Week of February 6th
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer answers questions about the U.S raid in Yemen on February 2nd.
African Union Endorses Collective Withdrawal From ICC
A summit of the African Union has adopted a resolution calling for all members to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. While this resolution is non-binding, it comes soon after announcements by South Africa, Burundi, and The Gambia to leave the court. Support for the resolution, however, was not unanimous. Both Nigeria and Senegal have signaled their opposition to the withdrawal strategy. Since its establishment in 2002, the court, which is responsible for prosecuting crimes against humanity, has only prosecuted Africans. Human rights advocates warn that leaving the court will insulate African leaders from accountability. They argue that granting leaders impunity is counter to the AU’s stated commitment to justice. That being said, the resolution is not as strong as it appears. It doesn’t force any country to leave the court. Additionally, in the place of withdrawal, it calls for reforms to the ICC that grant more regional independence to the African court of justice and human rights. For the next few weeks, expect bitter internal debates over the prospect of withdrawal. Whether this strategy of collective withdrawal succeeds, it is a significant indictment of the ICC which derives one-third of its members from Africa.
SEBASTIAN LEDER MACEK
Eike Batista, Once Brazil’s Richest Man, Arrested
Eike Batista was arrested this past week upon his return to Rio de Janeiro from New York City, as he is implicated in the vast corruption scandal in the nation dubbed the Car Wash case, which involved Petrobras. Batista’s charge was that he bribed the former Rio de Janeiro governor, Sérgio Cabral, in order to supposedly obtain lucrative government contracts for his mining and gas companies. He apparently paid Cabral, who also has been arrested for corruption, millions through foreign bank accounts, though at the time of his arrest it was unknown exactly what the payments were for. It is also fully unclear if Batista’ travel to New York City was allowed under Brazilian law, as he left after the official arrest summons and police sought he at his home 2 days after he left Rio. Batista is a household name in Brazil and his rise to power and influence in the nation as a business mongrel and cultural personality was seen as a symbol for a modernizing and powerful Brazil rising to prominence on the world stage. It remains to be seen how harshly Batista will be prosecuted.
Duterte vs. The New People’s Army
Peace talks were scheduled to take place in Norway between Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, and the communist rebels, also known as the New People’s Army (NPA). The communist rebels asked for the release of four hundred prisoners, a task that Duterte deemed excessive. This news has followed the conclusion of a six-month ceasefire between the competing sides. The Duterte government had temporarily freed certain communist leaders to take part in these peace negotiations overseas, but now these individuals are facing their return to jail. Last week, talks took place in Italy with the aim of negotiating a truce, but the rebels demanded the release of four hundred more political prisoners. The ceasefire has broken down recently because of renewed fighting. Mr. Duterte has held two rounds of formalized discussions with the rebels to no avail. This conflict has roots beginning almost fifty years ago with a struggle between the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA, claiming about thirty thousand lives. The rebels claim that the country has used the drug war to begin operations in their territory during the ceasefire. Stay tuned to see if a peace deal will continue to elude the Philippines.
Romanian Government Repeals Controversial Decree
On February 4, amid mass protests in major cities across the country, the Romanian government decided to withdraw a controversial emergency decree from January 31. The decree, which decriminalized certain forms of corruption, has mobilized the largest mass protests Romania has seen since the violent overthrow of Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989. Even the influential Romanian Orthodox Church has publicly expressed its opposition to the decree. Even though Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has since given into the public pressure and pulled the decree, criticism against him has continued, with some continuing to protest for his resignation.Over the last 25 years, Romania has had a history of mass protests ending in the ousting of a government leader. Aside from the fall of communism in 1989, the protests of 2015 also deserve mention. In November 2015, outrage over a fatal nightclub fire evolved into broader outrage against government policies, which ultimately resulted in the resignation of then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Given this history, watch for further developments as the Romanian government withdraws the decree and handles the political repercussions.
Trump Administration’s Military Raid in Yemen Raises Questions
On Wednesday the US military announced an investigation to be launched into the civilian deaths that occurred during a botched raid on an al-Qaeda base in Yemen, the first such mission to be approved by President Donald Trump. After initially denying that any civilian casualties occurred, U.S Central Command released a statement concluding “regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed” in the raid, and also claimed to have killed 14 al-Qaeda militants. Medics on the scene report that up to 30 civilians, among them children, died, sparking outrage in Yemen. Anonymous military officials released statements to both the New York Times and Reuters that claimed the operation was launched without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or backup preparations. Consequently, the SEAL team dropped onto a heavily reinforced al-Qaeda base and was subsequently involved in a “brutal firefight” with militants on the scene. A White House official reported that the base had been identified as a target before former President Barack Obama left office, but a raid had not been approved. On Friday the U.S military released clips from a training video seized in the raid, but the images were later found to be old footage made public over 10 years ago.