Weekly Report: September 29, 2017


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. 



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 the authorities. The visit would have been the first by UN officials to the area since violence broke out on 25 August. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday, before the cancellation, that chiefs of UN agencies were due to take part in the trip, which he hoped would be “a first step towards much freer and wider access to the area”. 



Cambodia’s main opposition party on Monday put up banners around the country calling for the release of its detained leader Kem Sokha in a challenge to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has accused him of treason.  

On Tuesday, U.N. official responsible for monitoring human rights in Cambodia said the countries government must do more to protect democratic freedoms in the run-up to national elections scheduled for next year. In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, special rapporteur Rhona Smith proved violent rhetoric and threats directed by prime minister Hun Sen against the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its supporters, along with the jailing on questionable charges of opposition figures. 


The United States of America

On Sunday, new travel-bans were imposed by the Trump-administration. Contrary to the former ban, the one that will go into effect on October 18 will have no end date! Activists claim that adding North Korea and Venezuela to the list is a simple way of the Trump administration to get around the accusations of the ban being directed against Muslims in particular.  Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted. 

Another hot news item in the U.S. this week was Donald Trump’s reaction to the peaceful activism by sports figures, kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and injustice. 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.  



On Tuesday, Venezuela’s political opposition said it wouldn’t send representatives to the next round of scheduled talks with government officials. The accuse the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, of failing to follow through on human rights commitments and electoral guarantees. They also accused the president of failing to nominate an independent third observer to facilitate any eventual negotiations. The opposition refuses to back away from their demand that elections will be held at the end 2018 at the latest. It also insists that hundreds of political prisoners will be released.  

Where Nicolas Maduro called Donald Trump “the new Hitler” last week, Venezuela’s top diplomat on Monday accused Donald Trump of acting like “the world’s emperor”, batting back the US president’s biting rebukes of Venezuela on the global stage of the UN General Assembly. “As if he were the world’s emperor, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, used this podium built for peace to announce wars, total destruction of member states” and “coercive measures, threatening and judging as if he had absolute, dictatorial powers over the sovereign member states of our organization”, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said. The Trump-administration slapped sweeping economic sanctions on Venezuela last month, and the president said he wouldn’t rule out military action against the country. 



On Monday, a Human Rights Watch-report came out on two aerial attacks near Raqqa, Syria in March. The bombings killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, and raised concerns that US-led coalition forces fighting the extremist armed group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) did not take adequate precautions to minimize civilian casualties.  

On Tuesday, the Syrian government declared it is open to negotiations with Kurds over their demand for autonomy within Syria’s borders. The foreign minister Moualem reiterated his government’s rejection of the Iraqi Kurdi referendum, saying Damascus supported Iraqi unity, but he noted that Syria’s Kurds “want a form of autonomy within the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic”. 

On Wednesday, www.wired.com releases a long-read on Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian who fought for freedom in Syria using the Free Internet, which cost him his life in October 2015. People like Khartabil were convinced that by documenting and broadcasting what was happening, using their real names, other countries would intervene. “We thought if we only reported what was happening to international news, and the UN saw, we thought it would end. Then we saw that the whole world is a liar, and humanity is a lie.” Read more about this hero of the Syrian revolution via the link below.  



On Sunday, Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested at HIS Generation Church in Milton Park Harare, where he ministers. The police arrived and picked up the activist directly after the morning-service. Mawarire, who is making waves in Zimbabwe since he founded the #ThisFlag-movement in April 2016, was taken to Harare Central police station and first charged with inciting violence, then with attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government. The direct cause according to the authorities was a live video Mawarire did the day before, on the worsening economic situation in the country. After two days in custody, Mawarire was released on Tuesday after the court decided that he was not brought before the court within the legal 48-hour term.  

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa stated that the government will tighten control over use of social media. In the light of the latest developments in the Mawarire-case, authorities blame social media for fueling shortages of basic commodities and bank notes in the country. By making ‘false’ claims over social media, the minister claimed, ‘faceless saboteurs’ caused panic in the country. Government maintained the position that the Zimbabwean economy is in a sound state. 

Meanwhile, the infighting within the ruling party ZANU-PF continues. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has given Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo a seven-day ultimatum to retract allegations that the veteran politician forced a prominent broadcaster to jump from the second floor of a Harare building, leaving him paralyzed for life. However, a defiant Moyo yesterday said he was ready to meet the VP in court, signaling what could be the beginning of a bruising legal battle between the two Zanu PF politicians who are at loggerheads over Mugabe’s succession. 

Finally, The Standard reports on similar struggles in main opposition party MDC-T over the succession of its leader Morgan Tsvangirai. University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the Zanu PF culture of one centre of power appeared to also be MDC-T’s biggest challenge. MDC-T is facing the same predicament as Zanu PF in dealing with the replacement of its ailing leader, the leading political analyst has said. 


Democratic Republic Congo

On Tuesday, 45 Congolese and international human rights organizations called on the national authorities to immediately and unconditionally release nine Congolese human rights and pro-democracy activists wrongfully detained for their participation in peaceful activities. “The Congolese authorities have thrown activists in jail for joining peaceful protests calling for elections and for Congo’s constitution to be respected. The government should release them immediately and ensure that all Congolese have the right to peacefully demonstrate and express their political views,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. In addition to human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists, the government has targeted political opposition leaders and supporters, journalists, and people suspected of having links to the political opposition. Many have been held for weeks or months in secret detention, without charge and without access to families or lawyers.  

Meanwhile, the cholera-epidemic that broke out early September has not seen its end yet. On Tuesday, MSF reports that Since the cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was declared on 9 September, they have treated over 17,000 people. The organization warns that, now the rainy season is coming, the virus spreads even faster and can lead to a critical situation. 



On Monday, the voting began in northern Iraq in an independence referendum organized by Kurdish authorities. Turnout among 5.2 million eligible voters was 78 percent, the Kurdish Rudaw TV station said, and vote-counting had started. The national regime in Baghdad, as well as Turkey and Iran, do not agree with the referendum, openly threatening its organizers. More internationally there was the fear that the vote may ignite yet more regional conflict. Final results were announced within 72 hours. As expected, the Kurds overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from Iraq.  


Uganda – Protests over the planned amendment of the Constitution to lift the presidential age-limit spread over the country of Uganda this week. – https://mg.co.za/article/2017-09-26-ugandan-police-shut-down-protests-over-presidential-age-limit-bill/  

South Africa  – On Wednesday, thousands of South Africans will march against corruption under President Jacob Zuma’s rule, in protests led by unions which have backed a rival to the president’s faction as the next leader of the ANC. – https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/thousands-march-corruption-south-africa-170927092332199.html  

Poland – On Monday, the European Commission called for Poland to seek European legal advice on two draft judicial reform laws put forward by President Andrzej Duda, to check that they comply with European democratic standards. – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-judiciary-eu/eu-calls-for-legal-commission-to-vet-new-polish-judicial-reform-laws-idUSKCN1C0205?il=0  

Rwanda – Early on Friday, Human Rights Watch reports on Rwandan authorities arresting, forcibly disappearening, and threatened political opponents since the August 2017 presidential elections. Those targeted include a would-be independent presidential candidate, Diane Rwigara, and her family members and supporters, and several leaders and members of the Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi opposition party – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/28/rwanda-post-election-political-crackdown