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International Legal News

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Weekly update: 21 June 2021 – 27 June 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 21 June 2021 to 27 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.

Geneva – 21 June 2021

The first international treaty on violence and harassment in the world of work comes into force on 25 June 2021. To date, six countries have ratified the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) - Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia and Uruguay. Together with Recommendation No. 206, Convention No. 190 recognises the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment and provides a common framework for action. It provides the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work.

Europe and Central Asia – 21 June 2021

For governments trying to silence their critics, counter-terrorism policies—including those made by international bodies—provide invaluable tools with which to target critics and silence dissent. Stefan Simanowitz from Amnesty International stated that “for governments trying to silence their critics, counter-terrorism policies provide invaluable tool with which to target critics and silence dissent”. One such international body is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Task Force is a global watchdog that works to ensure that states are meeting internationally agreed standards to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism by criminal networks. According to a recent independent study, there is a lengthening list of states that have attempted to justify crackdowns on civil society by hiding behind the fig leaf of FATF recommendations. They include Albania, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and crucially Turkey.

United Kingdom (UK) – 21 June 2021

As awareness of the importance of judicial accountability increases globally, a new report published by the International Bar Association (IBA) focuses on the concrete processes available to hold judges to account for any misconduct; whether warranting disciplinary action or criminal sanctions. Judge José Igreja Matos commented: “Lawyers are always on the frontline of protecting the Rule of Law: without it, those human rights that are enshrined in the law cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, for us as judges, a close and strong partnership with lawyers constitutes a decisive factor in enhancing the protection of the fundamental rights of our fellow citizens. In this context, the present report represents an outstanding example of our shared common values.”

European Union (EU) – 21 June 2021

On 28 June 2021, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) will publish a special report on the EU's approach to preventing and countering money laundering and terrorist financing. The auditors will explain that EU-level action to combat money laundering and terrorist financing has weaknesses, and that the EU's oversight framework fails to ensure a coherent approach and a level playing field.

United Kingdom (UK) / China – 22 June 2021

A joint statement was released by the Bar Council and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) on the sanctions that China has imposed against four barristers of England and Wales and their "immediate families" linked to a legal opinion. It is understood that the legal opinion was related to legal issues arising from alleged human rights violations by the People’s Republic of China authorities against the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region. The CLA, jointly with the Bar Council, expresses very serious concern that in contravention of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, sanctions have been imposed upon legal practitioners.

United Kingdom (UK) – 22 June 2021

MPs and peers have warned that the restrictions on protests in the controversial new policing bill breach human rights laws and will increase the risk of peaceful demonstrators in England and Wales being criminalised. They say the police, crime, sentencing and courts (PCSC) bill, which has provoked widespread protests, contains provisions that are unnecessary and disproportionate and confer unacceptably wide and vague powers to curb demonstrations on the home secretary and police. Parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR) says clauses which allow restrictions to be imposed on protests because of the noise they generate, create powers to limit one-person demonstrations and increase penalties on people who breach conditions placed on protests should all be scrapped.

Netherlands – 23 June 2021

An expert panel convened by Netherlands-based Stop Ecocide International unveiled a draft definition of ecocide as a potential fifth international crime, to sit alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. According to the draft definition ecocide means “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.

Saudi Arabia / United States (US) – 23 June 2021

The New York Times reported that four Saudis who were involved in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the US the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department. The training was provided by Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, and was defensive in nature and devised to protect Saudi leaders.

Syria – 23 June 2021

A local aid agency stated that about 5,000 civilians in the north-west of Syria have been forced to flee their homes after more government shelling targeting the contested area. At least 31 people have died since the beginning of June, victims of Bashar al-Assad’s forces hitting civilian buildings in southern Idlib province. The buildings included a hospital, displacement camp school, and a White Helmets headquarters. The number of dead includes three children and a civil defence worker who was killed in an attack on the town of Qastoun. The violence over the last three weeks is the latest in violation of a ceasefire deal brokered by Turkey and Russia in March 2020, saving the area from a brutal regime offensive that forced one million people to flee.

Israel / Palestine – 24 June 2021

Amnesty International said that Israeli police have committed a catalogue of violations against Palestinians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, carrying out a discriminatory repressive campaign including sweeping mass arrests, using unlawful force against peaceful protesters, and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill-treatment, during and after the armed hostilities in Israel and Gaza. Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, stated that “the evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of discrimination and ruthless excessive force by Israeli police against Palestinians in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem”.

United Kingdom (UK) – 25 June 2021

Four demonstrators who formed a blockade outside a London arms fair have had their convictions quashed by the Supreme Court, in what has been hailed as an affirmation of the right to protest. They were cleared by a District Judge in February 2018 but the Director of public prosecutions appealed and the four were convicted at the High Court in January 2019 before being sentenced to conditional discharges of 12 months. In December 2019 they were granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and, in a majority judgment the UK’s highest court ruled the charges should be dismissed. Lord Hamblen and Lord Stephens said: “There should be a certain degree of tolerance to disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, caused by the exercise of the right to freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful assembly…”.

United Kingdom (UK) – 25 June 2021

The Lord Chief Justice and senior president of tribunals want all judges to feel confident to speak up about any wrongdoing, according to a new whistleblowing policy unveiled this week. The 12-page Judicial Whistleblowing Policy: How to report wrongdoing document was published on the judicial intranet on 23 June. The document says: ‘In introducing this policy, the LCJ and SPT want everyone to have the confidence to speak up, to be secure in the knowledge that it is safe and acceptable to do so, and to know that if you raise a concern under this policy you will not suffer any detriment.’ The policy concerns the reporting of wrongdoing ‘reasonably believed to be in the public interest’, such as a criminal offence or breach of any legal obligation. Complainants do not need to have proof of the wrongdoing. ‘Reasonable belief is sufficient,’ the policy states.

United States (US) – 25 June 2021

The US white ex-police officer convicted of murdering African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 has been sentenced to 22 years and six months in jail. The judge said Derek Chauvin's sentence was based "on your abuse of a position of trust and authority, and also the particular cruelty shown" to Mr Floyd. Chauvin, 45, was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges last month. During his trial, his lawyer described the killing as "an error made in good faith". Chauvin was also told to register as a predatory offender and was barred from owning firearms for life. He and three other former officers are separately charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights. The Floyd family and their supporters welcomed the sentence. Lawyer Ben Crump tweeted, "This historic sentence brings the Floyd family and our nation one step closer to healing by delivering closure and accountability".

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