Weekly update: 28 February – 6 March 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 28 February to 6 March 2022. 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 email@example.com for consideration.
United Kingdom (UK) / Russia – 28 February 2022
Boris Johnson has said that Russian oligarchs will no longer have a hiding place for their “ill-gotten gains” in the UK under legislation being introduced in parliament. A new register of overseas entities is intended to stop the foreign owners of property in Britain from hiding their identity, and separate measures are expected to give some teeth to the unexplained wealth order mechanism, which until now has proved relatively ineffective. The new laws will be contained in an economic crime (transparency and enforcement) bill, which has long been called for by campaigners concerned about the UK’s reputation as a haven for dirty money.
United Kingdom (UK) – 28 February 2022
Announcing that the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill along with plans to upgrade Companies House will be introduced in parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 'There is no place for dirty money in the UK.' According to a statement by Downing Street, the legislation will create a register of foreign owners of UK property. It will also require anyone setting up, running, owning or controlling a company in the UK to verify their identity with Companies House. Entities failing to reveal their ‘beneficial owner’ will face restrictions over selling their property and penalties of up to five years in prison. On unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), the definition of an asset’s ‘holder’ will also be expanded to ensure individuals cannot hide behind opaque shell companies and foundations.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 28 February 2022
The ICC will launch an investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed. ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC announced his intention to open an investigation into the situation in Ukraine: “Today, I wish to announce that I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible.” Ukraine is not a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC so cannot itself refer the situation to Mr. Khan’s Office. However, Ukraine has twice exercised its prerogatives to legally accept the Court's jurisdiction over alleged crimes under the Rome Statute occurring on its territory. Mr. Khan stated that he had reviewed conclusions arising from his Office’s preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine and “confirmed that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with opening an investigation”.
Ukraine / Russia – 1 March 2022
Russian missiles and rockets have hit the cultural heart of Ukraine's second largest city in what officials said was a deadly and "cruel" attack. An opera house, concert hall and government offices were hit in Freedom Square, in the centre of the north-eastern city Kharkiv. At least 10 people were killed and 35 more were injured, local authorities have said. The attack came as Ukraine's president said Russia was committing war crimes. "This is the price of freedom," President Volodymyr Zelensky said. "This is terror against Ukraine. There were no military targets in the square - nor are they in those residential districts of Kharkiv which come under rocket artillery fire," he added.
International Court of Justice (ICJ) – 1 March 2022
The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold public hearings in the case concerning Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation) on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 March 2022, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Ukraine.
United Kingdom (UK) – 2 March 2022
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the United Kingdom should urgently ensure that anyone fleeing the conflict in Ukraine can find sanctuary in the country by temporarily waiving visa requirements. The UK should also scrap the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would criminalise efforts to seek asylum in the UK through irregular means. Yasmine Ahmed, UK director at HRW, stated that “the UK should do all it can to provide people fleeing Ukraine with a safe route to travel to the UK, including with a temporary visa waiver… The government’s concession to provide sanctuary to Ukrainians with close family members in the UK is not enough, and all civilians fleeing the conflict in Ukraine should have the option of safe passage to the UK.”
United Nations (UN) – 2 March 2022
The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine. The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” Five countries - Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) Eritrea, Russia and Syria - voted against it, while 35 abstained.
Ukraine – 2 March 2022
Against the background of the war in Ukraine and following a request received from the Ukrainian Government on 24 February 2022 to “suspend the examination of all applications against Ukraine until further notice”, the European Court of Human Rights has decided to take a number of measures which will now be applied in all cases concerning Ukraine until further notice. The President of the Court may allow exceptions to those measures where appropriate.
Bosnia-Herzegovina / Kuwait – 3 March 2022
A Kuwaiti princess seeking asylum in Bosnia-Herzegovina has claimed the Kuwaiti state is using an Interpol red notice to intimidate and harass her and force the extradition of her partner, a prominent dissident blogger, back to the country. Sheikha Moneera Fahad al-Sabah and Mesaed al-Mesaileem, said they face torture and threats to their lives if they are returned to Kuwait due to their political activism. Kuwait has secured an Interpol red notice for Mesaileem – which acts as an international arrest warrant – and which the couple’s lawyer claims has likely been issued under false pretences.
Ukraine / Russia – 3 March 2022
Russian forces have seized control of a key port city in southern Ukraine, the mayor says. Kherson is the first major city to be taken by Russia, after heavy fighting, since it invaded a week ago. Its mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, said Russian troops had forced their way into the city council building and imposed a curfew on residents. Several cities have come under intense shelling, with Wednesday one of the most destructive days of the fighting. An investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine has been launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Russia has for the first time admitted taking heavy military casualties during its attack on Ukraine, with 498 troops killed and a further 1,597 injured. Ukraine says Russia's losses run into the thousands. Ukraine reports that more than 2,000 civilians have died since the invasion began last Thursday. The conflict has also caused more than a million people to flee Ukraine, according to the UN.
Ukraine – 4 March 2022
Russia has taken control of Europe's largest nuclear power station in Ukraine after it was hit by shelling. A fire started at the Zaporizhzhia plant after it was shelled by Russian troops, Ukrainian officials say. The UN's nuclear watchdog said radiation levels and the safety of reactors were not affected. World leaders have accused Russia of endangering the safety of an entire continent, and Ukraine's president accused Russia of "nuclear terror".
Saudi Arabia – 4 March 2022
Responding to the news that Raif Badawi, a prominent blogger and human rights defender who has been arbitrarily detained solely for freely expressing his opinions, remains in detention despite completing an unjust 10-year prison sentence on 1 March, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef said: “Raif Badawi has spent a decade behind bars solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. The Saudi Arabian authorities must ensure his immediate and unconditional release and lift the unlawful travel ban imposed on him so he can finally reunite with his family. Raif Badawi’s ongoing detention reveals the Saudi Arabian authorities’ utter contempt for the right to liberty, freedom of expression and even their own laws.”
Ukraine – 4 March 2022
Ukraine’s foreign minister has backed the establishment of a special international tribunal to try Russia’s leaders for the crime of aggression against Ukrainians. The move is separate from the claim launched by 39 countries this week to hold Russia to account at the international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague. The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, is starting an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the conduct of the war. The crime of aggression, by contrast, would give rise to prosecution under international law by allowing the instigators of the aggression to be put on trial regardless of how the war was conducted. The ICC cannot also have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, unless the Russian state agrees, which it would veto at the UN. The former prime minister Gordon Brown, one of the advocates of the plan, said the possibility of bringing Vladimir Putin to trial was realistic. He said the tribunal, modelled on the Nuremberg trials after the second world war, would investigate all those who planned the invasion and were complicit, including by providing finance.