May 5, 2023
We are heartbroken by the tragic shootings that occurred in Serbia this week. On Wednesday, a 13-year-old boy shot eight fellow pupils and a security guard at a Belgrade school in a planned attack. A teacher and six pupils were hospitalized, some with life-threatening injuries. A second mass shooting occurred on Thursday when a young man killed eight people and wounded 14 others in Dubona and nearby villages outside of Belgrade. The suspect was arrested by police on Friday. Although gun ownership is widespread in Serbia, mass shootings are rare. We would like to send our deepest sympathy to those that have been impacted by these tragedies.
Russia’s Wagner Group leader has warned that his mercenary forces will leave Bakhmut on May 10 due to ammunition shortages blamed on the Russian defense chief. Yevgeny Prigozhin on Friday promised to withdraw from the eastern Ukrainian city, which Russian forces have tried to seize for months. Prigozhin has vented for months over a lack of support from the Russian defense establishment. It was unclear if his latest statement could be taken at face value, as he has frequently posted impulsive comments.
Kenya’s opposition has suspended the latest anti-government protests after reaching an agreement with the government of President William Ruto. The opposition Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) alliance, led by veteran opposition politician Raila Odinga, said in a statement that its leadership had met and “agreed to once more suspend the mass protests.”
The UN held a summit of envoys from over 20 countries in Doha to establish a unified strategy for dealing with issues of human rights, terrorism, or drug trafficking in Afghanistan. The Taliban-run government in Afghanistan was not formally acknowledged during a closed-door summit that ended on Tuesday in Qatar. Still, the head of the UN warned there would be another gathering in the future. During the meeting on Tuesday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that the UN would keep its mission in Afghanistan despite Taliban restrictions on women employees. However, he did warn that funding may dry up, with a $4.6 billion U.N. appeal less than 7% funded.
In a two-day visit, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi became the first Iranian president to visit Syria since the civil war broke out 13 years ago. This strategic meeting included ministers of foreign affairs, roads and urban development, economic affairs, and Iran’s central bank chief. While the visit was a push to strengthen ties, Iran has militarily supported Syrian President Assad throughout the war. Along with US influence appearing to decrease, the US Navy says two oil tankers were seized in Gulf waters by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon who were deported after being detained by security forces face arrest and forced conscription upon returning to their homeland. According to Amnesty International, Lebanon’s deportations are a “clear violation” of international law on the handling of refugees. According to refugees and humanitarian organizations, the army has raided refugee camps and set up checkpoints to examine the identification of non-Lebanese nationals, arresting and frequently deporting Syrians found to lack legal residency. On Tuesday, the Lebanese interior ministry issued a directive requiring all municipalities to survey the Syrians residing there and to confirm their legal status before engaging in any dealings with them, including renting out property.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s judiciary disciplinary council removed one of the judges investigating the chief bank officer from office. Judge Ghada Aoun was dismissed after she was accused of having biases in the case due to her comments on political corruption.
Uganda’s parliament passed a lightly revised version of its previous anti-LGBTQ+ bill after President Museveni asked that certain provisions from the original legislation be toned down. The bill retains most of the harshest measures of the legislation, including the death penalty for certain same-sex acts and a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality. The revised bill has attracted widespread criticism from international human rights groups.
Intense fighting continues for the third week in the capital and surrounding areas. Further attempts at ceasefires also failed, with National Intelligence head Avril Haines saying, “fighting will likely not stop as neither side has the incentive to seek peace.” Thursday, Joe Biden signed an executive order setting the path to sanction individuals leading the fighting in Sudan. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced. The UN and other international organizations are pressing for peace and the safe passage of humanitarian aid. Earlier in the week, six trucks were looted, and air strikes in the capital undermined a supposed truce.
On Monday, Bolivian prosecutors started an inquiry into a deceased Spanish priest’s alleged abuse of children dating back to the 1980s. Over the weekend, the Spanish newspaper El País brought attention to the case against Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas Moreno, who passed away in 2009. Attorney General Wilfredo Chávez tweeted that he was requesting information on the case from the Spanish consulate and that he was also asking the Catholic Church for its opinion.
Due to severe fuel shortages, Cuba’s government canceled the annual International Workers’ Day parade on Monday. The parade is a key political event on the island as top officials and leftist organizations from around the world attend to march alongside hundreds of thousands of Cuban workers. President Miguel Diaz-Canel claimed earlier this month that Cuba only received two-thirds of the fuel it needed and that suppliers were breaking their agreements.
In a recent roundup of government critics, forty political opponents of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega have been detained and charged with crimes of conspiracy and treason. According to the families, the opposition leaders were apprehended on Wednesday night, driven to the capital Managua to face charges, and then returned home to be put under house arrest. Among those detained are journalists, farmers, attorneys, activists, and the mother of a student who died in the 2018 anti-government protests.
The union representing 11,500 film and television writers has gone on strike. The industry’s movement to shorter series via streaming services has led to fewer jobs and lower wages for writers. When months of negotiations between producers and writers did not lead to meaningful change, and the writers’ contracts expired, they voted overwhelmingly to call a strike. The strike is expected to grind the massive industry to a halt as the strikers’ on-screen co-workers stand with them in solidarity.
A former police officer in the US city of Minneapolis has been found guilty of aiding and abetting in the 2020 killing of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police set off mass racial justice protests across the United States. Tou Thao, who already had been convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights, was the last of the four former officers facing judgment in state court over the killing.
After Beijing allegedly targeted a member of Canada’s parliament and his family, China has accused Canada of “slander and defamation” and demanded an apology. In 2021, Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Chong sponsored a successful motion that declared China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority genocide. A 2021 Canadian intelligence report cited that China sought information on Chong’s family in China to deter any “anti-China positions.” In response to these events, Canada’s Foreign Minister said she was “assessing different options, including the expulsion of diplomats.”
On Tuesday, the leader of Hong Kong announced his intentions to abolish the majority of directly elected seats on local district councils, the last significant political representative body selected by the public. About 470 council seats will be filled by government appointees and committees of pro-establishment staff. Government authorities will vet and disqualify any candidates they deem “unpatriotic”.
Military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay have announced that the full trial of Hambali, detained over terrorist attacks in Indonesia, will start in March 2025, even though he has been detained for 17 years. Hambali is accused of involvement in the Bali bombings in 2002, which killed more than 200 people, and the JW Marriott hotel attack in 2003 in Jakarta, where 11 people died.
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang visited Myanmar this week, saying the trip bolstered the country’s “friendship.” He is the first high-level Chinese official to visit the country since the military coup two years ago. This trip accompanies concerns that China’s military is constructing a surveillance post on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island.
After continued international pressure, the military junta pardoned more than 2,100 political prisoners. Myanmar’s ruling military council said this was a humanitarian gesture. However, thousands still remain imprisoned, including many on charges of criticism of military rule or participating in protests.
The daughter of the formerly overthrown and exiled prime minister, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, has a significant polling lead in the upcoming May 24th election for the Pheu Thai opposition party. This week she returned to campaigning just days after giving birth.
Roman Protasevich, a journalist who was taken from a plane that was forced to land in Belarus two years ago, has been sentenced to eight years in prison. Protasevich’s arrest elicited outrage in the West, with some saying the plane’s diversion was a state-sponsored hijacking. The charges against him include organizing mass riots, preparing actions violating public order, calling for sanctions against Belarus, creating or leading an extremist group, and conspiracy to seize power.