The high court of Ecuador's Pastaza province on July 12 upheld a lower court ruling to protect the land rights of the Waorani indigenous people from oil drilling. The Pastaza Court of Justice rejected the Environment Ministry's appeal of the lower court decision to bar plans to open 180,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest to oil development before "prior consultation" with the Waorani is carried out. (AFP, July 12) Simultaneously, however, the Ministry approved the environmental assessment plans to drill for oil in a sensitive area of Yasuni National Park, where isolated or "uncontacted" indigenous peoples are believed to be living.
An appeals court in Rome sentenced 24 to life in prison on July 8, including former senior officials of the military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. The officials were found to have been involved in Operation Condor, under which opponents of military rule were tracked down and eliminated across South America's borders in the 1970s and early '80s. The exact number of people who were killed through this operation is not known. The case before the court focused on the disappearance of 43 people, 23 of whom were Italian citizens. The prosecutors applied the universal jurisdiction precedent from the 1998 arrest in London of Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. They also referenced the 2016 conviction of leaders of Argentina's military dictatorship, which confirmed the existence of Operation Condor for the first time.
Seven Crimean Tatars were detained in Moscow on July 10 while holding a peaceful picket calling for an end to ethnic and religious persecution in Russian-annexed Crimea. Around 20 activists—most in their 50s and 60s, veterans of the Crimean Tatar national movement—gathered in Red Square with placards reading: "Our children are not terrorists"; "The fight against terrorism in Crimea is a fight against dissidents" and "Stop persecution on ethnic and religious lines in Crimea." The picket was held in advance of an appeal hearing for four Crimean Tatars facing "terrorism" charges for their membership in the civil organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. The detained protesters were charged with holding an unauthorized demonstration. One of those arrested is the father of one of the "terrorism" defendants.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 8 convicted Bosco Ntaganda, a notorious Congolese rebel commander known as "The Terminator," of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes were committed in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from 2002 to 2003. Ntaganda was found guilty of "murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation" of populations, along with war crimes such as "intentionally directing attacks against civilians." Ntaganda maintained his innocence throughout the trial. He was indicted in 2006 but served as a general in the DRC's army before turning himself in in 2013.
A new agreement was announced July 5 between Sudan's opposition coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), and the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC). The agreement, brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia, provides for power to be shared through a Sovereign Council, to be made up of five members of the FFC, five members of the military, and one chosen jointly as a nominal president. (Jurist) Among the FFC's constituent groups are two armed rebel factions active in the conflicted Darfur region, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). After the new transition deal was announced, these two groups both issued statements denying Sudanese media reports that they had dropped out of the FFC—claims that may originate in a TMC stratagem to remove the Darfur question from the opposition agenda. (Sudan Tribune)
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."