Notable statements on international law during June 2021

Published: 02 March 2023 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 June 2021

In a parliamentary question the Federal Government was asked whether it considered the (repeated) violation of the arms embargo for Libya a breach of international law. The Federal Government replied:

“When adopting the resolutions on the arms embargo against Libya the United Nations Security Council has acted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. According to the United Nations Charter, all UN member States are obliged to comply with and implement decisions of the Security Council.

The Federal Government advocates full compliance with and implementation of the UN Security Council’s arms embargo against Libya and condemns violations of it.”

2 June 2021

Germany joined the other members of the G7 group of States and the High Representative of the European Union in a lengthy Statement on the UN General Assembly Special Session Against Corruption which read in part:

“We, the G7 Ministers, recognize that corruption is a pressing global challenge. … Corruption is a challenge faced by all countries. Its effects are felt at local, national, and global levels and it is our common and shared responsibility to take action. …

[W]e reaffirm the fundamental role of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and its supporting bodies play in the global fight against corruption.  It is the only legally binding universal instrument on corruption, negotiated on the basis of consensus. The Convention is the cornerstone of our international anti-corruption framework. It forms an integral part of the international anti-corruption architecture which, when fully and effectively implemented, will robustly combat corruption. …

We recognise that the fight against corruption must be based on respect for the rule of law, support for democratic governance, fundamental freedoms and human rights including due process rights of those accused of and sought for corruption. Rule of law is an essential component to achieve sustainability, to counter abuses of power and to foster an environment needed to effectively achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.”

8 June 2021

In a parliamentary question the Federal Government was asked whether the military government in Myanmar, which seized power on 1 February 2021, had started the process of sending new diplomats to Germany and whether the accreditation of these new diplomats implied the recognition of the military government by Germany. The Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office Miguel Berger replied:

“The Federal Foreign Office has received several visa applications for Myanmar diplomats. These were submitted after 1 February 2021 and have not yet been decided.

The appointment of members of a diplomatic mission is done by the sending State. The receiving State’s formal approval is not required, except for the ambassador. The granting of a visa for the entry of a member of a diplomatic mission does not imply a judgment on the legality or legitimacy of the government of the respective sending State, but takes place within the framework of the diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the sending State.”

9 June 2021

During his opening statement ahead of questions put to the Federal Government in the Federal Parliament, Federal Foreign Minister Maas stated:

“Finally, part of a conscious handling of our history is that we place international law above the law of the strongest and advocate the universal validity of human rights. This is one of the reasons why we in the European Union have decided to react to the political despotism with which Minsk and Moscow have of late blatantly violated international rules and universal values. And that is why we maintain our clear stance on the illegal annexation of Crimea and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

9 June 2021

In response to a parliamentary question about serious and systematic crimes under international law being committed in Xinjiang, the State Secretary at the Federal Foreign Office Miguel Berger stated:

“The Federal Government is very concerned about credible accounts of the most serious human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and follows the discussion on this topic closely. The Federal Government does not have own reliable findings that would support the classification of the events in Xinjiang as genocide. The lack of a full external investigation impedes a definitive legal assessment which goes beyond a political assessment and the description of the very worrying indications.”

9 June 2021

In response to a parliamentary question the Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office Miguel Berger declared:

“The right to protest peacefully is a precious good. It is the duty of every state to guarantee and protect this right.”

10 June 2021

The Foreign and Defence Ministers of Germany and Australia virtually held 2+2 Security Policy Consultations addressing key security and regional challenges faced by both countries. Following the meeting, Federal Foreign Minster Heiko Maas and his Australian counterpart signed a new Australia-Germany  Enhanced Strategic Partnership which stated with regard to the Indo-Pacific:

“Germany and Australia stand firm on the adherence to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded and rules-based trade.”

In a joint media statement after the meeting, the two sides stated:

“Ministers discussed the situation in the South China Sea and underlined the centrality of UNCLOS. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and that the 2016 South China Sea arbitration is final and binding on the parties.”

14 June 2021

In a parliamentary question the Federal Government was asked whether it shared the view of the heads of State and government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization outlined in their Moscow Declaration of 10 November 2020 and, in particular, their idea of ‘respect for the civilisational diversity and peoples’ independent choice of the path of their political and socioeconomic development, equitable partnership of states in the interests of ensuring equal, joint, indivisible, comprehensive and stable security’. The Federal Government replied:

“For the Federal Government, the rules-based international order is the basis of international relations, multilateral cooperation and joint problem solving. The UN Charter and international law, including respect for and the protection of human rights, are essential components of these rules which form the framework within which the Federal Government and its partners work together multilaterally. The Federal Government is committed to strengthening this rules-based international order.

The Federal Government is of the opinion that hegemonic dominance, but also a reinforcement of bipolar structures would endanger the existing rule-based international order. This applies in particular to the Indo-Pacific region […].”

15 June 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on the number of wounded from the intra-Ukrainian conflict that had received medical treatment in Germany, the State Secretary at the Federal Foreign Office Miguel Berger stated:

“The Federal Government does not endorse the portrayal of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine as an ‘intra-Ukrainian conflict’. In this conflict, Russia supports the separatists of the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk militarily, logistically and financially. This is done without any basis in international law and constitutes a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

16 June 2021

On 27 May 2021, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution S-30/1 on Ensuring respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, in which it established an international commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021, and all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions. The resolution was  adopted by a vote of 24 in favour, 9 against and 14 abstentions. Germany was one of the States voting against. In response to a parliamentary question of why Germany voted against the resolution, the Secretary of State at the Federal Foreign Office Antje Leendertse stated:

“In the view of the Federal Government, the resolution mentioned in the question does not do justice to the situation on the ground, as it does not address the most recent escalation and the context, in particular the ceasefire that has existed since 21 May 2021.

Instead, the resolution decides to set up a commission of inquiry whose mandate extends indefinitely into the future and the past. In doing so, it duplicates existing investigative mandates, such as that of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. In addition, none of the EU or WEOG (Western European and Others Group) member states that are members of the Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution.”

While it is true that none of these States voted in favour of the resolution, the EU vote on the matter was split. While Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Germany voted against the resolution, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland abstained.

21 June 2021

During the Human Rights Council interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on the central role of the State in responding to pandemics and other health emergencies, and the socioeconomic consequences thereof, the German representative stated:

“Germany is strongly committed to building structures for pandemic preparedness and response. Strengthening the WHO and International Health Regulations, including through periodic review mechanisms, must be at the core. We support the call for an international pandemic treaty.”

22 June 2021

Germany joined 43 other States at the 47th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in a statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang which read in part:

“We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Credible reports indicate that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang and that there is widespread surveillance disproportionately targeting Uyghurs and members of other minorities and restrictions on fundamental freedoms and Uyghur culture. There are also reports of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents by authorities.

We also share the concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures in their March 29 statement on alleged detention, forced labour and transfers of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities and in a letter published by UN experts describing collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities.

We urge China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the High Commissioner, and to urgently implement the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 8 recommendations related to Xinjiang, including by ending the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities.

Finally, we continue to be deeply concerned about the deterioration of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong under the National Security Law and about the human rights situation in Tibet.  We call on Chinese authorities to abide by their human rights obligations.”

This statement was met by a statement made by Belarus on behalf of 65 States which read:

“Respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states and non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states represent basic norms governing international relations. Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet related issues are China’s internal affairs that brook no interference by any external forces. We support China’s implementation of “one country, two systems” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

We maintain that all parties should abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, respect the right of the people of each state to choose independently the path for human rights development in accordance with their national conditions, and treat all human rights with the same emphasis.

We call upon all states to uphold multilateralism, solidarity and collaboration, and to promote and protect human rights through constructive dialogue and cooperation. We oppose politicization of human rights and double standards. We also oppose unfounded allegations against China out of political motivation and based on disinformation, and interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.”

23 June 2021

At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, Germany joined 144 other States as well as the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Children’s Fund in a cross-regional joint statement on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which read in part:

“FGM is a violation of human rights adversely affecting women and girls psychologically and physically, and governments and civil society must work together to accelerate the elimination of this practice. We strongly agree that FGM is a harmful practice and cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds.”

23 June 2021

At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, Germany commented on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, saying:

“The Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration has provided us with guidance on how to manage migration for the benefit of all – migrants as well as host communities. The Compact has been commended by states and other stakeholders as the blue print for managing migration and respecting the human rights of migrants also under the conditions of the pandemic.

Human rights must be respected everywhere – in countries of origin, transit and destination. Likewise, root causes for vulnerable migration must be addressed everywhere. Under objective 11 of the Compact, all States accepting the Compact have committed themselves to prevent irregular migration and to implement border management policies that respect national sovereignty, the rule of law, obligations under international law and human rights of all migrants.”

23 June 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on the deportation of Gambian citizens the Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, Volkmar Vogel, stated:

“The readmission of a State’s own nationals who do not have a right of abode is an obligation under international law.”

23 June 2021

In response to a parliamentary question on the Turkish military operation in the Kurdistan region of Iraq the Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth, stated:

“The Turkish armed forces have been carrying out two military operations against positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq since 23 April [2021]. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization in the European Union too. Turkey must proceed proportionately and in accordance with international law in its military operations.

The Federal Government takes note that Turkey, as with previous military operations against the PKK in Northern Iraq, invokes the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council on combatting international terrorism. […]

The Federal Government understands Iraq’s repeated calls to the Turkish government to respect its sovereignty. Iraq’s stability must not be jeopardized any further.”

28 June 2021

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the States participating in the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS convened in Rome. Federal Foreign Minister Maas joined his counterparts in issuing a joint communiqué which reads in part:

“Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, but the threat remains. The resumption in Daesh/ISIS activities and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians in areas where the Coalition is not active, requires strong vigilance and coordinated action. […]

The Coalition operates in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq in full respect of Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to the benefit of the Iraqi people. […]

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 and to avoid security vacuums that Daesh/ISIS may exploit. […]

The Coalition is committed to working with affected countries to address the threats posed by Daesh/ISIS in Africa to ensure the enduring global defeat of the organization upon the request and prior consent of the countries concerned, and in full respect of international law […].”

28 June 2021

In response to parliamentary questions on the situation of former local employees of Germany in Afghanistan, the Federal Government stated that there was “no duty of care under […] international law” for local employees after the end of employment.

30 June 2021

Germany’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, criticised Russia and China for preventing Security Council reform, saying:

“It’s primarily down to countries like China and Russia that no reform attempts have succeeded. China has no qualms about using any and all levers to block reform. It wants to secure its special status as the only Asian Security Council member.”

30 June 2021

Germany, together with Viet Nam, launched the Group of Friends of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) at the United Nations in New York. The inaugural meeting was attended by some 98 States. The Group aims to contribute to ocean governance, SDG14 and jointly addressing challenges to oceans and the seas as well as upholding the rules-based international order of the oceans. On the occasion, the German mission to the United Nations tweeted:

“UNCLOS is one of the most influential governing frameworks in international waters and critical to resolve maritime disputes peacefully.”

Commenting on the launch of the new Group of Friends, the Legal Adviser to the Federal Foreign Office wrote on Twitter:

“UNCLOS: The legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.”

The Group of Friends of UNCLOS is an informal forum open to all UN member States. There are some 90 Groups of Friends at the United Nations.

DOI: 10.17176/20230302-185300-0

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  • Stefan Talmon

    Stefan Talmon is Professor of Public Law, Public International Law and European Union Law, and Director at the Institute of Public International Law at the University of Bonn. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and practices as a Barrister from Twenty Essex, London. He is the editor of GPIL.

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