Rebel groups seeking independence for Indonesia's West Papua region have announced formation of a new united army under a single command. Three major factions have come together as the West Papua Army, under the political leadership of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The three tendencies agreed to unite in a "Vanimo Border Declaration" issued in May, the ULMWP's UK-exiled leader Benny Wenda announced July 5, appealing for international support. "We welcome any assistance in helping us achieve our liberation," he said in a statement. "The ULMWP is ready to form an independent West Papua. Politically and militarily we are united now. The international community can now see without a doubt that we are ready to take over our country. Indonesia cannot stigmatize us as separatists or criminals any more, we are a legitimate unified military and political state-in-waiting." The new force unites the West Papua Liberation Army, the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army. (Al Jazeera, Radio New Zealand)
Deforestation in Brazil's portion of the Amazon rainforest rose more than 88% in June compared with the same month a year ago—the second consecutive month of rising forest loss under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. According to data from the Brazilian Space Agency, deforestation totaled 920 square kilometers (355 square miles). (The Guardian, July 3) An analysis of satellite data by BBC News finds that "An area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch [soccer field] is now being cleared every single minute." A sobering study published June 24 in the journal Nature: Climate Change warns of a feedback loop in which climate change fueled in large part by rainforest destruction may itself become a cause of rainforest destruction and biodiversity loss: "Deforestation is currently the major threat to Amazonian tree species but climate change may surpass it in just a few decades." (Courthouse News Service)
A US district court judge ruled on July 1 that the Department of Homeland Security cannot hold migrants seeking asylum indefinitely as was previously ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Judge Marsha Pechman, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, held that section 235(b)(1)(B)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits releasing on bond persons who have been found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home country, violates the US Constitution. Pechman's decision stated that the plaintiffs in the case, Padilla vs ICE, have established that asylum seekers have "a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty" and a "right to due process, which includes a hearing."
Hong Kong protesters stormed and occupied the city's legislative chamber on July 1, which marked the 22nd anniversary of the handover from British to Chinese rule. The protesters, many wearing helmets, spray-painted the walls with slogans including "Oppose Chinese colonialism." But some, at least, betrayed a nostalgia for the earlier colonialism. Hong Kong Free Press writes: "A British colonial flag—often used in protesters—was also unfurled at the president's chair." And sure enough, the former colonial power has emerged as defender of the protest movement. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warns China of "serious consequences" over the Hong Kong repression, and will not rule out sanctions, BBC reports.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for an independent investigation of the "outrageous" bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya's capital Tripoli July 2. The attack killed at least 44 migrants and refugees, including women and children, and injured more than 130. Guterres noted that the UN had given its exact coordinates to the warring parties in the ongoing Libyan conflict. This was also emphasized by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, which said in a statement: "Coordinates of such centres in Tripoli are well known to combatants, who also know those detained at Tajoura are civilians." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said, with requisite caution: "This attack may, depending on the precise circumstances, amount to a war crime."
Sudan's opposition coalition, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), has renewed its call for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand power to a civilian-led authority, and announced a general strike to press this demand starting July 14. The call was issued a day after the "Millions March" demonstrations of June 30—which again saw security forces firing on protesters, leaving seven dead and more than 180 wounded. The TMC has formed an investigative commission into the June 3 attack on a pro-democracy sit-in outside the army headquarters, in which over a hundred were killed. (Sudan Tribune, Al Jazeera)
For the past two weeks, thousands of protesters across Algeria have defied attempts by the security forces to seize Amazigh (Berber) flags after army chief Ahmed Gaïd Salah declared that only the national flag would be permitted in the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations. Police used tasers against protesters in the capital Algiers June 30, and made numerous arrests. Among those arrested for wearing a t-shirt with the Amazigh national symbol was 25-year old Samira Messouci, an elected member of the People's Assembly (regional parliament) in Tizi Ouzou wilaya (province). The Assembly has issued a statement demanding his release. (El Watan, MENA Solidarity Network)
Dozens of members of Ethiopia's National Movement of Amhara (NaMa) have been arrested in the week since the ethnic-based opposition party apparently attempted to seize power in Amhara state in a regional coup. In the June 23 uprising, the regional president and three officials were killed in Amhara's capital, Bahir Dar. The army's chief of staff, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, was also killed by his own bodyguards in the national capital, Addis Ababa. NaMa has denied any link to the violence, and says 250 of its followers have been detained in the sweeps, both in Ahmara and neighboring Oromia. Established a year ago, NaMa has quickly come to challenge Amhara regional state's ruling Amhara Democratic Party, which is aligned with the national ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The Amhara people, traditionally dominant in Ethiopia before the 1974 revolution, are growing increasingly restive under the rule of the EPRDF, which they perceive as dominated by the Tigray people. (Borkena, France24, Al Jazeera, The Reporter Ethiopia, DefenceWeb, BBC News)