Press release: Families of West African migrants seek to finally get justice after 15 years of disregard, neglect and political inaction

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With legal support from the Sterling Centre for Law & Development, the families of West African migrants assisted by ANEKED, filed complaints on November 18 against the governments of Ghana and The Gambia before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice for infringing several international human rights, including the right to judicial remedies.

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The Definition of an “Attack” under the Law of Armed Conflict

by Christof Heyns, Stuart Casey-Maslen, Thomas Probert

As in any branch of international law, examining the meaning of a law of armed conflict (LOAC) term, and its incorporation in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, should look first to the treaties—and “attack” is no different. Indeed, as is well known, the notion of “attacks” is explicitly defined in Article 49 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I as “acts of violence against the adversary, whether in offence or in defence.” A seemingly broad definition, it is certainly clear and concise. One might thus be tempted to end an inquiry of the law there.

But in this post, we detail why such an approach would be mistaken. For it fails to consider the notion of an “attack” in Geneva Law (which protects persons and objects in the power of the enemy), which applies more broadly than does the Hague Law regulation of the conduct of hostilities. This omission is particularly serious in the context of a non-international armed conflict, where the geographical scope of hostilities is tightly circumscribed.

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ICLA Professor Dire Tladi appointed as President of the SA Branch of the International Law Association

Dire Tladi

On 17 September 2020, Prof Dire Tladi was appointed to serve as the President of the South African Branch of the International Law Association (SABILA). SABILA is a chapter of the International Law Association (ILA), an organisation that brings together international lawyers from all over the world dedicated to the "study, clarification and development of international law" and the "furtherance of international understanding and the respect of international law".

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Video: Developing a coherent set of international standards on the management of demonstrations

Members of the Freedom from Violence Unit of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, have for the last five years been leading the process in the United Nations (UN) to develop a coherent set of international standards on the management of demonstrations.

In this video we trace the work Prof Christof Heyns and his team did to help develop General Comment 37 (2020) on the right of peaceful assembly with the UN Human Rights Committee; the UN Guidance on less-lethal weapons of 2020; and the Minnesota Protocol on the investigation of potentially unlawful death of 2015.

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New study on police oversight in Kenya

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Along with Dr Mutuma Ruteree and Brian Kimari of the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies (CHRIPS), Dr Thomas Probert has recently published a study of police oversight arrangements in Kenya. It is based upon research undertaken as part of an EU-funded project implemented by a consortium of partners aimed at ensuring strengthening police oversight and investigations. In addition to CHRIPS and the Centre for Human Rights these partners are the Independent Policing Oversight Authority of Kenya (IPOA), the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR).

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COVID-19 can't crush human rights, UN gathering declares

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Original post: The Public's Radio

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In a diminished spotlight because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading human rights defenders on Friday urged people in these fractured times to connect through politics — and vote, too.

“In many places around the world, participation is being denied and civic space is being crushed,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on the sidelines of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders, this year held online.

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UP Law alumni Keketso Kgomosotho and Stanley Malematja in M&G Top 200 Young South Africans

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The Faculty of Law (UP Law) at the University of Pretoria (UP) proudly announces and congratulates its alumni, Keketso Gift Kgomosotho and Stanley Malematja, who were recognised by the Mail & Guardian (M&G) 200 Young South Africans. Every year, M&G canvasses the country to find the 200 most outstanding young South Africans. At the beginning of every year, M&G opens up nominations for Young South Africans and this year they received approximately 8 000 nominations.

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Children’s deaths as a result of police action: An unacceptable failure of international and constitutional obligations

daily maverick
Original post: Maverick Citizen

Two children have died at the hands of police in South Africa during the last week. Both of the children were innocent of any crime.

In the case of 9 year old Leo Williams, who was caught by a stray rubber bullet when police opened fire on protestors during a service delivery protest in St Helena Bay, he was not even involved in the protest action. News reports indicate he was playing indoors when this occurred. The police say Nathaniel Julies, a 16 year old boy with down syndrome, was shot in the crossfire when they opened fire on gangsters. Family members say that he was shot by police when he failed to answer questions. Full investigations by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate will hopefully reveal the full stories. But so far we know enough to say that these were two eminently avoidable deaths. We also know the deaths were caused by the use of force by police involving lethal weapons.

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U.N. Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 37 on Freedom of Assembly: An Excellent and Timely Contribution

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Original post: Just Security

General Comment No. 37 by the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the treaty body monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), was released on Wednesday, July 29. As usual, the General Comment is an interpretive document related to one of the human rights covered by the Covenant, in this case the right to freedom of assembly, ICCPR Article 21. Other treaty bodies acting under different U.N. human rights treaties also issue General Comments or General Recommendations, but amongst them, the Human Rights Committee is most faithful to the idea of crafting its General Comments in the form of interpretive commentary of the treaty obligations, flowing from a binding treaty provision while at the same time evolving through institutionalized practices of interpretation. For its General Comments, the Committee primarily relies on its own practice related to the examination of periodic reports by governments or to the quasi-judicial adjudication of complaints by individuals. Increasingly, it also has drawn on a greater variety of sources.

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Two years in the making, rights experts say what protesters can do - and can’t

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It’s widely accepted that peaceful protests are a key tool in democratic societies that allow people to put issues on the public agenda. But what is legal – and what is illegal – when it comes to demonstrations around the world? Can you wear a mask, for example?

That’s a question for Christof Heyns, who led discussions on the issue for the UN Human Rights Committee, with Member States and NGOs.

In an interview with UN News’s Daniel Johnson, veteran rights expert Professor Heyns explains what the UN panel’s advice is for protesters - and Governments - according to its just-released General Comment on the right to freedom of assembly.

Listen to Audio

Audio Credit:
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration:
9'39"

General Comment No. 37: Translating the “Right to Protest” in Turbulent Times

by Priya Pillai

Original post: Opinio Juris

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has adopted General comment No. 37 on the right of peaceful assembly emanating from Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The final document was made available last week, and can be found here.   

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ICLA Professor Dire Tladi interviewed by Legal Pages, Issue 5, July 2020

Professor Dire Tladi in the Department of Public Law and a Fellow at the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria futures in Issue 5 of the Legal Pages, July 2020, (page 7 to 12) on ‘The impact of the Covid-19  Pandemic on International Law, Human Rights and State Responsibility.’

The Legal Pages interview with Tladi is based on his appointment to serve on the Institut de Droit’s Commission on Pandemics and International Law. In this article, he shares his professional experience, the multifarious roles of international law in these dire times, and inter alia, his passion for fiction writing.  He also has a strong message for law and policymakers across the Africa continent:  'The people of this continent need strong leaders to take them out of the abyss of poverty. Lead for them!'

Download Issue 5 of the Legal Pages

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ICLA Director leads process to adopt new UN standards on peaceful assemblies

Christof Heyns

The United Nations Human Rights Committee last week adopted comprehensive standards on the way in which States should deal with peaceful assemblies. These guidelines are authoritative for the 173 States in the world that have ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The 18-member committee of international experts adopted the General Comment as the culmination of a two-year process. The process was led by Professor Christof Heyns, former Director of the Centre for Human Rights, current Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria and a member of the Committee. He was supported by colleagues in the Faculty of Law and a doctoral student from Kenya.

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Interview with Christof Heyns: Major New UN Comment on Right of Peaceful Assembly

Christof Heyns

Go to original post on Just Security

World Justice Project Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen is joined by Christof Heyns, Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria and member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, on WJP’s Rule of Law Talk Podcast to discuss the right of peaceful assembly. A new General Comment issued this week by the United Nations Human Rights Committee provides guidance on this topic at a critical moment, with protest movements on the rise across the globe, and many countries grappling with the appropriate response—something that has become even more complicated with the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions on large gatherings.

The audio podcast is available at WJP.

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UN expert welcomes landmark protection for online assembly

Christof Heyns

GENEVA (29 July 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association has hailed as groundbreaking an authoritative new interpretation that the right to peaceful assembly extends to digital activities.

“I am excited by this truly landmark affirmation that protection of the right to peaceful assembly extends to remote participation, including online assemblies,” said Clément N. Voule, reacting to a document released by the UN Human Rights Committee today. “It is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many peaceful gatherings have moved online.”

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U.N. Panel Takes Aim at Heavy-Handed Police Tactics at Protests

Use of Force

Original post: NYTimes

The comments by the United Nations Human Rights Committee come as the Trump administration faces growing criticism for deploying federal agents to confront Black Lives Matter protesters.

By Nick Cumming-Bruce

GENEVA — Law-enforcement authorities are obligated to protect and facilitate peaceful demonstrations, an influential United Nations human rights panel said on Wednesday, challenging tactics the police have used against anti-racism protests in American cities and around the world.

The international treaty governing civil and political rights requires states to allow peaceful demonstrations, not to block or disrupt them without a compelling reason, the United Nations Human Rights Committee said. Authorities should also seek to de-escalate situations that might lead to violence and to use only the minimum force necessary to disperse crowds.

“A failure to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly is typically a marker of repression,” the panel said in its finding.

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UP researchers draft new UN standards on use of force by police

Use of force
 

The United Nations in Geneva has released global standards on the use of force by the police worldwide. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet welcomed the new United Nations Human Rights Guidance on the Use of Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement and urged all states to follow it.

The Guidance sets out the different kinds of weapons that are available to the police today, and identifies the conditions under which they may and may not be used. The High Commissioner thanked the University of Pretoria and the Geneva Academy and in particular Professor Christof Heyns, who teaches at both these institutions and lead the process of drafting the Guidance in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Less Lethal than Firearms, But Only if Used Appropriately

Original post: www.justsecurity.org

The excessive use of force by U.S. police forces in responding to the wave of demonstrations that have taken place throughout the country in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks has rightly been widely condemned. In particular, events in the United States in recent weeks have highlighted the reality that far too often police use of force has a distinct racial bias. In the words of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, speaking during an urgent debate in the Human Rights Council on racism and excessive use of force in policing on June 17, “Too little has changed over too many years.”

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Major new US study measures police use of force against standards set out in UP research

Research from the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Law has become a global benchmark for a major US-based study on the police’s use of force in America.

In the wake of the deaths at the hand of the police of George Floyd, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Breonna Taylor and many others, the new study was released by the University of Chicago’s Law School.

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Invitation: Webinar on the New Use of Force Law for South Africa

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This webinar will discuss use of force legislation in South Africa and whether the time has come to consider a comprehensive new Use of Force Law.

  • Louise Edwards – Programmes and Research Director, APCOF
  • Adv. Tseliso Thipanyane – Chief Executive Officer, SA Human Rights Commission
  • Prof. Christof Heyns – Director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, University of Pretoria, and member of the UN Human Rights Committee
  • Themba Masuku – Independent Policing Researcher
  • Hon. J Jeffery – Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development South Africa
  • pdfDownload Invitation

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International Day of UN Peacekeepers: Peacekeeping, capacity to protect, and responsibility while protecting

Less-Lethal-Weapons

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, commemorated annually on 29 May, is a day dedicated to honouring and paying tribute to men and women who have lost their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping missions, both military and civilians. Peacekeeping has gone through several evolutions since the first peacekeeping mission was created more than 70 years ago. In the time since then, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), a peacekeeping mission established in 1949 to monitor the Armistice Agreement between Israel and Arab States, peacekeeping missions, has increased in number and evolved in form.

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COVID-19 Jurisprudence on the right of peaceful assembly and police use of force

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ICLA is preparing summaries of COVID-19-related jurisprudence around the world on the right of peaceful assembly and police use of force. 

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Press release: UP Law students judged number 40 in the world

Jessup

A team of students from the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria represented South Africa at the prestigious global rounds of the Jessup International Moot Court Competition that are held in Washington D.C. in April every year. The top law faculties in the world participate every year, and in 2020 more than 700 lined up to show their mettle in what is widely seen as the world championship of law schools.

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Call for Papers: Assessing the implications of COVID-19 pandemic regulations on human rights and the rule of law in Africa

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The Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria, in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Rule of Law Program for SubSaharan Africa - Nairobi, Kenya, is planning a webinar on the theme “Assessing the implications of Covid-19 pandemic regulations on human rights and the rule of law in Africa,” for 11-12 August 2020.

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Overview of Global and Regional Human Rights Standards on the Police Use of Force

Use of Force

 In response to the recent Khoza judgement in the Pretoria High Court on the use of force by law enforcement officials during the Covid-19 pandemic,  the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa together with the Centre for Human Rights have made available an overview of the main international legal documents and standards on the use of force.

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Pretoria professor to join study of police brutality

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By Lisa Isaacs

Cape Town – The Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has appointed the University of Pretoria’s Professor Christof Heyns and some of his colleagues in the Faculty of Law to assist with a continent-wide comparative study on the use of force by law enforcement officials.

They are tasked with collecting all the applicable laws and collaborating with the commission to study how the use of force by law enforcement is dealt with in Africa in the context of the protection of the right to life and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.

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Use of force by police in African countries: UP Faculty of Law researchers to assist African Union in study of relevant laws

PRETORIA – The human rights body of the African Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, has appointed Professor Christof Heyns and some of his colleagues in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria to assist with a continent-wide comparative study on the laws related to the use of force by law enforcement officials in all African countries.

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University of Pretoria: Opportunity for doctoral studies on aspects of ‘Freedom from violence in Africa’

The University of Pretoria, working with a global network of research partners (including in Cambridge, Geneva and well-established collaboration with more than a dozen other African universities), recently established a research programme that focuses on violence reduction and securing the right to life in Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary programme that engages in the African context with the aspiration of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 to establish ‘peaceful societies’.

 

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University of Pretoria ranks within the top 100 universities in the world in terms of their impact regarding SDG 16

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Last week Times Higher Education, one of the most well-regarded global analysts of comparative university performance, announced their global University Impact Rankings, which seek to capture universities’ impact on society based on their success in delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The University of Pretoria is proud to have been ranked within the top 100 universities in the world in terms of their impact regarding SDG 16, the goal aimed at reducing violence, pursuing access to justice and building effective institutions.

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Call for submissions: University Law Press Thesis Prize

Students who have completed, or will complete, their doctoral studies in law at an African University in 2020 are encouraged to submit their doctoral theses for consideration for the new Pretoria University Law Press Thesis Prize, which will be awarded on an annual basis.

The winning thesis will be published in book form by the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP).

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A Critique of the Canberra Guiding Principles on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems

autonomous weapons

By Thomson Chengeta

This article is part of a series.

The challenges that are raised by lethal autonomous weapon systems [LAWS] – also known as killer robots – remain pertinent today, even amidst the deadly corona virus pandemic that has taken the world by a storm. Realising that even in times of crisis, it is critical for nations to continue addressing this urgent issue, from 1-2 April 2020, the German Government hosted a Berlin virtual forum on the regulation of LAWS within which 450 people participated from 63 countries. During the forum, the German Government – through its Foreign Minister – reiterated that “letting machines decide over life and death of human beings runs against all of our ethical standards”.

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Press release: University of Pretoria law academic appointed on international pandemic commission

Dire Tladi

The Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria is proud to announce that Professor Dire Tladi was appointed to serve on the Commission dealing with Pandemics and International Law of the Institut de Droit International, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

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Alumna of UP's Faculty of Law wins prestigious International Prize for best book in the law of armed conflict

The Faculty of Law is proud to announce that UP Faculty of Law alumna Aniel de Beer's book on 'Peremptory Norms of General International Law (Jus Cogens) and the Prohibition of Terrorism' has been selected as the winner of the American Society of International Law Francis Lieber Prize for best book in the law of armed conflict.  The book is based on De Beer’s doctoral thesis completed in 2018 and prepared under supervision of Professor Dire Tladi in the Department of Public Law and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, and a member of the International Law Commission.

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The Draft General Comment on Freedom of Assembly: Might Less Be More?

Warsaw Poland
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Editor’s note from Ryan Goodman: Just Security is publishing a mini-forum on a significant document being drafted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee concerning the right of peaceful assembly. We were honored to launch the series with an initial article by Christof Heyns, member of the Committee and its rapporteur on the draft General Comment. As Heyns noted in his article, the Committee is currently accepting public views on the draft document, and we hope this series at Just Security will contribute to the important work of the Committee.

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What difference does the UN human rights treaty system make, and why?

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By: Christof Heyns & Frans Viljoen

February 11, 2020

A new, global academic study to answer this question is launched in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UN treaty bodies system has operated for the last more than half a century on the premise that it makes a difference where it matters: on the ground, in all countries around the world. Yet there is very little evidence available of the extent to which it actually makes such a difference, and why. It is hard to see how the system can survive—or for that matter be reformed, or even understood—without a much clearer picture of its impact and the forces that drive it.

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The Right of Peaceful Assembly: UN Committee Weighs in on the ‘Age of Protest’

Warsaw Poland
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Editor’s note from Ryan Goodman: Just Security is publishing a mini-forum on a significant document being drafted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee concerning the right of peaceful assembly. We were honored to launch the series with an initial article by Christof Heyns, member of the Committee and its rapporteur on the draft General Comment. As Heyns noted in his article, the Committee is currently accepting public views on the draft document, and we hope this series at Just Security will contribute to the important work of the Committee.

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United Nations Sets Standards on Peaceful Assemblies and the Use of Less Lethal Weapons

Peaceful Assembly
by 

Original Post: Just Securtiy 

Editor’s note from Ryan Goodman: Just Security is publishing a mini-forum on a significant document being drafted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee concerning the right of peaceful assembly. We are honored to launch the series with this article by Christof Heyns, member of the Committee and its rapporteur on the draft General Comment. As Heyns notes in his article, the Committee is currently accepting public views on the draft document, and we hope this series at Just Security will contribute to the important work of the Committee.

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