October 2020: Series 1

Trade Law

WTO DG Selection Process

Raghav Agrawal

Mr. Roberto Azevedo stepped down as the Director General of the WTO on 31st August and the elections for the next DG are underway. Initially, 8 candidates where nominated but 3 have dropped out after failing to secure enough votes in the first round of voting. The remaining five candidates are:

The biographies of all the candidates along with their statements to the general council can be found here

Human Rights

New Myanmar Militia Video Testimony Admits to Following ‘extermination’ Orders: Valuable Evidence For Genocide Conviction?

Ruchi Chaudhury

A video surfaced recently in which two soldiers from Myanmar’s Arakan rebel militia describe being given extermination orders against the Rohingya, and admit their participation in killings, rapes, pillaging villages and burying bodies in mass graves. This contradicts Myanmar’s claims that combative action against the Rohingya was a necessary response to contain Rohingya-led uprisings where they destroyed their own villages to hoodwink the international community’s opinion.   

The video testimony assumes significance as Myanmar and their leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi currently respond to parallel proceedings against them before the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and also before Argentitnian courts, for alleged crimes against the Rohingya, including genocide.  

Myanmar says that the testimony was coerced under duress, and the Arakan Army has denounced the soldiers as ‘deserters’ who cannot be trusted to speak truthfully.  The veracity of this new evidence, including the current status of the two soldiers remains to be verified, and questions run about their potential use as admissible evidence against Myanmar in the multiple cases they face.  

More notably, the video’s significance lies in the fact that it constitutes the first piece of relevant evidence collected from the alleged perpetrators — as much of the allegations have till now abounded from the Rohingya victims. If admissible, this video as witness testimony may supply the crucial legal requirement of ‘intent’ (mens rea) necessary to secure conviction on genocide charges.  

Is there anything in the ICJ or ICC statutes, or in international law precedents that bars the video’s admissibility? Read further on this post by Jing Min Tan that examines the newfound evidence to discuss its legal implications for the proceedings pending before the ICC and ICJ. 

Read more here.

Human Rights Updates

Aditi Nagpal

Annual Panel Discussion, Human Rights Council: Integrating Gender

The Human Rights Council on 28th September 2020 held its annual panel discussion of the integration of a gender perspective throughout its work and its mechanism. This is in line with the Council’s work on strengthening intersectional perspectives and gender diversity in its operation. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights particularly stressed on the mandate of the council to become more intersectional by citing the example of the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women especially those living in poverty and those belonging to ethnic and racial minorities.

Specific issues that were raised were concerned with making provisions for women and girls affected by discrimination during migration, black women affected by the pandemic, indigenous migrant women and addressing the marginalization faced by women engaged in sex work. Some possible solutions discussed were inclusion of more women on the Council and an intersectional analysis on the distribution of power in different contexts.

This discussion was also marked as a high priority responsibility for the Council with only ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Read a summary of the meeting here.

UN Independent Expert: COVID-19 and Enjoyment of Human Rights by Older Persons

UN Independent Expert on enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Claudia Mahler, presented a report before the Human Rights Council on the 1st October 2020. The Report revealed the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and stated that the pandemic had exacerbated pre-existing violations. The most alarming aspect revealed by the report was the lack of data on older persons, seriously fragmenting the lived experiences of older persons. This manifests in exclusion of such persons from surveys and national censuses which affects the ability of researchers to understand the implementation of their rights in society. The Report called for several measures aimed at improving data collection, such as clearly laid out standards and reporting requirements, disaggregation, and the use of digital technology to make the process more efficient.

Read the Report here, and read more here.

Maritime & Public International Law

EU warns Turkey Against Sanctions: Continued Drilling in Eastern Mediterranean

Sahibnoor Singh Sidhu

Tensions have once again reached a new high between Turkey on the one hand and Cyprus and Greece on the other, ever since Turkey started drilling in the Mediterranean ahead of talks to delimitate the maritime boundaries. These tensions had been brewing for about a year, since Turkey and Libya signed a deal, demarcating their maritime boundaries- a deal which was criticised by both Cyprus and Greece. 

It is important to note here that Turkey doesn’t consider Cyprus to be a different country and claims the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to be a part of Turkey. This has been used as one of its rationales to justify drilling in this region.

Turkey also implements a peculiar understanding of maritime law which includes the concept that delimitation between an island nation and a non-island nation should not be done equitably.

Read more here, here and here.

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