In Other News
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered a letter (PDF) to US president-elect Donald Trump Dec. 7 signed by several US mayors warning of the potential economic losses Trump could cause if he repeals Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA allows undocumented young immigrants to remain in the US if they arrived before they turned 16 and are currently working, pursuing higher education or serving in the military. The letter, which was signed by the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco among others, warned that repealing DACA could result in a loss of $9.9 billion in tax revenue over four years and $433.4 billion in US gross domestic product over 10 years. Emanuel wrote:
We aren't sure how much method to place in Donald Trump's madness. Right on the heels of the outrage over his diplomatically incorrect telephone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen comes word that he's appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the next US ambassador to China—news that will apparently be welcome in Beijing. The New York Times says that Branstad describes China's exceptionally authoritarian President Xi Jinping as an "old friend." Reuters tells us Branstad said he's had a "30-year friendship" with Xi, and added: "The president-elect understands my unique relationship to China." A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reciprocated the warmth, calling Branstad an "old friend" of China.
A group of UN human rights experts called on the Chinese government Dec. 6 to investigate the disappearance of a prominent human rights lawyer. Jiang Tianyong has been missing since Nov. 21, after he visited the family of another human rights lawyer who has been detained since a "crackdown" on political dissidents last summer. UN experts are concerned that Jiang has been detained, possibly while traveling on a train bound for Beijing following his visit with the detained lawyer's family in Changsha. In February 2011 Jiang was detained for two months by Chinese authorities, during which he claims to have been beaten and tortured. Human rights activists claim that the crackdown in China is part of a larger effort to silence political dissidents. Jiang rose to prominence for his involvement in high profile cases, defending human rights activists, legal activists, HIV/AIDS sufferers, Tibetan protesters and other vulnerable groups.
Tens of thousands of residents of Diyarbakır's Sur district, part of the city's UNESCO world heritage site, are among an estimated half million people forced out of their homes as a result of a brutal crackdown by Turkish authorities over the past year which may amount to collective punishment, Amnesty International says in a new report. As the suppression of opposition Kurdish voices by the Turkish government intensifies, the report "Displaced and Dispossessed: Sur Residents' Right to Return Home," reveals the desperate plight of families forced out of the historical center of Diyarbakir as a result of intensive security operations toward the end of last year and an ongoing round-the-clock curfew. Homes in the once-bustling district have been destroyed by shelling, or demolished and expropriated to pave the way for a redevelopment project that very few former residents are likely to benefit from.
The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights reported Dec. 5 that over the past days some 1,400 migrants, mainly from West Africa, were taken from their homes in Algeirs by riot police—including children, pregnant women, asylum-seekers, refugees. Some were injured in the raids, and most were taken to a holding center outside the city. A convoy of 11 buses is already reported to have left Algeirs for Tamanrasset in the south, persumably to expel the detained across the border to Mali. Algerian authorities warned at the end of September that they intended to expel tens of thousands of migrants. Recent weeks have seen clashes in southern Algeria between migrants and local residents. (BBC World Service)
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court on Dec. 3 upheld a law that effectively bans protests. The law requires individuals seeking to protest to inform the interior ministry, at least three days prior, of any public gathering with more than 10 people, allows security forces to break up unapproved protests with water cannons, tear gas, and birdshot, and imposes up to five years of jail time for violation of various protest restrictions. The lawsuit had contended the law violated Article 73 of the Constitution, which provides for the "right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protest while not carrying weapons of any type, upon providing notifications as regulated by law." Despite upholding the law generally, the court did find unconstitutional a provision that allows the interior ministry to deny protest requests. In response to the ruling, human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said, "There isn't a court in Egypt that has mercy on the people."
The US Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 4 issued a statement saying that Dakota Access LLC will not be granted the last remaining easement it needs to drill under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe and complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The statement considers the possibility that the Army Corps will conduct a limited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the river crossing and explore possibilities for alternative routes. The decision comes as after weeks of protests at the crossing site, and as thousands of veterans are arriving from across the country to stand with the self-declared "water protectors" who face escalating repression at the hands of law enforcement.
A Kenyan government amnesty for Shabaab militants who renounce violence was supposed include guarantees for security and support for resettlement—generally in marginal areas, such as Majengo district, a low-income suburb of Nairobi. But both the security and aid have been elusive. A Human Rights Watch report in July alleged that security forces "have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people in the past two years during abusive counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and in northeastern Kenya." There are concerns that resettled ex-militants, receiving little aid and vulnerable to reprisal attacks, are ripe for being recuited again into the Somalia-based Shabaab network that now extends into Kenya.
As thousands of civilians flee the Assad regime's advance on eastern Aleppo, rebel groups are charging that the Kurdish-led People's Protection Units (YPG) are collaborating in the offensive. The YPG and rebels aligned with the Free Syrian Army have clashed several times in Aleppo, mostly around the Kurdish-controlled Sheikh Maqsoud enclave. In recent days, as the pro-regime forces press their advance on the east, Kurdish fighters have taken over several areas abandoned by the rebels. Photos and video showing the regime flag and the yellow YPG banner raised on top of a building were circulated on social media, suggesting that the Kurdish forces and Syrian national army were in fact fighting together. The YPG, however, said the images were faked, and denied any cooperation with the Syrian army.
In a blow to rainforest conservation in Sumatra, an Indonesian court on Nov. 29 dismissed a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the Aceh provincial government to protect the threatened Leuser Ecosystem in its land-use plan. The Central Jakarta District Court found that the provincial bylaw permitting mining within the Ecosystem caused no material losses to the plaintiffs—despite the fact that the Ecosystem is protected under national law as a "national strategic area." Five million people rely for clean water on Leuser’s forests, which also protect against natural disasters. Deforestation in Aceh's Tamiang district, for example, caused flash floods that displaced tens of thousands of people in 2006.
Gold mining in Peru has razed almost 62,500 hectares of rainforest —an area over ten times the size of Manhattan—between October 2012 and October 2016, according to a new report by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP). While the tendrils of gold mining are spreading across the country, the region of Madre de Dios still accounts for the vast majority of mining-related deforestation to date, MAAP researchers write.
With Colombia's Congress voting to approve the revised peace accord with the FARC rebels, the country is on a countdown to the full demobilization of the guerilla army. Both houses voted unanimously—75-0 in the Senate Nov. 30, and 130-0 in the Chamber of Deputies the following day. house ratified the pact a day after it was endorsed by the Senate, despite objections from the opposition. The agreement was approved in the lower house by 130-0, a day after the Senate ratified it 75-0. Lawmakers from Alvaro Uribe's hard-right opposition bloc walked out of both houses in protest before the votes were taken. President Juan Manuel Santos said that Dec. 1 is "D-Day," with the pact to be instituted immediately.
Fears that Mexico's controversial anti-narco "community police" groups could themselves be co-opted by the warring cartels appear to be vindicated by recent grim events in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Two rival "community police" networks are struggling for control of the main road linking Acapulco on the Pacific with the inland state capital Chilpancingo—dubbed the "heroin highway," as it is a main artery for delivering the illicit product of the mountains to exit-ports on the coast. Over the past weeks, over a score have been killed in fighting between the Union of Pueblos and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) and the United Front for the Security and Development of the State of Guerrero (FUSDEG), according to newspaper Milenio.
A joint security force bringing together the three nations of Central America's Northern Triangle officially began operations to fight narco-gangs and organized crime on Nov. 15. The force is made up of military, police, intelligence and border officials from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—which all face growing internal violence from criminal networks. The force was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in the Honduran border town of Ocotepeque, near the point where the three countries meet. The presidents of all three nations were in attendance.
Three justices on the Israeli Supreme Court have been sued for voting in favor of authorizing the construction of Israel's wall around the West Bank, which the International Court of Justice found illegal (PDF) in 2004. The lawsuit alleges war crimes and crimes against humanity based on the Nuremberg trials precedent that allows judges to be convicted for their role in cooperating with such crimes. Six Palestinian landowners from Beit Jala, a town near Bethlehem, filed the suit in Santiago, Chile, because Chile ascribes to the concept of universal jurisdiction. Five of the plaintiffs live in Chile, and the sixth lives in Beit Jala.