Thousands protest far-right party in Germany

Mass protests took place across 114 cities in Germany on Jan. 21 against the far-right political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The demonstrations came in response to revelations that party leaders held a national meeting of extremist to discuss mass deportations, including of "non-assimilated citizens." According to activist group Together Against the Right, the weekend demonstrations brought out over 1.5 million attendees across the country, under slogans such as "DEFEND DEMOCRACY," "IT FEELS LIKE 1933," and "NEVER AGAIN IS NOW."

Feds blame Texas in deaths on US-Mexico border

Two migrant children and their mother drowned Jan. 12 while trying to cross from Mexico into the United States, after Texas authorities prevented  US Border Patrol agents from reaching the victims to render life-saving aid, charged US Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a district on the border. The US Department of Homeland Security said the three migrants drowned near Shelby Park in the border town of Eagle Pass after Texas Guardsmen "physically barred" Border Patrol agents from entering the area. Mexican officials recovered the bodies the next morning on their side of the Rio Grande, in Piedras Negras.

Colombia: 181 social leaders murdered in 2023

The Colombian Ombudsman's Office (Defensoría del Pueblo de Colombia, DPC) reported Jan. 9 that 181 social leaders and human rights defenders were murdered in 2023. The DPC, in its "Annual report on the killings of social leaders and human rights defenders," counted 160 men and 21 women among the victims. The ombudsman, Carlos Camargo Assis, stated: "It is an unacceptable situation that every two days last year, on average, a social leader or human rights defender was murdered in Colombia. Every life lost is a tragedy for their families, for the communities, and for the defense of fundamental rights in the country."

'State of armed conflict' declared in Ecuador

Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa on Jan. 8 declared a 60-day state of emergency in the country after the escape of Adolfo Macías Villamar AKA "Fito," leader of Los Choneros narco-gang, from Littoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil. Macías had been serving a 34-year sentence since 2011 for drug trafficking, murder, and organized crime. As news broke of his disappearance, six other correctional facilities across the country exploded into riots. The situation escalated the following day, when hooded gunmen interrupted a live television broadcast in Guayaquil, taking reporters and staff hostage. Noboa responded by declaring a state of "internal armed conflict" in the country, ordering security forces to "neutralize" designated "terrorist organizations" and "non-state actors," including Los Choneros, Los Lobos and Los Tiguerones narco-gangs. (Jurist, CNN, BBC News, NYT, AFP, InfoBae, La República)

India in peace deal with (some) Assam rebels

The Indian government and the state government of Assam signed a peace agreement Dec. 29 with the rebel United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), aiming to end over 40 years of insurgency. ULFA leader Arabinda Rajkhowa, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and Union Minister Amit Shah were all present for the signing ceremony in New Delhi.

Suriname: prison for ex-prez in 'December Murders'

The High Court of Justice of Suriname on Dec. 30 upheld a 20-year prison sentence for former President Dési Bouterse in connection with the murder of political opponents during his regime in the 1980s. Bouterse, who served as president from 2010 to 2020, initially rose to power as Suriname's de facto leader from 1980 to 1987 after launching a coup and establishing military rule. It was during this period that the murder of 15 prominent opposition figures took place. The "December Murders," carried out that month in 1982, included victims who were lawyers, journalists and military officials. They were tortured and executed without trial for their criticism of Bouterse's dictatorship, or for their involvement in an attempted counter-coup of March 1982. At the time, Bouterse claimed in a national broadcast that the victims—whom he called "detainees"—had been fatally shot while attempting to flee.

China seeks ceasefire in Burma border zone

China's government announced Dec. 14 that it had mediated a short-term ceasefire to the conflict between the Burmese junta and armed groups of ethnic peoples in the northern regions near the Chinese border. The conflict has been escalating since the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched Operation 1027 in Burma's northern Shan state in late October. None of the parties to the conflict have commented on the supposed ceasefire.

Russia: unprecedented number of treason cases in 2023

The Russian authorities opened 70 cases in 2023 for "state treason" or "secret cooperation with a foreign state or organization," according to a report from the human rights organization Perviy Otdel, issued Dec. 21. Out of the 70 new cases initiated in 2023, in addition to 28 pending from previous years, courts found defendants guilty in 37 cases, marking an historical high. Some cases progressed swiftly from initiation to final judgment, spanning a mere month. Often, the Federal Security Service (FSB) conducted online sting operations, particularly targetting individuals opposing the war in Ukraine. Those charged under the treason statute, Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, may face from 12 years to life imprisonment.

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