Weekly update: 28 March – 3 April 2022
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 28 March to 3 April 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 – 28 March 2022
The UN Secretary-General appealed for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine, so that “serious political negotiations” can advance towards a peace agreement, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter. António Guterres, speaking to reporters outside the Security Council, said that “a cessation of hostilities will allow essential humanitarian aid to be delivered and enable civilians to move around safely. It will save lives, prevent suffering, and protect civilians”.
Somalia – 28 March 2022
The Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought since 1981, and a shortfall in aid funding is putting the lives of millions of Somalis in danger. With decades of conflict, recurrent climate shocks and disease outbreaks, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the humanitarian situation in Somalia was already grave. Even before the current drought, an estimated 7.7 million Somalis were in need of humanitarian assistance and protection this year – up 30 per cent in one year. The situation has deteriorated, with the current drought wiping out crop harvests and livestock dying due to a lack of water and pasture, depriving many pastoral communities of their only source of income.
United Kingdom (UK) – 29 March 2022
Fair Trials has responded to the Met’s announcement that they are issuing an initial 20 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for breaches of COVID-19 regulations in Downing Street during lockdown. Griff Ferris, Legal and Policy Officer says “People at the heart of government have been shown to break repeatedly the draconian and far-reaching criminal laws that they themselves created. Today’s announcement not only shows that they treated the public with contempt, but it calls into question the legitimacy of the coronavirus enforcement regime”. Fair Trials has previously called for an end to all Covid-related prosecutions in the UK, for all fines and convictions to be rescinded and for criminal records to be deleted.
Russia – 29 March 2022
Vladimir Putin’s main spokesman has said that sanctions on trade and oligarchs were akin to “total war” against Russia, and that the west has pushed the Kremlin “into the corner” with Nato expansion, as officials prepare for the resumption of peace talks with Ukraine. Dmitry Peskov said in an interview on American television that the punitive sanctions levelled against Russia were “quite unfriendly” and made the country feel as it were at war with the US and its western allies. As the Russian and Ukrainian sides were due to meet in Turkey for a new round of negotiations, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia was expected to bolster its flagging war effort by sending more than 1,000 mercenaries from the private Wagner military group into eastern Ukraine as the Kremlin continues to suffer heavy losses. The MoD said that it was highly likely that Russia has been forced to redeploy Wagner personnel from Africa and Syria to eastern Ukraine.
European Court of Human Rights – 29 March 2022
A coalition of MPs and peers from a host of different parties is using the European Court of Human Rights to challenge an alleged failure to investigate Russian interference in UK elections. The legal action has been launched in response to the UK government’s refusal to order an inquiry into the findings of the Russia report, published by the intelligence and security committee (ISC) in July 2020, which reported credible evidence of attempts by Russia to interfere with the UK’s electoral processes.
Ukraine – 30 March 2022
The governor of Ukraine's Chernihiv region says there is no let-up in attacks by Russia, despite its pledge to reduce military activity there. Delegations from Moscow and Kyiv held three hours of discussions in Istanbul aimed at bringing to a close more than a month of fighting in Ukraine. Ukraine said it had proposed to become a neutral state in exchange for security guarantees. A key aim of Russia's invasion was to stop Ukraine joining the Nato alliance and Russian officials said the talks had moved to a practical stage. Russia's pledge to cut back military activity was met with scepticism. "Ukrainians are not naïve people," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight video address. Mr Zelensky said that initial signs from the peace talks were "positive", but added that they did not "drown out" the explosions of Russian shells.
United States (US) – 30 March 2022
El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, is the last of a group of Islamic State militants - known as the Beatles for their British accents - to face justice. The group is said to have tortured and beheaded hostages in Syria, including several journalists and aid workers. The trial, in Virginia, is expected to last three to four weeks. Mr Elsheikh, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2018, is charged with taking hostages, resulting in the deaths of four Americans - journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. He is also charged with conspiring in the deaths of the British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. He has denied the charges.
United Kingdom (UK) / Hong Kong – 30 March 2022
The president and deputy president of the Supreme Court have today resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, citing the impact of Beijing’s national security law on freedom of expression. Lord Reed said in a statement that ‘judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom and freedom of expression’. Lord Reed and Lord Hodge, the only two of the eight non-permanent UK judges who are currently serving justices of the Supreme Court, submitted their resignations this morning.
Ukraine / Syria – 31 March 2022
Russia says it has signed up some 16,000 recruits from the Middle East to fight with its forces in Ukraine. Social media in Syria has been flooded with requests for people to join Russian troops in return for up to $7,000 for deployment. One former Syrian regime soldier who has been offered thousands of dollars to fight in the war told BBC News Arabic that his country's broken economy means hundreds of Syrians are putting themselves forward.
United Kingdom (UK) – 31 March 2022
A Metropolitan police officer has been charged with grievous bodily harm after a black man was shot with a Taser and left paralysed from the chest down. Jordan Walker-Brown was shot with the electronic device in May 2020 in Haringey, north London, leaving him with serious life changing injuries, including damage to his spinal cord. The decision by the CPS to bring charges against the officer, who has not been named, follows an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) last year. The IOPC’s inquiry determined that there was an indication the officer may have committed grievous bodily harm. The constable will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 19 April.
United Kingdom (UK) / Turkey – 1 April 2022
A London-headquartered port operator could be breaching sanctions laws by allowing Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to dock his $600m (£460m) superyacht Solaris at a port that it operates in Turkey. Legal experts said Global Ports Holding, which has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2007, was taking “a very big risk” by allowing a superyacht owned by a sanctioned individual to use one of its ports.
United Kingdom (UK) / Yemen – 1 April 2022
Yemen could be afflicted by an even worse humanitarian catastrophe if the UK government goes ahead with a plan to designate the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, leading aid agencies have warned cabinet ministers in a letter. The 11 UK agencies are some of those most active in Yemen, and include Save the Children, Care, the International Rescue Committee and Islamic Relief. In the letter seen by the Guardian, the agencies said: “The likely ‘chilling effect’ on banks and other commercial actors could prove catastrophic for the millions of Yemenis already at risk from hunger, conflict and disease.”
Turkey / Saudi Arabia – 1 April 2022
A Turkish prosecutor has asked a court in Istanbul to halt the trial in absentia of 26 Saudi nationals over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The prosecutor said the case should be transferred to Saudi Arabia, which has refused to extradite the defendants. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed by Saudi agents inside the country's consulate in Istanbul. The head of Amnesty International accused Turkey of "betraying" him. Khashoggi's former fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, said in a statement that she was "heartbroken" by the prosecutor's request, according to Reuters news agency. "No good will come of sending the case to Saudi Arabia," she warned. "We all know the authorities there will do nothing. How do we expect the killers to investigate themselves?"
Yemen – 1 April 2022
The United Nations envoy has said that the warring sides in Yemen’s seven-year conflict have agreed to a two-month nationwide truce, starting with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The UN-brokered deal on 1 April between the Saudi-led coalition and the rebel Houthi group is the most significant step yet towards ending a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions into hunger. The last coordinated cessation of hostilities nationwide was during peace talks in 2016. Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from UN headquarters in New York, said that the truce will bring much-needed relief to Yemen after seven years of war.