Weekly update: 20 February – 26 February 2023 The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 20 February to 26 February 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 email@example.com for consideration.
European Court of Human Rights – 20 February 2023
On 17 February 2023 the Grand Chamber decided to join inter-State application Ukraine v. Russia (X) to the inter-State applications in Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia, which was already pending before it and which was declared partially admissible on 30 November 2022 in a decision that was delivered on 25 January 2023. The joined case will be referred to as Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia. The case of Ukraine v. Russia (X) concerns the Ukrainian Government’s allegations of mass and gross human-rights violations committed by the Russian Federation in its military operations on the territory of Ukraine since 24 February 2022. The case of Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia concerns complaints related to the conflict in eastern Ukraine involving pro-Russian separatists which began in 2014, including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which resulted in the deaths of 298 people, among them 196 Dutch nationals.
Russia – 21 February 2023
Vladimir Putin has said Russia will halt its participation in New Start, the last major remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the US, in a speech devoted to the one-year anniversary of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. “They want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and claim our nuclear facilities,” the Russian president said during a speech characterised by grievances against the west. The full implications of Putin’s threat were not immediately clear. Russia has already suspended mutual inspections of nuclear weapons sites and participation in a bilateral consultative commission. Experts said that if Putin now went further and stopped routine reporting and data exchange on nuclear weapon movements and other related developments, it would be a serious blow.
Haiti – 21 February 2023
Human Rights Watch and the Army of Survivors said that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has wrongly annulled FIFA’s lifetime ban and other sanctions on Yves Jean-Bart, the former Haiti Football Federation (FHF) president. The decision exposes systemic failures by FIFA to create structures to allow safe reporting of abuse and to protect witnesses, whistleblowers, survivors, and family members who provide evidence. FIFA has the responsibility and duty of care to protect athletes and abuse survivors across its operations, based on its Human Rights Policy and “FIFA Guardians” program, which makes football leaders responsible for “responding to concerns about a child” and lays out “guidelines for identification, prevention, and mitigation of risk to children involved in football.”
United States (US) / China – 21 February 2023
The US says China is considering supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia for the Ukraine war - a claim strongly denied by Beijing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Chinese firms were already providing "non-lethal support" to Russia and new information suggested Beijing could provide "lethal support". Such an escalation would mean "serious consequences" for China, he warned.
Iran – 22 February 2023
A court in Iran has sentenced German-Iranian dissident Jamshid Sharmahd to death on the charge of "corruption on Earth". Iran accused him of being the leader of a pro-monarchist terrorist group. He denied the claim and a human rights group said he faced a grossly unfair trial based on forced "confessions". Germany's Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, condemned the sentence as "absolutely unacceptable".
United States (US) / Afghanistan – 22 February 2023
A US judge has ruled that victims of the 9/11 attacks are not entitled to seize $3.5bn (£2.9bn) in assets belonging to Afghanistan's central bank. Lawyers pursuing the compensation argued these funds could satisfy court judgments they had obtained against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. At the time of the attacks in 2001, the Taliban had allowed al-Qaeda militants to operate from Afghanistan. The suicide plane attacks on America claimed 2,977 lives. Judge George Daniels said he was "constitutionally restrained" from approving access to the funds, which are frozen in the US, as this would amount to a ruling that the Taliban were Afghanistan's legitimate government.
United Kingdom (UK) – 22 February 2023
Shamima Begum, who left Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State (IS), has lost an appeal against the decision to remove her British citizenship. Describing it as a case of “great concern and difficulty”, the special immigration appeals commission (Siac) ruled that although there was “credible suspicion” that Begum was trafficked for sexual exploitation, the decision was ultimately one for the home secretary.
United Nations (UN) – 23 February 2023
UN secretary general António Guterres has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “affront to our collective conscience” as the 193-member General assembly meets ahead of a vote that the US said would “go down in history.” During a special session of the general assembly, Guterres called the anniversary of Moscow’s attack “a grim milestone for the people of Ukraine and for the international community.” As fighting raged in Ukraine, the general assembly debated a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a “just and lasting peace.”
United Nations (UN) – 23 February 2023
The UN General Assembly called for ending the war in Ukraine and demanded Russia’s immediate withdrawal from the country, in line with the UN Charter. At its resumed eleventh emergency special session, the world body adopted a new resolution calling for an end to the war, only hours before the conflict enters its second year on 24 February. The results were 141 Member States in favour and seven against - Belarus, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria. Among the 32 abstentions were China, India and Pakistan. By the terms of the 11-paragraph resolution, the Assembly reiterated its demand that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine and called for a cessation of hostilities”.
Germany / Syria – 23 February 2023
A Berlin court sentenced former Syrian militiaman Moafak D. to life in jail for firing a grenade launcher on a crowd of civilians in the Yarmouk camp, near Damascus. This is the third trial for war crimes related to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be held in Germany. According to the judgment, there is every reason to believe that there were "significantly more" deaths and injuries than the four deaths and two serious injuries finally retained by the court. The events took place in the refugee camp of Yarmouk, in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, originally hosting Palestinians. Militias in the pay of Bashar al-Assad took over the camp between 2013 and 2015 and sealed off the area, depriving the inhabitants in part of food, water and medical care.
Ukraine/China – 24 February 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he plans to meet China's leader Xi Jinping to discuss Beijing's proposals on ending the war in Ukraine. Speaking on the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion, he said the proposal signalled that China was involved in the search for peace. China's plan calls for peace talks and respect for national sovereignty.
Lebanon – 24 February 2023
Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh has been charged with money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment. Public prosecutor Judge Raja Hamoush has also filed charges against Mr Salameh's brother Raja and an adviser. The judge's move follows an 18-month investigation into allegations that they embezzled $300m (£249m) from the Banque du Liban between 2002 and 2015. Riad Salameh, who has led the bank for 30 years, has faced intense scrutiny over his role in Lebanon's economic collapse since 2019.