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International Legal News

Weekly update: 27 August - 3 September.

The following media round up of international legal and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period 27 August - 3 September.

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.

China, US - 27August

China has accused the US of violating international law through its imposition of sanctions on officials and companies involved in Beijing’s military build-up in the disputed South China Sea. The sanctions add to conflict over control of the sea, ordering penalties against an unspecified number of Chinese officials and 24 companies for their role in building artificial islands to enforce Beijing’s territorial claims. The companies have been limited access to US exports without government permission.

Australia - 31 August

The Australian state of New South Wales declared its intent to act on defamation law reform without waiting for other states and territories to ‘catch up.’ However, warnings have been given of the need for such reforms to be enacted with uniformity, and at the same date.

The reforms include a new public interest defence based on the British system, which is designed to stop defamation hindering the publication and discussion of matters of public interest.

The defence is available to publishers who can prove the publication was on a “matter of public interest” and that the defendant “reasonably believed that the publication was in the public interest”. A discussion paper on the second stage of reforms to be released by the end of this year and legislation is expected to be ready in mid-2022.

France - 2 September

14 suspects are currently on trial over the Charlie Hebdo Paris massacre in 2015. They are accused of helping the militant Islamist attackers who shot dead 12 people in and around Charlie Hebdo's Paris office in January 2015.

The trial has been delayed by almost four months because of the coronavirus pandemic. In March, the presiding judge said France's lockdown measures had made it impossible to bring together "all the parties, witnesses and experts under the necessary sanitary conditions".

Three of the suspects are believed to have disappeared in northern Syria and Iraq, and will be tried in absentia. Reports have suggest at least two of them were killed in bombing campaigns against the Islamic State group (IS). All three remain the subject of international arrest warrants.

US - 2 September

The Trump administration has ordered a series of sanctions against those working, or involved, with the International Criminal Court.

Claiming the ICC’s investigation into alleged war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses a national security threat, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on June 11 effectively criminalizing anyone who works at the ICC. Its lawyers, judges, human rights researchers and staff could now have their U.S. bank accounts frozen, U.S. visas revoked and travel to the U.S. denied.

The executive order does not target U.S. citizens. However, Americans can be sanctioned if they “materially support” the ICC by filing an amicus brief to support a case. It is notable that the use of such language usually applies to foreign terrorist organizations and their enablers – not human rights lawyers.

Canada, Netherlands - 2 September

Both Canada and the Netherlands have given a statement declaring their intent to assist with the Rohingya case at the UN. Their intent is to ‘pay special attention to crimes related to sexual and gender based violence, including rape’

The case was filed last year by the West African nation of Gambia.

“The Gambia’s application shows the discrimination and persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, which created the conditions for Myanmar’s security forces to perpetrate targeted and systemic atrocities against the Rohingya,” the joint statement said. “Myanmar’s violations include the commission of genocide against the Rohingya, mostly by way of the systematic and widespread perpetration of mass murder, sexual violence, torture, forced displacement, and denial of access to food and shelter,” it added.

More than 850,000 Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar, have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since 2016 fearing for their lives.

Rwanda, France - 2 September

The Rwandan genocide financier, Felicien Kabuda, appealed to the French supreme court this Wednesday requesting an appeal of the body’s decision to hand him over to international judges in Tanzania.

In 1997, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda -- based in Tanzania -- had charged Kabuga with seven counts of genocide and multiple other counts, as well as "persecution and extermination, all in connection with crimes committed during the 1994 genocide."

A reward of $5 million was placed on Kabuga's head by the International Mechanism, the structure responsible for completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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