DGI Brief - Sep 29, 2016
- USA: The controversial “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (JASTA) bill allows any foreign country to be tried in US courts for involvement in terrorism on US soil. It was vetoed by President Barack Obama who warned US could face reciprocal lawsuits & its foreign policy, national security & counterterrorism efforts could be compromised by JASTA. Why it matters: The world, especially the Middle East, responded with collective “hypocrisy” call, pointing to the US demanding justice only for its own victims of terrorism. It is true there are lots of controversial US interventions around the world that could perhaps inspire lawsuits against America. But experts also say that the bill lacks teeth & includes many obstacles to actually sue a sovereign country. Which country do you think would be the first to sue the US for terrorism?
- SUDAN: According to an investigation by Amnesty International based on satellite images, extensive interviews & clinical evidence from the victims injuries, the Sudanese government used chemical weapons in Darfur on at least 30 occasions in 2016 killing 250 people, destroying up to 171 villages in the Jebel Marra region. Experts conclude that chemical weapons known as ‘blister agents’ that include sulfur mustard, nitrogen & lewisite were used. Sudanese government denies the allegations. Why it matters: another war crime attributed to President Omar al-Bashir. Amnesty International is calling on the UN Security Council to authorize an official probe & action. But Sudan is notorious for banning aid & rights groups from accessing areas in question, suspending visas & permits for humanitarians in Sudan & creating insurmountable administrative obstacles for UN’s operations. 13 years & counting…
- WORLD: Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to limit the output of crude oil, a first such deal since the 2008 market crash. The cut is minimal, down to between 32.5m & 33m barrels a day from current 33.24m bpd. Oil prices & shares immediately rose by average 6%. Why it matters: This needed move could boost the stagnating economies of oil producing countries & give investors more confidence, but it is still a long shot because many OPEC members are unwilling to limit production – like Iran, Libya & Nigeria who want to catch up on years of conflict & sanctions & reach full peak capacity. Will they resist or give in? Keep watching – next meeting will be in November in Vienna.
- CHINA’s authorities will set up zones in 18 districts & towns in Hebei province where factories & households will not be allowed to burn coal or power by petroleum coke in order to reduce hazardous smog. Hebei, where Beijing is located, is the home of 7 of China’s 10 smoggiest cities. Why it matters: Governments stepping in where human activity causes public health & environmental issues is one of the most effective solutions. Chinese officials will provide allowances for the more than 1 million residents who use coal-fuelled heating systems to upgrade & switch to electricity & natural gas. The enforcement may prove difficult as for many people it is an issue of economics & affordability. The other problem is that the clean-energy zones exclude cities with Hebei’s most polluting steelmakers, likely for lobbying reasons. So fantastic first step, but many more steps are needed.
- TURKEY: UNHCR & human rights group report that none of the Syrian refugees returned from Greece to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey migrant deal have received the refugee protection status guaranteed under the deal. EU Commission seems indifferent to the issue, claiming “adequate standards” are in place. Moreover, UNHCR is supposed to access the facilities where the returning Syrian refugees are sheltered, but Turkish authorities have also been denying access. Why it matters: Sure sounds like key aspects of the migrant swap deal are not being upheld. Is Turkey a ‘safe third country’ if it does not provide such fundamental rights as temporary protection status? The deportation of refugees & migrants back to Turkey cannot continue if all – let alone the most basic - guarantees are denied. Once again, it is the most vulnerable people escaping unimaginable situations that suffer the impact of this faulty agreement.
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