Greater Middle East

EU 'blank check' for Egypt dictatorship

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are preparing to sue the European Commission over the 7.4-billion-euro aid package extended to Egypt in March, aimed at stopping migration. The deal—similar to others the EU has pursued in recent years—has been criticized for ignoring human rights concerns. "Throwing money at dictators is not migration policy," one MEP said. On May 2, the EU announced a 1-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon, also aimed at stemming migration.

Syrian refugees face illegal 'push-backs'

The Cyprus spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Emilia Strovolidou, has urged the country to stop forcibly pushing away Syrian refugee boats arriving from Lebanon, a practice that violates international human rights law and the principle of non-refoulement. According to reports from the Associated Press and monitoring group EuroMed Rights, Strovolidou accused Cyprus authorities of using "violent" tactics to "destabilize" boats in order to thwart refugees from arriving on the island's shores. (Jurist)

Germany: ISIS suspect arrested for war crimes

The German Federal Criminal Police on April 11 arrested a suspect identified as Sohail A, said to be a former member of the Syrian insurgent group Liwa Jund al-Rahman and the Islamic State. Both are designated "terrorist organizations" by the German government, making membership an offense under Section 129a of the Criminal Code. Sohail A is also accused of participating in war crimes incuding forced displacement, breaching Section 8 of the International Criminal Code.

Egypt: hold on presidency consolidated amid repression

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt was sworn in for a third term April 2 after being re-elected in a December vote in which he faced no serious challengers. He took the oath of office before parliament, which convened in the New Administrative Capital in the desert outside Cairo. El-Sisi won by 89.6% of the vote in the election, running against three virtually unknown opponents. First elected in 2014 (after coming to power in the previous year's coup d'etat), then re-elected in 2018, el-Sisi was allowed a third term under constitutional amendments passed in a 2019 referendum. In addition to allowing a third run, the reform also extended his terms from four to six years. Another such reform allowing him to stay in office beyond 2030 has been broached. (Poitico, Al Jazeera)

UN calls for urgent action on escalating Syria violence

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report March 11 concerning the most severe escalation of violence in the country since 2020. Explosions during a military academy graduation ceremony in Homs triggered the escalation, which began in October, leading to a series of indiscriminate attacks by Syrian and Russian forces on opposition-held areas. The commission emphasizes that these attacks may constitute war crimes, targeting hospitals, schools, markets, and displaced persons camps.

Syrian ex-VP Rifaat al-Assad indicted for war crimes

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland indicted former Syrian vice president Rifaat al-Assad on March 12, referring him to the Federal Criminal Court for trial. The OAG accuses al-Assad of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity while serving as commander of a military operation in the city of Hama in February 1982. The OAG charged al-Assad with ordering homicides, acts of torture, cruel treatment and illegal detentions against civilians during the operation, which came to be known as the Hama Massacre. Government forces had been deployed to Hama to suppress the Islamist opposition, particularly a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood. The OAG estimates the month-long operation led to between 3,000 and 6,000 deaths in the city, the majority civilians.

Turkish airstrikes deepen privation in northeast Syria

Months of Turkish air-strikes in northeast Syria have left more than a million people without power and double that number with no reliable access to water. Beyond the numbers, the cascading impacts have hit almost all parts of life, from homes and restaurants to petrol stations, buses, and bakeries.

Ecological disaster looms after Houthi ship attack

The internationally recognized Yemeni government on Feb. 24 issued an urgent plea to the international community following a Houthi attack on the Rubymar, a British-owned, Belize-flagged cargo ship carrying hazardous materials through the Red Sea six days earlier. The attack has raised fears of an imminent environmental disaster due to the potential leakage of ammonia fertilizer and oil from the abandoned and damaged vessel.

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