Weekly update: 13 June – 19 June 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 13 June to 19 June 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Burkina Faso – 13 June 2022
Gunmen killed at least 55 people over the weekend in northern Burkina Faso, in the latest attack in the west African country, which is seeing mounting violence blamed on Islamic extremists. Attacks linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are soaring in Burkina Faso, particularly in the north. Jihadists killed at least 160 people in an attack in Solhan town last July. In January, mutinous soldiers ousted the democratically elected president promising to secure the nation but violence has only increased. The government is asking people to remain united in the fight against the insurgents. While no group claimed responsibility for the attack, conflict analysts say it was probably carried out by the Islamic State group.
United Kingdom (UK) / European Union (EU) – 13 June 2022
The UK government has published plans to get rid of parts of the post-Brexit deal it agreed with the EU in 2019. It wants to change the Northern Ireland Protocol to make it easier for some goods to flow from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. But the EU opposes the move, saying going back on the deal breaches international law. The protocol is the part of the Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.
United States (US) / Yemen – 13 June 2022
A new internal report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the congressional watchdog – found serious gaps in US government oversight of how arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are being used. These findings show that Congress needs to get more involved in these weapons sales. Human Rights Watch and others have warned for years that US-made weapons sold to Saudi Arabia and the UAE may be being used to commit war crimes in Yemen and that US officials could be implicated. Successive administrations argued they were tracking civilian casualties in Yemen and helping the coalition mitigate them through better targeting.
United Kingdom (UK) / Rwanda – 14 June 2022
Liz Truss has said that the first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda will take off and people who are not removed on Tuesday will be on subsequent flights. The foreign secretary said it would "establish the principle" and break people traffickers' business models. Seven or eight people are due to be removed on Tuesday, after dozens won legal cases to be taken off. But more legal challenges are set to be heard. Church of England leaders described the plan as an "immoral policy". Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the government will not be "deterred or abashed" by criticism of the plan.
Russia / Ukraine – 14 June 2022
Russia has barred top UK-based journalists and defence figures as part of sanctions, in response to UK measures on Russian public figures. The BBC's Clive Myrie, Orla Guerin, Nick Robinson and Nick Beake, who have reported from Ukraine, and Director General Tim Davie are on the list. The BBC "will continue to report independently and fairly", a spokesperson said. Sky TV, Times, Guardian, Channel 4 and ITV journalists are also barred. Russia has already banned hundreds of elected British MPs. Russia's foreign ministry said that “the British journalists included on the list are involved in deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and events in Ukraine and Donbas”, adding that “with their biased assessments they also contribute to fuelling Russophobia in British society.”
European Court of Human Rights – 14 June 2022
The European Court of Human Rights has decided to grant an urgent interim measure in the case of K.N. v. the United Kingdom, an asylum-seeker facing imminent removal to Rwanda. On 13 June 2022 the European Court of Human Rights received a request to indicate an urgent interim measure to the UK Government, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, in relation to an Iraqi national who, having claimed asylum upon arrival in the UK on 17 May 2022, is facing removal to Rwanda on the evening of 14 June 2022. The European Court has indicated to the UK Government that the applicant should not be removed to Rwanda until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.
United Kingdom (UK) – 14 June 2022
Following the Prime Minister’s comments suggesting lawyers representing migrants were “abetting the work of criminal gangs”, the Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales have issued the following joint statement: “It is misleading and dangerous for the prime minister to suggest lawyers who bring such legal challenges are doing anything other than their job and upholding the law. Anyone at risk of a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights. The Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales together call on the Prime Minister to stop attacks on legal professionals who are simply doing their jobs.”
United Kingdom (UK) / Rwanda – 15 June 2022
The UK is likely to challenge the European Court of Human Rights ruling that stopped the deportation to Rwanda of people seeking asylum and is already preparing for the next flight, a cabinet minister has said. Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, played down the idea that the UK could withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights in response to the court’s decision, which halted the flight on Tuesday night. Up to seven people who had come to the UK seeking refuge had been expected to be removed to the east African country an hour and a half before the flight was due to take off. The UK justifies the policy on the grounds that it is meant to deter people seeking asylum from making a dangerous crossing across the Channel by small boat. However, a ruling by the European Court on one of the seven cases allowed lawyers for the other six to make successful last-minute applications.
United States (US) / Yemen – 15 June 2022
The US government has not fully investigated its own role in perpetuating human rights abuses in Yemen, according to a congressional watchdog report that offered a damning assessment of both the Trump and Biden administrations’ commitment to tracking violations of humanitarian law. A report by the Government Accountability Office, which examined US weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, also raised serious doubts about one of Joe Biden’s first foreign policy as president, when he announced that his administration was ending US support for Saudi offensive operations in Yemen.
United States (US) / Syria – 16 June 2022
US-led coalition forces say they captured a senior leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in an overnight raid in northern Syria. The man was "an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator", a coalition statement said. Officials told US media that he was named Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi. A monitoring group said troops were dropped by two helicopters in al-Humayra, close to the Turkish border in opposition-held Aleppo province. There were seven minutes of armed clashes between the troops and people inside the village before the helicopters flew off, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
European Court of Human Rights – 16 June 2022
The European Court of Human Rights has today decided to grant interim measures in the case of Saadoune v. Russia and Ukraine concerning a Moroccan national and a member of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who surrendered to the Russian forces during recent hostilities and has since been sentenced to death in the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“the DPR”). The Court indicated in particular to the Government of the Russian Federation, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, that they should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicant was not carried out; ensure appropriate conditions of his detention; and, provide him with any necessary medical assistance and medication. The Court also indicated to the Government of Ukraine to ensure, in so far as it was possible to do so, respect for the Convention rights of the applicant.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 16 June 2022
The security service of the Netherlands says that a deep-cover Russian spy tried to infiltrate the ICC. The man used the name Viktor Muller Ferreira and pretended to be Brazilian but was refused entry as he arrived to start work in the Netherlands. Authorities say his real name is Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov and he is a spy for the GRU - Russian military intelligence. The man is said to have spent years building a fake identity, before applying for an internship at the ICC in The Hague. The Dutch security agency, the AIVD, said if he had been successful in taking up the position and infiltrate the organisation, he could have done real damage.
Syria – 17 June 2022
The last remaining UN humanitarian aid route into Syria looks set to be shut down in a vote at the body’s security council next month, another casualty of the collapse in relations between the west and Russia. On 10 July the council is due to vote on whether to keep open the Bab al-Hawa crossing from Turkey, which helps service rebel-held Idlib. The number of permitted cross-border aid routes into Syria was reduced from four to one in 2020, as Damascus and Moscow – the country’s chief sponsor at the UN – try to assert Syria’s sovereign right to control its borders and administer the flow of overseas aid. On 16 June, the heads of all the major UN agencies – including Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA – issued a rare joint appeal to keep the border crossing open.
Ukraine / European Union (EU) – 17 June 2022
The European Commission has backed Ukraine's bid to be given candidacy status to join the EU - bringing it one step closer to joining the bloc. "Good work has been done" by Ukraine, but more is needed, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. Ukraine must make "important" reforms - on rule of law, oligarchs, human rights and tackling corruption, she added. Candidacy status is a significant step to joining the EU. However, the whole process can take many years. The recommendation from the European Commission still needs to be signed off by the EU's 27 member states, who meet to discuss it next week. The French, German and Italian leaders have already backed Ukraine's bid, but the decision must be unanimous.
Russia – 17 June 2022
The sanctions imposed by the West on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine are "mad and thoughtless", President Vladimir Putin has said. Speaking at a forum in St Petersburg, he said "the economic blitzkrieg against Russia had no chance of succeeding from the very beginning". He said the restrictions were "more harmful" to those who imposed them. Western nations have been seeking to strike a balance between punishing Russia and protecting their economies. But speaking at the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum, President Putin claimed the EU could lose more than $400bn (£326bn) because of its sanctions against Russia.
United Kingdom (UK) / United States (US) – 17 June 2022
Priti Patel has approved the extradition of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange to the US, a decision the organisation immediately said it would appeal against in the High Court. The case passed to the British home secretary last month after the UK supreme court ruled that there were no legal questions over assurances given by US authorities on Assange’s likely treatment. While Patel has given the green light, WikiLeaks immediately released a statement to say it would appeal against the decision. “Today is not the end of the fight,” it said. “It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system; the next appeal will be before the high court.”
United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 17 June 2022
UN officials have called on the United Arab Emirates to immediately release a British businessman who has been detained in the country since 2008. The UN’s working group on arbitrary detention has ruled that Ryan Cornelius has been held arbitrarily in the UAE since 2008 when he was arrested at Dubai airport. He has contracted tuberculosis while in detention. The 68-year-old’s lawyers say he was subjected to a number of human rights violations, including prolonged periods of solitary confinement and aggressive interrogations without legal representation, before being charged with fraud in 2010 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two months before his release date in March 2018, he was served with a new additional sentence of 20 years based on UAE legislation that was brought in after his initial sentencing. The UN working group has condemned the fundamental rights violations inflicted by the UAE authorities on Cornelius and is calling for his immediate release, with reparations paid for his suffering, in line with international law. It has demanded that the UAE opens an investigation into Cornelius’s detention.