Weekly update: 27 September – 3 October 2021 |The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 27 September 2021 to 3 October 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.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 27 September 2021
The ICC’s new prosecutor, Karim Khan QC, has asked the Court to relaunch an inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban and supporters of Islamic State in Afghanistan since 2003. This move demonstrates a determination to use international law to investigate not only past but also contemporary crimes against humanity. The ICC has notified the Taliban via Afghanistan’s embassy in the Netherlands that it intends to resume an investigation. His submission states there is no longer the prospect of a genuine and effective domestic investigation into crimes within Afghanistan. His proposal includes a plan to deprioritise but not drop any alleged war crimes committed by the US and the Afghan army since they are not ongoing.
Colombia – 27 September 2021
Five people, including a teenager, were shot dead in south-west Colombia in the latest of a series of attacks by armed groups. Six other people were injured. The government signed a peace deal with the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) five years ago but some Farc members, who did not agree with the deal, broke away and have continued being active. Army officials said that armed men had opened fired at "a public venue" in a rural area outside the town of Tumaco. Two people were killed at the scene and three more died later in hospital. Local media reported that one of those killed was a 15-year-old girl. Major-General Álvaro Vicente Pérez of the Colombian army said a group of dissident former Farc rebels calling itself the Uriel Rendón Column was to blame.
Algeria – 28 September 2021
Amnesty International said that the Algerian authorities are increasingly resorting to broadly worded terrorism-related charges to prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and political activists and to criminalise two political organisations by labelling them as “terrorists” in a new clampdown on dissent. In June, the authorities amended the definition of “terrorism” to allow the prosecution of peaceful activists and critical voices. Journalists Hassan Bouras and Mohamed Mouloudj are the latest to be subjected to this alarming new trend. Both face potential prosecution for their online publications criticising the authorities and for their affiliation with two organisations, the unregistered political opposition group, Rachad, and the group Movement for the Self-determination of the Kabylie (MAK). They have been charged for terrorism-related offences, including under Article 87bis, which carries the death penalty and vaguely defines terrorism as any act “against state security, the integrity of the territory, the stability and normal functioning of state institutions.”
France – 28 September 2021
The French Senate has been debating the new bill on ‘confidence in the judicial institution.’ However, the government cannot restore faith in its justice system if it continues to ignore its high pre-trial detention rates. Action must be taken to ensure that pre-trial detention remains a measure of last resort. According to data from the French Ministry of Justice, in July this year, 28% of France’s prison population were legally innocent and awaiting trial. The overuse of pre-trial detention has contributed to severe overcrowding in detention centres, the deterioration of prison conditions and the violation of fundamental rights. The recent trial of Valérie Bacot has also demonstrated the urgent need for structural reform regarding France's use of pre-trial detention.
Canada – 29 September 2021
Canada granted asylum to four people who hid former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in their tiny Hong Kong apartments when he was on the run after stealing a trove of classified documents. In a statement, the non-profit For the Refugees said that the four – Supun Thilina Kellapatha, Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and their children Sethumdi and Dinath – landed in Toronto and were due to go on to Montreal to “start their new lives”.
Egypt – 29 September 2021
A human rights activist who wrote about his experiences as a Coptic Christian in Egypt has gone on trial on the charge of spreading false news. Patrick George Zaki is a researcher on gender issues for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). He was arrested in February 2020 at Cairo airport upon his return from Italy, where he had been studying. He denies the charge and local rights groups say he is being prosecuted simply for expressing his opinion.
Peru – 29 September 2021
Former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, arrested in the US two years ago on corruption charges, has been cleared for extradition back to Peru. A US judge approved the move, saying sufficient evidence had been presented in a case against the former President to suggest wrongdoing. Mr. Toledo is accused of taking $20m (£15m) in bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, while in office between 2001 and 2006. He has denied all charges against him, claiming that the allegations are politically motivated.
INTERPOL – 30 September 2021
INTERPOL delivered a report that highlights trafficking in human beings for organ removal, which is largely driven by the global shortage in organs for ethical transplant. While organ trafficking exists in all regions of the world, North and West Africa are of particular concern in that impoverished communities and displaced populations are at greater risk of exploitation.
United Kingdom (UK) – 30 September 2021
Victims of alleged sexual violence in London and the north east will be spared live cross-examination from 30 September 2021, as part of a pilot scheme to make trials less traumatic for complainants. According to the Ministry of Justice, intimidated complainants and witnesses of crimes such as rape and modern slavery will be allowed to pre-record their evidence at three Crown courts in London (Harrow, Isleworth, and Wood Green) and at Durham Crown Court. The recordings will be played at trial. The recording of evidence takes place as close to the time of the offence as possible in order to help memory recall, and defence and prosecution lawyers are both present in court during the pre-recording, as are the judge and the defendant. The government said the scheme maintains a defendant’s right to a fair trial and that any decision to pre-record evidence will be made by a judge on a case-by-case basis.
United Kingdom (UK) – 30 September 2021
A British police officer has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, a case that sparked outrage and a national debate about violence against women. Prosecutors said Everard was walking to her London home on 3 March when Wayne Couzens used his police identification and handcuffs to deceive her into getting in his car under the pretence that she had violated Covid-19 rules. He raped her and strangled her with his police belt later that evening. Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life prison term, which is very rare in the UK and reserved for exceptionally serious crimes. It means the defendant is never considered for parole.
France – 1 October 2021
French officials said that after a 35-year hunt, a former police officer has been identified as being behind a series of murders, rapes and false imprisonment. He took his own life earlier this week. In a statement seen by CNN, Paris public prosecutor Laure Beccuau said DNA tests had "established a link between the genetic profile found at several crime scenes and that of the dead man." The prosecutor said that officials had been looking for the perpetrator of five crimes committed between 1986 and 1994, including the "rape of 15-year-old minors, murders, attempted homicide, armed robberies, wrongful use of title and kidnapping and false imprisonment of a 15-year-old”. The evidence collected suggested the person responsible could have been an officer in the police division of the military at the time of the crimes, and investigators were able to isolate the perpetrator's DNA profile.
Bangladesh – 1 October 2021
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called for a prompt, thorough, and effective investigation into the killing of a veteran Rohingya refugee activist at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Mohib Ullah, chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), was recently shot dead by unknown assailants in the Kutupalong /Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, located in the south of the country. The camp was established in August 2017 and houses more than 750,000 Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority group from neighbouring Myanmar, who fled mass killings, rapes and persecution by the army and security forces. Ms. Bachelet stated that “it is heartbreaking that a person who spent his life fighting to ensure that the violations committed against the Rohingya people were known world-wide has been murdered in this way”.