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International Legal News

Weekly update: 14 June 2021 – 20 June 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 14 June 2021 to 20 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.

United Kingdom (UK) – 14 June 2021

More than 40 human rights organisations have condemned the Home Office’s introduction of 24-hour GPS monitoring of people on immigration bail in an expansion of surveillance powers that has involved no consultation process. The new policy marks a shift from using radio frequency monitors (which alert authorities if the wearer leaves an assigned area) to round-the-clock GPS trackers (which can track a person’s every move), while also giving the Home Office new powers to collect, store and access this data indefinitely via a private contractor. Rudy Schulkind, at Bail for Immigration Detainees, said: “This is effectively an extension of immigration detention beyond the physical walls of the detention centres and prisons.”

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 14 June 2021

Outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to open investigations into the situation in the Philippines, alleging that crimes against humanity of murder occurred in the context of the country’s war on drugs. Even though the Prosecution team examined the period between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, the evidence suggests the crimes might have occurred in the Davao region as early as November 2011. Therefore, the Prosecution requested that the period between 2011 and 2016 be included in the investigations. Members of the Philippine National Police in concert with others (the so-called “vigilantes”) allegedly unlawfully killed between 12,000 30,000 civilians, all pursuant to the orders from the Philippine government. The goal of the war on drugs was to clear the country of all drug addicts, by all means necessary, including extrajudicial killings, the OTP request said. The acting President Duterte reportedly often praised the increasing number of police killings.

European Union (EU) – 15 June 2021

Ruling in Facebook Ireland Ltd v Gegevensbeschermingsautoriteit, the CJEU specifies the conditions for the exercise of the national supervisory authorities' powers with respect to the cross-border processing of data. It also rules that under certain conditions, a national supervisory authority may exercise its power to bring any alleged infringement of the GDPR before a court of a Member State, even though that authority is not the lead supervisory authority with regard to that processing.

The UK has secured a trade deal with Australia eliminating tariffs on all UK goods, in the first major trade deal negotiated from scratch by the Government since the UK left the EU. Agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 14 June 2021, the new Free Trade Agreement means iconic British products like cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell into Australia, boosting UK industries that employ 3.5 million people across the country.

China / Russia – 15 June 2021

NATO allies have agreed to defend each other if war breaks out in space amid fears that it could become a new front line as China and Russia step up tests of anti-satellite weaponry. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, stated that any attack on satellites or other space assets could trigger the North Atlantic Treaty 1949 Art.5, invoking a collective military response. NATO member states formally agreed that such attacks could be as damaging as a conventional attack.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 16 June 2021

Mr Karim Asad Ahmad Khan QC gave his solemn undertaking and formally took office as the Prosecutor of the ICC during a ceremony held at the Seat of the Court in The Hague. Mr Khan was elected as ICC Prosecutor on 12 February 2021, for a nine-year term, at the second resumed nineteenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute ("ASP") in New York. In accordance with Article 45 of the Rome Statute, founding treaty of the ICC, the ceremony was held in open court. Prosecutor Khan stated, “the Rome Statute architecture is a promise to the future that tomorrow need not be as bleak and sorrowful as yesterday".

Israel / Palestine – 16 June 2021

Israel says it carried out air strikes in Gaza overnight after Palestinians launched incendiary balloons from the territory, in the first major flare-up since an 11-day conflict last month. The Israeli military said it targeted compounds belonging to Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. The incendiary balloons sparked 20 fires in southern Israel. Hamas said they were a response to a march by Israeli nationalists in occupied East Jerusalem. There were no casualties on either side and calm had been restored.

A human rights watchdog said that digital sex crime is now so pervasive in South Korea that the fear of it is affecting the quality of life for women and girls, with many victims saying they had considered suicide or leaving the country. US-based Human Rights Watch stated in a report that victims are often traumatised further and become "immersed in the abuse" by encounters with police and other justice officials, and by the expectation that they should gather evidence and monitor the internet for new appearances of images of themselves.

United Kingdom (UK) / United States (US) – 17 June 2021

The UK and the US have reached agreement on the Airbus-Boeing dispute in a major win for industries like Scotch whisky. The 17-year dispute, the longest-running in the history of the WTO, has seen damaging retaliatory tariffs levied on products on both sides of the Atlantic due to disagreements over support for large civil aircraft. Both sides have now agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs for five years and to cooperate more closely on tackling unfair trade practices by non-market economies.

Canada – 17 June 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International stated – in a joint report ahead of World Refugee Day – that Canada incarcerates thousands of people, including those with disabilities, on immigration-related grounds every year in often abusive conditions. The 100-page report, “‘I Didn’t Feel Like a Human in There’: Immigration Detention in Canada and Its Impact on Mental Health,” documents how people in immigration detention, including those fleeing persecution and seeking protection in Canada, are regularly handcuffed, shackled, and held with little to no contact with the outside world. With no set release date, they can be held for months or years. Many are held in provincial jails with the regular jail population and are often subjected to solitary confinement. Those with psychosocial disabilities – or mental health conditions – experience discrimination throughout the process.

United States (US) – 18 June 2021

The US Supreme Court has ruled food giants Nestlé USA and Cargill cannot be sued for child slavery on African farms from where they buy their cocoa. Six African men alleged that they were trafficked from Mali and forced to work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The group say both companies perpetuated that slave trade to keep cocoa prices low. The court ruled 8-1 that the group had no standing because the abuse happened outside the US. In its decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court ruled that while Nestlé USA and Cargill provided the farms with technical and financial resources, there was no evidence that business decisions made in the US led to the men's forced labour.

A Liberian rebel commander was sentenced in Switzerland to 20 years in jail for rape, killings and an act of cannibalism, in one of the first ever convictions over the West African country's civil war. The case was also Switzerland's first war crimes trial in a civilian court. It involved 46-year-old Alieu Kosiah who went by the nom de guerre "bluff boy" in the rebel faction ULIMO that fought former President Charles Taylor's army in the 1990s. Kosiah faced 25 charges including one where he was accused of eating slices of a man's heart. He was convicted of that and all but four of the other counts, documents from the Swiss Federal Court showed. He was arrested in 2014 in Switzerland, where he had been living as a permanent resident. A 2011 Swiss law allows prosecution for serious crimes committed anywhere under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

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