenced 65 people to death, including 2 children. Facing such violence, militias have formed around the country to oppose the junta, and target security forces as well as civilians perceived to be supporting the junta. Japan, one of Myanmar’s closest allies, has taken some action. Tokyo denounced the coup, while demanding an end to violence and the release of elected government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi. However, Japan has stopped short of placing targeted economic sanctions on senior military and junta officials or their economic interests, as its democratic allies have done. And now it appears that Japan is playing a double game, officially allied with governments critical of the coup, while increasingly normalising diplomatic contact with the junta. This approach risks undermining the international community’s efforts to hold the Myanmar junta accountable for ongoing crimes against humanity in Myanmar, including torture, murder, and rape.

European Union (EU) / Israel – 3 December 2021

Dozens of human rights organisations have called on the EU to impose global sanctions on NSO Group and take “every action” to prohibit the sale, transfer, export and import of the Israeli company’s surveillance technology. The letter, signed by 86 organisations including Access Now, Amnesty International and the Digital Rights Foundation, said the EU’s sanctions regime gave it the power to target entities that were responsible for “violations or abuses that are of serious concern as regards to the objectives of the common foreign and security policy, including violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, or of freedom of opinion and expression”. “These rights have been repeatedly violated using NSO technology,” the letter said, pointing to findings by a UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion who found that use of spyware by abusive governments could also “facilitate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or enforced disappearance of persons.”

Mexico / United States (US) – 3 December 2021

US human rights groups have criticised the reinstatement of a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while claims are processed. The American Immigration Council said it was a dark day for the US and the rule of law. US President Joe Biden had suspended the policy, calling it "inhumane", but was ordered by courts to resume it. Under the policy, thousands of migrants were forced to stay in dangerous conditions on the Mexican border. But Republicans have welcomed the decision as a way to restore order in the border regions. Mexico has now agreed to accept the policy, known as Remain in Mexico, in exchange for concessions such as a shorter turnaround time for asylum decisions and a US-Mexico development programme for Central America.


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