Weekly update: 19 December – 25 December 2022 The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 19 December to 25 December 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 email@example.com for consideration.
United Kingdom (UK) – 19 December 2022
Legislation nicknamed Martyn’s law in memory of a victim of the Manchester Arena bombing is to be introduced to ensure stronger protections against terrorism in public places. Martyn Hett, 29, was one of 22 people killed in the attack at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. His mother, Figen Murray, has campaigned for new measures. The government said the UK-wide law would require venues and local authorities to draw up preventive action plans against terror attacks. Draft legislation will be published in the early spring.
Canada – 19 December 2022
Canada plans to seize US$26m from a company owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. The pursuit of Abramovich’s Granite Capital Holdings marks a first attempt by Ottawa to seize assets belonging to a sanctioned individual and reflects a broader strategy to punish Russia and its wealthy elite for the invasion of Ukraine.
United Kingdom (UK) / Rwanda – 19 December 2022
Plans to send asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda where their applications can be considered are lawful – but the eight claimants involved in today’s High Court judgment will be referred back to the Home Secretary because their applications were not properly dealt with. The court heard that today's judgment comes as a result of challenges by eight claimants – made up of both individuals and organisations – to the home secretary’s decisions concerning sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Kosovo – 20 December 2022
Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, has warned of Russia inflaming tensions between his country and Serbia due to the war in Ukraine faltering, as Belgrade took its first step in deploying troops to the region. Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo, where they are in the majority, have had barricades set up for more than a week, preventing the free movement of the Kosovan authorities, despite US and EU calls for the illegal road blocks to be dismantled.
Russia / Iran – 20 December 2022
Russia plans to deepen its military cooperation with Iran in return for Shahed drones that have been used to bomb Ukraine’s cities and energy network since September, according to Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace. The west must hold Russia’s “enablers to account”, he said, in a Christmas update in which he was also forced to admit the UK had not completed a Ukraine “action plan” by the end of the year as promised.
Germany / Nigeria – 20 December 2022
Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has handed 22 artefacts looted in the 19th Century back to Nigeria at a ceremony in the capital, Abuja. The return of this set of Benin Bronzes follows a deal made earlier this year to transfer ownership of more than 1,000 of these precious objects. In July, Nigeria said it was the first time a European country had entered into this kind of agreement.
Germany – 20 December 2022
A former secretary who worked for the commander of a Nazi concentration camp has been convicted of complicity in the murders of more than 10,500 people. Irmgard Furchner, 97, was taken on as a teenaged shorthand typist at Stutthof and worked there from 1943 to 1945. Furchner, the first woman to be tried for Nazi crimes in decades, was given a two-year suspended jail term. Although she was a civilian worker, the judge agreed she was fully aware of what was going on at the camp. Some 65,000 people are thought to have died in horrendous conditions at Stutthof, including Jewish prisoners, non-Jewish Poles and captured Soviet soldiers. Furchner was found guilty of aiding and abetting the murder of 10,505 people and complicity in the attempted murder of five others. As she was only 18 or 19 at the time, she was tried in a special juvenile court.
Afghanistan – 21 December 2022
The Taliban have banned women from universities in Afghanistan, sparking international condemnation and despair among young people in the country. The higher education minister announced the regression, saying it would take immediate effect. The ban further restricts women's education - girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned last year. Some women staged protests in the capital Kabul. The United Nations and several countries have condemned the order, which takes Afghanistan back to the Taliban's first period of rule when girls could not receive formal education.
Russia – 21 December 2022
Russia’s Justice Ministry filed a petition with the Moscow City Court seeking “liquidation” of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), a leading Russian human rights organisation. MHG was founded in 1976 by Soviet dissidents to expose governmental repression. It lasted nine months before the government jailed or forced practically all its members into exile. After the USSR’s collapse, the group revived in the 1990’s under the leadership of Lyudmilla Alexeeva, a legendary human rights defender, and has been working tirelessly to expose abuses, build up a country-wide human rights movement in Russia, and advocate for the rule of law.
United Kingdom (UK) / Rwanda – 21 December 2022
The new UN human rights chief has urged the British government to reconsider its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, warning that in the past similar “offshoring” schemes had led to “deeply inhuman” treatment of refugees. In his first public comments on the controversy since taking office two months ago, Volker Türk rejected prime minister Rishi Sunak’s description of the £140m deal as “common sense”, saying that as well as being legally and ethically problematic it was also “very costly” and unlikely to work.
Spain – 22 December 2022
A court in Spain has acquitted a manager accused of sexual advances and using the threat of dismissal to demand sex, in a blow to a landmark legal challenge that sought to cast a spotlight on sexual abuse in the country’s meat processing industry. The behaviour was alleged to have taken place at an abattoir north of Barcelona, a region that has helped transform Spain into Europe’s largest pork producer. The two women who brought the case, who have appealed the court’s decision, claim the harassment began in 2016, as the Spanish industry experienced a boom in production.
Belgium / Qatar – 22 December 2022
A Belgian court has decided that Eva Kaili, the Greek member of the European parliament at the centre of a cash for influence scandal implicating Qatar, will remain in jail pending trial. “In its order this morning, the pre-council chamber extended the pre-trial detention of EK by one month,” said a statement from the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office. If Kaili chooses to appeal against the decision within 24 hours, she will appear before a chamber at the Brussels court of appeal within 15 days. Kaili is one of four people who have been charged with corruption and money laundering in the case. Investigators have seized nearly €1.5m (£1.3m) in cash from various Brussels properties, including €150,000 from her apartment.
Libya – 23 December 2022
The extradition to the US of Muammar Gaddafi’s most trusted and notorious aide was abruptly halted by Libya at the 11th hour this week for fear of public anger after the handover of another ex-senior Libyan intelligence operative, officials in Tripoli have told the Guardian. Abdullah al-Senussi, a former intelligence chief and brother-in-law of Gaddafi, is blamed for a series of lethal bombings directed at western aviation as well as other targets.
Argentina – 22 December 2022
A court in Argentina has sentenced a former policeman who worked at one of the most notorious torture centres during the country's military rule to 15 years in prison. Mario Sandoval, 69, was found guilty of abducting and torturing left-wing student Hernán Abriata, who disappeared in 1976 and is presumed dead. Sandoval fled Argentina after the end of military rule and settled in France, where he became a university lecturer. He was extradited in 2019. Sandoval has been accused of participating in the disappearance and torture of hundreds of left-wing activists during Argentina's military rule from 1976 to 1983.
United States (US) / North Korea – 23 December 2022
The United States has accused North Korea of supplying battlefield missiles and rockets to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for use in Ukraine. The White House said the shipment violated UN Security Council resolutions and that it would announce further sanctions on Wagner. Both North Korea and Wagner have denied the reports. Fighters from the mercenary group have ballooned from 1,000 to nearly 20,000 in Ukraine, the UK government says. The group has also been active recently in Syria and African countries, and has repeatedly been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses.
United States (US) – 22 December 2022
On 22 December, Congress gave final approval to a bill to expand the U.S. government’s power to prosecute international war crimes suspects who are in the United States, allowing them to be tried in a federal court regardless of the nationality of the victim or the perpetrator, or where the crime was committed. The bill, called the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, now goes to President Biden. It sped through the Senate and then the House in the hours surrounding a congressional address by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who condemned President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia for targeting civilians and urged the United States to continue sending financial and military aid amid a winter assault.