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Cameroon’s security forces have been accused of carrying out a torture campaign against people purportedly known to support the Islamist group Boko Haram. Survivor testimonies have revealed more than 100 cases of illegal punishment and inhumane prison conditions. Amnesty International has called for a thorough investigation into the abuses in order to adequately gauge what would amount to war crimes. Boko Haram has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,500 Cameroonians in the past three years.
South African politician Makhosi Khozi will receive police protection after getting anonymous death threats because of her critical comments about President Jacob Zuma. Zuma, due to step down from as his party’s head this December, has denied all accusations of corruption.
The Indonesian government banned a radical Islamist group on Wednesday. The organization, Hizbut Tahrir, wanted to create a global caliphate and orchestrated disruptive protests and rallies. Some pluralist groups welcome the decision as a way to halt radicalization. The Indonesian branch of the Human Rights Watch criticized the ban and deemed it "undemocratic" even if the group is controversial.
Members of a large-scale human trafficking organization were convicted in a criminal court in Thailand, including a high-ranking army officer. The individuals were involved in luring people from Bangladesh and Myanmar that were looking for work in Thailand, and then imprisoning them and using them as slaves. The investigation commenced following the discovery of a mass grave of 37 bodies in 2015 close to the border with Malaysia.
China has increased its censorship in a number of different areas of private and public life. The children’s character Winnie the Pooh has been banned on some sites as internet users compared the bear to the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. The messaging service Whatsapp was also partially blocked, removing one of the last remaining free encrypted apps. Beijing has also censored photos and dialogue surrounding Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize laureate who recently died.
A couple of weeks into Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union, political analysts say that not much of substance has so far been accomplished. The “shambolic” negotiations have largely been attributed to a lack of consensus vision for “Brexit,” particularly among the governing Conservative Party, which has faced major infighting since Prime Minister Theresa May lost a parliamentary majority in last month’s election. Although May’s prime ministership, much like Brexit itself, remains speculative, the two-year hard deadline for negotiations is set to limit Britain’s wiggle room in securing a deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron has come under criticism this week domestically after successfully establishing himself internationally. On Wednesday, military chief Pierre de Villiers quit due to announced cuts in spending on the army and other differences with Macron. During his election campaign Macron also promised tax cuts, but it is now becoming clear that this will not become a reality soon with regards to meeting EU budget deficit rules. It appears that Macron’s reforms will not be as ‘facile’ as previously thought with domestic disapproval on the rise.
The Polish government, which is dominated by the populist Law and Justice Party, has gradually been introducing anti-democratic measures, including control over media, public gatherings, and NGOs. Demonstrations have erupted this week as the government tried to increase its dominance over the court, the last major independent government institution. In response to these measures, three former Polish presidents, including Lech Walesa, have expressed their concerns.
In another shift from his predecessor, U.S. President Donald Trump added new sanctions on Iran that are intended to reaffirm his commitment to challenge Tehran. The announcement of the sanctions, which tack on more names to the non-nuclear sanctions blacklist, came on the same day that Trump confirmed Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Iranian authorities have criticized the set of unilateral sanctions as being counterproductive to not just amicable ties between the two countries but to nuclear disarmament as a whole.
The Trump administration has ended a clandestine program that provided arms and supplies to Syrian rebel groups, thereby all but giving up on implementing regime change in the country. Authorized by President Barack Obama, the arms deal was difficult to implement because there was no way of predicting the future loyalties of armed groups. Not only will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s hand further strengthen as a result of this move, but his allies, Russia and Iran, are also likely to be pleased. Be that as it may, American-run programs targeting jihadists of the Islamic State in Syria will continue uninterrupted.
A U.S. Senate healthcare bill, designed to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act, failed yet again to be passed this week after losing more support from Republican’s own senators. This is a serious blow to U.S. President Trump, who has made abolishing Obamacare a clear priority and has become exasperated at the difficulties of altering health care legislation.
President Trump has been subject to criticism again this week following a number of controversial statements. In an interview with the New York Times, he stated that he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as his attorney general if he knew he would recuse himself from the ongoing inquiry conducted by the FBI into Russian involvement in Trump’s campaign. Trump also said it would be wrong for special counsel Robert Mueller to look into his finances and business deals as well.
Following an unofficial referendum that rejected a government plan to rewrite the constitution, political opposition leaders called on workers to take part in a 24-hour national strike in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has refused to recognize the vote and plans to go ahead with a Constitutional Assembly election on July 30 that will revamp the country’s political system. Many Venezuelans see Maduro’s move as merely a means for him to fill the court with his own people meaning that the election is likely to only further destabilize the fractured nation.
Latin American countries have registered on average modest economic growth of 1-1.5% this year, after nearly three years of little to no economic expansion. Although there is significant dichotomy between each of the countries, the overarching economic prognosis for the region is sluggish. Experts cite falling commodity prices, growing public debt, unpopular leaders, and corruption among other things that are hurting Latin America’s economic prospects. If the region does not secure a greater degree of policy certainty, it will have a difficult time seeing strong growth in the near future.
News That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity
An all-girl Afghan robotics team, which was twice denied visas to the U.S., was allowed to participate after an intervention from Donald Trump. The team thrived at the First Global robotics competition and received a silver medal for “courageous achievement.” The young women attracted widespread media coverage and attention from politicians, including Ivanka Trump and the Afghan ambassador Hamdullah Mohib.
A new report by the UN made public that AIDS related deaths have halved from 1.9 million in 2005 to one million last year. Drug treatment has been increasingly available for those affected and the UN-sponsored program is working hard to diagnose and prevent the disease from spreading.