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International Legal News

Weekly update: 12 July 2021 – 18 July 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 12 July 2021 to 18 July 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.

Russia – 12 July 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that a court in Sochi, Russia, has convicted a prominent human rights defender on criminal charges related to the country’s “foreign agents” law. The court sentenced Semyon Simonov, head of the Southern Human Rights Center, to 250 hours of community service, for an unpaid fine levied against the center. The verdict caps nearly eight years of harassment and intimidation against Simonov in retaliation for his human rights work. Simonov told Human Rights Watch that he plans to appeal the ruling. Damelya Aitkhozhina, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, stated that “the criminal case against Semyon Simonov has been a sham from start to finish”.

United Kingdom (UK) – 13 July 2021

A hearing to decide whether a £1 billion class action brought by pension funds, asset managers, hedge funds and corporates from around the world can proceed against major banks that were fined for rigging the foreign exchange market has opened in the Competition Appeal Tribunal. Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan and RBS were fined more than £1 billion by the EU's competition watchdog in 2019 after a five-year investigation revealed market rigging between 2007 and 2013. UBS is also named in the claim.

United Nations (UN) – 13 July 2021

The Human Rights Council adopted nine texts in which it, among other actions, established an international independent expert mechanism on promoting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers, and renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus for one year.

Other texts concerned the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet; the impact of arms transfers on human rights; the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic; the situation of human rights in Belarus; the Social Forum; the commencement of the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review; and new and emerging digital technologies and human rights.

Afghanistan – 13 July 2021

Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, Samira Hamidi, responded to the footage broadcast by CNN which showed a group of Afghan commandos being executed by Taliban fighters, and stated that “this deeply disturbing footage offers a horrific insight into the increasingly desperate situation enveloping Afghanistan. What we are witnessing is the cold-blooded murder of surrendering soldiers - a war crime”. She added that “the Afghan authorities should launch an immediate investigation into this reprehensible act in an attempt to bring those responsible to justice, however, should this fail the international community and the International Criminal Court must step in.”

Cuba – 14 July 2021

One man has died in Cuba and more than 140 have been arrested or reported as missing during rare demonstrations against its Communist government. The rare anti-government demonstrations began on Sunday, when thousands took to the streets in protest over food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government's handling of Covid-19. The unrest began with a demonstration in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, south-west of Havana, but soon spread throughout the country.

Iran – 14 July 2021

Human Rights Watch said that the United States Justice Department’s indictment of four Iranian nationals allegedly plotting to kidnap an Iranian dissident journalist living in New York City heightens concerns about Iranian efforts to target Iranian activists abroad. On July 13, 2021, a New York federal court unsealed an indictment against four Iranian men who allegedly “conspired to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist, author and human rights activist for mobilizing public opinion in Iran and around the world to bring about changes to the regime’s laws and practices.” According to multiple sources, including the activist herself, the dissident journalist Masih Alinejad was the target of the alleged kidnapping.

Belarus – 15 July 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Belarusian authorities carried out a day of massive, unprecedented raids and detentions against the Belarus human rights community. Police in at least 10 cities searched homes and offices of the country’s major human rights organizations and their staff, seizing documents, computers, and other devices. The police detained at least 12 human rights defenders and journalist for interrogation, and at least nine remain in custody. At least three of those targeted told the media that law enforcement officers said the searches were part of a criminal investigation into public order violations linked to mass protests that followed the disputed 9 August 2020 presidential elections.

Africa – 15 July 2021

New evidence of starvation and abuses inside migrant detention centres has been collected from migrants inside seven facilities across Libya. A report by Amnesty International comes less than a month after Médecins Sans Frontières announced it was suspending its operations at two centres in Libya because of increasing violence towards refugees and migrants. Amnesty says it has more than 50 fresh accounts documenting severe beatings, sexual violence, extortion and forced labour at the centres, used to house people who have been forcibly returned after trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – 15 July 2021

The CJEU confirmed that a prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes. However, that justification must correspond to a genuine need on the part of the employer and, in reconciling the rights and interests at issue, the national courts may take into account the specific context of their Member State and, in particular, more favourable national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion. This judgment originates from two cases of Muslim women in Germany dismissed for wearing headscarves.

United Kingdom (UK) / Myanmar – 16 July 2021

A Foreign Affairs Committee report on the UK Government's Response to the Myanmar Crisis calls on the Government to treat the democratically elected National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar as a government-in-waiting, contingent on the NUG's clear and continued commitment to the rights of different ethnic groups and minorities, and to delivering justice for past crimes. The report recommends that actions should be taken to de-legitimise the junta’s authority, block its supply of arms, and encourage regional actors to take firmer measures.

United Kingdom (UK) – 16 July 2021

A joint inspectorate report on cases where the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have decided not to take further action found that they were more cautious in their approach to investigating and prosecuting rape cases than they were towards other offences. Inspectors said the mindset of some police investigators and prosecutors could be illustrated by two words repeatedly used by frontline staff: ‘really difficult’. Inspectors acknowledged that rape cases are often complex but found that police and CPS were too cautious in their approach for various reasons, including heightened political and media attention. Recommendations include police and CPS working together at a local level ‘to introduce appropriate ways to build a cohesive and seamless approach’.


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