Endorsement of Safe Schools Declaration

Published: 5 June 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Educational institutions are increasingly becoming part of the battlefield, especially in non-international armed conflicts. Kindergartens, schools and universities are used for military purposes. Military forces are deployed in and nearby schools, and schools are used a weapons depots or firing positions, thereby making them legitimate military objectives under international law. Armed conflict regularly leads to damage and destruction of educational infrastructure, threatens the lives of students and teachers, and may deprive whole generations of their right to education.

The protection of educational institutions during armed conflict under international law is rudimentary at best. Schools are generally considered to be civilian objects which may not be made the object of attack or of reprisals unless they are being used to make an effective contribution to military action. Where doubt may arise as to whether a school is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it is presumed not to be the case. (more…)

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Return of illegally exported cultural property to Vietnam

Published: 22 May 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

In December 2016, Berlin state police seized a number of artefacts from a Vietnamese businessman who was investigated for a violation of section 40, paragraph 1, of the German Act on the Protection of Cultural Property. The provision prohibits the placing on the market of cultural property that has been lost, unlawfully excavated or unlawfully imported. Anyone who engages in such an act is liable to pay a fine or for imprisonment up to five years. The artefacts consisted of 10 stone tools and eight bronze labour and hunting tools dating back to between the seventh and second centuries BC. Archaeologists from Berlin museums found that the objects might belong to tombs located in the territory of present-day Vietnam dating from the third century BC. (more…)

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Israel’s right to self-defence against Iranian rocket attack from within Syria

Published: 22 May 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, relations between Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran may be described as hostile, at best. The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and, on occasion, has threatened to “destroy Israel”. Iran has long supported armed groups opposed to Israel, in particular Hezbollah in Lebanon. When civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Iran intervened on the side of the Syrian Government providing military, financial, logistical and intelligence support to the forces of President Assad. By 2018, it was estimated that Iran had deployed several thousand troops and officials in Syria.

On 10 May 2018 an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman told reporters that at around 10 minutes past midnight, forces belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force fired approximately 20 projectiles, most of them rockets, from positions in Syria towards the forward line of IDF positions in the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights were captured by Israel from Syria in the Six-Day War in June 1967 and were annexed by Israel in December 1981 – a move that was not recognized internationally. There were no Israeli casualties and no damage was reported. None of the rockets hit their targets, either being intercepted by Israeli air defence or falling short and landing in territory under Syrian government control. (more…)

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Bringing human rights to the Security Council

Published: 15 May 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Germany has long championed strengthening the links between peace and security, development and human rights, the three pillars of the UN system. In particular, Germany has called for an examination of the connection between human rights and peace and security and ways in which to better integrate the work of the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. Germany took the position that human rights should be the international community’s measuring stick when the Security Council was deciding on sanctions or intervention, and that persistent human rights violations might serve as an early-warning sign of future crises and violent conflicts. With a side event during the high-level week of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, Germany initiated a discussion on how to better align the work of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council. This led Switzerland at the opening of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council on 13 June 2016 to launch an Appeal “To put Human Rights at the Heart of Conflict Prevention”. The Appeal was supported by 70 States, including Germany. The Appeal proposed, inter alia, regular briefings by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Security Council at the request of Security Council members and a more systematic use of human rights reports by the Security Council, with such reports being brought to the attention of the Council by the Secretary-General. (more…)

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Protesters raid German consulate in Greece

Published: 6 April 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 16 March 2018 at 09:30 (07:30 GMT) a group of about 10 masked people intruded into the German consulate in the city of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete to stage a protest against Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Afrin region against the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The protesters hung a banner from the consulate balcony reading “Resistance is life” and “Solidarity with Afrin” in Kurdish, German and Greek. (more…)

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Acceptance or recognition of Kosovo’s independence: does it make a difference?

Published: 5 April 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 17 February 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia with the support of Western powers including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Germany was among the first countries to recognize the Republic of Kosovo as an independent State. Ten years later, Kosovo’s independence was recognized by 111 UN member States but was still strongly opposed by the Republic of Serbia. 82 UN member States did not recognize Kosovo as an independent State, including Brazil, China, India, and the Russian Federation. As a result, Kosovo was not admitted to membership of the United Nations.

The European Union (EU) did not hold a common position on the status of Kosovo. While 23 EU member States had accorded recognition to Kosovo, five member States – Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia, Spain and Romania – had not. The unsettled relationship between Belgrade and Pristina and, in particular, Serbia’s active non-recognition policy vis-à-vis Kosovo constituted the main obstacles of the two countries entering the European Union. On the eve of the tenth anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel travelled to Serbia and Kosovo. The purpose of the trip was to underline the Federal Government’s support of Kosovo and Germany’s great interest in the region. On 14 February 2018, during a joint press conference with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in Pristina, Foreign Minister Gabriel made the following statement: (more…)

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Interpreting Security Council resolution 2401 (2018)

Published: 07 March 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

During the Syrian civil war, Syrian government forces launched Operation “Damascus Steel” on 18 February 2018 in a bid to recapture eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held enclave located just east of the Syrian capital Damascus. The area, which had been besieged by the Syrian Government since 2013, was home to about 400,000 people. Within the first few days of the opening bombardment phase, more than 400 civilians were killed, the highest death-toll in the Syrian conflict since 2013. Heavy artillery shelling and large-scale air raids targeted civilian homes and hospitals in an effort to force the rebels controlling the area to surrender. The German Government referred to the events in eastern Ghouta as a “massacre”. The global outcry over the situation in eastern Ghouta led the United Nations Security Council, on 24 February 2018, to adopt unanimously resolution 2401 (2018), which read in the relevant part as follows:

“The Security Council, […]

Determining that the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria continues to constitute a threat to peace and security in the region,

Underscoring that Member States are obligated under Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Council’s decisions,

  1. Demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay, and engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of this demand by all parties, for a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria, to enable the safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded, in accordance with applicable international law;
  2. Affirms that the cessation of hostilities shall not apply to military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al Qaeda and Al Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council; […].” (more…)
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Acts of retorsion in defence of Cambodian democracy?

Published: 28 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Cambodia has been ruled by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) since January 1985, making him the world’s longest-serving prime minister. At the last general elections in July 2013, which were marked by allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities, the CCP received 48.83% of the votes and won 68 seats while the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won all the remaining 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly with 44.46% of the votes. The election saw the CPP lose 22 seats to the CNRP.

In the run-up to the next general elections in July 2018, the government under Prime Minister Hun Sen intensified its repression of the political opposition and the media. On 3 September 2017, CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested for allegedly conspiring with a “foreign power [the United States of America] to overthrow the legitimate authority under the guise of democracy.” The next day, the spokesperson of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin issued the following statement: (more…)

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Busting of U.S. sanctions against Iran? German military refuels Iranian Foreign Minister’s plane

Published: 25 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

The United States of America imposed a series of unilateral sanctions on Iran which almost prevented Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif, from attending the 2018 Munich Security Conference (MSC), which was held in the Bavarian capital from 16 to 18 February 2018. Foreign Minister Zarif had planned to stop over in Munich on his way from Mumbai to Moscow to address the conference on its final day. However, a week before the conference, Munich airport informed the Iranian consulate general in Munich that the Minister’s aircraft could not be refuelled as local fuel companies refused to do so out of fear that they would contravene U.S. sanctions against Iran. The airport authorities suggested that the Minister’s aircraft either bring enough fuel for the onward journey or refuel elsewhere. This was unacceptable to Iran and the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s attendance at the conference was put in jeopardy. At this stage, the German Federal Foreign Ministry requested the assistance of the Federal Ministry of Defence. On 18 February 2018, the German military – the Bundeswehr – refuelled the Minister’s plane with 17,000 litres of kerosene and invoiced the Iranian consulate general for its services. The Federal Ministry of Defence was rather tight-lipped about the matter, simply stating that “the Bundeswehr provided assistance at Munich airport on February 18.”

After the news of the German military refuelling the Minister’s government aircraft broke, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to play down the affair. On 28 February 2018, the spokesperson of Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared: (more…)

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