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International Legal News

Weekly update: 29 September – 05 October 2020

The following media round up of international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 29 September – 05 October 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.

Kosovo Specialist Chambers – 28 September 2020

On 28 September 2020, the Pre-Trial Judge at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) held the initial appearance of Salih Mustafa, who was arrested and transferred to The Hague last week on the allegations of torture of several detainees in Zllash region, Kosovo during the Kosovo war.

Mr. Mustafa is a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). It is alleged that in April 1999, Mr. Mustafa was part of a joint criminal enterprise with others to interrogate and mistreat detainees at the Zllash Detention Compound, involving the crimes of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder. He is alleged to have been involved in one or more ways including: commanding, directing, controlling, or otherwise influencing individuals at the Compound; overseeing and participating in the operation of the Compound; participating or ordering acts resulting in the crimes; failing to take adequate measures to prevent or investigate crimes, and otherwise aiding and abetting the crimes.

Turkish prosecutors have filed a second indictment against six Saudi suspects over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. This follows a separate case launched in July. This follows a separate case launched in July, in which an Istanbul court began to try in absentia 20 other Saudis over the murder.

Mr Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 02 October 2018. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found. A closed-door trial took place in Saudi Arabia last year, with five defendants being sentenced to 20 years in prison after their original death sentences were commuted earlier this month. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, commented that “these verdicts carry no legal or moral legitimacy.”

Kosovo Specialist Chambers – 29 September 2020

Nasim Haradinaj and Hysni Gucati have been arrested in Kosovo and transferred to the detention facilities of the KSC in the Hague. The arrest warrants were issued on the basis of allegations of offences against the administration of justice, namely intimidation of witnesses, retaliation and violation of secrecy of proceedings.

Their arrest follows the statement of the Specialist Prosecutor last week condemning the alleged witness intimidation and violations of secrecy of the proceedings by the KLA War Veterans Association. Hysni Gucati is the President of the Association, and Nasim Haradinaj is the Vice President.

Nasim Haradinaj appeared before the Pre-Trial Judge on 29 September 2020 at 3pm, and Hysni Gucati appeared before the Judge on 01 October.

China – 30 September 2020

The Australian and Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has recently published a report detailing the ongoing destruction of mosques and other cultural heritage sites which has been taking place in Xinjiang, China, in the past years.

Through the use of geolocation techniques, the report alleges that since the beginning of 2016, Chinese authorities have undertaken a systematic campaign to “rectify” and demolish mosques, and religious sites. It argues that, since 2017, around 8,500 mosques have been demolished and another 7,550 mosques have been damaged or ‘rectified’ across Xinjiang. ASPI states that, while the Chinese Government suggest that Xinjiang has more than 24,000 mosques, its estimates show fewer than 15,500 mosques in Xinjiang (including more than 7,500 damaged mosques).

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that it is “consistently receiving information” that victims, members of civil society and activists are facing “intimidation and reprisals” for cooperating with the UN. The office has documented 45 countries in which these reprisals are alleged to have taken place by States and non-state actors. The report noted instances of activist and journalists being attacked online.

Armenia/Azerbaijan – 30 September 2020

The European Court of Human Rights received a request for interim measure lodged by Armenia against Azerbaijan on 28 September 2020. Taking the view that the current situation gives rise to a risk of serious violations of the Convention, the ECHR (sitting as a Chamber of seven judges) decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. With a view to preventing such violations and pursuant to Rule 39, the Court called upon both Azerbaijan and Armenia to refrain from taking any measures, in particular military action, which might entail breaches of the Convention rights of the civilian population, including putting their life and health at risk, and to comply with their engagements under the Convention.

Rwanda – 01 October 2020

The Court of Cassation, France’s top appeals court, has agreed to extradite Félicien Kabuga to face trial in Tanzania. Kabuga stands accused of funding militia groups who participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was the owner of Radio Télévision`` Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM_), which encouraged people to kill Tutsis during 1994.

Central African Republic – 01 October 2020

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement where she reminded the people of Central African Republic that her Office’s “independent and objective investigations continue into all sides of the conflict – meaning, in particular into the alleged conduct of anti-Balaka as well as Séléka groups.”

Libya – 02 October 2020

The UN Human Rights Office is calling for urgent action to address the dire situation of migrants attempting to cross the central Mediterranean Sea in search of safety in Europe and to tackle the shocking conditions they face in Libya, at sea, and – frequently – upon their reception in Europe.

A team dispatched by the UN Human Rights Office to monitor the situation of migrants transiting through Libya, highlighted a cycle of violence whereby people who had faced unimaginable horrors in Libya were left to drift for days at sea, had their boats dangerously intercepted and were returned to suffer arbitrary detention, torture and other serious human rights violations in Libya, which cannot be considered a safe port for migrants.

United Kingdom – 05 October 2020

On 05 October 2020, UN human rights experts called on the UK Parliament to reject a government bill they say would give British soldiers advance immunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They said the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, now before Parliament, violates the UK’s obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and international criminal law, and protects British soldiers serving abroad from charges for serious international crimes, including unlawful killing and torture.


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