Jurist

Cuba approves harsh new penal code

The National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's parliament, on May 15 approved a new penal code as part of judicial reforms initiated after the adoption of a new constitution in April 2019. President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former President Raul Castro, who governed from 2008 to 2018, attended the session. The new penal code reinforces sanctions for acts linked to economic and administrative corruption, with broadened scope for new economic actors. It also incorporates new penalties to address gender-based and family violence. Controversially, the new code tightly controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals, and explicitly bans foreign financing. Under the new code, those who give information to international organizations, associations or other individuals who have not been authorized by the government. face severe penalties. These include 10-30 years imprisonment and, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

Israel high court approves Temple Mount development

The Israeli Supreme Court on May 15 ruled in favor of the government's planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem's mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will "reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City." However, the decision has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects, environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car's path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path, as it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Ir-Amim advocacy group tweeted: "Folks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they're cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians."

ICC reveals Libya investigation strategy

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim AA Khan on April 28 revealed a new strategy for the ongoing investigation into the situation in Libya to the UN Security Council. The ICC investigation focuses on accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Libya since the outbreak of the revolution against Moammar Qaddafi's government in February 2011. The investigation also covers three unexecuted arrest warrants issued by the ICC. The ICC began its investigation in March 2011. Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute. Therefore, the ICC derives its jurisdiction for this investigation from a unanimous reference by the Security Council in Resolution 1970.

Win for Nicaragua in maritime dispute with Colombia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on April 21 ruled that Colombia must end its "interference" in parts of the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, and bring under control fishing and other activities in the zone. This culminates a long conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia. In two rulings in 2007 and 2012, the ICJ recognized the sovereignty of Colombia in the islands constituting the Archipelago of San Andrés. However, the rulings also recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters. Colombia continued its activities in those waters, prompting Nicaragua to file a new complaint with the Court in 2013. Colombia argued that its actions were necessary to fight drug trafficking and secure environmental protection of the waters. In its new ruling, the ICJ found that these waters are within the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua, and the "intervention" of another state is contrary to international law.

El Salvador: state of emergency over gang violence

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency March 27 at the request of President Nayib Bukele, in response to a sharp increase in the number of killings by criminal gangs. The emergency regimen seeks to dismantle criminal structures by prohibiting associations and disrupting their communications. It also extends the "administrative detention" period, and suspends certain constitutional freedoms.

ICC takes CAR war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 14 announced that former militia leader Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka (Mokom), who is suspected to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic (CAR), has been surrendered by the Republic of Chad. A warrant for Mokom's arrest was issued in December 2018, when the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber II determined that Mokom was the "National Coordinator of Operations" for the Anti-Balaka militia. In this capacity, he is believed to have committed murder, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution and other crimes against humanity. He also allegedly committed war crimes by targeting civilians. 

UN warns of 'catastrophic' crisis in Yemen

UN agency chiefs on March 14 stated that war-torn Yemen's hunger crisis is "teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe," with more than 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in the coming months. The number experiencing "catastrophic" levels of hunger is projected to increase five times from the current 31,000 to a staggering 161,000, taking the number of those with emergency needs to 7.3 million by the end of 2022. "These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions," World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said.

UN Human Rights Council to investigate Russian violations in Ukraine

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on March 4 adopted a resolution to establish an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate charges of gross violations by Russian forces in Ukraine. After holding a moment of silence for Ukrainian victims, HRC members passed the resolution overwhelmingly, in a 32–2 vote. Among the 32 countries voting in favor of the resolution were France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, the UK, and the US. The only two countries voting against were Russia and Eritrea. Several other countries, including Bolivia, Cameroon, China, and Cuba, abstained.

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