Weekly update: 23 August 2021 – 29 August 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 23 August 2021 to 29 August 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.
United Kingdom (UK) / Unites States (US) – 23 August 2021
Boris Johnson will lobby Joe Biden at the G7 leaders’ summit pleading with him to keep US troops at Kabul airport beyond the end of August, after a weekend of tension between the UK and its closest ally. With the Taliban tightening their grip at the airport, Downing Street confirmed that the PM would lobby the US president to maintain a presence after 31 August when the leaders hold a virtual meeting. The news came as Taliban forces sought to assert their authority, blaming the US for the “anarchy” at the airport and insisting they were the only ones capable of restoring order.
United Kingdom (UK) / Afghanistan – 23 August 2021
A network of women judges is raising funds to support Afghan colleagues as former Supreme Court president Baroness Hale added her voice to growing calls for urgent support. The International Association of Women Judges says its fundraising efforts will provide direct aid to Afghan members in desperate need and support the work of the IAWJ Afghan Women Judges’ Aid Committee. Meanwhile, Baroness Hale called for ‘urgent, meaningful and sustained support’ in a statement issued on behalf of the UK Association of Women Judges.
Iran – 24 August 2021
The head of Iran's prison service has apologised after hackers leaked videos showing the abuse of detainees at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. The hackers released security footage showing guards beating prisoners and dragging one along a floor. Prisons Organisation chief Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi said he took responsibility for the "unacceptable behavior". Many political prisoners and dual and foreign nationals are held at Evin. BBC Persian's Jiyar Gol says the leaked videos confirm decades of reports of mistreatment and abuse at prisons across Iran. However, former political prisoners say the footage is nothing compared to what they experienced in detention. They accuse authorities of routinely using sexual, physical and psychological torture - a charge Iran's government denies.
Afghanistan – 24 August 2021
Thousands of Afghans fearing persecution by the Taliban remain waiting outside Kabul’s airport, or sheltering in their homes, hoping to be evacuated out of Afghanistan. However, despite entreaties from other G7 leaders, including the United Kingdom and European allies, and members of the US Congress, President Joe Biden has stated that the US will not extend its military presence at the airport beyond August 31. Flights for Afghans desperately trying to flee will likely end even sooner, as operations shift from ferrying vulnerable civilians to drawing down military presence. Though Biden alluded to possible contingency plans, the current focus is on ending the evacuation effort and packing up US personnel to go home. The evacuation needs more time and the US needs to be doing more to help at-risk Afghans trying to flee. President Biden has said human rights are at the center of his foreign policy. The last few days suggest otherwise.
Ukraine / Russia – 25 August 2021
The health of a Ukrainian journalist in custody in Simferopol on the Crimean peninsula is reported to be deteriorating, following alleged torture by Russian security services. Vladyslav Yesypenko, a freelance journalist who covered environmental problems and social issues in Crimea, including for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/EL), was arrested in March 2021 on apparently fabricated charges. According to Russian security services he confessed shortly after his arrest to spying for Ukraine and to keeping a self-made explosive device in his car. He was charged with illegally obtaining and transporting explosives and unlawfully storing weapons.
Russia – 26 August 2021
Alexei Navalny has compared Russian prison to a Chinese labour camp and says he is forced to watch eight hours of state television a day. Navalny, who built his political career on exposing corruption in Russia, is being held in a maximum security prison colony in Pokrov, 100km east of Moscow. He told the New York Times the days of heavy labour in Soviet gulags were over, replaced by what he called the “psychological violence” of brainwashing and propaganda. He said guards monitored them as they watched hours of state propaganda, not allowing them to read or write, and waking inmates up if they fell asleep.
United States (US) / Afghanistan – 26 August 2021
A suspected suicide bomb exploded outside Kabul airport, killing at least 13 people including children, after the United States and allies urged Afghans to leave the area because of a threat by Islamic State. A US official said US service members were among the wounded, adding that there were casualties but did not know how many or of what nationality. Many US officials said the blast appeared to be a suicide attack and a witness in Kabul saw many wounded men, women and children waiting for treatment outside a hospital. Western countries have been warning of a threat by Islamic State militants.
United Kingdom (UK) / Afghanistan – 26 August 2021
The Lord Chancellor has confirmed that Afghan judges are eligible to relocate to the UK due to their close work with the UK government and immediate threat to safety. Several leading voices in the profession, including the profession's representative bodies and former Supreme Court president Baroness Hale, have expressed concern for the safety of judges, particularly women judges, who are now under Taliban rule. Robert Buckland stated that, “legal professionals in Afghanistan have done this in the face of risks to their personal safety and that of their families, with particularly grave risks to the lives of female members of the judiciary and it is right that we do what we can to help them.”
North Korea – 27 August 2021
The UN said that detainees in North Korea are forced into gruelling manual labour and beaten so severely it may be a form of torture, as it warned that Covid-19 had exacerbated human rights concerns in the notoriously oppressive country. In a report to be presented at the UN general assembly in September, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said fresh accounts given to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) had added to “a growing body of information confirming consistent patterns of human rights violations”. They included a woman who said she was hit so hard with firewood that “the skin on my face tore open, my chin became dislocated and four of my teeth were knocked out”.
Afghanistan – 27 August 2021
Thousands of people eligible to come to the UK face an uncertain fate as the British evacuation from Kabul draws to a close, with some describing fury and fear at being abandoned to the Taliban in a “hugely mismanaged” rescue effort. UK ministers have conceded that at least 1,100 Afghan nationals will not be removed in time, but some MPs say this is a vast underestimate of the true number left vulnerable to the new regime and a deteriorating security situation.