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International Legal News

Weekly update: 22 – 28 September 2020

The following media round up of international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 22 – 28 September 2020.

The Guernica Group 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 for consideration.

Rwanda – 17 September 2020

On 17 September 2020, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) refused Laurent Semanza’s early release request.

In 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted Semanza of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Trial Chamber sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment, which was increased to 35 years on appeal.

Bangladesh/Myanmar – 21 September 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Registry of the International Criminal Court filed its Observations on the Victims’ Joint Request concerning hearings outside the host State within reasonable proximity of the affected populations, in relation to the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar. In this filing, the Registry outlines five possible scenarios to enable the Pre-Trial Chamber to make an informed decision on the victims’ joint request and allow the Court to bring the proceedings closer to the affected Rohingya population.

Myanmar – 22 September 2020

On 22 September 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, called for an immediate ceasefire in Rakhine State, decrying the death toll of innocent children that continues to rise.

“Serious questions have been raised about whether these children, and growing numbers of others, are being caught in the crossfire of war, or are being deliberately targeted,” he said. “These assaults need to stop and that the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire must be heeded immediately.

Belarus – 22 September 2020

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution calling upon the Belarusian authorities to enter into a dialogue with the political opposition, including the Coordination Council and civil society, to guarantee respect for human right law. The resolution urges the Belarusian authorities to fulfil their international human rights obligations, particularly with regards to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and opinion, and the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. It requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor the situation in Belarus and present an interim oral update with recommendations to the Human Rights Council before the end of 2020.

Democratic Republic of the Congo/Uganda – 22 September 2020

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided, by an Order dated 08 September 2020, to arrange for an expert opinion, in accordance with Article 67, paragraph 1, of its Rules, in the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda).

Israel/Palestine – 24 September 2020

The Government of Comoros filed a request for leave to appeal the decision of Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC I) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to request the Prosecution reconsider their decision not to investigate possible crimes in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

First, the Government argued that the PTC I erred in law and procedure by not requesting the Prosecutor reconsider their decision. The Government asserts that PTC I has the power to judicially review the Prosecutor’s reconsideration of the decision not to investigate in order to determine whether she did so in accordance with the PTC’s request. Given that PTC I found that the Prosecutor did not genuinely reconsider due to errors, the Government argued that PTC I erred in not requesting the Prosecution reconsider its decision not to investigate again, an error which significantly affects the rights of victims and State Parties.

Second, the Government argued that the PTC’s error arose from implications drawn from the Decision of the Appeal Chamber (AC) in September 2019. The Government requested that the AC clarify its guidance with regard to PTC I’s power to request the Prosecutor reconsider its decision and correct errors made previously.

Kosovo - 24 September 2020

On 24 September 2020, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) arrested Salih Mustafa in Kosovo. The former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army was arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant, a transfer order, and a confirmed indictment issued by a Pre-Trial Judge of the KSC. The SPO executed the arrest warrant pursuant to Article 35(3) of the KSC Statute, which gives police within the SPO the authority to exercise powers given to Kosovo Police under Kosovo Law. Mr. Mustafa is being transferred to the KSC’s Detention Facilities in The Hague and, without undue delay, will appear before the Pre-Trial Judge.

Iran - 25 September 2020

On 25 September 2020, UN independent experts expressed alarm at human rights lawyer and woman human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh’s return to Evin Prison in Iran this week despite her deteriorating health condition and called for her immediate release.

“It is unfathomable that the Iranian authorities would return Ms. Sotoudeh to prison where she is at heightened risk to COVID-19, as well as with her serious heart condition,” the experts said.

Armenia/Azerbaijan - 28 September 2020

The European Court of Human Rights received a request for interim measure lodged by Armenia against Azerbaijan, in which the Armenian Government requested the Court to indicate to the Azerbaijani Government “to cease the military attacks towards the civilian settlements along the entire line of contact of the armed forces of Armenia and Artsakh; to stop indiscriminate attacks; to stop targeting civilian population, civilian objects and settlements.”

United Nations Special Procedures – 28 September 2020

The Coordination Committee of Special Procedures is gravely concerned about the impact of the UN funding crisis on the functioning of the system of independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council. The Committee calls upon States to take urgent action to address the situation, including through financial contributions to the regular budget, to ensure the mandate holders can effectively carry out their work.


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