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October 21, 2016

Daily News Brief

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South Africa to Quit ICC in Setback for Global Court

South Africa will leave the International Criminal Court, Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced on Friday, with the country's departure expected to take effect one year (Reuters) after notice is received by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The announcement comes after South Africa was pressured to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (WSJ) when he attended a summit in South Africa last year, and follows Burundi's announcement this week of its intention to leave the ICC, which would make it the first nation to do so (IRIN). The ICC came into effect in 2002 as the first permanent international court mandated to deal with the world’s most serious crimes.  It has faced increasing criticism from African leaders that it has disproportionately targeted the continent for its cases. An internal South African document said that the country found its obligation to peaceful conflict resolution sometimes "incompatible" (Al Jazeera) with the ICC's interpretations.


"All four of the suspects convicted for crimes against humanity and/or war crimes by the ICC are African—most recently Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi , a Malian jihadi sentenced to nine years imprisonment in September for destroying historic shrines during the northern Mali uprising in 2012. Another, Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba—sentenced to 18 years in prison in June for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Central African Republic—is appealing his sentence. All three of the court’s ongoing trials involve Africans, and nine of the 10 situations currently being investigated by the court prior to a possible trial involve African states," Conor Gaffey writes for Newsweek.

"The ICC has been criticized by many African countries for what they say is a disproportionate focus on crimes committed on the continent. All of the cases so far heard by the court revolved around African defendants, although it is also examining alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Georgia and has opened preliminary investigations in Afghanistan, Colombia and Ukraine. There is also a preliminary probe into whether U.K. soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq. The U.S. isn’t a member of the Rome Statute and doesn’t fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction," Gabriele Steinhauser writes for the Wall Street Journal.

"This move [from Burundi] was apparently prompted by the ICC Prosecutor’s announcement back in April of this year that she was commencing a preliminary examination – the first step to determine if a full investigation is warranted—into allegations of murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, other forms of sexual violence, and enforced disappearances committed in Burundi since early 2015. The Rome Statute provides that a State Party’s departure from the Court shall only be effective one year following formal notification of withdrawal. The question then is, if Burundi follows through on its threat to leave, what happens to the ICC’s already-commenced preliminary examination into crimes committed there?" Alex Whiting writes for the Just Security blog.


China, Philippines Propose Dispute-Resolution Mechanism

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte said in a joint statement that a bilateral consultation mechanism on the two countries' activities in the South China Sea (Phil Star) may "be useful." Beijing also pledged support for Duterte's crackdown on drugs and crime (SCMP).

This CFR InfoGuide outlines China's maritime disputes.

CHINA: Pope Francis may reach an agreement with China in the next month that would allow the Vatican to appoint its own bishops in the country (Guardian).


Pakistani Envoy Warns of Arms Transfers to Region

A Pakistani envoy said that South Asia is a sensitive region (Geo News) in which "one state’s military spending grossly and vastly out-shadows all others," an apparent reference to India, in an address to the UN in Geneva. She warned against efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons leading to an imbalance in conventional weapons (AFP).  

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker discusses the history of India and Pakistan's dispute over the Kashmir region.

INDIA: Indian banks fear that more than three million debit cards in the country have been compromised by malware (BBC), a development that is likely to exacerbate Indian clients' preference for cash over electronic transactions. 


Islamic State Launches Attacks on Kirkuk

The self-proclaimed Islamic State took responsibility for attacks on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, including explosions at a power station and government and police buildings (Al Jazeera). The assault appears to be a bid to divert Iraqi forces from their campaign to retake Mosul from the militant group.

SYRIA: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the General Assembly to hold an emergency session on Syria (Reuters). Such a session could bypass the Security Council, which remains deadlocked, with Russia vetoing measures (WSJ) supported by the United States, United Kingdom, and France.


UN: 'Alarming' Hunger Amid Madagascar Drought

An estimated 850,000 people in Madagascar are seeing "alarming" levels of hunger during an ongoing drought, according to the United Nations (Guardian), which said 20 percent of households suffer from emergency levels of hunger. 


Belgian Region Stalls EU-Canada Trade Deal

A trade deal in the works since 2009 that would eliminate 98 percent of tariffs between Canada and the EU has been stalled by opposition from the Belgian region of Wallonia, which says the pact is a threat to farmers and welfare standards (BBC).

FRANCE: Presidential frontrunner Alain Juppe said France should renegotiate an agreement on border controls that has kept thousands of asylum-seekers on the French side of the channel (Guardian).

This CFR Backgrounder discusses Europe's migration crisis. 


Venezuela Commission Suspends Recall Initiative

Venezuela's electoral council suspended a campaign by opposition politicians to hold a referendum on removing President Nicolas Maduro from office. The board cited allegations of fraud in the drive to collect signatures to initiate the recall (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explores Venezuela's economic fractures and political turmoil.

MEXICO: Former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte has vanished a week after he resigned his office and a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of racketeering and money laundering (NYT). The prospect of his prosecution has raised hopes among some of a new push by authorities against corruption.