International Legal News
Updated: Apr 27
Weekly update: 28 January - 4 February 2020
The following media round up of international legal and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period 28 January - 4 February 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.
Tunisia: 29 January 2020
Tunisian authorities should drop the prosecution of a prominent activist on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights over a post on Facebook perceived as offensive to Islam. The counterterrorism prosecutor of the First Instance Court in Tunis opened an investigation on 6 November 2019, into Mounir Baatour, a lawyer and president of Shams, a group that defends sexual minorities on charges of incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. The prosecutor charged Baatour under article 14 of the 2015 counterterrorism law, which considers as acts of terrorism “the incitement to hatred and to animosity between races, doctrines and religions”.
Chile: 30 January 2020
The in loco visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is fundamental for the protection and guarantee of human rights in Chile in response to recent statements by state authorities calling on the IACHR not to involve itself in the country’s internal affairs. State authorities must not only cooperate fully so that it can carry out its work without any undue interference but also ensure that its recommendations are taken seriously to address the situation in the country. The IACHR’s visit represents a historic precedent for the defence of human rights in the country and is fundamental in ensuring that victims of human rights violations have access to the rights to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.
Mexico: 30 January 2020
Proposed changes in Mexico’s justice system would be a major step backward for the rule of law and violate the country’s human rights obligations. On 15 January 2020, the National Prosecutor Alejandro Gertz Manero and the President’s chief legal adviser, Julio Scherer announced upcoming justice system reforms allegedly aimed at reducing impunity and recidivism. The proposal includes regressive and abusive measures that would allow prosecutors to use evidence obtained through torture, detain anyone for up to 40 days without charges and once charged, place the accused in pre-trial detention without judicial review.
European Court of Human Rights: 30 January 2020
The case of Saribekyan and Balyan v Azerbaijan (application number 35746/11) concerned the death of the applicant’s son, an Armenian citizen, whilst in military detention in Azerbaijan. In the judgment of the Chamber, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 2( right to life) owing to the applicant’s son’s death in detention, a further violation of Article 2 owing to the lack of an effective investigation as well as a violation of Article 3 given that the applicant’s son had been tortured before his death. The Court found in particular that the applicants had made a prima facie case that their son, Manvel Saribeyan, had died as a result of the violent actions of others, notably personnel at the Military Police Department in Baku, where he was being held.
Saudi Arabia: 31 January 2020
Lawsuits, protests and other actions are planned in several European ports to oppose this week’s return of the Bahri Yanbu, a Saudi Arabian state-owned cargo ship that has previously ferried tens of millions of dollars’ worth of arms to fuel the war in Yemen. The cargo ship is due to visit five European ports beginning on 2 February, before continuing its onward voyage to Saudi Arabia.
European Court of Human Rights: 31 January 2020
31 January 2020 marked the opening of the judicial year of the ECHR. The event included a seminary on the topic; “The European Convention on Human Rights, living instrument at 70”, at which many eminent figures form European judicial circles were present. This was followed by the ceremony to mark the official opening of the judicial year 2020 as Mr Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the Court and Chief Justice Clarke addressed representatives from the highest courts of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe and from local, national and international authorities.
Iraq: 31 January 2020
Over the past two years, Iraqi courts have processed more than 20,000 terrorism cases against the Islamic State suspects, including hundreds of children. A new United Nations report finds that far from delivering justice, these trials are seriously flawed. The UN monitored more than 600 trial hearings against ISIS suspects in 2018 and 2019 finding that judges relied heavily on confessions, despite frequent allegations of torture. The courts also made little distinction between those responsible for violent crimes and those coerced into ISIS association or those that joined for their own survival. Whether they served as a commander or a cook, most were simply charged with ISIS membership, which can carry a death sentence.
Colombia: 31 January 2020
Colombia’s Constitutional Court should uphold women’s rights in deciding a case regarding access to abortion, following the submission of an amicus brief in the case to the court on 30 January 2020. In 2006, the Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling that decriminalized abortion when the life or health of the pregnant woman is at risk, when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, and when the foetus has a serious condition incompatible with life outside the womb. However, today, access to legal abortion still faces many barriers. The case currently pending before the court seeks to prohibit abortion altogether. Criminalizing abortion has had devastating effects for women’s lives across the Americas, including in Colombia.
Somalia: 3 February 2020
A regional security minister in Somalia arrested for “Serious crimes” on 31 August 2019, who recently escaped from detention and is currently in Kenya, must be returned to face justice. Abdirashid Janan, who is suspected of being responsible for crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations, has evaded attempts to bring him to justice. The Kenyan authorities must immediately arrest and hand him over to the Federal Government of Somalia, who should conduct his trial in a manner that meets international fair trial standards, without any further delays.
Brazil: 3 February 2020
Two reports by international forensic experts point to possible destruction of crime scene evidence by police in the killing of nine people during a February 2019 operation in poor communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The analysis by experts commissioned by Human Rights Watch also points to other serious failures in collecting and preserving critical evidence in the case. The reports suggest that military police may have taken bodies of people they had killed to the hospital, pretending they needed to move the victims to try to save their lives.
South Africa: 3 February 2020
Mining companies and their stakeholders, including investors, governments and politicians, must confront the human rights abuses that are right in the industry as the world’s biggest mining investment conference begins in Cape Town. From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. For too long mining giants have been getting away with pollution, forced evictions, lack of transparency over how mining rights are awarded, corruption, tax evasion and abuse transfer pricing. These issues must be at the forefront of discussions in Cape Town.
Sri Lanka: 4 February 2020
Sri Lanka’s new government declined to sing the national anthem in Tamil, the country’s second national language, during the island’s Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, a departure from the previous government which sang the anthem in the country’s two primary languages to promote ethnic harmony in the aftermath of a decades-long civil war. Tamil politicians had requested the President to continue the practice of singing the Tamil translation of the national anthem recognised by the constitution in order to give the Tamil community a sense of belonging to the country after decades of estrangement with the state.
Malaysia: 3 February 2020
Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najob Razak, did not show up on the first day of her corruption trial on Monday, stating that she was too unwell to attend court. The prosecution rejected Rosmah’s call for an adjournment of the trial, saying it was an “attempt” to avoid coming to court.
European Court of Human Rights: 3 February 2020
In its committee judgment in the case of Baysultanov v Russia (application number 56120/13) the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 2 (right to life) owing to the killing of the applicant’s wife by the police and the applicant being injured as well as a further violation of Article 2 owing to the lack of an effective investigation. The case concerned a police operation to detain the leader of an illegal armed group, which resulted in the applicant’s wife being killed. The Court found in particular that the Government had not proved that the police’s use of lethal force had been absolutely necessary.
Peru: 4 February 2020
Peru is betraying its tradition of solidarity with Venezuelans seeking protection and is now deliberately rejecting people at the border. Venezuelan asylum-seekers trying to enter via Peru’s border with Euador are being turned away, despite appearing to fulfil all of the criteria for international protection. Peru is denying entry even to Venezuelans in evidently vulnerable situations, including older people and unaccompanied children. Since June 2019, Peru has introduced a series of measures with the deliberate aim of restricting entry to the country.