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Opinion: Free Oleg Sentsov

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Oleg Sentsov pictureOleg Sentsov, Ukrainian film director, screenwriter, producer and pro-Ukrainian activist and three other activists were unlawfully kidnapped from the occupied territory of Crimea by the Russian FSB agents.  All four activists were kidnapped in May, in Crimea. For days nobody knew anything about their whereabouts, as they were being kept secretly in detention by the FSB forces, without any accusations being brought against them. 

They were charged with plotting a terrorist attack and being members of terrorist organizations only after having been transferred to Russia, where they are now being held in an FSB detention facility.  Oleg Sentsov claims he is not guilty of the accusations. He has confirmed his statement in a hearing in Moscow, held on Monday 7 July, by saying he is not a slave to be passed along from one country to the other along with the land. He reiterated that he is the citizen on Ukraine and does not recognise the Russian occupation of Crimea.

According to counsels of pro-Ukrainian activists there is reason to believe that the evidence base in the case is based on confessions that were obtained from some of the activists through torture. Existing information, as well as the testimony by Oleg Sentsov during the hearing on Monday 7 July, indicate clearly that all activist were subjected to inhuman treatment and ill-treatment during the time of detention in Crimea.

The contact with the detainees is extremely limited at this point in time, therefore we have almost no information on their current state of health. The counsels were forced to sign non disclosure statements regarding the case files and the Ukrainian authorities have been rejected permission by Moscow to visit the activists in detention. Authorities in Moscow claim that the detainees, as they are residents of Crimea, are Russian citizens. Furthermore, by kidnapping the activists and transferring them to Moscow, the Russian Federation violated articles 49 and 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to international law an occupation is deemed to have taken place when a state exercises effective control over a territory on which it has no sovereign title without the consent of the state concerned. We may consider that these conditions have been met in Crimea.  The Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in the time of war specifies that as a general rule, its article 49 prohibits transfer or deportation of protected persons from the occupied territory and that the penal laws of the occupied territory should remain in force (Article 64). It means that Ukrainian Laws should be considered as being applicable in Crimea.

The EU should intervene and request information and explanation from the Russian Federation. Ukrainian authorities must categorically demand access to the detained activists as well as their immediate release. At the same time, we urge the Russian authorities to immediately free the Ukrainian activists held in detention in the FSB prison.

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

Catherine Feore

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

Reuters

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

EU Reporter Correspondent

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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