Weekly update: 17 May 2021 – 23 May 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 17 May 2021 to 23 May 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.
Israel / Palestine – 17 May 2021
The conflict is now in its second week, with little sign of a ceasefire. The UN, US and UK have called for more protection for the civilians caught in intense violence between Israel and Palestinian militants. Footage of children being pulled from the rubble in Gaza and people running for shelter in Israel have sparked international alarm. More than 200 people, including 59 children, have died in Gaza, and 10, including two children, in Israel. In the early hours of today, Israel conducted dozens more airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, after Palestinian militants fired barrages of rockets at southern Israeli cities.
Africa – 17 May 2021
Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, is facing charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to a $2.5 bn (£1.98 bn) deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces in 1994. A long-delayed corruption trial has opened in South Africa but was adjourned almost immediately for nine days. Former President Zuma denies the charges against him claiming that his case has been prejudiced by lengthy delays in bringing the matter to trial as well as political interference. However, he has been accused of using delaying tactics to avoid the trial.
European Court of Human Rights – 18 May 2021
The European Court of Human Rights in the case of Öğreten and Kanaat v. Turkey held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5(1) on the right of liberty and security, Article 5(4) on the refusal of access to the case file, and Article 10 on freedom of expression. This case concerned the detention (from December 2016 to December 2017) of two journalists for membership of terrorist organisations. Both journalists had published, in the press entities in which they worked, emails from the account of the then Turkish Energy Minister, which had been hacked and published on the Wikileaks site in December 2016. The authorities accused the two applicants, who were placed in pre-trial detention on suspicion of membership of an armed terrorist organisation, of having downloaded the emails of the minister in question, and also accused Mr Kanaat of possessing investigation reports concerning the “17-25 December” criminal investigation.
Denmark – 18 May 2021
Thousands of protesters are expected to turn up for demonstrations and protests in 25 cities across Denmark tomorrow to say ‘no’ to the Danish government's withdrawal of residence permits for Syrian refugees. Dan Hindsgaul, Acting SG of Amnesty International Denmark, stated that “it is difficult to comprehend how the Danish authorities have reached the conclusion that Damascus and the surrounding area are safe enough for asylum seekers to return to”. The message is clear: the Danish government should immediately stop plans to withdraw Syrian residence permits. Amnesty International reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees, including children, have been told by the Danish Immigration Service to return to Syria, assessing that Damascus and the surrounding areas are safe to return to.
Egypt – 18 May 2021
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Egyptian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Hoda Abdel Hamid, apparently detained solely for filing a complaint about the alleged torture and sexual assault of her detained son. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, stated that “instead of investigating Hoda Abdel Hamid’s report that her son had faced horrific torture and sexual assault in prison, Egyptian authorities are persecuting the messenger”.
Africa – 19 May 2021
Two of the world’s biggest tobacco companies are to ask the high court in London to strike out a case against them alleging the exploitation of Malawian farmers and their children as a result of their drive for profits. British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands, both based in the UK, deny the allegations. They are asking that the case be dismissed on the grounds that lawyers for the farming families cannot prove the tobacco they grew ended up in their cigarettes and other products. The lawyers argue their conditions of work breach the definition of forced labour, unlawful compulsory labour and exploitation under Malawian law. They also say that they breach the UK Modern Slavery Act, article 14 of the European convention on human rights and the International Labour Organization definition of forced labour.
European Union (EU) / China – 20 May 2021
When the EU finally adopted targeted sanctions against Chinese officials deemed responsible for crimes against humanity in Xinjiang in March, few in Brussels expected immediate retaliation from the Chinese government. Today, only a few months after the conclusion of a trade deal between EU and China, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), the European Parliament adopted a resolution to freeze its ratification. The deal has been controversial in the Parliament given concerns about forced labour in China, its rushed conclusion, and its lack of human rights protections and redress mechanisms.
European Court of Human Rights – 20 May 2021
In the case of Amaghlobeli and Others v. Georgia, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 10 of the Convention on the freedom of expression. The case concerned two Georgian journalists who received some reports from local people concerning arbitrary customs-clearance practices being conducted by Georgian border police officers at the checkpoint in Sarpi, on the border with Turkey. The two journalists decided to investigate and engaged in news-gathering activities in the customs-control zone of the border checkpoint. The applicants complained that the imposition of a fine for engaging in those activities in a restricted State-controlled zone had constituted an interference with their rights under Article 10 of the Convention. The Court observed that the domestic courts had duly considered the applicants’ right to freedom of expression, had acknowledged their status as journalists and had given solid reasons for their decisions. As a result, the Court found that the domestic courts had examined the issue with care and in line with the Court’s case-law and that there had been no violation of Article 10.
European Court of Human Rights – 20 May 2021
In the case of Beg S.p.a. v. Italy, the European Court of Human rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 6(1) of the Convention on the right to a fair trial. The case concerned the arbitration of a dispute involving a hydroelectric-power agreement for power generation in Albania involving the applicant company and ENELPOWER, a company which had been spun off from ENEL, the former State power company. It related to, in particular, the impartiality of the arbitration panel, as one of its members (N.I.) had been on the board of ENEL and had worked as that company’s lawyer. The Court found in particular that owing to N.I.’s close ties to ENEL and thus connections to ENELPOWER, it could not be said that the arbitration panel had been objectively impartial, leading to a violation.
Israel / Palestine – 21 May 2021
A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip has come into effect. The ceasefire brought to an end 11 days of fighting in which more than 250 people were killed, most of them in Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas claimed victory in the conflict. The fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza began on 10 May after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem that culminated in clashes at al-Aqsa, a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. A Hamas official told the Associated Press news agency the ceasefire announced by Israel amounted to a "victory" for the Palestinian people. This view was shared by people celebrating on the streets of Gaza. One stated that "this is the day of victory, the day of freedom, and it is the most beautiful day that we've experienced”.
United Kingdom (UK) – 21 May 2021
A House of Lords Library In Focus publication discusses genocide, the international agreements to prevent genocide that the UK is signed up to, and recent parliamentary discussion during the Trade Bill. On 27 May 2021, Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) is due to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps it is taking to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice.