Weekly Report: 17 November, 2017

Photo: Ruling Party tensions reached a peak this week in Zimbabwe, when the military forced Robert Mugabe off the stage after 37 years in power – Photograph: Philimon Bulawayo_Reuters   Zimbabwe Martha O’ Donavan, the American woman who’s arrest CANVAS reported on last week, has been granted bail last Friday. O’ Donavan’s, who is charged with subversion over allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter, her bail was set on $1,000. According to the Washington Post, she did not speak to reporters as she emerged from a prison in the capital, Harare, and left in a U.S. Embassy vehicle. As are the conditions attached to her bail, O’Donovan had to hand over her passport to the Zimbabwean authorities, and has to report to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Monday and Friday. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch releases a small report on the most recent clamp down on media in Zimbabwe, calling on the government to create an independent body to impartially investigate police abuses against journalists. Also late last week, AfricanArguments.org release an opinion-piece by Blessing Miles Tendi, on the role the British authorities might have played in the lay-off of former vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “With Mnangagwa’s dismissal,” Tendi argues, “the UK’s alleged strategy [to support Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe’s next president] has not only clearly failed, but its perceived backing for Mnangagwa prompted outrage among many Zimbabweans, further weakening the UK’s image in the country. Moreover, its support for Mnangagwa may have even contributed to his downfall.” Tendi moves on to argue that, besides the fact that UK-meddling in the presidential succession process is a known stick used by Mugabe, the UK should have recognized that associating itself with Mnangagwa would provoke heated domestic opposition because the controversial Mnangagwa has a long history of human rights abuses and violence. Early this week, Reuters covered a piece by MacDonald Dzirutwe, relating to...

Weekly Report: 10 November, 2017

Protesters rally at St James’s Square in Barcelona (Credit: Reuters / via The Independent UK) Zimbabwe Last week Friday, US citizen Martha O’Donovan was arrested during a raid at her house in Harare at dawn. O’Donovan who works for Magamba TV is accused of allegedly insulting President Mugabe in a shared tweet, and her arrest is the first after last month’s creation of the Ministry of Cyber Security which focuses on crimes on social media and the Internet in general. If convicted, Martha O’Donovan could face up to 20 years in prison as she is not only charged with insulting the president, but with “’subverting a constitutional government […] [which] is directly related to her role with Magamba TV […] [and it] is what we expected all along, that it was not really about the retweet’”, but a “fishing expedition to get information about her work at Magamba TV”, Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer in Harare, told Al Jazeera. Among others, Amnesty International condemned the arrest, stating the charges to “confirm fears that this new portfolio will simply be used to punish anyone speaking out against the authorities on social media platforms”. Following the arrest, Zimbabwean officials did not react immediately to requests for comments on the case, reported Al Jazeera. On Monday, President Robert Mugabe fired his longtime ally and vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of “’disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability,’ according to a press statement”, reported CNN. This move is expectedly clearing the way for Mugabe’s wife Grace, leader of the party’s so-called Generation-40 which had opposed Mnangagwa, to take over the vice presidency and...

Weekly Report: 3 November, 2017

  Do you want to receive our Weekly Reports in your e-mail? You can subscribe to our Weekly Briefing via THIS LINK  Spain After the Catalan parliament meets and unilaterally declares independence on Friday, Spain’s senate approves new powers for the Madrid government to impose direct rule on Catalonia that same day. As pro-separatist movements protests dominated the news for weeks, police said at least 300,000 people had turned out in Barcelona, Catalonia’s largest city, for a pro-unity rally on Sunday. Catalonia’s main opposition party said the region’s “silenced majority” was now speaking, according to BBC. Then, early this week, ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont left Spain and travelled to Brussels, as he is facing sedition charges from the Spanish government after Catalonia declared independence. According to the Independent, “the move comes after Belgium’s asylum and migration affairs minister Theo Francken said the former president could seek asylum in the country.” Saillant détail is that Francken hails from the Flemish nationalist party New Flemish Alliance, which has close ties to the Catalan separatist movement, while the party advocates an independent Flanders and wants it to secede from Belgium. Late on Tuesday, Puigdemont declared he is not seeking assylum in Belgium, but simply working from the countries capital until “a fair judicial process was guaranteed.” Early on Friday, the crisis in Spain dramatically deepened and extended across the Continent after eight Catalan ministers were jailed by a court in Madrid and a European arrest warrant was issued to extradite the region’s disputed president Carles Puigdemont from Belgium on charges of rebellion and sedition. According to the Guardian, it is understandable “that there is a more than reasonable doubt about the fairness of the highly politicized Spanish courts. The charges launched today are eminently political, and have the objective – as openly...

Weekly Report: 27 October, 2017

Photo: Rights activists gathered in Turkey before the trial of other activists (REUTERS/Osman Orsal) Zimbabwe After Zimbabwean President Mugabe’s appointment as a WHO goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases last week had caused national and international criticism, the organization’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revoked the decision on Sunday. Reactions included surprise and disappointment, as critics stated that in contrary to Tedros’ statement on Zimbabwe prioritizing the issue of health in its policies, the country has faced a highly deteriorating health system. News24 also reported on Zimbabwe’s severe health situation and reactions after the WHO’s decision(s). The media outlet further wrote that Zimbabwe’s government declared Mugabe did not have notice of the appointment and would have declined anyway. At the same time, there have been reports about ongoing intimidation and violence, especially by Zanu PF supporters against those in favor of the MDC, during the Biomentric Voter Registration (BVR) that started earlier this month. The NGO Election Resource Center (ERC) called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to take actions against those parties and supporters hampering the process of registration in preparation for peaceful, free and fair election, wrote allAfrica on Wednesday. Late last week, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had taken further steps to form his alliance with five other opposition parties, announcing Welshman Ncube to be the new spokesperson. The alliance also established numerous natioal alliance committees, to create joint efforts especially for voter education and registration mobilization. Meanwhile, all Africa reported on MDC opposition spokesman Obert Gutu voicing his doubts about the ZEC’s capabilities and pointed out the likelihood of next year’s elections being rigged in favor of the...

Weekly Report: 20 October, 2017

Photo: Jordi Sànchez (Catalan National Assembl) and Jordi Cuixart (independence group Omnium leader) were arrested and faced a judge in Madrid on Monday, in an investigation for alleged sedition. The arrests of the both ‘Jordis’ is the first imprisonment of senior secessionist figures since Catalonia’s 1 October independence referendum. Photograph: Reuters (via bbc.com) Also this week we are proud to inform you that executive director of CANVAS Srdja Popovic has been elected rector of St Andrews, one of the oldest English-speaking schools of our world. Read what the BBC wrote about the election here. Cambodia On Monday, Cambodia’s parliament voted to make it part of party-law that if a political party is dissolved, seats in parliament should be re-distributed. The vote happened after the government filed a lawsuit earlier this month to dissolve main opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), part of an escalating political crisis. Monday’s parliamentary vote on the new amendments was supported by all 67 parliamentarians present from Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), while the CNRP boycotted the morning session. According to Reuters, under the new laws, “if a political party abandons its seats, is delisted, is disbanded or dissolved, a list of candidates or members of parliament of that party are no longer valid and beneficial.” The vote comes at a time when around half the opposition members of Cambodia’s parliament have allegedly left the country in fear of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s repressive regime, as we reported earlier this month. On Thursday, the South Chinese Morning Post publishes an interesting column dealing with particular historical explanations behind Hun Sen’s current crackdown against opposition forces ahead of next year’s election. “To understand, we must go back 47 years,” Jonathan Power writes. When the North Vietnamese invaded...

Weekly Report: 13 October, 2017

Photo: On a Media Award Ceremony, RaajjeTV staff staged a silent protest against the Maldives Media Council Photograph: RaajjeTV The Maldives In a statement, UN Special Rapporteur Diego García-Sayán, part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, has condemned the indefinite suspension of 54 lawyers in the Maldives after The International Commission of Jurists had already done so two weeks ago (see Weekly Report: 29 September). Among other things, the Special Rapporteur expressed his concerns about the independence of the legal profession and access to justice in the Maldives, and called on the authorities to establish an independent bar association overseeing lawyers’ affairs in the country. As the second hearing of the suspects charged with the murder of popular blogger and human rights defender Yameen Rasheed was held behind closed doors, some have called for public hearings of the case in the future. The Asian Tribune and other organizations such as the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Democracy (FORUM-ASIA) or the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) called on the Criminal Court of the Maldives to do so in order “to respect the Constitution […] [and] the interest of Yammen, his family and justice in the Maldives. Yameen had received several death threats which were ignored by the police and was stabbed to death in April this year. Besides criticizing prevailing issues in the Maldives such as pervasive injustice and human rights abuses, the blogger was a leading advocate of justice for his friend and journalist Ahmad Rilwan Adulla who had disappeared in 2014. On Wednesday, Moosa Rasheed of Avas Online dedicated his award of “Most Promising Journalist...