Weekly Reports — CANVAS

Weekly Reports

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CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy. 

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Weekly Report July 3 2020

Weekly Report July 3 2020

 

Coronavirus

Latin America remains the epicenter of the virus while the United States sees a new spike in cases that has resulted in a return to stricter measures.

 

United States

The country’s coronavirus count takes a turn as it sets a new daily record of infections on Thursday. The spike in cases has led many states to pause reopening and reimpose restrictions in an attempt to curb infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects thousands more deaths this month.

 

China

China has warned of strong countermeasures against the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. should they pursue retaliatory actions against their national security law in Hong Kong. Senior officials have said that the U.K. has no right to grant residency to Hong Kongers, and that it would “bear all consequences” for breaching international law. In the latest standoff between China and India that began with a violent border clash, India has banned 59 apps developed by Chinese firms over concerns that these apps were engaging in activities that threatened India’s national security. Among the apps banned are TikTok, WeChat, QQ, and Xiaomi which count India as one of their biggest overseas markets. Disturbing new evidence from leaked Chinese government documents have also revealed a systematic state campaign to suppress minority births in Xinjiang with potentially genocidal sterilization plans. This campaign’s explicit aim is to reduce 2020 birth and population growth rates in Xinjiang’s southern Uighur regions by “at least” 0.4 percentage points below the 2016 level. Last but not least, researchers in China have discovered a new type of swine flu with purported pandemic potential. Named G4, the virus is genetically descended from the H1N1 strain that caused a pandemic in 2009. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it would study the virus carefully.

 

Hong Kong 

Forty days after China announced it would pass a national security law for Hong Kong, that legislation is now in full force. The law was drafted almost entirely in secret in closed-door meetings that even Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, was not part of. Promulgated on Tuesday night through China’s National People’s Congress, the law now criminalizes “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.” The maximum sentence given for each of these four crimes is life imprisonment. The national security law now trumps any existing Hong Kong laws in the case of conflict and grants Beijing broad powers to prosecute Hong Kongers deemed to have committed especially egregious crimes. Just this week, Hong Kong Police have reportedly made more than 300 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with nine involving violations of the new law.

In response, the United States and its allies have taken steps to punish China. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to sanction Chinese officials involved in the national security law’s implementation and the House of Representatives passed legislation to sanction banks that conduct business with these officials. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, has laid down plans to allow 3 million Hong Kongers to seek refuge and apply for citizenship. Australia is considering offering safe haven, and Taiwan has also opened a new office to help fleeing Hong Kong residents.

 

Myanmar 

In a rare move, three Myanmar military officers have been found guilty by a military court-martial for atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state. Myanmar is currently facing charges of genocide before the United Nations. A recent landslide in a Myanmar jade mine has killed at least 162 people, and many others are still missing. The disaster was reportedly triggered by heavy rain in the area, which set off waves of rock and mud. Myanmar officials appear to be calling out China for arming terrorist groups to allegedly use them as a bargaining chip for smooth implementation of Belt and Road Initiative projects. Many weapons seized by the military from ethnic armed groups have been found to be Chinese-made. The country has also set its general election day for November 8, in a vote widely seen as a test for the country’s fledgling democratic government led by the National League for Democracy.

 

Zimbabwe 

This week the Zimbabwe government shut down the stock exchange in an attempt to stabilise the local currency as it continues to lose value with hyperinflation at more than 785%. Shop owners and traders are reportedly refusing to accept payment in local banknotes, sparking a police crackdown earlier this week in which 102 people have already been arrested. They are being charged with breaching a section of the Bank Use Promotion Act for their opposition to the use of local currency.

 

Chile

The country is reporting the highest per capita infection rate of the coronavirus of any major country, with 13,000 cases for every 1 million people. Reporters point to widespread social inequity in the country as the main reason for the devastating impact of the pandemic. Additionally, as borders remain closed to curb infection, thousands of foreign workers are left stranded within Chile.

 

Iraq

Iraqi officials discovered a new mass grave this week in the North of Iraq – a remnant of the brutal rule of the Islamic State (IS) group. The mass grave, located in the village of Humeydat, stretches several hundred meters with dozens of bodies excavated. Although awaiting investigation, it is believed that the bodies are Shiite convicts taken from the local Badoush prison by IS shortly after IS seized Mosul in June 2014. According to an investigation by the Human Rights Watch, 1,500 inmates were kidnapped and taken to this stretch in the desert. Meanwhile on the 2nd of July, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a plea by almost 1,400 Iraqis who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S. requesting to delay immediate deportation to Iraq where they will likely face persecution and torture. The group hoped to reopen their case before immigration judges and present new evidence.

 

Libya

On Wednesday, U.S. officials encouraged Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) to disband in a virtual meeting. Libya’s conflict is a “rapidly escalating proxy war” between regional powers, contrary to both American and Libyan interests the officials claimed. Today, Russia announced that it will reopen its embassy in the country, though it will be temporarily based in Tunisia. Russian diplomats were last evacuated from Libya in October 2013 after the embassy in Tripoli was attacked.

 

Syria  

On Tuesday, the European Union led a virtual conference of over 60 governments and Non-governmental organizations as the UN called for $10 billion worth of aid for Syria. The aid, $3.8 billion for aid inside Syria and $6.04 billion for countries hosting refugees, will be used to support refugees as Syria enters its ninth year of armed conflict and the coronavirus still remains prevalent. International donors have pledged $7.7 billion in humanitarian aid; however, aid group Oxfam said the sum is “simply not enough.” However, in the meantime, there have been reports that numerous tents in war-torn Idlib province are being replaced with new brick houses, with more than 2,000 families now living in brick houses and a limited set of household necessities.

 

Lebanon 

Arab Tawhid Party leader e-minister Wiam Wahhab called on Prime Minister Hassan Diab to resign when he posted a tweet stating “I call on PM Diab to resign before they oust him through street action, because there are negotiations behind the scenes on forming a government and the disagreement is only over some details.” Meanwhile, a number of Lebanese media outlets broadcast interviews with US Ambassador Dorthy Shea, ignoring a judge’s ruling that banned local and foreign media from featuring her statements after she criticized Iran-backed Hezbollah in an interview last week.

 

Palestine 

As the Israeli self-created deadline of the 1st of July for the finalization of their annexation plans of the West Bank passed, Palestinian offcials state that the mounting pressure of their diplomatic campaign over the past few months forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “backpedal” on the finalization of the annexation plans. Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis however suggested that the annexation will take place later in July. Meanwhile, protesters in DC linked the Palestinian cause with the Black Lives Matter movement, shouting anti-Israel slogans such as “Israel, we know you, you murder children too.

Palestinian civil society organizations have formed a national campaign that rejects the European Union’s conditional funding that includes an “anti-terror clause.” This clause, included in the EU’s grant proposals late last year, identifies at least seven Palestinian political parties as “terrorist groups” and calls for civil society organizations to conduct background checks on all members ensuring they are not affiliated with any of the seven identifies parties. Civil society organizations have described this clause as “criminalizing the Plaestinian national struggle against the Israeli occupation.”

 

Russia 

In a constitutional referendum, Russians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of changes that enable President Vladimir Putin to potentially stay in power up to 2036. The state electoral commission reported that the final vote was 77.9% in favor and 21.2% against with a 65% turnout rate, though critics question the legitimacy of the outcome based on voting irregularities. The New York Times recently broke an explosive story about how a unit of Russia’s military intelligence, Unit 29155 of the GRU, allegedly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. A recent nuclear leak detected by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) may be related to new nuclear-powered strategic weapons Russia is developing, though Russia denies radiation originated from its nuclear power stations.

 

North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that the country had thoroughly prevented COVID-19 from making inroads at a meeting of the politburo, according to state media. Defections from North Korea have reportedly reached a record low as authorities have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen technological surveillance. South Korea recently called for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the U.S. presidential election in November in order to resume stalled nuclear negotiations. 62 countries also allegedly violated United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea from February 2019 to February 2020, according to a report from D.C.-based think tank Institute for Science and International Security. China led the list with more than 60 alleged violations, while Hong Kong followed with 20. 

 

Iran

On the 29th of June, Iran issued an Interpol arrest warrant for US president Donald Trump and 35 other government officials for their role in the assassination of Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani on the 3rd of January this year. President Trump has insisted that he was not briefed by intelligence officials over an alleged Russian plot to pay out bounties to Taliban-linked militia in exchange for targeting American and British soldiers in Afghanistan. 

Iran has also issued a death sentence for opposition journalist Ruhollah Zam for his active involvement in the widespread Iranian protests in 2017 and 2018. Zam was found guilty by a court in Tehran of “corruption on earth.”

 

Nicaragua 

On Thursday, Nicaragua bishops criticise Ortega’s handling of the coronavirus, which has devastated the country despite the government’s claim to the contrary.

 

Sudan

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Tuesday in largely peaceful demonstrations demanding faster reform and greater civilian oversight in the country’s transition towards democracy. A government spokesperson reported that one person has been killed and several others injured during the demonstrations. The protestors are also asking for justice for the killing of demonstrators since December 2018.

 

Venezuela

Venezuela has announced that it will hold parliamentary elections in December for an expanded number of seats in the new National Assembly. While President Maduro supported the decision, internationally-recognised interim President Juan Guaido accused the government of failing to meet “the minimum conditions of transparency,” announcing a boycott of the polls. 

 

Bolivia

After months of strictly enforced quarantine, Bolivian streets have seen a return of protestors reflecting the country’s ongoing political crisis. Elections remain scheduled for September increasing the political stakes as the coronavirus continues to overwhelm the medical system.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Report June 26 2020

Weekly Report June 26 2020

 

Coronavirus

Despite warnings from public health officials, new research suggests Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. have not led to a jump in coronavirus cases. A new study, published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used data on protests from more than 300 of the largest US cities, and found no evidence that coronavirus cases grew in the weeks following the beginning of the protests.

 

United States

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed an expansive policing overhaul bill aimed at combating racial discrimination and excessive use of force in law enforcement, as Democrats sought to respond to a nationwide outcry for racial justice and pushed through legislation that is doomed in the Republican-controlled Senate. Republicans have said the bill is a federal overreach into policing, and the White House has threatened a veto. However, the bill was endorsed by over 100 civil rights groups as well as some of the families’ of the victims. The bill would create a national registry to track police misconduct and require law enforcement agencies to report data on the use of force, aim to force departments to eliminate the use of chokeholds, and condition some federal grants on the adoption of anti-discrimination training and practices, among other reforms. 

The most recent theme of the anti-racist protests is the toppling of statues that glorify the confederacy and slave owners; more than a dozen statues have been toppled, including several Confederate figures. This has inspired similar actions across the world; in England, a 17th-century slave trader was dumped into Bristol Harbor; in Antwerp, a Belgian king who brutalized Congo was burned and ultimately removed.

 

China

New satellite images show that China has built new structures near the site of a Himalayan border clash that recently left 20 Indian troops dead. Bunkers, tents and storage units for military hardware are visible in an area where there were previously none. In response to the clash, India has suspended more than $600 million in deals with Chinese companies. A report by the International Federation of Journalists has found that China is strategically targeting journalists from non-English speaking countries to promote its global influence. The report identifies Chinese efforts to build control over messaging infrastructure through foreign media acquisitions and large-scale telecommunications ventures. China also recently completed its launch of Beidou, its rival global navigation system to GPS, after two decades.

 

Hong Kong 

The U.S. Senate has passed a pair of bills by unanimous consent to punish China for restricting Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Hong Kong Autonomy Act would impose sanctions on businesses and individuals that help China restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. Details of China’s proposed national security law appear to upend Hong Kong’s independent legal system by allowing Beijing to override local laws while giving China the power to exercise jurisdiction over select criminal cases. Under this law, China would also set up a national security office in Hong Kong to gather intelligence and handle specific crimes. At a recent shopping protest against the proposed law, police arrested 14 people and deployed pepper spray. Activists estimate that at least 200 protesters from Hong Kong have fled to Taiwan, where authorities have discreetly allowed them to stay by extending tourist visas.

 

Myanmar 

Since June 2019, the Myanmar government has shut down internet services in the conflict-ridden Rakhine State, and this blackout has now been extended till August 2020. This move has drawn heavy criticism from humanitarian groups, who say that restrictions on information keep civilians in the dark about COVID-19 and impede aid distribution efforts. Ahead of Myanmar’s upcoming election, Myanmar military representatives have said that military personnel in the Tatmadaw will not be pressured to vote for any party. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is widely viewed as the proxy of the Myanmar military.

 

Zimbabwe 

Obadiah Moyo, Zimbabwe’s health minister, was arrested on Friday after the government came under pressure from the opposition and on social media over a scandal surrounding the procurement of coronavirus tests and equipment. He is facing corruption charges related to a $20 million contract awarded to a Hungary-registered firm. The government has not commented. Moyo is the second minister in Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet to face corruption charges. This week, Zimbabwean President Mangagwa warned that his government will tackle “malpractices” that have undermined his government’s efforts to end an economic crisis, even though attempts to stabilize the economy have borne little fruit; consumer inflation is running at 786%; the country’s recently revived currency has collapsed; and the World Bank estimates the economy will shrink as much as 10% this year.

 

Chile

The coronavirus pandemic is highlighting social inequalities, including a serious digital divide in many countries. In Chile, about half the population lacks access to the internet, which is hurting many students’ ability to learn. Al Jazeera reports, a lack of technology is having a serious effect on millions of students in South America.

 

Iraq

Last week, Turkey’s Defense Ministry launched its first hybrid land-aerial operation dubbed “Operation Claw-Eagle,” that primarily targets the Kudistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters in northern Iraq in an effort to “end terrorism at its roots.” However, on Friday the 19th of June, four civilians were killed in airstrikes that targeted 81 PKK sites; while, hundreds fled their villages in fear of further strikes. A demonstration in Duhok province the following day protesting the airstrikes turned violent, leaving two civilians severely injured. The Iraqi foreign ministry has submitted two letters of protest against the Turkish for violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and a second to Iran for the Iranian artillery bombardment of the region’s border villages. Further, Iraq reported record highs of nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases and over 100 deaths on Thursday 25th June. 

 

Libya

On June 22nd, the Human Rights Council created a Fact-Finding Mission on Libya to investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties to the Libya conflict since the beginning of 2016. The resolution passed by consensus. This happened as ceasefire talks continued to go through difficulties despite international calls for peace talks, as Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) rejected Egypt’s invitation to hold a meeting this past week.

 

Syria  

On the 22nd of June, a Syrian doctor was arrested in Germany on suspicion of carrying out “crimes against humanity” at a prison run by Syrian intelligence services in the city of Homs in 2011. The doctor, Alaa M, is accused of having “tortured a detainee… in at least two cases.” The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that at least 100,000 people have died from torture or horrific conditions in Syrian government prisons since the start of the civil war. Meanwhile, a French jihadist member, Tyler Vilus, is facing charges for crimes committed in 2013-2015 namely: belonging to the Terrorist group IS, heading a unit of the IS group fights and aggravated murder.

 

Lebanon 

President Michel Aoun, hosted a “national unity” meeting with the Lebanese government and its internal allies in Baabda on Thursday, 25th of June. However, opposition parties and civil society began boycotting the meeting the evening before with protesters taking to the streets across the country to denounce the dire economic and financial situation in Lebanon. Protesters blocked the Ashrafieh-Hamra lane of the Ring highway, which has become iconic of most anti-government protests in the state. Further tensions erupted between protesters and riot police which resulted in reports of injury. The aim of the meeting was to promote the “protection of stability and civil peace;” however, President Aoun also warned of an “atmosphere of civil war.”

 

Palestine 

Addressing a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres described Israel’s annexation plans as a “watershed moment” that will constitute a “most serious violation of international law.” The UN chief called for Israel to drop the US-backed plan which is scheduled to take effect beginning next week. This tension lay backdrop to the killing of Ahmad Erakat, nephew of a senior Palestinian official, by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in the West Bank on the 23rd of June. Israeli border police say that the suspect was attempting to run over an officer at the checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis; however, Palestinian officials reject this allegation asserting the shooting as an “execution.” Erakat was on his way to his sister’s wedding.

 

Russia 

Russians have begun voting on constitutional reforms that could allow Vladimir Putin to serve another two terms in office as President. Although the official vote is scheduled for July 1, authorities have opened polling stations a week early to prevent overcrowding. Outside of a change that would allow Putin to lead Russia until 2036, other proposed reforms would give the president power to nominate top judges and prosecutors and effectively ban gay marriage. Russia also recently held its annual Victory Day parade in Moscow on June 24 amidst coronavirus concerns, in a show of force and patriotism. Separately, the president of Belarus has accused authorities in Russia and Poland of interfering in the country’s presidential election.

 

North Korea

After weeks of escalating rhetoric and an explosive bombing of the joint liaison office, North Korea has suspended plans to take “military action” against South Korea, according to state media. Pyongyang also began to dismantle loudspeakers it had erected only last week, which have traditionally been used to blast anti-South Korean messages over the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-In has issued an unusually stern warning to North Korea, stating that he would “respond resolutely to anyone who threatens our people’s safety or lives.” Elsewhere, the North Korean embassy in Moscow has reportedly threatened a “new round of the Korean War” to “put an end” to the United States.

 

Iran

According to a report released by the International Federation for Human Rights and the London-based rights group Justice for Iran, Iran’s state broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), aired more than 860 forced confessions and defamatory content since 2009. The report discusses how Iran has systematically used forced confessions to “instil fear and repress dissent.” 

On the 25th of June, 15 students from the University of Mohaghegh Ardebili were suspended for organizing a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that was shot down by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in January this year. The university suspended the students to “help keep the university educational atmosphere healthy.” In January, Students in Tehran protested the IRGC by gathering outside their universities. Meanwhile, a resurgeness of coronavirus has increased Iran’s death toll to nearly 10,000.

 

Nicaragua 

Nicaragua’s opposition formally united Thursday with the goal of ousting President Daniel Ortega in elections next year. The formation of the National Coalition came one day after members of the Organization of American States met to discuss the deterioration of Nicaragua’s democracy under Ortega. Representatives from a broad spectrum of political parties and civic organizations signed onto the coalition promising to “fight for justice, democracy and against the dictatorship,” inside a hotel surrounded by police vehicles and anti-riot police. The Human Rights Watch reported this week that Nicaraguan authorities have fired at least 10 health workers in apparent retaliation for voicing concern about the Daniel Ortega government’s management of the Covid-19 health crisis. On May 18, 2020, more than 700 health workers from the public and private sectors signed a letter urging the government to acknowledge that the virus was spreading in Nicaragua and to put in place preventive measures recommended by the World Health Organization to limit its further spread.

 

Sudan

On June 25, 2020, a group of governments and multilateral organizations, known as the Friends of Sudan, which includes the USA, France, Germany, Britain, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, will hold a partnership conference in Berlin, Germany, to discuss support for the democratic transition and economic reforms set out in Sudan’s transitional constitution. Sudan’s president of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted in April 2019 after months of popular protests across Sudan. A transitional military council took power, and during months of negotiations with civilian groups, its forces cracked down violently on protesters. In August, a power-sharing agreement between the military council and civilian groups was developed, but there has been little progress on accountability for the months of crackdowns on protesters.

 

Venezuela

This week, claims were heard in the high court that the Bank of England is unlawfully blocking the release of 31 tonnes of gold valued at nearly $1 billion and intended to combat the coronavirus in Venezuela. The leftwing and heavily sanctioned government of Nicolás Maduro claims the bars are being held hostage under the direction of the British government in a bid to curry favour with the US. But Maduro’s rival, Juan Guaidó, hailed as interim president of Venezuela by the UK Foreign Office in February 2019, claims the gold belongs to his parallel Central Bank, and that Maduro only wants the money to prop up his crumbling and corrupt regime.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia’s de-facto president Jeanine Áñez, on the night of June 21, enacted the law that calls to hold general elections on September 6. The decision was celebrated by citizens, social movements and trade unions, who have been mobilizing against Áñez’s mishandling of the health and economic emergencies caused by the pandemic since May 11.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Report June 19 2020

Weekly Report June 19 2020

 

Coronavirus

As anti-racist protests continue to shake the U.S. and other parts of the world, some officials expressed worry that they could cause spikes in coronavirus cases. Additionally, some of the aggressive police responses to protests, like tear gas and pepper spray have been demonstrated to further enhance the possibility of transmission. Latin America remains the epicenter of the virus with devastating implications for the region’s politics and people.

 

United States

Friday marks Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, in the United States, which marks the effective end of slavery in the United States. Disregarding the significance of the holiday, President Donald Trump announced his intention to hold a rally in Oklahoma, but rescheduled to Saturday after met with backlash. This decision comes as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to rage across the country against the deep racial inequities felt in the country and long-standing police brutality against people of colour. Meanwhile, infections have been increasing in much of the U.S., indicating the country is due for a second wave of coronavirus. The virus has reportedly left more Americans dead than the First World War.

 

China

Twenty Indian soldiers died after a violent clash with Chinese troops along the countries’ de facto border in the Himalayas. The deaths are the first military casualties along the disputed border for more than 40 years. China has reportedly also freed ten Indian soldiers seized during the clash. U.S. President Donald Trump signed a law to introduce sanctions punishing Chinese officials for human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in the country. In response, China promised to “resolutely take countermeasures.” A new outbreak of coronavirus in Beijing’s wholesale food market has infected more than 100 people and prompted authorities to elevate official emergency response in what they have called an “extremely severe” situation.

 

Hong Kong 

China’s top legislative body drafted a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday, covering four categories of crimes: succession, subversion of state power, local terrorist activities and collaborating with foreign or external foreign forces to endanger national security. The draft law has been put before the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, indicating Beijing’s intention to rush the legislation through. The Taiwanese government recently announced a humanitarian aid plan that includes a basic living allowance to Hongkongers seeking asylum from government prosecution in connection to anti-government protests.

 

Myanmar 

The United Nations has launched a new five-year project in Myanmar to document all forests and pinpoint deforestation risks. A new report on ongoing clashes in the Rakhine State has found that more than 20 civilians were killed and 100 injured in landmine blasts from January to May this year. The Myanmar government recently launched a tribunal to investigate a controversial China-backed city development project near the Thai border in Karen State. The project has been criticized for the influx of Chinese money and suspected illicit activity.

 

Zimbabwe 

In Harare this week, healthcare workers went on strike and protested after the government cut their wages by half. As a result, the government announced an immediate 50% increase in civil servants and pensioners wages.

 

Chile

On Wednesday, Chilean authorities revealed that a series of accounting glitches resulted in the omission of more than 31,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, an error stemming back to mid-March. Only last week, the Health Minister resigned due to controversy over the reporting of coronavirus-related deaths. On Monday, the lockdown was extended for at least an additional 90 days. Meanwhile, for Indigenous people in the country, the U.S. race protests reportedly reflect their own struggle against deep racial inequities in Chilean society.

 

Iraq

In a report released on the 16th of June, the Human Rights Watch has called on the Iraqi authorities to “amend laws that limit free speech to comply with international law.” Iraqian authorities, including the Kurdistan Region, have frequently used vaguely worded laws to bring criminal charges against individuals and groups expressing opposing opinions to the government. The report, “We Might Call You in at Any Time: Free Speech Under Threat in Iraq” details numerous cases of the violation of the right to free expression during widespread protests at the end of the former government’s term. Meanwhile, on Thursday, rockets hit Baghdad’s green zone, the location of the US embassy. This is assumed to be the fifth instance in a series of similar attacks across the country in the past 10 days.

 

Libya

The Human Rights Watch reported on June 16th that the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) should urgently investigate evidence that fighters affiliated with it apparently tortured, summarily executed, and desecrated corpses of opposing fighters. On a separate note, ceasefire negotiations in Libya have been mired with uncertainty over the past week, after heavy clashes erupted as the Turkish supported Government of National Accord (GNA) laid siege to the Russia-backed Libyan National Army-held (LNA) Sirte, close to major energy export terminals on the Mediterranean seaboard, and the postponement of ministerial ceasefire talks planned for Sunday between Russia and Turkey.

 

Syria  

The United States’ “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019” came into effect on Wednesday, 17th of June. The Act aims to “promote accountability for the regime’s atrocities” and to promote a peaceful political transition. These sanctions authorize the US president to impose economic sanctions and travel restrictions on any foreign person who supports the Syrian government in any material way. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that currently sanctions would be imposed on 39 individuals and entities under the act, including Asma al-Assad, the wife of President Bashar al-Assad. 

Further, seven syrians have submitted a criminal complaint to prosecutors in Germany for allegedly suffering and witnessing sexual abuse in detention centers under President al-Assad. Meanwhile, the U.N. is considering a proposal to reopen a border crossing from Iraq into Syria for six months to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid following the repercussions of the novel coronavirus and the devaluation of the Syrian pound.

 

Lebanon 

On the 18th of June, Demonstrators blocked the Jounieh-Beirut highway with burning tires in protest of the arrest of activist Michel Chamoun. Chamoun was arrested in the morning for posting a video online calling President Michel Aoun’s rule a “humiliation” in response to new presidential defamation laws introduced earlier in the week. Lebanon’s state prosecutor issued an order that decreed suing individuals who posted materials specifically on social media that were deemed insulting to the presidency. These tensions add to the ongoing protests across Lebanon calling for the government’s resignation following further economic deterioration during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Palestine 

More than 50 United Nations Human rights experts have condemned the Israeli annexation plan of the West Bank, exclaiming that it is a “vision of a 21st Century Apartheid.” Israel has reportedly began the construction of a ring road that links Israeli settlements and outposts while isolating East Jerusalem, undermining the possibility of East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state. Tensions regarding the annexation grow as Israeli soldiers shot and killed Palestinian settlers in the north of the West Banks when they attempted to stop Israeli extremists from setting their farms lands on fire.

 

Russia 

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) alleged that Russia has deployed fighter jets in Libya to support Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. AFRICOM raised concerns about the Russian aircraft’s noncompliance with laws of armed conflict. German prosecutors recently announced murder charges against a Russian accused of assasinating a Georgian refugee in Berlin last year, prompting Russia to announce that it would retaliate. Russia has also accused one of its leading Arctic researchers of spying for China and divulging state security secrets. A new research study has revealed an obscure disinformation campaign by Russian operatives which flooded false stories in seven languages and across 300 social media platforms.

 

North Korea

In an explosive rebuke to South Korea, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border. The provocation appears to have followed from tensions over grassroots activists sending anti-Kim Jong Un propaganda over the border, as well as over South Korea’s continued support for U.S.-led sanctions against Pyongyang.  North Korea has also reportedly mobilized its military to move closer to frontlines near its neighbor. 

 

Iran

25-year-old civil and labor rights activist Sepideh Qolyan (Gholian) is set to return back to prison for refusing to request a pardon from the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In a video on her Instagram page, Qolyan stated, “I refused. Therefore, I must report to Qarchak Prison next Sunday.” Qolyan was arrested in November 2018, for her involvement in the Haft Tapeh Sugar Mill protests and charged with “disseminating fake news” and “anti-Islamic Republic regime propaganda.” She was sentenced to 5 years in prison although was released in December 2019 on bail. Meanwhile, Iran fears a second wave of the novel coronavirus as the number of covid-19 related deaths spiked to over 100 deaths  earlier this week, the highest number since the 13th of April.

 

Nicaragua 

The country continues to feel the hard impact of the coronavirus despite President Daniel Ortega’s rejection of this reality. In the past three months, at least six politicians have reportedly died, “express burials” for those killed by coronavirus continue throughout the nights, and doctors have allegedly been fired for countering the government’s approach.

 

Sudan

Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, charged with 50 crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Darfur conflict, was arrested last week, 13 years after a warrant was issued for him, and appeared before the International Criminal Court on Monday. In a different vein, Sudanese officials have announced the discovery of a mass grave southeast of the capital, Khartoum, suspected to contain the remains of conscripts who in 1998 tried escaping military service from a training camp.

 

Venezuela

The country’s Supreme Court reportedly ousted the leaders of two key opposition parties in advance of the parliamentary elections this year, which have not been formally scheduled. The decision spikes fear that President Nicolás Maduro is tampering with the upcoming vote, which will elect a new National Assembly, the only institution controlled by the opposition. As Venezuela extends its lockdown into July, the UN released a statement expressing concern over the many millions of Venezuelan refugees abroad, the world’s second-largest diaspora of refugees, who are hit particularly hard by the impacts of the virus.

 

Bolivia

The extended reign of President Jeanine Áñez, who took power following a coup in fall 2019, has been met with continued discontent across sectors of the population. On Friday, the leader of the Federation of Trade Unions of Mining Workers of Bolivia (FSTMB) warned the President that without elections in September, there will be a “people’s uprising.” His message was echoed by the leaders of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB).