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AQAP and ISIS fill vacuum in #Yemen



The recent upsurge of violence in Yemen between forces loyal to the legitimate government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and groups seeking the secession of southern Yemen has opened up renewed space for terrorist groups, including ISIS and AQAP, to operate in the country.

According to the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), Ravina Shamdasani, armed groups affiliated with AQAP and ISIS terrorist groups have intensified their activities in Yemen in recent weeks, activities "that have seriously affected civilians". The UN official described these renewed activities as an "extremely worrying development".

In an interesting twist, the reemergence of the groups may end up working in President Hadi’s favour, since he stands to benefit from their renewed strength in countering the Houthi rebels on the one hand and the secessionists on the other. Beyond being a mere beneficiary, several media outlets in the region and analysts on social media have highlighted apparent concrete links between elements of Hadi’s government and the terror groups, potentially even running through the office of Vice President, Abdul Muhsin Al Ahmar.

The allegations of cooperation between AQAP and ISIS terror cells and the UN-recognized government became more credible after internationally wanted ISIS leader Abu Al Bara Al Baidani was pictured fighting alongside the forces of President Hadi against Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces in the province of Shabwa. The Shabwa Elite Forces, an armed group belonging to the STC, managed to arrest Al Baidani following clashes.

Several additional outlets published pictures of known Al Qaeda elements fighting alongside Al Islah Party members against STC forces in Shabwa. The Al Islah party, allied to the Muslim Brotherhood, was identified by several outlets as having promoted the influx of terrorist fighters into the government’s ranks.

In an attempt at damage control, Yasar Al Hosaini, a media officer at President Hadi’s office, claimed that the attacks against STC forces were mounted by the Yemeni army, but by then pictures of Al Qaeda fighters wearing Afghan clothing had spread widely.

Notably, even as the government made efforts to deny the presence of Al Qaeda members in their midst, Ansar Al Sharia, a terrorist umbrella network that includes AQAP, published a statement claiming their role in the attack on STC forces.

The recent outbreak of fighting between erstwhile allies has complicated the already highly complex situation in the country.






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.

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European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case




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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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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