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International Legal News

Weekly update: 19 April 2021 – 25 April 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 19 April 2021 to 25 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.

Italy – 19 April 2021

An Italian judge has ordered that Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, must stand trial on charges of kidnapping over his decision to prevent 147 refugees and migrants on a rescue ship from landing in the country in 2019. Mr. Salvini, who was interior minister and deputy prime minister at that time, left the people stranded at sea until prosecutors ordered the seizure of the ship and the evacuation of the people on board. The trial is set to take place in the southern city of Palermo on 15 September.

Sweden – 19 April 2021

Civil Rights Defenders reported that, along the Syrian Archive, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, and Open Society Justice Initiative, it filed a complaint in Sweden against high-ranking members of the Assad regime for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The organisations claim that the Syrian regime used sarin gas against Syrian civilians in two attacks: on Khan Shekhoun in 2017 and al-Ghouta in 2013, in which hundreds were killed and many more received serious injuries, including children. The filing comes one day before the meeting of 193 member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, including Syria, to discuss relevant issues, including what measures should be taken against the Assad government for failing to provide an adequate declaration of chemical weapons on its territory.

United Nations (UN) / United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 20 April 2021

The UN independent human rights experts have called for the UAE to provide "meaningful information" that Sheikha Latifa Mohammed Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai's ruler reportedly being held in detention, is alive. On 5 March, the UN said it was still awaiting further details from the UAE – two weeks after an initial request for proof of life. In today’s statement, the UN experts asked for "independent verification of the conditions under which [she] is being held, and for her immediate release".

Thailand - 20 April 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Thai authorities should immediately release pro-democracy activists detained on charges of insulting the monarchy. Prominent Thammasat University students Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul have been on hunger strike to protest their pre-trial detention, for 35 days and 21 days respectively. The Asia director at HRW, Brad Adams, asserted that “Thai authorities should immediately drop the cases against Parit, Panusaya, and others unjustly charged for their peaceful pro-democracy protests, but at a minimum they should be released on bail…Holding activists in detention prior to trial and conviction, which could be years away, seems aimed to unfairly punish them rather than fulfill a legitimate state interest.”

United States of America (USA) – 21 April 2021

A US jury finds former police officer, Derek Chauvin, guilty of murder over the death of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last year. Mr. Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. The American Bar Association said that the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial has brought ‘some justice’ but that reforms in the US justice system are necessary.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – 21 April 2021

Amnesty International says four of the world’s five top executioners in 2020 were Middle East states. Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for 88% of the 483 reported executions worldwide, according to a report by the human rights group. It accuses them of displaying "a ruthless and chilling persistence" when most of the world was focused on saving people's lives from a deadly virus. The Regional Director for the MENA, Heba Morayef, stated that “despite a clear global trend showing most countries moving away from use of the death penalty, MENA states make up the majority of an increasingly isolated group of entrenched executioners out of step with the rest of the world, fuelling the vast majority of executions worldwide.

Netherlands – 21 April 2021

The District Court of The Hague convicted a 31-year-old Syrian man, Ahmed al-Y., who had applied for asylum in the Netherlands, to a six-year prison sentence on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation and the war crime of outrage upon personal dignity. It is the second Dutch case against a Syrian asylum seeker charged with crimes committed in Syria to reach a verdict, but the first to result in a conviction. Ahmed al-Y. lived in Syria in 2015 and fought for Ahrar al-Sham. He had himself and others filmed while they celebrated victory in the fight for Al-Ghab, with the dead bodies of four enemies at their feet. The deceased’s bodies were spat on and kicked, and Al-Y. called them “dogs” and “carcasses of Assad”. The video was published on YouTube.

United Kingdom (UK) / Saudi Arabia – 22 April 2021

Anti-arms trade campaigners have been given permission to challenge the UK government’s decision to resume the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the war in Yemen. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) won leave to seek a judicial review of a decision taken by the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, last summer, which was followed by £1.4bn worth of arms exports soon after.

Sarah Waldron, of CAAT, asserted that “UK-made weapons have been central to a bombardment that has destroyed schools, hospitals and homes and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

Iraq – 22 April 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that a court in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq sentenced three journalists and two activists to six years in prison on 16 February 2021, in deeply flawed proceedings marred by serious violations of fair trial standards as well as high-level political interference. The authorities continue to hold two other people despite a court ruling that there was insufficient evidence to try them. HRW is publishing its research into the trials because of the likelihood of an imminent appeal decision. The senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW, Belkis Wille, said that “flawed trials in the Kurdistan Region are nothing new…but flaunting the most basic principles of justice to punish people for allegedly planning protests is a new low.”

United States of America (USA) – 23 April 2021

Ghislaine Maxwell pleaded not guilty to new indictments during her first in-person court appearance since being arrested on sex trafficking charges. She is facing six counts including sex-trafficking of a minor and sex-trafficking conspiracy. She also faces a further two charges relating to allegations of perjury in 2016.

The two new charges relate to allegations that Maxwell recruited a 14-year-old girl to provide Epstein with sexualised massages between 2001 and 2004. The girl was then paid hundreds of dollars in cash in return and was encouraged to recruit other young women.

Russia – 23 April 2021

Alexei Navalny has announced he is ending his hunger strike after 24 days of refusing food in jail. Hours earlier his private doctors had appealed to him to take food to preserve his life and health. His doctors had warned he could die "at any minute", and they warned him that "further starvation" could significantly harm him and lead to his death. Mr. Navalny began the hunger strike to protest against prison authorities’ refusal to let his doctors visit after he developed severe back pain and numbness in his legs.

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