International Law News: Week of Jan 24th

‘Magic Mushrooms’ – Source: John Hopkins University 2021

Calls for changes in the international categorization of psilocybin and including climate refugees within the legal narrative.

Monday 24th January, 2022:

MAGIC MUSHROOMS: The International Therapeutic Psilocybin Rescheduling Initiative – a global coalition of psychedelics research and advocacy institutions – has been launched to reschedule psilocybin (the active ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’) under the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Rescheduling psilocybin would give governments legal and scientific permission to conduct research into its beneficial properties.
The Convention on Psychotropic Substances has been signed by all 182 UN member states and divides substances in to four schedules based upon their “touted toxicity and potential for abuse.” At present, psilocybin falls under Schedule 1 – reserved for the ‘most’ dangerous of drugs with no therapeutic value which pose significant risk to public health. In November, the largest clinical trial to date examined psilocybin and discovered just one session “significantly reduce symptoms of depression in at least one quarter of participants with treatment-resistant depression.”

CLIMATE REFUGEES: Climate change has undoubtedly caused mass migration: the record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season affected 4.7 million Hondurans in 2020, and tens of thousands made the difficult decision to leave. To fall under the remits of refugee law, one must have justifiable fear of persecution in their home state. Persecution is limited to “grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” – moving after facing an environmental disaster means one is unable to meet the legal threshold of ‘refugee’ and thus unable to receive the protections afforded to refugees.
The World Bank estimates 216 million people will be displaced by 2050. Climate-induced migration is inevitable and many will seek refuge across borders even if invisible under refugee law. Climate disruptions vary so widely that defining ‘climate migrant refugee’ will be incredibly complex; there’s ‘climate migrant,’ ‘climate change related-migration,’ ‘environmental migrants,’ and ‘environmentally displaced peoples.’ The UN Refugee Agency has already established links between climate change and persecution, but recognition is not enough. International law must be urgently overhauled.

Additional pieces worth a read:
The near future of international law in cyberspace: Contentions and realities – Observer Research Foundation
On Abortion Law, the U.S. Is Unusual. Without Roe, It Would Be, Too – The New York Times

“Pakistan’s Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad, left, administrates the oath of office to Ayesha Malik in Islamabad, Pakistan on Monday.” – Source: NPR, 2022 

Pakistan has its first female Supreme Court Judge, and the US has issued its report concerning China’s intimidation of other states utilizing the South China Sea.

Tuesday 25th January, 2022:

PAKISTAN: Justice Ayesha Malik has made history by swearing in as Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court judge, where she will serve alongside 16 men. Her nomination was particularly contentious, but has been celebrated by human rights activists across the country. Women only account for 17% of judges overall, and just under 4.4% of high court judges. Pakistan is the only South Asian state to have never had a female Supreme Court judge.
Malik has appeared as an expert witness in family law cases in England and Australia involving issues of child custody, women’s rights and constitutional protection for Pakistani women. In 2021, she was a crucial part of the case outlawing the invasive and medically-discredited ‘virginity test’ performed on women who reported being the victim of sexual assault or rape. Her 30-page opinion said the practice “offends the dignity of the female victim.”

SOUTH CHINA SEA: The U.S. State Department has released a report to “debunk China’s extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea.” The report is designed to be used by US allies, to provide information and a grounding against an increasingly aggressive China. The study took two years to complete, and found that China’s actions had no basis in law – they are in direct contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Whilst the US is not a signatory to this convention, they abide by the laws ‘in spirit.’
China has used its naval militia to “harass and intimidate” nations that pass through the South China Sea, and have refused to accept the findings of an international tribunal in a dispute with the Philippines indicating their belief in ‘historic rights’ over the waters.

Additional pieces worth a read:
The International Monetary Fund tells El Salvador it shouldn’t use Bitcoin as legal tender – The Verge
UN Security Council press statement on recent terrorist attack in Iraq – Relief Web

The UAE’s new cybercrime law contravenes fundamental international human rights law. Source – The New Arab, 2019

The UAE’s new cybercrime law faces international critique, Israel’s retaliation against the possibility of a damaged reputation, and a change in the US Supreme Court’s lineup.

Wednesday 26th January, 2022:

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A statement has been published by 15 civil society organizations against the UAE’s new cybercrime law. They allege it is “severely threaten[ing] and unduly restrict[ing] the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.” The new law criminalizes acts legal under international law, such as orchestrating peaceful assembly without prior governmental approval and “imposes a full prohibition on any form of political opposition within the UAE.”
The language is purposefully ambiguous to permit authoritarian misuse, especially under the guise of national security.

ISRAEL: A UN commission formed to investigate the violence in Gaza last May and its root causes is set to face a campaign by the Israeli government to discredit its work, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Israeli officials are concerned the commission will refer to the state as an ‘Apartheid state,’ damaging the Israel’s reputation. Israel has declined to cooperate with the inquiry; they have had previous success with discrediting UN commissions – investigators have resigned, and the judge behind an examination of the 2008 Gaza war later rescinded some of his conclusions.

US SUPREME COURT: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bryer has announced his retirement once his term ends. He is the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing, and has authored major opinions upholding the Affordable Care Act and affirming free speech rights of students off campus. Stepping down at this point in Biden’s presidency ensures he can be replaced by another liberal justice, allowing Biden to fulfill one of his campaign promises – unless he acts slowly and Republicans take the Senate in midterms.
President Biden has promised to place a black woman on the court; potential nominees include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Judge Leondra Kruger, and Judge J. Michelle Childs.

Additional pieces worth a read:
International Law in the “State of Nature”: A Contradiction in Terms – Jurist
Yemen: US-made weapon used in air strike that killed scores in escalation of Saudi-led coalition attacks – Amnesty International

“Yasmen Almashan from Syria holds a poster with pictures of her five brothers who died in Syria as she waits in front of the court in Koblenz, Germany, for the verdict in the trial of Anwar Raslan.” Source – AP Photo, 2022.

The power of universal jurisdiction giving Syrian victims of atrocities some solace, and Polish-Belarusian tensions grow with its border wall.

Thursday 27th January, 2022:

CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: A former Syrian intelligence official has been convicted of crimes against humanity in a German court. Anwar R. was found guilty of “overseeing the torture of thousands of detainees, dozens of murders, as well as rapes and sexual assaults” in a detention center in Damascus. He has been sentenced to life in prison. This trial was the first in the world to address the large-scale state-sponsored torture in Syria; it was able to proceed in Germany thanks to their acceptance of universal jurisdiction.
A second trial in Germany for crimes against humanity committed in Syria – held in Frankfurt rather than Koblenz – started on January 19th under the same principle of universal jurisdiction. Syrian victims of atrocities can only have recourse through universal jurisdiction because Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court, and both Russia and China have blocked the UN Security Council from investigating crimes in Syria.

POLAND: Poland has started construction on its $394 million border wall to stop migrants forced across by Belarus in what the EU has called a “hybrid attack.” The Polish government’s politics are staunchly right-wing and are opposed to taking in large numbers of migrants. The wall will be 5.5m tall, topped with barbed wire and will run for more than 180km between Poland and Belarus.
The EU has said the authoritarian Belarusian leader is using migrants to destabilize the 27-state collective in retaliation for its sanctions on Minsk, following an election widely deemed as rigged. Critics and environmentalists have condemned the construction of the wall, saying it will not stop migrants and will cause unnecessary destruction of the Bialowieza forest.

Additional pieces worth a read:
Boys Held as Hostages by ISIS Worry Rights Activists – The New York Times
European nations issue record €1.1 billion in GDPR fines – CSO

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