Published: 08 July 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon
Throughout the year, Germany makes numerous statements on international law. Not all these statements form part of a case study presented on GPIL. However, these statements may nevertheless be of interest to international lawyers. We therefore compile these statements on a monthly basis.
1 March 2021
The Federal Government was asked whether it was aware of the legal basis on which the United States had carried out air strikes on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic on 25 February 2021. A spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office replied:
“[We] are aware of a letter from the White House to the U.S. Congress, which was also published. In this letter reference is made to Article 51 of the UN Charter. This concerns the right to self-defence. In this letter, the White House justifies its action, inter alia, with the fact that Syria is unable and unwilling to prevent the use of Syrian territory by groups that are responsible for attacks – in this case on U.S. troops.”
3 March 2021
On 19 June 1973, Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded a Safeguards Agreement in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which provided in Article 39 that the Government of Iran and the Agency shall make Subsidiary Arrangements which shall specify how the procedures laid down in this Agreement are to be applied. A similar provision was included in Iran’s Additional Protocol to the NPT Safeguards Agreement which it has not yet ratified. Modified Code 3.1 of Iran’s Subsidiary Arrangements requires it to submit design information for new nuclear facilities to the IAEA “as soon as the decision construct, or to authorize construction, of such a facility has been taken, whichever is earlier.” On 29 March 2007, Iran informed the IAEA that it had “suspended” the implementation of the modified Code 3.1, which had been “accepted in 2003, but not yet ratified by the parliament”, and that it would revert” to the implementation of the 1976 version of Code 3.1, which only requires the submission of design information for new facilities “normally not later than 180 days before the facility is scheduled to receive nuclear material for the first time.”
In the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and European Union on 14 July 2015, Iran agreed to “provisionally apply” the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement and to “fully implement the modified Code 3.1”. On 23 February 2021, Iran suspended the implementation of the Additional Protocol and all supplementary inspection provisions granted to the IAEA going beyond the 1973 Safeguards Agreement.
On 3 March 2021, Germany, France and the United Kingdom made a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors which read in part:
“In this context of mounting unresolved safeguards questions, it is deeply concerning that Iran has decided to suspend application of the Additional Protocol and transparency measures agreed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), as of 23 February. The implementation of the Additional Protocol in Iran is crucial for the Agency to ascertain the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
Moreover, we have taken note with deep concern of Iran’s stated intention to stop the implementation of Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. We fully share the position of the DG [Director General], expressed in his report, and previously affirmed by the Board and the United Nations Security Council, that the implementation of this code is a legal obligation under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and cannot be modified unilaterally or revoked by Iran.
We strongly urge Iran to implement Modified Code 3.1 and to resume implementation of all transparency measures as envisaged in the JCPoA, including implementation of the Additional Protocol.”
5 March 2021
In response to a parliamentary question the State Secretary at the Federal Foreign Office, Antje Leendertse, commented on the sentence against Mr. Alexej Navalny, stating:
“As a member state of the Council of Europe, Russia is obliged under international law to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR).
Alexej Navalny had already lodged a complaint against his imprisonment with the ECtHR on 20 January 2021. His imprisonment is based on the suspended sentence imposed on him in 2014 in the so-called ‘Yves Rocher’ case. However, the ECtHR had already decided in 2017 that this sentence and thus also the probation conditions violated the ECHR. The ECtHR has described the judgment of the Russian court as ‘arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable’. Nevertheless, after his return to Moscow, Alexej Navalny was arrested for allegedly violating these conditions, which he is said to have committed while staying in Germany for medical treatment of the consequences of the life-threatening attack on him in Russia by means of a neurotoxic substance of the so-called ‘Novichok’ group prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The judgment of 2 February 2021 against Mr Navalny converting the suspended sentence into a prison sentence is also based on the aforementioned judgment, which the ECtHR considered to be arbitrary.
These events are incompatible with Russia’s obligations under the ECHR. Based on these legal assessments by the ECtHR, the Federal Government has, together with Germany’s partners, repeatedly called on the Russian side to comply with its obligations under international law and therefore to release Alexej Navalny immediately. In the Council of Europe and the OSCE in particular, Russia has made many commitments to comply with principles of human rights and the rule of law. It is in accordance with the rules and the common understanding of these organizations that the participating States remind each other to comply with their obligations, as Russia does again and again towards Germany and other States.”
9 March 2021
In response to a parliamentary question on the legality of the U.S. air strikes targeting Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria on 26 February 2021, the Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Miguel Berger, stated:
“The Government of the United States of America has invoked its right to self-defence under international law in relation to its air strikes in Syria targeting militias associated with Iran close to the Syrian-Iraqi border. It elaborated on this in a letter to the UN Security Council with reference to Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. According to that latter, the air strikes occurred in response to an armed attack by these militias against U.S. facilities and were necessary and proportionate.
The Federal Government has taken note of the reasons given by the Government of the United States of America for the air strikes […].
The Federal Government lacks the comprehensive picture of the situation which would be required for its own assessment under international law.”
11 March 2021
The German Federal Foreign Minister joined his counterparts from Egypt, France and Jordan in a statement on the Middle East Peace Process which read in part:
“We stress the need to cease all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We concur that settlement policy through building and expansion of settlements as well as confiscation of Palestinian structures and properties are a violation of international law and undermine the viability of the two-state solution.”
11 March 2021
In its 2021 addendum to the German Strategy on Sustainable Development, the Federal Government stated:
“The right to food finds its international law basis in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 11 of the UN Social Pact. Everyone shall have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, harmless and nutritionally balanced food in order to satisfy their nutritional needs and food preferences and to be able to lead an active and healthy life.”
12 March 2021
Germany joined 44 other States in a statement delivered in the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Russian Federation. With regard to “the unlawful detention, arrest and imprisonment of Mr Alexei Navalny”, the statement said:
“These actions by Russian authorities, including the judiciary, are unacceptable and politically motivated. They run counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations, including the right to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair trial, proclaimed in numerous instruments of international human rights law – including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights, to which the Russian Federation is a party.”
12 March 2021
The German Mission to the United Nations in New York tweeted:
“7 yrs after Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia, it remains a shocking breach of UN Charter & int’l law.”
12 March 2021
During a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Situation in Crimea, Minster of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Niels Annen, stated:
“Crimea, seven years after the annexation. No matter how often we debate that annexation, it remains a shocking breach of the UN Charter and international law. This change of borders by force was unprecedented in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Russia shook the foundations of peace in Europe, including the OSCE principles and […] the Budapest Memorandum. Russia added insult to injury organising a sham referendum that made mockery of democratic standards.
The Donbas was the next target for Russia’s attacks on Ukraine and we all know that until this day Russia and its cronies and the self-styled so-called republics are responsible for the loss of lives and enormous suffering.
In Crimea, Russia has been violating human rights on a massive scale over the past seven years – the freedoms of expression, of association, religion or belief, and the right to peaceful assembly being the first victims of an illegal annexation, and with the Tatar community being singled out and driven out of their homeland. Russia defies an ICJ order by banning the self-governing institution, the Mejlis. […]
The conclusion is clear, in line with the UN Charter, international law and the decisions of the General Assembly, we cannot recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. For Russia, the conclusion should be equally simple: come clean about Crimea, stop human rights abuses, and return Crimea to Ukraine. Crimea is and remains Ukraine.”
15 March 2021
During the regular government press conference the cabinet spokesperson made a statement on the occasion of the 7th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea Peninsula:
“With this annexation, Russia has violated fundamental principles of international law and called the post-war European order into question. In accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Germany and the European Union do not recognize this annexation. We call on the Russian leadership to respect human rights, release all political prisoners and restore Ukrainian sovereignty over the territory of Crimea.”
In response to the question of why the Federal Government considered the “reintegration” of Crimea after a “referendum” as a violation of international law, the cabinet spokesperson stated:
“We have a very different view of what you call reintegration and a referendum […]. The event you call referendum, this vote, is legally irrelevant. It contradicted both the Ukrainian constitution and international law, for example because of the illegal presence of Russian troops, the massive public presence of military forces and the restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
This vote, which you call a referendum and which we do not recognize as such, took place under the impression, presence and strong influence of Russian troops which were staying there illegally. That is the state of affairs. That is why this is – but that is only one point – one of the reasons for non-recognition by Germany and the European Union.”
15 March 2021
During the regular government press conference, the spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office stated that from the Federal Government’s view “the international law basis for the solution of the Syria conflict is still Security Resolution 2254.”
16 March 2021
In the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform, the German representative stated:
“First, on the size of an enlarged Council […]. For Germany and the G4, an enlarged Council would contain 27 members – six new permanent ones, and six new non-permanent ones.
Second, regarding working methods, we want to ensure that the reform of the Council leads to an increase in transparency and efficiency. Thus, the working methods will need to be adapted to the size and the composition of a new Council. […]
Third, regarding the relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly, it is clear that the General Assembly is the most representative forum of the United Nations, and as such, its role needs to be reinforced. This is even more important in the unfortunately very familiar event of a divided and blocked Security Council. A reform of the Security Council gives us the chance to reinforce the flow of information and the coordination and cooperation between these two core UN organs, both central pillars of the multilateral system. […].”
16 March 2021
In response to parliamentary questions concerning international law rules to better combat global pandemics, the Federal Government stated:
“The International Health Regulations of 2005 (IHR) form the international legal framework for dealing with pandemics. […] Although the IHR are the only legally binding framework with regard to the global coordination of the response to a pandemic, they do not interfere with the sovereignty of the contracting parties in such a way as to preclude national measures in addition to the area of application of the IHR.”
“The Federal Government is of the opinion that the IHR are the central, binding set of rules under international law, also with regard to curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.”
17 March 2021
Following a UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the situation in Crimea, organised by the Russian Federation, Germany joined 17 other States in a statement which read in part:
“Russia held an informal meeting at the UN today to promote a false narrative about its occupation of Crimea, which it seized in violation of international law in 2014. We condemn Russia’s human rights abuses and military build-up on the peninsula. We strongly reject Russia’s attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Russia’s actions are of global concern and inconsistent with international law, including the UN Charter, and contrary to the Helsinki Final Act. […].”
18 March 2021
The German Federal Foreign Minister joined his counterparts from the other G7 countries in a statement on the 7th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea Peninsula which read in part:
“Today, seven years after Russia’s illegitimate and illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, we reaffirm our unwavering support for and commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders
The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter clearly state the fundamental principles of respect for the territorial integrity of any State and the prohibition of any use of force to change borders. By its use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia has clearly violated international law and contravened these principles.
We unequivocally denounce Russia’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. Russia’s attempts to legitimize it are not, and will not, be recognized. We condemn Russia’s violations of human rights on the peninsula, particularly of Crimean Tatars. We call on Russia to respect its international obligations, allow access to international monitors, and to immediately release all those who are unjustly detained. […].
We also firmly oppose Russia’s continued destabilisation of Ukraine, especially Russia’s actions in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, disregarding the commitments it made under the Minsk agreements. The full implementation of the Minsk agreements is the way forward for peace. Russia is a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, not a mediator.
[…] We call on the Russian Federation to stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine, as well as by granting Russian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens […].”
23 March 2021
According to the Federal Government the following States do not allow the renunciation of citizenship: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Syria, Thailand and Tunisia. The Federal Government was asked what measures it took to enable naturalised German citizens to give up their previous citizenship in order to avoid dual citizenship. The Government replied:
“Every State has the right, within the limits set by international law, to regulate citizenship as an ‘internal matter’ and as an expression of State sovereignty. The Federal Government therefore does not see any possibility of obtaining from other States, either generally or in individual cases, the release from the other citizenship.”
24 March 2021
Germany joined 23 other States in a statement in support of the establishment of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus which read in part:
“[T]he Belarusian authorities have committed serious and unprecedented violations of international human rights law in Belarus before, during and after the presidential election on 9 August 2020. These violations include arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including sexual and gender-based violence. […]
As human rights violations are reoccurring in a culture of impunity in Belarus on a daily basis there is an urgent need to ensure that evidence and documentation are collected and preserved in a secure and appropriate manner in accordance with international standards. The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) has taken on the responsibility of the collection, consolidation, verification and preservation of information, documentation and evidence of serious violations of international human rights law committed in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath. […]
We hereby provide our political support to this urgent action of IAPB. We also reaffirm our support for the establishment of a UN Human Rights Council mandated investigation under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and supported by relevant experts, aimed at contributing to accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims in Belarus. The material collected by the IAPB will be handed over to such a UN investigation once operational. The documentation collected by the IAPB will also serve any future independent criminal investigations and criminal proceedings, in accordance with international law standards, in national, regional or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over those crimes, in accordance with international law. […].”
25 March 2021
On 25 March 2021, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea launched its first ballistic missile test in almost a year claiming that it tested a “new-type tactical guided projectile”. A Federal Foreign Office spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The Federal Government strongly condemns today’s test by North Korea of two short-range ballistic missiles. Hereby, North Korea is once again violating relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and irresponsibly jeopardising regional security. […] North Korea remains obliged to completely, irreversibly and verifiably end its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.”
26 March 2021
Germany joined 44 other States in a statement on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” which read in part:
“Seven years ago, on 27 March 2014, the United Nations General Assembly by an overwhelming majority of UN member-states adopted resolution 68/262 “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine”. By this resolution, the international community affirmed, loud and clear, its full commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
Despite the clear demands of the General Assembly, the Russian Federation has not stopped its temporary occupation of Crimea. On the contrary, it continues flagrant human rights violations and abuses, and military build-up on the peninsula.
These actions of the Russian Federation that undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its violations and abuses of the human rights of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities on the peninsula and all others who oppose Russia’s occupation, prompted the General Assembly to adopt resolutions 71/205, 72/190, 73/263, 74/168, 75/192 “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” and 73/194, 74/17, 75/29, “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov”. In these resolutions, the General Assembly condemned the temporary occupation of Crimea and urged the Russian Federation, as the occupying power, to uphold all its obligations under applicable international law.
Russia’s actions have been of global concern, inconsistent with international law, including the UN Charter, and are also contrary to the Helsinki Final Act, as well as international humanitarian and human rights law. Russia’s attempts to legitimize the attempted annexation of Crimea are not, and will not be recognized. […]
Yet again, we urge the Russian Federation to immediately end its occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and fully implement the relevant UN General Assembly resolutions on the situation in Crimea. […].”
It is of interest to note that while resolution 68/262 itself was adopted by 100 votes in favour, 11 against, and 58 abstentions, the anniversary statement mustered the support of only 45 States, with none from Africa, Asia or South America. It is also noteworthy that the two resolutions on the human rights situation and the militarization of Crimea mentioned in the statement have seen a steady decline in support over the years with lately only 64 and 63 States, respectively, voting in favour of the resolutions.
29 March 2021
In response to a parliamentary question on possibilities for global regulation of the production of pictures by satellites, the Federal Government stated:
“The operation of satellites is a space activity that, according to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies of 27 January 1967 (Outer Space Treaty), is basically free. In 1986, the member States of the United Nations agreed on Principles Relating to Remote Sensing of the Earth from Outer Space (resolution 41/65 of 3 December 1986, Remote Sensing Principles). These Principles confirmed the unrestricted right to remote sensing without prior consent or notification to the sensed State.
[…] According to the Outer Space Treaty, space activities shall generally be conducted in conformity with international law, this is expressly confirmed by the Remote Sensing Principles for the sensing of the Earth’s surface. Consequently, the rules for the protection of privacy (e.g., Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966) apply.”
30 March 2021
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined other Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group in a Communique in which ministers reaffirmed their shared determination to continue the fight against Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Communique read in part as follows:
“The Ministers emphasized the protection of civilians and affirmed that international law, including international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, particularly children, and international human rights law, as well as relevant UN Security Council resolutions, must be upheld under all circumstances. […]
The Ministers […] committed […] to ensure that Daesh/ISIS and its affiliates are unable to reconstitute any territorial enclave or continue to threaten our homelands, people, and interests. […]
The Ministers acknowledged that while Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, the threat remains. […]
The Coalition operates in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq, in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and aiming at strengthening its security. […]
In Syria, the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The Coalition must continue to be vigilant against the threat of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, to build on the success it has achieved and continue to act together against any threats to this outcome to avoid security vacuums that Daesh/ISIS may exploit. The Ministers took note of the resumption in Daesh/ISIS activities in areas where the Coalition is not active and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians.
The Ministers [noted] with concern the serious and growing threat Daesh/ISIS affiliates pose across West Africa and the Sahel, as well as the emerging threat in other parts of the continent, particularly in East Africa. The Coalition reaffirmed its willingness to further explore how it can contribute to collective efforts to cope with the threat posed by Daesh/ISIS in these regions, and that such efforts be upon the request and prior consent of countries concerned, and be in close coordination with African partners and existing initiatives such as the International Coalition for the Sahel, and in full respect of international law. […]
The Ministers, recognizing the challenge posed by foreign terrorist fighters who are in custody as well as family members who remain in Iraq and Syria, committed to pursue existing effective accountability mechanisms in close coordination with the countries of origin, including accountability for fighters who have used sexual violence as an instrument of terror. They remained committed to promoting efforts to ensure that accused terrorists, including those of foreign nationality, are treated appropriately and tried consistent with international law obligations, including applicable fair trial guarantees, and they urged the custodians of the detained Daesh/ISIS terrorist fighters to treat them humanely at all times, in accordance with international law. […].”
31 March 2021
Germany joined 27 member States of the Council of Europe in a statement in response to Turkey’s denunciation of the Istanbul Convention which read in part:
“The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, is the most far-reaching legal instrument to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, as well as to ensure protection for victims and to bring perpetrators to justice. […]
We cherish the fact that international human rights instruments, such as the Istanbul Convention, help guarantee that all human rights, including women’s rights, are vindicated. National measures alone do not reach the same level of protection. […]
It is time to stop claiming that the Convention includes a hidden agenda. The Istanbul Convention does not set new standards in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation. Nor does it provide for the legal recognition of same-sex couples. The Convention does however provide excellent tools to combat gender-based stereotypes associated with violence against women, and most importantly leaves it up to national legislation to define how this should be done. Governments have a legal obligation to protect the rights of LGBTI persons, including under the European Convention on Human Rights and according to the standards set by the Committee of Ministers, but not primarily under the Istanbul Convention. […].”
31 March 2021
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined 17 other European Foreign Ministers in a joint op-ed on the fight against impunity for crimes committed in Syria published, inter alia, in the daily Die Welt. The piece read in the relevant part:
“The Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people repeatedly, as the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have proven beyond doubt. […] Many of these crimes, including the ones committed by Daesh and other armed groups, may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. […]
Given the seriousness of the crimes, we continue to call for the International Criminal Court to be allowed to investigate crimes alleged to be committed in Syria and prosecute the perpetrators. To thwart the strategy of those blocking Security Council referral to the Court, we are working to ensure the facts are documented, pending examination by the competent judges. We therefore supported the creation of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, which collects and preserves evidence for future proceedings. These efforts are essential. We also support the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, which documents human rights violations in the Syrian conflict.
It is critical that these violations, which have been documented so thoroughly, come to an end immediately. We are also determined to enforce all international norms to protect the rights of all Syrians, as demonstrated by the recent action initiated by the Netherlands to hold Syria to account for breaching the UN Convention Against Torture. National courts, some of which have already opened judicial proceedings, play an important role in this. […]
Fighting impunity is not only a question of principle, it is also a moral and political imperative, and a matter of security for the international community. The use of chemical weapons, in any circumstances, is a threat to international peace and security. In response to chemical attacks, we have mobilized all competent institutions, guardians of the CW prohibition norms. OPCW teams have carried out fully independent investigations. To complete this considerable work, we launched the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, bringing together 40 States and the European Union. This initiative has made it possible to condemn those involved in the development or use of chemical weapons. And we will not rest until they have been punished for their crimes. […].”
Category: International law in general