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International Legal News

Weekly update: 5 April 2021 – 11 April 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 05 to 11 April 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 – 5 April 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will allow him to run for the presidency twice more in his lifetime, potentially keeping him in office until 2036. The Russian president signed the legislation, ending a year-long process to “reset” his presidential terms by rewriting the constitution through a referendum-like process that his critics have called a crude power grab. Putin’s current term will expire in 2024.

Morocco – 6 April 2021

On 23 March, an investigative judge set 6 April as the first trial date for Moroccan investigative journalist and vocal critic Omar Radi, who has been held in pre-trial detention for nine months in Oukacha prison in Casablanca. He will face charges of “harming the national security of the state” and rape. Omar Radi, who frequently criticised the government’s human rights record, was arrested in July 2020. Amnesty International had revealed in a report that the Moroccan authorities targeted him through illegal surveillance using a spyware produced by NSO Group, an Israeli company.

Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali, stated that “there is no justification for the pre-trial detention of Omar Radi for these past nine months and we call for him to be released. Omar Radi has for years faced judicial harassment by the authorities because of his brave journalism and this trial is the latest attempt to silence him”.

United Nations (UN) – 7 April 2021

In a message commemorating the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Secretary-General António Guterres underlined that everyone must “take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that we heed the lessons of 27 years ago”. Secretary-General Guterres added that the genocide against the Tutsi “remains in our collective conscience as among the most horrific events in recent human history. To prevent history from repeating, we must counter hate-driven movements and push for the full respect of all members of society”.

United Kingdom (UK) / United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 7 April 2021

A former director of public prosecutions in the UK has called on governments to reject an apparent bid by the UAE to install one of its senior police officers as the next president of Interpol. Sir David Calvert-Smith stated that the process of electing a president is an opaque one and candidates’ names are not publicly disclosed. In a report issued on 7 April, called Undue Influence: the UAE and Interpol, Sir David Calvert-Smith draws attention to a large donation made by the UAE to Interpol in 2017, accusations of human rights violations made against the UAE and its controversial use of the organisation’s ‘Red Notice’ system.

Africa – 8 April 2021

The World Peace Foundation published a report that analyses evidence of starvation-related conduct by parties to the conflict in Tigray (Ethiopia). The report considers the effectiveness of the responses at the international level and outlines preventative and accountability-oriented remedies. Global Rights Compliance welcomes the decision by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to conduct a joint investigation into alleged violations and abuses of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law by all parties to the conflict as an important step in advancing the accountability process. Starvation-related conduct should constitute an integral component of that investigation.

UN investigators believe that Protais Mpiranya, former commander of the presidential guard of the Rwandan army, is hiding in Zimbabwe and are launching a new effort to convince authorities in Harare to allow the fugitive to face trial. He has been on the run for 27 years charged with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The ex-soldier is top of a list of remaining fugitives indicted by an international tribunal into the 1994 killings, which left 800,000 people dead in Rwanda, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority but also some Hutus.

Italy – 9 April 2021

Prosecutors in Italy have secretly recorded hundreds of conversations between human rights lawyers and their clients in cases related to allegations that NGOs operating rescue boats that saved thousands from drowning in the Mediterranean were complicit in people smuggling. Last month, rescuers from charities including Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières were charged by the Trapani prosecutors after a four-year investigation into claims of complicity with people smugglers in Libya, which in 2017 had led to the seizure of the Iuventa, a former fishing vessel run by the German NGO Jugend Rettet (Youth Rescue).

Israel – 9 April 2021

Israel says it refuses to cooperate with an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible war crimes in the occupied territories. In a letter to the court, Israel says the ICC is "acting without authority" in carrying out the probe.

A Greek crime journalist, Giorgos Karaivaz, has been shot dead near his home in Athens. Government spokeswoman, Aristotelia Peloni, stated that “the murder…shocked us all…the authorities are investigating the case, to ensure the perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice.” While it is not unusual for Greek media offices to be the targets of firebomb and vandalism attacks, killings of journalists are relatively rare in Greece.

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