PSR: October 12, 2018

 

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October 6 – October 12
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IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

CAMEROON: Citizens await results of nationwide election

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On Sunday, Cameroonians went to the polls in a presidential election that was marred by low voter turnout and isolated violence in separatist Anglophone regions. Maurice Kamto, leader of the opposition Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon, declared victory on Monday despite the lack of official results. The recently established constitutional council, the only entity that is legally “entitled to collect all tallies and publish results,” has yet to declare a victor. President Paul Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement stated that Kamto broke the law by declaring victory, and that the government will “take measures” against the opposition leader. Comment: Biya, in power since 1982, is widely expected to retain the presidency. Cameroon faces an increasingly dire security situation within its borders, as the escalating Anglophone crisis has resulted in over 400 deaths and 20,000 displacements since 2016. (Journal du Cameroun, The East African, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Reuters)

NIGERIA: Ezekwesili declares candidacy for upcoming elections

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On Sunday, Oby Ezekwesili declared her candidacy for the February 2019 presidential elections, representing the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria. A former World Bank vice president and co-founder of global anti-corruption agency Transparency International, Ezekwesili is perhaps most widely known for her ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, which demanded freedom for all girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. Her primary competitors in a crowded field will be incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It will be difficult for Ezekwesili to challenge the established political parties, as the APC and PDP have accounted for all of Nigeria’s presidents since military rule ended in 1999. Comment: Ezekwesili is marketing herself as the “anti-establishment” candidate, specifically trying to appeal to women and youth. Moreover, she is challenging long held views of the political establishment, particularly in regard to the struggling economy and the fight against Boko Haram. (Daily Post, Vanguard, AP, BBC)

ZIMBABWE: Police ban protests against newly imposed tax

On Tuesday, security authorities reiterated their ban on public gatherings, citing the ongoing cholera outbreak that has killed 50 people. This announcement came just as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for demonstrations to take place on Thursday in order to protest the recently imposed tax on electronic payments and transfers. Critics of the tax, which applies to “mobile and card payments and bank transfers above USD 10,” argue that it cuts into income while also supporting unnecessary government spending. Comment: President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently stated that the tax on electronic payments is a “painful but necessary” step toward reviving the struggling economy. According to government officials, the profits earned from this tax will go toward roads, health care, and the education sector. (Daily News, New Zimbabwe, Reuters 1, 2)

Researched/Written by Matan Ayash

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

ARGENTINA: Government protests British military exercises near Falkland Islands

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On Wednesday, the Argentine Foreign Ministry announced a formal complaint against British plans to conduct military exercises on and around the Falkland Islands (known in Spanish as the Malvinas). The military exercises, which will include missile launches, are scheduled to begin Monday, October 15th and end the 29th. Though the British Foreign Office has not yet responded, Argentina made a similar complaint two years ago and was told that the exercises were routine. Comment: Both Argentina and the UK officially claim the islands, which operate a self-sufficient government reporting to Britain. Although the U.S. takes no position on sovereignty, the U.S. and EU acknowledge this de-facto British administration. In 2013, islanders voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to remain a British territory. (Buenos Aires Times, La Nacion, BBC 1, 2, The Telegraph)

HONDURAS: Human rights attorney found safe after being kidnapped

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On Tuesday, Ians Rivera Menjivar, a human rights attorney with the Movimento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia, or the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ), was found safe in a village and transferred to a police station after reportedly being kidnapped by armed individuals on his way to work the same day. Menjivar is also a member and coordinator for the Liberty and Refoundation party. Comment: Honduras is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for human rights defenders, according to the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In 2016, the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras recorded 16 attacks against human rights lawyers alone, 13 of which were deadly. (La Prensa, Once Noticias, Tiempo, UN HCHR)

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS: Over a hundred march to celebrate older human rights champions

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Last Friday, over a hundred older persons in Charlestown, Nevis, along with young school children and senior government officials, participated in the march to celebrate “Older Human Rights Champions,” one of Nevis’ many events to commemorate the Month of Older Persons. Though Nevis holds an annual seniors’ march, this year’s theme was chosen to match the UN’s theme for the International Day of the Older Person (on October 1st). Comment: In speeches on the day of the march, government officials pointed to the island’s history of slavery and discrimination to emphasize the need to fight for human rights. However, despite having a mostly strong human rights record, St. Kitts and Nevis still struggles: homosexuality is criminalized for men, spousal rape is not illegal, and child abuse is a problem. (Nevis Island Administration, St. Kitts & Nevis Information Service, St Kitts & Nevis Observer, Borgen Project)

VENEZUELA: Opposition calls for investigation into death of Fernando Albán

On Monday, opposition leader Fernando Albán supposedly jumped to his death from the 10th floor of the state police headquarters, after being detained there last Friday upon return from the United Nations. Members of the opposition in parliament, as well as several foreign governments, do not believe the government’s explanation that he committed suicide just before being transferred for trial. Instead they claim that Maduro’s government tortured and killed Albán while holding him, ostensibly for involvement in a plot to kill Maduro using drones. The UN has said they will investigate Albán’s death as a part of a wider probe of human rights abuses in the country. Comment: Under the Maduro government, there is no check on executive power. The government cracks down on dissent through arbitrary detentions and violent reactions to street protests. According to the opposition, Maduro currently holds hundreds of political prisoners in jail. (La Patilla, Reuters, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch)

Researched/Written by Tabitha Niemann

This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: Re-education camps legalized

On Tuesday, China’s Xinjiang region changed legislation to legalize re-education camps after long denying their existence. Article 33 was revised to state that “education training centers” can be used to “carry out anti-extremist ideological education” and “promote thought transformation.” China claims the centers are used to deradicalize Muslim Uyghurs “deceived by religious extremism” who seek to establish a separate state, while rights advocates condemn them as arbitrary detention centers home to gross violations of human rights. The World Uyghur Congress estimates that at least one million Uyghurs are currently being held in such re-education camps. Comment: Tuesday’s announcement is part of heightening anti-Muslim sentiment in the western Xinjiang region. On Monday, local leaders in the region’s capital, Urumqi, announced the beginning of an anti-halal campaign. The region banned veils in February 2017. (South China Morning Post, BBC, CNN)

PHILIPPINES: Manila will participate in Chinese rather than U.S. naval drill

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On Monday, President Duterte assured the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhuaduring that the Philippines will not partake in a U.S. naval military drill in the South China Sea next month, scheduled to coincide with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila. Instead, the Western Pacific island nation will participate in joint military exercises in Zhanjiang, China, from October 22-29, Manila’s first collaborative military training with Beijing. The drill is the second part of a maritime exercise started in August in Singapore, where search and rescue operations were emphasized. Comment: Southeast Asian nations are increasing military cooperation with regional powers Japan, China, and the U.S. as tensions over the South China Sea escalate. On Monday, Vietnam and Japan reached an agreement on security in the South China Sea. (The Philippine Star 1, 2, South China Morning Post)

REGIONAL: Japan and Australia vow cooperation to maintain pressure on North Korea

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On Wednesday, Japan and Australia agreed to keep pressure on North Korea to denuclearize through rigorous enforcement of UN sanctions. The two nations applauded North Korea’s recent diplomatic engagement with South Korea and the U.S. but declared they would need to see tangible evidence of “irreversible denuclearization” before sanctions can be loosened. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Christopher Pyne met with their Japanese counterparts, Foreign Minister Taro Kano and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, in Sydney for “two-plus-two” talks, during which the two nations stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation with the U.S. on regional issues, including territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Comment: Japan and Australia continued negotiations on a visiting forces agreement in Sydney, which has been a work in progress since 2014. If a deal is concluded, it would be the first for Japan since the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement signed in 1960. (Japan Times, Kyodo News, Washington Post)

Researched/Written by Christian Vickland

This week in Europe & Central Asia

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Ethnically charged election likely to deepen division

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On Sunday, citizens voted in general elections, choosing Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, Bosniak Muslim Sefik Dzaferovic and Moderate Croat Zeljko Komsic as members of the tripartite presidency. Nationalist candidates ran for each seat in the presidency, and nationalist Dragan Covic received the next highest votes for the Croat seat with 38 percent compared to Komsic’s 49.5 percent. Comment: Dodik has previously called for Republika Srpska to secede from the nation to join with neighboring Serbia. On Tuesday, he declared that he would launch an initiative to recognize Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and subsequent joining with Russia. Nationalist leaders have also been gaining support elsewhere in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland. (Balkan Insight, Sarajevo Times, Al Jazeera, Radio Free Europe, Reuters)

BULGARIA: Police begin investigation into journalist murder

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On Saturday, police found the body of journalist Viktoria Marinova in the northern town of Ruse where she had been raped and murdered. Earlier in the week, she hosted a TV show covering allegations of fraud linked to EU funds, although officials say there is no evidence yet of a connection to her reporting. On Monday, hundreds of people held vigils across the country to mourn Marinova’s death. On Wednesday, German officials arrested a man, Severin Krasimirov, at the request of Bulgarian authorities. Krasimirov left Bulgaria on Sunday, and he was a DNA match for evidence from the crime scene. Comment: Marinova was the third journalist killed in the European Union in the past 12 months. Bulgaria ranks the lowest in the EU in terms of press freedom with investigative reporters often facing intimidation and physical assaults. (NovaBalkan Insight, BBC 12SputnikReuters)

FRANCE/UZBEKISTAN: Uzbek president makes first visit to an EU nation

On Monday, President Shavkat Mirziyoev began a two-day visit to France where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron and other government leaders. Ahead of the visit, President Mirziyoev announced that French nationals will be able to travel to Uzbekistan for up to 30 days without a visa, a right not given to other EU countries. President Mirziyoev also met with representatives of several European companies and signed business deals worth a total of about EUR five billion. Comment: Since coming into office, President Mirziyoev has promoted more open trade and gradual reform, which included allowing a prominent human rights activist, Tolib Yoqubov, to return to visit the country in September. However, there are still concerns about ongoing authoritarianism and whether the government will continue forced labor programs for harvesting cotton. (The Local, Uz Report, Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, Human Rights Watch, MFA Uzbekistan)

Researched/Written by Lars Spjut

This week in the Middle East & North Africa

ISRAEL: Gaza fishing zone reduced after continued protests

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On Saturday, Israel said it was reducing Gaza’s fishing zone from nine to six nautical miles, in retaliation to ongoing protests near the Israeli-Gaza border fence. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said “riots” on Friday spurred the decision to reduce the fishing zone. Palestinians began protesting in March over the Israeli blockade and on allowing refugees the ability to return to their homes. Comment: The Oslo Accords allow fishermen up to 20 nautical miles off the coast to work in. Since 2007, Israel has blockaded Gaza and restricted them to a smaller area to fish. Estimates say up to 50,000 Palestinians earn a living from fishing. (Al Jazeera, Arab News, Jordan Times)

LIBYA: Eastern Libyan forces capture Egyptian militant

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On Sunday, the Libyan National Army (LNA) captured a top suspected militant in the city of Derna. Hisham al-Ashmawy was said to be wearing an “explosives vest but was unable to detonate it”. He was a former special forces officer in Egypt’s military and proceeded to create the Ansar al-Islam network, which has close ties to Al-Qaeda. Ashmawy is believed to have masterminded the raid in 2014 that killed 22 Egyptian border guards as well as other high-profile attacks. Comment: Leaders hope that his capture deals a blow to the Islamic militants in Libya’s east. Egypt works closely with the LNA in combating Islamic militants. After Libya interrogates Ashmawy, he will likely be turned over to Egyptian authorities. (Arab News, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

SYRIA: President Assad offers amnesty to deserters

On Tuesday, the Syrian government offered amnesty for men who abandoned their posts or avoided military service all together. Men in Syria have four months to report to duty, while men outside of Syria have six months. Under Syrian law, deserters face years in prison for leaving their military post. When the civil war broke out in 2011, many deserted to the rebels or fled the country. More than half of the pre-war population fled their homes. Comment: This amnesty does not cover those fighting against the government, who are all considered terrorists. There is hope this will encourage refugees to return to their homes. However, refugees still fear forced conscription, as well as an overall lack of infrastructure. (Arab News, Al Jazeera, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Tyler Spyrison

This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Suicide attack at campaign office coincides with U.S. push for peace talks

afghanistan-suicide-attacks

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber targeted a campaign office in the southern Helmand province, wounding 11 people and killing 8. One of the killed was Saleh Mohammad Achekzai, a candidate for the upcoming parliamentary election on October 20. No groups have claimed responsibility for the attack. On Monday, a day earlier, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to discuss strategies for peace talks between the Taliban, the U.S., and the Afghan government. As a response, the Taliban announced there will be further attacks unless the Afghan people boycott the elections. Comment: The Taliban and Islamic State groups have stepped up violence across the country ahead of the upcoming elections. This is the second suicide attack to target a parliamentary candidate since campaigning officially began on September 28. Despite U.S.-led efforts to reignite peace talks with Afghan forces and the Taliban, the Taliban has repeatedly rejected offers to hold peace talks or support Afghan participation in elections unless the U.S. withdraws their military forces from Afghanistan. (Dunya News, Al Jazeera, BBC, Telesur)

BANGLADESH: Government continues crackdown on free press in new law, UN responds

bangladesh-free-press

On Monday, President Abdul Hamid signed the controversial Digital Security Act into law, which was unanimously passed by parliament on September 19 despite protests from media organizations and human rights groups. The Digital Security Act added new provisions to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act of 2006, bringing harsher punishments for and broader definitions of criminal activity in the press. The new law also contains vague provisions that would impose long prison sentences and fines for online speech that disturbs law and order, ruins communal harmony and negatively impacts religious sentiment. On Tuesday, the UN responded by urging Bangladesh government to revise the new law for checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention and restrictions of the rights of individuals to exercise freedom of expression and opinion. Comment: In a press briefing last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the new law will not repress the free press, and those who practice honest journalism should not be worried about the law if they have no criminal mindset or intend to provide false news. (Dhaka Tribune, BDNews24, The Diplomat)

PAKISTAN: Christian woman on death row makes final court appeal

On Monday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court justices said they reached a decision after hearing the final appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 for alleged blasphemy against Islam. The court, however, did not say when the verdict will be released to the public. On Wednesday, representatives from the TLP (Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan), a hardline religious political party, announced widespread protests pushing for Bibi’s execution and threatened the judges with violence if they overturn the conviction. If Bibi’s sentence is upheld by the court, her last option will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency. Comment: Bibi’s case, in addition to dozens of other blasphemy cases, has ignited widespread unrest and mob violence in Pakistan in recent years. In 2011, former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard in Islamabad after he spoke out in support of Bibi. His assassin, who was later executed for the murder, is widely recognized as a hero and is regularly celebrated at TLP rallies. Pakistan’s current prime minister, Imran Khan, is a vocal defender of the country’s harsh blasphemy laws and supports Bibi’s death sentence. (Dawn, Arab News, South China Morning Post, Reuters)

Researched/Written by Sloane Katleman

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2018-10-19T09:27:58+00:00