The World Today for November 14, 2017



The Long Arm of the Law

The International Criminal Police Organization, better known as Interpol, extends the long arm of the law around the globe. But a few recent cases have revealed how dictators might use the organization to lengthen their reach, too.

Late last month, Greek police arrested Mirzorahim Kuzov, a Tajik dissident, as he was flying through Athens to attend a conference on human rights in Warsaw. Interpol had issued a so-called “red notice” to detain him at the request of Tajik authorities, Al Jazeera reported.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has accused Kuzov of supporting a 2015 coup and fomenting extremism as a member of a banned Islamic political party.

Kuzov denies the accusations. To escape prison, he has been in hiding outside of Tajikistan for years.

Is Kuzov a criminal? Nobody knows. But one thing is for sure: Rahmon is a tyrant who has built his oppressive regime on a foundation of human rights violations. Serving a warrant in his name is almost certainly not good police work.

The question arises: how should Interpol define a criminal?

The Index of Censorship recently noted that European countries have detained at least six journalists from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey due to red notices. Those journalists quite possibly ran afoul of their country’s laws. But those laws are also almost certainly unfair, say researchers.

“The use of the Interpol system to target journalists is a serious breach of media freedom,” said Hannah Machlin, project manager for Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom, in a statement. “Interpol’s own constitution bars it from interventions that are political in nature.”

Of course, Interpol gets things right, too.

Recently, for the fifth time, the agency rejected Moscow’s requests to put a red notice on William Browder, a US-born British financier whom Russian authorities have described as a national security threat, the Moscow Times reported.

Banned from Russia in 2005 after amassing a fortune in the country, Browder kicked a hornet’s nest when he raised alarms over the situation of his colleague, Sergei Magnitsky, who perished in Russian police custody in 2009.

Magnitsky was a whistleblower who exposed corruption, and the US imposed sanctions on Russians allegedly linked to his death. Russia retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.

Most recently, however, Moscow tried to get around Interpol by issuing a “diffusion,” reported Quartz. That’s an arrest request that Interpol does not vet. The move caused the United States immigration system last month to temporarily block Browder’s entrance into the country.

Things will get murkier, some predict.

Every country in the world except North Korea belongs to Interpol. Now Palestine could become a member soon. One can be sure the Palestinians have debatable views on who is and is not a criminal.



See No Evil

Just days after replacing the general in charge of the crackdown that drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee the country, Myanmar’s army issued a report denying all allegations of rape and killings by the security forces.

Earlier, the army offered no explanation for the transfer of Major General Maung Maung Soe, who was formerly head of Western Command in Rakhine state, Reuters reported, quoting a military official as saying he has been placed on reserve rather than moved to another position.

Based on an internal investigation, the army report clearing the security forces of wrongdoing was posted on the Facebook page of the military’s commander-in-chief following accusations by a senior United Nations official on Sunday. The UN official had accused the army of organized mass rape and other crimes against humanity. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The ouster of the Rakhine commander comes amid calls for economic and travel sanctions targeting the military and its business interests in Washington, and ahead of a visit on Wednesday by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.


Rallying Call

The European Union is edging closer to creating a joint army.

Twenty three out of 28 EU states signed a declaration in Brussels on Monday that, once ratified, will allow participating states to jointly develop rapid reaction forces and weaponry, as well as create single European logistics and medical support hubs, EU Observer reported.

The countries are expected to make a legally binding pledge at an EU summit next month.

Amid President Donald Trump’s complaints about NATO members not meeting their financial obligations, the pact would also include binding national plans to increase defense spending and military R&D – though it’s less ambitious than some EU states, such as France and Italy, wanted.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the project was “good for Europe and good for NATO” because it would lead to bigger defense budgets and “strengthen the European pillar within NATO”.

He also said any new EU “forces or capabilities” should “also be available” for NATO operations.


Stepping In

Zimbabwe’s top military commander threatened to step in to halt President Robert Mugabe’s purge of veterans of the country’s independence struggle from his ruling ZANU-PF party.

Among other ousters, last week Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a move seen as paving the way for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to take over.

“When it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” the New York Times quoted Gen. Constantine Chiwenga as saying.

Mugabe did not fight in the armed struggle that helped lead to the country’s independence from Britain in 1980, but he was a prominent leader in the movement. His wife was a teenage student at the time.

Flanked by some 90 other military commanders, Chiwenga criticized “the current shenanigans by people who do not share the same liberation history of ZANU-PF” – a reference to Grace and her ally Jonathan Moyo – setting the stage for a potential showdown.

Notably, in 2008 the military intervened to stop a democratically elected government that lacked liberation-war credentials from taking power.


Taking Notice

All that glitters is not gold – especially when you’re extracting it from mines.

Gold mining is a dirty process, and some mines require the use of harmful mercury or cyanide in order to speed up extraction.

Faced with some pretty grim health risks, a group of Mongolian miners have discovered a better alternative for extracting the precious metal: water, and a bit of gravity.

Together with the help of a Swiss government agency, one group of miners opened their first small-scale facility for processing gold using the simplified method, PRI reported.

Instead of using mercury to quickly separate the precious metal from rock, the raw material is pulverized, then passed through a “shaking table” filled with water where the gold flakes slowly but surely separate out.

It’s not the most time-efficient process, but it works. The miners have been successful in extracting more than 80 percent of gold from the ore.

“Sometimes we don’t get anything…, but whenever we do get gold, we actually make decent money,” one of the miners told PRI.

Gold-mining is a lucrative business in Mongolia, but due to health hazards, the government banned the use of mercury in mines. Government support for a replacement technique has been slow going, but miners now using the gravity technique hope the government will take notice.

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