Jurist

Tanzania villagers sue Barrick Gold over rights abuses

A group of Tanzanian villagers on Nov. 23 filed legal action with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Canadian mining company Barrick Gold over human rights violations at its North Mara Gold Mine. It marks the first time that the mining company has faced legal action in Canada for rights violations abroad. The plaintiffs, members of the indigenous Kurya community in northern Tanzania, allege that special "mine police" assigned by the security forces to protect the facility use extreme violence against local residents. The mine has been the site of repeated protests over environmental degradation and forced displacement of villagers. The legal action includes claims for five deaths, five incidents of torture and five injuries from shootings. 

Hong Kong: first conviction under Anthem Ordinance

A Hong Kong court on Nov. 10 sentenced citizen journalist Paula Leung to three months in prison—the first conviction under the territory's National Anthem Ordinance. The law was enacted in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020, pursuant to an act passed by the People's Republic of China in September 2017, which mandated that the semi-autonomous city bring its legal code into conformity. According to regional news outlets, Leung attended a mall screening of Olympic fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long receiving his gold medal on July 30, 2021. During the playing of the Chinese national anthem, attendees waved the colonial-era Hong Kong flag. This was found to be in violation of Article 7 of the law, which makes it a criminal offense to "insult the national anthem," punishable by up to three years imprisonment.

Ukraine: Russia accused of forced transfer of civilians

Russian forces have committed war crimes and likely crimes against humanity by unlawfully transferring or deporting civilians from occupied parts of in Ukraine to Russia or Russian-controlled territory, according to an Amnesty International report released Nov. 10. Russian and Russian-backed authorities have also forced civilians through an abusive screening process known as "filtration," during which some were arbitrarily detained, subject to torture or other ill-treatment, and separated from their children.

Peru: bill to exempt miners from oversight

The Peruvian Ministry of Environment (MINAM) on Nov. 4 issued a public statement rejecting the Congress' approval of Bill 412, which exempts bankrupt mining companies from complying with environmental certifications. The bill, introduced in October 2021 by lawmaker César Manuel Revilla of the right-wing Popular Force bloc, establishes special measures for companies in asset restructuring under bankruptcy laws. After the bill's text was approved by the relevant committees, the Executive Branch raised concerns, and sent it back to Congress for further review. However, the Congressional leadership approved the text a second time, and it was passed by a vote in plenary.

ICC rules Afghanistan investigation may proceed

Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Oct. 31 authorized prosecutors to resume their investigation into atrocities committed in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003, following a two-year hiatus. The Chamber found "that Afghanistan is not presently carrying out genuine investigations." The Chamber emphasized that the authorization is limited to crimes falling within the conflict as it existed at the time of the original investigation request in November 2017. The Chamber rejected that request in April 2019. This decision was overturned by the Appeals Chamber in March 2020. However, the investigation was halted following a request from the government of Afghanistan. ICC prosecutor Karim AA Khan sought to review the deferral in September 2021. At that time, Khan said he concluded, "there is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigations into Article 5 crimes within Afghanistan."

UN documents damage of cultural sites in Ukraine

A preliminary report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Oct. 25 revealed the extent of damage to Ukraine's cultural heritage since Russia invaded in February. UNESCO verified damage to 207 cultural sites, including 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historic or artistic interest, 18 monuments, and 10 libraries.  The report is sourced from satellite images taken before and after the start of the war by both the UN and private companies. UNESCO defines cultural properties under Article 1 of the 1954 Hague Convention (Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict). The worst damage was found to be in Donetsk region, now declared annexed by Russia, with 59 damaged sites. 

Turkey: hundreds of refugees deported to Syria

Human Rights Watch on Oct. 24 reported that Turkish authorities arbitrarily arrested, detained and deported hundreds of Syrian refugee men and boys between February and July 2022. The report found that refugees are arrested in their homes, workplaces and on the street, then detained in harsh conditions, and forced over the border to Syria.

UN report: occupation of Palestine 'unlawful'

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, on Oct. 20 released its second report, stating there are "reasonable grounds to conclude that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is now unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli Government's de-facto annexation policies." The commission called for the UN Security Council to bring to an end the "illegal situation resulting from the permanent occupation imposed by Israel" and require Israel to bring "its permanent occupation to an end immediately."

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