PSR: May 12, 2017


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May 05 – May 12, 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

The State of the World’s Human Rights

The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights around the world, covering 159 countries. It warns that the consequences of “us vs them” rhetoric …


The impact of six years of war on the mental health of Syria’s children

Six years of war in Syria has caused deep psychological scars among many Syrian children, increasing their long-term risk of suicide, heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression …


Measuring Peacebuilding Cost-Effectiveness

This research brief by the Institute for Economics and Peace, supported by Milt Lauenstein philanthropy is the first in a series of research briefs aiming to quantify and measure the cost-effectiveness of peacebuilding activities …

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

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

KENYA: Aid suspended due to corruption


On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya suspended approximately USD 21 million in direct assistance to Kenya’s Ministry of Health amid concerns over corruption and weak accounting procedures. The Embassy emphasized that “support for life-saving and essential health services” would not be affected. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec added that the move is unrelated to the upcoming general election. Comment: Last year, Kenya’s security agencies began investigations into the health ministry after an audit found the diversion of USD 50 million. International news agencies have increasingly reported on problems of corruption in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government months before he seeks a second five-year term. (Daily Nation, The Star, AP, BBC, Reuters)

NIGERIA: 82 Chibok girls freed

SSA Somalia

On Saturday, Boko Haram militants released 82 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped from Chibok three years ago, in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. After lengthy negotiations with the Nigerian and Swiss governments and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the girls were released near the Cameroon border and then flown to Abuja to be received by President Muhammadu Buhari. The government is in the process of confirming the girls’ identities before reuniting them with their parents, after which they will go through a rehabilitation process lasting several months. Comment: Despite this release, 100 to 200 Chibok schoolgirls are still believed to remain missing. Girls who escaped have reported deaths and radicalization of some of their classmates, and human rights advocates fear Boko Haram has used some girls to carry out suicide bombings. In addition to the Chibok schoolgirls, Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of adults and children during their eight-year insurgency.  (Al Jazeera, AP, BBC, Reuters)

SOMALIA: Regional al-Shabaab leader killed in raid

On Sunday, Somalia’s Information Minister released a statement saying the Somali National Army had killed senior al-Shabaab leader Moalin Osman Abdi Badil and three other fighters in a raid in the Lower Shabelle region. The statement described the leader’s death as a “victory for the Somali forces and for peacemaking” as it would “weaken” al-Shabaab in the region and, in absence of the leadership, make it easier for fighters to leave the group. Al-Shabaab has not responded to the statement. Comment: The raid came a day after one U.S. service member was killed—the first U.S. combat death in Somalia since 1993—and two were injured amid a clash with al-Shabaab militants. (FirstPost, News24, AfricaNews)

Researched/Written by Jessica Himelfarb


This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ARGENTINA: Congress reversed ruling for early release of human rights perpetrators

Americas Argentina

On Wednesday, Argentina’s Congress passed a law preventing the early release of individuals convicted of human rights violations committed during the country’s military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. The final vote countered the Supreme Court ruling last week allowing human rights violators to have their terms commuted by twice the amount of time they spent in custody awaiting trial. During the vote, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets led by human rights organizations. Comment: The Supreme Court ruling upheld a law dating back two decades that allowed the shortening of offenders’ sentences, with each day served in pre-trial detention counted as two days. The Supreme Court’s decision would have allowed for the early release of a thousand convicted individuals and another thousand being held pending outcomes of trials. (Clarín, Infobae 1, 2, La Nación, Buenos Aires Herald, Reuters)

UNITED STATES: First Puerto Rico bankruptcy hearing set

Americas Puerto Rico

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, appointed by the U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, notified the commonwealth’s creditors that the proceedings for restructuring the USD 70 billion debt will begin on May 17 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The court actions are guaranteed under the Title III of The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, known as PROMESA. The hearings are the first steps of the bankruptcy process declared on May 3 by Puerto Rico’s federal appointed financial oversight board. Comment: On June 2016, the U.S. Congress passed the PROMESA bill to rescue Puerto Rico from being unable to complete debt payments to its lenders. The bill, created a Financial Oversight and Management Board in charge of supervising the island’s public finances. The title III of PROMESA allows the oversight board to ask a special court for a public debt restructuring, a bankruptcy-like proceeding before a court of law. (El Nuevo Día, Bloomberg, Reuters, Washington Post)

UNITED STATES: Dismissal of FBI director triggers calls for special investigation

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump made the decision to fire James B. Comey, the director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). According to President Trump’s statement, the decision was based on Comey’s handling of the email scandal involving the presidential nominee Hilary Clinton during the 2016 election. The decision prompted renewed calls from several Democratic senators for the appointment of a special counsel or independent prosecutor to investigate the alleged ties between President Trump’s associates and Russia. According to reports by local media outlets, several democratic representatives have expressed that the abrupt dismissal of director Comey has to do with the FBI ongoing investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and the possible complicity with Russia to influence the election’s outcome. President Trump’s move to fire Comey sparked public protests outside the White House demanding a special investigation. Comment: The Justice Department has the capacity to appoint a special counsel or special prosecutor any time the person who would ordinarily handle a matter is believed to have a conflict of interest or might be perceived to hold potential bias. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from investigations relating to the 2016 campaign, the responsibility falls directly on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote Tuesday’s memo justifying Comey’s removal. (LA Times, Politico, NBC, Washington Post)

Researched/Written by Silvina Zbikoski

This week in East Asia & Pacific

SOUTH KOREA: Moon Jae-in elected president

On Tuesday, Moon Jae-in won 41 percent of the vote, conservative candidate Hong Joon-pyo received 25 percent, while centrist Ahn Cheol-soo came in third with 21 percent. President Moon was sworn in a day after the election in Seoul’s National Assembly. In his first speech as president, Moon promised to address relations with North Korea, going as far as saying that “he would be willing to visit Pyongyang under the right circumstances”. Comment: President Moon is a former human rights lawyer and a son of North Korean refugees. He is known for his liberal views and criticism of previous conservative administrations. South Korea’s election took place due to the impeachment of Moon’s predecessor, Park Geun-hye, over a corruption scandal. (The Korea Times, Al Jazeera 1  2, BBC, The Guardian)

INDONESIA: Former governor sentenced over blasphemy charges

EAP South Korea

On Wednesday, Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama, Jakarta’s former Christian governor, was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence for blasphemy. In a September 2016 campaign speech, Ahok criticized his opponent for saying Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim leader. The ruling is seen as a setback for religious tolerance in Indonesia. Comment: Ahok’s remarks in 2016 sparked harsh criticism from conservative religious leaders, who campaigned against Ahok, calling for his trial. After the sentencing on Wednesday, thousands of Ahok’s supporters gathered outside of the courthouse demanding his release, while conservative religious leaders expressed their dissatisfaction stating that the two-year sentence was too lenient. (The Jakarta Post, Al Jazeera, BBC, The Guardian)

THAILAND: Car bombs injure over 50 people

EAP Thailand

On Tuesday, two car bombs exploded in Pattani town injuring over 50 people and marking the largest attack in months on a civilian target. On Wednesday, authorities identified four suspects, but did not release their names. The Muslim-majority region has been prone to violence for over a decade, as ethnic Malay insurgents fight for more autonomy. Comment: Since 2004, more than 8,600 people have been killed in shootings and bomb attacks. Talks between the Thai junta and an umbrella group claiming to represent the rebels have not produced any results in years. (The Nation, The Bangkok Post, Channel News Asia)

Researched/Written by Kanstantsin Ivanou


This week in Europe & Central Asia

AUSTRIA: Vice Chancellor Resigns

ECA Austria

On Wednesday Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner announced his resignation from all political positions and his role as head of the People’s Party (OeVP), effective May 15. The Vice Chancellor cited party infighting and frustration over governing as the reason for his resignation. A new party leader will be chosen over the weekend, and the opposition Freedom Party (FPO) has called for a snap election ahead of the 2018 schedule. Comment: The center-right OeVP is part of the coalition government alongside the Social Democrats (SPOe) party. The two parties have dominated all levels of Austrian government since 1945, but suffered a major loss in the last presidential election, calling into question their political mandate. (The Local Austria, DW, Reuters, AP)

KOSOVO: No-confidence vote dissolves coalition government

ECA Kosovo

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa’s coalition government lost a 78-34 vote of no-confidence in parliament, resulting in the collapse of the government a year before the upcoming election. The opposition parties initiated the vote after the government was unable to deliver on several key issues. These include a border demarcation deal with Montenegro, the transition of the Kosovo Security Forces into an official army, and the reservation of Parliament seats for non-Albanian constituents. Comment: President Hashim Thaci dissolved parliament within hours of the vote, and will hold parliamentary elections in June. The Montenegro border deal failed after opposition parties insisted that Kosovo would lose territory under the proposed agreement, an argument that was refuted by the Kosovo government, the U.S., and both local and international experts. (Balkan Insight, DW, AP)

TURKEY: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemns U.S. decision to arm Kurdish forces

ECA Turkey

On Wednesday, President Erdogan criticized the United States for supporting “terrorists” rather than its allies, and urged the U.S. to reconsider their decision to arm Kurdish forces. The arms will be supplied to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of which the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) is an integral part. U.S. Col. John Dorrian said the U.S. would not reclaim the weapons following the conclusion of military operations, but he added that every weapon would be accounted for and closely monitored. U.S. Secretary Jim Mattis assured reporters that he was confident the U.S. would resolve tensions with Turkey and continue to work closely on securing the Turkish border. Comment: Turkey considers the YPG in Syria to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, who considers it a terrorist organization. President Erdogan is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on May 16, where the issue will likely be discussed. (Al Jazeera, RFE/RL, Reuters, AP)

Researched/Written by Kenneth Davis

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

EGYPT/LIBYA: Egyptian Air Force destroys vehicles carrying weapons from Libya

Egypt-Libya - Egyptian Air Fair destroys vehicles carrying weapons from Libya

On Tuesday, the Egyptian military launched multiple raids on 15 vehicles crossing over from Libya, attempting to smuggle weapons into Egypt. The operation began after the Egyptian Army received intelligence on the vehicles gathered along the western border with Libya and took 48 hours to complete using fighter jets and helicopter gunships. No information has been released on who was driving the vehicles or what the casualties were. Comment: The operation comes after President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi launched a crackdown on armed groups in Egypt, including outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military believes the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the attempt to smuggle weapons to the south of Egypt, where Muslim Brotherhood training camps still operate, and assumes it was a response to an Egyptian military attack that killed a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Helmi Masri Mohareb. (Al Araby, Reuters Africa, Al Jazeera)

SYRIA: Safe-Zone plan agreement reached

Syria - Safe-Zone plan agreement reached

On Saturday, Russia, Turkey, and Iran came to an agreement to establish de-escalation zones in Syria during talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The plan is expected to take effect in one month as all the details are finalized and safe zones are fully established. The agreement includes the creation of four zones that will be monitored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, though the Syrian opposition groups have rejected Iran’s involvement in the process. The Syrian government claims it will comply with the agreement but may continue to fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State within the zones. Neither the Syrian government nor the opposition has signed the agreement. The plan also includes a ban on aircraft flying over the zones, except for Russia, Turkey, and Iran who can fly over the zones to combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliates. The US-led coalition will be banned from flying over the zones, which Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis says does not alter or effect their operations. Comment: Russian officials claim the safe zones would bring relief for Syrians living in these areas and will encourage refugees to return home. Analysts predict that the agreement will not stop parties from striking against rebels in these zones. (ARA News, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera)

YEMEN: Cholera outbreak in Sanaa

On Sunday, 200 cases of Cholera were reported from the Jumhouri hospital in Sanaa. The disease is believed to be a result of contaminated water and poor sanitation disaster caused by the war. The Ministry of Public Health has reported ten deaths across the country, three in Sanaa, three in Ibb province, and four in the Hodeidah province. While the war has contributed to the poor sanitation conditions, the streets are littered with trash due to a street-cleaners strike that has lasted seven months now, further contaminating water and subjecting populations to disease.  Comment: Yemen has been battling the Cholera outbreak since October 2016, with 23,506 cases found, 108 of which resulted in death.  While the disease is cured with rehydration and antibiotics, the lack of sufficient medical supplies during the conflict has left many untreated. (Zawya, Al Masdar News, Al Jazeera)

Researched/Written by Raghda Karajah

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Head of self-proclaimed Islamic State of Khorasan confirmed dead

On Sunday, U.S. and Afghan officials announced that the head of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Khorasan was killed during a joint operation on April 27. The leader, Abdul Hasib, is believed to have ordered the deadly attack on the Kabul hospital this past March. A statement from the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul also claimed that Hasib ordered the beheading of local elders and the forced marriage of women and girls to self-proclaimed Islamic State fighters. Comment: Hasib was appointed as the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State after his predecessor, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in a drone strike last year. The identity or existence of a new head of the organization has yet to be confirmed. (The National, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

PAKISTAN: Pakistan signs mutual arms deal with Turkey

On Wednesday, Turkey and Pakistan signed an agreement in which Turkey will sell four Turkish corvette warships to Pakistan, who will in return sell 52 Pakistani training planes to Turkey. Turkey will be the first NATO country to use a Pakistani-made training plane. Comment: According to some regional news sources, Turkey’s strong relations with Pakistan are part of Turkey’s President Erdogan’s strategy to be seen as an international leader of Sunni Muslims. In addition to the arms deal last week, President Erdogan offered to serve as a mediator between Pakistan and India to resolve the Kashmir issue. The offer was immediately supported by the Pakistani government but rejected by the Indian government. (Dawn, Hurriyet Daily News, Sputnik News 1, 2, Reuters)

REGIONAL: South Asia satellite launched

SA Regional

Last Friday, India launched a communications satellite to be used by its regional neighbors, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Pakistan declined registering to use the satellite, instead announcing that it was working on its own. According to India’s foreign ministry, the satellite will provide television services, communications technology for online banking, and a backup cellular network to participating countries. Comment: Prime Minister Modi of India called the satellite a “gift to South Asia.” The satellite serves as a goodwill offer and effort to counter China’s growing influence and infrastructure construction in the region, according to local Indian news sources. (Asia Times, The Indian Express, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Kaleigh Thomas