PSR: May 05, 2017


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April 28 – May 05, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

This week in Peace & Security Publications

Women, Gender and Terrorism: Understanding Cultural and Organizational Differences

As the idea that women can and should play pivotal roles in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) gains greater traction, decision makers and scholars must keep striving toward a more nuanced understanding of the …


Death by Chemicals: the Syrian Government’s Widespread and Systematic Use of Chemical Weapons

The report identifies three different systems being used to deliver chemical weapons: government warplanes appear to have dropped bombs with nerve agents on at least four occasions since…


Managing Turkey’s PKK Conflict: The Case of Nusaybin 

With one quarter of its inhabitants’ homes destroyed in the past year, Nusaybin is a victim of Turkey’s 33-year conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)…

This week at IPSI

IPSI Summer Symposiums in Bologna and Sarajevo. Spots filling quickly, apply online now.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Revenge attacks kill 45


On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch reported at least 45 civilians killed and 11,000 displaced by armed groups in apparent reprisal attacks over the past three months. Recent fighting between the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic, a predominantly Muslim Seleka armed group, and the anti-Balaka Popular Front for the Renaissance in the Central African Republic has resulted in targeted civilian killings as they vie for control of the central province of Ouaka. Comment: Sectarian conflict sparked in 2013 when the Seleka ousted President Bozize, prompting Christian militias to form in self-defense. Fighting continues despite 13,000 UN peacekeepers currently deployed in the country. (Al Jazeera, AP, HRW, Reuters)

CHAD/SENEGAL: Life sentence upheld against former Chadian President

On Thursday, the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) tribunal in Dakar, Senegal ruled to uphold a life sentence for Chad’s former President Hissene Habre for war crimes and crimes against humanity, marking the first conviction of a former head of state by an African court for human rights crimes. The conviction follows a 17-year battle for justice by victims and rights groups. More than 7,000 victims are eligible to claim a total of USD 135 million in reparations that will be managed by an African Union trust fund. Comment: Last year, Habre was sentenced to life in prison for rape and ordering the killing and torture of thousands of political opponents during his presidency from 1982-1990, but his lawyers appealed the decision. This final verdict acquitted Habre of rape but affirmed all other convictions. (Al Jazeera, AP, Reuters, The Guardian)

REGIONAL: Africa’s problem of inequality a topic of economic forum

From Wednesday to Friday, more than 1,000 state representatives and business and civil society leaders from over 100 countries participated in the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa to discuss ways of “achieving inclusive growth through responsive and responsible leadership.” Participants at the forum challenged Africa’s leaders, including the Director of International Monetary Fund’s African Department Abebe Selassie, Kenya’s Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge, and Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, to set policy priorities for poverty alleviation and rising inequalities. An Oxfam report released during the summit revealed higher levels of poverty in Africa than previously thought, with Africa containing seven of the 20 most unequal countries in the world. Comment: Dozens have congregated in Durban to protest the forum, citing the corruption of delegates and exclusion of civil society representatives from the summit. This follows growing unrest in South Africa due to the recent downgrading of its credit rating to junk status and allegations of corruption at the highest level. (EWN, AfricaNews, Al Jazeera, AP, Oxfam)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

COLOMBIA: Senate approves FARC transition to political party


Last Wednesday, the Colombian Senate voted to allow former guerrilla group members to form a political party. The approved law guarantees, from 2018 until 2026, five of the 102 seats in the Senate and five of the 166 seats in the lower house for former members of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). In addition to the time limit, the new created party could attain more seats in future elections only if they obtain the votes that would merit increased representation. The bill also establishes that former FARC members convicted of human rights violations and/or war crimes will be able to participate in politics only once they have paid their dues to justice and their victims. Comment: According to the approved legislation, the FARC’s political party may not be formed until the UN confirms and certifies full disarmament. The disarmament process is scheduled to conclude on May 31. (Telam, Colombia Reports, CNN)

PARAGUAY: Congress rejects reelection amendment


Last Wednesday, the lower chamber voted to archive a proposed amendment to the Paraguayan constitution, which would have allowed the president to run for a second term. The rejection of the proposal was supported by 78 votes. The decision was celebrated by hundreds of people who took to the streets in support of the congressional vote. The leader of the Liberal Party, Efrain Alegre, called the vote “a triumph for the Paraguayan people, and a rejection of a potential Paraguayan dictatorship”. Comment: The passing of the proposed amendment in the Senate, on March 31, had sparked massive protests. According to regional sources, this has been the largest crisis the government of President Horacio Cartes has faced. (El Comercio, Infobae, Telam)

VENEZUELA: President moves towards constitutional reform


On Monday, amid continuing anti-government demonstrations, President Maduro issued a presidential decree creating a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the country’s Constitution, last modified by former President Hugo Chavez in 1999. The National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, has rejected the new institutional body arguing this is President Maduro’s attempt to sideline the legislature and avoid new elections. Comment: Venezuelan presidential elections are scheduled for 2018. According to regional analysts, the country currently faces economic problems due to falling oil prices that have led to a social crisis with shortages of food, energy, medicine and other basic services. The critical situation is reflected in the continuous demonstrations in the country. (El Nuevo Herald, Telesur, BBC, 1, 2, 3)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski

This week in East Asia & Pacific

INDONESIA: Female clerics issue fatwa against child marriage


Last Friday, The Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama issued a rare fatwa to raise the minimum legal age of women to marry from 16 to 18 years. The edict will be influential, although not legally binding, and was decided at a three-day meeting of female clerics in the West Java. According to Unicef, one in four women in Indonesia marries before the age of 18. Comment: While the Indonesian Ulama Council, made up of almost entirely men, issues fatwas regularly, this was the first fatwa by the Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama. Female clerics, work to empower their communities and lead educational initiatives. (The Jakarta Post, Asian Correspondent, BBC)

SOUTH KOREA: Missile defense system operational


The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has reached an initial operating capability. However, the U.S. military’s missile defense, designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles in their final stage, is still months away from being fully operational. The system was installed despite objections from China and is meant to defend against North Korea’s missiles. Comment: Tensions in the region have been high after North Korea conducted a series of missile tests, and the U.S. conducted joint military exercises with its allies. North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests in the past 11 years and has also tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. (NHK World, Al Jazeera, BBC)

THAILAND: Purchase of Chinese submarine announced

On Monday, Thai Navy officials held a news conference to announce their decision to purchase a submarine vessel from China for more than USD 390 million. The formal contract will be signed by the end of May and the vessel is aimed to be put into service in 2023, with a plan to purchase two additional submarines in the works. Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed his dissatisfaction with the announcement of the procurement project saying it disclosed “too many details” on security issues, but supports the purchase. Comment: Despite his dissatisfaction with the disclosure of submarine procurement project, the prime minister admitted the government had previously not been clear on the details. Navy officials have also emphasized that the price tag of the submarine is “very cheap” considering the Chinese offer to equip it with missiles and other weapons. (The Nation, The Bangkok Post, NHK World)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

ROMANIA: Court upholds anti-corruption law following mass protests


On Wednesday, more than a 1,000 people gathered outside government buildings in Bucharest, protesting a draft law approved by the parliamentary legal committee that same day. The law would grant amnesty to people convicted of bribery. The committee is led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), however, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, also a Social Democrat, announced that he did not support the proposed amendments of the law, as did President Klaus Iohannis. Comment: Earlier in the year, Romanians participated in several weeks of anti-corruption protests over similar laws. On Thursday, Romania’s constitutional court upheld an anti-corruption law that prevents people with convictions of corruption from serving as ministers, preventing the PSD chairman Liviu Dragnea from running for prime minister. (BalkanInsight, RFE/RL, AP 1, 2)

TURKEY: Referendum to be held on EU membership


On Sunday, during an interview on Indian television, President Erdogan announced plans to hold a “Brexit-like” referendum, criticizing the EU of being insincere and dishonest. The announcement followed an EU statement over the weekend requesting Turkey to provide clearer signs on whether the country is going to start meeting EU standards on the rule of law and human rights. President Erdogan dismissed criticisms of Turkey’s human rights record as western propaganda, and urged Indians to ignore Western media. Comment: Last week, the EU foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini urged Turkey to continue working towards EU membership requirements, and stated that the EU would respect any referendum results. Turkey officially began EU membership talks in 2005, but their EU bid dates back to the 1960s. (Hurriyet Daily News, euobserver, AP)

UK: Prime Minister accuses EU of election interference


On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May stated that the European Commission had hardened its negotiation stance, and that EU officials had threatened the UK hours after the EU unveiled its plan for the EU-exit talks. Prime Minister May accused the timing of these statements of being a deliberate attempt to impact the upcoming June 8 UK elections. Comment: One of the most controversial negotiations revolves around the UK settling its EU debts, which are estimated to be as high as USD 109 billion. Other priority issues include the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and the 2 million UK citizens living in the EU, and maintaining an open border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and the EU’s Ireland. Prime Minister May, among other UK politicians, has insisted walking away from the EU is better than agreeing on a bad deal. (BBC, DW, AP)

Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

LIBYA: GNA Leader meets with Haftar

On Tuesday, Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), met with rival Khalifa Haftar, head of the National Army and factions of Eastern Libya, in Abu Dhabi to discuss amending the UN-mediated Libyan Political Agreement. The two-hour meeting was reported to have ended “positively.” Haftar rejected the Libyan Political Agreement, which gives the GNA authority over the military. Each leader issued statements vowing to work on ending the country’s crisis and called for a resolution to address economic issues. The parties also agreed to join forces in combating armed groups. Comment: The meeting comes after months of Arab and Western pressure and mediation and indicates a shift in Haftar’s willingness, who in February had refused to meet with al-Sarraj in Cairo. The unification of the two parties is crucial to ending the 2011 conflict in Libya. (Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera)

PALESTINE: Hamas accepts 1967 borders


On Monday in Doha, Qatar, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, presented a new political document accepting the 1967 partition borders between Israel and Palestine. The document also reiterates that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a religious one, and that Hamas’ fight is not with Judaism, but with the political doctrine of Zionism. Even so, the document neither officially recognizes the state of Israel, nor the Oslo Accords. Comment: The 1967 partition refers to the borders that existed before the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Analysts claim the document is an attempt for Hamas to appear more pragmatic in order to avoid international isolation. This document could further efforts to unite Fatah and Hamas, the two leading Palestinian political parties, as Fatah has long pushed for a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. (Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera)

SYRIA: Syrian Democratic Forces seize 90 percent of Tabqa


On Tuesday, Jihan Sheikh, spokesperson of the Ghadab al-Furat, one of the Kurdish forces fighting under the US-led Coalition backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), confirmed that 90 percent of Tabqa has been liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State control. The seizure of Tabqa strengthens SDF efforts to liberate Raqqa. Comment: The SDF consists of mostly Kurdish forces, which Turkey launched airstrikes against last week. The south of Tabqa contains oil fields strategic to ISIS operations. The fighting in Tabqa has destroyed much of the town’s infrastructure, including its main hospital. (ARA News, Telangana Today, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Self-proclaimed Islamic State attacks NATO convoy


On Wednesday, an attacker detonated a car bomb near a National Defense Security checkpoint in Kabul, killing eight Afghan civilians and injuring 22 others. The attack occurred near the U.S. Embassy and NATO mission compound. Among the wounded are three U.S. service members in critical condition. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in an announcement released by its own media platform. Comment: Recent attacks by both the Taliban and self-proclaimed Islamic State have increasingly occurred in formerly secure areas of Afghanistan. In addition to fighting the government, the two organizations are competing for control in the country. (Tolo News, The Wire, Al Jazeera)

INDIA/PAKISTAN: India accuses Pakistan army of mutilating two soldiers


On Monday, the Indian army accused the Pakistani army of crossing the Line of Control and killing two Indian soldiers on patrol. While no evidence of mutilation has been presented, some local and regional media outlets report the bodies were beheaded and others claim they were dismembered. India believes it has “sufficient evidence” of the attack, including a trail of blood across the Line of Control, while Pakistan denies the allegations. Comment: Indian officials call for Pakistan to take immediate action against the soldiers who committed the attack. In a statement given on Tuesday, Indian Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt. General Sarath Chand said that the Indian army will respond to this attack “at the time and place of our choosing.” (Dawn, Hindustan Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

SRI LANKA: Navy captures Rohingya refugees

On Monday, Sri Lanka’s navy stopped a vessel off its northern coast carrying 30 Rohingya refugees, including 16 children, seven men, and seven women. Traveling from India on the ship of two Indian fishermen, the refugees were headed to Australia as their final destination. The two Indian fishermen have been arrested on charges of trafficking illegal migrants. All passengers were remanded into judicial custody. Comment: The Sri Lankan Navy reported that, since February 2013, it has stopped the journeys of 268 illegal migrants. Among those they have detained, 45 percent have been Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. (The Indian Express, Times of India, The Wire, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas