August 2021: Issue 1

Human Rights

France To Ratify Treaty Against Workplace Violence

In 2019, the International Labour Organization (“ILO”) had adopted the Violence and Harassment Convention, which entered into force this year on June 25th. In furtherance of various human rights instruments, the Convention affirms the right to work in a dignified workspace with equal opportunity. Thus, it condemns workspace violence and harassment, including its gender-based forms in particular. So far, six States have ratified the treaty, namely, Argentina, Ecuador, Fiji, Namibia, Somalia, and Uruguay. The ILO has launched a campaign promoting this ratification. Recently, the French Minister for Labor affirmed France’s intention to promptly ratify the treaty, which has also prompted concrete recommendations by civil rights groups for national reforms (see here and here to read further).

Mauritius’ Identity Card Law Found Illegal

On July 21st, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee’s (“HRC”) findings against Mauritius’ amendments to its national identity law were released. These amendments aimed to introduce new cards reflecting cardholders’ biometric information. The HRC found, inter alia, that the law did not include adequate guarantees against potential arbitrary use of the data sought, thus violating Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Although Mauritius attempted to defend this law as promoting the prevention of identity fraud, the ‘smart’ card was demonstrated by expert evidence to be insecure, making the replication of such data without the cardholders’ knowledge extremely easy (see here and here for more information). 

Argentinian Passports Now Recognize Non-binary Identities 

As a first in Latin America, a decree passed by Argentinian President Alberto Fernández, operating July 21st onwards, has recognized a gender category designated ‘X’ for passports and National Identity Documents. The designation may connote non-binary, undetermined, or any other self-asserted identity. Argentina previously also empowered persons to revise their names and genders in identity documents conveniently. The recent move has been commended for respecting privacy, non-discrimination, and similar guarantees (see here and here).

Conflicts And Security

Bombing In Iraq During Eid-al-Adha

Over thirty civilians were killed and others injured in the al-Wuhailat market in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, during the eve of Eid-al-Adha. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, alleging that one of its members committed suicide bombing. Investigations in Iraq have begun, and it is suspected that more attacks in Baghdad and other provinces had been conspired during the Eid eve. This is the third instance in 2021 where a densely populated area has been bombed in Baghdad. The incident, which also resulted in the deaths of various children, has attracted significant international condemnation.

Month-long Curfew Amidst Violence In Afghanistan

A month-long curfew has been imposed by the Afghan Government in furtherance of their responses against the Taliban. As the United States’ (“US”) forces are withdrawing from Afghan territory officially since May, the Taliban has swiftly retaken border crossings and other key areas. A recent report claims that Taliban-held areas in Kandahar have seen over 33 assassinations, including religious scholars and tribal elders. Meanwhile, the Taliban has demanded the removal of President Ashraf Ghani as a precondition to reaching peace. Recently, the United Nations’ Mission in Afghanistan’s compound’s main compound on Herat was also attacked, with various casualties. Complex dialogues continue on these developments, with a focus on the implications of the US’ past interventions and its withdrawal, and the impact of COVID-19 on the conflict (see here, here and here). 

Environment

China launches Emission Trading Scheme

China has finally launched its Carbon Emission Trading Scheme (“ETS”), touting it to become the largest in the world by volume. The ETS has been launched on the Shanghai Environment and Energy Exchange and currently covers the energy sector only. The ETS was first pledged by President Xi Jinping before the signing of the Paris Accords in 2015, and comes in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) scheduled for later this year. While the ETS is part of China’s aim of reaching net zero emissions by 2060, analysts say that the measure may not contribute much to this objective due to fears of oversupply of allowances, absence of a cap on emissions, and the limited scope of the ETS as it currently only covers the energy sector (see more here and here.

EC adopts “Fit for 55” proposal to reduce carbon emissions by 2030

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to limit carbon emissions and is part of the European Union’s (“EU”) goal to become the first carbon neutral continent by 2050, an aim mentioned in the European Green Deal. The plan has been named “Fit for 55” as it contains policy proposals that would help the EU to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The plan must still be approved by the European Parliament and its 27 members (read more here).

International Trade 

Costa Rica Raises Dispute Against Dominican Republic

Costa Rica has formally requested a consultation with the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica wishes to challenge Dominican Republic’s decision to impose anti-dumping duties on steel bar products imported from Costa Rica. The request was circulated on 27th July, if consultation fails to provide a satisfactory solution then Costa Rica can request for the creation of a panel (see here to read further).

Panel Report Circulated on the School Exercise Dispute

On 27th July a WTO panel report supported Tunisia’s claim that the anti-dumping duties imposed by Morocco on Tunisian school books were unjustified. The dispute arose in January 2019 when Morocco imposed anti-dumping duties on school books from Tunisia. The panel concluded that Morocco did not adequately account for all the evidence concerning the export price and the adjustment to transportation costs as per Article 5.3 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement (see here to read further).

EU Challenging Russian Import Substitution

The European Union (EU) has requested for dispute consultation following Russian measures which allegedly form a part of an import substitution program. The EU believes that the measures have restricted the ability of EU companies to sell products to Russian State-owned enterprises (see here and here to read further).

Panel Created to Review Chinese Measures Against Canadian Canola Seeds

On 26th July, WTO members agreed to form a panel to review China’s compliance with Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQ) on certain agricultural products. China has suspended canola seed imports from Richardson International and Viterra (two large canola seed producers from Canada) and increased the inspection for canola seeds. China is Canada’s largest market for canola seeds and is costing its producers 2 billion dollars in sales. Canada tried to bring the dispute before a panel earlier on 28th June but was blocked by China and the WTO dispute settlement body decided to postpone the matter.

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