Weekly update: 8 November – 14 November 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 8 November to
14 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.
Israel / Palestine – 8 November 2021
The disclosure that Palestinian human rights defenders were reportedly hacked using NSO’s Pegasus spyware will come as little surprise to two groups of people: Palestinians themselves and the Israeli military and intelligence cyber operatives who have long spied on Palestinians. While it is not known who was responsible for the hacking in this instance, what is very well documented is the role of the Israeli military’s 8200 cyberwarfare unit – known in Hebrew as the Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim – in the widespread spying on Palestinian society.
Iraq – 8 November 2021
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi says that the perpetrators of the failed assassination attempt at his home in Baghdad which occurred on 7 November have been identified. Six of Mr Kadhimi's guards were wounded in the pre-dawn attack by armed drones, which also damaged the building. He told a cabinet meeting that “we will pursue those who committed the crime. We know them well". No group has claimed it was behind the attack, but suspicion has fallen on Iran-backed Shia Muslim militias.
United Kingdom (UK) / Iran – 9 November 2021
Fears are growing for the welfare of Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the detained Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, now on the 17th day of his hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. Some of his allies are urging him to stop, saying they are concerned he may damage himself permanently. The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, spoke on the phone to the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in what the latter described as “a useful call”. He reiterated his demand that the UK urgently repay a “long overdue” £400m debt to Iran, outstanding since the 1970s, one of the demands also being made by Ratcliffe in his hunger strike. Truss has been privately advised by at least two former Conservative Foreign Office ministers that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently out on furlough but due to serve another sentence of a year, will not be returned to the UK unless the debt is repaid. She has been detained since April 2016.
Belarus / Poland – 9 November 2021
The European Commission has accused Belarus's authoritarian leader of luring migrants with the false promise of easy entry to the EU as part of an "inhuman, gangster-style approach". At least 2,000 migrants are now at the Belarus border with Poland. Commission spokesman Peter Stano stated that “upon arrival they are being pushed to the border and forced to make an illegal entry into the European Union”. Belarus's leader Alexander Lukashenko denies orchestrating the problem. The EU, Nato and the US all say Belarus is orchestrating the problem. Brussels accuses Belarus's disputed leader of provoking the influx in retaliation against EU sanctions, imposed after his widely discredited re-election and subsequent crackdown on mass protests.
Montenegro – 9 November 2021
In the case of Špadijer v. Montenegro, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention on the right to respect for private life. The case concerned the alleged bullying of a prison guard following her reporting an incident involving male prison guards coming into the women’s prison where she worked and their inappropriate contact with female prisoners, and her attempts to address this with the authorities. The Court found in particular that the manner in which the legal mechanisms had been implemented in the applicant’s case had been inadequate, constituting a violation of the obligation on the State to protect her rights.
Ethiopia – 10 November 2021
At least 16 United Nations local employees have been detained in Ethiopia’s capital, the UN said, and a government spokesperson asserted they were held for their “participation in terror” under a state of emergency as the country’s year-long war escalates and ethnic Tigrayans face a new wave of arrests. All the detained staffers are Tigrayan, a humanitarian worker told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The UN said it was given no reason for the detentions, but Tigrayans, including lawyers, have reported widespread detentions in Addis Ababa since the state of emergency was declared, saying people are being picked up on the basis of their ethnicity alone.
United States (US) – 10 November 2021
The administration of US President Joe Biden should reject a 2020 policy adopted by the previous administration that allows the US to use antipersonnel landmines anywhere in the world in perpetuity, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing the Landmine Monitor 2021 report. The US government should instead support the international ban on these weapons. The 124-page report recorded at least 7,073 casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war during 2020, an increase from the 5,853 recorded in 2019. Where the age of victims was recorded, half of those killed or maimed in 2020 were children, most born years, sometimes decades, after the mines were laid.
Yemen – 10 November 2021
A pregnant Yemeni journalist has been killed in a car explosion in Aden, witnesses and medical sources said, in the latest incident of violence in Yemen’s southern port city. An initial police investigation indicated an explosive device was planted on the vehicle carrying Rasha Abdullah al-Harazi and her husband, Mahmoud al-Atmi, also a journalist, Reuters reported. Sources said they both worked for a Gulf-based television channel, but it was not immediately clear which one.
South Africa – 11 November 2021
FW de Klerk, the former president of South Africa and the last white person to lead the country, has died at the age of 85. De Klerk, who was also a key figure in the transition to democracy, had been diagnosed with cancer this year. He was head of state between September 1989 and May 1994. In 1990, he ordered Nelson Mandela's release from prison, leading to historic elections that brought the anti-apartheid leader to power. De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for helping to negotiate an end to apartheid. But his legacy divides opinion in South Africa. Many have blamed De Klerk for violence committed against black South Africans and anti-apartheid activists during his time in power. Last year, he became embroiled in a row in which he was accused of playing down the seriousness of apartheid. Human rights lawyer Howard Varney described him as an "apologist for apartheid", while the Fort Calata Foundation - which campaigns for justice for people killed by the former white-minority regime - called him an "apartheid criminal".
Yemen – 11 November 2021
Ahead of today’s Security Council meeting behind closed doors on Yemen, the UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg, said that a UN-led political process could still be part of a sustainable solution to the conflict. Participating by teleconference, Mr. Grundberg briefed the Council Members about his three-day visit to Taiz governorate, where he held meetings in Taiz city, Turbah and Mokha, and discussed the urgent necessity for an end to the violence. Mr. Grundberg said in a statement that “these visits have given me a first-hand experience of the impact of the conflict on civilians in Taiz, including the difficulties they face moving through their daily lives”. The visits also gave him “the opportunity to hear directly from Yemeni men, women and young people, on how a UN-led political process can help to address the situation in Taiz as part of a sustainable solution to the conflict.”
Belarus / Poland – 12 November 2021
The United States and European delegations on the UN security council have urged action over Belarus’s behaviour on its border with Poland, describing the migrant crisis as “orchestrated” and saying Minsk was endangering migrants “for political purposes”. Poland says the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko has lured about 2,000 migrants, mainly Kurds from the Middle East, to Belarus for the purpose of sending them across the border into Poland and thus the EU in revenge for sanctions. These people are now living in a tent camp on the border in near-freezing temperatures. Poland, which has established a state of emergency in the border region enforced by hundreds of troops, refuses to allow them in.
India – 12 November 2021
Police in India’s Jammu and Kashmir region arrested an activist and politician, Talib Hussain, for publicly questioning the security forces’ killing of a Kashmiri man in October. Instead of investigating Hussain’s allegations, the authorities accused him of “promoting enmity between different groups” and “spreading rumours or fake news.” Hussian’s arrest highlights the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s growing intolerance of criticism. The authorities routinely abuse laws to punish peaceful dissent, including under India’s counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Members of minority communities, especially Muslims, are particularly vulnerable to state repression.