|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.
PRESS FREEDOM INDEX 2011-2012
Reporters Without Borders
"This year's index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world," Reporters Without Borders said today as it released its 10th annual press freedom index. "Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news.
"Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.
KENYA: Four of six suspects will stand trial at ICC
On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague confirmed charges against four prominent Kenyan political leaders accused of promoting post-election violence and committing crimes against humanity following the country's disputed 2007 elections. President Mwai Kibaki called for calm following the ruling and instructed his Attorney General (AG) to form a panel of legal experts to challenge ICC jurisdiction and admissibility of the case before appeals are filed. The AG is also looking at setting up a special tribunal division inside the Supreme Court to deal with cases stemming from the election violence. Comment: Kibaki's challenge of ICC jurisdiction contrasts with members of parliament, who back the ICC, citing a local mechanism could be potentially manipulated. Among the four arrested, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto, are considered potential presidential candidates. The post-election violence in 2007 left more than 1,200 people dead and displaced an estimated 600,000. (The Standard, The Standard, The Standard, BBC, Al Jazeera, ABC News)
MADAGASCAR: Exiled former president's return blocked
On January 21, a plane carrying Madagascar's ousted former leader, Marc Ravalomanana, was turned away at an airport near Antananarivo. Officials closed the airport citing safety concerns after thousands of his supporters gathered to greet him. Ravalomanana went into exile in South Africa after being deposed by current President Andry Rajoelina in 2009. A similar attempt to return in 2011 resulted in Ravalomanana's detention at the airport in Johannesburg after he was denied permission to land. Comment: In 2009, Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison and hard labor for the deaths of at-least 25 anti-government protesters by soldiers; security officials in Madagascar have pledged that he will be arrested upon return. National elections are planned for 2013 and Ravalomanana is expected to stand. (The Guardian, Al Jazeera, AFP)
SOUTH AFRICA: Former ANC Youth League leader appeals suspension
On Monday, Julius Malema, the controversial former youth league leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), appealed his five-year suspension for usage of divisive rhetoric. Malema's lawyers claim that the decision did not follow proper ANC procedure and want it overturned because he was not allowed to plead for a lesser sentence. In November 2011, Malema was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute, notably for his call for regime change in neighboring democratic Botswana. His suspension will only take effect once he exhausts all appeals, which he could take all the way to the ANC National Executive Committee. The party will meet in December at its leadership conference. Comment: Despite having his political career sidelined since the suspension, Malema's message remains popular among the nation's youth. South Africa is plagued with chronic unemployment at nearly 25 percent, growing state debt, and a broken education system. (SABC, AllAfrica, BBC, AFP, Reuters)
CUBA: Three prisoners released, following death of dissident
On Monday, Amnesty International reported the January 20 release of three Cuban prisoners detained for 52 days without formal charges. Ivonne Malleza Galano, Ignacio Martinez Montejo, and Isabel Haydee Alvarez were arrested on November 30 for protesting in Havana against the Cuban government. Their release came a day after the death of a hunger-striking political dissident, Wilman Villar, whose death ignited widespread public outcry from human rights activists and the international community. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation demanded access to the investigation of Villar's death. Comment: The three prisoners were formally recognized as "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty for exercising freedom of speech and freedom of assembly; Cuban authorities released them the following day. The Cuban government regards dissidents as counterrevolutionaries aimed at collapsing the government.
(AP, BBC Mundo, Miami Herald
)ECUADOR: Court rules USD 8.6 billion in damages, Chevron's appeal is rejected
On Thursday, a U.S. appeals court dismissed Chevron's injunction to avoid paying damages to Amazonian residents for contamination of Ecuador's Amazon. Chevron Corp., a U.S.-based multinational energy corporation, filed an appeal in Ecuador's National Court against a January 4 ruling that awarded USD 8.6 billion for damages and contamination of the Amazonian region. If Chevron fails to issue a public apology to Ecuador, the fine will be increased to USD 18 billion. Chevron inherited the case after merging with Texaco in 2001. Chevron's defense lawyers have cited corruption within the Ecuadorian legal system, as well as negligence by Petroecuador, Ecuador's state-run oil company now called Eppetroecuador, as responsible for pollution at oil sites. Comment: In 1993, the case of Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco was initially filed in New York as a class action lawsuit on behalf of 30,000 indigenous inhabitants of Ecuador's Amazon. Chevron agreed to adhere to a ruling if the case was transferred from the United States to Ecuador. Texaco is accused of the emission of toxic waste in natural water sources, abandonment of water pits, and the spilling of nearly 17 million gallons of oil. Combined, these occurrences have caused high rates of cancer and sickness of local communities, according to Amazonian residents.
(WSJ, Reuters, CNN)GUATEMALA: Former dictator to face charges of genocide
On Thursday, retired general and former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, 85, appeared at a preliminary hearing in a Guatemalan court on charges of genocide against indigenous communities and 100 massacres against leftist rebels carried out during his 17-month military rule between 1982 and 1983. As a member of congress from 2000 until early January 2012, Ríos Montt held immunity from prosecution. Two other retired generals were prosecuted for crimes committed during the civil war. Comment: The Guatemalan civil war lasted 36 years, ending in 1996 and claiming the lives of an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans, predominantly from the country's indigenous communities. Guatemala is following the current regional trend of prosecution and the issuance of formal apologies for atrocities committed during past civil wars and dictatorships. The governments of El Salvador, Argentina, and Colombia have made efforts to rectify past state-sanctioned violence.
(LA Times, The Guardian, BBC Mundo)HAITI: U.N. Peacekeepers under investigation for sexual abuse
Investigations are underway regarding two cases of sexual abuse of minors by U.N. peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince and the northern city of Gonaives, a U.N. spokesperson said on Monday. The accused, whose nationalities have not been revealed, were relieved of their duties for the duration of the investigation. An October 2011 review found at least 60 complaints of sexual abuse against MINUSTAH, the U.N. mission in Haiti. Later that month, the Security Council voted to reduce the size of MINUSTAH to 2,750 officers and 10,600 troops and police. Comment: In one of the largest cases, 108 military personnel were deported after accusations of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of minors. Most military personnel have not been penalized for misconduct, as the United Nations lacks political and legal authority to prosecute cases involving the military. Oftentimes, slow prosecution or refusal from national court systems prevents punishment of the accused
. (NY Times, Reuters, Inter Press Service)
MYANMAR: EU Eases travel restrictions on country's leaders
On January 23, the EU agreed to suspend travel bans on the country's president and other senior officials following a series of sweeping reforms which include halting military offensives in conflict areas and the release of hundreds of political prisoners. European leaders, as well as governments such as the United States, long ago imposed sanctions and severed diplomatic ties with the Southeast Asian nation, which has been ruled for the past five decades by an oppressive military regime. The EU statement said the reform process had already led to improved relations with the EU, and if such reforms continue, restrictions could further be eased by the end of April. Comment: This move comes just one week after the U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Myanmar. (NYT, IBT, BBC)
PHILIPPINES: Gunmen kill 15 at sea in fishing turf dispute
On January 23, Gunmen off Sibago Island in Basilan province, opened fire on three boats and killed 15 fishermen in what officials said was likely an attack by a rival group protecting its lucrative fishing grounds. Police believe there were about 10 attackers, although no arrests have been made as the news reached authorities late because of the remoteness of the area. Comment: The Basilan province is a stronghold of Muslim rebels who have been fighting for minority self-rule in the predominantly Christian nation for decades, as well as criminal and kidnap gangs. Police officials have stated that the rebels were not likely involved. Furthermore, law enforcement in the area is minimal, and clan feuds fuelled by business and political rivalry are common. Businesses often pay protection money to armed groups and hire their own private guards. (CNN, PS, Guardian)
THAILAND: Opposition Party seeks Prime Minister's Impeachment
On January 24, Thailand's Opposition Democrat Party filed an impeachment petition against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul for their alleged roles in connection with the re-issuing of a Thai passport to fugitive ex-premier, Thaksin Shinawatra. The deposed premier's ordinary passport was revoked in mid-April 2009 by the foreign ministry under the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration following political turmoil and street clashes between the Red Shirt supporters of the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and the government security forces. In addition, Democrats say there are pending charges against Thaksin on six cases, including one terrorism charge. Comment: In early 2011, Ms. Shinawatra denied having any involvement in re-issuing Thaksin's passport. The Shinawatras are brother and sister, and Yingluck made history as the country's first female prime minister. (MCOT, BP, The Nation)
|Europe & Central Asia
|FRANCE: French Senate votes on Armenian genocide billThe French Senate passed a bill on Monday that makes it illegal to deny the claim that the Ottoman killings of Armenians in the late 1910s constituted genocide. The bill is expected to be approved by President Sarkozy within two weeks. The passing of the bill has caused major tensions with Turkey, and Sarkozy sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stating that the law is not intended as an affront to Turkey, but rather as a means of acknowledging the suffering of the Armenians. Comment: French-Turkish relations had been strained due to France's opposition of Turkey's EU bid; however, they had recently become more stable as a result of both countries' support of the Syrian uprising. Observers say the French bill is likely to reignite tensions. (New York Times, BBC, Euronews)SWITZERLAND: World Economic Forum meeting opens in DavosGerman Chancellor Merkel opened the World Economic Forum on Wednesday with a plea to European countries for economic reform. The eurozone debt crisis needs to be addressed through targeting structural problems, Merkel said in her keynote speech. Germany has been criticized by many, including the International Monetary Fund, for not pumping a greater amount of money into a rescue fund. Comment: A number of activists are camping out in igloos in Davos to protest the five-day forum, claiming that the world's wealthiest are failing to consider the views of the general population while making decisions that will affect the whole world. (BBC, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, AP)REGIONAL: EU sets oil embargo against IranEuropean Union foreign ministers voted Monday to ban oil imports from Iran, as well as freeze assets in Iran's EU-based central bank. The actions are a move meant to deprive Iran's nuclear program of funding. The embargo will be introduced incrementally over the coming five months. Iranian politicians have stated that they expect the EU to lift its embargo and have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz in response. Comment: Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for energy purposes, and one Iranian lawmaker called the sanctions a "mere propaganda gesture." (BBC, CNN, Reuters)
|Middle East & North Africa
IRAQ: Multiple car bombs target Shia majority, 14 dead, 70 wounded
Four separate car bombs detonated throughout Shia districts of Baghdad this week, killing 13 and injuring 62. Among the targets were gathered day laborers and a bakery in Sadr City, a high school in Shula, and a busy commercial street in Hurriya. Comment: This violence is considered by many to be attempts at undermining the fragile coalition government, and may be in response to political sectarian infighting. Last month, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (a Shia) accused Sunni Muslim Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi of running a death squad. The Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya political bloc has responded by calling for a boycott of Parliament, crippling the government in a time of already heightened tension. The attacks began within weeks of the full U.S. military withdrawal on December 18, 2011, challenging the government and security forces' ability to deal with the threat. (Reuters, BBC, AP)
ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Exploratory peace talks on two state solution end
Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, confirmed that exploratory peace talks with Israel concerning a two state solution have reached their deadline on Wednesday, January 25, with no breakthroughs. The deadline was set by the Quartet of the U.S., UN, EU, and Russia. The meetings, held in Amman, Jordan, were supposed to move forward after both sides submitted proposals dealing with borders and settlements. Abbas claims that the Palestinians submitted their proposals, but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has not due to the ongoing domestic debate over the status of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Comment: Peace talks broke down in late 2010 when Israel resumed building settlements in the West Bank, an action deemed illegal under international law. Abbas has confirmed that he will be meeting with the Arab League on Saturday, February 4, at which point he will decide whether to continue the talks. Israeli officials have stated that they would be willing to continue the exploratory talks past the deadline. (Haaretz, Washington Post, Reuters)
YEMEN: Former President Saleh given immunity
On Saturday, January 21, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was granted immunity from legal prosecution in return for abdicating the presidency. The immunity was an aspect of the Gulf mediated negotiations in November, and covers the entirety of Saleh's 33-year reign, including government crackdowns that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of anti-regime protesters. The immunity has already been criticized by Yemeni protestors, local and international human rights organizations, and the UN, which claims that those convicted of international crimes, including human rights abuses and war crimes, are not eligible for immunity. Comment: The November peace deal handed power to former Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who will run unopposed in elections scheduled for February 21. Continuing protests combined with an aggressive al-Qaeda insurgency may threaten a peaceful democratic transition. Saleh left Yemen on Sunday, January 22 for the U.S. where he was issued a temporary visa for medical treatment. (Al Jazeera, Yemen Times, MSNBC)
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban discusses peace talks with foreign governments, worries Karzai
The Taliban has reportedly revealed preliminary blueprints of its peace talks with the United States, asking Pakistan to pinpoint any issues it might have with the dialogue. The documents are also said to have been shown to the Haqqani network after Dr. Nasiruddin Haqqani traveled to the U.A.E. to discuss the possible release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanomo Bay in Cuba. After a visit from Special Representative Marc Grossman to Kabul, Afghani President Karzai expressed concern over foreign governments meddling in Taliban/U.S. peace talks. Echoing the President's sentiments, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said, "Afghans... must make decisions independently and all countries should extend diplomatic support to the Afghan peace process." Nascent Taliban peace talks are at risk because of a recent swell in violence. Comment: French President Sarkozy will host President Karzai in France this Friday before announcing whether France will pull troops from Afghanistan. The debate comes after four French soldiers were killed by an "Afghani soldier;" NATO claims there is no evidence the Taliban is associated with the deaths. (Tribune, Reuters, Tribune, AP, Le Monde)
INDIA/PAKISTAN: Trade opens door to peace talks
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani met with India's High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal this week with intentions to renew efforts in peace building. The two diplomats discussed augmenting Indo-Pakistani economic relations, and on Wednesday, Indian Oil Minister Jaipal Reddy suggested exporting oil to Pakistan. Pakistan officially bans oil imports from India, but lifting trade embargoes is seen by both powers as the catalyst to reducing hostilities. Developing new markets for oil in South Asia can additionally lead to less dependence on Iranian oil. Sanctions recently placed on Iran by the E.U. are forcing South Asian countries to review their purchases from Iran, although both Pakistan and India will continue to import from the sanctioned state this fiscal year. Comment: A proposed pipeline for trade between Pakistan and India would cost an estimated USD 7.6 billion and transfer 90 million standard cubic meters of gas every day. Afghanistan would benefit from this trade as well and could potentially receive 14 million cubic meters. (Dawn, Reuters, Economic Times)
SRI LANKA: Riots injure 30, cause Tamils to be relocated
Riots injured an estimated 30 inmates at the Magazine prison outside of Colombo on Tuesday. Sources cite conflicting reports as to what exactly caused the riots, but the head of Sri Lanka's Prison Department admitted that prison conditions in the island nation are sub-par. In response to the riots, 187 prisoners belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have since been transferred to "another jail for their own safety." Comment: Tamil news sources maintain that the riots were due to an increase in homicides against Tamils in Sri Lankan prisons. Other reports, however, claim the uprisings were a reaction to Magazine guards implementing measures against drug trafficking within the prison complex. (Tamil Guardian, Huffington Post, Minivan News)
Researched/Written by Tarek J. Nasser
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