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International Legal News

Weekly update: 21 - 27 January 2020

The following media round up of international legal and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period 21 - 27 January 2020.

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 Nenad Vucijak for consideration.

Bangladesh: 21 January 2020

In Bangladesh, people who question the government’s increasingly authoritarian rule fear that they may be next in line to be killed or forcibly disappeared by security forces. Extrajudicial killings have become so established in Bangladesh that some legislators openly recommended them as a way of dealing with the country’s high levels of rape. According to media reports, one legislator told parliament that “the only remedy is killing rapists ‘in crossfire’ after their confession.” “Crossfire incidents,” is a common euphemism to describe what authorities claim to be shootouts, which in reality are often extrajudicial executions. Lawmakers should be protecting the rule of law and holding security forces accountable for lethal use of force, not advocating for it.


Crimea: 21 January 2020

Russian authorities barred an independent Ukranian journalist, Taras Ibragimov, from entering Crimea last weekend and issued him a 34-year ban. Ibragimov had travelled regularly to Crimea over the past four years, covering the interviews of lawyers and family members of Crimean Tatars on bogus terrorism charges. This ban is the longest Crimea-related ban that Russia has handed a journalist so far, having done so by invoking an article of Russia’s migration law referring to state security, defence and public order. The truth though is that critical reporting from Crimea is a major irritant to Russian authorities, and barring independent journalists from the peninsula helps to choke the flow of information about their crackdown on Crimean Tatar activists amongst other abuses.


Colombia: 22 January 2020

Armed groups use brutal force to control people’s daily lives in the eastern Colombian province of Arauca and the neighbouring Venezuelan state of Apure. In a 64-page report released by Human Rights Watch, the violations committed by the National Liberation Army, the Patriotic Forces of National Liberation and a group that emerged from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are documented in detail. Abuses including murder, forced labour, child recruitment, and rape are often committed as part of the groups’ strategy to control the social, political and economic life of Arauca and Apure. Impunity for such abuses is the rule. Residents in Arauca and Apure live in fear, as armed groups recruit their children and impose their own rules, threaten residents, and punish those who disobey, either with murder or moths of forced labour in the fields.


United States of America: 22 January 2020

On the 74th anniversary of Roe v. Wade- when the US Supreme Court affirmed access to abortion as a constitutional right-Florida legislators are considering a bill that would threaten adolescent girls’ access to abortion. The bill, HB265/SB404, would force teenage girls to get parental consent for abortion, Florida State law already requires girls under 18 to notify a parent before an abortion or go to court to get a waiver from a judge. The proposed law would require girls to get written, notarized consent from a parent or legal guardian for an abortion or to seek a judicial waiver.


Guinea: 22 January 2020

Guinea’s Justice Minister Mohamed Lamine Fofana has announced his government’s “unequivocal” support for the start of the trial to hold the alleged perpetrators of the 28 September 2009 stadium massacre accountable. The minister explained that the first brick for the construction of the courtroom in which the trial will take place has already been laid and that the proceedings are to commence in June 2020 after construction is completed in May. The announcement raises new hopes in what has been a stilted judicial process. On 28 September 2009, security forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration of protesters clamouring for free and fair elections. At least 150 people died and hundreds were wounded. More than 100 women were raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence on the day of the incident or in the aftermath of the events.


Philippines: 22 January 2020

Phillippines Senator Ronald Dela Rosa has confirmed that the US government has revoked his visa to the United States. The former police chief under President Rodrigo Duterte has been implicated in extrajudicial killings associated with the administration’s brutal “war on drugs.” It appears that the State Department was acting under its policy and authority to deny visas to persons implicated in gross human rights violations.


Nigeria: 23 January 2020

Worrying reports of gruesome attacks and killings by insurgents in Nigeria’s restive northeast region appear to show an escalation of attacks on aid workers and other civilians over the past several weeks. On 21 January 2020, Boko Haram insurgents executed Rev. Lawan Andimi, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Adamawa State, after refusing a ransom offered for his release. After ten years of conflict with Boko Haram in the northeast, Nigeria continues to contend with violence from the insurgency group and its breakout factions, as well as violent banditry, kidnappings, and killings by armed groups in other parts of the country. Targeted attacks on aid workers and other civilians during an armed conflict are war crimes under international law.


Iraq: 23 January 2020

Chilling eyewitness testimony and verified video analysis confirm that security forces have resumed their campaign of deadly violence against largely peaceful protesters in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq. The crackdown on renewed protests from 20-22 January saw at least 10 people killed in Baghdad, Karbala and Diyala. Scores have been injured and arrested, with some subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in custody. Live ammunition is being used against unarmed protesters, and the first use of deadly military- grade tear gas grenades observed since November.


Afghanistan: 24 January 2020

The USA and the Afghan Taliban’s negotiations over a reduction in violence must include a commitment by both sides to abide by the laws of war and end all attacks on civilians. Representatives of the USA and the Afghan Taliban have been engaged in closed-door negotiations in Doha, Qatar, apparently aimed at agreeing to levels of “violence reduction” in the conflict in Afghanistan.


Democratic Republic of Congo: 24 January 2020

One year since President Felix Tshisekedi took office, insecurity and impunity continue to threaten human rights. Whilst some positive steps have been taken, such as the pardoning of political prisoners and allowing exiled critics to return, his government’s failures on accountability mean warlords and suspected perpetrators of appalling violations and abuses remain at large. Brutal crackdown on peaceful protests continue to cast doubt on respect for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the DRC.


Rwanda: 27 January 2020

Rwandan authorities are seeking to formalise their abusive arrests and detention of some of the country’s most vulnerable children under the pretence of rehabilitating them. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which starts its review of Rwanda on 27 January 2020, is urged to call for the immediate closure of the Gikondo Transit Centre, where children are arbitrarily detained and abused.


International Court of Justice: 27 January 2020

In a major ruling, the U.N International Court of Justice has ordered Burma to “take all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya Mulsims from genocide. The court issued the ruling on Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar “extremely vulnerable” to military violence.


Ethiopia: 27 January 2020

At least 75 supporters of the Oromo Liberation Fund were arrested over the weekend from various places in different parts of Oromia Regional State, as Ethiopian authorities intensify the crackdown on dissenting political views ahead of the general elections. These sweeping arrests risk undermining the rights to freedom of expression and association ahead of the 2020 elections.


European Court of Human Rights: 27 January 2020

The case L.R v North Macedonia (application no 38067/15) concerned a child who has been in the care of State-run institutions since he was three months old in which he was subjected to inadequate care and ill-treatment. His case came to the notice of an NGO when the Ombudsman visited him in an institute in 2013. In the judgment of the Chamber, it was unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) finding that the authorities had been responsible for the child’s placement in an institute, which could not cater for his needs.


Tanzania: 27 January 2020

The World Bank may reverse its hold on a $500 million education loan to Tanzania despite the government’s policy of expelling pregnant schoolgirls. Tanzanian schools routinely force girls to undergo intrusive pregnancy tests and permanently expel those who are pregnant. The World Bank is urged to use its leverage from the loan until Tanzania lifts its cruel ban on pregnant girls attending school and reaffirms their right to study in formal primary and lower-secondary schools.


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