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Weekly News Digest for April 15, 2022

Compiled by Kelly Dobso, Trinity Gates, Dinah Gorayeb, Austin Myhre, and Charlotte Smith

North America

United States Senate Confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court

On Thursday, the United States Senate confirmed Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court on a 53-47 vote, with three Republicans voting alongside the Democratic caucus. Judge Jackson will be the first Black woman and public defender appointed to the Supreme Court. In the confirmation hearings, Republicans attempted to stop the nomination by attacking her record and portraying her as an extremist who is soft on crime. Meanwhile, Democrats celebrate Judge Jackson’s confirmation as another step towards equality, diversity, and new life experiences on the court. Judge Jackson will be sworn in after Justice Stephen Breyer retires this summer.

Asia and the Pacific

China Implements Stringent COVID-19 Lockdowns; Expect More Economic Disruption

More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, China has again implemented stringent lockdown protocols. Late last month, China experienced a surge of roughly 50,000 cases in and around Shanghai, China’s largest city. Immediately, the government instituted partial lockdowns. These lockdowns, however, have spread and intensified, with the Chinese government maintaining its commitment to a ‘zero-COVID’ strategy even as other countries now emphasize ‘living with the virus.’ Chinese officials are claiming victory in their efforts, but China reported 29,000 new cases on Thursday alone, which sets the record for most cases in a day since 2020. In the northeast regions of China, though, these measures are leading to decreases in case count.

Experts argue that any deviation from the zero-Covid policy would harm the Chinese government’s perceived effectiveness, especially as Chinese President XI Jinping seeks to solidify and extend his base of power, because the government’s legitimacy is derived from its ability to produce positive results with the massive power it wields. There is evidence that the Chinese people are less willing to accept the revamped COVID-19 lockdowns. A livestream video caught protestors clashing with police outside of a Shanghai apartment complex. It circulated on social media before being removed. Other clips show people screaming out of their apartments, begging for access to food. Due to the limited transparency of Chinese social media, it is difficult to tell whether this detraction is widespread.

At the same time, Chinese citizens and analysts alike are questioning whether the human and economic costs of the lockdowns outweigh the benefits of stopping the spread of COVID-19. In Shanghai, business has shuttered, and individuals have not left their homes in days. According to reports from Nomura, a Japanese financial group, 45 “Chinese cities with a combined [population of] 373 million people” that account for “roughly 40% of the country’s total economic output” are under lockdown as of this week. Certainly, this will have great economic consequences, especially for crippled supply chains. Already, dozens of electronic manufacturers have temporarily ceased production in and near Shanghai, and other firms are following suit. Moreover, studies have shown that lockdowns contributed to significant increases in mental health challenges in countries like the United States. While COVID-19 cases may be thwarted, it is likely that these mental health shocks could be more detrimental; it is even alleged that more people have committed suicide than have died from COVID-19 since the start of this new round of lockdowns.


The First ICC Trial on Dafur War Crimes Commences

After 13 years on the run, Abd-Al-Rahman surrendered himself to the ICC in June 2020, earlier this week he pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This trial will be the first one dealing with Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which occurred a decade earlier, within the International Criminal Court.

Abd-Al-Rahman is accused of leading pro-government Janjaweed fighters responsible for the persecution, murder, rape, and torture from 2003 to 2004. The Darfur conflict killed nearly 300,000 people and displaced 2 million people. The decades preceding the Dafur conflict have nurtured the continued internal displacement of 1.6 million people and inter-communal violence. The former Sudan President and three other officials are also being pursued by the ICC for war crimes in Darfur.


Amid War Crime Accusations, Countries Demand the Removal of Russia from the UN Security Council and New Sanctions Are Proposed

After the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kyiv revealed crimes committed in the city of Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the United Nations Security Council, asking for the removal of Russia from the council or for the dissolution of the council. In a conference on Tuesday, Zelensky remarked that over 300 Ukrainian civiliians had been tortured, killed, or assaulted in Bucha, and that, “It is difficult to find a war crime that the occupiers have not committed.” However, the Security Council is in a difficult position with Russia, because the country is a permanent member of the council and therefore can veto resolutions concerning Ukraine. Action to amend the UN charter or remove Russia from the UNSC would require support from the Security Council as well as a vote in the General Assembly, where Russia may exercise veto power. In light of more deaths as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, Western leaders have promised to assist Ukrainian authorities in investigating possible war crimes as well as to impose new sanctions on Russia. Ukrainian officials also expect to find more evidence of deaths around Kyiv, especially in cities such as Borodyanka that have been hit the most by Russian forces.

Despite evidence of war crimes, the European Union does not plan to ban Russian oil imports but will instead focus on cutting out Russian coal. The EU is instead proposing a gradual ban on Russian oil through a sanctions package, which would apply to new coal contracts, but countries like Poland which had a tougher stance on Russia since the invasion, emphasize the need to place a ban on both gas and oil. The sanctions proposed by the EU will ban Russian shipping from EU ports with the exception of certain essentials and will also ban Russian companies from participating in public procurement contracts in the bloc.

UN General Assembly Votes to Suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council amid reports of intentional violations and abuse of human rights by Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians. However, multiple countries' representatives, such as those from China, Cuba, and Syria, stated that human rights were being politicized in this resolution passed by the UN General Assembly. Some countries abstained from voting, such as South Africa, whose representative believed there was not due process in deciding whether or not Russia was guilty of the alleged crimes in Ukraine. The resolution was ultimately passed in part due to Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya, who appealed to the council to prevent genocide by suspending Russia from the council, saying, “It's already clear that the goal of Russia is not an occupation only. It is genocide.”Although the evidence of attacks on civilians by Russian forces are becoming clearer through the rising number of casualties and images of destroyed residential areas and dead Ukrainians lying in the streets, Russia continues to deny allegations that it killed civilians. Contrary to what the Ukrainian envoy remarked to the council, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya stated, “We don't target civilian facilities to save as many civilians as possible. That is why our advance is not that rapid as many expected.”

Latin America and the Caribbean

Former Honduran President Will Be Extradited to the United States

According to the Security Minister Ruben Sabillion, the former president will be extradited next week, and he stated that the country “has to get in touch with U.S. authorities for his surrender.” Former President Juan Orlando Hernandez served as president from 2014 until the beginning of this year when he was arrested in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on drug trafficking and weapons charges.

U.S. authorities accused the former president of participating in a drug-trafficking scheme, alleging that he “facilitated the smuggling of some 500 tonnes of drugs, mainly from Colombia and Venezuela.” He faces three charges in New York: conspiracy to import a controlled substance into the U.S.; using or carrying firearms, including machine guns; and conspiracy to use or carry firearms. Hernandez has denied all the charges, saying “his enemies are trying to get back at him.”

Brazilian Presidential Candidate Lula Promises to Stop Illegal Mining on Indigenous Lands

Brazil’s former left-wing president and future candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised Indigenous people that his government would stop illegal mining on their reservations and recognize their land claims if he wins the election in October. Illegal mining has greatly increased in the Amazon forest,destroying a record of 48sq miles (125sq km)forest last year.

In 2018, current President Bolsonaro vowed to not recognize “a single centimeter of Indigenous reservation land,” leading him to win the support of Brazil’s most powerful farm lobby group. Indigenous leaders have called on Lula to rebuild the government’s Indigenous affairs agency, Funai, which has had its funding cut by Bolsonaro’s government. Joenia Wapichana, the country’s only Indigenous representative in National Congress, said “Lula, we are unprotected. Our rights are being trampled on.” She continued that illegal occupations of protected Indigenous lands are being legalized under Bolsonaro’s government and wildcat miners are invading reservations.

Middle East

Over 150 Palestinians Injured after Israeli Forces Raid al-Aqsa Mosque

On Friday morning, Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque while thousands of Muslims gathered for morning prayers during Ramadan. According to reports, Israeli police entered the mosque after a small group of Palestinians threw rocks towards a Jewish prayer space of the Western Wall. Police claimed they raided to break up a “violent” crowd that stayed after prayers. Moreover, Palestinian witnesses say the Israeli forces emptied the compound and attacked mosque staff, worshippers, elders, young people, and paramedics. In addition, Israeli police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades, injuring at least 158 Palestinians and arresting hundreds others.


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