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International Legal News

Weekly update: 1 November – 7 November 2021

The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 1 November to

7 November 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) – 1 November 2021

Earlier this year, the prime minister joked that Britain was now “probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy, under our wonderful home secretary”. In October, the Prison Reform Trust published a report which showed that there had been a “dramatic” increase in the number of people serving long prison sentences, with far more people now serving very lengthy terms. Prison numbers will also inevitably increase if the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill becomes law.

El Salvador – 1 November 2021

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that El Salvador’s legislature has taken drastic steps to undermine judicial independence and limit accountability since President Nayib Bukele’s supporters in the Legislative Assembly took office on 1 May 2021. The Assembly has also shelved bills that would have advanced fundamental rights. In September, Vice President Félix Ulloa made public a draft proposal to revise the constitution, proposing more than 200 changes, which could be used to increase the government's control over these institutions. The proposed draft does little to address human rights problems in El Salvador, including abusive practices in pre-trial detention, widespread violence and impunity, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and poor support for women’s rights.

Yemen – 2 November 2021

On 31 October, at least 29 civilians were killed or wounded in north Yemen when ballistic missiles launched by the rebel Houthi movement hit a religious school and mosque. Women and children were among the casualties in Marib province. Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani tweeted that the Iran-aligned Houthis targeted residential areas of al-Jawba district, about 50km (30 miles) south of the city of Marib, with two "Iranian-made ballistic missiles". The missiles struck a religious school and mosque in the al-Amoud area, which was overcrowded with families that had fled fierce fighting elsewhere in Jawba in recent weeks.

Ethiopia – 2 November 2021

Ethiopia's Attorney General Gedion Timothewos announced a state of emergency starting today, after forces from the northern Tigray region said they had gained territory. The move comes two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Authorities in the capital Addis Ababa told residents to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.

Ethiopia – 3 November 2021

A new report states that all sides in Ethiopia's Tigray conflict have violated international human rights, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity. Extra-judicial executions, torture, rape, and attacks against refugees and displaced people were documented. A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office said there could also be evidence of war crimes.

Venezuela – 3 November 2021

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is opening a formal investigation into allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by Venezuelan security forces under Nicolás Maduro’s rule. On 3 November 2021, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced his decision during a visit to the country. Venezuela is the Court’s sixteenth situation under investigation and its first in a Latin American country. The situation in Venezuela, an ICC member country, has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since February 2018. In September 2018, six ICC member countries asked the prosecutor to investigate potential crimes in Venezuela and it was the first time countries had jointly asked the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes committed on the territory of another ICC member country. In a report released in April 2021, Human Rights Watch documented new cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, prosecution of civilians in military courts, and instances of torture in Apure state that follow a pattern similar to the systematic abuses that have led to international inquiries into possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela.

United Kingdom (UK) – 4 November 2021

An International Development Committee report urges the Government to improve its work in the fight against modern slavery following a review by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) which scored the work "Amber/Red" on its traffic light scale. Amber/Red is defined by the ICAI as meaning "unsatisfactory achievement in most areas, with some positive elements". The Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI recommends the Government should: set out what its spending will be on programmes to tackle modern slavery in 2021-22; strengthen its partnerships with the private sector on modern slavery; incorporate its work on modern slavery into its other development programmes; and use the experiences of survivors to inform its work and not just treat survivors as victims.

Japan – 5 November 2021

Two death row inmates in Japan are taking legal action against same-day executions. Prisoners on death row are only notified hours before they are to be executed. Capital punishment is conducted by hanging. The local media said that their lawyer has argued such short notice was "extremely inhumane". According to a Reuters report, the lawyer for the two death row inmates Yutaka Ueda stated that "death row prisoners live in fear every morning that that day will be their last", adding that "the central government has said this is meant to keep prisoners from suffering before their execution, but that's no explanation. Overseas, prisoners are given time to contemplate the end of their lives and mentally prepare."

United Kingdom (UK) – 5 November 2021

The British Transport Police has apologised to the British black community for the trauma caused by the actions of a former officer involved in at least two serious miscarriages of justice involving young black people. In a letter sent to black civil rights activists, Lucy D’Orsi, the force’s chief constable, insisted the actions of DS Derek Ridgewell, who played a key role in the convictions of the Stockwell Six and the Oval Four, did “not define the BTP of today”. The Oval Four were a group of young black men who were framed by Ridgewell and accused of carrying out muggings on the underground in London. It took nearly 50 years for all four men to have their convictions squashed. Ridgewell was also behind the conviction of the Stockwell Six, who were accused of attempting to rob on the underground. Two men involved could have convictions overturned.

Sudan – 5 November 2021

International calls for the restoration of democratic government in Sudan continued today, as the Human Rights Council met in special session in Geneva to discuss the recent military coup. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that at least 13 civilians have been reportedly killed by military and security forces since then, and more than 300 injured. Echoing the UN rights chief’s condemnation of the coup, independent rights expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz told the Council that Sudan’s military leaders had shown “utter contempt for democracy” and efforts to restore democratic governance and human rights in the country.


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