International Legal News
Weekly update: 24 May 2021 – 30 May 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 24 May 2021 to 30 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.
Myanmar – 24 May 2021
Myanmar's former leader Aung San Suu Kyi has appeared in court in person for the first time since her government was overthrown by the military in February. The hearing, in the capital Naypyidaw, was immediately adjourned. The former leader faces several charges including violating a state secrets law. Before the hearing, Ms Suu Kyi was allowed to meet her lawyers in person for the first time. She has been held under house arrest for the 16 weeks since she was deposed. Myanmar's military has accused Ms Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, of fraud in the general election it won last November. Independent election monitors say the election was largely free and fair, and the charges against Ms Suu Kyi have been widely criticised as politically motivated.
Belarus – 25 May 2021
The EU has decided to ban Belarusian airlines from European skies after a flight was diverted to Minsk on Sunday and a dissident journalist arrested. At a meeting in Brussels, the leaders of the 27 member states also told EU airlines not to fly over Belarus and promised further economic sanctions. Roman Protasevich, 26, was on a flight from Greece to Lithuania which was rerouted over a supposed bomb threat. Western countries accused Belarus of hijacking the Ryanair plane. Belarus authorities released video of Mr Protasevich that appears to have been recorded under duress since his detention at Minsk airport. In the clip, the journalist said he was in good health and seemingly confessed to crimes he had been charged with by the Belarusian state. But activists, including the country’s main opposition leader, criticised the video and suggested Mr Protasevich was under pressure to admit wrongdoing.
European Court of Human Rights – 25 May 2021
In the case of Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights held the following: a) unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on the right to respect for private and family life/communications in respect of the bulk intercept regime; b) unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 in respect of the regime for obtaining communications data from communication service providers; c) by 12 votes to 5, that there had been no violation of Article 8 in respect of the UK’s regime for requesting intercepted material from foreign Governments and intelligence agencies; d) unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 10 on the freedom of expression, concerning both the bulk interception regime and the regime for obtaining communications data from communication service providers; and e) by 12 votes to 5, that there had been no violation of Article 10 in respect of the regime for requesting intercepted material from foreign Governments and intelligence agencies. The case concerned complaints by journalists and human rights organisations regarding three different surveillance regimes: (1) the bulk interception of communications; (2) the receipt of intercept material from foreign governments and intelligence agencies; (3) the obtaining of communications data from communication service providers.
European Court of Human Rights – 25 May 2021
In the case of Centrum för rättvisa v. Sweden, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of 15 votes to 2, that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The case concerned the alleged risk that the applicant foundation’s communications had been or would be intercepted and examined by way of signals intelligence, as it communicated on a daily basis with individuals, organisations and companies in Sweden and abroad by email, telephone and fax, often on sensitive matters. The Court found, in particular, that although the main features of the Swedish bulk interception regime met the Convention requirements on quality of the law, the regime nevertheless suffered from three defects: the absence of a clear rule on destroying intercepted material which did not contain personal data; the absence of a requirement in the Signals Intelligence Act or other relevant legislation that, when making a decision to transmit intelligence material to foreign partners, consideration was given to the privacy interests of individuals; and the absence of an effective ex post facto review. As a result of these deficiencies, the system did not meet the requirement of “end-to-end” safeguards, it overstepped the margin of appreciation left to the respondent State in that regard, and overall did not guard against the risk of arbitrariness and abuse, leading to a violation of Article 8.
Myanmar – 25 May 2021
An American journalist has been detained in Myanmar as he tried to board a flight at Yangon International Airport, the latest of dozens of reporters and editors to be arrested since the coup. More than 70 journalists have been detained by the military over recent months, as it attempts to crush independent coverage of anti-coup protests, and of the reign of terror the security forces have inflicted on communities. In a statement, Frontier Myanmar said: “We do not know why Danny was detained and have not been able to contact him since this morning. We are concerned for his wellbeing and call for his immediate release. Our priorities right now are to make sure he is safe and to provide him with whatever assistance he needs.”
European Union (EU) – 26 May 2021
A European Council publication outlines its conclusions setting the 2022-2025 EU priorities for the fight against serious and organised crime through the European multi-disciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT). Key crime priorities identified include: high-risk criminal networks; migrant smuggling; drugs trafficking; and environmental crime.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 26 May 2021
The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman ("Ali Kushayb") concluded before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC, composed of Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (Presiding judge), Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua and Judge Tomoko Akane. According to the Prosecution's submission of the Document Containing the Charges, Mr Abd-Al-Rahman is suspected of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed between August 2003 and at least April 2004 in Darfur, Sudan. Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to the ICC's custody on 9 June 2020, after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. His initial appearance before the ICC took place on 15 June 2020.
Africa – 27 May 2021
The high court in Nairobi has overturned the president’s three-year pursuit to amend Kenya’s 11-year-old constitution. In a ruling heavily critical of President Uhuru Kenyatta, five judges said he had no authority to bring forward plans to create more executive positions and parliamentary constituencies. Kenyatta’s quest to drive the process, the judges ruled, meant he had failed the leadership and integrity test, and could be sued while in office for contravening the constitution. The amendments were among proposals agreed by Kenyatta and his former opponent Raila Odinga after the so-called “handshake” in 2018 that cooled political temperatures after the disputed 2017 elections. The 785-paragraph judgment said the constitutional amendment bill of November 2020, known as the building bridges initiative (BBI), was illegal as it sought to alter the basic structure of the current constitution.
European Court of Human Rights – 27 May 2021
In the case of J.L. v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on the right to respect for private life and personal integrity. The case concerned criminal proceedings against seven men who had been charged with the gang rape of the applicant and had been acquitted by the Italian courts. The Court held that the applicant’s rights and interests under Article 8 had not been adequately protected, given the wording of the Florence Court of Appeal’s judgment. In particular, the national authorities had not protected the applicant from secondary victimisation throughout the entire proceedings, in which the wording of the judgment played a very important role, especially in view of its public character. The European Court has condemned the Italian Court for “reproducing sexist stereotypes” after it referred to a woman’s red underwear and bisexuality as an indication of her “ambivalent attitude towards sex” when acquitting the men accused of gang-rape.
Netherlands – 27 May 2021
A Court in the Netherlands has ruled in a landmark case that the oil giant Shell must reduce its emissions. It ruled that by 2030, Shell must cut its CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels. The verdict said that the Shell group is responsible for its own CO2 emissions and those of its suppliers. Friends of the Earth (FoE) stated that it is the first time a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris climate accords.
Syria – 28 May 2021
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected with 95.1% of the vote. The win will give al-Assad seven more years in power, stretching his family's rule to almost six decades. Officials said 78.6% of eligible voters cast their ballot - but in a country where many are displaced after a 10-year conflict, this figure has been questioned. The West denounced the vote as illegitimate.