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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Israel’s claim to self-defence has a “very high plausibility”

Published: 14 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 10 February 2018, Israel claimed that it intercepted an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace from Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated:

“I have been warning for some time about the dangers of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel.

This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel. And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100% correct.

Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.”

(more…)

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Warning Kosovo over revocation of internationalised criminal tribunal

Published: 10 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 7 January 2011, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a report on “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo” which found, inter alia, that during and after the armed struggle of the Kosovar Albanians against Serbia in the period from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 2000, ethnic Serbs and Kosovar Albanians were held prisoner in secret places of detention under control of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) in northern Albania and were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, before ultimately disappearing. Some of these prisoners also had their organs removed to be taken abroad for transplantation. This report caused the European Union in September 2011 to establish a Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) as part of its Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to conduct an independent criminal investigation into the allegations contained in the report, as well as into other crimes connected to those allegations. (more…)

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Arrest of Gui Minhai during consular support mission

Published: 08 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Gui Minhai was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who sold banned tabloid books to customers in mainland China. Gui disappeared during a holiday in Thailand in October 2015. Three months later, he reappeared in China declaring on State media that he voluntarily turned himself in to answer to a drink-driving incident in 2003 for which he was sentenced to two years in prison. After his release in October 2017, however, he was not allowed to leave the country. Gui was born in China but later acquired Swedish citizenship.

On 20 January 2018, Gui Minhai was arrested by plain-clothed security officials while travelling with two Swedish diplomats on a train to Beijing where he was to receive medical treatment. In response, Sweden summoned the Chinese ambassador to Stockholm. When asked about the incident on 23 January 2018, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson suggested that the Swedish diplomats had broken the law, saying: (more…)

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Criticism of U.S. Guantánamo policy

Published: 02 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 and the subsequent “war on terror”, U.S. President George W. Bush in January 2002 established a detention camp located at the United States Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Over the years, the United States has detained there without trial some 780 persons it considers extremely dangerous terrorists. Several current and former detainees reported abuse and torture. U.S. President Barack Obama unsuccessfully tried to close the detention camp. By 2018, there were still 41 detainees held at Guantánamo.

On 30 January 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced in his State of the Union address that he had decided to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay, suggesting that he may even use the facility to house new terrorism suspects for the first time in a decade. On the same day, he signed an Executive Order which provided in part: (more…)

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Germany submits written comments in the case of Yücel v. Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights

Published: 01 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 31 January 2018 the Federal Government submitted a written statement in the case of Yücel v. Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights. Deniz Yücel, a Turkish-German journalist and Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, was arrested in Turkey on 27 February 2017 on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting public violence, amid a large-scale crackdown on alleged supporters of a failed military coup in Turkey in July 2016. He was kept in pre-trial detention without a formal indictment being filed.

The Federal Government repeatedly called for the release of Deniz Yücel and other German nationals being detained in Turkey for what Germany considered to be “political reasons”. These detentions contributed to a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries throughout 2017. (more…)

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