Press Review – The world in brief: 1 December 2017

NEWS RELEASE – The International Center for Peace and Human Rights’ (CIPADH) press review aims to provide a brief overview of current affairs pertaining to human rights. This week, we cast an eye on three events: Tuesday morning’s North Korean missile launch, the report of over 150 cases of rape and sexual assault in Lapland, and the violent clashes that erupted on Saturday in Islamabad (Pakistan) between the police and supporters of an Islamic cleric.

North Korea: missile launch

On Tuesday 29th November, North Korea initiated its first ballistic test launch in two months, according to The Guardian. This represents the country’s 20th missile launch, and is the most powerful one yet, thus reigniting regional tensions with South Korea and Japan. The latter state’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has subsequently called for an emergency UN security council meeting, and came with US President Donald Trump to the agreement of strengthening their respective defense capabilities and urging China (North Korea’s main ally) to apply diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. However, North Korean state media has claimed the missiles would pose no threats to other countries as long as the government’s interests were not infringes upon, which was interpreted by experts as a potential opportunity for Pyongyang and Washington to lower diplomatic temperature. Le Monde reported that according to Pentagon analysts, the missile was indeed not threatening to the US and their allies, although Defense Secretary Jim Mattis qualified these developments as a danger for any country. The journal also cast light on the fact that the launch took place eight days after the USA’s decision to list North Korea as a state “supporting terrorism”, which has since been interpreted as another provocation for Pyongyang. Finally, The New Yorker delineated what this week’s events have revealed from an international politics standpoint. First, it has shown that the Japanese defense missiles would be ineffective against rockets such as the one fired on Tuesday (Hwagsong-15). Furthermore, the lack of Chinese political influence on Pyongyang was made apparent, after the recent visit of a high-ranking Chinese envoy to North Korea to negotiate disarmament. Finally, the Trump administration’s current approach has proven to be highly detrimental, and experts argue that in light of recent developments, the US should move from demanding unilateral disarmament as a prerequisite for talks, to a bilateral dialogue.        

Norway: over 150 cases of rape and sexual assault in Lapland

The Local Norway informed its readers on Wednesday of the 151 cases of alleged sexual assault discovered by local authorities in a small community of 2’000 people in Lapland. The police has reported a total of 82 victims, aged between 4 and 75, rendering some of the charges situations of child rape. However, more than 100 of the 151 cases have been dropped, mainly due to the statute of limitation, as some allegations date as far back as 1953. 92 suspects are at the moment being considered by investigators, and two individuals have already been charged of a total of ten assaults. Furthermore, the Norwegian journal notifies us that the great majority of victims, as well as 70 % of the suspects, are members of the Indigenous Sami community, and many seem to be followers of Laestadianism (a conservative Lutheran revival movement). Although police officers have claimed that there is no indication of ethnicity or religion being explanations for the violence, government representatives have blamed community “mechanisms” for the massive underreporting (for instance, turning to religion to heal instead of judicial authorities). In an official declaration, Lars Magne Andreassen, director of a Sami cultural center in Tysfjord, responded by saying that “it’s not so much the fact that the Sami have a cultural problem which we should clean up but the fact that no one has listened to them”. This statement brings attention to the discrimination Sami communities have been facing for centuries at the hands of Scandinavian country governments. The Russian news outlet Sputnik also covered this story, and revealed important information concerning the possible charges incurred by perpetrators. Indeed, police lawyer Oyvind Rengard is quoted announcing that “more than half of the cases have a maximum penalty of up to 21 years in prison”, the most severe in Norway.           

Pakistan: violent clashes in Islamabad between the police and supporters of an Islamic cleric

In the article titled “Pakistan deploys military troops after violent clashes in Islamabad”, The New York Times revisits the conflict that erupted two weeks ago in Pakistan. It occured after cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi accused the country’s law minister Zahid Hamid of “committing blasphemy” (a highly contentious issue in conservative Pakistan, where two politicians were assassinated in recent years, after making law-changing proposals) when a new version of an oath for lawmakers dealing with a declaration of Prophet Muhammad as God’s final prophet was proposed by the government. Rizvi demanded the law minister’s immediate resignation, and although the government reversed changes in the oath, it for long refused to support the call for Hamid’s departure. Following these proceedings, protesters supporting the cleric’s opinions attacked and stormed the homes of Pakistani politicians on Saturday, and took to the streets to show discontent, resulting in six deaths and many injured citizens. The government consequently deployed army troops to “help restore law and order” the following day, but concerns have been raised about the current stability of the governing party. The Pakistani journal Dawn concentrated on the reaction of diverse national political actors, such as Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, who accused interior minister Ahsan Iqbal of covering up the killing of protesters. Indeed, it was reported that Iqbal stated there had been no causalities, and that the deaths were a result of incidents that took place following the military operation. Finally, The Indian Express announced that Hamid resigned on November 27th as part of an agreement reached between the government and the protesters, who then called off the three weeklong protests that had been organized. In consequence, Iqbal was accused by the country’s High Court not only of failing to successfully end Saturday’s violent protests, but also of making an illegal deal with demonstrators.

By Manon Fabre – Research Assistant at CIPADH