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International Legal News

Weekly update: 31 May 2021 – 6 June 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 31 May 2021 to 6 June 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.

International Criminal Court – 31 May 2021

More than 50 former foreign ministers, prime ministers and senior international officials, including two British Conservative former ministers, have signed an open letter condemning political interference in efforts by the ICC to investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine. The letter follows moves by the Trump administration to sanction court officials – orders that have since been reversed by the Biden administration – and is also seen as a rebuke of Boris Johnson. The letter says, “deeply worrying is now the unwarranted public criticism of the court regarding its investigation of alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including unfounded accusations of antisemitism.”

Germany – 1 June 2021

Namibian analyst, Emsie Erastus, argues that Germany’s expected apology for last century's mass killing in Namibia has opened fresh questions about how Europe confronts its colonial past in Africa. Last week, at the completion of negotiations with Namibia, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made the announcement that the slaughter his country carried out in its former colony was a genocide. In terms of fully acknowledging its colonial past in Namibia, Germany has always been reluctant to do so. This is despite providing development support to successive administrations since Namibia's independence in 1990. A half-hearted apology delivered by a German development minister in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide, was roundly criticised.

Italy – 1 June 2021

One of the Sicilian mafia’s most notorious killers, believed to have murdered more than 100 people, has been released from prison after 25 years behind bars. Giovanni Brusca, 64, nicknamed “the swine” or “u scannacristiani” (the people-slayer), who set off the explosive that the killed anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone in 1992, is a now a free man. He also ordered the strangling of an 11-year-old boy, whose body was dissolved in acid. The news sparked a row in Italy, even though the release of the former Cosa Nostra killer was expected and required by law. In 2000, Brusca decided to collaborate with prosecutors and was given a reduced sentence as a result. Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, stated that “it is a punch in the stomach that leaves you breathless”.

European Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed a deal obliging multinationals to publicly declare what taxes they pay in each EU country, overcoming five years of delaying by some governments. It sets in place rules that require multinationals and their subsidiaries with annual revenues of over EUR 750 million, and which are active in more than one country, to publish and make accessible the amount of taxes they pay in each member state. The information will also need to be made available on the internet, using a common template, and in a machine-readable format.

European Union (EU) – 1 June 2021

The European Commission officially confirmed that the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) will start operating on 1 June. Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said that “we are on the home stretch now: we are about to launch the first-ever independent EU office to investigate and prosecute crimes affecting the EU budget. From 1 June onwards, European prosecutors, under the strong leadership of Laura Kövesi, will clamp down on criminals and make sure no euro is wasted on corruption or fraud.” The EPPO is in charge of conducting criminal investigations and prosecutions for crimes against the EU budget and it is the first supranational public prosecution office that investigates and prosecutes fraud and other crimes affecting the EU’s financial interests.

Belarus – 2 June 2021

A Belarusian activist stabbed his own throat during a court hearing in Minsk. According to local human rights watchdog Viasna 96, Steffan Latypov, who is facing allegations of organising protests and resisting arrest, stabbed himself in the neck during the hearing because of alleged threats from authorities against his family if he did not plead guilty. He faces an additional charge for fraud which he also denies. Mr. Latypov stated, prior to cutting himself, “GUBOPiK came to me and warned that if I didn't admit my guilt, then I would be thrown in a cell with hardened criminals and criminal cases would be launched against my relatives and neighbors”.

United Kingdom (UK) – 2 June 2021

A cross-party group of MPs and peers said that proposals to restrict judicial review are an affront to the principles of fairness and government accountability and should be dropped. In a letter to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, the signatories, including Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green party and Scottish National party MPs, stated that changes to the way legal challenges against the government can be brought are unjustified. After a four-week consultation, the government confirmed in the Queen’s speech that it would go forward with a judicial review bill, legislating to “restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts”.

United Kingdom (UK) – 2 June 2021

The Law Society has welcomed the agreement to allow the UK to being accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), saying it will yield ‘important benefits’ for UK law firms and drive the cross-border provision of legal services. The agreement contains a ‘strong push’ to facilitate the cross-border provision of legal services and a mechanism to address ‘behind the border barriers’ to legal services.

United States – 3 June 2021

According to Refinitiv, deals worth $533 billion unveiled in May 2021, as a boom in global mergers and acquisitions propelled the volume of takeovers to record levels in 2021 where the total value of takeovers and mergers in the first five months of the year rose to $2.4 trillion. The media sector was the most active in May 2021, according to the data.

Ukraine – 3 June 2021

Ukraine’s parliament should not lose the opportunity presented by the current commitment to reform of Ukraine’s security service (SSU), and should rather address shortcomings in the reform proposals, 23 civil society groups including Human Rights Watch said in a letter to President Vladimir Zelensky and co-authors of the draft legislation. They said that the reform is essential in order to help the security service transform into an effective agency that respects and upholds international human rights norms.

United Kingdom (UK) / Hong Kong – 4 June 2021

Baroness Hale of Richmond is to resign from Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal in July 2021 as concern grows about the role of UK judges in the territory. She will be the first to leave the bench since Beijing imposed security laws on the former British colony, which have been seen as a breach of the 1997 handover agreement.

United Kingdom (UK) – 4 June 2021

The UK has secured a new trade deal in principle with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that will boost critical British sectors like digital, slash tariffs on high-quality British food and farm products and supports jobs in every corner of the country. The deal is the first time these three European countries have included dedicated chapters on digital trade and small businesses in any trade deal, making it the most advanced they have done to date.

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