July 2021: Issue 1

Human Rights

Alarming Use of Pegasus Spyware

The spyware was developed by an Israeli based cybersecurity firm and has been discovered to have been used by governments to spy on journalists and opposition leaders. Concerns about the spyware were first raised in 2016 when it was used to target WhatsApp users. On July 18th Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories (Paris based NGO) revealed the use of Pegasus for over 50,000 phone numbers all over the world. Fears have been raised that the software is linked to the “arrest, intimidation and even killing of journalists and human rights defenders…”.

Belarus Officials Raid Political Dissenters’ Residences And Offices

Recently, Belarusian authorities have raided the residences and offices of over sixty human rights advocates, activists, journalists, and civil rights organizations. This is in furtherance of continuing trends in Belarus, where the political opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko have been branded as extremists and the police powers of the State have been used to suppress them. The overall number of political prisoners in Belarus has now arisen to over 550. The crackdown has received considerable international condemnation (see here, here, and here for further reading). 

UAE Activist fears Retaliation After Detailing Mistreatment During Detention

Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights defender faced a 10 year prison sentence following a grossly unfair trial. Mansoor has written a letter to Arab121 (London based Arabic news site) detailing inhumane treatment like indefinite solitary confinement and the deprivation of basic necessities like a bed and mattress (to read more click here).  

Death Of Father Stan Swamy

The 84 year old tribal rights activist, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, was arrested in 2018 for supposed Maoists links in the Bhima Koregaon case in Pune. Father Swamy has faced numerous hurdles during his detention like the denial of access to a straw, which was necessary due to his illness and also tested positive for COVID-19 during detention. On July 5th, Father Swamy suffered a cardiac arrest which resulted in his death. Father Swamy was repeatedly denied bail for over 3 years which resulted in the steep decline of his health. The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner (OHCHR) considered Father Swamy’s treatment as a stain on India’s human rights record. 


International Trade

New Fisheries Subsidies Agreement Close to Completion

The agreement which has been in the making for the last 20 years serves to control overfishing in the global oceans which has had a deep impact on low income coastal communities. The goal of the agreement is to curtail state subsidies that promotes excessive fishing. India, though, has expressed concerns that the agreement will prevent the access of necessary subsidies to small poor fishermen who require it for their basic livelihood. 

WTO Director General Reinvigorate need for for UN Sustainable Development Goals

In a keynote address to the UN’s high level political forum on sustainable development, Dr Iweala emphasised on the role of trade towards sustainable development and to combat COVID-19. Dr. Iweala highlighted the importance of the fisheries subsidies agreement in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (to read more click here).


International Relations

New Non-Permanent Security Council Members

Under the 75th session of the General Assembly, the following States have been elected to serve as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2022-23: Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and the UAE. As per official tallies, Ghana received 185 votes, Gabon 183, Brazil 181, the UAE 179, and Albania 175. The other current non-permanent members whom these States shall join are India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, and Norway. While Brazil has served on the Council on ten previous instances, this is the first time Albania will be joining as a non-permanent member. The States’ tenure shall commence on January 1, 2022, lasting until 31 December, 2023 (see here to read more). 

UK Blocked from Re-joining Lugano Convention

The Lugano Convention (2007) is a European accord that determines which States may hear ‘civil’ and ‘commercial’ cross-border disputes between the member States of the European Union (“EU”), Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Moreover, it enables the recognition of such judgments across the State parties, which would ease litigation for claimants seeking redress outside their own States. This is crucial especially given the rise of such disputes in COVID-19. Since the United Kingdom had exited the EU, its membership in this framework expired in December, 2020. Recently, the European Union has blocked its attempts to rejoin the accord (to read more, see here and here).

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