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International Legal News - 4 December 2023

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 28 November to 04 December 2023.


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 nenadv@guernica37.com for consideration.



Andorra – 1 December

The abortion activist Vanessa Mendoza Cortés has been charged with criminal defamation for voicing concerns about Andorra's total abortion ban at a meeting of the United Nations Committee on The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); this is not the first time this has happened; in 2020 the Public Prosecutor brought 3 criminal defamation charges against Ms Cortés, but international outcry saw 2 of the charges dropped against her. Andorra is the only country in Europe with a total abortion ban. Defamation law is still used to attack human rights activists.


Tanzania – 1 December

The McEnroe tennis brothers John and Patrick are due to host a luxury tennis safari tour in Tasmania's conservation area Ngorongoro (NCA), where the indigenous Masai people are protesting about their forced eviction from ancestral homes. The "Epic Tasmania Tour" has been organised by a private travel company and endorsed by the Tasmanian Government, accused of having little regard for the Masai community and who, in 2021, devised a plan to relocate all 28,000 residences 600 km away by making conditions more difficult and defunding initiatives. Critics of the Tanzania Government describe how they are putting tourism above indigenous peoples' rights.


Malta – 30 November

The Maltese Attorney General has indicted the ‘El Hiblu 3’ (named after their rescue ship) 3 young West African men, for allegedly attempting to stop their illegal return to Libya by a boat that rescued them at sea in 2019; they could face trial and possible life imprisonment. They were asylum seekers attempting to escape the brutal fighting and regime in Libya; the captain of the ship illegally tried to return the asylum seekers to Libya. The enquiry has highlighted several procedural and human rights violations for treating under 18s as adults. They are accused of trying to convince the captain to return them to Libya and change course elsewhere.


Afghanistan – 30 November

4 women's rights activists Zhulia Parsi, Neda Parwani, Manizha Sediqi and Parisa Azada, have been arbitrarily detained by the Taliban because they've spoken out against threats and torture of women protesters. This shocking action has seen an upsurge since the Taliban re-took the country in August 2021. Women immediately stood up and fought the Taliban over women's rights; the Taliban responded with violence, detention, and torture. The families of the women are terrified of concealing their arrests for fear of reprisals and abuse of their families in custody.


USA – 29 November

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced an indictment for Nikhil Gupta for an unsuccessful plot to murder a US citizen, a Sikh separatist who was a vocal critic of the Indian Government and wanted succession of Punjab from India. Evidence against Mr Gupta highlights him making payments to an assassin and giving directions for the murder to an undercover US agent. Mr Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic in June 2023 at the request of the US. This news comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made accusations that the Indian Government had carried out similar assassinations of the Sikh Community, thus triggering a decline in Canadian Indian relations.


Zimbabwe – 29 November

The opposition MP Job Sikhala has had his guilty verdict for obstructing justice overturned by the Zimbabwe High Court; however, it appears that he will remain in prison on other charges to prevent his release, as he has been seen as a critic of the current Government. He has already spent more than 500 days in detention. Critics of the Government have said that the Zimbabwe authorities are weaponising the law to target activists and opposition figures.


Canada – 29 November

The Canadian province of Alberta invoked its controversial "Alberta Sovereignty Act" on Monday in response to a National Canada federal clean energy initiative. The Sovereignty Act is a mechanism that urges the Government to use all legal means to oppose implementation or enforcement. Alberta has taken this step because implementing such measures will instantly make it impossible for Alberta to meet any standards imposed, thus breaking the law. The Sovereignty Act was introduced in November 2022 by Danielle Smith, the premier of Alberta, who was unwilling to let Ottawa interfere in Alberta's constitutional areas of jurisdiction more. Smith is also going to be present at the COP28 conference.


Pakistan – 28 November

Imran Khan (The former prime minister of Pakistan) was denied an open court trial on Tuesday over personal safety concerns. The planned open trial where he was accused of leaking state secrets failed. The original accusations come from a speech he made where he claimed he had a letter proving the US had an involvement in his removal. Khan was indicted in October alongside Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. If found guilty, all 3 could face the death penalty. The Pakistan Judiciary and Government have clashed over Khan's trial, with the Government wanting to hold it in jail, but the Islamabad High Court declared this was illegal and ordered an open court trial. As a result, the trial will begin again in public but in the original jail, open to the media and the public.


Lebanon – 28 November

The Lebanese Parliament and Justice Committee is accused of conjuring up a new media law behind closed doors that has yet to be scrutinised. If passed, this would severely curtail freedom of speech and press freedom in Lebanon and undermine human rights safeguards; it retains a prison term of up to 3 years for insulting "recognised religions". It upholds criminal penalties and could see an increase in prison sentences and fines for insults and defamation, which have been used as tools to silence human rights defenders, journalists, and critics. The impending legislation is meant to update the current publications law of 1962 and the Audiovisual Law of 1994. The Government and Judicial Committee have justified this by saying that they have responded to proposals by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); however, this has been disputed, and it is being seen as legislation by the back door.

Mexico - 28 November

Mexico’s Jalisco state announced on Sunday that the body of Environmental Defender and Anti-mining activist Higinio Trinidad de la Cruz had been discovered by what looks like a gunshot wound found between the states of Jalisco and Colima. He was of Ayotitlán descent (indigenous community of Ayotitlán in Jalisco) and a member of Jalisco’s State Indigenous Council. He was famous for taking an active part in exposing land disposition by mining interests. This comes in light of a free speech annual report that highlighted that Mexican journalists faced record levels of harassment, violence, and intimidation in 2022. The report cited security forces and state actors as responsible for this discrimination.

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