International Legal News
Weekly update: 18 – 24 January 2021 The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 18 – 24 January 2021.
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.
Russia – 18 January 2021
The Khimki City Court remanded Aleksei Navalny to 30 days in custody pending trial for “multiple violations of the terms of his probation”, for his conviction in a previous politically motivated trial. The hearing took place inside a police station where Aleksei Navalny was placed after being detained in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport the previous evening. Agnès Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as well as Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, stated that it was “appalling that Mr. Navalny was arrested for breaching parole terms, for a sentence he should not have received in the first place and despite the authorities being fully aware that he had been several months in Germany recovering from an attempt on his life”.
Lebanon – 19 January 2021
Following the Lebanon’s Universal Periodical Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International said that the government of Lebanon has to put more effort into respecting as well as protecting human rights and, impunity for human rights abuses must end.
Forty-seven governments at the UPR Working Group session made recommendations for improving human rights protections in Lebanon: at least 5 governments called on Lebanon to effectively end torture; at least 11 member states made recommendations to decriminalise defamation; at least 14 governments called for an end to kafala; at least 5 governments called on Lebanon to respect and protect the right to freedom of assembly and protest.
Russia – 19 January 2021
In the case of Shlykov and Others v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been two violations of the Convention: Art.3 on the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, and Art.6(1) on the right to a fair trial. The cases concerned the routine handcuffing of life prisoners, lack of
remedy to complain about routine handcuffing, prison regime and the authorities’ failure to allow some of the applicants to attend hearings in civil proceedings. For the European Court, the use of handcuffs did not normally give rise to rights violations, but the systematic handcuffing of the applicants every time they left their cells had been a violation of their rights. The Court also held that the prison regime applied to Mr. Shlykov was a violation of Art.3, and that Art.6(1) on the right to a fair trial was breached because the applicants had not been allowed to attend their civil proceedings.
United States of America (USA) – 20 January 2021
President Joe Biden issued an executive order reversing one of the first anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies put in place by the administration of his predecessor, Donald Trump: the travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority and African countries. Although much remains to be done, this is an important and necessary step to reversing the Trump administration’s abusive policies. Trump’s travel ban was commonly known as the “Muslim ban” because the original version stemmed from anti-Muslim animus.
“The Secretary-General looks forward to working with the new US administration to strengthen multilateral cooperation” to support migrants and refugees, said the statement issued on behalf of António Guterres. “We look forward to deepening the strong and trusted partnership with the United States, and to working with the new administration and Congress to address the many challenges of forced displacement around the world”, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Russia – 21 January 2021
In the case of Georgia v. Russia (II), the European Court of Human Rights held Russia responsible for human rights violations committed after the end of the war in Georgia in August 2008, both by Russian troops and those of separatist authorities under its effective control in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The proceedings that gave rise to the verdict concerned a complaint brought by Georgia against Russia during the Russian invasion of that country. It alleged that Russian troops committed numerous violations of the rights of Georgian nationals under the European Convention on Human Rights and its two protocols. The complaint was accompanied by a request for interim measures to oblige Russia to immediately cease its actions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Court granted Georgia’s request and subsequently extended it several times. At the same time, it initiated proceedings aimed at deciding Russia’s responsibility for the violations alleged in the complaint, which ended in the 21 January judgment. The Court ruled that it could not investigate the violations that had taken place up to the ceasefire (12 August 2008) in the conflict in Georgia due to the hostilities that were ongoing at that time. However, it considered it possible to assess the events after that date.
It found Russia responsible for violations of, among others, the right to life, prohibition of torture and unlawful deprivation of liberty, and the right to respect the private life and property rights of at least several hundred Georgian citizens. It attributed to Russia not only the acts committed by its own troops but also by troops effectively controlled by the authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Furthermore, it stated that Russia failed to investigate the violations it was accused of, which in itself also violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Iraq – 21 January 2021
At least 32 people have been killed and 100 others injured in a twin suicide bombing in a busy commercial area in Iraq's capital, Baghdad. The bombers blew themselves up among a crowd of shoppers at a second-hand clothes market in Tayaran Square. The last deadly suicide attack in the city was in January 2018, when 35 people were killed in the same square.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemns the deadly double suicide bombing targeting civilians at a market in Baghdad and appeals to the people of Iraq to reject any attempts to spread fear and violence aimed at undermining peace, stability and unity. He calls on the Government to ensure that those behind these horrific crimes are swiftly identified and brought to justice.
Mali/France – 21 January 2021
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Malian and French governments should promptly and impartially investigate the French airstrike in central Mali that killed 19 people alleged by local residents to be civilians.
"Serious allegations that any civilians were killed in air strikes need to be promptly investigated to determine the legality of the strikes under the laws of war," said Jonathan Pedneault, crisis and conflict researcher at HRW and added that "Malian and French authorities have an obligation under international law to ensure that a credible investigation is conducted thoroughly and impartially."
HRW has urged France to cooperate with investigations opened by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission to Mali (MINUSMA) and Malian defence ministry officials; it also called on the French government to investigate the strike, including the role within the chain of command itself.
Egypt – 22 January 2021
In the open letter to the EU and its Member States, 12 NGOs write ahead of the January 25th Foreign Affairs Council discussion on Egypt to raise serious concerns, once again, about the human rights crisis unfolding in the country, and to urge the EU and its member states to take the long overdue steps needed to signal that Egypt’s disregard for human rights will no longer be tolerated.
United Nations (UN) – 22 January 2021
The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons has entered into force and is being hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a repetition of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
The treaty requires that all ratifying countries “never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the treaty demonstrated support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament and that “nuclear weapons pose growing dangers and the world needs urgent action to ensure their elimination and prevent the catastrophic human and environmental consequences any use would cause”.
Sudan – 22 January 2021
Clashes that began in a camp for internally displaced people in Western Darfur on 15 January quickly escalated and had spread to South Darfur claiming the lives of 250 people, including three humanitarian workers. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that over 100,000 people have now fled their homes seeking safety, including 3,500 who fled across the border into eastern Chad. The violence came just weeks after peacekeepers with the UN and the African Union began a phased withdrawal after 13 years in the region. The UNHCR said that Chadian authorities were directing the new arrivals to a transit site where they will quarantine before being moved to an existing refugee camp away from the border. Furthermore, the UNHCR said it would distribute emergency shelters and other relief items as soon as the security situation allows.