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In brief

News of the week

von Wolf Dagmar

In Kürze

Amnesty International labels 2014 a “devastating year” / Court rules against clauses in Kenya’s anti-terrorism law / Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change loses leader / Bangladeshi judges want former prime minister arrested / Electricity shortages stall South African economy

Amnesty International sees global failure

According to Amnesty International, 2014 was a “devastating year”. In its new annual report, the human-rights organisation discusses regional crises from Syria to Gaza and Nigeria, and tackles organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram. A core concern is that civilians, non-governmental organisations and diplomats are increasingly attacked by armed parties in conflict regions. Amnesty points out that not only irregular militias are guilty of atrocities.

The agency argues that the international community has failed to fulfil its duties according to the “responsibility to protect” (R2P). That legal principal was adopted by the UN in 2005. In particular, Amnesty accuses the permanent members of the Security Council of not doing what they can to prevent terrible crimes and save lives.

On top of dealing with the impacts of civil strife, the report discusses issues that do not make headlines that often – including, for instance, discrimination of homosexual persons.

The comment of Germany’s left-leaning newspaper Tageszeitung was twofold: It noted that Amnesty International campaigns for a legally binding world order to prevent humanitarian disasters have not led to the desired results – in spite of new institutions such as the International Criminal Court and new principles such as R2P. Despite or precisely because of that, the work of this non-governmental organisation is now more important than ever.

Sources: FAZ, taz



Court rules against clauses in Kenyan anti-terrorism law

Kenya’s top-level judges have decided that some clauses in the country’s new anti-terrorism law are unconstitutional. According to their ruling, the state is not allowed to restrict media coverage of security operations, as that would limit the freedom of expression. The law had foreseen punishment for publishing material that might cause “fear or alarm”.

Moreover, the judges decided that the number of refugees that come to Kenya must not be capped at 150,000, as the government had intended to do. Currently, about half a million refugees live in Kenya. Many of them are from Somalia, where Kenyan troops are fighting the Islamist al-Shabaab militia.

On the other hand, the judges ruled that the government may detain terrorism suspects for almost a year without starting court cases. According to the previous legal regulation, the maximum time was 90 days.

The government indicated that it is considering an appeal. It introduced the law as a response to a terror attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013.

Sources: VoA, BBC


Pachauri quits IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has lost its leader. Rajendra Pachauri resigned from that position because he is accused of sexual harassment at the Indian institution he heads. A young woman who works at TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) went to the police in Delhi to report her grievances. Pachauri denies any wrongdoing.

Because of the allegations, he did not take part in a recent IPCC meeting in Nairobi. A court in Delhi has ordered Pachauri to stay away from TERI. In his resignation letter, he states: “The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under current circumstances I may be unable to provide.”

A new leader for the IPCC will be elected in October. Until then, Ismail El Gizouli, the Sudanese vice chairman, will head the panel. He has been an IPCC member for over a decade.

With Pachauri at its helm, the IPCC published a series of reports on the impacts of climate change. They were widely appreciated by the scientific community, but have proved politically controversial. In 2007, the IPCC won the Nobel Prize together with Al Gore, the former US vice president “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.

Sources: Times of India, The Economic Times, nobelprize.org, FAZ


Court wants former prime minister of Bangladesh arrested

An anti-corruption court in Dhaka has issued an arrest warrant for Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister of Bangladesh. She is accused of having siphoned off at least $ 650,000 in two separate cases during her last term in office from 2001 to 2006, but did not appear for hearings. Her son, who now lives in London, is also accused. The court calls him a “fugitive”. Khaleda stated that she could not attend the hearings for security reasons.

Observers worry that the court’s decision may aggravate Bangladesh’s political crisis. Khaleda’s BNP party has been calling supporters to go on strike and block traffic to express their dissatisfaction with the government for about two months. At least 110 persons have died in riots and clashes with the security forces. The Islamist organisation Jamaat-e-Islami is an ally of the BNP. The International Crisis Group warns that violent Islamist factions are reviving.

The opposition parties are weak in the national parliament because they boycotted the last election. That stance allowed the Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to win a huge majority for the second time in a row in January 2014. Sheikh Hasina, however, has often been criticised for poor governance and increasingly authoritarian leanings.

Sources: Asian Age, FT


Low growth in South Africa

The South African government has lowered its annual growth forecast to only two percent, down from the 2.5 % predicted in October. Problems in power supply were indicated as the main reason for the revision. According to the Ministry of Finance, inadequate provision of electricity is hampering mining, manufacturing and investments in housing, while driving inflation for consumers and businesses at the same time.

Last year, South Africa’s growth rate had fallen below two percent for the first time since the global financial crisis caused a recession in 2009. Strikes affected the economy last year, but it had been rebounding in the fourth quarter. South Africa is the continent’s most developed economy, but it needs strong growth to reduce poverty nonetheless.

Source: FT

These items were compiled by Hans Dembowski on the basis of international media coverage.

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