The World Today for August 19, 2021

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Truth & Consequences

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court want to investigate whether people died unjustly in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“Information…suggests that state actors, primarily members of the Philippine security forces, killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during official law enforcement operations,” wrote prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, according to the Washington Post. “Markedly similar crimes were committed outside official police operations, reportedly by so-called ‘vigilantes,’ although information suggests that some vigilantes were in fact police officers, while others were private citizens recruited, coordinated and paid by police to kill civilians.”

The investigation would examine killings from 2016, when Duterte took office, to 2019, when he withdrew the Philippines from the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Philippine authorities estimate that Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has claimed 6,000 lives while human rights groups think as many as 30,000 killings have occurred.

Some of those killed in the drug war were interred in leased graves that are now expiring, Agence France-Presse wrote.

Duterte has dared the court to put him on trial. “I have never denied, and the ICC can record it: Those who destroy my country, I will kill you,” the 76-year-old said in a recent State of the Union address covered by Reuters. “Those who destroy the young people of our country, I will kill you. I will really finish you because I love my country.”

He has also ignored a Philippine court’s ruling that he is supposed to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. But Amnesty International hoped that international prosecutors would proceed with or without his assistance in order to build a case against him. Philippine human rights activists, meanwhile, have also spoken out against Duterte’s policies, the Philippines-based, English-language Inquirer reported.

Duterte, 76, came to power as a populist who said he would rid the streets of crimes in the Philippines. He immediately drew criticism for his misogynist remarks, as VICE News chronicled, and the brutality he vowed to unleash against criminals. And while Duterte has provided the world with plenty of color, he has also presided over the economy tanking due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as rampant corruption. As the Diplomat noted, top brass in Philippine law enforcement is involved in the drug trade.

Duterte is not eligible for reelection when his term expires in 2022 but he has floated the notion of serving as vice president under his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is a leading contender for president, as NikkeiAsia explained.

Voters will decide if they want more of the same.



Closing In

Prosecutors indicted prominent Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech for the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, a killing that rocked the small country, Politico reported Wednesday.

Fenech was arrested in November 2019 on board his luxury yacht and faces charges of complicity to murder and criminal association. Prosecutors are demanding a life sentence for the first charge as well as a prison term of 20 to 30 years for the second.

Authorities accused the businessman of purchasing a variety of weapons, including machine guns and grenades through his 17 Black company.

Caruana Galizia’s investigative work focused on the firm, which Maltese financial regulators said was the source of funds for companies set up in Panama by a high-level official then serving as energy minister and had previously served as former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff.

So far, Maltese officials convicted Vincent Muscat – no relation to the former prime minister – for involvement in the murder. Two brothers have also been accused of being involved.

Meanwhile, a public inquiry into the Caruana Galizia case did not find any evidence that the government was involved in the killing. However, it noted that the state “should shoulder responsibility for the assassination,” saying that the government created a “favorable climate” for anyone that wanted to “eliminate” bloggers and journalists.


Zero Tolerance

New Zealand entered into lockdown this week after detecting one new Covid-19 case in Auckland, the first in six months, amid a slow vaccination rollout in the country, the Telegraph reported.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged citizens “to follow the rules to the letter,” warning that the single case could be the Delta variant of the virus.

The lockdown was triggered when a 58-year-old unvaccinated man tested positive for the virus early Tuesday. Authorities have identified 23 potential exposure sites, 15 of which have been classified as locations of interest.

New Zealand now entered a level four lockdown – dubbed the “eliminate” phase – in which people will be ordered to stay in their homes for the next three days. However, Auckland and its surrounding towns will be shut down for about a week.

Travel outside is only permitted for essential reasons such as physical exercise and grocery shopping. Only essential services will operate and non-essential ones will be forced to close.

The last reported community case of the coronavirus in the country was in February. Since then, New Zealanders have been living without restrictions, although international borders remain closed.

Ardern’s “go hard, go early” policy to curb the spread of the virus has been effective but the country is still lagging on vaccinations.

About 950,000 have been fully vaccinated out of a total population of five million.


Of Idols and Ads

The Islamic police in Nigeria’s Kano state ordered shops to only use headless mannequins to advertise clothes, a move that has raised eyebrows in the Muslim-majority state, the BBC reported.

Commander Haruna Ibn-Sina, who leads the Sharia police known as hisbah, said that the display of mannequins was a form of idolatry, which is forbidden in Islam. He also ordered the mannequins to be covering “the shape of the breast, the shape of the bottom, (which are) contrary to the teachings of Sharia (Islamic law).”

The order has sparked concern among business owners, both Muslim and non-Muslims, who feel that the order might affect their business.

Although Sharia law is expected to apply only to Muslims, non-Muslims have also come under pressure to obey the rules of the religious police.

The recent order has also sparked debates among Muslims in Kano about the hisbah’s reach and activities, with some saying the religious police’s interpretation of Islam is wrong.

Meanwhile, Ibn-Sina’s officers have received some notoriety across the state: Last year, they publicly shaved off Mohawk hairstyles sported by young men and criticized others for wearing low-hung pants.

The hisbah also barred the use of the term “Black Friday” to advertise sales, arguing that Friday was a holy day in Islam. Black Friday, an American convention, is used worldwide to generate sales.

More than 100 people were killed during riots to protest the implementation of Sharia law in Kano state more than a decade ago. Kano is one of the 12 Nigerian states in the Muslim-majority north that practices Islamic law.


A Papyrus Story

Egyptian tourism has been hit hard in the past decade because of the 2011 Arab Spring, attacks by militants and the current coronavirus pandemic.

The decrease in tourists has threatened livelihoods across the country and also the millennia-old practice of making papyrus paper, Agence France-Presse reported.

The village of al-Qaramus, located about 50 miles northeast of Cairo, has especially felt the impact: Only 25 farms selling papyrus are left compared to about 500 before the revolution.

“I lost about 80 percent of my total income – I used to earn nearly $1,000 a month and now it’s almost zero,” said farmer and artist Said Tarakhan, whose works include papyrus paintings of ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun.

The archaic paper is made from the papyrus plant that grows in water and can reach up to 13 feet in height. Thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptians used papyrus as a writing surface but the material was also used for other purposes such as in ropes, window shades and even material for toys.

But despite the adversities, Tarakhan and others are finding new ways to sell the ancient craftsmanship to tourists.

He and his son launched an online store selling papyrus products such as notebooks and sketchbooks to both locals and foreigners.

“I thank Covid-19 for locking us in our homes and forcing us to improve our business model,” he quipped.

Click here to see how al-Qaramus keeps traditions alive.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 209,315,544

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,393,059

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 4,796,894,017

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 37,155,209 (+0.37%)
  2. India: 32,322,258 (+0.11%)
  3. Brazil: 20,457,897 (+0.20%)
  4. France: 6,611,444 (+0.46%)
  5. Russia: 6,572,246 (+0.31%)
  6. UK: 6,385,989 (+0.53%)
  7. Turkey: 6,138,422 (+0.33%)
  8. Argentina: 5,106,207 (+0.19%)
  9. Colombia: 4,877,323 (+0.06%)
  10. Spain: 4,745,558 (+0.25%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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