PSR: July 7, 2017

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This week in Peace & Security Publications

South Sudan – Atrocities In Equatoria Region Turn Country’s Breadbasket Into a Killing Field

Featured Article - Amnesty  

Amnesty International researchers visited the region in June, documenting how mainly government but also opposition forces in the southern region have committed crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations and abuses – including war crimes – against civilians.

The atrocities have resulted in the mass displacement of close to a million people, including refugees fleeing into neighboring Uganda…

This week at IPSI
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This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

COTE D’IVORE: UN peacekeeping mission expires


On Friday, the UN closed its Ivory Coast peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) established in 2004 to monitor a cease-fire agreement, two years after a failed coup attempt that led the country to a civil war between the northern rebels and troops loyal to former President Gbagbo. The Ivory Coast has enjoyed six years of relative peace and security since the 2010-2011 post-election crisis; however, some human rights groups are concerned that peace may not prevail if the government does not start addressing issues of impunity, rule of law, and reforming security forces. While former President Laurent Gbagbo and former militia leader Charles Blé Goudé are on trial before the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, army commanders have not been held accountable. Comment: UNOCI was originally tasked with guiding the country to a presidential election after which it declared the northern opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, the winner based on election outcomes. After Gbagbo refused to step down, 3,000 people died in civil war. Analysts and diplomats fear further unrest as the country heads to its 2020 presidential election. The Ivory Coast is the first of three missions set to close this year. As of March, 2017, there are 15 active UN peacekeeping missions. The UN missions in Haiti and Liberia will also expire this year. (AllAfrica, Reuters, HumanRightsWatch, UN)


Zimbabwe: White-farmer’s forceful eviction leaves 150 farmers and their families homeless

On Monday, armed police and President Mugabe’s ruling party youths forced a white commercial farmer out of his farm. Robert Smart, the farmer, grew tobacco and maize outside of Rusape town. The reason cited by the government for the forceful eviction was to liberate the land for top cleric Trevor Manhanga, who is close to the president, to occupy it. Community members opposed the cleric’s visit claiming that allowing him to occupy the land would violate their cultural rights since the farm housed sacred shrines. Anti-riot police reportedly assaulted farm workers who were trying to protect Smart’s household property. Many of the farmers have sought refuge in the bushes and are now lacking food provisions and access to clean water. Smart is trying to renegotiate the return to his property with the government. Comment: Smart had already ceded other properties to the government when it embarked on land reform in 2000. At the time, Mugabe made dramatic changes to land ownership laws resulting in thousands of white farmers giving up their land. White farmers had inherited 70 percent of the arable land from a colonial past. Many left the country, while some white farmers were granted tenure on farms regarded to be of economic importance. (News24, AllAfrica, QuartzMedia)


REGIONAL: Multinational force to fight armed groups in Sahel region


On Sunday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron committed nine million USD to a new multinational force among the West African countries of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to fight armed groups. The EU has also pledged USD 57 million. The G5 will contribute about 5,000 soldiers to fight terror in the region alongside 12,000 UN peacekeepers. Macron said the force should be operational within weeks. Comment: This initiative comes after al-Qaeda’s Mali branch released a video of six foreign hostages that included a French woman abducted in 2016. Analysts cite lack of funding from international organizations and African countries – and Mali’s own internal crisis – as the greatest challenges to efforts against terrorism in the region. (AllAfrica, Reuters, AJazeera, NYTimes)

Researched/Written by Angelica Aimé Silfa

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This week in the Americas & Caribbean

HONDURAS: State officials highlight improvements before UN Human Rights Committee review of Honduras


On Wednesday and Thursday in Geneva, a high-level Honduran delegation presented a report of the country’s human rights, security and anti-corruption efforts to the 18 international independent experts constituting the UN Human Rights Committee. The discussed issues included violence against women, access to justice, minority rights, civil liberties, non-discrimination, and freedom of expression. Supreme Court president Rolando Argueta commented on the country’s significant decrease in homicides – 53.5 for every 100 thousand inhabitants today, compared to 86.5 in 2012 – and presented a report on the country’s most vulnerable sectors and the government efforts to crack down on corruption and human and drug trafficking. Minister of Security Julián Pacheco stated Honduras, of the Central American countries, has made the most progress in fighting domestic organized crime. Comment: This meeting is part of the regular review of all 169 States having signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1966.  The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of states’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty. Its full feedback report is due on July 27. (La Prensa 1, 2, La Tribuna, Gobierno de la Républica de Honduras, OHCHR 1, 2)


MEXICO: Gunfight involving police leads to human rights investigation


Late Friday, shootouts between police and gunmen resulted in at least 17 deaths; the conflicts occurred in the resort city of Mazatlán in the north-western state of Sinaloa. Officials suspect the gunmen were members of regional criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking. No municipal police officers died, though five were wounded. Following outcries from relatives of the gunmen claiming some had been shot in the back, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission expressed its suspicions of human rights violations and said it will investigate the case. Comment: Sinaloa is a focal point in Mexico’s drug war, and has suffered increasing violence due to a power vacuum following Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s extradition to the U.S. in January. Human rights groups and academic experts have raised questions about high death tolls in clashes between security forces and gunmen, referring to a consistent excessive use of force. A report by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission last year found that members of the security forces summarily executed at least 22 people in a 2015 raid in the western state of Michoacán. In late June, government statistics showed that Mexico’s monthly homicide rate was its highest in 20 years. (Reuters 1, 2, 3, The Guardian 1, The New York Times)


VENEZUELA: Pro-government supporters storm congress, wound congressmen


On Wednesday, about 100 government supporters stormed Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly and clashed with several lawmakers. The crowd  protested outside the building for several hours and broke into the building when Vice-President Tareck El Aissami gave an Independence Day speech accusing global powers of attempting to subjugate Venezuela. After security forces forced the protestors out, a group of protesters prevented about 350 people from leaving the building for several hours, including students, visitors, and more than 100 journalists. At least five lawmakers were seriously injured. Members of Mercosur, U.S. officials, and President Maduro condemned the assault. Comment: This assault comes only days after former police officer Oscar Pérez attacked the Supreme Court and called upon citizens to rise up against Maduro’s government.  (El Universal, Reuters 1, 2, 3, BBC News, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Nastasia Stipo


This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Premier Xi Jinping visits Hong Kong for handover anniversary amidst pro-independence sentiment

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects troops at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison as part of events marking the 20th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong  

On Friday, Chinese Premier Xi visited Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China and to swear in Hong Kong’s new chief executive Carrie Lam. During the ceremonies, the Chinese government declared that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which established Hong Kong governance as “one country, two systems,  “a historical document” without “any practical significance.” His departure from Hong Kong was followed shortly by the annual pro-democracy march with a turnout of over 60,000 Hong Kong residents.   Comment:  The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration laid out a plan which would transition Hong Kong from British to Chinese jurisdiction Hong Kong would maintain its democratic sovereignty under a “one country, two systems” model.  Hong Kong became a special administrative region under Chinese jurisdiction on July 1, 1997, and was guaranteed its autonomy for “at least 50 years” from that point.  Despite these agreements, pro-democracy and independence from China sentiment has increased in HK in recent years due to concerns about Beijing’s interference in the city’s governance.  (The Washington Post, Radio Free Asia, CNN, Reuters)


NORTH KOREA: Government declares launch of successful ICBM


On Tuesday, North Korean media announced the successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a Hwasong-14, and claimed it could carry a large nuclear warhead. The U.S. Pacific Command Base confirmed the test and hypothesized that the weapon’s range includes mainland Alaska. In response, the U.S. and South Korea conducted a ballistic missile drill in the Sea of Japan while both Russia and China called for immediate cessation of North Korean nuclear development and the U.S. and South Korean military exercises. The UN Security Council met on Wednesday to discuss severer sanctions against the regime. Comment: The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions to stem North Korea’s nuclear program since it first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 to little success. Leaders at the Group of 20 (G20) Summit meeting in Germany this week will also discuss steps to curb North Korea’s weapon program. (Channel News Asia, The Atlantic, Reuters, The Strait Times)


THAILAND: Junta delays the immigration laws after mass exodus of migrant workers

  Thailand - Junta

On Saturday, Thailand’s military government announced it would delay the enforcement of strict labor laws after up to 60,000 migrant workers fearing reprisals fled to neighboring Myanmar and Cambodia between June 23 and 28. The government announced that it would suspend parts of the law for a 120-day grace period, which would cease arrests and crackdowns on immigrants except for those who violate human trafficking laws. Comment: The new immigration law, which began on June 23, fines immigrants without a valid work permit up to USD 3,000 and employers up to USD 24,000 per undocumented worker hired. Thailand has more than three million immigrants, and its economy is dependent on them. A lack of immigration regulation has led to an increase in undocumented workers and risk of exploitation and trafficking. (Channel News Asia, Aljazeera, The Irrawaddy, Bangkok Post)

Researched/Written by Laura Bisbee


This week in Europe & Central Asia

ITALY: Italy threatens to close ports to NGO boats carrying migrants amidst crisis


On Tuesday, Italy reaffirmed its threat to refuse entry at all of it’s ports to NGO ships and private rescue boats carrying migrants, as all of the European Union’s attempts to lessen the amount of migrants crossing the Mediterranean have failed. On Wednesday, the European Commission (EC) said that Italy should work in consultation with the EC and NGOs to draft a code of conduct for NGO ships operating in the central Mediterranean. Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have been critical of EU governments for failing to protect people fleeing from conflict in Libya. Comment: While interior ministers from France and Germany have promised to help Italy, the failure to redistribute refugees in other EU countries remains an underlying problem. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 85,000 migrants fled to Italy from North Africa by boat in the first six months of 2017, and 2,000 drownings were reported along the route. (ANSA, DW, BBC, Reuters)


TURKEY: Government foils plot by self-proclaimed Islamic State against opposition party’s peaceful “Justice March”

  Turkey - Government

On Wednesday, Turkish police arrested more than 25 individuals suspected of having links to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in a string of nationwide raids. The police forces uncovered a plot by six individuals to carry out a suicide bombing and van attack against the Republican People’s Party (CHP) “Justice March.” The 450 kilometer long trek from Ankara to Istanbul, led by main opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, began in response to the jailing of a CHP parliamentarian who allegedly leaked a video of Turkey supplying Syria with weapons; however, the march has evolved into a larger peaceful protest against the Erdogan government. Comment: Critics of the march, including President Erdogan, have accused the CHP of acting with terrorist groups and trying to incite violence. Additionally, The Daily Sabah reports that prior to the Wednesday raids, security experts had warned that the CHP march could be sabotaged to create chaos. (Daily Sabah 1, 2, Anadolu Agency 1, 2, Al Jazeera)


UZBEKISTAN: Uzbekistan will not rejoin security alliance


On Thursday, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov reiterated that Uzbekistan has no intention to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), making it one of the two Central Asian countries without membership in the alliance. This announcement came just two days after the surprising announcement that Uzbekistan and Russia will be holding joint military exercises in October, the first of their kind since 2005. Comment: The CSTO is a security bloc founded in 2002, and comprising of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan quit the military alliance under the anti-Russian policy of president Islam Karimov in 2012, and many have questioned if the country would rejoin the CSTO under the leadership of the current president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The upcoming joint military exercises could be indicative of the development of a stronger strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and Russia. (Times of Central Asia, Asia Plus, Eurasia Net, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Natalie A. Landau


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

LIBYA: Haftar declares victory in Benghazi

Libya - Haftar  

On Wednesday, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the eastern commander and leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), declared that his forces won the battle for Benghazi after three years combating rival armed groups. Haftar appeared in a televised speech saying, “Your armed forces declare to you the liberation of Benghazi from terrorism, a full liberation and victory of dignity.” Comment: Haftar is now gaining ground at the expense of the UN-backed government in western Libya, based in Tripoli. He does not recognize the authority of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, instead supporting a rival parliament in eastern Libya. According to Reuters, Haftar has close relations with Russia and is supported by neighboring Egypt and the UAE. (Raialyoum, France 24, Reuters)


QATAR: Diplomatic Gulf crisis continues


On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt met in Cairo where they released a statement that the Qatari response to their 13-point list of demands was “negative.” The Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a joint statement from the four countries, “The response the four states got was overall negative and lacked any content.” The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir added that the political and economic boycott will continue if Qatar does not change its policies for the better. Earlier in the day, the Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani denied all allegations that his country supports terrorism and rejected the demands. Comment: The demands list includes shutting down the Al Jazeera news network and ending Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Cairo meeting indicates the possibility of suspending Qatar from the Gulf Cooperation Council and imposing economic sanctions. (Al-Hayat, Sky News Arabia, CNN, BBC, The Independent, The Guardian)


SYRIA: Fifth round of Astana talks conclude; Tillerson prepared to collaborate with Russia

  Syria - Fifth

On Wednesday, the fifth round of the two-day long Astana talks between the Syrian government and the opposition groups concluded. According to Reuters, the mediators failed to finalize an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria due to Turkey’s objections. “During these consultations, the Turkish side said it needed more time in order to make an appropriate decision,” said Russian negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev. Participants now aim to reach an agreement on the zones by the end of August following the next round of talks. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, “The United States is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones… and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance.” Comment: Iran, Russia, and Turkey are the mediators of the Astana talks. The aim of the Astana talks is to support the Geneva talks and the whole Syrian peace process; the first round was on December 23, 2017. (Alwatan, Raialyoum, The Telegraph, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Atika Alkhallouf


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Anti-Government protesters demand security reform in Kabul


On Monday, an anti-government rally took to the streets, chanting slogans promoting change and justice. Protesters read a resolution letter demanding the resignation of President Ghani, the removal of top security officials, and the prosecution of officers who fired in a crowd during June 2 protests. The protesters carried pink flags as part of the “Rastakhez Taghir” (Resurrection for Change) movement. According to a local reporter, most of the protesters were youth and only two women were present. Comment: Series of protests have continued after the massive truck bombing on May 31, killing 150 people. The June 2 protest, consistently demanding resignation of top officials, turned violent with seven killed and several wounded. The Resurrection for Change party is involved in sit-ins against the government.  (Pajhwok, Khaama, LATimes, Washington Post, CBS)


BANGLADESH: Human Rights Watch urges Bangladesh to end disappearances and secret detentions


On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report, urging Bangladesh to immediately bring an end to forced disappearances and secret detentions. HRW reported 90 victims in 2016 alone, 21 of which were killed. Detainees have included sons of prominent politicians, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists, as well as people suspected of criminal activities and militancy. Witnesses and family members claim the arrests were made by the Rapid Action Battalion, the Detective Branch or by unknown security forces. Comment: The Awami League party came into power in 2009 on the platform of zero tolerance for human rights violations. At least 320 cases of disappearances have occurred since 2009. Despite Bangladesh Nationalist Party opposition in the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Awami League still remains in power, with representation from the president and prime minister.  (Bangladesh Chronicle, Daily Star, Al Jazeera, HRW, BBC)


INDIA: Facebook post triggers communal violence in West Bengal


On Sunday, communal violence broke out among Hindu and Muslim residents of Baduria and Basirat after a 17-year-old Hindu teenager posted an “objectional” Facebook post of the Prophet Mohammad on Friday. Violent mobs formed in local communities and blocked roads, attacked community members, and destroyed shops in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district. Approximately 400 paramilitary forces were deployed to assist local police in Barsirat on Tuesday. Police arrested the teenager on Sunday, who remained in police custody for four days; while in police custody, protesters burned his house. Comment: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the Bharatiya Janata BJP for the violence, while the BJP has blamed the violence on the Chief Minister’s appeasement of the Muslim community. Section 144, which prohibits the assembly of more than 10 people, remains imposed on the affected areas, and internet services have been suspended.  (NDTV 1, 2, Deccan Chronicle, Indian Express, India)

Researched/Written by Rabia Uddin