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International Legal News

Weekly update: 18 - 28 August.

The following media round up of international legal and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period 18 - 28 August.

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.

Lebanon – 18 August

The Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has delivered its judgment in the case of Ayyash et al – finding Salim Ayyash guilty and acquitting the other three Accused of all charges (Hassam Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra).

The STL was established in 2009, to try those accused of carrying out an attack on 14 February 2005 which injured 226 people and killed 22, including the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri. The trial began on 16 January 2014, and closing arguments were concluded on 21 September 2018. The accused were tried in absentia, and their whereabouts remain unknown.

Burundi and Namibia – 19 August

Burundi has asked Germany and Belgium to provide reparations for the harm caused and committed during the colonial rule. The country was colonized by Germany in 1890 and lived under Belgian rule until its independence in 1962. Burundi is seeking reparations in the form of 36 billion Euros in damages and the return of historical artifacts and archive materials stolen between 1899 and 1962. Belgium is planning to establish a panel of experts to advise on how to deal with this matter.

Namibia and Germany started discussions on reparations in 2015. The discussions focused on Germany giving an official apology and compensation for the genocide committed by the German empire in 1904 – 1908 against the Herero and Nama indigenous people of Namibia.

Myanmar/Bangladesh – 20 August

The Prosecution of the ICC expressed its opposition to the victims’ request that the Court conduct a feasibility assessment regarding the possibility of holding hearings in its Myanmar/Bangladesh proceedings in a location outside of The Hague. First, the Prosecutor noted that the request seems to suggest the “imminence” of an arrest warrant or summons, which may raise expectations on the part of victims.

Further, the Prosecution noted that the ability of the Court to hold hearings outside of The Hague refers to a “case,” meaning where an arrest warrant or summons has been issued, an not a “situation,” as in the status of Myanmar/Bangladesh, and argued that as there is no right of the victims to participate in the Prosecution’s investigation into a situation. Finally, it noted the difficulty of assessing such feasibility in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that conducting it now would be a waste of the Court’s resources.

Rwanda – 20 August

The Single Judge in the Turinabo et al contempt case has requested the Office of the Prosecutor to file submissions in relation to the possibility of unconditional release of the accused, who sre currently provisionally released in Rwanda.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) – 25 August

The ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold public hearings in the case concerning Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Qatar v. United Arab Emirates) from Monday 31 August to Monday 7 September 2020 at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The hearings will be devoted to the preliminary objections raised by the United Arab Emirates.

Rwanda – 27 August

The Chief Prosecutor for the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT_ reported that a team of investigators are in Rwanda to gather new evidence for the prosecution against Felicien Kabuga for his part in the genocide. The team plans to gather new evidence, as well as reach out to witnesses and victims who testified previously.

Sudan – 23 August

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has announced that the country is ready to cooperate with ICC, so that former president Omar Al-Bashir and others accused of war crimes in Darfur can appear before it. Sudanese authorities announced in February 2020 that they had agreed to cooperate with the ICC, but President Hamdok had not previously publicly affirmed Sudan’s position. Sudan’s transitional joint civilian – military government has also said that it is close to reaching a peace deal with some rebel groups active in Darfur.

Russia – 24 August

The European Court of Human Rights has lifted the interim measure which it indicated tpo the Russian Government in favour of Aleksey Navalnyy in order to ensure that his family and doctors had access to him and to see if he was fit for transfer to Germany for treatment.

The Court decided to lift the interim measure, which was granted under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, after Mr Navalnyy was flown for treatment in the Charite hospital in Berlin.

IRMCT – 25 August

On 25 August, the Appeal hearing in the case of Prosecutor v. Ratko Mladic started before the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMC). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the two-day hearing is being conducted online through video conferencing, and it has seen many technical difficulties and internet connection problems from the start of the first day.

UK/US – 26 August

A US trial of two members of Islamic State accused of taking part in the beheading of hostages appears likely to go ahead, following a legal ruling that allows the UK to share evidence with US prosecutors.

Britain’s supreme court said on 26 August that a stay preventing the Home Office from supplying intelligence relating to Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee El-Sheikh must be lifted after the US said it would drop death penalty charges against them.

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