The Weekly Round-up: Israel-Palestine war crimes, Assisted-dying, and SLAPPs
6 November 2023
In the news
As Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza begins, commentators and key global organisations are assessing whether international law is being broken by either side in the conflict. The UN said as early as 10th October that both Hamas and the Israeli military may have committed war crimes and that it is gathering evidence for potential prosecutions. Hamas’ terrorist attack of 7th October, which killed hundreds of noncombatants and abducted others for use as human shields and hostages, has already been labelled a crime under international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, Israel’s siege of Gaza, which includes shutting down food, water and electricity supplies and preventing humanitarian relief, may constitute the crime of collective punishment, according to the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Karim Khan, the British barrister who currently acts as the ICC prosecutor, has said the ICC will pursue investigations into the 7th October attack as well as Israel’s activities in Gaza and the West Bank.
Donald Trump’s sons have taken the stand in their father’s fraud trial in New York. This case concerns the Trump family’s property business, and the prosecution hold that members of the family including Eric and Donald Trump Jr falsely inflated its finances and falsified records. Both sons of the property magnate denied wrongdoing and instead suggested an accountancy firm were to blame, with Trump Jr remarking in testimony that ‘I leave it to my accountants.’ Eric Trump was confronted with email evidence that, despite his assertions, he was in fact closely involved with the construction of the company’s financial statements. The prosecution are seeking a fine of $250m and a ban on Donald Trump and his adult sons doing business in the state.
The Isle of Man Parliament has progressed an assisted-dying legalisation bill. The private members bill was brought by Alex Allinson MHK (Member of the House of Keys), who labelled the proposal a move towards “compassion, choice, and autonomy,” while other MHKs spoke against the bill on the grounds that safeguards against coercion would be difficult to put in place. The bill has it that those eligible would have to conform to several criteria: terminally-ill, over the age of 18, resident on the Isle of Man for at least 12 months, and to have the legal capacity of make the decision and a “clear and settled intention to end their life.” Rob Callister MHK raised the concern that the island become a “death tourism” hotspot, should the bill be passed with its current residency minimum. The campaign group Dignity in Dying has called for the central government in Westminster to follow suit, the Royal College of Surgeons having recently withdrawn its opposition to the proposal.
In other news
The chair of the Bar Council has proposed a solution to the over-use of Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP). SLAPPs typically involve a powerful individual or organisation targeting financially-weaker journalists or publishers with the threat of bringing onerous legal actions. They have been the subject of much public criticism lately, and are described as undermining the democratic principles of free speech and the rule of law. Nick Vineall KC has suggested that those who cynically pursue claims in order to shut down legitimate criticism and public debate should be liable in damages for acting contrary to the public interest. “The public interest is damaged by not having access to information which should never have been restrained, while the reputation of the claimant is unjustifiably protected for a period because something which ought to have been said about them is not said for a period of time, and sometimes of course forever.” Speaking at the IBA conference in Paris, Vineall made a comparison to the practice of applicants for injunctions accepting an undertaking to pay damages in case their claim turns out to be unjustified and the injunction causes harm to the defendant. Listen to our interview with Greg Callus on the subject of SLAPPs on Law Pod UK here.
A leading thinktank has warned that Britain’s public services are stuck in a “doom loop” of recurrent crises as a result of government’s short-term planning. The Institute for Government said that, due to prioritising short-term goals over long-term solutions, underfunding public services, and reversing policy decisions within short periods of time, the British state is underperforming across a range of public services and organisations. “The result is crumbling schools, NHS computers that don’t turn on, and not enough prison cells to house prisoners.” The report cites the crown court backlog, standing in June at a record high of 64,709 cases, and concludes the prison system is “at bursting point” due to over-crowding and under-staffing.
The Scottish government has released a legislative proposal that would give ministers the power to assess and ‘remediate’ (repair or remove) buildings with unsafe cladding without owners’ consent and to evacuate the occupants of unsafe buildings. The Housing (Cladding Remediation) Bill creates a new offence for obstructing or failing to assist with assessment, and introduces the concept of a Scottish ‘responsible developers’ scheme, which would encourage developers to fund remediation work.
In the courts
In Scottish Association of Landlords v Lord Advocate  CSOH 76, the Scottish Court of Session determined that the Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act 2022 did not disproportionately interfere with article 1 of the ECHR protocol 1, which states that ‘every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.’ The court held that the Scottish government’s assessment of proportionality, in bringing a bill that caps rent and places a moratorium on evictions in private residential tenancies, did not proceed manifestly without reasonable foundation.