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 June 19 2020

Weekly Report June 19 2020

 

Coronavirus

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

 

United States

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

 

China

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

 

Hong Kong 

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

 

Myanmar 

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

 

Zimbabwe 

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

 

Chile

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

 

Iraq

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

 

Libya

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

 

Syria  

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

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

 

Lebanon 

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

 

Palestine 

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

 

Russia 

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

 

North Korea

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

 

Iran

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

 

Nicaragua 

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

 

Sudan

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

 

Venezuela

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

 

Bolivia

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

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Report June 12 2020

Weekly Report June 12 2020

 

Coronavirus

As COVID-19 peaks in Latin America, the new epicenter of the virus, disillusionment with democracy is reportedly on the rise. Survey data by the Latinobarómetro reveals that trust in government in the region fell from 45% in 2010 to 22% in 2018. The effect of delayed elections due to the pandemic have yet to be measured.

 

United States

As protests for Black Lives Matter continue to rage across the United States, statues venerating Christopher Columbus and Confederate leaders have become the new targets for the movement, leading to widespread defacement of these monuments. Meanwhile, there is an alarming rise in coronavirus cases following several states’ decision to roll back lockdowns. An associated Press analysis reveals that cases are rising in nearly half the states, a worrying trend spiking fear of a second wave and new lockdowns.

 

China

Twitter has taken down 170,000 China-linked accounts identified as part of a coordinated campaign to spread disinformation and “deceptive narratives” around the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, and U.S. protests in relation to George Floyd. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that while Twitter is blocked in China, the campaign was targeted at Chinese-speaking audiences outside the country. After U.S. and Hong Kong-based activists reported that their Zoom accounts had been suspended and meetings disrupted after they attempted to hold events related to the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, Zoom said that it would not allow further requests from the Chinese government to affect users outside the country. Elsewhere, American aircraft carriers have begun patrolling Indo-Pacific waters for the first time in nearly three years, a show of naval force against the backdrop of rising tensions between the U.S. and China in the region. In a tech race with the U.S., China has reportedly embarked on a $1.4 trillion dollar campaign to develop 5G and artificial intelligence capabilities. 

 

Hong Kong 

Hong Kong police have informed organizers of the annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil that they will face incitement charges for defying a police ban. On the whole, Hong Kong police have made 8,981 arrests between June 9, 2019, and May 29, 2020 in connection with protests. Among those arrested, 1,749 people have been charged, and 100 have been convicted. Pro-democracy organizers recently postponed a demonstration planned for June 12 to mark the anniversary of the blocking of the anti-extradition bill in Hong Kong, citing coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings. The protest has been rescheduled for June 19, when the emergency rule is due to be lifted. In addition, a pro-democracy lawmaker invoked a rarely used legal mechanism to file suit against a Hong Kong police officer for the shooting of a protester, marking the first member of the police force to face charges in court. However, the government could still block the case from advancing. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also recently suggested that Japan would take in Hong Kong residents in the financial sector and specialized fields if China moves forward with imposing national security measures.

 

Myanmar 

Lawyers bringing a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority have requested a United States District Court order Facebook to release posts from the country’s military and police. The lawyers believe the communications “may constitute genocidal intent.” Facebook has responded that it would evaluate the request in accordance with applicable laws. In the Rakhine State, shelling attacks, purportedly perpetrated by rebel groups, have continued to kill and wound villagers. Two cases of Rohinngya men contracting COVID-19 after leaving refugee camps in Bangladesh have also fuelled Myanmar’s dispute with the country.

 

Zimbabwe 

An opposition lawmaker and two activists were rearrested on the 10th of June on accusations that they lied about being abducted from police custody and tortured. In May 2020, the three women were charged and arrested for their participation in a citizen demonstration in Harare that violated coronavirus lock down regulations. The women reported that they were then tortured and sexually assaulted by unknown assailants. United Nation human rights experts have called on Zimbabwe to “immediately end a reported pattern of disappearances and torture” that appears to be aimed at suppressing protests and dissent. In 2019, 49 cases of abductions and torture were reported in Zimbabwe – all without investigations leading to prosecutions of perpetrators.

 

Chile

Chile’s women and gender minister, and great-niece of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, Macarena Santelices resigned on Tuesday after just one month in office. Her short stint in office was marred by a string of controversial decisions, that resulted in the hashtag #WeDoNotHaveAMinister to trend in Chile. Also on Tuesday, Chilean senators reopened a debate over a new migration law that will tighten rules on how prospective immigrants can enter Chile. The move comes after a report last week suggested Chile could become a migration hotspot following the decline of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Iraq

Following an independent fact-finding inquiry into the hundreds of deaths, injuries and abductions among anti-government protesters in October 2019, the first arrest was made on Thursday. The Supreme Judiciary Council said last month that it released detainees based on Article 38 of the constitution that guarantees the right to protest, “provided that it is not accompanied by an act contrary to the law.” However, human rights groups say that those abducted were most likely subjected to torture and violence and many protesters are yet to be released. 

On the 6th of June, Iraqi lawmakers approved the remainder of newly elected Prime Minister Mustafe al-Kadhimi’s picks for his cabinet. With vacancies in seven cabinet positions such as that of oil, justice, migration, displacement and culture, agriculture, foreign affairs and trade finally filled, the 22-member cabinet is now able to tackle the implications of coronavirus. Meanwhile, ISIS attacks in Iraq have surged. There are currently 5,200 American troops in Iraq dedicated to counter-terrorism and training of Iraqi forces.

 

Libya

The United Nations reports with horror that at least eight mass graves have been discovered in the country, which the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has promised to investigate. The graves are primarily outside of Tarhuna, a key city to the southeast of capital Tripoli, that the GNA only just recovered from general Khalifa Haftar. The militia was long accused of committing atrocities in the city. On Saturday, Egypt called for a ceasefire starting this week through the UN-led negotiations, but the proposal was dismissed by Turkey. 

 

Syria  

Protests erupted in the South West province of Syria on Sunday night. The increased economic hardship following the novel coronavirus and the almost 50 percent devaluation of the Syrian pound last week sparked protests where demonstrators openly denounced President Bashar al-Assad. Anti-regime slogans from the 2011 uprising “Syria is for us and not for the House of Assad,” have been chanted throughout the week. This is the biggest protest in Sweida since the assassination of a local military man in 2015. Furthermore, on the 11th of June, President al-Assad dismissed Prime Minister Imad Khamis. No reason for the dismissal has been given as of yet.

 

Lebanon 

As the novel coronavirus continues to impede the Lebanese economy, anti-government protests erupted in Beirut against the Lebanese political class and financial crisis. Protesters blocked roads across Lebanon, forcing the Prime Minister to call an emergency cabinet meeting. Branches of the country’s central bank were set on fire and vandalized as protesters shouted that they are “hungry.” Protesters weigh up the risk of succumbing to coronavirus or to hunger as security forces turn to tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

 

Palestine 

On the 30th of May, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man was shot and killed in East Jerusalem by Israeli police. Iyad el-Hallak was unarmed, however, was shot for not stopping walking when instructed by police. Protests quickly erupted throughout the city with parallels being drawn to the death of George Floyd in the US, protesting police brutality and using hashtags such as “Palestinian Lives Matter.” On the 9th of June, six people were arrested for using violence while protesting. The human rights group B’Tselem cites at least 11 cases during 2018 and 2019 of Israeli forces fatally shooting Palestinians as they fled.

 

Russia 

Twitter recently uncovered 1,152 accounts associated with Current Policy, a group engaged in state-backed political propaganda within Russia. The network and its peer companies were suspended for “cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends.” Meanwhile, as Russia’s confirmed coronavirus tally officially surpassed 500,000 this week, the government claims that lock down restrictions can be lifted ahead of Moscow’s Victory Day Parade on June 24 and a constitutional referendum on July 1. The World Health Organization has asked Russia to review its methodology for counting coronavirus deaths, describing the country’s low death toll as “unusual,” given its similar trajectory to other European countries.

 

North Korea

Two years after its historic summit with the U.S., North Korea has declared that it sees no future benefit in maintaining ties between its leader Kim Jong-Un and U.S. President Donald Trump. Instead, the country has vowed to boost its nuclear program, saying its hopes of diplomacy had faded into a “nightmare.” Activists threatened with a crackdown by South Korea for launching anti-Pyongyang messages over the border have vowed to move underground, clandestinely spreading information into North Korea. In addition, a report by researchers at the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies has revealed that North Korea might be breaking UN trade sanctions and making millions by selling sand.

 

Iran

Human rights and press freedom fighters Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have filed an official complaint with the German federal judicial authorities demanding the arrest of Iranian cleric Judge Gholamreza Mansouri while he is in Europe. Mansouri has been accused of abusing his position in the Iranian legal system to torture and suppress at least 20 Iranian journalists in 2013, issuing unfair verdicts based on fabricated charges. Meanwhile, Iran has announced that it will execute the Iranian man who provided information to the US and Israeli intelligence services that led to the US-led assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. 

 

Nicaragua 

On Tuesday, at least eight – ten doctors working for Nicaragua’s public health system were fired following expressed criticism of the Ortega government’s slow response to the pandemic, though numbers are not clear. The United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights expressed its concern over the firings, highlighting the violation of freedom of expression in the country. The country is one of the last to reject strict measures to reduce the spread of the virus as the government insists it has the pandemic under control, but the predicted death toll indicates otherwise.

 

Sudan

Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, charged with 50 crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Darfur conflict, has been arrested more than 13 years after a warrant was issued for him. Kushayb surrendered in the Central African Republic and was transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Prosecutor of the ICC has urged the UN Security Council to press Sudan to bring more indicted persons, including ex-president Omar Al-Bashir, to justice for genocide and mass atrocities. Earlier in the week, supporters of Al-Bashir gathered in central Khartoum to protest the UN’s new support mission for Sudan’s transition, escalating to a degree of force. New criminal charges have been filed against Al-Bashir for the squandering of state funds, as the Sudanese anti-corruption committee discovered he received $20 million monthly on his personal bank account. Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebel movements also resumed on June 9 via media conferencing.

 

Venezuela

Last month American AT&T pulled DirecTV out of Venezuela due to U.S. sanctions. Arrest warrants were issued this past week for three local executives of the service company, who claim that they had no prior knowledge of the cuts and are innocent of any crimes. At the border, thousands of Venezuelans who previously fled their homeland are trying to return after the severe economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Bolivia

The New York Times admits that a close look at Bolivian election data indicates that the initial analysis by the Organization of American States (OAS) suspecting vote-rigging in Morales’ fall 2019 election success was “flawed.” The accusations helped force out the president in November. On Wednesday, Bolivia’s parliament approved the new date of 6 September for the country’s election, which was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Report June 5 2020

Weekly Report June 5 2020

Image: Tiananmen Vigil, Hong Kong. 4 June 2020.

 

Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the Americas as the new epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic and urges countries not to ease restrictions as case numbers increase across the region. In China, a travel warning has been issued asking citizens to reconsider travel to Australia in light of reported rise in anti-Chinese racism.

 

United States

Protests demanding justice for George Floyd and countless other black lives affected by police brutality have spread across all 50 states, some escalating to violence after protestors clash with police and military. Both former Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, and current Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, have publicly criticized President Trump’s approach to combating the protests.

The police officers onlooking the death of Mr. Floyd, captured on a video that catalysed the Black Lives Matter movement protests, were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The charge of the officer presumed responsible, Derek Chauvin, was increased to second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, the suspect in the Ahmaud Arbery case, involving the killing of an unarmed black jogger, is accused of using a racial slur after shooting.

 

China

Chinese state media seized upon anti-racism protests sweeping across the U.S. to criticize its rival for being a “double standard nation” in response to civil unrest. Amid rising diplomatic and trade tensions, the U.S. has moved to ban Chinese passenger airlines from flying to the U.S., beginning mid-June. In its dispute with India, China has also moved “a significant number” of its troops into a tense, contested section of the Himalayan border. Just last month, aggressive border skirmishes resulted in injuries. 

 

Hong Kong 

On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Hong Kong legislature passed a bill to criminalize the mocking of China’s national anthem. Rallies this year were also cancelled as police denied organizers the permission to congregate, citing COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of people defied the ban to stage a mass vigil in Victoria Park while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Chief Executive Carrie Lam reiterated that the central Chinese government was determined to enforce a national security law that would prevent and punish secession. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered a new residency visa to 3 million Hong Kong citizens if China presses ahead with security measures.

 

Myanmar 

Following concerns about delays to Myanmar’s general election due to the novel coronavirus, the Union Election Commission announced that it will be held in November as scheduled. Fighting between government forces and the ethnic Arakan Army in the Rakhine state has thus far killed 257 civilians and injured 570 others since December 2018. The region has seen constant conflict since the Myanmar army’s campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims in 2007. A Rohingya man in Myanmar also recently tested positive for the virus, making him the first confirmed case among members of the Muslim minority in the country. There are 234 confirmed cases, with 6 fatalities to date.

 

Zimbabwe 

Tensions between Zimbabwe and the U.S. since 2003 begin to rise as Zimbabwe summons the US ambassador over remarks by senior US officials accusing Zimbabwe of “stirring anti-racism protests” on social media over the death of George Floyd. Further, Zimbabwean positive coronavirus cases have almost tripled in the past few days, reaching a high of 203; while a Zimbabwean judge has ordered the improvement of mandatory quarantine facilities following the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights spoke truth to deplorable nature of the facilities.

 

Chile

Chile reached a record high COVID-19 daily death total this week, prompting the government to prolong its shutdown of the country’s capital, Santiago. The first inmate death from the virus was reported on June 2.

 

Iraq

British soldiers are under investigation for acts committed by the British military in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. All but one final war crime claim against the soldiers has been dropped due to the “low level” of offending and the lack of evidence against the soldiers. More than 1000 cases were filed. Earlier this year with the support of British Minister of Defense, the British government proposed a bill that places a five-year limit on any criminal prosecution of British service personnel deployed overseas. Meanwhile, Iraqi militiamen are tasked with burying the victims of the novel Covid-19 virus. As of the 2nd of June, Iran has seen just over 200 deaths due to coronavirus.

 

Libya

Power shifts in war over Tripoli, as the internationally recognised government in Libya announced on June 3 that it has reclaimed significant ground in the capital after a 14-month long battle with Eastern forces. Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-General, Stephen Dujarric, admits difficulty in finding a new UN envoy to the country.

 

Syria  

Russian warplanes carried out the first airstrike in three months on the last remaining rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria. Syrian activists stated that these are the first airstrikes to be carried out by Russian planes since a ceasefire agreement in early March. Casualty figures have yet to be reported. There have been multiple violations on the ground of the truce in recent weeks. Turkey and the government in Damascus have reportedly sent reinforcements to Idlib.

 

Lebanon 

Lebanon struggles to deal with the consequences of the novel coronavirus, specifically in areas dense with people who are refugees and disenfranchised. Cities that house larger populations of refugee camps, such as Majdal Anjar and Jdeitet El-Qaytaa,  represent most of the new cases of Covid-19 partly due to government response and medical testing. These areas, and other similar cities, are not receiving the same number of tests as would be expected and are being placed on lockdowns and curfews. These actions come in part from government claims regarding the measures taken by these communities to slow the spread of the virus.

 

Palestine 

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas threatened at the end of last month to cut ties with Israel, not honor past agreements and stop cooperation related to security if Israeli Prime Minister continues to use Israeli law and go ahead with plans to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. Furthering the disruption between Israel and Palestine, armed Israeli settlers seized almost 350 Palestinian-owned farms in the village of Kisan.

 

Russia 

An anti-LGBTQ ad by a pro-Kremlin outlet recently sparked outrage on Russian social media and drew attention to a national referendum scheduled for July 1. Among proposed changes, one amendment would let Russian President Putin stay on as president past 2024, when his second consecutive term ends. In relations abroad, Putin has ordered Russia’s foreign and defence ministries to negotiate more facilities and maritime access in Syria, its close ally. U.S. and Russian troops squared off in northeast Syria for several hours, the second tense standoff in two days. Russia has reportedly found an anti-influenza drug to effectively treat COVID-19, and plans on distributing it to hospitals this month. In other news, Putin declared a state of emergency after a Russian power plant spilled 23,000 tons of oil into an Arctic region.

 

North Korea

500,000 leaflets criticizing Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions were dropped by defectors over the border between North and South Korea. In response, North Korea officials threatened to scrap its military agreement with South Korea and close down a cross-border liaison office. In a rising spat with the U.S., North Korea also lashed out and asserted that Beijing was eclipsing its Washington. Schools in North Korea have reportedly reopened after delays due to COVID-19, although Pyongyang has yet to publicly confirm a single case.

 

Iran

For the first time since the November 2019 petrol price hike protests, Iranian officials released casualty figures. The head of an Iranian parliamentary committee stated that 230 people were killed during the November protests, six of whom were security officials. These protests, the most serious since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, were in response to the abrupt decision of the Iranian government to increase petrol costs by up to 50% and ration supplies. Meanwhile, Iran’s President pushes forward with a bill that will allow for harsher punishment for “honor killings” following the murder of Romina Ashrafi.

 

Nicaragua 

Anti-Ortega activists claim the government has been purposely underreporting infection rates and death totals, covering up the impact of the novel coronavirus on the country. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH) report concern over the lack of transparency in the country’s testing, recording presumed virus-related deaths at 20 times higher than the official figure. Dozens of Nicaraguan medical associations urge citizens to follow a voluntary quarantine despite the government’s denial of its need.

 

Sudan

The UN Security Council extended its current peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for two additional months past October, recognizing the difficulties of exiting the country with COVID-19 measures in place. It further established the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to assist the country’s shift to democratic governance for an initial 12-month period. Sudan has also sworn in a new Minister of Defense, only days after a violent clash between its forces and militias from Ethiopia. The two countries have been locked in a longstanding border dispute. As of June 2, 2020, there are 5,499 cases of COVID-19 in Sudan, including 314 fatalities.

 

Venezuela

On June 1, Venezuela’s government reached an agreement with the opposition to seek funds and work with the World Health Organization in its fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic. The European Union denounces the late-May approval of Luis Parra, ally of President Nicolas Maduro, as president of the National Assembly in a recent statement, reaffirming their support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia began relaxing its quarantine on June 1 in an effort to bolster its economy, breaking its record daily death total the same day. Deaths rose again June 2 totalling 33 across the country, and health experts warn that the ease of restrictions will bring the peak of the novel coronavirus’ impacts higher and sooner than previously expected. National elections remain delayed due to the virus with interim President Jeanine Áñez in power, though some claim her to be utilising the health crisis as a political power grab.