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Home of Russian opposition activist and Magnitsky Justice campaigner Natalia Pelevina is raided in Moscow

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_82447040_82447039The Moscow home of Russian opposition activist Natalia Pelevina (pictured) was raided by police operatives and investigative committee detectives on April 17 2015.  Pelevina is an outspoken supporter of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, who worked closely with murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and current opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov, seeking to have more names added to the US Magnitsky list. 

In a raid similar to the 2008 arrest of whistleblower lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Russian officials stormed Pelevina’s apartment with a search warrant signed by Judge Artur Karpov, the same judge who refused lawsuits from the family of Sergei Magnitsky to appeal the decision not to investigate Magnitsky’s murder. 

According to Pelevina: “My phone was ripped out of my hand and I wasn’t allowed to call my lawyer.  [The search] went on for hours, anything technical was confiscated along with money, passports, and papers.”

Natalia Pelevina was then taken to the Russian Investigative Committee for interrogation, which was led by Major General of Justice Rustam Gabdullin.  She was interrogated for four hours, during which time she became a suspect accused of organizing and financing the Bolotnaya street riots of May 2012, under Article 212, part 1 of the Russian Constitution.

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“Needless to say none of it is true and I had nothing to do with the 6 May events, and wasn’t even in Bolotnaya that day,” said Pelevina.

Pelevina was due to fly to Washington DC this week, to join members of US Congress and prominent Russian activists in a symposium honouring the memory of Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down outside the Kremlin in February this year.  Because her passport and money were seized, she is now unable to leave Moscow, and Bill Browder, leader of the Magnitsky Justice Campaign, will be taking her place on the panel. 

Bill Browder will also be testifying at a hearing on the Global Magnitsky Act at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs today. (29 April)  

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“Natalia Pelevina is a long-time friend of the Magnitsky Justice campaign, whose only ‘crime’ was to speak out against the repression and corruption of the Putin regime," said Bill Browder. “That she is now being persecuted for a crime she did not commit, as Sergei Magnitsky was, is clear and sinister evidence that the Putin regime is a police state, intent on stamping out the voices of dissidents.”

Judge Artur Karpov has a history of persecuting dissidents.  On 28 February 2014 he sanctioned the house arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and he also sanctioned the 2012 arrests of Bolotnaya square activists

He is the same judge that refused a lawsuit from Magnitsky’s mother seeking to end the posthumous proceeding against her son in March 2013, and a lawsuit from Magnitsky’s colleague, Jamison Firestone in May 2013, seeking to compel the Russian Investigative Committee to investigate the tax officials who approved the fraudulent $230 million tax refund.  In 2011 he also refused the lawsuit from Magnitsky’s mother seeking to compel the Russian Investigative Committee to investigate the torture and murder of her son.

Sergei Magnitsky’s house was raided by Interior Ministry officials in 2008, after he uncovered a $230 million fraud committed by corrupt government officials and testified against those involved.  He was arrested during the raid, tortured in pre-trial detention for a year in an effort to get him to retract his testimony, and was eventually killed in prison in 2009.

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Economy

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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