As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)
With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary’s parliament voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree. The Russian parliament has approved an “anti-virus” package that includes up to seven years imprisonment for serious violations of quarantine rules. Israel has joined South Korea in authorizing use of personal cellphone data to track the virus. Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has declared a “state of catastrophe,” sending the military to public squares recently occupied by protesters. Military patrols are also enforcing the lockdown in Peru, Italy, Romania and South Africa. “We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close on the heels of a health epidemic,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (Photo: Peruvian army demonstration video, via YouTube)
Amnesty International urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. The African Mining Indaba conference is set to run this week, but civil organizations are holding their own counter-conference to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the industry. Amnesty said in a statement: “From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively.” (Photo via Africa Up Close)
Under tradition, only men can inherit the chieftaincy title in Lesotho, the land-locked mountain kingdom of southern Africa, Now, one woman, Senate Masupha, is seeking to change this. Masupha is the only child of David Masupha, former chief of several villages and direct descendant of Moshoeshoe I, founder of the kingdom. When her father died in 1996, her mother took up the position, as tradition allowed widows of chiefs to become custodians of the title until a male heir is ready. But when her mother died in 2008, the title went to her uncle. Masupha challenged the kingdom's Chieftainship Act, but the courts ruled the law could only be changed by parliament—which has refused to act. Mamathe continues to assert her claim, and campaign for the rights of women in Lesotho. (Photo: Face2FaceAfrica)
The International Criminal Court ruled that South Africa violated its treaty obligations by failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited the country in 2015.
Leaders of multiple African countries announced that they have backed a "strategy of collective withdrawal" from the International Criminal Court.
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The UN adopted a resolution—hailed by disarmament campaigners as an important landmark—to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
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Some 40,000 marched through central Cape Town to protest the Gaza "massacre" at South Africa's parliament, with banners reading "Israel is a racist apartheid regime."