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International Legal News

Weekly update: 16 May – 22 May 2022

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 16 May to 22 May 2022.

Guernica 37 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 at for consideration.

United Kingdom (UK) – 16 May 2022

The Home Secretary has announced that the government is lifting restrictions placed on police stop and search powers in areas where they anticipate violent crime. In a letter to police forces, Priti Patel outlined the easing of conditions on the use of the tactics under section 60 of the criminal justice and public order act. Section 60 powers give officers the right to search people without reasonable grounds in an area when they expect serious violence, and to look for weapons before they can be used or for those used in a recent attack. The limitations were put in place in 2014 by then home secretary Theresa May.

Trinidad and Tobago – 16 May 2022

Trinidad and Tobago’s mandatory death penalty for murder is constitutional, senior judges in London ruled in a decision campaigners described as ‘extremely disappointing’. Jay Chandler killed fellow remand prisoner Kirn Phillip at Golden Grove Prison in Arouca, Trinidad in 2004. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death on the same day in 2011. Chandler’s lawyers argued that the law ‘arbitrarily authorises the imposition of the severest of sentences’ without giving those convicted the opportunity to persuade the court otherwise, in breach of constitutional rights.

Cuba – 17 May 2022

Cuba’s parliament has approved a new penal code officials say modernises the country’s laws, but human rights groups warn tightens already strict limits on dissent. The law approved controls unauthorised contacts with foreign organisations and individuals and explicitly bans foreign financing. Supreme court president Rubén Remigio Ferro called it “a modern, very inclusive code”, telling state television that it favours “prevention and education before repression” while imposing “sanctions with sufficient rigor” against crimes that affect “social peace and the stability of our nation”.

European Court of Human Rights – 17 May 2022

In the case of Simić v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention on freedom of expression. The case concerned a joke that the applicant, a lawyer, told in court to illustrate his criticism of the proceedings in which he was representing a client. As a result, he was fined for contempt of court. The Court found in particular that the domestic courts had failed to give sufficient weight to the context in which the joke and critical remarks had been made and had not provided relevant and sufficient reasons to justify the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression. In particular, the applicant’s joke, made only in the courtroom and not to the media, had been meant as a criticism of the way in which the rules of evidence had been applied in the case he was defending and had not been intended to insult the members of court.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – 17 May 2022

The ICC has sent its “largest-ever” team of experts to Ukraine to investigate alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in February, according to the chief prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan QC. He said that the 42-member team comprised of investigators, forensic experts and support staff “advance our investigations into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and provide support to Ukrainian national authorities”. He added that the team will improve the gathering of witness testimony, the identification of forensic materials and help ensure that “evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings” at the court.

Ethiopia – 18 May 2022

African civil society groups have accused the United Nations of inaction over atrocities in Ethiopia, warning in a letter that it had not learned the lessons of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and that the “situation risks repeating itself in Ethiopia today”. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed and millions more displaced since war broke out between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of the country’s northern region, in November 2020. All of the parties in the war have been accused of crimes including arbitrary killings, mass rape and torture, while ethnic Tigrayans across the country have been subject to mass arrests amid a spike in hate speech, which has seen the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, refer to the Tigrayan rebels as “weeds” and “cancer”.

Russia / Ukraine – 18 May 2022

A 21-year-old Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed civilian, in the first war crimes trial in Ukraine since the war started. Vadim Shishimarin admitted shooting a 62-year-old man a few days after the invasion began. He faces life in jail. Ukraine's chief prosecutor Iryna Venediktova tweeted: “By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility”. Prosecutors say more trials of this nature are to come, although Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians. The International Criminal Court has been investigating whether there is evidence war crimes are taking place and is sending a team of 42 investigators, forensics experts and support staff to the country. Ukraine has also set up a team to preserve evidence to enable future prosecutions.

United States (US) – 18 May 2022

A US military investigation has found that troops did not violate the laws of war or deliberately cause civilian casualties in an air strike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of people. The probe was launched in response to a New York Times report which accused the military of a cover-up over the attack on an Islamic State group position. The investigator rejected the claim. However, he concluded that "numerous policy compliance deficiencies at multiple levels" had led to delays in reporting. The US-led multinational coalition against IS has acknowledged killing at least 1,417 civilians in air strikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014. The monitoring group Airwars believes the actual figure is between 8,192 and 13,244.

France / Syria – 18 May 2022

The Investigative Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals decided that French multinational Lafarge is facing the charge of complicity in crimes against humanity. Lafarge, via its subsidiary, has allegedly paid up to 13 million euro to several armed groups including the Islamic State in order to keep its Syrian cement factory running. ECCHR and Sherpa, the NGOs which initiated this case, welcome this decisive ruling which confirms that a company alleged of knowingly paying several million dollars to a criminal organisation, can face charges of complicity in the gravest crimes.

United Kingdom (UK) / Egypt – 18 May 2022

A group of MPs and peers has written to the UK government pressing for urgent help for a British-Egyptian activist imprisoned in Egypt. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a pro-democracy blogger and activist, is said to have been on hunger strike since 2 April. A letter to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says he has been held in "inhumane" conditions as a political prisoner and asks her to call for his release. It says the British embassy has not been granted consular access and that this could set "a dangerous precedent".

Ukraine – 19 May 2022

The UN has warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could soon cause a global food crisis that may last for years. Secretary-General António Guterres said the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices. He added that some countries could face long-term famines if Ukraine's exports are not restored to pre-war levels. The conflict has cut-off supplies from Ukraine's ports, which once exported vast amounts of cooking oil as well as cereals such as maize and wheat. According to the UN, this has reduced the global supply and caused the price of alternatives to soar. Global food prices are almost 30% higher than the same time last year.

Israel – 19 May 2022

Israel will not launch a criminal investigation into the killing of the US-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, which Palestinian officials and witnesses have blamed on Israeli soldiers. In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces claimed that because Abu Aqleh was killed in an “active combat situation”, an immediate criminal investigation would not be launched, although an “operational inquiry” would continue.

United Kingdom (UK) – 20 May 2022

A woman who said she was terrorised by an MI5 agent with a background in rightwing extremism is taking legal action against the security service. Beth, not her real name, claimed the man, her former partner, attacked her with a machete and threatened to kill her. The agent – known only as X for legal reasons – is a foreign national who worked as a paid informant for MI5 infiltrating extremist networks in the UK. He used his security status to coercively control the woman, telling her that she would be killed if she reported his abusive behaviour, according to an investigation by the BBC.

Argentina – 20 May 2022

A landmark criminal trial in Argentina has found the state guilty of the massacre of more than 400 indigenous people nearly a century ago. The Qom and Moqoit communities had been protesting inhumane living and working conditions on a cotton plantation when authorities shot them dead in 1924. Until now, no responsibility had ever been officially acknowledged. A judge has now ordered historical reparations to be awarded to the communities.

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