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International Legal News

Weekly update: 26 April 2021 – 2 May 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 26 April 2021 to 2 May 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.

Egypt – 26 April 2021

Egyptian authorities executed nine people over the storming of a police station in 2013 in which 13 policemen were killed. The raiding of the Kerdasa police station, in the southern outskirts of the capital Cairo, took place on 14 August 2013. Over 180 people were initially sentenced to death over the incident, though many later had their convictions reduced on appeal. Those executed today were part of a group of 20 people whose death sentences were upheld in 2018. Amnesty International said that one of those executed was an 82-year-old man. Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, stated that “these death sentences were issued following a grossly unfair trial in which defendants were denied access to their lawyers and were coerced to ‘confess’.”

United Kingdom (UK) – 26 April 2021

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced the UK's first sanctions under the new Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime. Twenty-two individuals involved in notorious corruption cases in Russia, South Africa, South Sudan and throughout Latin America will have their assets frozen and will be unable to enter the UK. The measures are deliberately targeted, so the UK can impose sanctions on corrupt individuals and their enablers, rather than entire nations.

Italy / United Kingdom (UK) – 27 April 2021

In a high-security, 1,000-capacity courtroom converted from a call centre, Italy’s largest mafia trial in three decades is under way in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. Several of the defendants will be asked to respond to charges of money laundering over establishing companies in the UK with the alleged purpose of simulating legitimate economic activity. The prosecutor Nicola Gratteri stated that “’Ndrangheta interests in the UK have figured prominently as clans have used the country as an investment and money-laundering base”.

China – 27 April 2021

The Bar Councils of England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Ireland, together with Scotland’s Faculty of Advocates, said China had launched an ‘indiscriminate attack’ on lawyers which was ‘inconsistent with respect for the rule of law’. Last month, the Chinese government imposed sanctions against Essex Court Chambers after four members gave a legal opinion relating to issues arising from alleged human rights violations by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang Province. Several barristers, including senior QCs, have since moved chambers. Derek Sweeting QC, chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales, stated that “proving independent legal advice is the fundamental role of lawyers. There should be no place for the use of bullying and punitive measures by a state because it disagrees with a legal opinion.”

Burkina Faso – 27 April 2021

Two Spanish journalists and an Irish national have been killed after they were ambushed by jihadists, while on an anti-poaching mission in Burkina Faso. Both journalists had been working on a documentary on Burkina Faso’s attempts to protect its natural resources from poachers and on communities who live in the country’s national parks. No group has claimed responsibility yet. Insurgents linked to the Islamic State terror group and al-Qaeda have led a campaign of violence across west Africa’s Sahel region and devastated ordinary life in Burkina Faso.

Italy / France – 28 April 2021

Seven former members of the Red Brigades have been arrested in France for terrorism offences and these arrests came after Italy had issued warrants for “acts of terrorism”. The Red Brigades are a left-wing domestic terrorism group that was active in attacks and kidnappings in the 1970s and 1980s. After the group fell dormant, it is believed their members took refuge in neighbouring France, which had offered left-wing radicals protection from extradition under a controversial policy. Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed the arrests, saying the crimes had "left a wound that is still open". A French court will now decide whether those detained will be extradited to Italy.

Nigeria – 28 April 2021

The Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, said that Boko Haram fighters have installed the Islamist group’s flag in a remote district in Niger State, Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, and seized the wives of fleeing residents. The State Governor stated that “their towns have been taken over by bandits and Boko Haram elements…Their wives have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members".

Italy / Egypt – 29 April 2021

Italian prosecutors have asked a judge to put four senior members of Egypt’s security services on trial over their suspected role in the disappearance and murder of Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016. The Rome prosecutors have accused four officials of the “aggravated kidnapping” of Regeni and state that one of them, Major Magdi Sharif, from General Intelligence, should be charged with “conspiracy to commit aggravated murder”. A judge suspended today’s preliminary hearing until 25 May and a full trial is unlikely to begin before the summer recess.

Malawi – 29 April 2021

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Malawi rules that the imposition of the death penalty is unconstitutional and contrary to the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution of Malawi. The Supreme Court further ordered the re-sentencing of all convicts facing execution. This ruling comes following an appeal by Charles Khoviwa who was sentenced to death following his conviction for murder in 2003, despite having no prior convictions. Malawi is the 22nd country to abolish the death penalty in sub-Saharan Africa. In its landmark judgment, the Court further held that “the essence of the right to life is life itself…Without the right to life other rights do not exist. The death penalty not only negates, it abolishes the right.”

United States of America (USA) – 30 April 2021

Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani denied he had ever represented a Ukrainian national, a day after federal agents searched his Manhattan apartment and office as part of an investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani said the agents seized seven or eight electronic devices and the search warrant included an allegation that he had failed to register as a foreign agent, which is a violation of lobbying laws. President Biden stated that he had no notice of the Department of Justice's actions and was making good on his campaign pledge to maintain its independence.

Iraq – 30 April 2021

Iraqi Kurdish officials plan to establish a special criminal court to prosecute accused Islamic State (Isis) members in a move that could lead to senior members of the terror group being brought to Iraq to face trial. Legislation introduced to the Kurdish parliament has raised the possibility that suspects detained in the years since the extremist group’s collapse could be transferred to a court in the northern city to Erbil to be prosecuted with international backing. The legislation has been drafted with the support of the UN unit Unitad, which was set up to bring Isis suspects to justice.

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