|International Peace & Security Institute
PEACE & SECURITY REPORT
IPSI's Peace & Security Report (PSR) is a concise weekly e-publication intended to brief busy students, academics, advocates, and practitioners in the conflict management community on pertinent global news, events, and trends. Meticulously researched and written by IPSI, the PSR empowers us all to take a step back from our immediate deadlines each Friday and gain a greater understanding of the week's global events.
Sri Lanka: Government Promises, Ground Realities
International Crisis Group
Sri Lanka's post-war course is threatening future violence. As its 19th session in Geneva begins this week, the UN Human Rights Council has a chance to do something about it.
Nearly three years since declaring victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the government has weakened democratic institutions, deepened ethnic polarisation and aggravated the country's long-standing impunity for human rights violations. The former warzones in the north and east are heavily militarised and controlled from Colombo, while disappearances, killings, torture, gender-based violence and other abuses continue with impunity throughout the island. Sri Lankans who speak out about the situation risk reprisal.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: ICC verdict on March 14
On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague announced that it will deliver its verdict in the case of former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga on March 14. Lubanga was handed over to the court in 2006 and first went on trial in 2009. He pleaded not guilty to alleged war crimes for his recruitment of child soldiers while leading the Union of Congolese Patriots during the Second Congo War 1998-2003 in the Ituri region. Comment: The March 14 verdict will be the ICC's first since it was created 10 years ago. The Court has also indicted several other higher-ranking individuals, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. (Reuters, The Washington Post, La une Direct.cd)
LESOTHO: Prime Minister leaves ruling party
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Tuesday resigned from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) opting to become the deputy head of the newly formed Democratic Congress. Mosisili's departure results from prolonged infighting within the LCD national executive committee since 2008. His new party has a slim 45 MP majority in the 120-member parliament. Observers say the LCD party, which now becomes the main opposition, will likely lose a majority of its seats after general elections in May. Comment: The resignation follows a similar situation in 1997 when Mosisili defected from the Basutoland Congress Party to form the LCD party. The landlocked kingdom of Lesotho has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection; it is heavily dependent economically on surrounding South Africa. (All Africa, BBC, AFP)
SUDAN: Sudan accuses South Sudan of aiding rebels
On Sunday, the Sudanese government threatened retaliation against South Sudan for allegedly backing a rebel attack that killed 150 soldiers along the disputed border area Jau, close to South Sudan. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry stated that the government would file a complaint with the UN Security Council and the African Union concerning the attacks. Sudan claims South Sudanese officers accompanied the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) and Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels in the attacks. South Sudan denies any involvement. Comment: The SPLM-N is a breakaway group of South Sudan's ruling political party, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM). Any involvement of South Sudanese forces would have violated a non-aggression pact signed by both governments this month. Fighting erupted in the disputed oil-rich area of Abyei in May, in South Kordofan in June, and the Blue Nile state in September. According to UN figures, more than 360,000 people have been internally displaced or severely affected by the fighting that began in South Kordofan and Blue Nile State. (France 24, Al Jazeera, AFP, Al Arabiya)
UGANDA: Third refugee camp for fleeing Congolese
An upsurge in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has caused thousands of people to flee into neighboring Uganda this year, government officials said on Tuesday. Stephen Malinga, Uganda's Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees said a new refugee camp was needed because the current settlements in western Uganda are "over stretched." Since last November, 3,700 new arrivals have entered the country through three western border points, and at least 100 Congolese are now crossing per day. The influx of refugees is attributed to post-election related violence and continued militia activity in eastern parts of the DRC. Comment: Malinga said persecution following the November elections is the primary reason for the displacement; some refugees reported questioning by armed men about how they voted. The November 28 polls, won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila, were widely criticized for lack of transparency and irregularities. Presidential candidate and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi refuses to accept the results. The Carter Center's election observers called the results "compromised." (BBC, Reuters AlertNet, IRINnews.org, The New Age, AFP)
BOLIVIA: Protests turn violent, hunger strike declared
Violent clashes erupted last Thursday between disabled protestors and riot police after police formed a blockade preventing protestors from entering the country's Plaza Murillo. Dozens were injured during the confrontation, where an estimated 1,000 Bolivians rallied to petition the government for improved benefits for the disabled. Protestors demanded an increase in the monthly disability stipend and greater government integration efforts. Government Minister Carlos Romero stated "infiltrators" provoked the police to respond with force against protestors. Ten protestors declared a hunger strike in retaliation for the police blockade. Comment: The annual march for the disabled commenced on November 15. A caravan of the disabled trekked across the country in wheelchairs and crutches, starting in Beni, a northern Amazonian state, and traveled 1,750 km (1,000 m) to the capital city of La Paz. The administration of President Morales stated USD six million was provided to the disabled in accordance with a 2006 law requiring the diversion of funding from political parties and citizen organizations to the disabled; protestors claim they never received the funds.
(The Argentina Independent, The Guardian, Al Jazeera)BRAZIL: Senator to face Supreme Court charges
Senator João Ribeiro will be tried by the Supreme Court after 35 workers were found in "slave-like conditions" on Ribeiro's ranch, according to the Court's website on Friday. In 2004 inspectors for the Labor Ministry discovered the workers on the ranch in Para, located in the Amazonian jungle state. The workers were subject to 78 hour work weeks, unhygienic living conditions, and lacked access to medical assistance and days of rest. Food and equipment fees were deducted from wages, leaving the workers "permanently indebted" to the ranch and incapable of leaving voluntarily. Comment: Charges were filed by the federal attorney general against Ribeiro; as a senator, Ribeiro can only be tried by the Supreme Court. Poor laborers are often exploited through debt to plantation and factory owners, who deduct fees for food and transportation, reducing workers to conditions similar to indentured servitude.
(Associated Press, Associated Press)ECUADOR: Presidential pardon to be issued in defamation case
President Correa announced on Monday he will issue a presidential pardon for three executives and a columnist of the Ecuadorean newspaper El Universo, a leading opposition paper. The staff members faced libel charges for an opinion article written by former chief editorial writer Emilio Palacio in 2011, in which Correa was called "a dictator" and accused of authorizing troops to use open fire in a hospital during police protests in September of last year. The four individuals faced fines of USD 42 million and three years in prison for the article. Comment: In a ruling last month, Ecuador's Supreme Court upheld the fines and prison sentences for the four men. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission requested the government suspend the sentences. President Correa has been the subject of public outcry for his heavy-handed measures against the press; however, the president claims his efforts are targeted at wealthy interests in the media. Correa also plans to drop a libel suit against two journalists for a book that claims Correa's knowledge of government contracts attained by his brother.
(NY Times, Latin America Herald Tribune, LA Times)
CHINA: 20 killed in Xiangjang province violence
On February 27, violence erupted in the Uighur Muslim province of Xinjiang leaving 20 people dead. The regional government said "terrorists" armed with knives attacked people on a busy shopping street in Yecheng City killing 13 before police could kill seven of the nine assailants. The motive behind the attacks is still not confirmed. Comment: The Xinjiang province has been the stage for clashes between the Uighurs and the Han ethic groups, as well as Uighur separatist and Chinese authorities.
(Aljazeera, WP, AP, HT)MYANMMAR: Aung San Suu Kyi cleared to run for parliament
On February 29, Myanmar's election commission refused a challenge to the parliamentary candidacy of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and confirmed she is on the ballot. The challenger claimed Suu Kyi enjoys benefits of British citizenship resulting from her marriage to late husband, Michael Aris, which would make her ineligible to run in the April 1 by-election under Myanmar's constitution; her lawyers and party affiliates deny that Suu Kyi reaps such benefits. Comment: The 66 year-old pro-democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has again been very active in promoting change and reform in Myanmar since being released from house arrest in 2010.
(ABC, WP, BBC)NORTH KOREA: Nuclear program halted in exchange for U.S. aid
On February 29, Pyongyang agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program and accept a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of food aid in negotiations with the U.S. In addition, North Korea agreed to allow international inspectors to monitor activities at its main nuclear complex. This diplomatic breakthrough between North Korea and the U.S. comes less than two months after the death of long-time ruler Kim Jong Ill. Comment: While observers and analysts hail North Korea's actions as a move in the right direction, many are doubtful whether the northeast Asian country will ever truly give up its nuclear program; North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear program in the past, although never followed through on the commitment.
(MG, NYT, DT)
|Europe & Central Asia
|BELARUS: EU Ambassadors withdrawn from Minsk
On Tuesday, a few hours after Minsk asked the Polish ambassador and EU envoy to leave Belarus, the EU announced that it would recall the ambassadors of all its 27 member states from Belarus. Minsk's expulsion of the Polish and EU representatives was in retaliation to EU sanctions on Belarusian officials loyal to authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. On Monday, the EU had frozen assets in accounts in EU banks held by 21 Belarusian police officers and judges, as well as withheld visas to the EU for the officials in response to alleged human rights violations. Comment: Belarus has a history of abuse of civil society and democratic rights. The 21 officials join more than 200 others who have already had sanctions placed on them for their part in human rights violations.
(RFE/RL, Telegraph, Irish Times)RUSSIA: Plot to assassinate Putin thwarted
Russian officials announced Monday that two suspects were arrested in January for plans to assassinate presidential candidate Putin. Russia's state-run news outlet Channel One reported that the men were questioned for weeks before admitting to the plot. Details of the plan were allegedly found on laptops in an apartment where the men were staying in Ukraine. This news comes less than one week before the Russian presidential election. Comment: The timing of the announcement caused suspicion among many Russians, who see the plot as fictitious and an attempt to garner sympathy for Putin. Putin is expected to win the election, despite massive protests against him. Some observers say the assassination plot may be an attempt to divert attention away from the protests.
(RFE/RL, New York Times, BBC, Deutsche Welle)REGIONAL: EU places further sanctions on Syria
In reaction to increasing violence in Syria, EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to initiate stronger sanctions on the Middle Eastern country in an attempt to curb government violence against protesters. The new restrictive measures include bans on cargo flights from Syria into EU countries, freezes on Syrian assets in the EU, a ban on the trade of precious metals, and travel restrictions for some high-ranking officials. Comment: The EU has already placed oil and arms embargoes on Syria; however, these sanctions have had little effect on the violence. So far, more than 7,600 people have died in the uprising.
(Telegraph, Deutsche Welle, Guardian)
|Middle East & North Africa
EGYPT: Trial of NGO workers suspended as judges resign
The trial of pro-democracy NGO workers was suspended on Tuesday, February 28, when all three judges resigned from the case due to, according to Egyptian media sources, "embarrassment." Recent travel bans on the defendants, including at least 16 Americans, were lifted as well, although a lawyer for the defendants has confirmed that the charges have not been dropped. The suspension of trials has led to negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, with Clinton stating on Tuesday that "We've had a lot of very tough conversations and I think we are moving toward a resolution." Comment: The defendants are facing trial for allegedly receiving illicit foreign funding. The proposed trials threaten the annual USD 1.3 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt. (BBC, Washington Post, al Jazeera)
IRAQ: Car bombs in Baghdad kill six, wound nine
Two car bombs in Baghdad and northern Iraq on Wednesday killed six people, including three security force members, and wounded at least 10; there has been no official statement regarding the intended targets. The latest attacks come less than a week after a wave of bombings claimed by al-Qaeda killed at least 42 people across the country and just a month before Baghdad is due to host an Arab League summit. Comment: The bombing crisis, which has escalated since the U.S. troop withdrawal in December, has left over 200 people dead. The end of the Parliamentary boycott last month initially lead to a drop in attacks, although this week has proven one of the deadliest since December. (al Jazeera, NY Times, France24)
REGIONAL: Hamas breaks with Assad regime in support of popular struggle in Syria
The Hamas leadership has left its longtime base in Syria in support of the popular uprising, with the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, announcing last Friday, "I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy, and reform." Personnel have moved locations to Egypt, home to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's ideological parent, and Qatar, where a unity deal was signed in February between Hamas and the PA. Comment: Hamas originally moved its headquarters to Syria following its eviction from Jordan in 1999. The move not only alienates Assad from a key ally, but also alienates Hamas from Iran. (AP, CNN, BBC)
AFGHANISTAN: Continued fallout from Qur'an burnings
Two U.S. soldiers were killed by an Afghani soldier on Thursday, bringing the death toll of U.S. soldiers to six caused by protests against the February 21 Qur'an burnings in Bagram. Over 30 people in total have been killed in the protests, despite an apology made by President Obama for the "error" in judgment. President Obama promised President Karzai, "We will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, including holding accountable those responsible." Several NATO military bases have been attacked since the burnings, and NATO has recalled hundreds of its advisors in light of the violence. Comment: President Obama received harsh criticism from the Republican base for apologizing for what was "inadvertent," and many Republicans are now calling for an apology from Afghanistan for the deaths of American soldiers. (CNN, Huffington Post, Associated Press)
INDIA: Supreme Court defends 2009 decriminalization of homosexuality
The Indian Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in defense of the decriminalization of homosexuality, effectively putting an end to Indian Penal Code 377, which bans "unnatural acts of sex." India had decriminalized homosexual acts among consenting adults originally in 2009, but several cases were heard in Court on February 23 in opposition to the decriminalization. General P.P. Malhorta, representing the Ministry of Home Affairs during the trial, called homosexuality "against social order" and "highly immoral," further adding that Indian society would suffer if such acts were permitted. The Supreme Court bench consisted of two justices, GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya, who expressed discontent in having to rule on Penal Code 377 a second time, telling the government, "Don't make a mockery of the system." The Court justified its decision by citing societal practices that were once considered immoral are now perceived as normal, such as single parenting. Comment: The Indian Penal code was written in 1860, and prior to decriminalization, the maximum penalty for homosexuality was life imprisonment. (Times of India, Economic Times, BBC, Indian Express)
NEPAL: Explosion in Kathmandu kills three
Two men and one woman were killed on Monday after a bomb went off in the central district of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. The United Ethnic Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the blast, which was set off outside of the government-owned Nepal Oil Corporation. Seven people are currently receiving treatment for serious injuries, and one of the victims of the attack is in critical condition. A supposed spokesperson for the United Ethnic Liberation Front claimed fuel prices and the government's failure to end corruption as reasons for the attack. Comment: The bombing comes at a time when ethnic groups across Nepal are fighting for greater representation in Nepal's government. Maoists have dominated the Constituent Assembly of Nepal since the end of the Nepalese civil war and the deposition of the King in 2008. (WSJ, BBC, Times of India)
PAKISTAN: Gunmen kill 18 bus passengers in Shi'a district
On Tuesday, 18 Shi'a Muslims were shot dead, and an additional seven wounded, after two armed men attacked a bus on its way from Rawalpindi to Gilgit in the northern region of Kohistan. Mohammed Ilyas, the local police chief, said the two armed men ambushed the bus from both sides, and MP Abdul Sattar Khan said the gunmen "forced people to get off the bus. They checked their papers and shot them dead." The 27 remaining passengers' lives were spared by the gunmen. Prime Minister Gilani said the attacks would not deter the government from fighting sectarian violence and emphasized Pakistan's commitment to end "the menace of terror." Comment: The Pakistani Shi'a community makes up less than 15 percent of the population, and Shi'a - Sunni sectarian violence is common in Pakistan's northwest. The fate of the two gunmen responsible for the attacks is unclear. (BBC, Al Jazeera, Chicago Tribune)
Researched/Written by Tarek J. Nasser
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