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International Legal News

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Weekly update: 4 October – 10 October 2021 The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 4 October 2021 to 10 October 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 States (US) – 4 October 2021

A former Facebook whistleblower responsible for a series of bombshell leaks has revealed her identity. Frances Haugen, 37, who worked as a product manager on the civic integrity team at Facebook, was interviewed by CBS. She said the documents she leaked proved that Facebook repeatedly prioritised "growth over safety". Facebook said the leaks were misleading and glossed over positive research conducted by the company. In the interview, on CBS's 60 Minutes programme, Ms. Haugen said she had left Facebook earlier this year after becoming exasperated with the company. Before departing, she copied a series of internal memos and documents and she shared those documents with the Wall Street Journal, which has been releasing the material in batches over the last three weeks – sometimes referred to as the Facebook Files.

Libya – 4 October

A UN investigation has found that war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture, enslavement, extrajudicial killings and rape have been committed in Libya since 2016. The independent fact-finding mission on Libya, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, said migrants and detainees were particularly exposed to violations that have occurred since the country was plunged into a state of instability and civil war. Amid concerns about foreign mercenaries who have been operating in Libya, the experts said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that personnel from a Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group “may have committed the crime of murder” in connection with evidence that they had fired gunshots directly at people not taking direct part in the hostilities.

United States (US) – 5 October 2021

Several world leaders have denied wrongdoing after featuring in a huge leak of financial documents from offshore companies. Dubbed the Pandora Papers, the 12 million files constitute the biggest such leak in history. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein are among some 35 current and former leaders linked to the files. Both have issued statements saying they have done nothing wrong. Jordan's royal palace said it was "not unusual nor improper" that King Abdullah owned property abroad. Leaked documents show the leader secretly spent more than £70m ($100m) on a property empire in the UK and US since taking power in 1999. The data was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, which has been working with more than 140 media organisations on its biggest ever global investigation. BBC Panorama and the Guardian have led the investigation in the UK. Other leaders linked to the leak include Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera, and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

European Union (EU) – 5 October 2021

EU finance ministers have removed Anguilla, Dominica and Seychelles from the bloc’s blacklist of tax havens, ignoring critics in the European parliament who described the move as wrong and “grotesque” after the Pandora papers revelations. The EU tax-haven list, created in 2017 to suppress tax avoidance and tax evasion, now has nine jurisdictions blacklisted as “non-cooperative”: American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, US Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu. Chiara Putaturo, Oxfam’s EU tax expert, stated that “the EU is shutting its eyes to real tax havens while considering blacklisting poor countries who do not sign up to the imminent global tax agreement”, adding that the “decision to delist Anguilla, the only remaining jurisdiction with a 0% tax rate, and the Seychelles, which are at the heart of the latest tax scandal, renders the EU’s blacklist a joke.”

United Kingdom (UK) – 5 October 2021

Boris Johnson does not support calls to make misogyny a hate crime saying there is "abundant" existing legislation to tackle violence against women. The PM told the BBC that "widening the scope" of what you ask the police to do would just increase the problem. Policing of crime against women has come under scrutiny since the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer. The PM said recruiting and promoting more female officers would also help to change the culture within forces.

Syria – 5 October 2021

Interpol has allowed Syria to rejoin its communications network, a widely criticised decision that gives Damascus new powers to pursue refugees and dissidents living outside the country. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has remained a member of Interpol but was subject to several “corrective measures” after the civil war broke out in 2011. Legal experts and activists fear the lifting of the measures could expose people who fled the war to detention and extradition, as well as complicating asylum applications and international legal cases against Syrian officials.

Asia – 6 October 2021

Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s defence minister, has said that tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, warning of the risk of an accidental strike between the two. His comments came after China sent a "record number" of military jets into Taiwan's air defence zone for four consecutive days. Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state, but China views Taiwan as a breakaway province. It has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve unification. While Chinese jets have not been flown all the way to the island, Mr. Chiu warned that there was a risk of a "misfire". Mr. Chiu also warned China would be capable of mounting a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025.

Germany – 7 October 2021

Seventy-six years after the end of World War Two, a former concentration camp guard has gone on trial for assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen near Berlin. Josef S is accused of complicity in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war and the murder of others with Zyklon B gas. Time is running out for Nazi-era criminals to face justice and he is the oldest defendant so far to stand trial. It was only in recent years that lower-ranking Nazis were brought to trial. Josef S was 21 when he first became a guard at Sachsenhausen in 1942. Now almost 101, he is considered able to appear in court for up to two and half hours a day. The trial is due to continue until January.

France – 7 October 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report that French officials regularly subject adults and children living in migrant encampments around Calais to degrading treatment. The 79-page report, “Enforced Misery: The Degrading Treatment of Migrant Children and Adults in Northern France” documents repeated mass eviction operations, near-daily police harassment, and restrictions on provision of and access to humanitarian assistance. The authorities carry out these abusive practices with the primary purposes of forcing people to move elsewhere, without resolving their migration status or lack of housing, or of deterring new arrivals.

Yemen – 7 October 2021

Bahrain, Russia and other members of the UN human rights council have pushed through a vote to shut down the body’s war crimes investigations in Yemen. Members narrowly voted to reject a resolution led by the Netherlands to give the independent investigators another two years to monitor atrocities in Yemen’s conflict. The independent investigators have said in the past that potential war crimes have been committed by all sides in the seven-year conflict that has pitted a Saudi-led coalition against Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The Dutch ambassador, Peter Bekker, said that he “cannot help but feel that this council has failed the people of Yemen”. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, still believes there is a need for accountability in Yemen.

European Union (EU) / Poland – 7 October 2021

Following a ruling by Poland's constitutional tribunal that some EU laws are in conflict with the country's constitution, the European Commission expresses serious concerns in relation to the primacy of EU law and the authority of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Commission upholds and reaffirms the founding principles, namely that: EU law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions; and all rulings by the ECJ are binding on all Member States' authorities, including national courts.

Afghanistan – 8 October 2021

Officials stated that a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz has killed at least 50 people in the deadliest assault since US forces left. Bodies were seen scattered inside the Said Abad mosque, used by the minority Shia Muslim community. More than 100 people were injured in the blast in the northern city. No group has said it was behind the attack, but Sunni Muslim extremists, including a local Islamic State group, have targeted the Shia community. They consider Shia Muslims to be heretics.

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