PSR: March 31, 2017

March 31, 2017
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This week in: Peace & Security Publications |
IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Featured Report

“Dreams Turned into Nightmares” Attacks on Students, Teachers, and Schools in Pakistan

The Human Rights Watch documents attacks on schools, students, and teachers between 2007 and late 2016 in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is based on interviews with 48 students, teachers, parents, and school administrators.

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Bodies of missing UN workers found

On Tuesday, a government spokesperson said the remains of two UN investigators and their interpreter have been discovered by villagers in Kasai province, central DRC. The UN staff, one American and one Swede, were researching recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militias when they went missing two weeks ago. The spokesperson also stated that one of the bodies, that of the woman, had been beheaded. Comment: DNA tests and dental records will be used to confirm the identities. Human Rights Watch said this was the first disappearance of international workers in the province.  (Al Jazeera, AP, Reuters)

MALI: Tuareg rebels to boycott peace conference

On Saturday, the main separatist factions in northern Mali, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and Platform, said they will boycott talks with the government next week on implementing the 2015 peace accord. This announcement lowers hopes of attaining peace in the country, which seemed more promising in recent weeks with the government regaining authority in areas from which it had previously been absent. Comment: In April 2012, Mali simultaneously faced a secessionist crisis in the north led by a coordinated Tuareg rebellion and, in the south, a political crisis triggered by a military-led coup of the democratically elected government. Despite a French military intervention in 2013, a UN peacekeeping mission later that year, and several years of peace talks, the various factions and government continue to fight. (Africanews, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

SOUTH SUDAN: Humanitarian workers killed in ambush

On Saturday, six Kenyan and South Sudanese aid workers and their driver were killed in an ambush while traveling from the capital Juba to the town of Pibor in the deadliest single assault on humanitarian staff since the beginning of the three-year civil war. The aid workers, from Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization, supported reintegration programs for children released from armed forces. The attackers have not yet been identified, though rebel fighters loyal to former vice president Riek Machar say the government should be held responsible for attacks on its territory. Comment: The remote territory where the attack took place is largely under government control, but experiences frequent fighting with militia and armed groups. Overall, 79 aid workers have been killed since a dispute between Dinka President Salva Kiir and Nuer Machar escalated into war in December 2013, effectively splitting the country along ethnic lines. (Sudan Tribune, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Reuters 1, 2, UNICEF)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

REGIONAL: OAS Special Meeting addressing the Venezuelan crisis fails to reach agreement

On Wednesday, the Permanent Council of the Organization of Americas States held a special session in Washington, DC to address the political and economic situation in Venezuela. The meeting was requested and supported by 18 countries highlighting the need to find “concrete proposals to define a course of action that helps identify diplomatic solutions in the shortest possible time.” However, the representatives of Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela demanded the immediate suspension of the meeting arguing that the meeting legitimized intervention in Venezuela and violated the country’s sovereignty. The debate concluded without voting on whether it would apply the Inter-American Democratic Chapter. Comment: The call for invoking the Democratic Chapter of the OAS has been instated and supported by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS. According to the OAS Chapter, if a third of the 34 member counties vote to apply the mandate, it would mean the immediate suspension of Venezuela from the organization. (El ComercioLa Prensa, Telesur,El TiempoEl Universal)

CHILE: Massive protests erupt against private pensions system

On Sunday, almost two million Chileans took to the streets to protest the private pension system, which forces workers to deliver 10 percent of their income to the private Pension Fund Administrators (AFP), who then invest the funds in the capital markets. Critics of the system, which has been in place in the country since 1981, argue that the current situation benefits the wealthy, but leaves the poorer Chileans with a pension below the minimum wage. Comment: During the first mandate of President Michelle Bachelet, the once priced pro-market system was reformed to reduce the commission the private companies could charge. After the protests, Bachelet’s government offered to create a state-owned AFP to better regulate the system. Local media reported that the “NO + AFP protest is the largest protest in the history of Chile.” (Ámbito, El País, Telesur, BBC 1, 2)

COLOMBIA: Congress approves the creation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace

On Tuesday, Colombia’s House of Representatives approved the creation of a transitional justice system, creating a tribunal to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The creation of a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) was a keystone part of the peace agreement between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC leadership. The JEP was created via constitutional reform and approved thanks to the “fast track” rule, which allows Congress to speed up the implementation of the peace agreement. Comment: The transitional justice system still needs to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court and the approved by President Juan Manuel Santos to go into effect. (El Colombiano, El Tiempo, Telesur, Colombia Reports, WOLA)

VENEZUELA: Government calls for the UN to help with medicine supplies

Last Friday, President Nicolas Maduro announced he asked the United Nations for support in dealing with the country’s medicine shortage. According to Maduro’s statement, he has reached out to the UN for help to “overcome the economic and social injuries caused by the economic war and the fall of oil prices.” The Venezuelan Medical Federation recently acknowledged that 78 percent of hospitals in the country have five percent of the medicine they need to operate. Comment: Inflation in Venezuela has risen to 800 percent in January, deteriorating the economic situation in the country already struggling with food shortages and lack of basic products. The presidential request comes after the Venezuelan parliament declared a national humanitarian crisis on March 15 and demanded Maduro to allow foreign aid. There has not been an immediate response form the UN about the request. (El Nacional, El Nuevo Herald, BBC, CNN, Reuters, Washington Post)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski


This week in East Asia & Pacific

HONG KONG: Pro-democracy activists to be charged day after the election

On Monday, a day after Carrie Lam was elected the city’s chief executive, at least nine people were told they will be charged for their involvement in the 2014 pro-democracy protests. Backed by the Chinese government, Lam won 777 votes out of the 1,194 eligible to be cast. The next day, the government announced it would prosecute two politicians, several former student protest leaders, a founder of the Occupy Central movement, and a former legislator. The nine activists are expected to be charged with creating a public nuisance. Comment: Hong Kong’s leaders are elected by a 1,200 member, mostly pro-Beijing, committee that has been criticized for being unrepresentative of its 7.3 million residents. In 2014, Beijing proposed direct elections with pre-approved candidates, sparking the three month long protests. (Al Jazeera 12, BBC, The Guardian 12)

MYANMAR: Army chief rules out Rohingya citizenship

On Monday, Myanmar’s military chief, Aung Hlaing, denounced the claim to citizenship by Rohingya Muslims in a speech marking Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day. Rohingya Muslims were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, and about 1.1 million Rohingya are denied citizenship today. Hlaing made the speech a day after the government rejected the UN decision to send a fact-finding mission in response to allegations of rape and murder by security forces against the Rohingya. Comment: Although Myanmar is under civilian leadership, the previously military-ruled country is still strongly influenced by the military and has gained a reputation for human rights abuses. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since military operations began in October 2016 (Malaysian Digest, The Sydney Morning Herald, Al Jazeera)

PHILIPPINES: President Duterte questions U.S. inaction in the South China Sea

On Monday, President Duterte asked U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim about U.S. inaction regarding China building structures in the South China Sea. The president met the ambassador in Southern Davao city, where the president had a separate meeting with the Chinese ambassador. Despite the remarks on the South China Sea, President Duterte reiterated that the Philippines remains a friend of the U.S., and avoided condemning China’s behavior in the disputed sea. Ambassador Kim lauded the cooperation between the Philippines and the U.S. on information sharing, intelligence, and training and equipment support. Comment: Approximately a year after the Philippines drove U.S. troops from their bases, China began constructing structures and man-made islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. (PhilStar, The Inquirer, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou

This week in Europe & Central Asia

ARMENIA/AZERBAIJAN: Armenian forces violate ceasefire 143 times in one day

On Thursday, the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry reported that 143 violations occurred within the 24-hour period of Wednesday in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijani forces along the ceasefire line came under gunfire and artillery shelling. Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan argued the Armenian forces are maintaining the balance of power between the countries against Azerbaijan’s superior arsenal. Comment: In 1988 Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan, which resulted in a war between the two South Caucasus countries that ended in a ceasefire in 1994. The UN Security Council resolutions surrounding the treaty required Armenia to withdraw its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which it has yet to implement. (APA, ArmenPress, AzerNews, Eurasia Diary)

RUSSIA: Thousands protest political corruption across the nation

On Sunday, thousands of protesters across the country took to the streets in reaction to the release of a video investigation that alleged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of vineyards, yachts, and mansions. Video-producer and protest-organizer, Alexei Navalny, was arrested in Moscow immediately following the start of the protests. In response to the protests, Russian police arrested hundreds of protesters and a dozen staff members of Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which has consistently criticized President Vladimir Putin’s government. Comment: The protests were unique in that they had widespread support outside of cosmopolitan metropolitan centers, multigenerational participation including the typically apolitical youth, and focused specifically on the issue of corruption. The protests are the largest in Russia since the 2011 and 2012 electoral fraud protests, which resulted in a thorough crackdown by police and a myriad of new legislation meant to discourage protesting. (RT 1, 2, Reuters 1, 2, AP 1, 2, 3)

MONTENEGRO: U.S. Senate approves NATO bid despite protests

The U.S. Senate voted 97-2 to allow Montenegro to join NATO, one of the last roadblocks to membership. Despite this, Montenegro membership in NATO remains controversial with 50.12% of the country opposed, demonstrated by ongoing protests. The Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Marković praised the news, while President Putin of Russia continues to condemn the expansion of NATO, calling it a “provocation” and threat to regional stability. Comment: Montenegro split from Serbia in a 2006 referendum, and began talks to enter NATO in December of 2015. Protestors opposing NATO continue to reference the 1999 NATO bombings of the country during the breakup of Yugoslavia, which killed and injured civilians. (European Western Balkans, DW, RT, Reuters)

SCOTLAND: Parliament supports call for referendum on independence

On Tuesday, the Scottish legislature voted 69-59 to ask the UK parliament to authorize a referendum for independence to take place within the next two years. The British government quickly announced that it would not allow the referendum to take place, which requires the approval of parliament. Comment: Scotland held a referendum in 2014 and voted against independence 55 to 45 percent. During the UK referendum to leave the EU, Scots voted 62 to 38 percent to stay in the EU. (BBC, Reuters, AP)


Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

EGYPT: Mubarak released after six years in prison

On Friday, Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak was released from detention after being cleared of inciting the killing of hundreds of protesters in 2011. Mubarak has returned to his home in the upscale Heliopolis district of Cairo, where he is being heavily guarded by private security. The former president was sentenced to life in prison in 2012, but an appeals court dismissed the charges in 2014.Comment: Mubarak was ousted by the military after the 2011 uprising in Egypt. The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy stated that Mubarak’s release from prison does not change the reality on the ground; the military has controlled Egypt since 1952. (Al Jazeera, Al MonitorFrance24)

JORDAN: Arab leaders meet to address regional crisis

On Tuesday, the 22 members of the Arab League met at their annual summit to address regional issues such as violent conflicts, rising unemployment, and millions of children deprived of education. The Syrian government was not invited to the summit, since the League suspended their membership in 2011, despite the fact that the League intended to discuss Syrian issues. Comment: Regionally, there are low expectations that the League will accomplish much because, despite calls for unity, member states remain divided on key issues, especially the war in Syria. The summit does have the capacity to help defuse rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. (The Jordan Times, Al Jazeera 1, 2Al Bawaba)

SYRIA: Clashes displace 40,000 from Hama

Within the last week, heavy fighting between rebels and government forces in Hama, Syria displaced 40,000 civilians to the neighboring districts of Homs, Latakia, and Tartous. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that a large portion of those displaced are at risk of further displacement as the front lines continue to shift. Approximately ten rebel groups from the Free Syrian Army are engaged in fighting against the Syrian government forces in Hama. Comment: Russian air support is currently backing the Syrian Army efforts in Hama. Earlier this week, coalition forces led by the United States acknowledged that airstrikes within heavily populated areas resulted in civilian casualties. (Al Masdar News, Al Jazeera12Times of Oman)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Insecurity an obstacle to polio eradication campaign

On Sunday, the Ministry of Public Health began its first round of National Immunization Days (NIDs), central to Afghanistan’s goal to eradicate polio in 2017. The minister of public health declared ensuring the safety of the vaccinators one of the greatest challenges to the campaign. In February, six vaccinators were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul. Comment: Afghanistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio still exists, Pakistan and Nigeria being the other two. Despite border tensions, the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group will bring health leaders from both countries together to fight polio in the region. (The Express Tribune, MENA Financial Networks, Al Jazeera, Relief Web)

BANGLADESH: UN calls attention to government’s human rights transgressions

On Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Committee released a report accusing the Bangladeshi government of using excessive force, including executing extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. The committee called on Bangladesh to investigate all cases, persecute perpetrators, and pay reparations to victims. In response to the UN report, the government claimed that the committee did not recognize the efforts being made by the current government to implement the principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Comment: Since the current government came to power in 2009, various human rights organizations have also accused the government of violations, identifying more than 1,300 alleged extrajudicial killings and 325 forced disappearances. (The Daily Star, Al Jazeera, OHCHR)

PAKISTAN: Construction of border fence begins

On Saturday, the Chief of Army Staff announced the commencement of fence construction along the Pak-Afghan border, beginning with high-risk areas such as Bajuar and Mohmand. The army is also constructing more than 420 “small forts” along Pakistan’s 2,430km border with Afghanistan and employing technical surveillance to detect cross-border movement, such as radar sensors. Comment: Pakistan seeks to increase its border security in the wake of a wave of attacks from militant organizations with strongholds in northeastern Afghanistan. The fencing follows the opening of border crossings, which had been closed for the past month after a string of attacks in mid-February left more than 130 dead. (Dawn, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas