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International Legal News

Weekly update: 23 May – 29 May 2022

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 23 May to 29 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 Nations (UN) – 23 May 2022

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said the global number of forcibly displaced people has passed 100 million for the first time, describing it as a “staggering milestone”. The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said the grim new statistic should act as a wake-up call for the international community and that more action is needed internationally to address the root causes of forced displacement around the world. Officials said that the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution had risen to an unprecedented level due to the war in Ukraine along with other deadly conflicts.

Nepal – 23 May 2022

The UN Human Rights Committee said in a ruling that authorities in Nepal must thoroughly investigate the February 2004 torture, rape and execution of a 16-year-old girl by security forces during the country’s civil war. The finding follows a complaint submitted to the UN body by the girl’s parents, who said they had exhausted all possible avenues for securing justice and accountability at home. Nepal’s civil war began in February 1996 and lasted more than a decade. Some 15,000 people were killed in fighting between government forces and the Communist Party of Nepal, known locally as the Maoist rebel group.

United Kingdom (UK) / Iran – 24 May 2022

The UK government has said that no British official forced Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to sign a false confession. In a statement in the Commons, Foreign Office minister Amanda Milling said the UK official simply passed on the Iranian authorities' request, adding that “Iran made clear they would not allow her to leave Tehran airport unless Nazanin signed a document”. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe revealed to the BBC a UK official was present when she signed the statement. Her lawyers have accused the UK of "apparent complicity" in the false confession.

Saudi Arabia – 24 May 2022

Amnesty International stated that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz must halt the imminent execution of Jaafar Sultan and Sadeq Thamer, two Bahraini Shi’a men who were sentenced to death on terrorism and protest-related charges following a grossly unfair trial. In its 2021 annual review of the death penalty published on 24 May 2022, Amnesty International found that Saudi Arabia more than doubled its number of executions over the previous year, with that spike continuing in March when 81 people were executed in a single day.

North Korea – 25 May 2022

South Korea’s military has said that North Korea fired three ballistic missiles. Authorities in Seoul said the missiles were fired in the space of less than an hour from the Sunan area in Pyongyang. It comes just a day after US President Joe Biden left the region, following a trip that saw him vowing to bolster measures to deter North Korea. North Korea has been test-firing a flurry of ballistic missiles since the beginning of this year. Japan confirmed at least two launches happened on 25 May 2022, but acknowledged there may have been more.

Senegal – 25 May 2022

From 23 to 25 May 2022, the International Criminal Court (ICC), in close cooperation with the authorities of the Republic of Senegal, held a regional conference in Dakar, Senegal. The conference gathered more than 190 participants who discussed the strengthening of the international criminal justice system and the fight against impunity through cooperation between the Court and States. Discussions emphasised the importance of collective efforts to ensure the effective implementation of the principle of complementarity, with a particular focus on States from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Russia / Ukraine – 25 May 2022

Two alleged Wagner Group fighters from Belarus have been accused of murdering civilians near Kyiv, making them the first international mercenaries to face war crimes charges in Ukraine. Ukrainian prosecutors released the names and photographs of eight men wanted for alleged war crimes, including murder and torture, in the village of Motyzhyn. Several are believed to have fought in Syria.

Libya – 26 May 2022

UN investigators have found that Russian mercenaries in Libya systematically broke international law by laying mines in civilian areas without any attempt to mark their location or remove the lethal devices. According to a confidential UN report that will be made public in the coming weeks, fighters from the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been repeatedly linked to the Kremlin by western officials, also rigged booby traps to powerful explosive anti-tank weapons that were responsible for the death of two mine clearers working for an NGO. Investigators suspect that a booby trap found in a civilian neighbourhood in Tripoli – made of a mortar shell and plastic explosive attached to a teddy bear – was also the work of Wagner fighters.

Nepal – 26 May 2022

Amnesty International stated that Nepal must urgently remove the restrictive statute of limitations on cases of rape and other sexual violence through amendment as it continues to be a barrier for survivors in access to justice. Activists in Nepal have taken to the streets after a survivor on 18 May through social media made public the allegations of rape that was committed eight years ago, when she was 16 years old. Under the 2017 penal code of Nepal, complaints of rape must be filed within one year from the date of the commission of crime. This is grossly restrictive as it prevents many victims from accessing legal remedy effectively, in particular, victims of child rape. As a result of the pressure from the protests and in light of one-year limitation, the police arrested the alleged perpetrator on 21 May under Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, 2007.

Colombia – 26 May 2022

The country’s president has announced that one of Colombia's most wanted fugitives has been killed by police. Juan Castro, better known as Matamba, had escaped from La Picota maximum-security jail in the capital, Bogotá, in March. CCTV footage showed him calmly walking out of his cell dressed in the uniform of a prison guard. Matamba, who led an off-shoot of the Gulf Clan cartel, was expected to be extradited to the US on charges of drug trafficking. He had been accused of running up to 20% of the cocaine shipments from Nariño province, in Colombia's south-west. His gang, called Cordillera Sur, is thought to have paid off a number of high-ranking members of the Colombian military. Those on the gang's payroll reportedly tipped the gang off about impending raids and in some cases targeted their rivals.

Ukraine / Russia – 26 May 2022

A court in Ukraine has convicted a Russian soldier of killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the country’s first war crimes trial since the invasion began. The 21-year-old Russian tank commander stood trial on 13 May, accused of shooting an unarmed civilian in the Sumy region in late February. He pled guilty, but his defence lawyer argued that the soldier was following an order and shouldn't be held accountable.

On 23 May, the court ruled the killing was premeditated and that the soldier had knowingly committed a war crime. He was sentenced to life in prison and has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

Iran – 27 May 2022

A Persian-language content moderator for Instagram and a former content moderator have said Iranian intelligence officials offered them money to remove Instagram accounts of journalists and activists. Both content moderators also accused some Iranian colleagues of exhibiting "pro-regime bias" when reviewing posts on the photo-sharing service. They spoke to the BBC after many Iranian Instagram users complained that posts about recent anti-government protests in their country had been deleted. Instagram's owner, Meta Platforms, and the third-party company it uses to moderate content said there was no validity to the claims.

Israel / Palestine – 27 May 2022

The family of the killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh has allowed her death to be added to a legal complaint being taken to the International Criminal Court, arguing that Israeli security forces have been systematically targeting Palestinian journalists in violation of international humanitarian law. The case originally submitted in April by Bindmans had focused on four Palestinian journalists wearing press helmets and vests, two of whom were maimed and two shot dead. It also covers alleged attacks on Gaza media infrastructure in May 2021. Lawyers from Bindmans and Doughty Street Chambers announced the addition of the death on 11 May of Abu Aqleh to the existing claim at a press conference in London.


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