Weekly update: 27 February – 5 March 2023
Myanmar – 27 February 2023
On 22 February, Myanmar’s junta announced martial law orders for three additional townships in Sagaing Region, after expanding martial law in 37 townships elsewhere in the country earlier this month. A total of 50 townships are now under martial law in Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, and Mon States, as well as in Yangon and Mandalay Regions. The three townships in Myanmar’s northwest now fall under the executive and judicial jurisdiction of regional military commander Maj. Gen. Than Htike, who has been sanctioned by the European Union for serious human rights violations, including excessive use of force and an attack on a school in Depayin township in September 2022 that killed 11 children.
United States (US) – 28 February 2023
US President Joe Biden has once again turned to ineffective and deadly deterrence policies at the United States’ southwest border, proposing a rule last week that rights groups have labeled an “asylum ban” due to its unconscionable narrowing of access to protection. The rule would take effect after a 30-day public comment period. Through its “presumption of asylum ineligibility for certain noncitizens,” Biden’s new rule combines a version of former President Donald Trump’s “third country transit ban” – a policy Biden once campaigned against and a federal judge ruled unlawful – with additional asylum restrictions, including the expansion of what is effectively an electronic metering system. A US federal judge ruled metering illegal because it violates due process rights, and the practice also violates international standards protecting asylum seekers.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) – 28 February 2023
Foreign ministers of Group of Twenty (G20) countries are meeting in New Delhi on March 1-3. US-China tensions and Russia’s war in Ukraine loom large over the meetings, which will be attended by Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, China Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Governments don’t often agree to statements critical of their own records, so the G20, in adopting any joint communiques, will be silent on many vital issues, including Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, China’s crimes against humanity in Xingang, Saudi Arabia’s abuses in Yemen, or the US government’s own record on racial justice and immigrants’ rights.
Iran – 28 February 2023
Iran has enriched uranium particles up to just short of weapons grade, placing further pressure on western powers to issue a third censure of Iran at a meeting of the nuclear watchdog board next week. In its quarterly report to the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Association, officials also revealed that the restrictions placed on its inspectors meant it would take a considerable time to provide a full inventory or history of Iran’s enrichment process.
Italy – 1 March 2023
Police in Italy have arrested three people on suspicion of people-smuggling following the deaths of at least 67 migrants in a shipwreck off the country's southern coast on 26 February. The three detained were a Turkish man and two Pakistani nationals. Most of those on the wooden vessel, thought to carry 200 people, were said to be from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Officials have warned the final death toll could climb to more than 100. The three men arrested are said to have sailed the boat from Izmir in Turkey to Calabria in Italy despite bad weather conditions.
United States (US) / Mexico – 1 March 2023
Mexican officials said that the US has asked Mexico to extradite a son of the infamous drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Ovidio Guzmán was arrested on 5 January in Sinaloa state, in northern Mexico. The 32-year-old is suspected of leading, along with his brother, the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel which his father founded. Ovidio Guzmán is also accused of having ordered the murder of a singer who had refused to perform at his wedding. Their father was tried in a US court and is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security jail in Colorado after having been found guilty of leading the Sinaloa cartel. Ovidio is one of four children El Chapo had during his relationship with Griselda López in the 1980s and 90s. The oldest of them, Edgar, was killed in a cartel shootout in 2008.
Finland – 1 March 2023
Finland’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing the country to join Nato, increasing the chances of it becoming a member of the transatlantic defensive alliance before its Nordic neighbour Sweden. Both countries last year abandoned decades of military non-alignment in a historic policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, submitting simultaneous Nato membership applications and pledging to complete the process “hand-in-hand”.
Iran – 1 March 2023
Dozens of girls from 26 schools in Iran are reportedly being treated for poisoning at hospitals after another wave of apparent toxic gas attacks. More than 1,000 students have been affected since November. They have suffered respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Many Iranians suspect the poisonings are a deliberate attempt to force girls' schools to close. But the government has not said whether it believes they are premeditated.
Colombia – 2 March 2023
A diverse and broad group of Colombian human rights organisations and victims of excessive use of force by Colombian security forces presented, in collaboration with Amnesty International, a set of proposals with a differential, intersectional and human rights-based approach for comprehensive reform of the police. “Repression in the Spotlight: Proposals for Comprehensive Reform of the Police” sets out the need to, at a minimum, demilitarize the National Police; modify its general structure and functions; reform recruitment, career paths and promotion practices; limit the use of force by members of the National Police; establish monitoring mechanisms and citizen oversight of police activity; and guarantee truth, justice, and reparation for victims of police violence.
Russia / Ukraine – 3 March 2023
Russian President Vladimir Putin says a Ukrainian sabotage group entered a Russian border region and opened fire on civilians in a "terrorist act". The governor of Bryansk region said "saboteurs from Ukraine" had fired at a civilian car in Lyubechane, a border village, killing two men and wounding a 10-year-old boy. Kyiv strongly denied the Russian claim. The alleged incident has not been independently verified.