Chile, recently, became the first country in the world to legislate on neurorights by approving a bill and a corresponding amendment to the Chilean Constitution. The law sets out to protect ‘human psyche’ from advancement in neuroscience and has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
The push for recognition of neurorights gained momentum in 2019 when Rafale Yuste, a neurobiologist, successfully implanted images in the brains of mice and controlled their behaviour. This raised several ethical and legal questions on mental privacy and personal identity. Neurorights calls for the development of a legal framework that seeks to protect human rights violation by regulating neurotechnology advancements. Guido Gerardi, the opposition senator, pushed for the amendment in Chile.
The amendment recognises ‘mental identity’ as a non-manipuable right against advancements in neurosciences and technology. It prohibits any scientific development from increasing, diminishing and disturbing the brain and its activity with the consent of an individual. The bill provides for five basic rights – the right to mental privacy, personal identity, free will, just and equitable access to technological advancements, and protection from discriminatory algorithmic practices. The bill prohibits compelling individuals to give neural data as well as prohibits the buying and selling of neural data - only donating it for ‘altruistic’ purposes is permitted.
Some experts have expressed concerns stating that the legislations maybe pre-mature and that self-regulation by the industry is a better option. However, it is important to recognise that the discussion it has spurred is of vital importance towards protection of human rights in the fast-changing technological world.
Read more on Neurorights here: https://neurorightsfoundation.org/news
In this week's post, Akshay Ashok writes about the Apple, Pfizer and Intel joining plaint against tariffs on Chinese goods.
Major technological giants have often relied on China’s growing influence on international trade for their business operations due to the monetary benefits they gain. Over the past few years, the growing influence of China on global trade gave way t the Trump administration imposing tariffs on Chinese goods.
3700 plaintiffs have now filed a complaint before the Court of International Trade, including big players such as Apple, Intel, Pfizer, Ford, Tesla and Walgreens. The original plaintiff was HMTX Industries LLC and was filed in September 2020. The dispute concerns the tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration on Chinese goods made under Section 301 of the Trade Act, 1974. It will concern the validity of ‘List 3’ and ‘List 4’ tariffs. The case has now grown since it challenges almost 300 billion dollars’ worth of tariffs on Chinese goods. These technological giants have a major interest in securing lesser tariffs on goods from China. Most trade regulations on Chinese goods comes from the unprecedented rise of China’s trade power and role in international trade, controlling more than 12 percent of all global trade in 2018.
The United States Court of International Trade is a federal court in the United States that hears civil cases involving customs and international trade regulations. It is situated in New York City and has extensive jurisdiction over most trade-related concerns, as well as the authority to hear and consider cases anywhere in the United States and overseas. The case is titled ‘In re Section 301 Cases v. United States’.
In this week's post, Anushree Chandra writes about the enforceability of emergency arbitration awards in the Indian context.
The Supreme Court, on 6 August 2021, ruled in a judgment that emergency arbitration awards are enforceable under Indian law. The Court was deciding the dispute between the e-commerce giant Amazon and Future Retail Limited (FRL). The Court, ruling in favor of Amazon, held that it was incorrect to say that Section 17(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (which deals with interim measures ordered by an arbitral tribunal) excludes an emergency arbitrator’s orders. It was further held that a single judge’s order for such an emergency arbitration award cannot be appealed under Section 37(2).
Through this decision, the Supreme Court has reinforced the concept of party autonomy in arbitration. Moreover, it has also established a legal position in India which allows for urgent interim reliefs in complex commercial matters. Various states like Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand had already statutorily recognized emergency arbitration and with this judgment, India is now at par with such countries.
The judgment is also in line with the mechanism adopted by several arbitral institutions like ICC, ICDR, SIAC, SCC, and LCIA. This will enable India to become more friendly towards international arbitration. Furthermore, the judgment also adheres to the 2006 updated UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, which allows for the enforceability of emergency arbitral awards. All these factors, combined, will surely make India more arbitration-friendly in the future.
Tencent's WeChat social media network has banned dozens of LGBTQIA+ profiles owned by university students, claiming that some had violated internet information guidelines, raising fears of a crackdown on gay content online. The social media platform has banned accounts associated with the LGBTQIA+ community and LGBTQIA+ groups in universities. Many student LGBTQIA+ groups have issued statements in response to the closure of their accounts. Fudan University's Zhihe Society said that "Our activities will not stop due to the closure. On the contrary, we hope to use this opportunity to start again with a continued focus on gender and society, and to embrace courage and love."
The rights of members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been at risk in China. While
homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997, it was classified as a mental illness until 2001 and same-sex marriage is still not recognised under Chinese laws. In 2019, China agreed to five recommendations on LGBTQIA+ issues made under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, including adopting legislation banning discrimination within a year, however, this legislation is yet to be adopted. The release of information for and about the LGBTQIA+ community may be considered illegal under China's Cybersecurity Law, which prohibits the publication of information that disrupts the "social order".
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognise the inherent right to equality of all peoples and the duties of states to respect, ensure and promote this right. This includes the right against discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. The UN human rights council has been very vocal against violence and discrimination committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity from its resolution 17/19 on Human rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity in 2011.
Wechat's deleting profiles based on sexual orientation would come under the scope of discrimination and unequal treatment. States are obligated to take actions to prevent such
violations of the right to equality, making it incumbent on the government of China to ensure such discrimination does not go unnoticed. Preventing homophobic actions of private organisations which worsen the lives of members of the LGBTQIA+ community is the next step towards ending the discrimination and bringing everyone closer together.
1. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right's statement on "Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity" Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/discrimination/pages/lgbt.aspx
2. Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity : note by the Secretary-General (UN Doc. A/74/181) Available at: https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3823802?ln=en
3. Outright Action International's page on China, Available at : https://outrightinternational.org/region/china
Lebanon will default on $1.2 billion in foreign currency debts coming due on Monday, the prime minister said on Saturday, as the country lurched deeper into an economic crisis that has set off widespread anti-government protests and left the country grasping for a foreign bailout.
Amid a rapid devaluation of the Lebanese pound, shortages of imports, a slow-motion bank run and thousands of layoffs, the decision is likely to appease protesters who have clamored for the government to prioritize domestic concerns over repaying the Eurobond.
Lebanon has a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9, part of a portfolio of some $31 billion in dollar bonds that sources told Reuters on Friday the government would seek to restructure in negotiations with its creditors.
A default on Lebanon’s foreign currency debt will mark a new phase in a crisis that has hammered the economy since October, slicing around 40% off the value of the local
currency. The crisis is seen as the biggest risk to Lebanon's stability since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
“The reserves of hard currency have reached a critical and dangerous level,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in announcing that the government would not make the debt payment. “It is necessary to use these funds to secure the basic needs of the Lebanese people.” Some economists and policymakers had argued against a default to preserve Lebanon’s unblemished record of repaying its debts, pushing instead to restructure it.
Without delving into specifics, Mr. Diab said the government would seek to negotiate with creditors to restructure the rest of its foreign currency debt, which totals $31 billion.
The country has floundered in the grip of simultaneous political and economic crises for nearly half a year, as the remittances from Lebanese working abroad, aid from Gulf countries and financial wizardry at Lebanon’s banks, which had kept the economy buoyant for years, began to collapse. This led to the Lebanese people taking to the streets in massive protests in mid-October, denouncing the political elite for mismanagement and corruption that have left the country unable to provide basics such as 24-hour electricity and reliable running water.
That forced the government’s resignation and led to a months-long political vacuum, during which the economy slid further. But the cabinet that eventually replaced it, a mixture of policy experts and political appointees led by Mr. Diab, has failed so far to gain public confidence or head off further economic damage.
Old autocrats rarely resign, nor do they just fade away. So when Vladimir Putin slipped proposals for a few changes to the Russian Constitution into his annual state-of-the-nation talkathon followed immediately by the resignation of the entire government, the presumption was that the president, who is 67, was laying the groundwork to extend his 20-year reign past the expiration of his current term in 2024.”
In the biggest overhaul of Russian politics for decades, Mr. Putin surprised the country’s establishment with his timing, if not the outcome. He announced he would seek to rewrite the Russian Constitution to fortify the power of parliament and reduce the clout of the presidency. In effect, negating his direct successor and opening up an easy route to maintain his grip on the country. In a 70-minute speech, Mr. Putin addressed the burning question over the future of his reign but also provided a peek of just how the new system would work, and his exact role in it.
This can be seen as a move inspired by fellow autocratic leader China's Xi Jinping, who, in effect made himself 'president for life', while Vladimir Putin has made it clear he has more decades left in the tank. Most importantly, he killed the rising hubbub of those jostling for influence around him and the dreams of would-be usurpers. Mr. Putin’s overhaul had immediate repercussions. Within a few hours of Mr. Putin’s speech ending, his long-time ally Dmitry Medvedev stepped down as prime minister and his entire government resigned. A day later a previously little-known government official, a tax technocrat with a mandate for economic renewal, was sworn in as Mr. Medvedev’s replacement in the fastest-ever change of Russian premier. Mr. Putin’s regime — which has looked tired, grey and has lost public confidence in recent years — had a feeling of being immediately refreshed.
The shift away from a presidential-led system — which Mr. Putin strengthened for his advantage — to a stronger parliament with the power to choose the cabinet gives Mr. Putin a wealth of options to remain and even strengthen his power when his fourth term as president ends in 2024.
Thus one can begin to speculate about how Mr. Putin might seek to maintain power, including complicated plans such as ramming through a proposal to form a joint state with Belarus and appointing himself leader of the resulting entity, or taking on a “father of the nation” role like Kazakhstan’s long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev did last year.
Conclusion: The advantage of this system would be that, while exercising command, Mr. Putin could blame the prime minister for any shortcomings, and also Parliament for appointing the prime minister. Staying off the main stage would also allow Mr. Putin to reduce his workload and better enjoy his many billions.
Whatever his ultimate intentions, Mr. Putin has the authority and popularity to get the constitutional amendments through a referendum without any serious resistance, and the time to plot his next move. What that means for the West is that there will be no change in policy until 2024, and possibly very little after that.
Escalation of Tensions between USA and Iran after the Airstrike conducted by USA killing General Qasem Soleimani and its possible effects on IndiaRead Now
Amidst the long-standing conflict between United States and Iran, the recent airstrike conducted by United States which resulted in killing of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has escalated the tensions between the two nations dramatically.
Pentagon confirmed that the attack, which took down General Soleimani, who spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East and was considered to be the second most powerful person in Iran after the Supreme leader, came at the direction of President Trump. The Trump administration considered General Soleimani and his troops a "foreign terrorist organization" and held Soleimani's troops responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers.
The Pentagon said, targeting Soleimani was aimed at deterring “future Iranian attack plans”, while Trump said the Iranian general was targeted because he was planning “imminent and sinister” attacks on U.S. diplomats and military personnel. Trump and his top aides are defending the legality of action as being within the authority of the president. However, the top democrats are questioning whether the Trump administration required congressional approval for the same. Trump’s supporters are basing their support on Article 2 of the US Constitution, which allows the president to use military force in support of the national interest, when the force does not constitute war. It is debatable whether the actions constitute a declaration of war and whether congressional approval is required for acts of self-defence.
The US Govt. is justifying the strike as an act of self-defence and deterrence. However, its legality under international law is also questionable. UN special rapporteur Agnès Callamard said that the drone strike resulting in the General’s killing is in violation of international human rights law. She criticized the Pentagon’s statement about the airstrike, and in reply to the justification given by the US Govt. that the action was in response to imminent threats to American lives she said, “under customary international law, states can take military action if the threatened attack is imminent, no other means would deﬂect it, and the action is proportionate.” She also mentioned that the killing appears far more retaliatory for past acts than anticipatory for imminent self-defence.
Iran has vowed a severe revenge in retaliation to the airstrike and this can be seen as a potential turning point in the geopolitics of the Middle East. The question which stands unanswered is that whether the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani can be seen as a declaration of war. Soleimani may have been controversial, even a "shadow commander", but he served at the pleasure of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, to protect and expand the regime's interests in the Middle East. Soleimani’s killing is an attack on the Iran’s state sovereignty.
The attack also violates the sovereignty of Iraq as it was conducted on the territory of Iraq without the permission of Iraqi Government. This raises a serious doubt on the legality of the strike as violating international law by being an act of aggression and breaching the Iraqi sovereignty. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the use of force against other states barring an exception if the act is conducted in self-defence. Self-defence means fending off an armed attack.
The question is whether the attack can be said to be in “anticipatory” self-defence, and it must meet the heightened Caroline Test, which requires that the necessity of self-defence “is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”
Amidst the rising fear of a war between the two nations, the UN Secretary General has advocated for de-escalation and has made clear that the world cannot afford another Gulf War.
The Trump administration had, earlier in its policy decisions, aimed to impose tough sanctions on Iran aimed at crippling its economy and containing its regional ambitions rather than acting in a way which could initiate war with the Islamic Republic.
If this is so, then can it be considered that the action was to deflect attention from the impeachment during the election year? Or was it a response meant to safeguard American lives from future attacks, not start war with Iran. Either way, the assassination is a clear departure from the policy of sanctions, showing Trump administration’s readiness to use US military might as much as its economic power.
What impact can the escalating situation have on India? At this point, India cannot handle tension in the Persian Gulf given the precarious position of its economy. There are two primary dangers which India can face if the situation escalates further. Firstly, heightened tensions could affect economies of the region in conflict and could endanger jobs of many Indians which in turn would place pressure on the Indians to return and could also endanger the remittances which India receives from West Asia. Secondly, the situation is causing a rise in the prices of oil. International prices have gone up by 4% since the strike. An increase in international oil prices could adversely affect the country and result in inflation thus, hampering India’s economy.
The internet is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. However, currently only 24.4 per cent of the population on the African continent is estimated to have access to the internet. More people on the continent are gaining access through the proliferation of affordable internet-enabled smartphones. In Uganda, the number of internet users was estimated to be 18.5 million individuals as of June 2018.
In Africa the internet is considerably more politicised than in other parts of the world. Tools such as social media undoubtedly are altering the way in which activism is carried out. These tools facilitate networking, making the mobilisation of people for social or political causes much easier.
A study by a United States (US) company, Portland Communications, on the use of the social media platform Twitter in Africa found that in 2018 almost half of the most popular African hash-tags related to political issues. Ugandans, like their African counterparts, use the internet and other electronic technologies to engage in various forms of activism. Activism through electronic technologies takes the form of text messaging on mobile phones, blogging, on-line petitions, social media posts, and the sharing of video recordings.
In Uganda, digital activism was used to encourage support for Miss Uganda, Quiin Abenakyo, when she was among the finalists in the 2018 Miss World competition. Digital activism also has been used to do crowd funding for different causes, such as combating disease or paying the medical bills of patients. Digital activism simply is the continuation of traditional grassroots mobilisation using modern digital tools as aids.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Universal Declaration) states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, and this includes the right to 'impart information and ideas through any media'. Since its adoption in 1948, parts of the Universal Declaration, including article 19, have gained wide acceptance and are now regarded as having acquired legal force as customary international law.
In furtherance, while examining present legal systems in hand right now, we must take into account the provisions of the African Charter of Human Rights. Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Charter) provides that every individual has the right to receive information and to express and disseminate opinions within the law. In interpreting article 9, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission) asserted the 'fundamental importance of freedom of expression and information as an individual human right, as a cornerstone of democracy and as a means of ensuring respect for all human rights and freedoms'.
By virtue of the above examination, it can be concluded that digital activism has the nature of social and political activism, making these more widespread and easier. International instruments and constitutions protect freedom of expression and by extension, digital activism. This protection notwithstanding, various laws are being applied to curtail digital activism. A balanced approach that acknowledges the value of digital activism while curtailing harmful aspects of information and communications technology, such as cybercrime, is needed so that freedom of expression, so critical in this digital age, can thrive.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 amends the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955 to grant citizenship status to illegal immigrants belonging to Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan that follow Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism or the Parsi faith and fleeing from their countries under the fear of religious persecution but excludes the Muslims from the same. There can be a few interesting observations that can be made regarding India’s obligations under human rights treaties, concerning the said Bill.
Three days after the bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha, i.e. on December 14, the United Nations Human Rights Office condemned it by stating it to be “fundamentally discriminatory”. Basing our view on their observations, it can be reasoned that the Bill primarily breaches three important Human Rights Treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), the 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Further, though not strictly a human rights instrument, the said Act can also be argued to violate the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, which has India as one of its endorsees.
Article 26 of the ICCPR reflects the Right to Equality as reflected in Article 14 of the Constitution of India. It ensures equality before the law and equal protection of law to all “persons” irrespective of their race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and any law doing the same is to be considered in violation of the ICCPR.
It could further be contended by the opposition that it violates Article 4 and Article 5 of the 1992 Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The former Article extends the protection of basic human rights and fundamental equality before the law to the minorities of a State, whereas the latter article specifies that “National policies and programs shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities”. The classification of the statute against the minority religious community of the State violates these two provisions. Further, under the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, under Article 1, “racial discrimination” includes discrimination based on national origin and right to nationality is declared an obligation on the state under Article 5. Both of these provisions are violated as the bill grants specific rights to specific nations and specific classes of people, but not to all refugees or migrants in need.
India is however among the few countries in the world that neither has a national refugee protection framework nor an immigration policy, apart from certain statutes like Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, Foreigners Act, 1946, and the Passport Act, 1967. India is also not a signatory to any UN conventions, so it is under no obligation to provide rights set out by them. While the goal of protecting persecuted groups is welcome, this should be done through a robust national asylum system that is premised on the principle of equality and non-discrimination, and which applies to all people in need of protection from persecution and other human rights violations, with no distinction as to race, religion, national origin or other prohibited grounds. If its actions conflict with such Human Rights Instruments, it can lead to adverse consequences, from condemnation by the international community to UN sanctions and embargos.
India recently lost a dispute at the WTO filed by the US against "domestic export incentives" provided by India. The Dispute Settlement Panel (DSP) concluded that these schemes are inconsistent with international trade norms. As an effect, India will now have to re-work on these incentive schemes to be in compliance with the WTO norms. However, it can still file an appeal against the ruling at the appellate body of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
The major contention raised by the US was that these schemes were harming American companies. The DSP in its report has concluded that most of these schemes like EOU, Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme; EPCG, and MEIS are inconsistent with provisions of WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
DSP also ruled that these export subsidy programs provided by the Indian government violated provisions of the WTO norms.
DSP rejected India's claim that it was exempted from the prohibition on export subsidies under the special and differential treatment provisions of the WTO's Agreement on Subsidies & Countervailing Measures (SCM).
The other affected schemes from the ruling are - Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS), Export Oriented Units Scheme and various sector-specific schemes, including Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme and Bio-Technology Parks Scheme; Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme; and Duty-Free Imports for Exporters Scheme.
In its findings, DSP determined that India had "graduated" from the exemption that it was originally entitled to and was not eligible for any further transition period.
Further, the global trade watchdog said that India was granting prohibited export subsidies in the form of exemptions from customs duties and the integrated Goods and Services Tax, deductions from taxable income, and the issuance of notes or scripts that firms can use to pay off certain debts to the government.
However, other US claims regarding a subset of exemptions from customs duties and an exemption from excise duties were rejected by the panel.
DSP further recommended that India should withdraw the prohibited subsidies under DFIS, the EOU/EHTP/BTP schemes, EPCG, and MEIS, within 90 days, 120 days respectively and SEZ scheme within 180 days from the adoption of the report.
Now, India has a month to challenge the ruling before an appellate body, the highest court for global trade disputes.
But to be in compliance, New Delhi has already set the ball rolling to replace the MEIS and has proposed the Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP) scheme which would come into force from January 1, 2020.