Weekly Reports — CANVAS

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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, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

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Weekly Reports July 12th

Weekly Reports July 12th

Cuba

For the past year, the U.S. has hit Cuba hard with sanctions against its ally Venezuala’s  state run oil company. But stopping the flow of Venezuelan oil to Cuba might prove harder than the U.S. expected. According to data compiled by Bloomberg News, tankers are being renamed and vessels are switching off their transponders to sail under the radar of the U.S. government. The vessel Ocean Elegance, an oil tanker that has been delivering Venezuelan crude to Cuba for the past three years, was renamed Oceano after being sanctioned in May. 

Gabon

FIFA, the international body governing football relations, has given Gabon’s football federation until Monday to explain how it is addressing salary errors dating back to 2016 totalling just over $1.35 million. As many as 20 clubs in the West African nation that hosted the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations owe money to a number of important players. African football’s ruling body stated that if the errors are not settled by the end of that month, Gabon’s clubs would be barred from continental competition. 

 

Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s political opposition says it is willing to resume dialogue with President Daniel Ortega’s government over resolving the country’s political standoff. The announcement to a letter directed to the Organization of American States by the Civic Alliance opposition group on Friday calls for the return international human rights groups in Nicaragua. In its most recent general assembly, the OAS gave Ortega 75 days to fulfill agreements from previous talks and return to the table. The Civic Alliance left talks May 20 after a man detained for political reasons died behind bars, and amid delays in releasing hundreds of others considered political prisoners. The last group of prisoner releases came June 11.

North Korea

Kim Jong Un has been formally named head of state of North Korea and commander-in-chief of the military in a new constitution observers said was possibly aimed at preparing for a peace treaty with the United States. The new constitution said that Kim as chairman of the State Affairs Commission (SAC), a top governing body created in 2016, was “the supreme representative of all the Korean people”, which means head of state, and “commander-in-chief”. The previous constitution simply called Kim “supreme leader” who commands the country’s “overall military force.” The amendment to the constitution is seen as  normalizing North Korea from a rogue state to a 21st century denuclearized one. 

  Myanmar

Hundreds of protesters have marched in Yangon amid outrage over the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl following a viral online campaign in a case that has left Myanmar society reeling. The alleged incident took place in the country’s capital Naypyidaw in May but a public campaign escalated last week after the girl’s father spoke to local media, venting his anger over the lack of progress in the inquiry.

United States 

President Donald Trump back away from adding a question about US citizenship to the 2020 census on Thursday, instead asking government agencies to provide records that could determine a head-count of citizens without polling census-takers directly. The turnaround comes after Trump repeatedly said he would continue fighting to insert the question despite a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a blow to the effort last month. The move would have substantial consequences appropriating government funding and congressional redistricting. In another attempted indictment of Trump’s policy, House Democrats again tried to cut US funding supporting the war in Yemen

 Cambodia

A new train connecting Bangkok and the Thai-Cambodian border for the first time since tracks were cut 45 years ago at the end of the US-Vietnam War.  The new rail link ends one of the last infrastructural disruptions caused by the Cold War era conflict and will more tightly connect the peacetime economies of tow former staunch adversaries. The trainline is symbolic of recent economic and political developments; Bilateral trade, currently estimated at $6 billion. During the Vietnam War, Thailand hosted US airbases for attacks on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam during America’s Vietnam War.

Maldives

The Maldives continues to clash with China over its rising debt to the country, which currently stands at $3.4 billion. Parliament Speaker and Former President Mohammed Nasheed has said his country will have to spend 15% of its yearly budget paying back the debt owed to Chinese companies starting in 2020. This comes as India is regaining strategic ground in the region after the exit of the pro-Beijing former President Abdulla Yameen.

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government formally characterized and charged a high-ranking member of the opposition party with treason for comments attributed to him for threatening to overthrow the government unconstitutionally. Job Shika, who is the vice-chairman of the opposition MDC party, denied the charges. Government critics and state dissidents are frequently targeted by the police and security forces of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnagagwa’s oppositional forces grows by the day as hyper-inflation and resentment towards the government soars. This week, Zimbabwe’s public workers rejected a pay-raise of 21 million dollars from President Mnangagwa citing the increase in funding to be inadequate to deal with hyperinflation.  

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda was convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda’s charges include mass killings and sexual violence in the Ituri province in the east of the country. The trial has left many Congolese disappointed as the charges did not involve Ntaganda’s killing sprees in North and South Kivu provinces. 

Venezuela 

On July 2nd, self declared Venezuelan President, Juan Guaido, announced that he would not participate in talks with Maduro, because there is “never” a good time to speak with a “murderous dictator”. However, this past Sunday Guiado announced that discussions between Maduro and the opposition group would be under way in the near future. The meeting, mediated by Norway, is scheduled to occur in Barbados. 

Malaysia

The United States Justice Department is investigating whether Deutsche Bank AG violated foreign corruption or anti-money-laundering laws in its work for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Latheefa Koya, the chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said the agency has filed complaints against 41 individuals and entities to recover money given to them by former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

 Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte infamous war on drugs has killed thousands of people over the last three years, and has come under fire for its brutality and secrecy from human rights organizations. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, Duterte’s former police chief and top enforcer of the drug war, told reporters in Manila that authorities “never intend” to harm the innocent during anti-narcotics operations.  After the killing of two young girls during a raid, dela Rosa quipped “S*** happens during operations. S*** happens. Honest to goodness, there are some collateral damage,” igniting a firestorm of condemnation.  This week, following widespread demand for investigations into a “crimes against humanity” from Amnesty International, the United Nations approved a resolution seeking action into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte‘s “war on drugs”

  Thailand

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha named his cabinet after a prolonged rule by decree. In the 36 person cabinet, the junta leader-turned-Prime Minister will also serve as the Minister of Defense, with other seats filled with loyalists and members of the junta government. During the transition into the new cabinet, Prayuth has revoked 66 out of 500 executive orders he had issued, in a move that has been criticized by civil society groups as an attempt to improve his image. The cabinet is expected to be confirmed in the parliament next week, ceasing the rule of the junta nominally.

In other news, a Thai Buddhist monk has finished his ‘peace walk’ around the United States of America, trekking from the West Coast of the country to the East.

 Iran 

When the United States increased tension between Iran by pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposing harsher sanctions, Iran clinched to European powers who remained in the deal. But on Thursday, Iranian boats “tried to intercept” a British oil-tanker which is “contrary to international law” according to a BP spokesman. SMH Montrose, a Royal Navy ship  later forced to move to move between the Iranian boats to protect it. Two weeks before the BP altercation, the United States claimed Iranian forces had bombed two oil tankers in international waters. An allegation that Britain back but the Iranians disputed, calling the White House “mentally retarted.”  This week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked Britain calling it “scared” and “hope

Sudan

Last week, Sudan’s civilian opposition made a historic deal with the Transitional Military Council, which ruled the country since it toppled long-time leader Omar al-Bashir, to cement civilian rule in Sudan. Tensions between the TMC and the opposition were high in June after government forces opened fire on demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in outside the army headquarters June 3, killing more than 100 people. Following the government crackdown, the TMC cut off all internet services in Sudan. But this week, after the deal, the TMC lifted its ban, and videos during the tumultuous month of June are finally emerging. Videos revealing the brutality that the Sudanesee people had to endure during the month of June, including during the June 3rd crackdown, giving caution to the optimism that came out of last week’s deal.

Russia

On Monday, Russia‘s ban on flights to neighboring Georgia came into effect causing both political and economic uncertainty for the Caucasus nation of 3.7 million people. Georgia annually hosts more than one million Russian tourists and will cost the nation around 300 million dollars. The travel blockade, which affects all Russian and Georgian airlines operating between the two countries also included tightening restrictions on wine. The ban was activated in the middle of the high tourist season. The Kremlin also urged Russian tourists visiting the country to return home, claiming that “Russophobic hysteria” made the country dangerous for citizens. The ban was announced in response to anti-Kremlin protests in Tbilisi angering a visit of a Russian legislator, Sergei Gavrilov, who gave an address from the Georgian parliamentary speaker’s chair sparked fear for many Georgians on Russian presence and aggression in the region.

Libya

Libya’s UN-backed government said the United Arab Emirates used a US-made F-16 fighter jet in Wednesday’s attack on a migrant detention center that killed at least 53 people.

Fathi Bashaagha, the Interior Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), made the accusation to CNN on Friday: “We accuse the UAE of bombing the center with an F-16 jet.”  When asked if the GNA had any proof that an Emirati jet conducted the attack, the minister said: “The sound of the jet was identified by technicians and pilots who heard it. The destructive power (of the bombs) is very big and is similar to the destructive power (of the bombs dropped) in 2014.” Bombings and social unrest have led to many Libyans fleeing, and this week, 44 people, including four women and three children who were stranded in the Mediterranean. The ship contained citizens from Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Guinea, said they had left Zuwara in Libya early on Saturday in a wooden boat, according to AFP news agency. 

Togo

A former presidential guard from Togo who faces the death penalty for helping his country’s opposition was deported from Russia to the West African nation, Moscow-based activists have said. Russia has for the past five years denied refugee status to Bozobeyidou Batoma, 42, a former member of the Togolese commando guard force, Russia’s Civic Assistance Committee said. A Russian court ruled last month to deport Batoma back to Togo, which he had escaped after allegedly being imprisoned and tortured and where he faced the threat of extrajudicial execution.

Eritrea

This week marks the first anniversary of the historic Ethiopia – Eritrea peace deal which Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached last year sparking hope. Conflict began between the two countries sparling a two-year war between that killed an estimated 70,000 people from both sides. While the deal has yet to end all strife in the region, Eritreans and Ethiopians are able to move more freely between the two countries, especially in the disputed area of Badme, allowing families to reconnect. Citizens are also welcoming less military presence along the border. The two neighbors and their respected statesmen are working to fulfill and maintain the goals signed in Asmara last year.

Hong Kong

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, has declared the extradition bill that provoked mass protests that engulfed the city for weeks, “dead”. Lam criticized the government’s work on the now-suspended bill, but she refrained from withdrawing the bill from the Legislative Council. Lam’s statement came a day after a major protest by tens of thousands of Hongkongers which was organized to attract the attention of mainland Chinese visitors. The pro-Beijing camp has taken one more hit as TVB, a Hong Kong television broadcaster reported to have a pro-Beijing stance, lost multiple advertisers, including Pocari Sweat, after a social media campaign encouraging businesses to pull their ads from TVB. More protests are planned for this weekend. 

Kingdom of Eswatini

This week, the Kingdom of eSwatini has banned witchcraft and magic competition. Local organisers had planned to hold the competition in Manzini, the second city of eSwatini, but a statement issued on Tuesday citing that the Witchcraft Act of 1889 defines witchcraft, sorcery or the practice of voodoo as a punishable offense. eSwatini has a population of 1.3 million people, with many following Christianity and indigenous beliefs. 

Other News:

Greece, Athens: On Sunday, Greece held nation-wide elections for the prime minister and parliamentary positions. Center-right New Democracy party won by a landslide over leftist Syriza, which had been in power since 2015, and ND’s leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister, a day after results showed New Democracy gaining 39.85% of the vote in Sunday’s snap election, compared with 31.53% for Syriza, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The election result gave New Democracy an outright majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. The election marks a significant shift for the crisis-hit country that has seen a decade of governments made from fragile coalition made from cloths with ideologically divergent parties united by their stance favor or against Greece’s bailout deals. 

 

Mali: More than two hundred thousand people have or are fleeing their homes in Mali, where deadly attacks on villages are destabilising an already critical situation in the country’s center. More people have fled since the start of the year with almost six times the number that were displaced in the same period last year. Nearly 600 civilians were killed in the first half of 2019.

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina: Thousands of mourners gathered in Bosnia on Thursday to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II. Relatives of the more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb troops were among those attending a ceremony at a memorial site that included the burial of 33 newly identified victims of the July 11-22, 1995 massacre. More than 1,000 are still considered missing from the mass slaughter during the Bosnian civil war.

 

Weekly Report July 5th

Weekly Report July 5th

Cuba

According to a report from SBS-AAP, Cuba is considering the use of cryptocurrency in order to bolster its finances. The country’s Communist government announced on state-run TV that it would potentially use crypto as part of a package aimed to boost incomes for as much as a quarter of Cubans and assist with market reforms. The announcement comes in the wake of new sanctions from the United States and Brazil on Cuba this week with the hopes to further cripple Cuba’s ally Venezuela. Venezuela implemented its own form of cryptocurrency last year to curb hyperinflation and economic catastrophe.  

Nicaragua

In a letter to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers, Human Rights Watch argued that the EU should impose targeted sanctions against high-level Nicaraguan officials implicated in gross human rights violations and condition financial support to Nicaragua’s National Police. The European Union should increase pressure on the Nicaraguan government to curb human rights violations by police and other officials in the wake of anti-government protests, The crackdown on anti-government protests by Nicaragua’s National Police and armed pro-government groups that began in April 2018 led to more than 300 deaths and 2,000 people injured. The HMR wasn’t the only organization to condemn the gross human rights violations, The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly adopted a joint resolution condemning the Nicaraguan government on Wednesday. 

North Korea

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Alek Sigley is “released and safe” after being detained by the North Norean government. Last week, his family and friends lost contact with him, sparking fears he might have been detained, and these concerns were true. Sigley was the only “Austrialian living in North Korea” where he was pursuing a master’s degree and running a tourism business in Pyongyang. His release was said to comes after a meeting between officials from the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang and the North Korean government. Australia does not have its own embassy in the North Korean capital, but Sweden does, and often acts as a liaison for countries. It is not known why the student, a fluent Korean speaker, had been detained.

  Myanmar

The U.N. envoy for Myanmar said Monday that progress on alleviating the crisis that led more than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh has been slow and if there is no action it will be time to “ring the alarm bell.” Special UN Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener, said that there have been “little changes on the ground” to the situation for Rohingya Muslims citing discrimination, military presence, and last week when Myanmaar suspended internet service cuasing a communication black out in Rhakine. 

United States 

On Sunday, after hobnobbing with G-20 leaders in Osaka, Japan, President Donald Trump made one of the most audacious diplomatic photo-ops in history when he crossed over the DMZ and into Norea Korea shaking hands with North Korea’s leader Kim-Jong Un. In doing so, President Trump became the first sitting American President in history to set foot in North Korea. The meeting was set up via Twitter with less than 24 hours. Both leaders said that the meeting marked a reboot to two previous failed summits regarding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. While the meeting was historic, foreign policy experts criticized Trump’s tactics arguing the exchange should be the last step, not the first, to a nuclear arms agreement. Democrats parroted these concerns as presidential candidates criticized him for “coddling with tyrants” and “legitimizing dictators.” 

President Trump also came under fire for his jingoistic July 4th celebration that boasted the US’ military prowess. The “Salute to America” event featured military flyovers and fireworks. For the first time in recent memory, the Independence Day celebration featured a military parade. Opponents accused Mr. Trump of wasting money and politicizing the holiday ahead of his re-election campaign.

 Cambodia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said that his country “will not bow down to any advice from foreigners” as he prepares to head to Geneva, where he is expected to address a United Nations human rights session on July 4 about Cambodia’s human rights progress. Despite Sen’s claim that human rights in Cambodia are improving, an activist and former elected official, Sun Yen, was beaten nearly to death in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province by a group of unidentified men. Yen is a member of the banned opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was disbanded in November 2017 for its alleged role in a plot to overthrow the government. The move was part of a wider crackdown by Sen on political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media that paved the way for Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to win all 125 seats in parliament in the country’s July 2018 general election.

Zimbabwe

Eskom, a South-African based eclecticity provider, announced that Zimbabwe has failed to pay $10 million (R140 million) of its outstanding debt, despite undertakings by Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube. Moreover, Eskom is refusing to be paid in Zimbabwean dollars, which is experiencing one of the highest levels of hyper-inflation in recorded history, and instead in South African Rand or in USD. Zimbabwe has been forced to implement power-cuts due to its inability to pay for foreign electricity imports and a severe drought leading to fewer outputs by its hydro-plant. The announcement marks another step towards social, political, and economic turmoil: if Zimbabwe is unable to produce electricity, other sectors of its mineral and oil rich economy will ultimately fail. Some Zimbbwean’s power is only available for a few hours in the middle of the night. 

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

President Felix Tshisekedi described interethnic bloodshed in DRC’s northeast as “attempted genocide” after scores of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced. The leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the violence appeared to be a “plot” and vowed to “find out the truth” about who was behind the deadly unrest. Fighting in Ituri province between militias connected to Lendu farmers and Hema herders has killed at least 160 civilians since June 10, Tshisekedi said on Tuesday at the end of a three-day visit there. Earlier this week, Amnesty International called on the DRC  to withdraw its armed forces from the Fungurume mines to overt bloodshed after reports found that the DRC sent approximately a thousand of soldiers to protect Chinese Mining Incorporation.

Venezuela 

Following the death of a navy officer in custody over an alleged coup plot, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Tuesday there were no plans to restart talks with the “murderous dictatorship” of President Nicolas Maduro. President Maduro has not said how the officer died, but a sixteen-page UN report released this week details the injuries inflicted on the navy captain, “including electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beatings, sexual violence, water, and food deprivation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures”. Despite opposition leader Guaido’s statement that there would “never” be a time to negotiate with a “dictatorship” and the UN report, President Maduro was optimistic about future talks with the opposition: there “will be good news in the coming weeks about how well the contact, negotiation and pre-agreement processes are going.” 

 Philippines

This week in Manila, approximately 2,500 people gathered to honor the 90-year-old widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and celebrate a birthday party for Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. However, more than two hundred and fifty guests fell ill with suspected food poisoning after the celebratory meal at a Ambulances rushed vomiting friends and supporters from a sports stadium Although Marcos was toppled by a peaceful uprising in 1986, the family is still revered by many in the Philippines and has made a political comeback in recent years.

  Thailand

Human Rights organizations have urged Thai authorities to investigate attacks on pro-democracy activists after one was beaten and left unconscious on a pavement last week. Amnesty International submitted open letters to Thailand’s defense minister and its police commissioner on Wednesday asking them to bring justice to the attackers. who have targeted three vocal pro-democracy activists on multiple occasions since the military seized power in a coup in 2014. In the letter, AI asserted that the attacks against the activists “appear to fit a pattern of systemic violence timed to coincide with their efforts to draw attention to perceived election irregularities and problems relating to the formation of a new government”.

 Vietnam

Vietnam was a direct beneficiary of the trade-war between the United States and China; however, there were worries that the country might be on the receiving end of the tarifs. To combat these fears, Vietnam signed a “historic” trade deal with the European Union that effectively cut 99% of all tariffs between Vietnam and the EU. On Thursday, President Donald Trump put a 456% tariff on imported Vietnameese steel amid a surge in exports to the U.S. and growing evidence of Chinese and other manufacturers diverting their goods via the Southeast Asian nation to bypass Chinese tariffs. In response, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered government officials to intensify their crackdown on fraudulently mislabeled products for exports and closely monitor U.S. reactions 

 Iran 

 President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran will boost its uranium enrichment after July 7 to whatever levels it needs beyond the cap set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, defying US efforts to force Tehran into renegotiating the pact. Early this week, Iran announced has stockpiled more low-enriched uranium than is permitted under the accord. While the situation looks more like a disaster than a diplomatic triumph when both the United States and Iran are hitting back, Iranian Minister Mahmoud Alavi was cited by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying “negotiation between Iran and America will take place if the supreme leader gives the permission.” 

Sudan

On Wednesday, Sudan’s protest and opposition leaders resumed face-to-face talks with Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC). TMC and the opposition coalition have struggled for weeks over what form Sudan’s new government should take after the military deposed long-time president Omar al-Bashir on April 11. The meditators of the talk were done by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who flew down after talks broke down. After months of peaceful protest and a violent military crackdown, Sudan’s military leaders reached an agreement with the opposition alliance to share power until elections can be held. The two sides agreed to rotate control of the sovereign council for at least three years with the first president being picked by the TMC. They have also pledged to form an independent technocratic government and to investigate the aforementioned violence of recent weeks. News of the agreement reportedly sparked frenzied street celebrations.

Russia

On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to restart discussions with the U.S. over arms control and that recently there have been signs that Washington is beginning to consider resuming bilateral dialogue on a wide-ranging strategic agenda,” Despite fears that both countries pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty) signed in 1987 would lead to an arms-race, both countries have denied that the collapse of a significant nuclear missile treaty between the two nations would prompt an arms race. 

Libya

On Thursday, a UN official has said that the attack on a detention centre outside the Libyan capital attack, which killed more than 44 migrants, could constitute a war crime. At least 130 people were injured in the attack, which the Libyan government blamed on an airstrike by forces loyal to a warlord, General Khalifa Haftar. Thousands of migrants are being held in government-run detention centres in Libya. Most of the dead are believed to be sub-Saharan Africans who were attempting to reach Europe from Libya.

Togo

On Sunday, Togo held its first local elections in 32 years where the country’s 3.4 million eligible voters were called to elect 1,527 municipal councilors to six-year terms, renewable twice, in 117 towns. However, most opposition parties are boycotting the election. The West Africa Nation has been governed by a single family for over three decades, and President Faure Gnassingbe stated the elections “mark a major advance in the establishment of democracy.” Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years. Turnout was low with the polling stations visited by AFP reporters showing an average abstention of 75 percent.

Eritrea

A UN expert said in a report that the human rights situation in Eritrea shows no sign of improvement since it signed a peace agreement with neighboring Ethiopia last year, ending two decades of war. UN special rapporteur lamented that the peace deal failed to bring widespread abuse and violations to an end stating that “the dividends of peace are not yet benefiting ordinary Eritreans, nor are there any signs to suggest they will.” Despite an end to the conflict, Eritreans lack political rights and the government does not allow for dissent. 

Hong Kong

For the past month, protesters have been demanding the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland. The anger against the bill has grown against Hong Kong authorities and morphed into a wider political crisis. On Monday, a massive peaceful protest in which organizers say more than half a million people marched through the city on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule. However, during the peaceful parade, a much more violent a riot emerge when Hong Kongers stormed and occupied the legislative night clashing with police on Monday night. On Thursday, the Hong Kong police made its first arrest. 

Iraq

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIS or ISIL) in late 2017, and has continued to carry out arrests of suspected fighters, The Iraqi government does not provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, but some studies have estimated 20,000 are being held for alleged ISIL links. A recent investigation by the Human RIghts Watch reveals that the conditions for the suspects charged with “terrorism” are held in “degrading” conditions. The government does not allow the suspects to access a lawyer and many have already been charged but are still held in prison for months on end. One prison with a max capacity of 2,500 had over 4,000 prisoners. 

Other News:

Istanbul, Turkey: Hundreds of protestors marched the streets of Istanbul, attacking Syrian shops and residential areas after allegations that a young Syrian boy verbally harassed a young Turkish girl. A group of Turkish youths reportedly damaged several Arab businesses in the Syrian neighborhood on Saturday night before police dispersed the crowd, arresting 18. All 18 were released. Local government officials denied a physical assault had taken place.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam’s first female mayor is facing a battle with sex workers in the city’s famous red-light district after raising the prospect of closing it down. Femke Halsema, a former leader of the national Green party who became mayor last year, is under fire for suggesting that the city “must dare to think about the red-light district without prostitution”.

Xinjiang, China: Thousands of Muslim children in China’s western Xinjiang region are being separated from their parents in what a new study calls a “systematic campaign of social re-engineering and cultural genocide”. The research sheds light on what happens to the children of so-called “double-detained” parents – when both a mother and father have been abducted by the state into what it calls compulsory “re-education” facilities. The UN says China has detained more than one million minority Muslims, mostly ethnic Uighurs, since a dramatic escalation of the policy in the spring of 2017.

June 28th Weekly Reports

Cuba

A Russian warship, the Admiral Gorshkov, docked in Havana, Cuba this week giving foregin policy experts Cold War deja vu. The warship is armed with cruise missiles, air defence systems and other weapons. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that US plans to deploy missile systems near the Russian border risks a nuclear standoff on a par with the height of the Cold War. The ship is docked in the same port where until last month American cruise ships docked until President Trump banned them from entering Cuban ports.

Gabon 

Gabonese women rights activists are denouncing Gabon’s President and dictator Ali Bongo Ondimba after he scrapped the ministry responsible for women’s affairs early this week. President Bongo pledged to empower the central African country’s women but activists say this move directly contradicts his promises. Gabonese women do not have full political or economic rights, and in the most recent elections, women won 15 of 120 seats in the National Assembly and 19 of 102 seats in the Senate. 

Bolivia

Notorious for its brutal prisons, Bolivia announced this week plans to reform and overhaul the prison system. The reform includes plans to build a new 10,000 capacity maximum security prison 40km from the Bolivian capital of La Paz. The prison will replace the current San Pedro maximum security prison, designed to hold 800 inmates but currently holding about 2,800. Bolivia has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, ahead of neighbors Paraguay and Chile. The new prison is meant to alleviate overcrowding, which has led to deadly rioting in the past. 

Nicaragua

Four men with suspected ties to the Islamic State (IS) group were arrested in Nicaragua after crossing illegally from Costa Rica, officials say. The identities of three of the men matched those in an alert attributed to US officials saying three suspected jihadists were in Central America. According to reports, officials feared they could have plans to try to enter into the United States. The four, aged between 26 and 41, included two Egyptians and two Iraqis. They have been deported to Costa Rica.

After a crackdown on opposition members last year by the Nicaraguan government and in the wake of a new law that provides immunity to human rights violators, the Human Rights Watch sent a letter in advance to the Organization of American States (OAS) recommending that OAS “ redouble the pressure on the Nicaraguan government to curb human rights violations through the concrete step” like targeted sanctions, suspend all cooperation with the military force, and to exercise criminal jurisdiction in accordance with the UN Convention on tortue. 

  North Korea

Despite multiple summits, claims by leaders stating otherwise, and continued talks tensions in the Korean Peninsula remain. On Thursday, North Korea asked South Korea to stop trying to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington, as it stepped up its pressure on the United States to work out new proposals to end the seemingly deadlocked talks on its nuclear program. Later that day, it is suspected that Australian student Alek Sigley has been detained while studying abroad in Pyongyang. His family has not heard communicated with him Tuesday, which they said was irregular. 

  Myanmar

Human rights activists are decrying Myanmar’s government order to cut internet and telecommunication services in the Rakine state as a “gross human rights violation.” After the Myanmar’s military cracked down after allegedly the Rohingya militants attacked police outposts in 2017, US and international bodies have stated the attacks amount to genocide and ethnic clensing. The crackdown has caused when more than 720,000 people to flee are into Bangladesh as a result of the ensuing violence. Rakine is in a total blackout as reporters and humanitarian groups are banned from entering, and many worry the internet shut down is another way to censor human rights violations from being known. The order does not specify when the order will end, but officials stated it was administered for public security issues. 

United States 

The House this week approved a $4.5 billion humanitarian aid package to address the crisis at the Southern border, after infighting among Democrats over provisions of the bill. The bill, which faces an uphill battle to pass the Senate and a potential veto from the White House, strictly stipulates that the money is only to be used for humanitarian relief and not to further any of President Trump’s harsh border measures and immigration tactics. The bill was passed after many reports of “inhumane” conditions and overcrowding at border detention centers for children separated from their parents came to light. The reports state that children were kept without clean clothes, adequate food, and without access to soap and toothpaste for weeks on end. 

Tensions continue to rise between the US and Iran, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the White House as “mentally crippled” in response to new sanctions imposed against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran announced that they have shut the door to diplomacy, leaving many to speculate that the path to a resolution over this nuclear crisis is shrinking. Iran recently announced they will speed up the enrichment of uranium, much to the outrage of the US. 

House Democrats announced that former Special Counsel Rorbert Mueller will publicly testify before Congress about his investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference and possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. Mueller agreed after subpoenas by the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees.

 Cambodia

On June 25, a court in Cambodia charged seven people, including five Chinese nationals, after a fatal building collapse which killed 28 and injured 26 people in the beach city of Sihanoukville over the weekend. This accident has sparked discussion in Cambodia surrounding Chinese investment and business in the country and its lack of regulation.     

Zimbabwe

This week, Zimbabwe’s government increased its arsenal of war weapons to deal with looming street protests, as the intractable political and economic crisis deepens. Documents obtained by Harare based the Independent found that the government purchased 343 assault rifles, 600 sniper rifles, 5,000 motors, and 500  grenades. Domestic and foriegn opposition leaders fear that state violence would plunge Zimbabwe back into a pariah state. Yet despite the concerns, the Zimbabwe government, its people, and foreign experts all believe the likelihood of mass opposition protests of President Mnagagwa are growing. The looming civil unrest is in part due to the illegal detainment of various opposition leaders, sky-high inflation nearing 100%, and gas prices higher than wealthier countries like Monaco and Hong Kong. Later this week, the government announced that it banned foreign currency for local transactions with the hope to strengthen the economy and curb political unrest.

  The Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been suffering from humanitarian tragedies this week. An outbreak of ethnic violence in the eastern province of Ituri has resulted in more than a hundred deaths and thousands fleeing their homes to other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo or across Lake Albert to Uganda. The ebola epidemic continues to ravage the eastern part of the country, making this outbreak the second deadliest in history. 

On June 23rd, one of the major opposition leaders Jean-Pierre Bemba returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo, immediately meeting with Martin Fayulu, the true winner of the 2018 presidential election according to the independent reports. Bemba has joined Fayulu in calling for peaceful demonstrations against the government scheduled to happen on Sunday, June 30th.

Venezuela 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned on Wednesday that he would be “ruthless” with the opposition if they attempted a coup d’etat, after his government said it had thwarted a plot to assassinate him. A spokesman for the Maduro regime would later say that the a group of mostly retired police officers were caught planning to bomb a government building, loot Venezuela’s central bank, and seize a military airbase. The spokesman said the coup attempt was supported by neighboring countries like Colombia, yet like other reported coup attempts in the conflict ridden country, the government offered little evidence. Opposition leaders say the baseless accusations enable Maduro to crackdown on dissent.  On Thursday, the Organization of American States said Venezuela is the region’s top priority. 

Malaysia 

Mahathir Mohamad, the 93-year-old prime minister of Malaysia, said on Saturday that he will step down within three years and hand over the reins to Anwar Ibrahim. The power will be usurped by Ibrahim, who was Mohamad’s protege-turned-rival before the two reconciled again to win last year’s general elections. Experts argue that the three year time limit is inadequate due to the Prime Minister’s age, which could yield uncertainties for the country if he were to pass away before hand. 

 Philippines

As single-use plastic is wreaking havoc on the Phillipino environment, environmental activists are training and engaging school children to help put an end to the disaster. Approximately 160 million bits of plastic wash up on the Phillipino shore every day, which come from single-use plastics such as straws and plastic bags. This has put immense pressure on the environment and has left activists and the government scrambling to find a solution. Activists from Green Antz Builders are using plastic waste collected by school children to make bricks that are used in buildings, including in the schools the children attend. 

In order to salvage relations between the Philippines and China, Phillipino President Rodrgio Duerte announced that a government investigation into the sinking of a Philippino fishing boat by a Chinese boat in the South China Sea was an ordinary mishap and should not strain relations between the two countries. This comes amidst growing tension between Southeast Asian countries and China over disputes in the South China Sea, which China has claimed full control of. 

  Thailand

The Muslim population in the southern provinces of Thailand are in uproar as telecommunication companies began requiring all users of the majority-Muslim provinces’1.5 million mobile numbers to submit a photo of themselves for facial recognition purposes following orders from the army. While the army and military junta claim that this move will improve security in the region, the representatives of the Malay and Muslim communities say this move amounts to racial profiling that in conjuction with faulty facial recognition technology will lead to arrests of innocent people.

Thailand’s junta leader-turned-Prime Minister Prayut has announced that the new government is going to be formed by mid-July, nearly four months after the legislative elections in March. Until a new government is formed, Mr Prayut is both the legitimate elected prime minister and also the head of the coup-installed National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Critics say that the reason for the delay in forming the new government is Mr Prayut enjoying the powers the control of the two institutions gives him. 

 Vietnam

The Vietnamese government  “state dissidents” crackdown continues after an American citizen, Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, has been sentenced to 12 years for trying to overthrow the state. The court on Monday also sentenced two Vietnamese men to eight and 10 years in prison for the same offence as Nguyen. Despite almost radical economic and social change in recent years, the Vietnamese government continues a harsh line towards state criticism and dissent. 

 Iran 

Turmoil in the Middle East is looking more likely by the day after the United States and Iran traded rhetorical and political blows last week. Last year, the US pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and last month Iran scaled back some of its commitments under the deal, including on the amount of low enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile. This month, the United States accused Iran of shooting down an unmanned drone over international waters and the bombing of six oil tankers. While leaders of both countries have urged for dialogue over destruction, tensions continue to grow rhetorically and politically. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office, and those closely affiliated with him, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described as “useless” and showed the White House was “mentally retarded.” A spokesman for Iran’s government asserted that while Iran wants to negotiate, the sanctions are a “permanent closure of the path of diplomacy”. 

Sudan

After Sudan’s military leaders rejected Ethiopia’s proposal for a transitional government, Sudan’s opposition announced they are planning new mass demonstrations against the regime on June 30th. The revolutionary opposition is demanding a transition into a fully civilian government, and want to make sure the generals hear the opposition demands loud and clear. The opposition previously accepted Ethiopia’s roadmap to civilian rule, which they saw as an option that would get them out of the political impasse. After cutting off civilian access to the internet, activists have been using other tactics to mobilize and are hoping the internet will be restored soon after a lawyer won a lawsuit against telecoms operator Zain Sudan over the blackout. 

The United States is considering imposing more sanctions against the military regime if more violence was committed against protesters, after a deadly crackdown against protests left scores dead. The US has made clear that a military government is not acceptable, and believe the best solution is an agreement between the military government and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FCC). 

Russia

Tensions are rising even more between Russia and its neighbors. Following the demonstrations in Georgia after a Russian lawmaker addressed the Georgian parliament from the speaker’s chair, Russia has suspended flights to Georgia and is looking to ban wine imports from the ex-Soviet country. Tensions with Ukraine and the Baltic States have risen after the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog voted to readmit Russia five years after its suspension due to the Crimean annexation. Ukraine lobbied Western governments to vote against Russia’s readmission, and after the vote in Strasbourg, President Zelensky expressed disappointment with the vote. In military news, Jens Stoltenberg, the General-Secretary of NATO has declared that Russia must destroy its short-range nuclear-ready cruise missile system, or the alliance will be forced to respond. Meanwhile, a Russian military plane landed in Venezuela, carrying military experts, repeating the action that heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington three months ago. 

Libya

Forces allied to Libya‘s UN-recognised government say they have retaken Gharyan, a strategic town south of the capital, Tripoli, although forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar denied the claims. Libya, mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has seen a multitude of militias vying for control of the oil-rich country. Yet, if the reports are true, it could lead to an end to conflict ridden country. A spokesperson for the forces that its capture was a “significant victory” that should lead to the “collapse” of Gen Haftar’s campaign. 

Eritrea

After the release of a report on the state of human rights in Eritrea by the UN Special Rapporteur highlighting continually dismal human rights conditions, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the UN to maintain pressure on Eritrea to fix the situation. The report comes as the UN Human Rights Council, which Eritrea sits on, is going to start debate over whether to keep Eritrea in the spotlight at its 41st session.  

In an effort to continue to repair and build relations with Eritrea, Ethiopia has announced that it is about to pursue a railway building project to connect Ethiopia with Eritrean port cities. Announced at the Ethio-Italian Business forum, the Ethiopian finance minister says the project has the backing of the World Bank and a feasibility study has been launched. 

Hong Kong

Hundreds of Hong Kongers have marched towards various foreign consulates in the city before the G20 summit in Osaka, pleading countries like the United States, France and the United Kingdom to free and liberate Hong Kong from Beijing’s influence. The protesters delivered petitions to the consulates of nineteen G20 countries. This march is one of many protests happening this week, most of them being impromptu and not registered, which marks them apart from the two-million person march that happened on June 16th. 

Other News:

Prague: 

The largest protests since the downfall of communism took place over the weekend in Prague, Czech Republic. An estimated 200,000 marched to Letna Park ––  the same location of the protests during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 –– demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis. The billionaire Prime Minister, who was elected to fight corruption, has been accused of misusing subsidies from the Europen Union. In April, the police formally recommended charging the PM but an indictment can only occur through the Justice Minister. However, after the police made their recommendation, the Justice Minister resigned. He was succeeded by Marie Benesova, who is close to the country’s president, Milos Zeman, an ally of the PM. No political consequences have emerged from the protests, and PM Babis is expected to narrowly survive a no-confidence vote. 

Istanbul: 

In a stunning indictment on the countries economic and political situation, Turkish opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the redo of the Istanbul mayor’s race by a landslide on Sunday with over 54% of the vote. Imamoglu already won in March by 18,000 votes, but the countries top electoral authority voided the election, giving democratic skeptics more worries about Turkish politics. In June, Imamoglu won by over 800,000 votes. Istanbul is a pivotal economic and political center for country, giving President Erdogan’s rule a strong rebuttal. Later this week, a trial for 16 people accused of “terrorism” charges and organising anti-government protests in 2013 begun with rights groups calling the allegations baseless.

Mauritania:

For the first time in Mauritania’s history, voters chose a presidential successor in a democratically elected election. Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the presidential election with 52% of the vote according to the elections tribunal, but opposition leaders are crying foul. The leading opposition leader and second-place winner Mohamed Ould Boubacar disputed the election: “We are launching an appeal to the Mauritanian people … to resist, within the bounds of the law, this umpteenth coup d’etat against the will of the people.” Boubacar cited that the election was fraught with “multiple irregularities … eliminated any credibility” of the election in the West African nation.” Opposition leaders boycotted the 2014 elections. Regardless of opposition, Ghazouani declared himself winner Sunday night promising to continue economic growth and stability.