Conflict Weekly 46

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Conflict Weekly 46
Electoral violence in Africa, War crimes in Afghanistan, COVID's third global wave, and Protest escalation in Thailand

  IPRI Team

IPRI # 124, 26 November 2020

Africa: In 2020, electoral violence remains a constant in Uganda, Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Guinea
In the news
On 20 November, one of the strongest opposition voices in Uganda, Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine was released on bail after being arrested for the second time in a month. His last arrest sparked protests across the capital city, Kampala, which resulted in the death of at least 50 civilians. Wine, who is contesting the presidential elections in January 2021, is the biggest challenge to the incumbent Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986. 

However, this incident is not an isolated incident of electoral violence in Africa in 2020. Earlier in November, clashes broke out in Ivory Coast after President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected for a third term; the Opposition claimed that the violence left at least a dozen dead. Similarly, election results were disputed in Tanzania and Guinea. 

Issues at large
First, a background of the political landscape of African countries. Democracy was hurriedly introduced to Africa by Western powers in post-colonial Africa in the 1960s. Many African countries, including Guinea, experienced military dictatorships before transitioning into democracies. Therefore, the foundations of democracy in African countries are shaky and imbibe some of the colonial features, including the incessant need to have control on resources. This, combined with ethnic politics, contributes to a client-patron system wherein the election winner channelized resources to his own ethnic group, has added to violence in elections. 

Second, attempts to amend the constitution. The instances of violence in 2020, especially in Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, have been shaped by the incumbent Presidents' measures to amend the constitutions to turn the electoral processes in their favour. Alpha Condé of Guinea and Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast amended the respective constitutions to allow them to run for the third term as the previous provisions limited the Presidency to two terms. However, amendments and referendums of this nature are not new. Previously, Burkina Faso, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have either attempted to amend the constitution or leaders of these countries have continued to rule despite the two-term limit. 

Third, the clampdown on the opposition. During the Tanzanian elections in 2020, Opposition Leader Tundu Lissu, who previously survived an assassination attempt, fled to Belgium claiming he received threats to his life after he challenged the election results. Other Opposition leaders, mostly belonging to the main Opposition party, Chadema, were arrested on various grounds before the polls. In Ivory Coast, the Opposition went a step ahead and created a rival government under the leadership of former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan. He and several others were later arrested and charged with 'terrorism.' Further, governments in the countries going to polls also clamped down on media and civil society workers. For example, in Uganda and Tanzania, several journalists were arrested; opposing politicians were also restricted from accessing the state-owned media. 

In perspective
Democracies have not brought in major changes in Africa. Despite having introduced multiparty politics, there has been a deterioration of the system over the years. This has instilled a sense of resentment and mistrust among the public towards the leaderships as well as institutions of democracy. However, electoral violence is not limited to national elections. According to ReliefWeb, by-elections at constituency level have also witnessed "high levels of violence, intimidation and insecurity." 

Second, institutions like the judiciary and the election commission have not played a strong role in cementing democracies. In some countries, the election commissions have been formed with the funding of the ruling party. This restricts institutions from conducting free and fair elections. Further, the judiciary also plays an important role in ensuring fair elections. According to a report in The Washington Post, if the judiciary is quasi-independent - like in the case of Ivory Coast - Opposition leaders tend to resort to violence; when judiciaries are strong and independent, the Opposition sees it as a reliable source to resolve disputed elections.

Therefore, in order to witness violence-free elections in African countries, it is important to ensure democracy in every institution of the State. Further, opposition parties and civil society too has to be given the space to criticize and express dissent, in order to contribute to democracy. 

Afghanistan: Australian Defence chief apologizes for war crimes in Afghanistan, says commanders will be held accountable 
In the news
On 19 November, the Australian defence force chief, General Angus Campbell released a long-awaited report into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The inquiry which was conducted by Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton interviewed 423 witnesses, while investigators produced over 20,000 documents and 25,000 images as part of the probe, investigating conduct between 2005 and 2016. Detailing the findings, Gen Campbell said that the inquiry "found there to be credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 Australian special forces personnel predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment." Further, the report also found that weapons had been planted on some of the victims, while junior soldiers were sometimes forced to shoot prisoners for a "first kill" as part of an initiative known as "blooding."

While terming the report as "deeply disturbing," Gen Campbell offered an unreserved apology to the Afghan people for "any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers." Further, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) called it "possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history."

Issues at large
First, the issue of "warrior culture." The Brereton Report documents how a culture of compliance, intimidation, toxic competition and silence in the field hushed up crimes and the "warrior culture" of the Special Air Service Regiment commanders. Units became consumed with preparing for and fighting the war, with cutting corners, bending and ignoring rules becoming the new norm. Not correcting this culture, as it developed, was a failure of both unit and higher command.

Second, the report is helpful to Afghan victims, but it is just a first step. For many Afghan survivors and others harmed by these abuses, the consequences have been devastating. However, in most cases, those who sought justice for these crimes were turned away or threatened. Thus, the larger issues here would be protecting these people from any risks for potential witnesses to crimes.

Third, investigating historic crimes in another country is a difficult, complex, and costly exercise. The special investigator's office should have adequate resources and staff, including relevant experts, analysts, and translators to ensure investigations are handled effectively and efficiently. Thus, following through post, the probe poses as a challenge.

Fourth, the delayed response from countries and institutions. If Australia has woken up to the issue late, the US and the UK have still not done anything yet. Both countries have investigated military personnel for war crimes in Afghanistan and found evidence of abuses, but no one has been held accountable. This shows the lack of initiative not just from countries but the lack of action and ineffectiveness from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch its own investigation into the countries' activities in Afghanistan.

In perspective
First, it shows that the military can be as imperfect as any other group in society. However, although Australia may be seen as the front-runner to address this issue, it is going to be a difficult and tedious process given that the report is not a brief of evidence. Further, it goes to show that there is must need comprehensiveness and transparent while investigating war crime to ensure justice.

Second, the findings reflect the painful legacy of a wrenching 19-year conflict. As violence continues to go unabated across Afghanistan, defying a resolution more uncertainty garners with negotiations stalled between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the country's fate with President Trump's order to reduce American troops from the region further.

Thailand: Protests continue, leaders charged with 'lese majeste' laws
In the news
On 25 November, pro-democracy protestors gathered in front of the SCB Park, the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank. Demonstrations were originally planned at the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which manages the monarchy's assets. The venue was moved to avoid a confrontation with the royalists' groups, similar to what happened on 17 November near parliament. The protests at SCB park were largely peaceful except some gunshots which were heard after the protest was called off for the day. One person was injured in the firing.  

On 24 November, 12 protest leaders, including Parit 'Penguin' Chiwarak were issued a summons for 'lese majeste' charges, according to the International Federation for Human Rights. Earlier, on 23 November, Prime Minister Prayut ruled out another coup or imposition of martial law to deal with the pro-democracy protests. On 25 November, he reiterated the same position.

Issues at large
First, the significance of protest sites. In 2017, the law was changed to place the management of the crown property under the direct supervision of the King. Before that, the crown (or monarchy's) property was separate from the King's personal assets. Reforming monarchy and bringing these assets back to the 'people' has been a major demand of the protestors. The selection of CPB came against this backdrop. Even the changed protest site, the Siam Commercial Bank, has the CPB as a major shareholder.

Second, the State response. Even as the State has been restrained in its response during the last four months of protests, there are signs that it is now hardening its stance. Pressing of 'lese majeste' charges (Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code) against 12 protest leaders is a major development. Criticizing the monarchy is punishable under Section 112 and carries a sentence up to 15 years; it has not been used for the last two years. These charges come after PM Prayut said on 19 November that "all laws and all articles" will be used to tackle protests.

Third, the main demands and their addressal. Prayut's resignation, overhauling the constitution and reforming the monarchy has been the main demands of the protestors. Of them, only the demand for constitution change has been addressed in a limited form until now. On 18 November, government and opposition proposed charter amendment drafts were passed in their first reading by the parliament even as the iLaw draft, which enjoyed popular support, was rejected. The passed charter amendment drafts leave the monarchy untouched.

In perspective
The pro-democracy protests have continued now for more than four months. There have been some successes like normalizing the questioning of monarchy's functioning and role in a country where until recently it was considered a taboo. Protestors have also succeeded in pressurizing the parliament to consider charter reforms, even if the proposed amendments do not reform the monarchy.

However, with the State giving signals of hardening its stance by charging protest leaders with 'lese majeste' laws, it is to be seen what trajectory the protests will take. The clashes between pro-democracy and royalists supporters is also adding to the volatility of ongoing protests.

COVID-19: From Europe to Asia, the third wave and vaccine race grip the world 
In the news
On 25 November, Germany and Russia in Europe reported their highest daily COVID-19 deaths. The German authorities announced that 410 people had passed away due to COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours. The figure comes after the World Health Organization's special COVID-19 envoy David Nabarro told the Solothurner Zeitung on 22 November that Europe was likely to see a third wave of the pandemic in early 2021 before a vaccine can be introduced. "They missed building up the necessary infrastructure during the summer months after they brought the first wave under control. Now we have the second wave. If they don't build the necessary infrastructure, we'll have a third wave early next year," said the WHO envoy. As Europe readies itself for a third wave, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong in Asia are already reimposing restrictions this week in what they term as the third wave.

The rising cases have coincided with multiple pharma companies releasing their results of phase III vaccine trials. On 23 November, British drugs group AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said their jointly-developed vaccine against COVID-19 has shown "an average efficacy of 70 per cent" in trials. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, in phase three trials, has been found to be 95 per cent effective, while the US pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc has claimed that its vaccine candidate is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing the deadly virus. China's Sinovac Biotech is expected to release the results of its vaccine vials next month.

Issues at large 
First, the third wave, protests and restrictions mark the pandemic, which is yet to be over. Three European countries have passed the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths: France, Italy, and the UK. The number of fatalities in Germany stands at 14,771. In Russia, more than 23,700 new infections are confirmed, bringing the country's caseload to over 2.1 million — the fifth highest in the world. The number of new infections in Asia such as in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong is a fraction of those in the West. But countries like India, Indonesia are facing a higher caseload. As Christmas festivities near, countries like Germany have announced fresh restrictions. Consequently, France and the UK are bypassing lockdowns and are looking for exit strategies that will not spiral the countries into economic downturn again. Pandemic fatigue, public complacency and colder weather will further fuel a new surge in virus cases. The governments have faced protests such as in Germany as Merkel goes into partial shutdowns again.   

Second, the race for vaccine corresponds race for vaccine distribution. Speaking on the distribution process of the vaccine, health minister in India said the government would first provide the vaccine to healthcare workers and older adults (above the age of 65). South Africa's president, Norway's prime minister and heads WHO and European Commission wrote a letter to the leaders of G20 countries urging them to provide funds for the COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, tests and distribution. China is rapidly administering vaccines to its public. In Europe, two COVID-19 vaccines could receive conditional market authorization as early as the second half of December. Russia has resumed vaccination of new volunteers with Sputnik V vaccine.

Third, developed countries struggle with price and access. As the West-led vaccine research announces the efficiency of their vaccine vials, the struggle becomes acute for the developing world. Population density, economic inequality and affordability of expensive vials are challenges for the developing countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is worried that efforts to roll out an affordable coronavirus vaccine are moving along too slowly. In India, CEO of Serum Institute Adar Poonawalla said on 19 November that the Oxford vaccine would be available for the general public in April 2021 and priced at a maximum of Rs 1,000 for two necessary doses. Turkey is in talks to sign a contract with China's Sinovac Biotech, Pfizer, and BioNTech within days to buy at least 20 million doses of a COVID-19 candidate vaccine. Mexico has also received doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics.

In perspective 
The pandemic is more than over, and the real struggle begins now when a vaccine has to be brought to the last standing person in the world. In developing world where a pandemic has hit employment rate, affordability and access to health care will not be achieved easily. Although G20 leaders said that they would "spare no effort" to ensure fair distribution of vaccines, Merkel said she was concerned that no major agreements had yet been struck for poorer nations, even as wealthy countries have already purchased large numbers of doses from pharmaceutical firms. The need of the hour is global cooperation over vaccine distribution. The pandemic has done little to bring countries together to mitigate disasters.

From around the world
Peace and Conflict from Southeast and East Asia
Hong Kong: Pro-democracy protestor Joshua Wong in custody 
On 23 November, three young protestors and leading figures in the protest movement in Hong Kong including Joshua Wong, were remanded into custody. Their remand came after pleading guilty of inciting a rally during last year's pro-democracy protests, deepening the crackdown against Beijing's critics. Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent democracy rallies last year in which millions took to the streets. Beijing has refused demands for free elections and authorities have pursued democracy supporters with criminal cases and a sweeping new national security law.

China: Pope calls Uighur "persecuted" in a new book, invites ire from Beijing 
On 25 November, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said, the upcoming book of Pope Francis has, "no factual basis at all". The book "Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future," has listed the "Uighurs" among examples of persecuted groups for their faith. "I think often of persecuted peoples," wrote Pope Francis said in one passage. "The Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi — what ISIS did to them was truly cruel — or Christians in Egypt and Pakistan killed by bombs that went off while they prayed in church."

Thailand and Laos: Contention over Sanakham dam
On 24 November, the Thailand government raised concerns about the Sanakham dam Laos is constructing on the Mekong River. The Mekong river forms the border between Thailand and Laos in some sections; Thailand's government believes that the dam project might affect the border. "We won't agree to the project unless we have clear evidence that the border is not affected", said the Secretary-General of Thailand's Office of National Water Resources. Thailand also cited impact on ecology and livelihoods as serious issues and has warned of reconsidering its decision of buying electricity from the dam.

Peace and Conflict from South Asia
India: Fresh violence erupt in Tripura over Bru resettlement question 
On 23 November, at least seven people were injured and three vehicles were burnt as protests against the plan to resettle Brus in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura spread across Kumarghat sub-division of Unokoti district. Amongst those injured were five policemen and fireman who incurred the injury during clashes between the agitators and the service personnel. The agitators have over the week imposed a blockade on the National Highway from Assam as the leading group JMC been demanding a rollback on the resettlement plan of 5000 Brus in Northern Tripura. It is believed the plan will change the demography of the close-knit tribal community.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Protests turn violent over election results
On 23 November, around four vehicles and a building of Gilgit-Baltistan's forest department were torched by unidentified persons after a protest arranged by the PPP turned violent. PPP workers and police clashed while the former was protesting against the unofficial results of Gilgit-Baltistan A-2, Gilgit-2 constituency. Gilgit Senior Superintendent of Police said the violence erupted after clashes took place between security forces and protesters. This comes amid the PPP and PML-N levelling allegations of rigging in the recent GB elections. 

Pakistan: Hafiz Saeed convicted in another terror financing case
On 19 November, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore convicted Jamatud Dawa (JuD) leader Hafiz Saeed in another terrorist financing case. The court sentenced him to five-and-a-half-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1,10,000. However, Saeed is already serving two sentences of five-and-a-half-years, handed down to him earlier this year. This means he will not serve any extra jail time. This conviction comes amid Pakistan's efforts to avoid punitive blacklisting by FATF. Further, Saeed's lawyer has also stated that he was convicted under FATF pressure.

Pakistan: Teen guns down Ahmadi doctor injures three others
On 20 November, a teenage boy shot dead a doctor belonging to the Ahmadi community, while his father and two uncles were injured. The suspect is said to have opened fire on them over "religious difference" in Punjab's Nankana Sahib district. Condemning the attacks, the Ahmadi community's spokesperson said, "Ahmadis are not even safe inside their homes. They cannot perform their religious obligations inside the four walls of their home." This attack comes amid the uptick of a targeted attack on members of the Ahmadiya community in recent months. The later incident being last month with the killing of an Ahmadi professor in a targeted attack in Peshawar, allegedly over his religious beliefs.

Afghanistan: Donors pledge billions and call for a lasting ceasefire
On 24 November, several foreign nations, international institutions and the European Union took part at a virtual global conference hosted by Geneva. At the conference, international donors pledged financial and political support for Afghanistan's peace process; however, many imposed tough conditions anticipating a sustainable ceasefire that will help the country rebuild and heal after decades of conflict. Earlier on 23 November, Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar opened the two-day 2020 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan where he said that "peace efforts should lead to a reduction in violence in the country."

Afghanistan: Blasts in Bamiyan and Kandahar
On 24 November, at least 17 people were killed, and over 50 more were wounded in two explosions in the city of Bamiyan. This was the first time that such explosions happened in the otherwise secure province. Later on, 25 November, at least six policemen were wounded in a suicide attack in Kandahar when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle. So far, no group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the two attacks. Violence continues to remain high in the country despite efforts for peace.

Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa
Nagorno-Karabakh: Azerbaijan says the army has entered Kalbajar district 
On 25 November, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that their forces have entered the Kalbajar region. This is the second of three districts to be handed back by Armenia as part of a deal that ended weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Kalbajar district was initially scheduled to be ceded on 15 November, but the deadline was postponed by Azerbaijan for humanitarian reasons. This comes after Agdam was ceded on 20 November and which Lachin is to be handed over by 1 December as part of a truce signed two weeks ago that stopped six weeks of military conflict over the breakaway region.

Egypt: Six-nation joint military exercise kicks-off
On 22 November, the Egyptian Armed Forces announced a joint military operation with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Sudan, and the UAE had begun at the Mohammed Najeeb base, the largest military base in the Middle East. The exercise, Sword of Arabs, aims to improve military cooperation between Egypt and other Arab countries. It will cover land, naval and air drills. The exercise will end on 26 November (today). 

Israel-Saudi Arabia: Israeli PM meets Saudi Arabia Crown Prince, say media reports
On 22 November, Israeli media said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; the two leaders discussed regional issues relating to Iran and the normalization of ties. Aljazeera cites a Haaretz news report which said that a private jet from Tel Aviv to Neom - where US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was meeting the Prince - was seen grounded for nearly two hours. According to the same report, the private jet was previously used by Netanyahu during his visits to Russia. However, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia later denied the media reports. 

Syria: Fighting between Turkey-backed forces and Kurdish-led forces leaves 11 dead
On 23 November, 11 Turkey-backed gunmen were killed and several injured in northern Syria in a clash with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the clashes erupted when the gunmen attacked SDF positions. The SDF spokesperson confirmed the attacks but did not mention the casualty on the SDF front. 

Iraq: Alleged ISIL attack leaves 10 dead 
On 21 November, at least six Iraqi security officers and four civilians were killed in a bomb blast in the Salahuddin province of Iraq. The mayor and police have blamed the ISIL for the attack. The attack comes two weeks after 11 people were killed in an ISIL attack on the outskirts of Baghdad. Further, the attack coincides with the countrywide operation by the Iraqi security forces to arrest ISIL fighters; various MPs and leaders have called the latest attack a failure in the fight against terrorism. 

North Africa: Al-Qaeda in North Africa appoints new chief
On 21 November, the SITE monitoring group said the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had appointed Abu Obaida Yusuf al-Annabi as its new chief; its founder Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed in June by French military forces. Annabi has strongly opposed the French operations in the Sahel and Maghreb regions and has called for jihad against the French forces. Prior to this, Annabi was the head of the AQIM's Council of Dignitaries and was named in the United States' terrorism blacklist in 2015. 

Ethiopia: Human Rights Commission releases report on the massacre in Tigray
On 24 November, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission issued a statement revealing a massacre of Amhara and Wolkait ethnic groups in the Mai Kadra region in Tigray amid the ongoing conflict in the region. According to the statement, an informal group of youth, Samri, carried out the massacre, with the support of Tigray civilians and local police, killing at 600 civilians. However, leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front have denied any responsibility for the massacre.  

Mozambique: MoU with Tanzanian police to fight the armed group 
On 22 November, Mozambique's state media reported that the country's police forces had signed a memorandum of understanding with Tanzanian police forces to combat the ISIL-linked fighters in Cabo Delgado. The agreement comes after the armed group started raiding villages in the southern regions of Tanzania after crossing the Rovuma River that marks the border between the two countries. Since October 2017, violence in Cabo Delgado has left more than 2,200 people dead and thousands displaced. 

Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas
Germany: Foreign Minister condemns the lockdown protesters 
On 22 November, German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, criticized anti-mask protesters comparing themselves to Nazi victims. He accused them says, "Anyone today comparing themselves to Sophie Scholl or Anne Frank is making a mockery of the courage it took to stand up to the Nazis," adding "It trivializes the Holocaust and shows an unbearable forgetting of history. Nothing connects the corona protests with the resistance fighters. Nothing!" This statement came after a young woman took to the stage at a protest against coronavirus restrictions, saying she felt "just like Sophie Scholl." The government's measures introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus has triggered large protests in Germany, drawing people different sects.

The UK: COVID-19 lockdown to be lifted on 2 December
On November 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the English lockdown restrictions would which is to expire on 2 December would be replaced by a new, enhanced, set of local lockdown tiers. With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting Europe, the UK is no exception, As of 24 November, official data shows there have been 1,538,794 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK and 55,838 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. This increase in cases means new stricter lockdown measures may be put in place.

France: Government to introducing new 'ecocide' offense in pollution crackdown
On 22 November, the French government announced the creation of an "ecocide offence" in an attempt to prevent and punish serious environmental damage. Under the new proposal, environmental offenders could be handed a fine of up to 4.5 million euros or 10 years in prison. However, some activists have argued that the government's proposals are still not very comprehensive. Further, this comes after a plan was brought forward by the Citizens' Convention for Climate, which is an assembly consisting of 150 randomly selected citizens established in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron aimed to reduce France's greenhouse gas emissions.

France: Minister launches probe into forceful eviction of migrants in Paris
On 24 November, the French Interior Minister said he would probe into the clashes that broke out between police and migrants after the police forcefully dismantled a migrant camp in Paris on 23 November. The police dislodged around 500 tents set up by volunteers and later used tear gas to disperse the migrants, mostly Afghans, and the volunteers. The police action comes a week after they cleared another larger, illegal migrant camp on the outskirts of Paris.

Turkey: Trial of 20 Saudi Arabian officials in Khashoggi murder resumes
On 24 November, Turkey resumed the trial of 20 Saudi Arabian officials, including two close aides of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However, the accused are being tried in absentia. Previously, the 20 accused had left Turkey, and Saudi Arabia refused to extradite them. In 2019, Saudi Arabia, after rejecting Turkey's request for extradition, sentenced five people to death for their direct role in killing Khashoggi and sentenced three to prison for covering up the crime.

Belarus: KGB charges opposition leader with corruption
On 24 November, the Belarusian KGB charged Opposition politician Viktor Babaryko with corruption and money laundering of an amount exceeding USD 60 million. The KGB announced that it completed the "preliminary investigation into the criminal case against top executives of the Belgazprombank bank." The Belgazprombank is a branch of the Russian energy corporation, Gazprom, and Babaryko was the head of the bank before he entered politics.

The United States: Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee say, White House
On 24 November, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse stated that he expects the Democratic caucus to decide the future Judiciary leadership of the committee. In his statement, he said, "In the wake of Ranking Member Feinstein's announcement, I look forward to the question of succession on the Senate Judiciary Committee being decided by the caucus," he said. "I will abide by the caucus's decision." This comes after Whitehouse had initially declined to contribute to the possibility of seeking the Judiciary Committee position. This potential clash highlights the challenge the Democrats are likely to face with the party seeking to reconcile the views of progressive demands.

The United States: Biden to receive an intelligence briefing 
On 25 November, a report in the NBC News stated that President-elect Joe Biden is to receive classified presidential daily briefing after President Donald Trump signed off sharing presidential intelligence, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Although Biden has been receiving lower-level intelligence briefings, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence could not provide him with the presidential daily briefing until the General Services Administration sent a letter of "ascertainment" confirming that Biden won the election. Further, this comes after nearly three-weeks delay of the start of the formal transition process.

The  United States: A scaled-back Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving around the corner, the celebrations this year is going to be very different. Far from the hustle and bustling, the pandemic has altered holiday plans all over the United States this year. With a second wave bearing down, officials have urged Americans not to travel while others have made social-distancing plans for the holiday. Further, the holiday marked by coming together sees many city residents now facing the sad prospect of spending the holiday alone and isolated. 

Brazil: Protests erupt after Black man killed by supermarket security guards
On 22 November, new demonstrations took place outside Carrefour supermarkets in Brazil to protest the death of a black man by white guards at a Porto Alegre store branch. On 19 November, a video taken in the southern city showed 40-year-old Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas repeatedly being punched in the face and head by a security guard while he is being restrained by another. The video drew attention from social media and triggered the first round of demonstrations on 20 November as the country marked Black Consciousness Day.

About the authors
Lokendra Sharma is a PhD Scholar at the School of Conflict and Security Studies at NIAS; Sourina Bej, Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez Project Associate and Research Assistants at NIAS.

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