Weekly report: August 4th, 2017

Photo: Anti-government lawmakers shout ‘fraud’ during a session of Venezuela’s National Assembly in Caracas Wednesday. Photograph: Ariana Cubillos/AP. The Democratic Republic of Congo A series of marches took place across the DRC to demand that President Joseph Kabila leaves office and organizes elections by the end of the year. They were organized by pro-democracy group Lucha, and backed by opposition politicians. The Congolese authorities, which banned opposition demonstrations last September, arrested several protesters. Amnesty International reported that more than 100 people had been arrested, while the UN condemned the ‘arbitrary arrests’. A UN report based on interviews with almost 100 victims says that more than 250 people, including 62 children, have been killed in attacks in the DRC’s Kasai region that are “taking on an increasing and disturbing ethnic dimension”. It also reported that the DRC government might be complicit in the massacres. As measles sweeps across the DRC, more than one million children have been vaccinated against the disease in a nine-month campaign by Médecins Sans Frontières, led in different regions across the country. http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/democratic-republic-congo-over-one-million-children-vaccinated http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/congo-massacres-ethnic-conflict-250-people-killed-m-united-nations-crimes-humanity-civil-war-a7876266.html http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/drc-police-arrest-100-anti-kabila-protests-170801082747288.html The Maldives  Fears over the events taking place in the Maldives have only continued to escalate since July 24th, on which day the Maldivian military blockaded parliament and expelled Members of Parliament from the building in order to protect a successful impeachment vote against a close ally of the president. Now, the government is planning to follow through with the execution of three men “in the next few days.” Amnesty International reports that the executions are also a way for the government to divert attention away from its other troubles. In response...

Weekly report: July 28th, 2017

Police block the road leading to the Parliament building in Male, Maldives, Monday, July 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahmed Shurau). Cambodia  Cambodia launched a free mobile application with the comprehensive history of the Khmer Rouge. Since seventy percent of Cambodia’s population is under thirty, developers felt it was imperative to educate the younger generations about the development of the Pol Pot-led regime, which started as a guerilla group in the 1950s. Thanks to funding by the EU and the Rei Foundation, the app will be introduced in 80 schools and 20 universities in October. These efforts coincide with the trials of the last two surviving top leaders of the Khmer Rouge in the Cambodia Tribunal. One is the second-in-command and chief ideologist of the regime, Nuon Chea, and the other is its former head of State, Khieu Samphan — both were sentenced to life imprisonment during the first part of the trial in 2014 http://www.thestatesman.com/science/new-mobile-app-on-khmer-rouge-history-1501135330.html http://www.bgr.in/news/cambodia-launches-mobile-app-on-khmer-rouge-history/ Syria ISIS is losing more and more territory in Syria. The Islamic State is struggling to mount an effective defense of the city of Raqqa, its headquarters, as local forces make rapid headway in ousting the militants, the U.S. military said. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they have captured 40% of the city since June 6, when a ground assault began. Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a joint press conference on Tuesday. Trump mentioned that the US will support “the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible”, thus allocating new funding to Lebanon, in support of Syrian refugees...

Weekly Report: July 21st, 2017

Photo: Protests in Poland/ CNN. Democratic Republic of the Congo This Thursday, a research group at New York University published a new report, which revealed a vast network of businesses owned by President Joseph Kabila and his family which pervades virtually all sectors of the economy. While the Congolese constitution does not bar government officials from owning private enterprises, it remains far from clear how the family amassed its wealth – apart from lucrative state contracts, disproportionately awarded to firms owned and operated by the President’s close relatives. Observers note that further enrichment is a powerful incentives for Kabila, who has  been receiving approval ratings in the single digits and recently declined the public’s appeals to hold elections on the grounds that DRC could not afford them, to cling to power. The President and his family continue to invest large sums in real estate around the country and assets which are not easy to liquidate – a further troubling sign that they do not intend to relinquish the presidency.   https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/20/drc-vast-business-network-of-president-who-wont-step-down-revealed https://allthewealth.congoresearchgroup.org/ Mexico The Mexican government has routinely undermined a national anti-corruption system put in place by President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose approval ratings have dwindled to the teens after he was caught in a conflict of interest scandal last year. The mechanism has not had the promised effect of tackling corruption, which still costs Mexico between 2%-10% of GDP annually, but rather given the appearance of reform while harassment and suppression of anti-graft activists continues.   https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/19/mexico-corruption-political-system-enrique-pena-nieto https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/07/17/mexicos-elite-desperately-want-their-own-emmanuel-macron/?utm_term=.8348543121df Poland Tens of thousands of Poles demonstrated in from of the Warsaw palace on Thursday, after the lower house of...

Weekly Report: July 14th, 2017

Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters Cambodia July 12th, marked the one year anniversary of the murder of leading political activist and government critic Kem Ley. Colleagues and friends Cambodians held memorial services in Phnom Penh and elsewhere to pay tribute to his courageous investigative journalism and service to truth. Other observers reiterated their concerns about the inadequacy of the criminal investigation and the suspect claims of Oeuth Ang, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murderer, that he acted alone. Phil Robertson, the head of Human Rights Watch- Asia, reports that at least 160 NGO’s from around the globe continue to demand that Cambodia establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry, in line with the UN Principles of Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extralegal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. In a darkly ironic twist, on the very same date, the Cambodia government issued a new bill which prohibits political parties from being affiliated with convicted criminals, a move many observers have described as another covert attempt to stifle political opposition. Considering that many opposition members and outspoken critics of the government have already been convicted for breaking some of Cambodia´s more recent laws which curtail freedom of expression, the bill will surely impact the leadership of the opposition and its efficacy in the 2018 general election campaign. http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/cambodia-remembers-murdered-government-critic-as-elections-loom/ http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2017/07/cambodia-passes-bill-to-stifle-government-opposition.php Democratic Republic of the Congo The DRC’s president, Joseph Kabila, might once be trying to prolong his mandate. Although elections were initially announced in December, his electoral commission now mentions that holding the elections in 2017 might “not be possible” due to voter registration, and that voting might be postponed for next...

Weekly report: July 4th, 2017

Photo: Mas de 131: Twitter. Venezuela A helicopter attacked two government buildings in Caracas on June 28 using guns and grenades. The helicopter was piloted by Oscar Pérez, a former captain in the CICPC, Venezuela’s intelligence and investigative body. The Venezuelan government says the CIA and the US embassy are behind the attack, although they offer no evidence to prove the claims. Some opposition members in Parliament express suspicion that the Venezuelan government staged the incident to justify a crackdown on critics. The CICPC helicopter flew a banner reading “350 Libertad” in reference to article 350 of the Venezuelan constitution, which states that the Venezuelan people will not recognize any authority that opposes democracy and human rights. Violent riots and anti-government demonstrations continue around the country. Roughly 68 businesses have been looted in the city of Maracay, and the headquarters of the PSUV governing party were also burned in the violence. At least four people have been killed and eight injured in Barquisimeto, west of Caracas, bringing the total number of casualties to at least 80 since the protests began in April. The Attorney General’s office announced it was investigating allegations of government raids and detentions. Opposition protesters, led by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) are calling for early elections and an end to the government’s plan to rewrite the constitution. On Sunday, President Maduro raised the country’s minimum wage by half, although given the falling value of the currency the new wage remains 17% lower since the last increase in May. The currency has fallen 99.7% since Maduro’s election in 2013, deepening the country’s economic and political crisis...

Weekly report: June 23rd, 2017

Cambodia On Wednesday it was announced that the 13-month investigation into the group of five human rights workers known as the ‘Adhoc 5’ had concluded. The 420-day detention of senior officials Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soskan, Li Mony and senior election official Ny Chakrya has been criticized by several international organizations, including but not limited to the United Human Rights Office, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Earlier in the year, the five were in the running for the Martin Ennals award. On the same day, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reaffirmed his promise to maintain power at any cost. Sen underscored that “As long as your tongue and your writing insult, I say that Cambodia is still at war,” and that “To protect the peace for millions of people if necessary, 100 or 200 people must be eliminated.” Meanwhile, several non-violent protests took place over the course of the week. In Kratie, 200 villagers took to the street to protest rubber planation company Doty Saigon-Binh’s attempt to limit their mobility. Ultimately, it was negotiated that villagers could travel freely 24 hours, but the time limit for the transportation of goods would remain limited. Likewise, over 500 garments workers for the company International Fashion Royal staged a walkout in response to the dismissal of Bo Thet, their union rep. According to reports, the company had prevented workers from paying their union over a seven month period. Later on Thursday, the Kampuchea Krom community was forbidden from protesting at the Nation Assembly in response to the continued human rights abuses of the Krum under present-day Vietnamese people. https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/adhoc-5-investigation-concluded-trial-awaits-131614/ https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/prepare-coffin-hun-sen-repeats-bloody-power-promise-131626/...