An important trading partner and investment destination for EU goods, Kuwait is being challenged to show that it is not turning a blind eye to human rights abuses at home. Following a series of reports by this newspaper and other international media highlighting growing cases of women in Kuwait being made targets for persecution, MEP David Martin this week wrote to the EU's foreign policy chief demanding a full accounting by the Kuwaiti authorities and an investigation by the European Parliament – writes Josie Simmons
Martin, an MEP for almost 35 years and with a seat on the European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, wrote to Federica Mogherini that the treatment of prisoners and complaints by human rights groups of poor justice and “disproportionate” sentences, especially against minorities and foreigners, are a reason to be “very concerned”.
Martin's raising the alarm about violations of due process and infringement of liberty have been echoed by Transparency International, Amnesty International and most recently Human Rights Watch in their 2018 report, which highlighted ongoing concerns about overcrowding in prisons and the treatment of minorities and especially foreign women.
Martin’s letter added: “With six to seven in a cell and only a small window for ventilation in the blistering heat of Kuwait, it’s a perfect depiction of mistreatment and a clear breach of human rights. It’s a wonder people aren’t dying in these types of conditions”.
Martin and other prominent international voices across Europe are drawing particular attention to the plight of Marsha Lazareva, who he says has been sentenced to 10 years of hard labour in a “controversial decision by the courts, and where basic needs such medical care and even a bible are arbitrarily denied.”
Martin said, “For people like Marsha, access to medicine and adequate care for an ongoing illness is essential. The degradation suffered by many of the women prisoners is truly shocking. For a nation which prides itself on being a signatory to conventions on human rights, it must be alarming to other nations that these practices are allowed to go on unchecked.”
He says Lazareva “is one of many foreign nationals left to rot” in Kuwait’s female prison, explaining: “Often kept in cells together, they are victimised for being foreign and of different religions. Moreover, access to children is a top concern for human rights groups, and for people like Marsha, a mother of a 4-year-old and daughter of an elderly mother, this causes unnecessary harm to families. As a father myself I know that it must be difficult for a young child to have to deal with their absence of a parent but to not be in a position to have proper access when legally allowed must go beyond frustration.”
The letter ends, “I call upon the Commission to look into this case and open dialogue on these alleged human rights abuses in Kuwait.”
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
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.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
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.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
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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