This week’s stories in focus:
BREAKING: Shamima Begum wins the right to return to Britain to fight her citizenship case
The Court of Appeal has ruled that Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria in 2015 and married a Dutch ISIS recruit, could not make her citizenship case from a Syrian refugee camp. Human Rights Organisation, Liberty, has welcomed the ruling saying “equal access to justice must apply to everyone”. But the UK Government hopes to appeal the decision, saying it was “very disappointing”.
US drone strike on Iranian General was unlawful, UN report concludes
A report by Agnes Callamard, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, has concluded that the US drone strike that killed a senior Iranian General violated international law. The report states that evidence does not support any justification for the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani in January this year. In particular, the UN expert said that the US had not provided enough proof that Soleimani’s activities constituted an “imminent threat to life”, and therefore the attack amounted to “arbitrary killing.”
The UN Special Rapporteur went further, calling for greater regulation on the military use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), warning that the proliferation of UAVs (known as drones) risks destabilising global peace and security. She also noted that the states using them to fight the ‘war on terror’ currently face no accountability for their deployment. She proclaimed that the “targeted killing of General Soleimani….is not just a slippery slope. It is a cliff.”; appealing for the UN Security Council to meet to debate the self-defence claim (the justification most commonly used to carry out drone strikes in counter-terrorism operations).
President Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani in early January, and shortly afterwards, the Pentagon released a statement saying “General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region….. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” Professor of International Law at the University of Copenhagen, Kevin Jon Heller, cast doubts on the legality of the strike, commenting “the legality of an attack depends on the immediacy of the threat that it aims to avert”.
Defenders of the use of drones point to their apparent ‘precision’ which they claim reduces the numbers of civilian casualties. However, the UN expert called this claim “illusory” and the idea of the ‘surgical strike’ a “myth”. The lack of oversight and the secret nature of the drone program have given rise to a significant underreporting of the harm caused to civilian populations targeted by the ‘war on terror’.
Following the release of the report, the United States hit back, saying Ms Callamard was effectively “giving a pass to terrorists”. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo strenuously defended the strike adding that Ms Callamard “gives more cause to distrust UN human rights mechanisms.”
Coalition to defend freedom of expression in Lebanon announced
A “Coalition to Defend Freedom of Expression in Lebanon” was announced this week by 14 Lebanese and international organizations . The initiative was prompted by an expanding campaign of repression by the Lebanese Government against the people.
Lebanese authorities launched a crackdown on activists and people who posted defamatory posts against the government during the ‘2015-2019 Anti- government protests’. As many as 60 activists and people were detained and questioned in regard to their social media posts concerning accusations of corruption towards high ranking officials such as the President and reporting on worsening economic and political situation in the country.
The documented cases are proof of mistreatment by prosecution and security agencies as a tool to intimidate and silence voices that were raised against the President. Before any case was transferred to the Court, there were a range of physical and psychological interrogation tactics used to coerce signed pledges that activists would not resort to writing any defamatory content against the government in future. The promises have no legal sanctity since they violate the fundamental right of free speech and expression.
On June 15th this year, the country’s top prosecutor ordered a security agency to investigate social media posts deemed offensive to the president labelling it a move to amend the old Media Laws and bring it in line with today. “Parliament should urgently bring the media law in line with international law and prioritize the decriminalization of defamation and insults” said the coalition.
Lebanon’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression “within the limits established by law.” The Lebanese penal code criminalizes defamation against public officials and authorizes imprisonment of up to one year in such cases. The code also authorizes imprisonment up to two years for insulting the president and up to three years for insulting religious rituals. These laws, many of them older than the country’s independence, are enforced by prosecutors today. The country will see a dark future if the laws are not soon amended and implemented in line with international human rights obligations.
Other stories making the headlines around the world
- World Population Day: ‘No time to waste’ in empowering women (UN News)
- HRC urged to address women’s rights impacts of the pandemic (UN News)
- Human Rights Watch urges Burundi President to prioritise human rights (Human Rights Watch)
- Nigerian migrant worker back home after ordeal in Lebanon (Al Jazeera)
- South Sudan: Soldiers Kill Civilians in Land Dispute (Human Rights Watch)
- Trump’s new asylum proposals could have devastating effects for LGBTQ people (Forbes)
- Venezuela security forces accused of human rights abuses (Al Jazeera)
- A taxing problem: how to ensure the poor and vulnerable don’t shoulder the cost of the COVID-19 crisis ( UN News)
- Philippines uses drug war tactics to tackle COVID-19 (UN News)
- Ukraine: Independent Journalist Threatened (Human Rights Watch)
- Paedophile loses Human Rights Court challenge (BBC News)
- In Yemen, thousands of Ethiopian migrants stranded, COVID-19 likely widespread (UN News)
- Security Council extends for one year, lifesaving cross-border aid to Syria ( UN News)
- Bahrain court upholds death sentence against two men in 2014 case (Al Jazeera)