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International Legal News

Weekly update: 27 March – 2 April 2023

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 27 March to 26 April 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 for consideration.

Syria / United States (US) – 27 March 2023

Moves to re-engage Bashar al-Assad without him taking steps to stabilise Syria or commit to reforms should be met by more robust US leadership that holds the Syrian leader to account and addresses a litany of US policy failings, a group of prominent former officials say. In an unprecedented letter to Joe Biden and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, the officials called for moves to stop a regional drift towards normalisation with Assad and impose a formalised ceasefire that facilitates a more impactful aid effort and helps ignite a political process.

Libya – 28 March 2023

United Nations experts have concluded that security forces and armed groups in Libya may have committed a “wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity” against Libyans and migrants, making an urgent call for “accountability to end this pervasive impunity.” The final report by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) documented sweeping abuses including “repression of civic groups, arbitrary detention, murder, rape, enslavement, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance.”

United States (US) / Syria – 28 March 2023

The United States has slapped sanctions on two cousins of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over involvement in an illicit drug trafficking network. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against six people, alleging that they produced and exported an amphetamine known as Captagon and used the sales to help fund the Syrian government.

Switzerland – 29 March 2023

More than 2,000 women are taking the Swiss government to court claiming its policy on climate change is violating their right to life and health. The case is the first time the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case on the impact of climate change on human rights. It follows six years of unsuccessful battles through the Swiss courts. Temperatures in Switzerland are rising faster than the global average and there are ever more frequent heatwaves.

Council of Europe – 29 March 2023

Europe’s human rights watchdog has warned the UK government that its plans to curb the rights of trafficking victims in its illegal migration bill is a “significant step backwards” in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery and demonstrates a lack of compliance with international law. In a highly unusual move, the Council of Europe’s group of experts on action against trafficking in human beings (Greta) expressed deep concern about the bill and its lack of compliance with core elements of the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings.

Amnesty International – 29 March 2023

A sophisticated hacking campaign by a mercenary spyware company targeting Google’s Android operating system has been exposed by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. The technical findings were shared with Google’s Threat Analysis Group, which focuses on countering government-backed cyber-attacks. As a result, Google along with other affected vendors, including Samsung, were able to release security updates protecting billions of Android, Chrome and Linux users from the exploit techniques used in this attack. Amnesty International is not naming the company while the Security Lab continues to track and investigate its activity. However, the attack showed all the hallmarks of an advanced spyware campaign developed by a commercial cyber-surveillance company and sold to governments hackers to carry out targeted spyware attacks.

Afghanistan / United Kingdom (UK)

An Afghan who worked with the British Council and is applying to come to the UK has been told to retrieve documents from the Taliban or risk rejection, despite assurances earlier this month that such demands would end. The Ministry of Defence apologised on 18 March after an investigation found that applicants to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) scheme were required to provide birth and marriage certificates in English and bearing stamps from Afghan government departments. But 10 days later, applicants to another government scheme for Afghan people who had worked with the UK armed forces or authorities are being asked by the government for documents signed by the Taliban-led government.

Egypt – 30 March 2023

Egyptian forces have taken over 37 schools and transformed them into military bases while dozens more have been destroyed during a 10-year war with militants in Sinai, a rights group has found in an initial assessment. In a months-long investigation shared with the Guardian before its official release, the UK-based Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR) accused the Egyptian armed forces of compromising the right to education of children during its campaign against militants in north Sinai.

Russia / United States (US) – 30 March 2023

US journalist Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia and accused of spying while working for the Wall Street Journal. An experienced Russia reporter, he was working in the city of Yekaterinburg at the time of his detention. The White House has condemned his detention "in the strongest terms". The Kremlin claimed he had been caught "red-handed" but the Wall Street Journal vehemently denied the allegations against him.

United Kingdom (UK) / Russia – 30 March 2023

UK ministers have tightened up sanctions rules to avoid a repeat of a recent controversy in which lawyers acting for the head of the Wagner group obtained an exemption from curbs to sue a British journalist. The Treasury minister Joanna Penn announced that the government would change the way it decides whether to grant licences for sanctioned individuals to use frozen money for legal cases.

European Court of Human Rights – 30 March 2023

In the case of J.A. and Others v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: (1) a violation of Article 3; (2) a violation of Article 5(1)(2) and (4); and (3) a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4. The case concerned the applicants’ presence at the “hotspot” on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they had been taken having been rescued by an Italian ship in the Mediterranean Sea, and their later removal to Tunisia.

European Court of Human Rights – 30 March 2023

In the case of Szolcsán v. Hungary, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention (prohibition of discrimination), in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education). The case concerned the applicant’s education in a primary school that was almost exclusively attended by Roma children. His request to be transferred to another school in a neighbouring town was rejected because he did not live in the school’s catchment area. However, he claims that about one quarter of that school’s pupils lived in the same town as him, which was within easy distance as it was five minutes away on public transport. He alleges that the curriculum taught at the school he attended was poor and that he was deprived of a proper education.

United States (US) – 31 March 2023

Former US President Donald Trump will be charged over hush money payments made to a porn star just before the 2016 presidential election. The details of the case against him have not yet been released. A grand jury has voted to indict him after investigating a $130,000 pay-out to Stormy Daniels in an attempt to buy her silence over an alleged affair.

The Hague – 31 March 2023

Human Rights Watch said that the trial of the former Kosovo leader Hashim Thaçi and three others on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity highlights the ongoing need for justice 24 years after the Kosovo war. The trial, taking place before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, begins on 3 April 2023. Thaçi, Kosovo’s former president and prime minister, is charged along with three other senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), all senior politicians in Kosovo, for crimes during and just after the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, including in northern Albania. The KLA fought Serbian and Yugoslav forces until a 78-day NATO air campaign forced those forces from Kosovo. Thaçi resigned as president after the charges were brought in November 2020 and was promptly transferred to The Hague.


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