March 2017 – News Snippets

March 1, 2017

US releases National Trade Policy Agenda for 2017

The Trump Administration released the Policy Agenda which is being viewed by many critics as more evidence from the US planning to move away from the WTO due to mentions of ‘judicial overreach’ in WTO dispute settlement. However, the Agenda is not extremely radical in its wording and allows the US to make reform proposals rather than abandon WTO and take alternative options.

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ICSID’s strict interpretation of “full protection and security” in Egypt Investor-State dispute

An ICSID tribunal held that the failure of Egypt to stop terrorist attacks on a pipeline running through the Sinai area is a violation of the investment treaty obligation to provide “full protection and security.”  The decision was highly criticised as the notion that a sovereign state with limited resources and extreme security challenges must prioritise a foreign investor, reacting in real time, is close to absurd. Critics claimed that the decision does not promote due diligence but an “insurance policy-for terrorism.”

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March 2, 2017

EU Parliament temporarily reintroduces visa requirements for US and other nationals

The EU Parliament has adopted a resolution  directing the EU Commission to take measures to temporarily reintroduce visa requirements for US and other nationals whose countries still do not grant visa-free access to nationals of five EU countries—Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania.

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March 6, 2017

Trump signs New Anti-Refugee Order containing several departures from the Original Order

President Trump has passed a new Immigration Executive Order which takes effect from March 16th. Iraq, previously listed among the seven affected nations, is no longer ineligible to receive new visas. However, the six Muslim-majority countries listed on the original ban will continue to be blocked from obtaining new visas. Furthermore, the refugee program will be suspended for 120 days and will accept no more than 50,000 refugees a year.

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March 7, 2017

UK releases Report on its future trade options with EU after Brexit

The House of Commons International Trade Committee has released its First Report of the Session titled ‘UK Trade Options Beyond 2019’. The report analysis Britain’s trade prospects with both EU and non-EU countries after Brexit. The impact of a Free Trade Agreement vis-à-vis trading only under WTO rules with the EU has been studied inter alia the need to clarify customs regulations urgently.

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South Africa cancels withdrawal from ICC

South Africa informed the UN that it is cancelling its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. South Africa’s decision comes in response to the South African High Court where the Court held that the previous approval of the Parliament of South Africa had to be obtained. Consequently, the Court held Instrument of Withdrawal to be unconstitutional.

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March 9, 2017

The ICJ concludes public hearings submitted by Ukraine

Two rounds of oral observations on the request were held from 6th to 9th March at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The public hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures were submitted by Ukraine in the case concerning Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation).

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Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) refers Turkey to the UN Security Council

MICT referred Turkey to the UNSC on Monday for failing to release one of its judges. Turkey has detained Judge Aydin Sefa Akay on suspicion of being involved in last July’s failed coup. Judge Meron, President of the MICT, condemned Turkey’s action stating that Turkey’s non-compliance materially impeded the Appeals Chamber’s consideration of the merits of the Ngirabatware case and threatened the independence of the Mechanism’s judiciary.

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Statement of the President of the ICJ over ambiguities regarding the application of revision in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

On March 9th, ICJ released a press release containing a statement made by H.E. Judge Ronny Abraham, President of the ICJ. The statement deals with the ambiguities regarding the application for revision of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia). Due to lack of clarifications, the statement announced that no action could be taken with respect to the document.

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March 10, 2017

Swedish Court Rules on the Legal Capacity of Armed Groups to Establish Courts

The legal capacity of the armed groups has been debated for a long time and recently a Swedish District court has ruled that they do have the capacity under International Law to establish courts and carry out penal sentences. This is the first time any ruling has been made on the topic.

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March 14, 2017

The Evacuation of Eastern Aleppo: Humanitarian Obligation or War Crime?

On March 1, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic  released a report on the horrific events that unfolded in Aleppo last year until it was captured by the Syrian governmental forces. The Aleppo report covers acts which may amount to violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, committed by all warring parties between 21 July and 22 December 2016.

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March 15, 2017

The “Command Responsibility” controversy in Colombia

The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has given rise to complex legal debates. The key controversy is over the definition of ‘Command Responsibility’. The definition is not consistent with International Law and in particular Article 28 of the Rome Statue. On March 13th the Colombian Congress passed a constitutional reform containing a definition of command responsibility inconsistent with International Law,

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Secretary General calls for strengthening of coordination among Member States to fight Human Trafficking in Conflict Situations

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres called for strengthening of coordination among Member States, civil society, the business community and UN entities in order to embolden the struggle against Human Trafficking in Conflict Situations. In his remarks before the Security Council, he also called for increased accountability of UN military and civil personnel, empowering girls through education, respecting the rights of minorities and by establishing safe and legal channels of migration.

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March 16, 2017

War in cities: Attackers have rules to follow, What about defenders?

To limit the effects of war on civilian populations, IHL obligations restrain both attackers and defenders in armed conflict. Much has been written about the obligations of attackers with respect to protecting civilians, and international criminal law has facilitated the enforcement of IHL rules when attackers have failed to meet their legal duties. However, much less attention has been paid to the defender’s obligations. In fact, it is generally recognised that the defender’s obligations do not create individual criminal liability.

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Brexit Bill receives royal assent

Queen Elizabeth II gave her assent to EU Withdrawal Bill wherein, UK Prime Minister Theresa May  will now be empowered to begin the Brexit process under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Article 50 explains that the UK will cease to be a member of the bloc two years after the prime minister notifies the Union.

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The Eli Lilly v Canada Arbitral Award reinforces that interpretation of domestic law by domestic Courts cannot be violation of international obligations

The International Centre For Settlement of Investment Disputes gave an award in favour of the Canadian Government giving liberty to Canadian Courts to interpret the domestic law of Canada with regard to patents. Eli Lilly is a major Pharmaceutical company which alleged that the interpretation of the term “useful” in Canada’s Patent Act by the Canadian courts violates the terms of the North American Foreign Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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March 17, 2017

South Africa launches One Stop Shop to ease foreign investment procedure

President Zuma has launched the much awaited Invest SA One Stop Shop to bring all investment related services under one roof. A business person thinking of investing in South Africa would no longer have to approach different departments for various licenses. Departments like Home Affairs, Labour, Environmental Affairs, Trade and Industry, Intellectual Property Commissions etc will all be available at the One Stop Shop.

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March 20, 2017

More than 850 families of 9/11 Victims sue Saudi Arabia

On March 20th, more than 850 family members of the victims of 9/11 filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia for providing support to Al Qaeda made available only after congress passed the Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism Act, 2016. The suit alleges that Saudi Arabia funded the terrorist outfit, provided logistical and material support for indoctrination and terrorist training as well as planning and execution of the September 11th Attacks.

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March 22, 2017

IHL Does Not Authorise Detention in NIAC

On the basis of current understandings of international law – and the prohibition of arbitrary detention in particular – it is concluded that international humanitarian law must be interpreted as establishing implicit detention authority, in order to ensure the continued regulation of armed groups.

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March 24, 2017

ICC declares guilty verdict in the case of Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga, issues order for reparations

The International Criminal Court, Trial Chamber II declared a verdict in the matter of Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga. Mr. Katanga had been convicted in 2014 of war crimes and crimes against humanity due to participation and assistance in the attack on the village of Bogoro in Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. The ICC found him guilty as an accessory to one count of a crime against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) and sentenced him to a total of 12 years’ imprisonment. The Court also issued an order to provide the victims with individual and collective reparations.

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March 26, 2017

Conflicts threaten to erode gains near East and North Africa’s zero-hunger battle

Food security and nutrition levels have sharply deteriorated over the last five years in the Near East and North Africa due largely to the spread and magnitude of conflicts and protracted crises, reversing the pre-2010 trend of improvement, a new United Nations report said today. The region is facing unprecedented challenges to its food security due to multiple risks arising from conflicts, water scarcity and climate change. Countries of the region need to implement long-term and comprehensive sustainable water management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of ending hunger by 2030,” said the FAO official said.

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March 28, 2017

North Korea and the law of anticipatory self-defence

Media reports over the last few weeks indicate that the already tense relationship between North Korea and the United States is getting worse. Now that North Korea is nearly ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile, the United States has said that it will get more confrontational. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even suggested that U.S. military action against North Korea is “on the table.” Such talk is sometimes part of a broader strategy to pressure other countries to negotiate, whether at the Security Council or elsewhere. But it can also be a precursor to war. And it comes at an acute time for the law on anticipatory self-defense.

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March 29, 2017

Start of 2 year Brexit process

March 29th marked the beginning of the 2 year Brexit process of Britain’s exit from a four and a half decade membership of the European Union. Britain’s most senior envoy to Brussels, Sir Tim Barrow, handed the UK’s official divorce notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty to the European council president, Donald Tusk, marking the beginning of the process.

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March 30, 2017

Turkey detains and expels humanitarian relief workers from DanChurchAid

Ten humanitarian relief workers from DanChurchAid, who have been helping the destitute people of Syria, have been detained and interned in Gaziantep in the Southern part of Turkey by Turkish authorities. Five of them were deported from Turkey. DanChurchAid provides life-saving relief for some of the thousands of people who have stayed inside Syria and who are living under dreadful conditions.

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UN refugee agency stresses importance of search mission after latest shipwreck in Europe

150 people dead or missing after the shipwreck off the Mediterranean Coast. A 16 year old boy believed to be the only survivor. He survived by hanging on to the fuel tank, until he was rescued by a Spanish ship operating under Operation Sophia. This incident after a long line of other such incidents made the UN refugee agency to stress on the importance of saving lives at sea.

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Pakistan wants millions of Afghan refugees gone

Last summer, Pakistan announced that more than 3 million Afghan refugees — some in the country since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 — needed to go home. Since then, about 600,000 registered and undocumented Afghans refugees have been repatriated to an unstable nation where there are currently more than a million internally displaced Afghans. Rights groups and aid organisations have criticised Pakistan’s decision. Human Rights Watch has reported that the supposedly “voluntary” repatriation process is coercive and violates international law. The United Nations refugee agency warned that the mass forced return of Afghans could “develop into a major humanitarian crisis.”

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Famine in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan

The humanitarian situations in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria are verging on catastrophic. With millions facing famine, we must address the root causes of this desperate situation – and time is running out. In Yemen, the hospitals we work with have reported a 150% increase in child malnutrition cases. In South Sudan, it is estimated that one in three households urgently needs food. In Nigeria, in the state of Borno, 300,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the next twelve months. In Somalia, we are treating 23% more children under the age of five for malnutrition than in the same period in 2016.

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March 31, 2017

President Trump issues 2 Executive Orders to address US Trade Deficit

The Presidential Executive Order Regarding the Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits mandates a broad review of sources of the deficit specifically with regard to anti dumping. The Presidential Executive Order on Establishing Enhanced Collection and Enforcement of Antidumping and Countervailing Duties and Violations of Trade and Customs Laws, as the name indicates, targets AD/CVD. Non-U.S. manufacturers and producers exporting products to the United States may find that new products fall within the purview of an AD/CVD investigation and that products already under AD/CVD orders are more strictly examined.

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Scotland requests for second referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Prime Minister Theresa May to begin early discussions to allow a referendum on independence to take place stating that the people of Scotland do not wish for removal of Scotland from EU’s single market. Sturgeon also expressed her frustration with Scotland’s lack of representation in the Brexit negotiations with EU and asserted that this will have significant implications for their economy, society and place in the world.

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