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International Legal News

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 26 July 2021 to 1 August 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.

Weekly update: 26 July 2021 – 1 August 2021

United Kingdom (UK) – 26 July 2021

A UN human rights expert raised concerns about the holding of prisoners for prolonged or indefinite periods in isolation in restrictive control units, known as Close Supervision Centres (CSC), calling on the British Government to review and regulate their use. The Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, stated that “the decision-making process is reportedly not transparent, the segregation period is not delimited, the procedure for reintegration back into the general prison population is not clear and the conditions of detention are comparable to solitary confinement”, adding that the use of CSC’s runs contrary to the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and risks amounting to arbitrary detention.

United Kingdom (UK) / Albania – 26 July 2021

More Albanian criminals will be removed from the UK and transferred from prisons in England and Wales after Ministers signed a new agreement. The deal means more offenders can be sent back to serve their full sentence in Albania, with victims assured they will still serve the full sentence imposed on them by a British judge. Albanian nationals currently represent the highest percentage of foreign nationals in custody with more than 1,500 in prison in England and Wales – around 10% of overseas criminals in jail. UK and Albanian justice Ministers, Chris Philp and Etilda Gjonaj, formally approved the Prisoner Transfer Agreement in London. The agreement works both ways and includes provisions for British criminals in Albanian jails to be returned to the UK.

United Kingdom (UK) – 27 July 2021

The government could face legal and strike action over its decision to resurrect extended court operating hours as part of the widely-trailled 'Beating Crime Plan' unveiled today. The Ministry of Justice announced that judges will have the option to open courtrooms for longer under new ‘temporary operating hours’, proposing two models that would run alongside normal operating hours in the other courtrooms. The ‘blended model’ would involve running two separate jury trials listed in one courtroom: one from 9am to 1pm and one from 2pm to 6pm. The ‘remote model’ would be for sessions held entirely remotely where the hearing takes place outside of the standard 9am-5pm operating hours. Today’s announcement was met with immediate anger. High-profile anonymous blogger The Secret Barrister declared that it was time to strike.

Morocco / China – 27 July 2021

Amnesty International stated that the Moroccan authorities must not deport Idris Hasan, an ethnic Uyghur who has been detained in the country, to China where he is at risk of torture. Idris Hasan has been living in Turkey since 2012, with his wife Zaynura and their three children. His wife and children have permanent residency permits in Turkey, but his residency permit is categorised as "humanitarian". The Chinese government reportedly considers Hasan a "terrorist", because of work he has previously done for Uyghur organizations. Chinese law defines “terrorism” and “extremism” in an overly broad and vague manner, and has been used to crack down on Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

Israel / Palestine – 27 July 2021

Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups carried out attacks during the May 2021 fighting in the Gaza Strip and Israel that violated the laws of war and apparently amount to war crimes. The Israeli military and Palestinian authorities have a long track record of failing to investigate laws of war violations committed in or from Gaza. Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigated three Israeli strikes that killed 62 Palestinian civilians where there were no evident military targets in the vicinity. Palestinian armed groups also committed unlawful attacks, launching more than 4,360 unguided rockets and mortars toward Israeli population centers, violating the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

Ecuador – 28 July 2021

Ecuador has revoked the citizenship of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is currently in a British prison. Ecuador’s justice system formally notified the Australian of the nullity of his naturalisation in a letter that came in response to a claim filed by the South American country’s foreign ministry. A naturalisation is reconsidered when it is granted based on the concealment of relevant facts, false documents or fraud. Ecuadorian authorities said Assange’s naturalisation letter had multiple inconsistencies, different signatures, the possible alteration of documents and unpaid fees, among other issues. Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer, said the decision was made without due process and Assange was not allowed to appear in the case.

Ireland / Lithuania – 28 July 2021

A man held liable for the Omagh bombing is to be extradited to Lithuania to face charges related to weapons smuggling for the Real IRA. It is alleged he was involved in the smuggling of weapons in support of the Real IRA (RIRA) between the end of 2006 and early 2007. He had argued that he could not be surrendered as the Lithuanian authorities had not made a decision to actually try him. However, the Court of Appeal in Dublin found that there was an intention to put him on trial there. Campbell was arrested in Upper Faughart, Dundalk, on 2 December 2016, on the second European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by Lithuanian authorities to be endorsed by the High Court. It was the third time Lithuanian authorities tried to obtain his surrender.

Denmark / Syria – 29 July 2021

Denmark’s attempt to return hundreds of Syrians to Damascus after deeming the city safe will “set a dangerous precedent” for other countries to do the same, say lawyers who are preparing to take the Danish government to the European court of human rights (ECHR) over the issue. Authorities in Denmark began rejecting Syrian refugees’ applications for renewal of temporary residency status last summer, and justified the move because a report had found the security situation in some parts of the country had “improved significantly”. About 1,200 people from Damascus currently living in Denmark are believed to be affected by the policy.

Germany / Syria – 29 July 2021

A Syrian doctor has been charged in Germany with crimes against humanity for allegedly torturing people in military hospitals in his homeland and killing one of them. The federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe said in a statement that Alla Mousa, who came to Germany in 2015 and practised medicine before he was arrested last year, was accused of 18 counts of torturing people in military hospitals in the Syrian cities of Homs and Damascus. The allegations include charges that Mousa tried to make people infertile. A federal indictment charged him with murder, severe bodily harm, attempted bodily harm and dangerous bodily harm.

European Union (EU) – 29 July 2021

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has announced its 2022 programme of periodic visits. The Committee intends to examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the following countries: Croatia, Estonia, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, San Marino and Ukraine. In 2022, the CPT will also continue to organise ad hoc visits to various countries, and, depending on the circumstances, it may decide to postpone one or more periodic visits to 2023.

Malta – 30 July 2021

An independent inquiry has found that Malta's government must bear responsibility for creating an "atmosphere of impunity" that contributed to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Caruana Galizia, a leading Maltese anti-corruption journalist, was killed in October 2017 when a bomb in her rented car was detonated by a remote-controlled device on a country lane near her home. Her family had long argued she was assassinated because of her work uncovering alleged corruption in Malta's government, and her death sparked a political crisis in the southern European country. The public inquiry, conducted by one active and two retired judges, found "the State must bear responsibility for the assassination because it created an atmosphere of impunity generated from the highest levels in the heart of the administration within the Office of the Prime Minister that like an octopus spread to other entities, such as regulatory institutions and the police, leading to the collapse of the rule of law”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) – 30 July 2021

Recent reports that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has been used for surveillance of dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and others demonstrate the urgent need for governments to suspend the trade in surveillance technology until rights-protecting regulatory frameworks are in place. Governments should immediately cease their own use of surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights. NSO Group has repeatedly denied the news reports, claimed that the reporting is “erroneous and false,” and said it “will no longer be responding to media inquiries on this matter.”

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