Weekly update: 21 March – 27 March 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 21 March to 27 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Ukraine / Russia – 21 March 2022
A Ukrainian MP has accused Russia of trying to starve the besieged port city of Mariupol into surrendering. Dmytro Gurin was speaking soon after Ukraine rejected a Russian deadline demanding Mariupol's defenders lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of the city. Mariupol is a key strategic target for the Russian military. Around 300,000 people are believed to be trapped there with supplies running out and aid blocked from entering. Residents have endured weeks of Russian bombardment with no power or running water.
South Sudan – 21 March 2022
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said that widespread sexual violence against women and girls in conflict is being fuelled by systemic impunity. The Commission’s new report, based on interviews conducted with victims and witnesses over several years, describes a “hellish existence for women and girls”, with widespread rape being perpetrated by all armed groups across the country. According to the UN Commission, sexual violence has been instrumentalised as a reward and entitlement for youth and men participating in conflict. The goal is to inflict maximum disruption of the fabric of communities, including through their constant displacement, the report continues. Rape is often used as “part of military tactics for which government and military leaders are responsible, either due to their failure to prevent these acts, or for their failure to punish those involved”, the Commission advanced.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 22 March 2022
Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka ("Mr Mokom") appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC. Mr. Mokom is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Central African Republic (CAR) between at least 5 December 2013 and at least December 2014. The Chamber verified the identity of the suspect, and ensured that he was clearly informed of the crimes he is alleged to have committed and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC in a language he fully understands and speaks, which is Sango for Mr Mokom. The hearing was held in the presence of the Deputy Prosecutor Mame Mandiaye Niang and of Mr Nicholas Kaufman, who represented Mr Mokom.
Syria – 22 March 2022
According to official documents obtained by the Guardian, the Syrian regime is setting up shell companies in a systematic attempt to avoid sanctions. The documents, not publicly available, detail at least three companies established in Syria on the same day with the explicit purpose of operating as a shell to buy shares and manage other companies. They show clear links between the owners of the new shell companies, President Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s economically powerful elite, including individuals under sanction.
Iran – 22 March 2022
An inquiry into why the British government took more than 30 years to pay a £400m debt to the Iranian government that was deemed fundamental to the release of British-Iranian dual nationals held in Iranian jails is to be mounted by the foreign affairs select committee. The decision was taken in principle by the committee, but would not start until Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and any other former prisoners felt ready to provide evidence. The former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt joined the calls for an inquiry, saying it had taken too long to pay the debt. The former Middle East minister Alistair Burt had already written to the committee asking for an inquiry, saying even in office he could not discover the source of the resistance to paying the debt. In a letter to the committee he said “we have a right to know”.
Russia – 22 March 2022
Russia's most prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny has been given nine years in a "strict regime penal colony" in a fraud case rejected by supporters as fabricated. Navalny was detained when he returned to Russia last year, after surviving a poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. He is already serving three and a half years in jail for breaking bail conditions while in hospital. A judge has now found him guilty of fraud and contempt of court.
Israel – 23 March 2022
Israel blocked Ukraine from buying NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware for fear that Russian officials would be angered by the sale of the sophisticated hacking tool to a regional foe, according to people familiar with the matter.
Libya – 23 March 2022
Amnesty International said that the Libyan authorities must order an end to the persecution of young Libyans by militiamen and security agents under the guise of protecting “Libyan and Islamic values” and uphold their right to freedom of expression. Over the past four months, the Tripoli-based Internal Security Agency (ISA) has arrested at least seven young men for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and detained them arbitrarily with little or no contact with the outside world amid fears for their safety and wellbeing. Other men and women, including those named in the video “confessions” and those who voiced their support for the seven arrested youth, have gone into hiding after being subjected to death threats and smear campaigns on social media.
Russia – 24 March 2022
A Russian reporter has died after coming under Russian shelling while she filmed destruction at a shopping centre in Kyiv, becoming at least the fifth journalist to a month since Moscow’s invasion on 24 February. Oksana Baulina, who previously also worked for the Russian opposition leader Alexander Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was killed alongside another civilian on 23 March while reporting for the independent Russian news website the Insider.
Ethiopia – 24 March 2022
Human Rights Watch said that an Ethiopian government airstrike hit a school compound hosting thousands of displaced Tigrayans in northwestern Tigray on 7 January 2022. An apparent armed drone dropped three bombs on the compound in the town of Dedebit, killing at least 57 civilians and wounding more than 42 others. The Ethiopian government should carry out a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the apparent war crime and appropriately prosecute those responsible. Because of widespread abuses by all sides to the conflict in northern Ethiopia, foreign governments should impose a moratorium on arms sales and military assistance to the warring parties.
United Kingdom (UK) – 24 March 2022
Magistrates could get only half a day’s training on new powers that will enable them to hand out longer prison sentences. Lord chancellor Dominic Raab unveiled plans in January to double the current six-month prison sentence that can be handed down by magistrates to help drive down the Crown court backlog - a move that has not been widely welcomed. The Ministry of Justice’s press release stated that ‘proper training will need to be completed by magistrates before this change can come into effect’.
Sudan – 25 March 2022
The UN has warned that the number of people who are severely hungry in Sudan could double by September as a result of poor harvests, economic crisis, internal conflict and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a joint statement, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation said more than 18 million people could face extreme hunger over the coming months, up from about 9 million currently in need of aid.
United Kingdom (UK) – 25 March 2022
Dominic Raab has disclosed proposals to replace Labour’s Human Rights Act with a British bill of rights which he believes will enable the principle of free speech to become a legal “trump card”. Raab, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, has argued that the plan will better protect the press in exposing wrongdoing and said he feared free speech was being “whittled away” by “wokery and political correctness”.
Russia / Ukraine – 25 March 2022
Russia says it will focus its invasion of Ukraine on "liberating" the east, signalling a possible shift in its strategy. The defence ministry said that the initial aims of the war were complete, and that Russia had reduced the combat capacity of Ukraine. Sergei Rudskoy, head of the General Staff's main operations administration, said that “the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces have been substantially reduced, which allows us to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal: the liberation of Donbas”.