PSR: March 24, 2017

March 24, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Featured Report

Beyond the Headlines: A Strategy for U.S. Engagement with Latin America in the Trump Era

The Atlantic Council explores the increasingly tumultuous relationship between the U.S. and Latin America. With Latin American countries being among the most concerned with U.S. President Trump’s foreign policy shifts, the report examines the changes Latin America has undergone in the past decade, as well as how U.S. foreign policy can collaborate with these countries.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Ex-president sentenced by ICC for witness bribing

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) added one year to former Congolese warlord and vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s 18-year prison sentence. Bemba was convicted for “masterminding a network to bribe and manipulate” more than 14 key witnesses by “coaching” witnesses to testify falsely during his previous war crimes trial. In addition to his extended prison sentence, Bemba is being fined USD 323,670, along with four members of his legal team who also received bribery charges and fines. The verdict and sentence are the first of their kind for the ICC and are a sign of the court’s decision to be tougher on bribery. Comment: Bemba, who was vice president of the country from 2003 to 2006, is currently serving an 18-year sentence for sending troops into Central African Republic to stifle a coup against the then president-though he is appealing this conviction. (Al Jazeera, Reuters, The Guardian)

SOMALIA: Six women appointed to new cabinet

On Tuesday, Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Kheyre unveiled his new 26-member cabinet which includes six women-the highest number in the country’s history. Positions held by women include the minister of health, minister of women and human rights, minister of relief aid and disaster management, and minister of commerce and industry. Kheyre has called on parliament and the public to support the new cabinet, which awaits approval from parliament next week. Comment: Other notable people Kheyre named are former foreign minister and economist from the African Development Bank as finance minister and a dual British-Somali national and former BBC journalist as foreign minister. (Midnimo, Africanews, AllAfrica, Reuters)

SOMALIA: First ship hijacking by pirates in five years

On Thursday, Somali pirates released a hijacked oil tanker and its eight Sri Lankan crew members without the payment of a ransom, concluding the first commercial ship hijacking since 2012. A group of armed men in two skiffs, who had been searching for a foreign ship to seize, approached Aris 13 on Tuesday. The pirates exchanged gunfire with Somali maritime forces but released the vessel after negotiations with clan elders. The hijackers stated that they did not seize the ship for ransom, but rather to protest illegal fishing in the area by international vessels which threatens the livelihoods of local fishermen. Comment: Since hijackings peaked in 2011, attacks have fallen sharply due to increased regional naval force patrols and the creation of the marine force in Puntland. This hijacking is a sign that piracy could again threaten the area’s important shipping lanes. The vice president of Puntland previously requested NATO to tackle the illegal fishing issue, saying that hijacking will otherwise continue, but NATO’s response was that these issues lay outside its mission’s scope. (Al Jazeera, AP 1, 2, 3, Reuters 1, 2)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

BRAZIL: Several countries suspend Brazilian meat imports after Weak Flesh scandal

On Monday, the European Union, China, Chile, South Korea, and Mexico halted meat imports from Brazil due to the “Weak Flesh” corruption scandal which found evidence that BRF SA, JBS SA, and about 40 smaller meatpackers companies in more than six states in Brazil paid off politicians and health inspectors to hide unsanitary conditions in their plants. According to Brazilian police investigators, bribes were payed to overlook practices including processing rotten meat, shipping exports with traces of salmonella, and adding chemical substances to mask poor quality. The companies have denied the accusations. Comment: The Brazilian meat export market includes more than 150 countries and, according to industry records last year, Brazil exported USD 6.9 billion in poultry and USD 5.5 billion in beef worldwide. The full economic impact of the scandal has yet to be determined. (Globo, Folha de Sao Paulo, El Nuevo Herald, Infobae, BBC, Bloomberg, Reuters )

GUATEMALA: Two guards killed during riot at a Juvenile detention center

On Monday, Guatemalan police raided a juvenile detention center to free four guards taken hostage by inmates who had killed two guards during a riot. The riots started on Sunday in a detention facility for boys in the town of San José Pinula, and was led by 40 inmates who are members of the Barrio 18 gang. According to local media, the youth inmates were reacting to maltreatment by guards and demanding the return of transferred inmates, better food, and the easing of restrictions on visits. Comment: The incident comes less than two week after 40 girls died in a fire at a state-run children’s shelter also in Guatemala. According to local activists the two cases have highlighted the poor state of children’s and youth services in the country. The incidents have prompted public indignation and numerous protests against the government of President Jimmy Morales. (Prensa Libre, Telesur, BBC,1, 2)

PERU: 78 dead and more than 100,000 affected by El Niño Costero floods

On Wednesday, the official report of the National Emergency Operations Center of Peru registered 78 dead, 264 wounded, 20 missing, and more than 100,000 people affected by the heavy rains and floods due to El Niño Costero. The Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in the most affected areas. Kuczynski emphasized that the government will take care of the people affected by the natural disaster providing aid and temporary housing. Comment: Kuczynsky has issued a statement thanking the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay for the humanitarian aid delivered for natural disaster victims, such as food supplies, water purification tablets, and aircrafts for airlift rescue operations. (Andina, 1, 2, El Comercio, El Tiempo, Infobae, Al Jazeera, BBC)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski

This week in East Asia & Pacific

JAPAN: Government found liable for Fukushima disaster

Last Friday, a district court in Maebashi ruled that the Japanese government bears partial responsibility for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The court made the ruling in a case brought by 137 evacuees seeking damages for the emotional distress of fleeing their homes. While a number of legal cases have already been filed against Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), Friday’s ruling was the first time a court has recognized that the government was liable for negligence. The court ruled that the disaster could have been averted if government regulators ordered Tepco to take preventive safety measures and ordered USD 341,000 to be paid in compensation. Comment: Fukushima was the world’s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. The accident forced approximately 80,000 people to flee their homes when three reactors failed at the plant after a tsunami struck. (Nikkei Asian Review, The Japan Times, BBC, The Guardian)

JAPAN/RUSSIA: First talks held since annexation of Crimea

On Monday, the Japanese and Russian defense ministers agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation amid regional tensions between the two nations. The ministers agreed to hold joint drills between troops as well as maritime search and rescue operations. At the meeting, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada raised the issue of increased Russian military presence on the disputed islands off Hokkaido, while her counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, criticized deployment of the  U.S. missile defense system in Japan. Comment: The meeting was a step towards a resolution of a dispute over sovereignty of Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan islands, and the Habomai islet group, which has prevented the two countries from concluding a post-World War II peace treaty. (The Jakarta Post, The Japan Times, The Mainichi)

NORTH KOREA: Missile test failure

On Wednesday, a North Korean missile test ended in failure when a missile was fired from an airbase in the eastern port of Wonsan. According to the U.S. military, the missile appeared to explode within seconds of being launched. The failed launch took place during annual military drills held by U.S. and South Korea, seen as rehearsal for an invasion by North Korea. Comment: Earlier this month, North Korea successfully launched four ballistic missiles, with three landing in Japanese waters, in what was described as practice for attacks on U.S. military bases in Japan. Despite being banned from any missile or nuclear tests by the UN, North Korea has conducted ballistic missile tests with an increasing frequency. (Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

GERMANY: Report reveals refusal to export arms to Turkey

On Tuesday, a report released by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung revealed that Germany had denied 11 requests from Turkey for arms exports since November 2016. In comparison, Germany only rejected Turkey’s requests eight times between 2010 and 2015. The requests included handguns, ammunition, and parts used in weapons manufacturing. Comment: As a NATO partner, Turkey can legally request arms exports from all members of the alliance, and it has typically been granted them. The report cited a response by the Ministry of Economic Affairs from questions by the leftist lawmaker Jan van Aken. (DW, RT, Reuters)

MACEDONIA: Tens of thousands protest visit by EU Envoy

On Tuesday, tens of thousands gathered in the capital city of Skopje to protest the EU Commissioner Johnannes Hahn’s attempt to help break the deadlock resulting from December’s inconclusive election, encouraging either of the two parties who currently hold a plurality of seats in parliament to form a coalition. Specifically, protesters gathered across the country in fear that the Social Democrats would form a coalition government with the minority ethnic Albanian members of parliament. The conservative VMRO-DPMNE party already refused to form a coalition government with the ethnic Albanian minority due to their demand to make Albanian a second official language in the country. Comment: Currently the VMRO-DPNE holds 51 seats and the Social Democrat party holds 49 seats out of the 120 seats of parliament. More than a quarter of Macedonian’s 2.1 million population is ethnically Albanian, and Macedonian is the only official language recognized by the federal government. (MINA, DW, AP)

UK: Terrorist attack near Parliament leaves 4 dead, at least 29 wounded

On Wednesday, 52-year-old UK native Khalid Masood drove a vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians along the Westminster Bridge in London, exited his car, and stabbed a police officer to death within the gates of Parliament before being shot by police. The four dead include the assailant, Police Constable Keith Palmer, British Spanish teacher Aysha Frade, and U.S. tourist Kurt Chochran, while the injured include British, Romanian, Greek, Chinese, German, Irish, Italian, American, South Korean, and French nationals. The Metropolitan Police are treating the attack as a terrorist attack since the self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed responsibility and Masood was previously under investigation by UK intelligence MI5 for links to religious extremism. Comment: The attack occurred on the anniversary of last year’s suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that took 32 lives. The use of a vehicle by a lone terrorist mirrors the methods of recent terrorist attacks in Berlin, Germany and Nice, France. (BBC, DW, Reuters, AP)


Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL/PALESTINE: UN ESCWA Executive Secretary resigns over Israeli apartheid report

On Friday, UN Under-Secretary General and head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Rima Khalaf, resigned after being forced to withdraw a report that accused Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on Palestinians. The ESCWA, a commission of 18 countries, published the report on Wednesday and was asked to withdraw the report under orders from the Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The request reportedly came not because of the content, but due to proper procedure not being followed, which requires the secretary’s office to be informed of the content and language. Comment: Many media outlets, including Al Jazeera, have stated that it is “highly unlikely” that the UN leadership was unaware of this report as media outlets have known about it for days and were invited to preview it before its release at a press conference. Khalaf believes Israel and its allies pressured Guterres into withdrawing the report. This incident comes at a time of strained relations between Israel and the UN, which began after a UN resolution confirmed Israeli settlements are illegal. The United States has spoken out against this report and what they perceive to be a bias at the UN against Israel. (Al Jazeera, Jadaliyya,Haaretz)

LIBYA: Libyan National Army pushes hardliner forces out of Benghazi  

On Saturday, after weeks of battle, General Khalifa Haftar’s National Army (LNA) reclaimed southwest Benghazi back from armed resistance groups, including the self-proclaimed Islamic State and Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of militias including al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia fighters. The battle resulted in 23 dead and six arrested resistance fighters and five dead and six wounded LNA soldiers. Citizens in the area are accusing members of the LNA of war crimes, claiming they dug up the graves of their opponents and paraded their bodies across town. Haftar has stated that he will investigate the accusations and any other abuses his troops may have committed. Comment: Benghazi fell to the rule of militia groups in 2014 and has been subject to deadly fighting between the militias and Haftar’s army. General Haftar controls the majority of Eastern Libya in defiance of the United Nations backed unity government, the Government of National Accord, in Tripoli.  (Al Jazeera 1, 2Reuters,The Citizen)

SYRIA: Refugee shelter hit by deadly airstrike

On Wednesday, an airstrike that hit a school-turned-shelter that housed internally displaced Syrians from self-proclaimed Islamic State-held Raqqa, killed 33 people. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, working locally, suspect the airstrike was from the U.S.-Led Coalition’s raid against the terrorist group. A spokesperson for the Pentagon stated that the coalition’s “civilian causality team” would investigate the allegations. Comment: The U.S.-led coalition has intensified its attacks against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Raqqa this month. The coalition has stated that its raids in Syria and Iraq have unintentionally killed approximately 220 civilians since 2014, but critics say the number is much higher. (BBC News, Al Jazeera,News Hub)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

INDIA: Government presents data to support surgical strike success

On Wednesday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir presented evidence to the upper house of parliament demonstrating the success of India’s surgical strike campaign, which began in September 2016. He claims that the strikes have lowered the number of ceasefire violations across the Line of Control, which designates the militarily controlled division of the Indian-occupied and Pakistan-occupied parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The number of violations declined from 228 in 2016 to 22 in the first two months of 2017. Ahir also cited that 110 “terror incidents” occurred in the three months before the strikes began but only 87 in the three months immediately following. Comment: Home Minister Singh followed up on these comments by stating that Pakistan must take initiative to resume the dialogue on Kashmir. The Line of Control has long been a site of violent outbreaks between Indian security forces and both Pakistani and non-state actors. (The Hindu, India Today, Times of India)

PAKISTAN: Border with Afghanistan reopens

On Monday, Prime Minister Sharif ordered the immediate reopening of Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan, citing humanitarian reasons for the decision as the month-long border closing inhibited trade and endangered the livelihoods of residents on both sides. One of the closed crossings, Torkham, sees an average of 15,000 Afghans cross the border into Pakistan daily. Comment: Pakistani authorities closed the border following a string of suicide bombings across the country left more than 130 dead to prevent attacks by the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban and self-proclaimed Islamic State believed to reside on Afghan soil. (Dawn, The Express Tribune, Al Jazeera)

SRI LANKA: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemns Sri Lanka

On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein called Sri Lanka’s delay in establishing transitional justice mechanisms evidence of the government’s unwillingness to prosecute security force members. The council has repeatedly called for the involvement of international judges. Sri Lankan President Sirisena rejected the idea earlier this month.  Comment: The Sri Lanka government is currently seeking a two-year extension to the UN resolution passed in October 2015, which required  an investigation into atrocities committed during the country’s 26-year civil war to occur within 18 months. The United Nations has previously accused the Sri Lankan military of killing thousands of civilians during its civil war.(Colombo Page, Al Jazeera, UN News)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas