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Fujimori Granted Pardon by President Kuczynski

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Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was pardoned on 24th December 2017 by Peruvian President Kuczynski. In a statement released, Kuczynski stated that “A medical panel has determined Mr Fujimori has a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease and the jail conditions present a grave risk to his life and health”. On the 25th of December, protests erupted across the country in response to the pardoning. Protestors have called for an annulment of the pardoning and the immediate resignation of Kuczynski, with 4 people being detained after police and protestors clashed. As of the 9th of January, Kuczynski has had to replace over half of his 19 member cabinet after the pardoning of Fujimori triggered a wave of political resignations.

Fujimori, who was in power between 1990- 2000, left Peru in 2000 to attend a summit in Brunei, and travelled to Japan soon after where he stayed after faxing his resignation and remained there in self-imposed exile. In 2001, Peruvian congress authorised charges to be brought against Fujimori, after which Interpol put out a warrant for his arrest. Japan however was not amenable to the extradition of Fujimori. In November 2005, Fujimori landed in Chile, but was arrests just hours after his arrival. In September 2007, Fujimori was finally extradited to Peru and arrested. Peruvian congress lifted the immunity that comes with being a former leader to allow criminal charges and prosecution to be brought against him.

In 2007, Fujimori was sentenced to 6 years in jail on charges of ordering an illegal search and seizure. Fujimori then had further charges brought against him, and in April 2009 was convicted of human rights violations and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in killings and kidnappings by the Grupo Colina death squad during his government’s battle against leftist guerrillas in the 1990s. Just months later, Fujimori was sentence to a further 7 and a half years after admitting to giving $15 million to intelligence service chief Vladimiro Montesinos from the Peruvian treasury. A fourth charge of bribery was brought against him giving him an additional 6 year sentence. In total, Fujimori was given almost 45 years’ worth of sentences, however under Peruvian law would only serve the maximum term of 25 years for all of his crimes. At the time of his pardoning, Fujimori was only 12 years into his 25 year sentence.

The Inter-American Human Rights Court has held a public hearing on the legality of Peru’s humanitarian pardon. At the hearing, the victims’ families have testified against the pardoning. They hope to have Fujimori’s pardoning annulled and have argued the pardoning itself was ‘illegal’ and ‘arbitrary’. With protests continuing regarding the pardoning, it looks unlikely the matter will be resolved anytime soon.

Vessel Reported Missing in the Gulf of Guinea

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India’s minister of external affairs reported on Sunday 4 February that a vessel carrying 22 Indian crewmembers and 13,500 tonnes of gasoline is missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost in Benin on Friday 2 February. The latest incident, the second to take place this year, has sparked concerns for vessels transiting this region.

The Marine Express tanker, managed by Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern, was last seen in Benin’s waters at 3:30 AM GMT on Friday after which contact was lost, an Anglo-Eastern spokesman has disclosed. Anglo-Eastern has reported that the cause of the loss of communication was unknown and that a search was underway, conducted with the help of Nigerian and Beninese authorities. According to the spokesman, contact was lost with the vessel, which was at the Cotonou Anchorage in Benin, West Africa. India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj disclosed on Twitter that 22 Indian nationals were on board the vessel.

This latest incident comes after a company lost communication with its tanker on 10 January. The tanker had been anchored in Cotonou. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), after a six-day search the tanker and crewmembers were found safely in Lagos after the tanker owner negotiated with the hijackers.

Maritime experts continue to warn that the Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents have declined worldwide in recent years. While over the last decades piracy-related issues were focused off the coast of Eastern Africa, particularly in Somalia’s waters, in recent years the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea have significantly increased. According to a January report compiled by the IMB, vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea in 2017 were the target of a series of piracy-related incidents, with IMB highlighting that the waters off the coast of West Africa were a growing concern. According to figures released by the IMB, in 2017 there were ten incidents of kidnap that involved 65 crewmembers, with the incidents being reported in or around Nigerian waters. Globally, sixteen vessels were reported being fired upon last year, seven of which occurred in waters in the Gulf of Guinea.

Human trafficking in Southeast Asia

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If someone is following the news, not a single day passes without a report on some kidnappings or human trafficking. This is extremely true if one looks at East and Southeast Asia. According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2016 report, the share of the detected victims of human trafficking is increasing every year. Half of the victims are women and nearly one third of the victims are children.

In the case of Southeast Asia, more than half of the victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation. 7800 victims were detected between 2012 and 2014. 60% of these victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. In a recent Indian government report the number of reported human trafficking cases were more than 8000. The Freedom Project, an Indian anti-slavery charity says, the trend reflected by the data is pretty accurate, although it does not include the unreported cases, which means much more people fall victim of human trafficking. Most of the victims are forced to work in their country of origin, or they are smuggled to neighbouring countries. Longer flows are destined to wealthier regional countries like Japan or Australia. Terrorist groups, like ISIS or the Taliban, are also highly interested in human trafficking.

The second biggest reason for trafficking people is forced labour. Those trafficked for labour usually work in the fishing industry, such as in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. It usually means working for more than 16 hours a day without any compensation.

Between 2012-2014 nearly 5000 offenders were prosecuted for trafficking.

There are many forms of fight against human trafficking. The cabin and ground crew of two Malaysian airlines will be taught to spot possible victims. The crew will be trained to ask specific questions and look for signs of body language. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will launch its human trafficking awareness campaign in 2018. Guidelines train crew members to look for indicators of human trafficking. Key indicators include passengers not in control of their own travel documents, acting nervous or frightened and being inconsistent about their destinations. In Bangladesh, police forces held a conference to heighten the awareness and sensitivity of Police Personnel in December 2017. Cambodia and India are both source, transit and destination countries for human trafficking. Both countries use modern technologies to help low-skilled workers to find local jobs, avoid traffickers and fake recruiters. In Cambodia, Bong Pheak, a free recruitment service offers an application which provides workers access to more than 500 registered and checked employers. In India, there are mobile applications matching women with domestic employers, bypassing fraudulent intermediaries.

All the victims become traumatised because of what they have gone through, been forced to do and because of all the suffering. Agencies and local organisations realised that some of the countries’ health and medical services are not prepared to help reintegrate people experiencing such mental and physical problems. In northern Vietnam, local social organisations are providing shelter and aid for human trafficking victims with the help of previous victims.

Germany and Refugees

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Germany’s open acceptance of refugees have put a massive strain on the country. The recent talks to form a government were bogged down over issues of refuges, and a political party with connections in the far right has been gaining more power. Refugees have changed the political landscape of Germany.

After the brutal civil war in Syria many fled the country. They fled to Europe where they were not always accepted. Germany opened their arms to the refugees. There were scenes of people cheering when they arrived in train stations and the German government suspended the Dublin rules for Syrian refugees; The Dublin rules state that asylum seekers can only apply for asylum in the country that they arrive in. The move lessened the impact of the refugees on countries like Greece and Hungary, but put Germany’s infrastructure under a lot of pressure as over 150,000 refuges were accepted in 2015. As of 2017 Germany had accepted an estimative 1.5 million immigrants. The cost of settling and educating the refugees was put at 21 billion.

Angela Merkel championed the refugees and it won her praise but also a lot of criticism even from members of her own party. The election in 2017 reduced Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) vote by 8%. Many of the CDU were afraid of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) during the election as they were appealing to the right wing, as such they didn’t offer much protection to the refugees. In the aftermath of the election Merkel’s old coalition partners the Social Democratic Party (SDP) claimed it wouldn’t seek another coalition forcing the CDU to have to forge a government with two other parties. After four weeks negotiation failed, one of the major issues between them was asylum. The SDP later agreed to talk but asylum remained a contentious issue between the two parties. After much negotiation the parties agreed and formed the government 3 months after the election.

While many in Germany opened their arms to the refugees at first the sentiment has definitely soured over the years. In 2015 there was a sharp increase in attacks against refugee’s homes by far right groups. Germany also suffered several terrorist attacks from some of the refugees that had been accepted, fueling the political rise of the AfD. The far right linked party became the third largest party after they received 11% of the vote, an increase of 6% from the last election. The party has flirted with taboo subjects such as ‘reclaiming’ völkisch a word used by the Nazis when referring to the German race; they have also taken to referring to the press as Lügenpresse or lying press. The party owes its success to the influx of immigrants and is exposing a dark underbelly in Germany.

Refugees has changed Germany, in this period of change the country faces uncertainty and it is reflected in its political process that left them without a government for several months and a rising extreme party.

The battle against ISIS: Iraq and Syria

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Last month both Iraq and Syria declared victory over the Islamic State with reports stating that ISIS lost 98 percent of the territory it once held in both regions. However, last Monday two suicide bombers managed to launch an attack in a busy market, in central Baghdad, killing at least 38 people and injuring hundreds. Although no terrorist group has claimed responsibility, the Islamic State group is suspected to be behind the bombing as it has claimed such attacks in the past. In December, the government announced that ISIS had been expelled from the Baghdad region and urban areas of Iraq that it controlled. Nevertheless, Jihadist elements are still active; on Saturday, a suicide bomb attack near a security checkpoint killed at least five people in northern Baghdad. There was also no immediate claim of responsibility for that bombing. The bombings come as Iraq gears up for elections in May, raising questions about the government’s readiness to deal with the security challenges posed by the group’s retreat to its insurgent roots. Analysts have warned that ISIS would increasingly turn to such tactics as it was pushed underground after losing territory on both Iraq and Syria.

On the other hand, in Syria a government bombardment killed 17 civilians on Saturday across the besieged opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta- which has been under government siege since 2013. The United Nations has said about 500 people are in critical condition inside Eastern Ghouta and need to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment. In the first 14 days of the year, more than 30 children were killed in Eastern Ghouta, a report by UNICEF found. Last week, at least 25 civilians were reported killed in air strikes on two towns in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. The air raids are believed to be part of the government’s assault on rebel-held positions in Eastern Ghouta, a neighbourhood near Damascus. A missile was also fired last week in Syria’s Idlib province at a makeshift camp for displaced people from the nearby Hama province. In the past week, tens of thousands of civilians in the north-western Idlib province have been uprooted, many of them for a second or third time, by Russian and Syrian airstrikes. In total, more than 200,000 people have fled. Last week, aid workers told BBC that at least 10 hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria had suffered direct air or artillery attacks within a 10-day period.

And while the battle against the rebels continues with more people suffering catastrophic consequences, experts both in and outside the U.S. government warn that ISIS remains a lethal threat, as it demonstrated by a double suicide bombing in Baghdad on Monday. Hisham al-Hashimi, an adviser to the Iraqi government in its battle against ISIS, told NBC News that while the number of active fighters on the battlefield is probably in the range of 1,000 to 1,500, the actual number of ISIS-loyalists in Iraq and Syria is closer to 10,000. In the meantime, the manhunt for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi continues across Iraq and Syria with the US looking optimistic of his location.

A few days ago, the US army announced the troop and military personnel will continue their presence in both Iraq and Syria in order to ensure the regional stability. This announcement comes amid growing dissatisfaction towards the US- led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria which have resulted, according to reports, in thousands of civilian casualties- 31 times more civilians than the number of the casualties stated by the US army. But news broke on 13 January that the US was helping the Syrian Democratic Forces (an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG) build a new “border security force”- an announcement that enraged Turkey which considers the force to be a “terror army”.

Meanwhile, Turkey since the 20th January has begun assault operations on Afrin, aiming to clear the Kurdish forces from the region. Nonetheless, a siege in Afrin could have further humanitarian consequences in Syria- Kurdish officials saying that there could be 1 million people living in the area. And while Russia has stated that will not be part of the conflict, it is suspected that since Russia controls the territory’s airspace therefore Turkey’s airstrikes must have had Russian clearance.

However, while the battle against ISIS is coming to an end, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq and with the upcoming elections concern is rising. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight. On the other hand, both ISIS-free Iraq and Syria will likely feature more powerful actors such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or Israel competing for greater influence with the US. The Syrian government stated on Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Syria represented an “aggression” against Syrian authority, and vowed to free the country from any “illegitimate” foreign presence. At the same time the humanitarian crisis deepens with millions uprooted, several killed from airstrikes, and others succumbed from starvation or the freezing temperatures while trying to cross to Lebanon.