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Groundbreaking statement by 200 European legal scholars upholds right to #BDS for Palestinian rights

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Mideast-Egypt-Israel_Horo2-635x357Marking the 10 December UN Human Rights Day, which this year raises the slogan 'Stand up for someone's rights today', around 200 legal scholars and practicing lawyers from 15 European states have issued a statement that stands for Palestinian rights and considers the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality as “a lawful exercise of freedom of expression”.

The legal scholar’s statement was issued in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Dutch.

The list of statement signatories includes world-renowned legal figures of the prominence of South African jurist John Dugard, who served at the International Court of Justice; Sir Geoffrey Bindman, honorary Queen’s Counsel in the UK; José Antonio Martín Pallín, former Supreme Court judge in Spain; Alain Pellet, Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in France; Guy Goodwin-Gill, former Legal Adviser for the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); Eric David, former legal counsel for the Council of Europe and the Belgian government; Robert Kolb, former legal expert with the ICRC and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Marco Sassòli, former deputy head of the ICRC’s legal division; Michael Mansfield, UK Queen’s Counsel; Lauri Han nikainen, Member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI); and Géraud de la Pradelle, who led the civic inquiry into the involvement of France in the 2004 Rwanda genocide.

While not taking a position for or against BDS, the European legal scholars’ statement defended the right to pursue Palestinian rights under international law through BDS measures against Israel. It said: “States that outlaw BDS are undermining this basic human right and threatening the credibility of human rights by exempting a particular state from the advocacy of peaceful measures designed to achieve its compliance with international law.”

Robert Kolb, who served as a legal expert with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, said: “The right of citizens to advocate for BDS is part and parcel of the fundamental freedoms protected by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.”

John Dugard, who served at the International Court of Justice, said: “No government ever attempted to outlaw or criminalize the Anti-Apartheid Movement for advocating boycott, disinvestment or sanctions to compel South Africa to abandon its racist policies.  BDS should be seen as a similar movement and treated accordingly.”

Eric David, former legal counsel of the Council of Europe and the Belgian government, explained why civil society has increasingly supported BDS against Israel saying: “It is in response to [the] irresponsible passivity of States that civil society created the BDS movement. Repression of BDS, therefore, comes as support of Israel’s violations of international law, and of the failure of States to perform their commitment made in 2005 to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’”

Welcoming the groundbreaking legal scholars’ statement on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, Ingrid Jaradat said: “This is a defining moment in the struggle against Israel’s patently repressive legal war on the BDS movement for Palestinian rights. Leading European jurists have now confirmed that advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights under international law is a legally-guaranteed right for Europeans and indeed all citizens of the world. Israel's desperate attempts to outlaw the BDS movement and to legally bully its supporters into silence threatens democratic space, the jurists said in their critical statement.

“By joining Israel’s anti-democratic war of repression on BDS, the governments of France and the UK have become more isolated than ever. In addition to this definitive endorsement by European legal scholars for the right to BDS, the European Union, as well as the governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Ireland, along with hundreds of European political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations, have unequivocally stated their support for the right of citizens to engage in boycotts against the Israeli state.”

BNC’s Europe Campaigns Co-ordinator Riya Hassan added: “The BDS movement has grown tremendously across Europe in recent years, mainly spurred by popular outrage at Israel’s impunity in entrenching its decades-long regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinian people.

“This momentous statement by European jurists not only vindicates BDS human rights defenders who have insisted that BDS is protected free speech. It will undoubtedly add a crucial layer of legal protection for European BDS networks and citizens in their efforts to end European complicity in Israel’s regime of oppression, especially in military trade and research, banking, and corporate involvement in Israel’s violations of international law.”

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Appeal judges refuse extradition of top Romanian businessman who suffered 'flagrantly unfair' trial

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An order for the extradition of Gabriel Popoviciu (pictured), a high-profile Romanian businessman, from the UK to Romania has been quashed. The High Court in London described Popoviciu’s case as “extraordinary”, writes Martin Banks.

The Court found that there was credible evidence to show that the trial judge who convicted Popoviciu in Romania - whilst holding judicial office, and over a number of years - corruptly assisted “underworld” businessmen with their legal matters. In particular, the trial judge had provided “improper and corrupt assistance” to the complainant, and chief prosecution witness in Popoviciu’s case, including the soliciting and receiving of bribes.  

The trial judge’s failure to disclose his pre-existing corrupt relationship with the complainant - and the Romanian authorities’ failure properly to investigate this link - were of central, damning importance.

The Court therefore concluded that Popoviciu was not tried by an impartial tribunal and that he had “suffered a complete denial” of his fair trial rights as protected by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court further concluded that the serving of a prison sentence based on an improper conviction would be “arbitrary” and that extraditing Popoviciu would consequently represent a “flagrant denial” of his right to liberty as protected by Article 5 of the European Convention.

The Court accordingly quashed the order for extradition and allowed the appeal.

This is the first time that the High Court has concluded that extradition to an EU Member State represents a real risk of a “flagrant denial” of a requested person’s Convention rights.

As leading British legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg explained, since 2004, the European arrest warrant has allowed fast-track extradition between members of the EU. Mutual recognition is based on the understanding that each EU state can trust the judicial processes of every other member state.

Rozenberg went on to say: “It’s easy to say that if this is the standard of justice in a country that has been an EU member since 2007, the UK is better off without the European arrest warrant. On the other hand Popoviciu’s extradition (strictly speaking, “surrender”) was ordered before the UK left the EU and the appeal result would have been the same regardless of Brexit.”

He added: “The real lesson of this case is a more chastening one: you don’t have to travel far to find judicial behaviour that would be unthinkable in the UK. It should also be unthinkable in the EU.”

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EAPM: HTA delays, EMA…and beating cancer

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Greetings, colleagues, and here’s the latest European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update as we approach what we hope will be a normal ‘summer’. It’s all just a bit different and better this year, of course, with the vaccine rates picking up. While a lot of countries are winding-back their lockdown processes slowly but surely, it remains to be seen how many of us will have the oppurtunity to take a holiday abroad - wherever that may be - amid continuing fears in respect of COVID-19 variants. Some daring souls have made their reservation, of course, but  ‘staycations’ are in some cautious travellers likely to be the order of the day this time around again, with many deciding to holiday in their own countries. In the meantime, don’t forget that EAPM has a virtual conference coming up very soon - in less than two weeks, in fact, on Thursday, 1 July, writes EAPM Executive Director Dr. Denis Horgan. 

Entitled Bridging Conference: Innovation, Public Trust and Evidence: Generating Alignment to facilitate personalized Innovation in Health Care Systems, the conference acts as a bridging event between the EU Presidencies of Portugal and Slovenia.

Alongside our many great speakers, attendees will be drawn from leading experts in the personalised medicine arena – including patients, payers, health-care professionals, plus industry, science, academia and the research field.

Each session will comprise panel discussions as well as Q&A sessions to allow the best possible involvement of all participants, so now is the time to register here, and download your agenda here.

HTA deal

On Wednesday, (16 June) EU deputy ambassadors signed off on the Portuguese Council presidency’s latest health technology assessment (HTA) proposal so it can move to trilogues on 21 June. Countries are willing to shorten the date of application and compromise on the voting system, but are not eager to budge on Article 8 — a debate that could delay the deal. In the event there are divergent opinions, EU countries agreed that any country must explain the scientific basis for contrarian views. 

EMA reform proposal – EU common position agreed

EU health ministers have met for the last time under Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU to agree on that body’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament on new rules to strengthen the role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (15 June) chaired by Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido, the 27 governments agreed on their position for the upcoming negotiations with the Parliament.

They had already agreed on some changes to the initial proposal presented by the European Commission in November on the revision of rules to strengthen the mandate of the EMA, as part of a broader package on the so-called European Health Union.

One of the main objectives of the new draft EMA rules is to better enable it to monitor and mitigate potential and actual shortages of medicines and medical devices that are considered critical to respond to public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed shortcomings in this regard.

The proposal also aims to “ensure the timely development of high-quality, safe and efficacious medicines, with particular emphasis on responding to public health emergencies” and to “provide a framework for the operation of expert panels that assess high-risk medical devices and provide essential advice on crisis preparedness and management”.

Life after cancer with BECA 

The Parliament’s special committee for beating cancer (BECA) held a hearing on national cancer control programmes on Wednesday to hear how different countries were tackling the challenge. 

Despite advances in cancer diagnoses and effective therapies which have helped to increase survival rates, cancer survivors continue to experience significant challenges. According to Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, cancer should be tackled across the entire disease pathway, from prevention to improving the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. In fact, ensuring that survivors “live long, fulfilling lives, free from discrimination and unfair obstacles” is of utmost importance. 

Life after cancer is multifaceted yet the focus of this online debate is on the implementation of policies addressing the specific challenge of returning to work for cancer survivors. 

Northern Ireland cross-border health care directive reinstated

Health Minister Robin Swann is to reinstate the cross-border health care directive to the Republic of Ireland. The directive is a temporary measure for a 12-month period to help reduce Northern Ireland waiting lists and will be subject to strict criteria. 

The minister said: “A key principle of our health service is that access to services is based on clinical need, not on an individual’s ability to pay. However we are in exceptional times and we must look at every option to tackle the waiting lists in Northern Ireland. 

“Reinstating a limited version of the cross-border health-care directive to Ireland will not have a dramatic impact on the overall waiting lists, but it will provide an opportunity for some to have their treatment much earlier. 

“We need an urgent and collective approach across government to tackle this issue and deliver a health service that is fit for the 21st century.” 

The Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme sets out a framework, based on the Cross-Border Health Care Directive that will allow patients to seek and pay for treatment in the private sector in Ireland and have the costs reimbursed by the Health and Social Care Board. Costs will be reimbursed up to the cost of the treatment in Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. 

Survey reveals attitudes of public toward rare diseases and medicines access 

The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) has published a report presenting the findings of a survey on the public attitudes toward equal access to medicines for those living with rare diseases, it was announced in a 17 June press release. 

Results of the survey, which was conducted by YouGov, have shown that the public strongly believe that patients living with rare diseases should have equal access to medicines via the National Health Service (NHS) as those living with more common conditions. 

Additionally, the majority of survey respondents agreed that patients with rare diseases should have access to medicines assured by the NHS on a basis of clinical need, irrespective of cost. 

The survey findings follow recent assertions made by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), specifying that there isn’t an appetite among the general public for specific measures to tackle rare disease. BIA’s report, Public Attitudes to Rare Diseases: 

The Case for Equal Access, recommends that NICE revises its position on rare conditions and medicines access, and that the body consider the value of a rarity modifier when performing health technology assessments. 

This survey demonstrates that there is broad public support for measures to ensure access to medicines for rare diseases based on clinical need even if that would entail higher costs..

That is all from EAPM for this week – do enjoy your weekend, stay safe and well, and don’t forget to register for the EAPM Slovenian EU Presidency conference on 1 July here, and download your agenda here.

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EU draws up list of which countries should have travel restrictions lifted - UK excluded

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Following a review under the recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU, the Council updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities for which travel restrictions should be lifted. As stipulated in the Council recommendation, this list will continue to be reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, as from 18 June 2021 member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following third countries:

  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • United States of America
  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

Travel restrictions should also be gradually lifted for the special administrative regions of China Hong Kong and  Macao. The condition of reciprocity for these special administrative regions has been lifted.

Under the category of entities and territorial authorities that are not recognised as states by at least one member state, travel restrictions for Taiwan should also be gradually lifted.

Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican should be considered as EU residents for the purpose of this recommendation.

The criteria to determine the third countries for which the current travel restriction should be lifted were updated on 20 May 2021. They cover the epidemiological situation and overall response  to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources. Reciprocity should also be taken into account on a case by case basis.

Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) also take part in this recommendation.

Background

On 30 June 2020 the Council adopted a recommendation on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU. This recommendation included an initial list of countries for which member states should start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders. The list is reviewed every two weeks and, as the case may be, updated.

On 20 May, the Council adopted an amending recommendation to respond to the ongoing vaccination campaigns by introducing certain waivers for vaccinated persons and easing the criteria to lift restrictions for third countries. At the same time, the amendments take into account the possible risks posed by new variants by setting out an emergency brake mechanism to quickly react to the emergence of a variant of interest or concern in a third country.

The Council recommendation is not a legally binding instrument. The authorities of the member states remain responsible for implementing the content of the recommendation. They may, in full transparency, lift only progressively travel restrictions towards countries listed.

A member state should not decide to lift the travel restrictions for non-listed third countries before this has been decided in a coordinated manner.

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