PSR: May 18, 2018

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This week at IPSI

This week in:

 IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Symposiums - 20.04.18

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

BURUNDI: Constitutional referendum may allow fourth term for President Nkurunziza


On Thursday, the country held a constitutional referendum to amend presidential term limits. If passed, the legislation could extend President Nkurunziza’s rule until 2013 – 14 additional years after his third term ends in 2020. The opposition and the international community have all condemned the referendum, urging Nkurunziza to step down to promote peace, security, and democracy. Comment: This is not the first time President Nkurunziza sought to extend his power; in 2015, he refused to step down when his second term came to an end. He has been in power since 2005.  (The Guardian, BBC, Reuters)


KENYA: President Kenyatta signs bill criminalizing “fake news”


On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a widely opposed cybercrime law that criminalizes the publishing of misleading or false information. Violators face up to USD 50,000 and/or two years in prison. The law does not clarify what constitutes false or misleading information. Local human rights groups, politicians, and journalists all condemned the signing of the law and accused it of infringing on freedom of expression. Comment: The Committee to Protect Journalists previously urged President Kenyatta to return the bill to the parliament to correct clauses that threaten the freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Kenya is now the third country in East Africa, including Uganda and Tanzania, to pass “anti-fake news laws.” (BBC, VOA, AllAfrica)


SOUTH AFRICA: Government recalls ambassador to Israel


On Monday, the South African government announced that it would recall its ambassador to Israel after what they called “indiscriminate” killings of innocent Palestinians protesting the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The government said the ambassador’s roles would be fulfilled by the embassy’s consultant until the ambassador returns. Members of the South African Jewish Community called South Africa’s recall “outrageous” and a “gross double-standard against the Jewish State.” Comment: Although condemnations of violence in Gaza are widespread, South Africa is the first country to take concrete steps against Israel’s actions. (The Times of Israel, eNCA, The Jerusalem Post)

                                                                                     Researched/Written by Edgar Peter Mutta

Sarajevo - 26.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

MEXICO: Mayoral candidate latest victim in a string of           pre-election assassinations


On Friday, two unidentified gunmen shot and killed mayoral candidate José Remedios Aguirre Sánchez in Apaseo el Alto, Guanajuato State. The shooting, which also injured two others, occurred in close range at the Ecological Park, where the gunmen fled in a white Ford Mustang with a U.S. license plate. Aguirre Sánchez, a member of the Movement of National Regeneration (Morena) party, was running for mayor of Apaseo el Alto. Guanajuato Governor Miguel Marquez reported that the incident is under special investigation. Comment: Eighty-two assassinations of political candidates and officeholders occurred before Mexico’s July 1 elections, making this election the “bloodiest in recent history,” according to Reuters. (Al Jazeera, telesur, Mexico News Daily, Reuters)


VENEZUELA: Inmates seize prison before national election 


On Wednesday, inmates seized control of the El Helicoide prison in the capital city of Caracas. Footage of inmates appeared on social media, showing prisoners moving freely within the facility. Many of the prisoners demanded immediate release, due to “human rights abuses and lack of healthcare in the prison.” The riot allegedly began in the late afternoon after the torture of activist Gregory Sanabria and required the presence of the National Guard and riot police. Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek Saab claims that the government has “regained full control of the detention center.” Comment: The prison is home to Venezuela’s secret service, Sebin, and holds people convicted of “ordinary crimes” along with political prisoners. The riot precedes Venezuela’s controversial Sunday elections. (CNN, NPR, BBC, The Guardian, telesur)


NICARAGUA: National dialogue begins 


On Wednesday, the Nicaraguan government, civil society organizations, and student groups began a national dialogue in the capital city of Managua, with the intention to bring an end to civil unrest in the country. The dialogue, mediated by the Catholic Church, and accepted by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, allows the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the deaths of anti-government protesters.   According to Cardinal Leopoldo of Managua, the dialogue intends to “structurally address the issue of the country’s institutions, with the aim of paving the way towards its democratization.” Comment: The national dialogue follows four weeks of protests against new social security reforms. Suppression techniques employed against the protestors led to the deaths of 63 people – the majority being students. (ABC News, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Havana Times, telesur)

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

MALAYSIA: New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addresses government corruption


On Monday, Mahathir Mohamad began investigating corruption charges against members of the former government under prime minister Najib Razak, including Najib himself. Immigration authorities prevented Najib and his wife from leaving the country as they tried to take a flight to Indonesia on Saturday. Another key target of Mr. Mahathir’s crackdown is attorney general Apandi Ali, who has now been placed on indefinite leave. Comment: Mahathir took power on May 9, winning the election on a platform of anti-corruption and ending more than 60 years of rule by Najib’s Barisan National coalition. (NY Times, SCMP, The Economist, The Guardian)


INDONESIA: A series of terrorist bombings strikes Surabaya


On Sunday and Monday, family members carried out a total of five bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. Three bombings occurred in churches, when attackers strapped explosives to themselves and drove their motorbikes in front of the worshipping crowds. One attack happened in front of the city’s police headquarters, and one in a private home, where the bomb exploded prematurely. In total, the attacks left at least 13 people dead and more than 40 wounded. The Chief of the Indonesian National Police said he suspected ISIS ordered the attacks in revenge for the recent detainment of the leader of the jihadi group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) that is affiliated with ISIS. Comment: The attacks show the highest level of coordination since the Jakarta bombings in 2009. (Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN)


KOREA: North Korean president cancels meeting after joint U.S. and South Korea military exercise


On Wednesday, President Kim Jong Un canceled a high-level meeting with South Korean officials to protest continued joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises. President Kim also threatened to cancel an anticipated peace summit with U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for June 12. Despite the cancellation, Trump and his team plan to wait and see how Kim moves forward in the next four weeks. Comment: The cancellation comes at a time of unprecedented cooperation and dialogue between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In. Pressing topics for both leaders include officially ending the Korean War and the denuclearization of the peninsula. (BBC, Reuters, NBC)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla

DC - 22.03.18

This week in Europe & Central Asia

SPAIN: Quim Torra sworn in as Catalan leader 

Quim Torra  

On Thursday, separatist Quim Torra was sworn in as Catalonia’s new president, ending seven months of direct rule by the Spanish central government. Torra, a hardline secessionist, promised in his speech to be faithful only to the people of Catalonia and made no mention of the Spanish constitution or the king of Spain. Breaking with tradition, the Spanish government declined to send a representative to the ceremony, a sign of growing political unrest between the regions. Comment: Catalonian lawmakers elected Torra on Monday; he won by a narrow margin of 66 votes for to 65 against. The election follows months of crisis between the Catalan region and the central government, spurred by the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017. Ninety two percent of Catalonians voted in favor of independence, but the Spanish government declared the referendum unconstitutional. (El País, BBC, AP, Reuters)


SLOVAKIA: Police criticized over treatment of slain journalist’s colleague


Slovak police are being criticized for their investigation into the shooting of journalist Jan Kuciak, after law enforcement officials interrogated a colleague of Kuciak’s for eight hours and seized her cell phone. Pavla Holcová, working with Kuciak to report government corruption, may have been the last person to speak to him by phone and claims to have been coerced into giving up the device to police. The incident prompted major backlash from Slovak journalists and media outlets, calling on police to explain their handling of the case. Comment: The murder of Kuciak and his fiancé sparked anti-government protests and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico, two interior ministers, and the chief of police. An international team is investigating the murders. (Slovak Spectator, Reuters, The Guardian, AP)


IRELAND: Taoiseach warns UK on need for progress on Brexit deal 


On Thursday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed concern over the UK’s lack of progress on the withdrawal deal from the EU, which may jeopardize border relations between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which is not. The specter of stringent controls and tariffs at its borders with the UK after the nation leaves the EU concerns the Irish government.  Ireland continues to press for a backstop solution that extends the current customs arrangement; however, the UK refused to accept such a solution. Comment: Varadkar’s comments came just before a meeting with British prime minister Theresa May in Bulgaria. After the meeting, May reiterated her country’s intent on leaving the EU and the customs union, but promised to find a solution for future customs arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, stating that there should be no hard border. (Irish Times, BBC, Reuters, The Guardian)

                                                                                                 Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL / PALESTINE: Violence breaks out in Gaza after U.S. opens embassy in Jerusalem


On Monday, Israeli forces killed at least 52 Palestinian protesters and injured 1,000 along the Gaza-Israel border as the U.S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli troops used deadly force after protesting Palestinians threw rocks over a fence separating Gaza and Israel. Israel did not report any injuries or deaths. The U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah held Hamas, the Islamist group governing Gaza, responsible for the protests. Comment: Since March 30, Israelis have killed more than 100 Palestinians in protests calling for displaced Palestinians to return to their homeland. Al Jazeera called Monday the “deadliest day for Palestinians killed by Israel forces since the 2014 Gaza war.” The protests on Tuesday also aligned with the annual commemoration of the Nakba, the displacement of Palestinians after the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. (JPost, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, HRW, Reuters)


REGIONAL: Yemen PM announces end to Socotra crisis


On Monday, Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr announced the end of the crisis between Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Socotra, an island off the southeast coast of Yemen; UAE troops occupied the Yemen-governed island at the beginning of the month. Socotra’s Governor, Hashim Saad-al Saqatri, criticized UAE’s actions as “a flagrant violation of Yemeni sovereignty.” The crisis strained the Saudi Arabian-led coalition with UAE and Yemen to fight against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. Saudi Arabia ended the crisis by intervening militarily and agreeing with the UAE to restore Yemeni control. Saudi Arabia and Yemen are now coordinating an aid and reconstruction plan for the island. Comment: Socotra is a UNESCO historic site and has not been a location of violence in the Yemeni conflict. (Asharq Al-Awsat, Al Arabiya, The National, Al Jazeera)


LEBANON: Gay pride organizer detained in midst of parade


On Monday, Lebanese police forces detained Hadi Damien, the organizer of the second Beirut gay pride week, which began on Saturday. Damien spent one night in prison, but cancelled the events on Tuesday after authorities threatened him with prosecution and accused him of “encouraging debauchery and offending public decency.” The police have not commented yet on the events.  Comment: Last year, Lebanon held its first gay pride week in the Arab region, although its penal code punishes homosexuality with one year in prison.  Israel and Turkey are the only other countries in the region that hold pride festivals. (BBC, Channel News Asia, AP News)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: President Ghani meets Chinese Ambassador to enhance relations in South Asia


On Tuesday, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani received the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, Liu Jinsong, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul to discuss the expansion of economic relations and increased Chinese investment in Afghanistan. Additionally, they discussed their partnership in countering regional terrorism. Jinsong also invited Ghani to the three-way talks next month between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China. Comment: In the past two years, China sought to build a trilateral partnership between itself, Pakistan, and Afghanistan as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. While Afghanistan and Pakistan have a historically hostile relationship, China views friendship between the two as crucial for the trade corridor. In turn, Afghanistan welcomed Chinese outreach, ranging from increased investments in Afghan development to smaller donations to schools and hospitals. (Bakhtar News, Voice of America, XinhuaNET)


BANGLADESH: Former prime minister granted bail


On Wednesday, the Supreme Court in Dhaka granted bail to the former prime minister and opposition leader, Khaleda Zia. On February 8, the court imprisoned her for five years for embezzlement of foreign donations to the Zia Orphanage Trust. The Supreme Court upheld a High Court decision from March to grant her bail; however, Zia remains under arrest for several cases – ranging from arson to defamation. Comment: Khaleda Zia served two terms as the prime minister from 1991 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2006, and she is an important figure for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in the upcoming general elections. Her release is significant for other members of her party because Bangladeshi law prohibits convicted persons from running for office for two years after the conviction. (The Wire, Al Jazeera, BBC)


INDIA: Home Ministry conditionally accepts request for ceasefire in Kashmir during Ramadan

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs tweeted that government troops in Kashmir would stop counterinsurgency operations during the month of Ramadan. With this announcement, the central government accepted Kashmiri chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s request to ensure a “peaceful environment” for resident Muslims to observe the holy month; however, the ceasefire is conditional because troops reserve the right to retaliate if they are attacked by insurgents or if civilians are perceived to be in danger. The ministry further stated that it expects “cooperation” from residents to make peace possible. Comment: India and Pakistan administer parts of Kashmir, but both claim all of the region as sovereign territory. Since 1989, rebels in India-administered Kashmir alternatively demand Kashmir’s secession to Pakistan or its complete independence. The ceasefire comes a month after local clashes with security forces sparked by the rape and murder of a Muslim minor by Hindu residents. (The Washington Post, The Free Press Journal, Al Jazeera)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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