Appeal to Iran to stop the execution of persons who were minors at the time of the crime

Published: 01 February 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 4 January 2018, Iran hanged 18-year-old Amirhossein Pourjafar, who had been sentenced to death in 2016 for raping and murdering a six-year-old girl from Iran’s marginalised Afghan community. He had also been given 74 lashes for mutilating the corpse of the victim. At the time of the crime, he was 16 years old.

On 8 January 2018, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office issued the following statement:

“I was appalled to hear of the execution of the young Iranian Amirhossein Pourjafar. Amirhossein Pourjafar was only 16 years old at the time of the crimes he is accused of having committed. His death sentence was upheld in appeal proceedings. Amirhossein Pourjafar committed a serious crime, and I express my profound sympathy to the victim’s family.

Nonetheless, the Federal Government is opposed to the death penalty whatever the circumstances. Iran has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which prohibit the execution of individuals who were minors at the time of the offence. At least four people who were minors at the time of the crime were executed in Iran in 2017, and many more are on death row. These executions must stop!

I therefore urgently appeal to all those responsible in Iran to immediately suspend all death penalties and completely stop handing down such sentences to minors.”

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U.S. politicization of humanitarian aid to UNRWA

Published: 28 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which resulted in many Palestinians being forced to flee their homeland, the United Nations General Assembly on 8 December 1949 established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestinian refugees in collaboration with local governments. In 2017, UNRWA provided essential services to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including running 700 schools and 140 health clinics. The United States has been UNRWA’s single largest donor for decades. In 2017, the United States contributed more than US$360 million to the UNRWA budget. Germany was the Agency’s second largest State donor contributing some US$ 76 million. Germany has also been a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 2005. (more…)

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Difficulties in assessing the illegality of the Turkish intervention in Syria

Published: 26 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

With the Syrian civil war entering its seventh year and the Islamic State terrorist organization being largely defeated in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on 13 January 2018 that in the coming days Turkey would start a military operation in Syria’s Afrin region against the “separatist terror organizations”, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in order to “purge terrorism from our southern borders.” The PYD/YPG controlled Afrin, which borders Turkey’s southern Hatay and Kilis provinces, since 2012 when, during the early phase of the Syrian civil war, Syrian government forces were compelled to withdraw from the region. President Erdoğan stated that the Kurdish YPG militia was trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Afrin with a large Kurdish‑controlled area to the east. (more…)

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Russian aggression against Ukraine

Published: 25 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 18 January 2018, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, adopted in the second and final reading the Law of Ukraine “On the Specifics of the State Policy on Ensuring State Sovereignty of Ukraine over the Temporarily Occupied Territories in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions”. The law declared, inter alia, that the Russian Federation was performing “a criminal act of aggression” against Ukraine and “temporarily occupied” a portion of its territory, governing the Donbas region with the help of an “occupation administration” controlled by Moscow. The law held that the Russian Federation, as occupying power, was responsible for ensuring the protection of the rights of civilians in these areas. The law also stated that Russia was to be held liable for all physical, moral or financial damage inflicted on the State of Ukraine, government authorities and local self-government agencies, individuals and legal entities. Persons participating in the armed aggression of the Russian Federation or being involved in the administration of the Russian occupation were to be held criminally liable for acts that violate the laws of Ukraine and international humanitarian law. (more…)

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55th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty

Published: 22 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 22 January 1963, France and Germany concluded the Treaty concerning Franco-German co-operation (the “Elysée Treaty”). The Treaty took the relationship between the two countries to a new level providing for close cooperation in the areas of foreign affairs and defence, as well as education and youth affairs. On the basis of this Treaty, Germany cooperates more closely with France than with any other country.

For example, in the area of foreign affairs the two countries agreed to “consult each other, prior to any decision, on all important questions of foreign policy, and particularly on questions of mutual interest, with a view to achieving as far as possible an analogous position.” (more…)

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Leading Iranian cleric accused of crimes against humanity

Published: 12 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 8 January 2018, the spokesperson of the Federal Foreign Office confirmed that Iranian Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi had been receiving medical treatment at a private hospital in Germany since 21 December 2017. The spokesperson declared that “due to a serious illness Mr. Shahroudi had sought further treatment in Germany” and that “this request was granted after credible health reasons had been given.”

At the time of his treatment, Ayatollah Shahroudi was the head of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, a body tasked with the resolution of disputes between Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, and a constitutional watchdog known as the Guardian Council. He was also First Deputy Chairman of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body empowered to designate and dismiss the Supreme Leader of Iran. From 1999 to 2009, Ayatollah Shahroudi was the head of Iran’s Judiciary. As head of the judiciary, he appointed all public prosecutors, the provincial heads of the judiciary and the prison wardens across the country. He also determined the composition of the Supreme Court which he also presided over. The Supreme Court decides on the execution of the death penalty. During his time in office, some 2,000 persons had been executed, including minors and persons who had been minors at the time of their crimes. He had also endorsed the amputation of limbs as fair punishment, as well as flogging, stoning, burning at the stake, and the falling from a height without administration of anaesthetics. (more…)

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German research vessel caught up in Greek-Turkish Aegean Sea dispute

Published: 10 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

At the end of 2017, the research vessel “R/V Meteor”, owned by the Federal Republic of Germany, conducted marine scientific research with permission from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Aegean Sea. The research involved taking core samples from the seabed. On 29 December 2017, while the vessel was operating in the sea area between the Greek islands of Samothrace and Lemnos, two Turkish warships approached the “R/V Meteor” and warned the vessel that it was conducting research in Turkish waters without permission and asked it to leave or seek permission from the Turkish authorities in order to continue its research. While the details of the case are unknown, the Greek media speculated that in order to complete its research programme the master of the vessel requested permission from Turkey to continue research in the Aegean Sea. According to the official project plan the “R/V Meteor” was scheduled to conduct research, inter alia, in the sea area off Kythira from 6 January 2018.

On 3 January 2018, the Turkish authorities issued two navigational telex – Navtex 0020/18 and 0021/18 – which informed seafarers that the “R/V Meteor” would carry out scientific research until further notice in nine designated sea areas in the central and southern Aegean Sea within a triangle formed by the Greek islands of Lemnos, Carpathos, and Kythira. (more…)

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North Korea’s missile and nuclear issues

Published: 6 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

In his annual New Year’s Day Address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the whole of the United States mainland was within the range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and that “the nuclear button was always on [his] office desk all the time”. At the same time he signalled that he was open to talks with South Korea. He said:

“Now it is not time for the north and the south to turn their backs on each other and merely express their respective standpoints; it is time that they sit face to face with a view to holding sincere discussions over the issue of improving inter-Korean relations by our nation itself and seek a way out for its settlement in a bold manner.

As for the Winter Olympic Games to be held soon in south Korea, it will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. From this point of view we are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures; with regard to this matter, the authorities of the north and the south may meet together soon.”

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Unrest in Iran and the right to protest

Published: 4 January 2018 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 28 December 2017, protests over food price rises and corruption began in the north-eastern Iranian city of Mashhad. Protests quickly spread across the whole country and took on a wider anti-government sentiment. On 30 December 2017, protesters at Tehran University called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and there were violent clashes with police in multiple cities. On 1 January 2018, it was reported that protesters were attacking police stations and that at least 12 people, including a policeman, had been killed and hundreds had been arrested. In the evening on that day, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel commented as follows on the protests:

“I am very concerned by the latest developments in Iran and by the reports of further deaths among the demonstrators and the large number of arrests. We call on the Iranian Government to respect the demonstrators’ freedom of assembly and their right to voice their opinions freely and peacefully.

Following the confrontations over the past few days, it is all the more important for all sides to refrain from taking any violent action.”

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