Weekly update: 25 October – 31 October 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 25 October to 31 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) – 25 October 2021
The UK government has been accused of waging a secret war against transparency, using an array of tactics to block the release of information to the public. In a report published today, the investigative journalism website openDemocracy alleged that last year was the worst year for transparency since the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2005. The report by openDemocracy comes amid sustained criticism that the government is unjustly blocking the release of information to members of the public who seek to scrutinise the work of official organisations. OpenDemocracy’s report accuses the government of exploiting a series of loopholes to delay the public’s access to information, or stonewalling requesters by failing to answer.
Saudi Arabia – 25 October 2021
A former senior Saudi intelligence officer has claimed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a “psychopath with no empathy” who once boasted that he could kill the kingdom’s ruler at the time, King Abdullah, and replace him with his own father. In an interview on US television, Saad Aljabri, who fled Saudi Arabia in May 2017 and is living in exile in Canada, also said he had been warned by an associate in 2018, after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that a Saudi hit team was heading to Canada to kill him.
Colombia / United States (US) – 25 October 2021
Colombia has announced that the country's most wanted drug trafficker will be extradited to the US after he was captured in a raid. Dairo Antonio Úsuga, known as Otoniel, was seized after a joint army, air force and police operation. He led the country's largest criminal gang and has been on the US Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. US officials accused him of importing at least 73 metric tonnes of cocaine into the country between 2003 and 2014. Colombia's Defence Minister Diego Molano told El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the US extradition order. Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition.
Sudan – 26 October 2021
The United States has “strongly” condemned the leaders of Sudan’s military coup as the United Nations planned an emergency meeting on the crisis and protests entered on a second day. After clashes between pro-democracy protesters and security forces left at least seven people dead, demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Khartoum again this morning chanting “Returning to the past is not an option”. The protesters found support from US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who called for the immediate return to civilian rule and the release of the detained prime minister.
European Court of Justice (ECJ) – 26 October 2021
In Poland v PL Holdings Sarl (C-109/20), the ECJ held that EU law prohibits the conclusion by a Member State of an arbitration agreement with identical content to an invalid arbitration clause in a bilateral investment treaty between Member States. The national court is therefore obliged to set aside an arbitral award made on the basis of such an arbitration agreement.
Brazil – 27 October 2021
Brazilian senators have voted to recommend charging President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the devastating Covid pandemic. A Senate panel backed a report calling for charges against Mr Bolsonaro including crimes against humanity, after 600,000 deaths from coronavirus. There is no guarantee this vote will lead to actual criminal charges, as the report's recommendations must now be assessed by Prosecutor-General Augusto Aras, who is expected to protect the president. The report's lead author, centrist Senator Renan Calheiros, called for the panel's recommendation to charge President Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity to be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Algeria – 27 October 2021
Algerian authorities must quash the conviction of Christian convert Foudhil Bahloul, under a law that is being used to crack down on religious minorities and restrict the right to freedom of religion and belief, Amnesty International said ahead of his appeal hearing. A court in Ain Defla, a city west of the capital Algiers, had on 21 July sentenced Bahloul to six months imprisonment because of a 200-euro transfer into his bank account deemed an “unauthorized donation” under a discriminatory law regulating non-Muslim worship. Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated that “Algerian authorities must immediately quash Foudhil Bahloul’s conviction and drop all charges against him. He shouldn’t have been tried in the first place. This discriminatory law is being used as a weapon to repress those who do not follow Islam in an assault against their fundamental freedoms”.
United Kingdom (UK) / Syria – 27 October 2021
The former DPP has described the government’s refusal to repatriate and prosecute British citizens who are thought to have travelled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State as an “embarrassment”. Lord Macdonald (Ken Macdonald QC) said the decision to allow some British citizens to be prosecuted in the US appeared to show a lack of confidence in the British justice system and also criticised the government for revoking individuals’ citizenship. The crossbench peer, who was DPP from 2003 to 2008, said it was “demeaning to the British state to be washing its hands of its own citizens’, which he said amounted to ‘a denial of your sovereignty”.
United States (US) / Saudi Arabia – 27 October 2021
Critics of the deal have alleged that the Biden administration’s new $500m military contract with Saudi Arabia contradicts the spirit of the White House’s public policy to bar all “offensive” weapons sales to the kingdom for use against the Houthis in Yemen. The military contract will allow Saudi Arabia to maintain its fleet of attack helicopters despite their previous use in operations in Yemen. The administration’s decision to end so-called “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia was one of Joe Biden’s first foreign policy objectives, and reflected what the US president called his commitment to “ending all support” for a war that had created “a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe”. Experts who study the conflict in Yemen and the use of weapons by Saudi Arabia and its allies say they believe that Apache attack helicopters have mostly been deployed along the Saudi-Yemen border.
United Nations (UN) – 27 October 2021
Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said States fail to identify and protect victims, often because of their alleged association with terrorist groups, and related stigma, discrimination, and racism. According to Mrs. Mullaly, instead of receiving protection, these victims “are being punished and stigmatized.” For her, this is “a very serious concern.”
United Kingdom Supreme Court – 27 October 2021
The UK Supreme Court delivered a judgment on how to determine the law applicable to an arbitration agreement. In the case of Kabab-Ji SAL v. Kout Food Group, where a franchise agreement provided for disputes to be settled by arbitration in France but that the agreement would be governed by and construed in accordance with English law, the Supreme Court held that: 1) English law was the applicable law for the purpose of determining whether the franchisee's parent company became a party to the agreement; 2) there was no real prospect of establishing that the parent company was a party to the arbitration clause; and 3) recognition and enforcement of the arbitral award could be refused by way of summary judgment, which was fully consistent with the pro-enforcement policy of the New York Convention 1958 and the Arbitration Act 1996.
Hungary – 28 October 2021
In the case of Bancsók and László Magyar (no. 2) v. Hungary, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the Convention on the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. The case concerned the imposition of life sentences with eligibility for release on parole only after 40 years of imprisonment. The Court found that such sentences did not, in effect, offer any real prospect of release, and were therefore not compatible with the Convention.
Sudan – 29 October 2021
When Sudanese woke to the October 25 news that the military had taken over control of the country and arrested key government officials – including the prime minister Dr. Abdalla Hamdok – many immediately took to the streets. What happened next was all too familiar to those who have repeatedly risked their lives to fight for a fairer, more rights-respecting Sudan. Military forces, including the country’s notorious Rapid Response Forces (RSF), Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and Central Reserve Police (CRP), a militarised police unit, were deployed throughout Khartoum. Doctors’ groups have confirmed that at least five people were killed and more than 200 injured. Although authorities have severely disrupted both telephone and internet access, videos that emerged showed security forces firing at people as they fled.
Mali – 29 October 2021
UN human rights experts said that a series of “barbaric” attacks this year against hundreds of people born into slavery in Mali beggars belief, calling on the West African country to ensure justice for victims and outlaw slavery. The experts stated that, “these unspeakable abhorrent acts have gone on far too long, committed by some Malian nationals who openly defend descent-based slavery…The whole world is watching and losing patience. We have condemned this heinous practice many times before – now the Malian Government must take action, starting with ending impunity for attacks on ‘slaves’.”