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 10 2020

Weekly Report July 10 2020

 

Coronavirus

The United States and Brazil continue to record confirmed cases at record pace. The United States again hit its daily record for cases, its sixth in 10 days, with 59,880 cases on Thursday. Brazil’s President Bolsonaro announced on Tuesday that he had contracted the virus, and Brazil experienced over 47 thousand new cases on Wednesday.

 

United States

The coronavirus continues to devastate the United States as the country hits three million cases, recording a record 60,000 daily increase on Wednesday. As many universities announce prolonged transitions to remote or hybrid learning for the upcoming school year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that it would not provide student visas for online learning, threatening the over one million foreign students studying in the country. Various universities have recently launched lawsuits challenging these modifications to be heard in court next week.

 

China

The United States has imposed sanctions on a number of officials in Xinjiang, condemning the reported human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the region. China vows to retaliate for these measures, claiming them as foreign interference in its internal affairs, and also dismissed the U.S. offer for arms control talks, reporting Beijing has “no interest” in any such negotiations.

 

Hong Kong 

China has stopped operations of TikTok in Hong Kong after the passing of the new Chinese security law, which has broad implications for the semi-autonomous region. Beijing-based ByteDance, the company that launched the popular app, announced that it may return to Hong Kong under a new business structure, adding that it has never provided data to the Chinese government, nor would it do so if requested. The response comes after numerous calls from Western countries to ban the Chinese app. Additionally, American President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law as early as next week the Hong Kong autonomy act in response to the new security law. The legislation will give the U.S. government the ability to impose sanctions on officials accused of undermining Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status, also putting pressure on banks and state entities that do “significant transactions” with them. Lastly, Hong Kong daily COVID-19 infections hit a record high this week, spiking fears of renewed community spread and the closure of all schools starting Monday.

 

Myanmar 

Amnesty International has found new evidence indicating that the Myanmar military have used indiscriminate airstrikes in conflict between the country’s Rakhine and Chin states, killing civilians, including children. Meanwhile, the government this week accused China of arming insurgent groups with sophisticated weapons as a bargaining chip to force implementation of Belt and Road Initiative projects despite COVID-19-related setbacks. In an effort to balance China’s presence in the country, Myanmar has decided to expedite India-backed infrastructure projects and strengthen its relations with India.

 

Zimbabwe 

The Economist wrote today that Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis in more than a decade. They reported that Covid-19, currency manipulation, and a lack of reforms from President Mnangagwa has hurt all Zimbabweans. Nurses, soldiers, bureaucrats, teachers have seen their real incomes evaporate as annualised inflation approaches 1,000%. Meanwhile, one of Zimbabwe’s biggest creditors rejected a government request for debt relief until it improves its human rights record and pays arrears on outstanding debt. The group represents creditor nations including members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

 

Chile

Though officials were confident of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic just months ago, weeks of soaring infections makes Chile seventh in the world for reported cases. The country is now struggling to contain the virus as it has spread to its poor and vulnerable portion of the population, and its once robust economy has similarly been devastated by the crisis.

 

Iraq

On the 5th of July Iraq armed groups expert Hsiham al-Hashemi was shot dead in Baghdad after receiving threats from Iran-backed militia. Al-Hashemi was a respected security analyst who had a keen focus on understanding groups such as ISIL(ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, appearing regularly on Iraqi television and providing expertise to government officials, journalists and researchers. The UN, foreign governments and Iraqi leaders have condemned the killing, calling for recourse. However, his death comes amidst a spate of rocket attacks near the US embassy in Iraq that are suspected to be conducted by Iran-backed militia. Activists and journalists across the nation fear they might also be targeted as Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi struggles to control groups acting outside the state. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases throughout the nation are surging and morgues are overflowing with the casualties.

 

Libya

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday, “The conflict has entered a new phase with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels, including in the delivery of sophisticated equipment and the number of mercenaries involved in the fighting.” Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya. The United Arab Emirates minister for foreign affairs said there are “roughly 10,000 Syrian mercenaries operating in Libya”. Guterres said between April and June this year the UN mission has documented at least 102 civilian deaths and 254 civilian injuries – a 172 percent increase compared with the first quarter of 2020. He added there were also at least 21 attacks on medical facilities, ambulances and medical personnel. 

 

Syria  

As a bread shortage looms, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution which would have extended cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria from Turkey for an additional year. The resolution expires this Friday. Russia put forward a proposal to reduce cross-border humanitarian aid; however, this was opposed by the UN with US Ambassador Kelly Craft noting that “we’re talking about the difference between life and death.” New drafts are being prepared; yet, consensus is slow due to limitation of in-person gatherings imposed by coronavirus. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has also released a report concluding that Syrian and Russian airstrikes on schools and hospitals in Idlib province ahead of a March ceasefire broker with Turkey amount to war crimes. The report further condemns attacks by Islamist militants. 

Meanwhile, a British aid worker in Syria is being held in an undisclosed location after being arrested by Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda linked group and UN designated “terrorist” organization that controls Idlib province. Tauqir Sharif was arrested on June 22 being suspected of “mismanagement of humanitarian funds and its use towards projects that sow sedition and division,” stated HTS’s media relations manager. However, allegations remain unclear.

 

Lebanon 

Four men assaulted a prominent Lebanese activist and independent politician as they left a news radio station in broad daylight. Opposition to the Lebanese government suggested “the attack is part of a campaign to silence the set.” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the US’ commitment to supporting Lebanon as long as it succeeds at imposing socio-political reforms and Hizbullah does not gain control of the government. Further, following a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar announced that the government is focusing on improving power supply following lengthy power cuts that have been rolling for the past few weeks as fuel supplies dwindle.

 

Palestine 

On 9th July, a US congressional committee approved a $66 billion spending bill to restore aid to Palestine as well as maintain US funding for the World Health Organization through the end of 2021. The bill would reverse a Trump administration decision suspending aid to Palestinians in 2018 and restore aid to non-governmental organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza. This decision comes as Egypt, France, German and Jordan continue to urge Israel to abandon annexation plans, warning that such actions could have “consequences” for relations. This comes with a steady increase of coronavirus cases in the occupied West Banks and Israel, with Israel ordering thousands of people into quarantine.

 

Russia 

Russian officials deny American allegations that their military intelligence paid bounties for killing U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, a story released in The New York Times that the Russian Foreign Ministry referred to as propaganda. Following tensions at the China-India border, Russia and the United States also compete for arms sales to India, a top buyer of foreign weapons on the international market to which Russia has historically been the main supplier.

 

North Korea

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has casted doubt on the future of nuclear negotiations with the U.S.—Kim said this week that another nuclear summit between North Korea and the U.S. would be unlikely and be “unprofitable” unless Washington changes its stance.

 

Iran

In a United Nations report released on Tuesday, a UN expert on extrajudicial killings concluded that the US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani was “unlawful,” and an “arbitrary killing” that violated the UN charter. US President Donald Trump ordered the killing in a drone strike on the 3rd of January claiming that Soleimani posed an imminent threat. However, the UN inquiry concluded that “no evidence has been provided.” The US, however, has responded by calling the report “a special kind of intellectual dishonesty” and further went on to denounce the report. Locally, on the 9th of July, Iran reported its highest single-day coronavirus related death toll of 200 casualties since the start of the pandemic.

 

Nicaragua 

Both domestic and international pressure continue to focus on President Daniel Ortega’s response to the pandemic, with an open letter from the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) being the most recent condemnation of the Nicaraguan government’s weak response. Nicaraguan doctors also continue to face political repercussions for speaking out against the government’s approach.

 

Sudan

Sudan’s prime minister has replaced the finance, foreign, energy and health ministers and three other senior cabinet post-holders as part of a sweeping reshuffle, the government said on Thursday. This happened nine days after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets for largely peaceful protest in Sudanese cities to demand a transition towards democracy after al-Bashir’s removal last year.

 

Venezuela

President Nicolás Maduro seized control of internationally-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s party following a ruling of the government-controlled supreme court. The move gives Maduro a clear path to gaining control of the National Assembly in the upcoming election. The newly-appointed leader of Guaidó’s party, José Gregorio Noriega, was only recently sanctioned by the EU for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela alongside other pro-Maduro officials. Meanwhile, socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello, the second-most powerful person behind Maduro, becomes the highest-ranking leader in the country to test positive for COVID-19, which he announced on twitter earlier this week.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia’s controversial interim president Jeanine Añez became the third Latin American head of state to test positive for COVID-19 this week. Several members of her cabinet also confirm infections.

 

 

 

 

 

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.