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International Legal News

Weekly update: 28 June 2021 – 4 July 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 28 June 2021 to 4 July 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) / Iraq – 28 June 2021

The US has carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria, in response to drone attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq. The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, described the airstrikes as “defensive”, saying they were launched in response to an “ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting US interests in Iraq”. Kirby stated that “the United States took necessary, appropriate and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message”.

Council of Europe (CoE) – 28 June 2021

A report for the CoE concludes that technology used to detect the online sexual abuse of children must respect human rights and the rule of law. The report, prepared by a group of experts led by former European Court of Human Rights President Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, draws on a wide range of CoE standards and aims to help policymakers develop a comprehensive and balanced approach to the use of automated technologies to detect child sexual abuse material. It contains a series of recommendations and calls for the establishment of a "public interest-based framework" enabling service providers to automatically detect, remove and report relevant content in line with data protection and privacy safeguards.

Africa – 29 June 2021

South Africa's highest court sentenced former President Jacob Zuma to 15 months in jail for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry and gave him five days to appear before the police. Zuma failed to appear at the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in February, and the inquiry's lawyers approached the constitutional court to seek an order for his imprisonment.

Netherlands – 30 June 2021

A United Nations court convicted two former allies of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic of aiding and abetting crimes committed by Serb paramilitaries in a Bosnian town in 1992. It is the first time that Serbian officials have been convicted by a UN court of involvement in crimes in Bosnia. However, the court said there was not sufficient evidence to convict them of similar crimes committed in other towns and villages in Bosnia and Croatia as the former Yugoslavia violently disintegrated in the early 1990s. Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic were convicted of aiding and abetting the crimes of murder, deportation, forcible transfer and persecution in the town of Bosanski Samac, and each was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. The judgment can be appealed.

Council of Europe (CoE) – 30 June 2021

The Council of Europe’s Warsaw anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing convention committee has called on its States Parties to effectively apply the reversal of the burden of proof regarding the lawful origin of alleged proceeds or other property liable to confiscation in serious offences. In a new report the Conference of the Parties of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism evaluates the extent to which 34 States Parties have legislative or other measures in place for the burden of proof to be reversed, a possibility provided for in Article 3(4) of the treaty. The reversal of the burden of proof intends to increase the effectiveness of confiscations by requiring the perpetrator to demonstrate the origin of particular proceeds or other property liable to confiscation.

Myanmar – 1 July 2021

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has announced the formation of a High Level Panel of internationally renowned lawyers to review the trials of the political leaders State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint in Myanmar. Through reliable sources in Myanmar, the High Level Panel will conduct a paper review to determine whether there is adherence to due process and the Rule of Law.

United Nations (UN) – 1 July 2021

A UN-appointed independent rights expert said that the practice of shutting down internet and mobile phone access to stifle dissent has become “entrenched” and more sophisticated in a growing number of countries as governments seek to retain power. Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur Clement Voule warned that shutdowns are now “lasting longer” and “becoming harder to detect”. He insisted that the tactics were not limited to authoritarian regimes either, stating that “shutdowns have been observed in long-established democracies and more recent democracies alike, in line with broader trends of democratic recession across the world”.

Italy – 2 July 2021

Italy’s justice minister, Marta Cartabia, has ordered a report into conditions in the country’s prisons after the release of video footage showing guards brutally beating inmates at a jail near Naples who had demanded better coronavirus protections. The appalling scenes of prisoners being kicked, slapped and beaten with truncheons at Santa Maria Capua Vetere prison in Caserta were caught by surveillance cameras on 6 April 2020, the day after a riot erupted in the prison as inmates demanded face masks and Covid-19 tests in reaction to an outbreak of the virus. Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party and also part of the coalition, said the violent scenes were “intolerable” and that “they are all the more serious because they are ascribed to those who ought to serve the state with loyalty and honour.”

United States (US) – 2 July 2021

Former US President Donald Trump's company and its finance chief have been charged with tax-related crimes. Allen Weisselberg, 73, turned himself in to New York authorities and he was later charged with concealing $1.7m (£1.2m) worth of income. Prosecutors say the 15-year-long scheme helped executives evade taxes by giving benefits, such as rent and school fees, that were hidden from the authorities. Lawyers for the firm and Mr Weisselberg have pleaded not guilty to tax fraud. No charges were brought against Mr Trump personally, though prosecutors said the former president had signed some of the cheques at the centre of the case.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 2 July 2021

Amnesty International said that the UAE must end its arbitrary detention of 60 individuals – including activists, lawyers, students and teachers – convicted on trumped-up charges following an unfair mass trial known as the “UAE-94” case. Amnesty International interviewed family members of six “UAE-94” prisoners who described how they and their imprisoned loves ones have suffered over the past nine years, with some of the prisoners held incommunicado for years and relatives subjected to acts of reprisal. Lynn Maalouf from Amnesty International stated that “the ‘UAE-94’ prisoners have unjustly languished behind bars for over nine years now, with some not allowed to see or speak to their families for years on end”.


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