In international news

This week Israel began military operations in Rafah, a town at the south of the Gaza strip where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the military offence was necessary to secure the return of Israeli hostages and eliminate Hamas: “military pressure on Hamas is an essential condition for the return of our hostages”. The announcement was met with a mixed response from the US, a key Israeli ally. At the beginning of the week Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, stated that the Biden administration paused the supply of weapons to Israel. Later in the week the US state department released a declassified report (available here), which stated that Israel is likely to have violated international law but confirmed that the supply of weapons would continue. South Africa is once again seeking provisional measures from the International Court of Justice, arguing that the Rafah offensive “gives rise to new facts that are causing irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza”. In a separate development, the UN General Assembly voted to enhance the status of the Palestinian delegation within the UN, and to urge the Security Council to give “favourable consideration” to full Palestinian membership. 

Human Rights Watch has published a report about the conflict in Sudan, alleging that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and related militias are carrying out ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. The report details the RSF’s attacks in El Geneina, the capital of West Dafur between April and November 2023. Human Rights Watch alleges that the attacks constituted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Massalit and other non-Arab populations in the area, and included serious abuses including torture, rape and looting. The report cites a UN panel of experts which estimated that approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people were killed in El Geneina in 2023. A UNHCR explainer about the origins of the conflict is available here

In UK news

The Home Office’s Rwanda policy is facing practical and legal challenges. The practical challenge is that over half of the asylum seekers assigned to be removed to Rwanda have gone missing. In addition to existing legal challenges against the current version of the Rwanda policy, described in our previous blog post, there are concerns that there may be legal challenges based on the risk that unaccompanied children wrongly assessed to be adults may be sent to Rwanda.

The Ministry of Justice has introduced a pilot scheme providing free counselling and 24/7 support for jurors following difficult cases. The pilot will run for ten months in 15 courts; jurors will be provided six free counselling sessions alongside a 24/7 telephone helpline with support advice and information. The current jury trial rules which allow for majority verdicts have come under scrutiny this week as research by Appeal, the miscarriage of justice charity, has shown that at least 56 miscarriages of justice in England and Wales occurred where the jury was split. The charity has published a report calling for a requirement of jury unanimity for criminal convictions and a repeal of s.8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which guarantees the confidentiality of jury deliberations, so that the fairness of jury trials can be more closely studied. 

The government has accepted a proposal put forward by Lord Reed, President of the UK Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) to enable overseas judges to sit on the JCPC. Lord Reed commented that the change would “enhance the quality of the Privy Council’s decision-making” by providing “the benefit of the opinion of a judge with direct experience of local conditions”.

The post The Weekly Round-up: Rafah military offensive, Rwanda policy challenges, and criticism of juries appeared first on UK Human Rights Blog.