Weekly Report: 6 October

  Photo:  Efforts to bring those responsible for atrocities in Syria before European courts are starting to bear fruit. While various authorities in Europe have opened investigations of serious international crimes committed in Syria, Sweden and Germany are the first two countries that have prosecuted and convicted people for these crimes. Photograph: Human Rights Watch   Syria In a report released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said that efforts to bring those responsible for atrocities in Syria before European courts are starting to bear fruit, notably in Sweden and Germany. In the 66-page report, the countries efforts to investigate and prosecute people implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria are outlined. The report emphasizes that Syrian refugees consistently stressed to Human Rights Watch the importance of bringing to justice those responsible for atrocities committed in Syria.  On this same Wednesday, ISIS claims responsibility for bombing in Damascus on which happened two days before. Killing 17 people in the central and famous al-Midan neighborhood of the city, the attack was the first of its kind in the capital since July this year. Midan is a predominantly Sunni Muslim area that witnessed some of the biggest peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad at the start of the civil war.  https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/03/syria-first-atrocities-trials-held-europe    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41470746     Democratic Republic Congo On Tuesday, Al Jazeera covers the UNHCR reporting of Congolese refugees fleeing towards Zambia. More than 3,000 people have fled to that country from DRC in the past month to escape escalating violence, according to the United Nations. UNHCR stated that unrest in parts of southeastern Congo since 30 August has driven these numbers into northern Zambia – the largest influx of its kind in the past five years. People “are escaping inter-ethnic clashes, as well as fighting...

Weekly Report: September 29, 2017

Photo:  Late last week, Trump called on NFL owners to dismiss players who choose to kneel in protest during the national anthem. Famous basketball-players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are now face to face with the President. Photograph: NBC News The Maldives On Wednesday, The International Commission of Jurists, or ICJ, has called on the Maldives to revoke the suspension of 54 lawyers, adding that the mass suspension is incompatible with international law and standards. An open letter, signed by the Commission’s secretary general Sam Zarifi, condemned the suspension, emphasizing that it must be revoked unconditionally. It further called on the Supreme Court and the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) to revoke the suspension “and ensure any disciplinary proceedings against lawyers comply with the Maldives’ obligations under international standards”.  On Wednesday, hundreds of police and soldiers descended on the island of Villingili in Gaafu Alif atoll ahead of a visit from President Abdulla Yameen, cracking down on opposition protesters by removing banners and placards. Around 300 security officers, some armed, were sent to Villingili two days prior to Yameen’s arrival. Members of the ruling party were allegedly “intervened and blocked the opposition” from protesting.  https://raajje.mv/en/news/18489 http://maldivesindependent.com/politics/security-forces-descend-on-villigili-for-yameen-visit-132775   Myanmar On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch claimed that Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity in its campaign against Muslim insurgents in Rakhine state, and it called for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions and an arms embargo. Human Rights Watch said its research, supported by analysis of satellite imagery, had found crimes of deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault and persecution.   The United Nations says a planned visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has seen a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims, has been cancelled by...

Weekly Report: September 22, 2017

Photo: Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai denies alligations of a secret deal with Zanu PF’s embattled Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to form a coalition government outside of elections. Photograph: www.zimbabwesituation.com Zimbabwe Earlier this month, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it had no plans to join factions of the ruling ZANU-PF party to form a national unity coalition after the eventual death of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. A Reuters investigation revealed that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, favourite to succeed Mugabe, has been looking to build a broad coalition that would kickstart the economy by reintegrating thousands of white farmers booted off their land in the early 2000s. However, the MDC said it would never consider joining an administration that was not the product of an election. “While stability is important, President Tsvangirai and the MDC have always placed a far higher premium on legitimacy and democracy,” a statement said. In the meantime, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) finally rolled out their long expacted Biometric Voter Registration system, to compile a new voter’s role. The commission plans to register more than 7 million Zimbabweans by January. These plans, however, are met with scorn, as it has only a quarter of the registrations kits needed available at the moment. Zimbabweans are sceptical and see the BVR-technology as a new way for the ruling party to rig the 2018 elections. Finally, this week there was an upsurge of indignation about several members of the Mugabe family and their spending behaviour. For Zimbabwe, the 72nd United Nations General Assembly has been characterized by controversies over the expenditure of President Robert Mugabe’s sons in Harare and New York. In a country in which the economic crisis is worsening still, Grace Mugabe’s son Russell Gorereza welcomed two new luxury cars to his fleet of vehicles last Friday, receiving a lot of criticism online. President Mugabe himself took along a 70-member delegation, including his wife Grace Mugabe, to participate in the UNGA, where his son Bellarmine Chatunga was spotted shopping in the city with a bodyguard carrying his shopping bags. http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/tsvangirai-not-in-any-deal-with-mnangagwa/ and http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/zimbabwe-mugabe-farming/ http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/zimbabwe-rolls-biometric-technology-register-voters-170914202755040.html http://www.africanews.com/2017/09/20/mugabe-family-on-spending-spree-as-dad-naps-at-un-general-assembly/ Democratic Republic Congo On Monday, the New York based Congo Research Group (CRG) released a report on the killing...

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...