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Open Dialog: Muratbek Ketebayev released from detention in Madrid

EU Reporter Correspondent

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maxresdefaultA court in Madrid has ordered the release of the Kazakh dissident Muratbek Ketebayev (pictured) from custody. Thus, the judges found for the arguments of the Spanish Embassy in Poland, which had confirmed that he enjoys refugee status in Poland and called for his release.

Ketebayev regained his freedom late in the evening on January 15, 2015.      
Muratbek Ketebayev was arrested in Madrid on 27 December, 2014, based on an Interpol ‘red notice’. Initially, the Spanish court ordered the incarceration of Ketebayev for an indefinite period, citing the risk of him fleeing. The judge failed to acknowledge the fact that Ketebayev has been granted refugee status in Poland. The seriousness of the situation was made all the more apparent due to the fact that Spain is the first country in the EU to have concluded an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan.

The widespread campaign, launched by the Open Dialog Foundation, was joined by dozens of parliamentarians in Poland and Spain, members of the European Parliament, representatives of the OSCE, the Spanish offices of Amnesty International and the UNHCR. They cited the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, which prohibits the rendering of persons into the hands of persecutory regimes and also EU law, which obliges Spain to recognise the status granted by the Polish authorities.

"We are happy that the case of Ketebayev united many circles in Poland and Europe, and that the effective dotting of 'i's and crossing of 't's by the Polish diplomatic service in Madrid brought about his release," said Tomasz Czuwara, member of the Board of the Open Dialog Foundation.

Ketebayev is one of the most famous dissidents from Kazakhstan. In 2011, he supported striking oil workers in Zhanaozen, whose protest was violently suppressed by government forces. He co-founded the ‘Alga!’ party, whose leader is serving a sentence of 7.5 years’ imprisonment in Kazakhstan. In recent weeks, Ketebayev has published his studies, which expose the mechanisms of harassment of the opposition by the regime of Kazakhstan, in collusion with Russia.

Currently, Ketebayev is free on bail pending trial. Kazakhstan accused him of ‘conspiracy to overthrow the government’, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Kazakhstan has already made attempts to use the same fabricated accusations; in June 2013, on the basis of the same charges, with the use of Interpol, Ketebayev was arrested in Poland. However, the prosecutor's office in Lublin promptly recognized the political nature of the case, and the Polish authorities subsequently granted him refugee status.

"We hope that the Spanish justice system has done its homework on the case of Pavlov, in which they failed to properly assess the political context of the case," said Jędrzej Czerep, an analyst at the Open Dialog Foundation, referring to the Spaniards’ previous blunder. For two years now, the controversial extradition case of Alexander Pavlov, another opposition worker from Kazakhstan, has been ongoing, and has been accompanied by illegal pressure, exerted by Kazakh diplomats on judges in Madrid. Ketebayev was a witness at Pavlov’s trial. Astana accuses them of conspiring to overthrow the government.

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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