Weekly update: 11 October – 17 October 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 11 October to 17 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.
United Kingdom (UK) – 11 October 2021
Requests to double the sentencing powers of magistrates have been criticised by parts of the legal profession, which warned that it would put additional strain on Crown courts and could undermine defendants' 'precious' right to a jury trial. The chair of the Magistrates' Association, Beverley Higgs, argued that magistrates should be able to hand out prison sentences of up to a year for a single offence. The current limit for custodial sentences is six months for a single offence. Mr. Higgs said many magistrates' courts have little or no backlog of cases and the change would “ease the burden on Crown courts, speeding up justice for all”. Jo Sidhu QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC – chair and vice chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) – stated, “all that will be achieved by giving magistrates the power to lock people up for longer is to increase the number of appeals to the Crown court, thereby clogging up the system even more, and critically overloading the few criminal advocates we have left”.
Poland /European Union (EU) – 11 October 2021
Poles backing EU membership have taken part in protests across the country, amid fears it could leave the bloc. The rallies were held in response to a top court ruling that said key EU laws were "incompatible" with the Polish constitution. Protests were held in about 100 towns and cities, with some 100,000 people gathering in the capital, Warsaw. The ruling has raised concerns Poland could exit the EU, but the government has denied having any such intention. The court's decision on 7 October effectively rejected the core principle that EU law has primacy over national legislation. It was the most significant challenge to the supremacy of EU law to date. Poland's Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has defended the decision and said his ruling party had no plans for what some are calling Polexit.
Africa – 11 October 2021
The landmark trial of a former president and 13 others has begun in Burkina Faso over the assassination of Thomas Sankara, a much revered revolutionary leader killed in a 1987 coup. Sankara, a Marxist icon of pan-Africanism hailed across Africa and beyond, was killed alongside 12 others by a hit squad. His death led to his former friend Blaise Compaoré assuming power – denying any role in his murder. Compaoré ruled for the next 27 years before being deposed by mass protests in 2014 and fleeing to neighbouring Ivory Coast, from where he is being tried in absentia. The former president and his former head of security, Gen Gilbert Diendéré, face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses.
Brazil – 12 October 2021
Activists have argued in a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro must be held criminally responsible for a “ruthless” assault on the Amazon that has exacerbated the climate emergency and imperilled humanity’s very survival. In the submission to the ICC, legal and scientific experts said the “mass deforestation” unfolding under the rightwing nationalist posed a clear and present danger to Brazil, and to the world.
United Kingdom (UK) – 12 October 2021
The High Court has said in a landmark ruling that thousands of victims of trafficking who have been left to languish in the immigration system for years should be granted leave to remain. Prior to the ruling, people the UK government accepted were foreign victims of trafficking could be sent back to their home countries, where they might be at risk of being trafficked again by the same criminals. For that reason, many make claims for asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. They then have to wait years in legal limbo before their applications to stay in the UK are processed by the Home Office and the courts.
Romania – 12 October 2021
In the case of R.D. and I.M.D. v. Romania, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention on the right to liberty and security and a violation of Article 8 on the right to respect for private life. The case concerned the applicants’ non-voluntary confinement in a psychiatric hospital for the purpose of compelling them to undergo medical treatment, and the obligation to follow that treatment. In the Court’s opinion, the lack of a recent medical
assessment was sufficient to conclude that the applicants’ placement had not been lawful under the Convention. Additionally, the lack of detailed reasoning in the national court decisions ordering their confinement did not allow it to be established sufficiently that the applicants posed a risk to themselves or others, in particular because of their psychiatric condition. The Court considered that although the contested measure had indeed had a legal basis in Romanian law, the absence of sufficient safeguards against forced medication had deprived the applicants of the minimum degree of protection to which they were entitled in a democratic society.
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 12 October 2021
Today, 12 October 2021, the confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani opened before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC, composed of Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (Presiding judge), Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua and Judge Tomoko Akane. The hearing is scheduled until 14 October 2021. The judges will hear successively the oral submissions of the Prosecutor, the Legal Representative of the Victims and the Defence. Mr. Said, a national of the Central African Republic (CAR), born on 25 February 1970 in Bria, was allegedly a Seleka commander and, in this capacity, he is suspected of being responsible for the following crimes allegedly committed in Bangui (CAR) in 2013: crimes against humanity (imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty; torture; persecution; enforced disappearance; and other inhumane acts); and, war crimes (torture and cruel treatment). Mr Said is suspected of having committed these crimes jointly with others and/or through others or ordered, solicited or induced these crimes or aided, abetted or otherwise assisted in the commission of these crimes; or in any other way contributed to the commission or these crimes.
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – 13 October 2021
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO has called on climate ministers to finally conclude a robust and workable rulebook to operationalise Article 6 of the Paris Climate Accord on international carbon markets, ahead of COP26 discussions in November 2021. Writing on behalf of the global business community and in ICC’s capacity as the business focal point to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he highlights the negative impact of fragmented domestic carbon pricing regimes on business operations and risks, particularly those of smaller businesses, and underscores concern that current domestic climate policies are insufficient to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Chile – 13 October 2021
Chile's opposition has launched a bid to impeach President Sebastián Piñera over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company, after details emerged in the Pandora Papers leak. Mr. Piñera used "his office for personal business", congressman Tomas Hirsch said as he presented the accusation in the lower house of Congress. The president is accused of selling the firm to a friend in a deal contingent on a favourable regulatory decision. He has denied any wrongdoing. The leaks suggest the last payment in the deal was conditional on not establishing an area of environmental protection where the mining company operated, a demand of environmental groups.
Egypt – 14 October 2021
Four members of Egypt's security forces have gone on trial in absentia in Rome, accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing an Italian student. When Giulio Regeni's mutilated body was found in a ditch near Cairo in February 2016, it was so badly disfigured that his mother struggled to identify him. The Egyptian authorities reject the Italian allegations. Regeni's parents and sister are at the trial. Italy's government is a civil party in the case - a show of support. The trial is taking place under tight security inside a Rome jail. The four absent defendants - Gen Tariq Sabir, Col Usham Helmi, Col Athar Kamel Mohamed Ibrahim and Maj Magdi Ibrahim Abdelal Sharif - all deny kidnapping Regeni.
Kenya – 14 October 2021
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has rejected a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to grant Somalia control of disputed waters in the Indian Ocean, claiming that it would “strain relations” between the neighbouring countries. The president accused the ICJ of imposing its authority on a dispute “it had neither jurisdiction nor competence” to oversee after it delineated a new boundary that gives Somalia territorial rights over a large portion of the ocean, which is thought to be rich in oil and gas reserves. According to the new maritime border, Somalia has gained several offshore oil exploration blocks previously claimed by Kenya.
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – 15 October 2021
A report from the ICC Commission on Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution, which is an update of a 2009 Report prepared on behalf of the Task Force "Guidelines for ICC Expertise Proceedings", is intended to help guide arbitrators on issues that they should consider regarding tribunal-appointed and party-appointed experts in arbitrations under the ICC Rules of Arbitration. Specifically, the text explores how to use experts effectively and efficiently, with an eye toward avoiding certain approaches that may cause problems during or even after the arbitration.
Turkey – 15 October 2021
Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Turkish authorities are summarily pushing Afghan asylum seekers crossing into the country from Iran back to Iran in violation of international law. Six Afghans, five of whom were pushed back, informed HRW that the Turkish army beat them and their fellow travellers – some to the point of breaking their bones – and collectively expelled them in groups of 50 to 300 people as they tried to cross the border to seek safety in Turkey. Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW, said that “Turkish authorities are denying Afghans trying to flee to safety the right to seek asylum”.