Weekly Report: 20 October, 2017


October 20, 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.


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its seats, is delisted, is disbanded or dissolved, a list of candidates or members of parliament of that party are no longer valid and beneficial.”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 Cambodia in 1979, they installed ex-Khmer Rouge dissidents as the country’s leaders. One of them being current Prime Minister Hun Sen. As a counter-action, the US, who had then only recently lost the Vietnam war, started backing the Khmer Rouge. The frustration of over a decade of US-backed killing by the Khmer Rouge has contributed to Hun Sen cling to power, Power concludes. “The long period when the US and Europeans supported the Khmer Rouge embittered Hun Sen and most Cambodians. It helped build his popularity.”



Late on Friday last week, Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF has called for an extra-ordinary congress in December. Where the next congress was only scheduled for 2019 (the gathering takes place every four years) an early congress is necessary to deal with internal divisions threatening to destroy the party, ahead of next year’s general elections. “Team Lacoste” is led by one of Mugabe’s deputies, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The other camp, made up of young Turks calling themselves “Generation 40”, is backing First Lady Grace Mugabe to block Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions. According to an anonymous source who spoke to news platform News24, “a meeting of the Politburo took note of the infighting within the party and it was suggested by members of the G40 that we turn our annual conference into an extra-ordinary congress that would address the problems that we have.”

Late this week, former Vice-President Joyce Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP) were to launch a separate opposition-alliance ahead of the 2018 general elections. Mujuru’s NPP would team up with smaller opposition parties Zapu, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare). The alliance would counter the MDC Alliance led by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. “The main reason we refused to get into bed with MDC Alliance is because we said we want a neutral name. We are, therefore, not going to be forming an alliance that bears our name. Those who have proposed that name are just mere dreamers,” NPP spokesperson Jeffreyson Chitandosaid told NewsDay. A split opposition vote could frustrate the opposition’s effort to counter the 2018 ZANU-PF campaign.


The Maldives

Where the DRC secured a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council early this week,  the Maldivian mission to the United Nations had announced in July that it would withdraw its candidacy from the vote. The withdrawal was partly guided by  allegations of harboring human trafficking cells and being used as a hub for large-scale money laundering. Maldives is also under considerable fire for restrictions to the freedom of expression in the country, caused by recent laws, such as the re-criminalization of defamation in 2016.

Reacting on the UNHRC’s electoral process, former president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has now insinuated that Maldives would never have been able to secure a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council anyway. Nasheed insinuated on his official Twitter account on Tuesday that the nation is an ‘international outcast’ under President Yameen, where he also said to have recognized why Maldives withdrew its candidacy only months before the election.

Also, this week, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has begun investigating the death of Abdul Rasheed, a local activist who passed away on October 10th, while serving a jail sentence. Rasheed was serving a jail term for assault during the ‘May Day’ protest, a mass opposition rally held following the conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed.



As regional President Puigdemont called for new negotiations with his federal counterpart early this week, Spain signals a hardening line over the Catalonian independence issue. Although Puigdemont failed to respond to Madrid’s ultimatum to clarify whether he had declared unilateral independence in a speech last week, he instead made a “sincere and honest” offer of dialogue over the next two months. In reply, Rajoy said Puigdemont’s stance had brought Madrid closer to triggering article 155 of the constitution, under which it can impose direct rule on any of the country’s 17 autonomous communities if they break the law.

In the meantime, the Spanish high court ordered the heads of the Catalan National Assembly and independence group Omnium to be held without bail, pending an investigation for alleged sedition, in the first imprisonment of senior secessionist figures since Catalonia’s 1 October independence referendum. Both Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart allegedly played central roles in orchestrating pro-independence protests that last month trapped national police inside a Barcelona building and destroyed their vehicles. Puigdemont regretted the arrests, stating that “sadly, [Spain] has political prisoners again.”



Early on Monday, a socialist win in regional elections caused allegations of irregularities and a new risk of rekindling unrest. Despite devastating food shortages and salary-destroying inflation in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro’s candidates took 17 out of 23 governorships, versus six for the opposition, in Sunday’s poll with turnout of more than 61 percent. “The results are difficult to believe, obviously, given pre-electoral polling that gave the opposition in the range of 15 to 18 governorships, with normal turnout (around 55 percent or above),” political scientist John Polga-Hecimovich told Al Jazeera. As a reaction, opposition leaders decried irregularities and called for street protests on Monday. They also demanded a full audit, but did not immediately offer any evidence of fraud.

On Tuesday, reactions on the election-results could not be any more diverse. Although most opposition leaders claimed the elections to be rigged by the Maduro-state apparatus, some opposition figures acknowledged failures in their counter-campaign. The abstention by their supporters, disillusioned by the failure of street protests to dislodge Maduro earlier this year, was a big factor, opposition figures told Reuters. The United States accounted for the strongest foreign reaction, as Washington slammed Maduro’s “authoritarian dictatorship,” while other major nations from France to Colombia also expressed concern about the adherence to democratic process in Venezuela. “With the opposition coalition’s dozens of parties arguing over whether there was fraud, what went wrong, and where to go next, it will need to regroup and map strategy quickly heading into the 2018 presidential campaign,” according to Reuters.



This week, after four months of Western backed fighting, Syrian forces re-established themselves in Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital. The battle has damaged almost every building in the Syrian city. Although the ISIS-forces have fled Raqqa, the battle continuous to take lives, as hundreds of mines and explosives litter the streets. Now that the extremists are being rolled back, other disputes are coming to the fore. According to Australian ABC-news, “in Raqqa, it is not clear how long local Arabs will continue to cooperate with the Syrian Kurds who dominate the Syrian Democratic Forces, or whether the Syrian Government will continue to tolerate the SDF, negotiate or fight to regain control of the large swathe of Syria now under its control.”

On Tuesday, in-depth Syria platform Syria Deeply writes about the changing role women are playing in the country, focussing on Syrian politics. “The conflict in Syria has shifted traditional roles within communities. More women are starting to play roles in politics at all levels,” according to Federica Marsi, “but their overall influence remains minimal, leaving Syria’s destiny in the hands of men.” Although the feminist movement in Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, might not be comparable to the situation in other Syrian territories, groups of non-Kurdish women also reportedly created similar female popular assemblies and battalions in villages liberated from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), including in Manbij and Raqqa. Also, beyond the country’s borders, Syrian women in the opposition are taking new steps to increase their representation. Mariam Jalabi, a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee at the U.N. and director of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ Representative Office, told Syria Deeply about a forthcoming “women’s political movement for Syria” that is set to launch its mission for effective female political representation in mid-October and present at the U.N. later this year.


Democratic Republic Congo

On Monday, the Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the UN Human Rights Council, serving on the 47-member council from January 2018 until the end of 2020.  Despite opposition from the United States, “Kinshasa now finds itself in the rare position of sitting on the Geneva-based council while the body investigates allegations of killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers in the Kasai region of the DR Congo,” according to New Vision. Human Rights Watch called the election of the DR Congo “a slap in the face to the many victims of the Congolese government’s grave abuses across the country.



Early on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch published a series of newly released satellite images, which are said to reveal that at least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine State in Burma since August 25 of this year. “The destruction encompassed tens of thousands of structures, primarily homes inhabited by ethnic Rohingya Muslims,” according to HRW.  The publication claims that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, when security force operations supposedly ended, according to a September 18 speech by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.


The United States of America

Late on Sunday, the New York Times reports on the newest developments in the NFL-protests. Instigator and main protagonist of the recent protest movement against racial injustice Colin Kaepernick, has filed a grievance against the N.F.L., accusing all 32 teams of colluding to keep him from playing in the league. When the protests led to condemnation by US President Trump and other high-ranking figures, team-owners were quick to restrict the protests, which fueled a national conversation on the propriety of protesting during the national anthem. According to the NY-Times, “Kaepernick’s inability to find a team, and the broader debate over the anthem protests, will now become a legal tug of war that could potentially amplify the dispute for months.” In the meantime, other sports teams, also outside of the US, join NFL-players in solidarity.

Since that same New York Times published an investigative report detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (early October), social media has provided a galvanizing platform for women to discuss their experiences. Building on this case, and the impact it had on American society and societies all around the world, women worldwide were posting messages on social media under the hashtag #MeToo, early this week, to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment actually are. The hashtag refers to the fact that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct.

Finally, this week the third travel-ban which was proclaimed by the Trump-administration late September came across new restrictions from a federal court. The new travel restrictions, which were supposed to come into force on Wednesday, were overruled by Derrick Watson, a judge in Hawai. Where earlier counterarguments focused on the question if the travel ban targeted Muslims in an inordinate way, this time the argument challenged if Trumps new restrictions would actually be a solution to the supposed problem (national security). The policy “lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,’” Watson wrote.


Other News

Hong Kong – After China countered the Hong Kong national anthem protests with fierce new regulations, the Hong Kong government now considers adopting similar legislation – https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2115503/after-china-makes-insulting-national-anthem-illegal-hong?utm_content=bufferdcaa7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Iraq – While bickering continues in the Iraqi Kurdish region early this week, Reuters on Wednesday writes about the risky Kurdhish trade-gamble for a region that is heavily dependent on food imports and oil exports, via a pipeline that passes through Turkey – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-economy/defiant-kurds-shrug-off-risk-of-trade-war-after-independence-vote-idUSKBN1CN0QS?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29

Kenia – As Kenia heads towards the scheduled October 26 rerun of the 2017 presidential election, Human Rights Watch releases a report on violations by security forces in the electoral period of August 2017. Meanwhile, Kenyatta’s competitor Raila Odinga pulled back from the rerun, and here is why – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/15/kenya-police-killed-beat-post-election-protesters

Malta – In Malta, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed using a car-bomb on Monday, as a sudden plot twist in the islands’ unfolding governmental corruption saga – https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2115644/malta-car-bomb-kills-star-investigative-journalist-who-reported?utm_content=buffer9af12&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Argentina – Ahead of congressional elections on Sunday, Major political parties in Argentina have suspended their election campaigning after the discovery of a body thought to be that of a missing activist. According to BBC, “Mr Maldonado’s disappearance caused a national outcry and has since become highly politicised.” – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41674565

Ukraine – Thousands of protesters clashed with the police on Tuesday, before setting up more than 50 tents in central Kiev, demanding the creation of an anti-corruption court, the lifting of lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and a fairer electoral law – https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/protesters-set-first-large-tent-camp-since-euromaidan-revolution.html