Weekly update: 22 March 2021 – 28 March 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 22 – 28 March 2021.
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.
Saudi Arabia/Yemen – 22 March 2021
Saudi Arabia has announced a plan to offer its rivals in Yemen’s long-running war a nationwide ceasefire. The kingdom’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said the ceasefire proposed to the Houthi rebels is envisioned “for the entire conflict”, including allowing for the main airport in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, to reopen. It would take effect “as soon as the Houthis agree to it”, he said in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. But the Houthis said the initiative provided “nothing new”, as it still fell short of their demand for a complete lifting of the blockade on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port. Spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam, according to the rebels’ Al-Masirah television, said that “Saudi Arabia must declare an end to the aggression and lift the blockade completely, but putting forward ideas that have been discussed for over a year is nothing new”.
China – 22 March 2021
The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom joined the European Union to take what they described as a coordinated effort against China to send a clear message about the systematic violations of human rights in Xinjiang. The sanctions blacklisted former and current officials in the Xinjiang region – Zhu Hailun, Wang Junzheng, Wang Mingshan and Chen Mingguo – for alleged abuses. China responded with immediate retaliation by imposing its own sanctions on European officials, denying the allegations of abuse and asserting that the camps are “re-education” facilities aimed to fight terrorism.
Saudi Arabia / United Nations (UN) – 23 March 2021
A senior Saudi official issued a death threat against UN investigator Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings, following her inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In an interview with the Guardian, she said that a UN colleague alerted her in January 2020 that an unnamed Saudi official threatened in a meeting with other senior UN officials in Geneva to have her “taken care of”, an alleged threat that she and others understood to mean a death threat. Agnès Callamard stated that “those threat don’t work on me” and that they “didn’t stop me from acting in a way which I think is the right thing to do.”
Germany / Syria – 23 March 2021
A German court in Düsseldorf has started the trial of an alleged ISIS member known as ‘Nurten J’ for international crimes committed against Yazidi victims. The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf is now hearing the case against this 35-year-old woman charged with a number of crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, membership in a foreign terrorist organization, and violations of the German War Weapons Control Act.
Myanmar – 24 March 2021
A seven-year-old girl, Khin Myo Chit, has been killed in her home after security forces opened fire in Myanmar’s second-largest city, Mandalay – the youngest victim so far in the military’s violent crackdown against opposition to last month’s coup.
Khin Myo Chit’s older sister said that the police was searching all the houses in their neighborhood, and entered their house to search for weapons and make arrests. She added that they asked her father whether there were any other people in the house and after accusing him of lying, Khin Myo Chit ran over to their father’s lap and that is when they shot and hit her. The father said that she died half an hour later and the police also beat and arrested his 19-year-old son.
Niger – 24 March 2021
Unidentified gunmen attacked the villages of Intazayene, Bakorate and Wistane in the Tahoua region, killing at least 137 people, including 22 children aged 5 to 17. According to the UN Children’s fund (UNICEF), the attacks took place as people were fetching water. This is the second deadly attack on civilians in a week. UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said that “attacks on children and families must stop, once and for all. Enough is enough.”
Sri Lanka – 25 March 2021
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has received a mandate to collect evidence of crimes during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers and a surge of civilian deaths. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 46/1, proposed by Britain and adopted on 23 March 2021, is a victory for victims of abuses to help them obtain information, accountability, and justice. It establishes a powerful new accountability process to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence of international crimes committed in Sri Lanka for use in future prosecutions. The Sri Lankan government vigorously opposed the resolution, and there have been numerous reports of threats and harassment against rights activists in recent months.
Philippines – 26 March 2021
Amnesty International echoed concerns on behalf of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the Senate by urging the Philippine government to put an end to the rise in deadly threats against judges and lawyers. The Deputy Regional Director, Emerlynne Gil, stated that “President Duterte continues to incite killings and the climate of impunity across the Philippines is catastrophic, with lawyers and judges increasingly the targets.” The Supreme Court also pledged to take action, including issuing a call to lower courts and law enforcement officials for information on incidents of threats and killings over the past 10 years. On 24 March, the Senate adopted a resolution also condemning the brazen attacks against judges and lawyers. Some of those killed or threatened had been ‘red-tagged’ – labelled as “communists” or “terrorists” – as part of the Duterte administration’s widening counter-insurgency campaign, while others were representing clients facing drug-related or other unpopular charges.
United Kingdom (UK) – 26 March 2021
A British academic, Professor Paul McKeigue, corresponded for months with a man who hinted he was a Russian agent named “Ivan”, seeking assistance in order to discredit an organisation that gathers evidence of Syrian war crimes. He also asked “Ivan” to investigate other British academics and journalists. Professor McKeigue had been trying to unearth details about the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (Cija), an organisation that gathers Syrian government documents for war crimes trials. He told the BBC that, like any other citizen investigator, he develops contacts with a variety of people who may have relevant information, including anonymous sources. He said it was perfectly legal for him to do so as a private citizen without access to a state secret.
United Kingdom (UK) / China – 26 March 2021
The Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the heads of the Bar Council and Law Society have condemned the Chinese government for imposing sanctions on two QCs and a London barristers’ chambers. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, along with Essex Court Chambers, are among nine individuals and four organisations sanctioned by the Chinese government for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation” about the human rights issues in Xinjiang. Baroness Kennedy told the Gazette that the action against her “comes as no surprise” and will not stop her work speaking out against human rights abuses.