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International Legal News

Weekly update: 13 December – 19 December 2021

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

Colombia – 13 December 2021

Colombian police were responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters during anti-police protests that swept the capital in September 2020, according to a report published after an independent investigation backed by the mayor of Bogotá’s office and the United Nations. Carlos Negret, a former ombudsman of the South American country who led the investigation, wrote in the report that “it was a police massacre”, adding that “a decisive political and operational leadership, based on rights, was needed at national and local levels to avoid this happening.” Protests swept Bogotá and the suburb of Soacha in September last year, after footage went viral that showed police officers pinning down and tasering a father of two who had been detained for breaking Covid restrictions. “Please, no more!,” he can be heard begging in the clip. He died shortly later from injuries sustained in custody.

Denmark – 13 December 2021

The former Danish immigration minister, Inger Stoejberg, has been found guilty of illegally separating young asylum-seeking couples in a landmark impeachment trial. Judges ruled Inger Stoejberg's decision in 2016 to separate couples was unlawful and jailed her for 60 days. Ms Stoejberg said she was very surprised by the verdict as the policy was designed to combat child marriage. The case was Denmark's first impeachment trial in three decades and only the sixth in its history. She told reporters that “it’s not just me who has lost but Danish values have lost too”, adding that she would accept her punishment but had no regrets. Between 2015 to 2019, Ms Stoejberg served as Denmark's immigration minister in a centre-right government propped up by the right-wing populist Danish People's Party.

United Kingdom (UK) – 13 December 2021

National Westminster Bank Plc (NatWest) has been fined £264,772,619.95 following convictions for three offences of failing to comply with money laundering regulations. Some of the bank’s employees, who were responsible for handling these cash deposits, reported their suspicions to bank staff responsible for investigating suspected money laundering, however no appropriate action was ever taken. It is the first time a financial institution has faced criminal prosecution by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under anti-money-laundering laws in the UK.

Russia – 14 December 2021

In the case of Tunikova and Others v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 3 and Article 14 in conjunction with Article 3. The case concerned acts of domestic violence, including death threats, bodily injuries and one case of severe mutilation, which the applicants sustained at the hands of their former partners or husbands, and the domestic authorities’ alleged failure to establish a legal framework for combating acts of domestic violence and bringing the perpetrators to account. The Court found, in particular, that the Russian authorities had failed to establish a legal framework to combat domestic violence effectively; they had not assessed the risks of recurrent violence; and they had not carried out an effective investigation into the domestic violence the applicants had suffered. It found it established that as regards protection against the risk of domestic violence, women in Russia are in a situation of de facto discrimination. The Court recommended under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) that urgent changes to domestic law and practice to prevent similar violations from occurring be made.

Philippines – 14 December 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the ICC prosecutor should seek to proceed with his office’s investigation into alleged crimes against humanity related to unlawful killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” in the Philippines. On November 10, 2021, the Philippine government requested a deferral of the ICC’s investigation under the principle of complementarity, claiming that it had begun its own investigations into cases of extrajudicial killings attributed to the police during “drug war” operations. The Philippine government has not responded to a November 10 letter from Human Rights Watch seeking details about the government’s claim that it was investigating police involvement in the killings. Philippine rights groups have found the number of pending investigations grossly inadequate to address the scale of the killings, and the government has yet to bring a single indictment.

United Kingdom (UK) – 15 December 2021

The government has launched what it says will be "common sense" reforms to the Human Rights Act that will "restore confidence" in the legal system. The proposals commit to staying within the European Convention on Human Rights, despite pressure from some Conservatives to leave the treaty. The government says the plans will also prevent foreign offenders abusing rules around the right to a family life. Critics warn the final measures could be muddled and unnecessary.

Guinea – 15 December 2021

Guinean authorities must take immediate measures to ensure thorough and impartial investigation of recent rapes and sexual assaults followed by murders committed over the course of just eight days and bring perpetrators to justice, Amnesty International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) said today. They must also increase their efforts to fight sexual violence by strengthening prevention, supporting access to justice for survivors and adopting a special law on violence against women.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) / United States (US) – 15 December 2021

The United Arab Emirates has suspended a multi-billion dollar deal to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets, in a sign of Abu Dhabi's growing frustration with Washington's attempts to limit Chinese technology sales to the oil-rich Gulf state. An Emirati official told CNN that “the UAE has informed the US that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35…Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and cost/benefit analysis led to the re-assessment." The official added that "the UAE and US were working toward an understanding that would address mutual defense security conditions for the acquisition…"The US remains the UAE's preferred provider for advanced defense requirements and discussions for the F-35 may be re-opened in the future."

El Salvador – 16 December 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the El Salvador authorities, including President Nayib Bukele, are blocking people on social media who criticise the government. This violates their rights to free speech and access to information, and to participate in the conduct of public affairs. HRW identified 91 blocked accounts, the vast majority on Twitter, including accounts belonging to journalists, lawyers, activists, and private citizens. President Bukele blocked most of them. Government institutions, including the President’s Office, the President’s Press Office and the Communications Secretary’s Office have also blocked some accounts. Government institutions, including the President’s Office, the President’s Press Office and the Communications Secretary’s Office have also blocked some accounts.

Ukraine – 16 December 2021

In the case of Ivan Karpenko v. Ukraine, the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 3 and Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3. The case concerned the regime – a ban on talking to prisoners from other cells – in which Mr Karpenko had been held while serving his life sentence. The Court found in particular that the ban had been in breach of European Prison rules and had been compounded by several serious aggravating factors which had amounted to treatment in violation of the Convention.

Russia / Ukraine – 17 December 2021

EU leaders have warned Russia that action against Ukraine will result in "massive consequences" and a "severe cost" amid worries over the build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border. The message, which came after the last European Council summit of the year in Brussels, also mentioned possible "restrictive measures" against Russia, but no detail has been released. However, the bloc also encouraged more diplomacy with Moscow.

Ethiopia – 17 December 2021

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to launch an international investigation into abuses in Ethiopia’s 13-month conflict amid warnings of looming “generalised violence”. The resolution, brought by the European Union and backed by Western states, passed despite objections from Ethiopia’s government, which accused the UN body of being used as an “instrument of political pressure” and pledged not to cooperate. A three-member panel of experts will have a year to “establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses, to collect and preserve evidence, and to identify those responsible”, according to the resolution.


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