The Weekly Round-Up: ‘Pyjama Injunctions’, the Rwanda Policy, and War in Sudan and Russia’s sentencing of Alexander Navalny
1 May 2023
In the news
Yet again, the Public Order Bill and the Illegal Migration Bill have been back in the papers this week. The latter has made it through the House of Commons by 59 votes, following threatened rebellions from both the right and liberal wings of the Tory party. One of the resulting amendments provides the Home Secretary with the discretion to refuse to comply with interim injunctions from the ECtHR – known as ‘Rule 39 Orders’ (or ‘pyjama injunctions’ by some Tory MPs). In deciding whether to exercise her discretion, the Home Secretary will be entitled to have regard to the timeliness of any orders made by Strasbourg, as well as the ‘transparency’ of such orders. It is, however, unclear what practical effect this will have since the obligation to obey these orders exists at the international level, which domestic legislation cannot change. Once the Bill is debated in the House of Lords, it is expected that several amendments will be tabled in an attempt to temper some of the more draconian measures in the Bil – such as the detention of pregnant women and children – after the Equality and Human Rights Commission said that it is ‘seriously concerned’ about the impact of the Bill on such groups, and the implications for victims of modern slavery. Regarding the Public Order Bill (which is awaiting royal assent), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the measures introduced by the Bill as ‘wholly unnecessary’, ‘disproportionate’ and inconsistent with our international obligations, and has called on the government to reverse the legislation ‘as soon as feasible’. The government maintains that both Bills are necessary and compliant with international law.
The increasingly violent conflict in Sudan has prompted the UNHRC to call on both the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces to halt the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Since the conflict broke out on 15th April just over two weeks ago, over 20,000 people have fled Sudan for Chad, with various states, including the UK and Saudi Arabia, involved in the evacuation effort. Reports have come in of deliberate bombing of residential homes, repeated breaches of ceasefires and at least 400 dead in the capital, Khartoum. However, this figure is likely to be much higher, as the conflict is preventing many from seeking help. It’s also reported that millions are without water and power as a result of the targeting of civilian infrastructure. Human Rights Watch has said that the conflict highlights the need for increased international scrutiny in the region, and MPs in Westminster have called for sanctions on certain Sudanese officials.
Meanwhile, in Russia, officials have opened an ‘absurd’ case against Alexei Navalny, a high-profile critic of the Kremlin, for terrorism, which could see his sentence increased by thirty years. Navalny, who is already serving eleven years and six months for alleged fraud and contempt of court, appeared looking ‘gaunt’ in a Moscow court via live-link – the first time he has been seen since his suspected poisoning earlier this month. This is not the first time that the Kremlin is alleged to have attempted to assassinate Navalny via poisoning – he was poisoned with novichok in Siberia back in 2020, for which the Kremlin denied responsibility. The Kremlin says that the basis for the charges is that Navalny is indirectly responsible for the bombing of a Russian café earlier this month, in which a prominent supporter of the war in Ukraine, Vladlen Tatarsky, was killed.
In other news
- Amnesty International has drawn attention to the human rights situation in Ghana this week. The board chairman, Francis Nyantakyi, cited the widespread practice of illegal evictions, attacks on journalists, deplorable prison conditions, literal witch-hunts, and police brutality. This comes against a background of progress in the sub-Saharan nation on human rights issues, but a noted lack of progress since 2021.
- The government has published their plans to remove the obligation on landlords to secure a HMO license if they are providing accommodation to asylum-seekers. This would, critics say, effectively legalise the provision of “hazardous” accommodation to some of the most vulnerable members of society. The government claims the aim is to get asylum-seekers housed as soon as possible, while others have described it as an “assault on human rights”. The potential for harm is evident from the recent report by Migrant Voice, which describes the conditions of such accommodation in detail – see here.
- Singapore has executed a 46-year-old man, Tangaraju Suppiah, over an alleged plot to smuggle a kilo of marijuana. Suppiah was hanged at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, despite pleas from his family, activists and the UN, in the city-state’s first execution of the year. Critics have expressed outrage over the allegedly weak evidence on which Suppiah was convicted and criticised the application of the death penalty to non-violent drug offences in general. Singapore’s government maintains that the death penalty is an essential component of its zero-tolerance policy and is necessary to keep the country safe. Suppiah was executed having never touched the cannabis in question and he was denied access to a Tamil interpreter.
In the courts
- The Court of Appeal has concluded a four-day hearing on the legality of the government’s plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda. The case turned largely on the adequacy of the assurances given to the Home Secretary by Rwandan officials on the treatment of asylum-seekers. The court refused to provide a date by which it would make a decision, telling counsel that it will ‘take as long as it takes’.
- The climate protesters for Just Stop Oil who scaled Dartford Bridge, causing the road to close for 40 hours, have been sentenced to a total of five years and seven months at Southend Crown Court. Their protest, in which they flew posters from the top of the bridge, delayed around 565,000 drivers and caused widespread disruption back in October last year.