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International Legal News

Weekly update: 06 – 19 October 2020

The following media round up of international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 06 – 19 October 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 Ned Vucijak for consideration.

Belgium – 03 October 2020

Belgian authorities have arrested three men suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Two have been detained and one has been put under electronic surveillance.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s office has not named the men. It said the investigation was ongoing and the office will decide whether the men will be charged and face trial. They are accused of serious abuse of human rights in the context of the 1994 genocide in which over 800,000 are estimated to have been killed.

Rwanda – 05 October 2020

Félicien Kabuga has requested the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) to transfer him to detention facilities in the Hague rather than in Arusha, Tanzania. Mr Kabuga was arrested in Paris in May 2020 and was awaiting transfer to the IRMCT detention facilities in Arusha after recently losing an extradition appeal in France. He cited health grounds for his request, including fears that he could contract COVID-19 in Tanzania and that the flight could badly affect his health. He further argued that detention in Tanzania would mean he was separated from his family.

Mr Kabuga is accused of financing genocide and crimes against humanity in the context of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Syria – 05 October 2020

On 05 October 2020, a group of NGOs submitted a criminal complaint to the German Federal Public Prosecutor over the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. This unprecedented step on the road to accountability for Syrian crimes, was a culmination of a comprehensive two-year investigation by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, and the Syrian Archive into two major incidents of chemical weapon attacks in the Syrian civil war to date – the use of sarin gas in Eastern Ghouta in 2013, which left more than 1,500 peopled dead, and the attack on the village of Khan Sheikhun in 2017, which killed around 100 people.

South Sudan – 06 October 2020

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan release two reports stating that starvation has been used as a weapon of war in the country. The Commission stated that both the Government and opposition forces used starvation as a tactic in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei, and Central Equatoria states “sometimes as an instrument to punish non-aligning communities.” According to the Commission, the tactic may amount to collective punishment.

Greece - 07 October 2020

After a five-year trial, a Greek court found the leader and six former Members of Parliament of the Golden Dawn group, a far-right party, guilty of joining a criminal group. In addition, the court found a Golden Dawn supporter guilty of murder, and 15 others guilty of conspiracy.

Thousands of people gathered outside the courthouse as the verdict was delivered. About 2,000 police were deployed. There were reports of tear gas being fired as protesters clashed with police.

UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) – 08 October 2020

Between 1 September and 8 October 2020, the Trial Chamber of the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) heard from the final five Defence witnesses in the retrial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. A total of 51 witnesses provided testimony on behalf of the Prosecution, and 29 witnesses provided testimony on behalf of the two Accused.

On 30 May 2013, Trial Chamber I (TC I) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Stanisic and Simatovic on all charges, which consisted of the crimes against humanity of murder, deportation, other inhumane acts (forcible transfer), and persecution, and the violation of the laws or customs of war of murder.

Sudan – 08 October 2020

On 08 October 2020, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed Pre-Trial Chamber II’s (PTC II) decision to reject Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman’s request for interim release. In doing so, the Appeals Chamber rejected all five grounds for appeal raised by Mr Abd al-Rahman’s defence.

On 14 August 2020, PTC II rejected the Defence’s request for interim release to The Netherlands, pending trial, pursuant to article 60(2) of the Rome Statute. PTC II concluded that the Accused’s continued detention was necessary to prevent the obstruction or endangerment of the ongoing investigation and court proceedings. On 19 August 2020, Mr Abd al-Rahman appealed this decision.

Guinea – 09 October 2020

On 09 October, ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda issued a statement on pre-election violence and growing ethnic tensions in Guinea. She stated that, “Guinea can and must demonstrate its will and ability both to combat impunity and to prevent renewed cycles of violence.”

In the approach to the presidential election on 18 October 2020, there were reports of violence between supporters of the different candidates, and violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

Myanmar – 12 October 2020

Amnesty International has released a statement documenting new evidence of crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine state in Myanmar, amid escalations in the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. The evidence is based on first-hand testimony, photographs and videos, satellite imagery, media reports, and civil society sources.

The statement notes concern at the prevalence of landmines in the region, stating that several incidents involving civilians injured or killed by landmines have been credibly reported in Rakhine and Chin states in recent months by local civil society and media outlets. Recently, a Chin woman who stood on a landmine while collecting bamboo shoots near the Myanmar military’s base in Paletwa died of her injuries.

UN Human Rights Council – 13 October 2020

Russia and China have been elected by secret ballot to the UN Human Rights Council, a position that will be effective for the next three years. In addition, Pakistan, Cuba, France, and the UK were elected, while Saudi Arabia did not secure a place.

The 15 vacant seats are distributed among the five regions. Countries within regions generally discuss which nations will stand privately, to avoid opposition within their region at the time of voting. All 193 UN countries are able to vote in each region. In this election, only the Asia-Pacific region had contestation, with China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal all vying for the four available seats. Saudi Arabia received the least number of votes of this group.

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