Weekly update: 14 February – 20 February 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 14 February to 20 February 2022. Guernica 37 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Ukraine / Russia – 14 February 2022
Ukraine has called for a meeting with Russia and other members of a key European security group over the escalating tensions on its border. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had ignored formal requests to explain the build-up of troops. He said the next step was requesting a meeting within the next 48 hours for transparency about Russia's plans. Russia has denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite the build-up of some 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine's borders. But with the US saying Moscow could begin with aerial bombardments "at any time" more than a dozen nations have urged their citizens to leave Ukraine.
Syria – 14 February 2022
An eight-year-old boy whose kidnapping caused outrage in Syria when a video of him being tortured by his abductors was posted online has been freed. Fawaz al-Qataifan was handed over on Saturday after his family paid a ransom to the gang who seized him in Deraa province in November, state media said. He seemed to be in good health when he recounted his ordeal in a TV interview. Local police said they had arrested four suspects last week by tracing a telephone number used to send threats.
Myanmar – 15 February 2022
Human Rights Watch said that Myanmar’s military junta has revived a draconian cybersecurity bill that would provide sweeping powers to the authorities. The current draft would allow the junta, in power since the military coup on 1 February 2021, to access user data, block websites, order internet shutdowns, and prosecute critics and representatives of noncomplying companies. The current draft includes new provisions that would ban use of virtual private networks (VPNs), abolish the need for certain evidentiary proof at trial, and require online service providers to block or remove online criticism of junta leaders. Ten international chambers of commerce in Myanmar issued a joint statement on 28 January 2022 that said the proposed law “disrupts the free flow of information and directly impacts businesses’ abilities to operate legally and effectively in Myanmar.”
International Criminal Court (ICC) – 15 February 2022
On 15 February 2022, the trial in the case The Prosecutor v. Paul Gicheru opened before Judge Miatta Maria Samba of Trial Chamber III of the ICC. Mr Gicheru is accused of offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya. The trial started with the reading of the charges against Mr Gicheru. The Chamber was satisfied that the accused understood the nature of the charges. The accused plead not guilty to all charges. The Court's Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, Senior Trial Lawyer Anton Steynberg and trial lawyer Alice Zago took the floor for opening statements. The first prosecution witness also started testifying on the same day. The Defence has decided not to present any statements at this point of the proceedings.
Serbia / Bahrain – 16 February 2022
Štambuk, a lawyer, had spent the previous Friday frantically obtaining an injunction from the European court of human rights demanding Serbian authorities halt the extradition of his client, Ahmed Jaafar Mohamed Ali, a Bahraini dissident. This banned the Serbian authorities from extraditing Ali until late February, and warned them that doing so would constitute a rare breach of the European convention on human rights. After a frantic search, Štambuk discovered that two Serbian police officers had taken Ali from the prison to Belgrade airport that morning at 4am, and handed him to Bahraini officials on the tarmac. Just after 5am, Ali was flown directly to Manama on a charter flight operated by Royal Jet, a luxury airline headed by a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family and part-owned by Presidential Flight, the company responsible for transporting members of the Abu Dhabi government.
Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – 16 February 2022
On 16 December 2020, the Parliament and the Council adopted a regulation which establishes a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget in the case of breaches of the principles of the rule of law in a Member State. Hungary and Poland each brought an action before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for the annulment of that regulation. They based their respective actions inter alia on the absence of an appropriate legal basis in the TEU and TFEU, the circumvention of the procedure laid down in Article 7 TEU, the European Union having exceeded its powers and on a breach of the principle of legal certainty. The ECJ dismisses the actions brought by Hungary and Poland against the conditionality mechanism which makes the receipt of financing from the Union budget subject to the respect by the Member States for the principles of the rule of law.
Ecuador – 17 February 2022
Ecuadorian legislators have approved regulations to allow women and girls access to abortions in cases of rape, following a constitutional court ruling that decriminalised such abortions. Previously, Ecuador allowed abortions only when a woman’s life was endangered by pregnancy. Passed on a 75-41 vote, with 14 lawmakers abstaining, the new measure allows abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy for adult women in urban areas and up to 16 weeks for minors and adults in rural areas.
United Kingdom (UK) – 18 February 2022
A hitman who murdered a reality television star’s brother in a “tit-for-tat gang war” has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 35 years. The Metropolitan police described the case as one of the most complex murder investigations in recent history. Flamur Beqiri, 36, was shot dead on the doorstep of his £1.7m home in Battersea, south-west London, in front of his wife as she shielded their two-year-old son on Christmas Eve 2019. Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb described the murder as “international crime at its most brutal”.
Bahrain – 18 February 2022
A new investigation has revealed how NSO Group’s notorious Pegasus spyware was used to infect the devices of three activists in Bahrain, demonstrating yet again the grave threat which Pegasus poses to critics of repressive governments. Ali Abdulemam from digital rights organization Red Line 4 Gulf, with technical support from Amnesty International and Citizen Lab, found that a lawyer, an online journalist, and a mental health counsellor, all of whom have been critical of the Bahraini authorities, were targeted with Pegasus between June and September 2021. The three cases were first identified by Citizen Lab and independently confirmed by Amnesty International. The Pegasus Project consortium had previously identified Bahrain as a potential client of NSO Group, with hundreds of Bahraini phone numbers included on a leaked list of 50,000 potential Pegasus targets.