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Conflict Weekly
Another school shooting in the US, and EU-UK tussle over Northern Ireland protocol

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #125, 25 May 2022, Vol.3, No.8
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office

The US: Another school attack kills 19 children
In the news
On 24 May, in the US (in Uvalde, Texas), a teenager gunman killed eighteen children in an elementary school. He had earlier purchased two semi-automatic AR-15 rifles in a local gun store.

On 24 May, the US President, in his address on the issue, said: "…tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them, to give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now. As a nation, we have to ask: When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done? It's been…10 years since I stood up at a high school in Connecticut  - a grade school in Connecticut, where another gunman massacred 26 people, including 20 first graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School."

On 25 May, a story in the Economist said: "By one estimate, Americans own 400m guns. If they were evenly distributed, each family of five would have six. In 2020 more than 45,000 people in America died from firearm-related injuries. Guns now kill more young people than cars do."

Issues at large
First, the recurring and increasing gun attacks in US schools. Between a similar attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 (20 children killed along with six members of the school staff) and the latest attack in Uvalde, Texas, there has been a series of attacks in the US schools. In 2018, in Parkland, an attack in a High School witnessed the killing of 17 students and a staff. While Sandy Hook (2012), Parkland (2018) and Uvalde (2022) witnessed more than 15 getting killed, there have been other attacks with smaller casualties. According to a Wall Street Journal report, "there has been a school shooting every year during the past 40 years, except for 2020, when most schools didn't meet in person because of the pandemic."

Second, the bleeding hearts, prayers and amnesia. While the attacks invoke immediate condemnation across the US society and call for prayers, there has been little action to prevent violent actions in the schools. The schools are left to deal with the issue with mock drills and be prepared for an attack like the one that had happened in Uvalde.

Third, access to guns in the US. In Uvalde, the killer could purchase two semi-automatic AR rifles in a local gun store should highlight the easy access. Data would also reveal the number of weapons, including high powered guns available in the US.

Fourth, the missing consensus on gun control. The US Congress has been discussing gun control for a long time, without any consensus. There is a huge divide between the two parties – the republicans and the democrats on the nature and extent of gun control. While those who argue for tighter gun control focus on the devastation it causes, those who are apprehensive hide under the constitutional right to own a gun in the US.

In perspective
First, the question, why only in the US, there are mass shootings in the schools, and not in other countries – developed or developing? The arguments about the mental health of the perpetrators, violence in schools, broken families, and the right to self-protection cut across many countries, but the mass shootings seem to be US specific. Why? There a specific problem that the US has to address.

Second, the rise of lone gunmen. Whether it is hate crime or shootings in the schools, one could see a trend in the rise of lone and disturbed gunmen. In retrospect, one could analyse their views, and how their action could be prevented; however, these gunmen could not be pre-empted.

Third, the government action or inaction in the US. Nikolas Kristoff in an analysis in the New York Times, after the recent attack, wrote: "… we're tired of commemorating gun violence in America only with thoughts and prayers. We didn't respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine simply with thoughts and prayers, or to the 9/11 attacks only with moments of silence, or to Pearl Harbor just with lowered flags and memorial services." He is right.

Northern Ireland Protocol: The EU-UK tussle revives, the US delegation calls for calm
In the news
On 24 May, a nine-member US Congressional delegation visiting London told the UK government a unilateral action on the Northern Ireland (NI) protocol "will not work." Democratic congressman Dan Kildee urged the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss to have face-to-face negotiations with Brussels.  

On 23 May the delegation met the Irish premier Micheál Martin in Dublin and is due to visit Northern Ireland. Premier Martin reiterated: there was "a deep well of support" for a "joint, pragmatic solution" to concerns over the protocol. Joining him, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte also said: the EU had "shown maximum flexibility" in negotiations.
A nine-member team led by Congressman Richard Neal is visiting to discuss the post-Brexit trading arrangements between the US and the UK. As one of President Biden's closest allies Congressman is also seeking to calm tensions between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol that has revived ever since Secretary Truss has called for fresh legislative measures. On 22 May, speaking in Kerry Congressman Neal said the US would be "unwavering" in its support of the Good Friday Agreement.

Issues at large
First, BREXIT pangs to the Northern Ireland protocol. Avoiding a hard border with Ireland, the Northern Ireland protocol signed by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the EU as part of the BREXIT withdrawal agreement in 2020 had till now kept NI aligned with the EU single market. However, the post-BREXIT realities were: new systems of checks on the Irish Sea border, custom charges on goods inflow from Great Britain to NI, and increased cost of living owing to the NI protocol. The realities further worsen as the protocol now threatens to derail the power-sharing government in NI. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has refused to appoint new ministers until the checks on the Irish Sea border on goods are scrapped. DUP had held that such checks undermine Northern Ireland's place in the UK as they increase costs for consumers, complicate business, and create special divisions of power.

Second, the UK's attempts to revise NI protocol. Faced with a political block in NI and tough negotiations with the EU, Secretary Liz Truss has said a new law would be introduced to change the post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland should negotiations with the EU fail. On 17 May, the UK said, it will have to take unilateral action to override part of the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol unless the EU shows the "requisite flexibility." In the past, the Johnson government has attempted to revise the NI protocol with the Internal Market bill. But it only toughened its negotiations with the EU.

Third, conflict of interest with the EU. In response to Secretary Truss, the EU said it would "need to respond with all measures at its disposal" if the UK went ahead with the legislation. Talks on customs and checks have been ongoing between the UK and the EU since March 2021 with Former foreign secretary David Frost. After Frost quit in December threatening to invoke Article 16, the negotiations are now handled by Liz Truss. But the narrative remained the same. The EU ambassador to the UK,  João Vale de Almeida said: "using legislation to override an international treaty. I feel myself back in the fall of 2020, with the internal markets bill." "We can't renegotiate the protocol: the ink on the signatures is hardly dry."

Fourth, the US backdoor diplomacy. As DUP continues to block a new power-sharing executive at Stormont, it has put the spirit of Belfast or the Good Friday Agreement in line where a devolved power-sharing arrangement has sustained peace among factions within NI. This has presented the US with a scope to take on the burden of keeping a peace agreement together as its visiting delegation takes a staunch position on the Belfast agreement. The delegation is now engaged in a diplomatic negotiation to iron out a trade deal, reiterating the need for the agreement has put its stakes on the UK government.

In perspective 
First, a fading possibility of the EU and UK walking away with a trade deal. The EU Brexit chief Maroš Šefčovič issued a blunt statement that the protocol is the "cornerstone" for a wider withdrawal agreement. If the UK disapplies the protocol, the EU could impose limited sanctions on emblematic British goods such as Scottish salmon and whisky or suspension off the entire trade deal.

Second, a US-EU alliance on trade deals and negotiation rules. A US statement on the Good Friday Agreement along with attempts to draw up a trade deal possibly shows early signs of a UK's isolation. As both the US and EU statements align, it seemingly sets the terms ruling out renegotiation of the NI protocol and further complicates the bargaining position on the trade deals.

Also from around the World
By Avishka Ashok, Vijay Anand Panigrahi, Ashwin Dhanabalan, Rishma Banerjee, Apoorva Sudhakar and Padmashree Anandhan
East and Southeast Asia
China: President Xi meets UN Human Rights Chief and discusses China's progress
On 25 May, President Xi Jinping held a virtual meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and defended China's progress on human rights within the country. The six–day visit by the UN Human Rights Chief aims to investigate the Xinjiang region which has been accused of discriminating against the Muslim minority community in the region. Xi said: "Human rights issues should also not be politicised, instrumentalised, or treated with double standards. China has a human rights development path that suits its national conditions." Xi also explained that there was no ideal country that could teach others about human rights. The US State Department spokesperson Ned Price referred to the visit and called it a mistake and expressed its scepticism regarding unfiltered access to the region. He also highlighted the most recent media reports that publicised leaked photos and documents from the public security bureaus in two counties in the region. China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin condemned the criticism issued by the US and the UK over the visit. He accused the West of sabotaging China's relations with foreign countries by spreading lies about the Human Rights Chief's visit. 

China: Peking University students protests against harsh restrictions 
On 18 May, the Asahi Shimbun reported that students at Peking University initiated a peaceful protest against the administration's harsh COVID-19 restrictions which sought to implement further separation by erecting a sheet-metal wall on campus. The students were already disgruntled with the existing measures such as prohibiting the students from ordering food, having visitors and daily testing. The University administration later backed out from the plan of erecting the sheet-metal in the campus and pacified the upset students with other concessions. 

Japan: QUAD leaders to meet in Tokyo over the Taiwan issue, South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific
On 24 May, the leaders of the Quad group of countries met in Tokyo and discussed their goal of countering China in the Indo-Pacific region. On 23 May, the US President Joe Biden warned China against beefing up its military presence in the region and around Taiwan. He also pledged to intervene militarily in case of an invasion and expressed his hope in the grouping. He said: "The Quad is showing the world that cooperation among democracies can get big things done." Japan has also officially cautioned China against unilaterally changing the status quo in the region, especially with respect to the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands. The grouping is also expected to release a joint statement on the war in Ukraine. 

Taiwan: China conducts military exercises around Taiwan as a warning to the US
On 25 May, the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theatre Command spokesperson Shi Yi stated that it recently conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a "solemn warning" against its "collusion" with the US. Earlier, US President Joe Biden enraged China by appearing to foreshadow a shift in the US policy of "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan by declaring the US would intervene militarily if China attacked the island. However, he later stated that US policy had not changed. Yi said: "It is hypocritical and futile for the United States to say one thing and do another on the Taiwan issue." While the US maintains a "one China" policy, recognising only Beijing, it has pledged under the Taiwan Relations Act to "to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself." 

Cambodia: Increasing cyberattacks against the private sector 
On 23 May, Phnom Penh's ministry of post and telecommunications released a statement concerning the rise of cyber attacks against the private sector. The ministry called for greater vigilance against the attacks as there was an increase in business email compromise (BEC) scams. Hackers target entities by hacking their servers, as they study the company's business practices and finally send emails that appear like legitimate invoices. This type of crime in the US is called "theft by swindle." The ministry issued an advisory to companies, asking them to verify names and email addresses and immediately inform banks if they were scammed.  

Singapore: Police seize 18 kilograms of heroin at checkpoint
On 20 May, Singapore's police seized a Malaysian registered car with nearly 18 kilograms of heroin. The seizure led to the arrest of three Malaysian suspects in multiple locations across Singapore. This is reportedly the most significant drug bust by the authorities since 2001. The car was crossing the Woodland Checkpoint and undergoing a routine check when authorities found bundles wrapped up in the car boot. The immigration and checkpoints authority (ICA) and central narcotics bureau (CNB) stated that apart from 17,704 kilograms of heroin, two grams of ecstasy tablets, and 261 grams of ice worth up to SGD, 1,295,000 was found. 

Indonesia: Jakarta lifts ban on palm oil exports
On 19 May, Indonesia announced to lift its palm oil export ban from 23 May. This comes as Indonesia faced protests from small-scale farmers who called on the government to reverse its policies. Defending the ban, president Joko Widodo said the suspension had improved the supply and prices of cooking oil. Oil palm farmers association also thanked Widodo and pledged to ensure a continuous domestic supply of cooking oil. 

Myanmar: Armed forces call on the NUG for weapon and cash supplies
On 24 May, armed resistance groups in Myanmar called on the National Unity Government (NUG) to supply them with arms and money. This comes as the resistance forces have been fighting against the military regime for over a year. A few groups were innovative in using local resources to generate funds and use them to equip themselves. While other groups have continued using hunting rifles called the Tumi against the well-equipped military regime. The head of the Khin-U people's defense force said: "The NUG's Ministry of Defense should provide support to local resistance groups. If not, their long-term mission will remain difficult to achieve."

Myanmar: QUAD leaders call for a restoration of democracy 
On 24 May, the leaders of QUAD expressed their concerns over the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. They urged for a quick implementation of the five-point consensus program by the ASEAN. The leaders further called for the restoration of democracy, an end to the violence in Myanmar and the release of political detainees and other prisoners imprisoned by the regime. The QUAD leaders also reaffirmed their support for an ASEAN-led effort to find a solution to the crisis in Myanmar through constructive dialogue among all parties.

South Asia
Malaysia: Steady growth in the Islamic Banking sector helps lead the Southeast Asian region
On 25 May, S&P Global Ratings projected that Malaysia's steady growth in the Islamic banking sector would help maintain its leading position in Southeast Asia. The Islamic banking sector in Malaysia could constitute up to 45 per cent of the total commercial banks by 2026 if it continues the trend of its positive profit rebound of last year. The Ukraine-Russia conflict has caused energy and commodity prices to soar. Its effects are felt by some smaller banks, but its impact to show on the Islamic banking sector should take time. In Southeast Asia, Malaysia alone holds up to 85 per cent of the Islamic banks' assets, followed by Indonesia with 15 per cent.

India: Drops nine places to 56 in WEF's global travel and tourism development index
On 24 May, India was ranked 54 in the global travel and tourism development index devised by the World Economic Forum (WEF). WEF's biennial travel and tourism study ranked Japan at the top, while India dropped nine places from 46 in 2019. The study that assesses 117 economies also showed an unbalanced recovery trend to the Covid-induced challenges that directly affected the tourism sector. In the post-pandemic world, vaccination status and status of open travel determine the international tourism sector in many countries. In the top five, Japan is followed by the US, Spain, France, and Germany.

Pakistan: Gunmen kill a station house officer in Peshawar
On 19 May, a station house officer was killed by on the Northern Bypass. The police claimed that the Shahpur police station's SHO was targeted after being chased by two attackers in a car. The police while speaking to Dawn stated that the condition of anonymity that the incident appeared to be linked with the attack on Intelligence Bureau officials in Sarki area of Peshawar city.

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa
Iran: Senior Revolutionary Guard official killed by gunshots
On 22 May, a senior officer of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hassan Sayyad Khodaei was killed by five gunshots, in Tehran. Gunmen opened fire against Khodaei, in front of his house near Mojahedin-e-Islam Street, and killed him in his car. The IRGC identified him as a colonel, who was a member of the Quds Force, looking into IRGC's foreign operations. While Iran has ascribed "elements linked to the global arrogance" for the assassination, IRGC said that it has launched an investigation to identify who the attackers are. This is the most high-profile killing in Iran since nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was murdered in November 2020.

Turkey: Five soldiers die in clash against PKK in Turkey-Iraq border
On 25 May, Turkey's defence ministry reported that five Turkish soldiers fighting Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq have been killed and two more were wounded during clashes. The clash, that took place along the Turkey-Iraq border was between Turkish soldiers and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara designates the PKK as a terrorist organization and clashes between the two have been taking place from 1984, and is a conflict that has killed around 40,000 people.

Middle East: Sandstorms wreak havoc 
Severe sandstorms were reported in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. In Iraq, bright orange skies covered vast areas in the region and required over 1000 people to be hospitalized due to respiratory issues. The health ministry is also stockpiling canisters of oxygen in hard-hit areas. In Syria, medical departments were alerted as the sandstorm hit the eastern part of the country. Kuwait too faced a similar issue, and all flights at the Kuwait International Airport were suspended because of the dust. Saudi Arabia too reported heavy sandstorms, which reduced the visibility significantly. 1285 patients flooded emergency rooms across the country, complaining that they could not breathe. Flights were canceled in Iran too, and the blame for the sandstorms there has been put on climate change, drought, and mismanagement of water resources.

Burkina Faso: 11 soldiers killed in attack on an army base
On 19 May, the armed forces communications unit said 11 soldiers were killed and 20 injured in an attack on a base in Madjoari in the east. The unit's statement said shrapnel and projectiles were used in the attack; further, the statement said 15 militants attempting to escape were killed by the military air support and called on all units to be combat-ready to tackle enemies.

Ethiopia: TPLF to release prisoners on amnesty
On 20 May, the Tigray People's Liberation Front said 4,208 prisoners, including 401 women, would be released on amnesty. The prisoner's centre's coordinator said most prisoners had previously been captured outside Tigray "and others joined the fight in a forced conscription." The coordinator said priority would be given to prisoners with illnesses, disabilities and women who delivered babies in detention. The development came after military commanders from the federal government and Tigray held talks. 

Africa: Emergency assistance by the US to Africa for food security
On 19 May, BBC reported that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had announced that the US would provide USD 215 million in emergency aid to ten African countries to tackle food insecurity. The beneficiary countries are Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mauritania. Blinken announced the aid when he met several African foreign ministers in New York during a global food security meet. 

Africa: Journalists condemn using Black people's images to cover monkeypox in UK and US
On 21 May, the Foreign Press Association, Africa (FPAA) criticised media outlets for using Black people's images to report monkeypox cases in the US and UK. The FPAA said: "We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege or immunity to other races." The FPAA termed the action insensitive and called for the updating of their image policy. The FPAA said while the world is tackling racism and racial stereotypes, media should assist in propagating positive images and narratives. 

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The UN condemns the attack by M23 on its troops
On 23 May, the UN condemned attacks on its peacekeepers by M23 and called for ceasing hostilities. On 22 May, violence erupted in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory forcings thousands to flee to Uganda. Meanwhile, the M23 spokesperson accused the UN mission of shelling their position. The spokesperson also accused the UN mission of assisting another militia. 

Rwanda: First batch of refugees to arrive from the UK 
On 19 May, the deputy government spokesperson of Rwanda, Alain Mukurarinda said that they were expecting the first group of 50 asylum seekers from the UK to reach the country by the end of May. This is in the context of the controversial immigration deal signed between Rwanda and the UK, back in April. As per the agreement, the UK will be sending people who enter the country illegally to Rwanda, and as a result, Rwanda will receive USD 158 million. This scheme has drawn widespread controversy and has been condemned by the UNHCR as an "egregious breach of international law."

South Africa: Racial flare-up reported in country's top university
On 17 May, a white student was filmed urinating on a black student's books and laptop at Stellenbosch University, one of the top educational institutes in South Africa. The perpetrator did this after barging into the first-year black students' room in the hall of residence. This racial flare-up has been criticized heavily, and the undergraduate student responsible for the act has been suspended with immediate effect. On 18 May, protests were held on the campus. Many former students have said that Stellenbosch has an inherent problem with elitism and racism.

Europe and the Americas
Hungary: Viktor Orban prolongs the state of emergency in Budapest
On 24 May, prime minister Viktor Orban announced the extension of the state of emergency in Hungary due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Orban extended the constitutional amendment giving him the emergency powers, which would have expired by the end of May. The "State of Danger" was already implemented on the accounts of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that he would protect Hungary and Hungarian families from physical security and financial threats due to the war in Ukraine by any means necessary. Being an ally of president Putin, Orban stated that it would be best for Hungary to take a neutral stance in the war. Many human rights activists opposed Orban's decision to impose the state of emergency as it would reduce the parliament's power and eventually become a new normal. 

Ukraine: UNCHR report increase of refugees to 100 million
On 23 May, the UNHCR reported that in a 'staggering milestone', the number of global refugees had crossed the red line of 100 million. The high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi said: "This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes." The agency also said that out of this 10 million, 6.5 million were people from Ukraine, who have been forced to leave the country since February, with the majority of them entering Poland.

Poland: Lukashenko accuse over seizing pre-world War two territories from Ukraine
On 23 May, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko expressed concern over what he described as Western attempts to "dismember" Ukraine, referring to NATO. He further accused Poland of intending to seize the Western part of the country in a virtual meeting with president of Russia Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko stated: "What worries us is that they are ready, the Poles and NATO, to come out, to help take western Ukraine like it was before 1939." Referring to the non-aggression pact of 1939 when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union carved Poland up between them. The majority of Moscow's acquired land is either in Belarus or Ukraine. Kaliningrad, once German East Prussia, became a Russian exclave. 

The UK and Lithuania: Sign defence and security collaboration
On 23 May, the UK and Lithuania signed a joint declaration to boost defence and security cooperation amid the fear of invasion by Russia. The Baltic countries fear that president Vladimir Putin would not stop with just Ukraine but rather might hope to redraw the map of Europe. Countries like Lithuania, which is a NATO member, fear that the Russian aggression would turn toward it next. The declaration would be a defence collaboration among both nations and also would increase its resistance to threats from Russia and China. They strongly stand up against the Russian invasion and support Ukraine amid the war. Both countries avidly support and voice out freedom, sovereignty and democracy.

Slovakia: Slana River contaminated by nearby iron ore mine kills numerous fauna
On 20 May, polluted water from an iron ore mine in eastern Slovakia has coloured the Slana River orange, killing fish and animals. The river flows into Hungary and is considered a fast-developing ecological disaster. Rudne Bane mining company stated that the water streaming into the river was underground water emerging from a flooded iron ore pocket mined until 2008. However, the Slovak Environment ministry said that despite the river's red-orange color, examinations at the closest point to the Hungarian border revealed that levels of potentially toxic contaminants did not exceed acceptable levels. 

Argentina: Landmark judgement holds the state responsible for a century-old massacre
On 21 May, Argentina was held responsible for the brutal treatment and killing of more than 400 indigenous people of the Qom and Moqoit communities almost a century ago. The two communities have been protesting in Argentina's northern Chaco region against their inhumane and unfair living conditions of being underfed, paid in vouchers, and not given the liberty to move. In response to this protest, the authorities massacred them in 1924, but no responsibility was ever acknowledged. The court found the state guilty as the people suffered mass trauma and a near-permanent loss of culture. Although there were no financial reparations, the verdict mandated the massacre to be added to the school syllabus along with a continued forensic effort to find the victims.

Latin America: Contemporary challenges offer an opportunity for improved regional integration.
On 24 May, the business leaders, governments, international organizations, civil society, and notable scholars discussed the Latin American prospect at the Annual World Economic Forum meeting held in Davos. External factors like Covid and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have caused the regional economies to face inflationary problems and financial pressures. The region faces food security threats due to the increase in prices of energy and agricultural products as trade and production are also affected due to the war. Covid poses a constant threat to human security as well despite vaccinations. Hence, the summit leaders view this as an opportunity to promote cooperation and regional integration to tackle these challenges. Renewable sources, digitalization to attract capital flows, and boosting entrepreneurship and trade were some ideas considered during the summit. 

The US: Report on fall of Afghan government discusses role Afghan soldiers fleeing the field
On 23 May, Dawn reported on report by the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction which revealed that Afghan soldiers started crossing into Pakistan weeks before Kabul fell to the Taliban in August 2021. The UN refugee agency UNHCR reported early this year that more than 300,000 Afghans had fled to Pakistan between August 2021 and January 2022. But it did not say how many of those were from the military.

The US: Pentagon investigation finds New York Times accusation of military cover-up false
On 18 May, a US military investigation into an airstrike in Syria in 2019 revealed their report. The probe was launched because a New York Times report accused the military of covering up an attack on an Islamic state position on 18 March 2019. However, the investigator, General Michael Garret, rejected the claims, saying the civilian casualty that resulted from the attack were because the commander had relied on inaccurate data. He expressed his discontent about how there had been a delay in reporting the civilian casualty.

The US: Another active hurricane season ahead
On 25 May, NOAA, the weather department of the US, predicted another heavier than usual hurricane season ahead. The change in the weather pattern is believed to be caused by La Nina, due to which at least one major hurricane (category three or higher) is 70 per cent likely to hit the US coastline. La Nina is a natural phenomenon that reduces wind shear in the atmosphere leading to the development of tropical storms and hurricanes. Warmer sea surface temperatures, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and changed west African monsoon are other factors that might cause this rise in the number of hurricanes in the region.

About the authors 
D Suba Chandran is a Dean and Professor at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Sourina Bej is a doctoral candidate and KAS-EIZ scholarship fellow at the University of Bonn. Padmashree Anandhan, Avishka Ashok, Ashwin Dhanabalan, Apoorva Sudhakar, Abigail Fernandez are Project Associates at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Rishma Banerjee is a Research Assistant at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Arshiya Banu is a postgraduate scholar at Women's Christian College, Chennai. Vijay Anand Panigrahi are postgraduate scholars at Pondicherry University, Pondicherry. 

Conflict Weekly Cover Story, 25 May 2022
Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Structural issues and impacts
Chrishari de Alwis Gunasekare
Click here to the read

Conflict Weekly Exclusive, 25 May 2022
Report Review
Amnesty International Report on death sentences and executions: Five takeaways
On 24 May, Amnesty International released its annual report on the death penalty and executions by countries. It provides a detailed report on the death sentences, executions, and violations of international law practised by countries across the globe and analyses the trend of increase amongst certain states. As per the Amnesty report: “Amnesty International’s monitoring of the global use of the death penalty in 2021 revealed an increase by 20% in recorded executions and 39% in known death sentences compared to 2020. Eighteen countries executed a total of at least 579 people, and 56 countries sentenced a total of at least 2,052 people to death. However, the 2021 global executions figure was the second-lowest recorded by Amnesty International since at least 2010, in line with the historical trend towards global abolition.”
Five key takeaways
First, the highest record in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. As per the report, out of 11 countries, China topped the executions chart for 2021, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and North Korea. The number of executions and death sentences is expected to be ranging in thousands as the actual count was covered up by China. In the case of Iran, due to increased drug-related offences, and nebulous charges targeting the ethnic minorities were observed to have increased by 28 per cent from 2020, which is the highest of all since 2017. Apart from Iraq where the per cent of executions fell by 62 per cent, the remaining Middle-east states have increased three to four times.

Second, targeted executions. The death sentences and executions were found to be declared on those who engaged in anti-government protests. To maintain power and support, political opponents, minorities, and ethnic groups were also the targets of the governments.

Third, reasons behind increased executions. One, to suppress the protestor groups and minorities leading to disregard of international human rights and protecting the state. Two, skipping of arbitral proceedings and direct sentencing without the choice to appeal. Such direct sentencing was declared under ambiguous reasons, “enmity against god,” political repression, terrorism, conspiracy to carry out violence, and participation in anti-government protests.

Fourth, violations of international law. Certain category of crimes does not qualify for a death sentence under the international norm. Such crimes include the execution of people below the age of 18, unfair judicial practises, confessions through torture, sentences by military courts to civilians, unintentional killing and others such as treason, crimes against the state, espionage and Blasphemy. However, Iran, China, Myanmar, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where the per cent was recorded high, had violated the international standards in giving the death penalty.

Fifth, abolitionist vs retentionist. The report found that close to two-thirds of countries (144) across the globe had removed the death penalty from its legal practice, and only 55 countries remain to practise the execution. Amnesty also reported on parties who do not provide death sentences for any form of crime. The list contained all European countries except Belarus, which still opts for the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Apart from this Central Asia region, South Africa and small island countries had also opted for similar practice. A key development is Sierra Leone, Kazakhstan and Virginia opting to eliminate the death penalty. While the retentionist countries continue to keep the death sentencing and execution as part of law till now against the international standards. It includes South Asia and East Asia, a majority of Middle East states, and in north Africa. Although the US is currently under a temporary pause on federal executions, it is still considered a retentionist for having the death penalty and execution part of its laws.

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