police state

Cuba approves harsh new penal code

The National Assembly of People's Power, Cuba's parliament, on May 15 approved a new penal code as part of judicial reforms initiated after the adoption of a new constitution in April 2019. President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former President Raul Castro, who governed from 2008 to 2018, attended the session. The new penal code reinforces sanctions for acts linked to economic and administrative corruption, with broadened scope for new economic actors. It also incorporates new penalties to address gender-based and family violence. Controversially, the new code tightly controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals, and explicitly bans foreign financing. Under the new code, those who give information to international organizations, associations or other individuals who have not been authorized by the government, face severe penalties. These include 10-30 years imprisonment and, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

Protests over fuel price hikes shake Mauritius

The African island nation of Mauritius exploded into angry protests April 22, with residents of poor Kreol communities erecting roadblocks and fighting the police. The island had seen days of peaceful demonstrations over a sudden and drastic increase of petrol and gas prices, centered on the town of Camp-Levieux. Things turned violent after the arrest of "Darren," a young protest leader, on charges of "participation in illegal demonstrations." The police headquarters where he was being held was besieged, and protests spread quickly to other towns across the island. Police deployed anti-riot units and armored vehicles against youth hurling stones and Molotov cocktails. Things calmed the following day when Darren was released on bail. But it remains to be seen if the increasingly debt-burdened government can strike a deal with the newly mobilized popular movement. (Jurist)

HK activist jailed under colonial-era 'sedition' law

Pro-democracy activist and popular radio DJ Tam Tak-chi, also known as "Fast Beat," was found guilty April 20 of "seditious speech" and sentenced to 40 months in prison by the Hong Kong District Court. The former vice-chair of the People Power party is the first person since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to stand trial for "sedition" under the Crimes Ordinance dating to the period of British colonial rule. Tam was arrested in July 2020, shortly after China imposed its sweeping National Security Law on the city, and has been in detention ever since, having been denied bail. He was found guilty of using the slogans "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times" at protests between January and July 2020. He was also accused of cursing at the police. Tam said that he would appeal the decision, stating that "my sentencing will affect Hongkongers' freedom of speech." Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang stated that Tam's sentence "exemplifies the dizzying speed at which Hong Kong's freedoms are being eroded." (Jurist, HKFP)

Youth protests in Mongolian capital

Thousands of young Mongolians with no political affiliation filled central Sukhbaatar Square in the capital Ulaanbaatar for two days of peaceful protest April 7 and 8, demanding reforms to address a long list of grievances related to taxation, inflation, job opportunities, police brutality and judicial independence. After the first day's demonstration broke up late that night, one group of some 20 youth was set upon by the police and beaten—which only set off a second day of protests. Support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's aggression was also a popular sentiment at the demonstrations, with many protesters displaying the Ukrainian colors as well as the Mongolian flag. Mongolia's government abstained in the two UN General Assembly votes condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (The Diplomat, IPS)

Russian crackdown on Ukrainian… composers

Moscow police on the night of April 13 broke up a concert by pianist Aleksey Lyubimov and singer Yana Ivanilova at the city's Rassvet Cultural Center. The official reason for the raid was an anonymous bomb threat on the venue. But concert organizers noted that the program included songs by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, which had apparently been chosen as an implicit anti-war statement. Lyubimov continued to play the song he was in the middle of even as uniformed police took over the stage and hovered over him menacingly. As the classical music news site Slipped Disc stated: "Lyubimov's final chord was an act of defiance." Moscow Times reports that police then ordered the premises cleared, but applause from the audience drowned out the officers' words. After the theater was evacuated, police brought in dogs and had it searched for two hours. No explosives were found.

Russia: student journalists sentenced to labor

Four journalists who worked for the independent Moscow student magazine Doxa were sentenced to two years' "correctional labor" April 12 over an online video in which they defended the right of young Russians to engage in peaceful protest. The four—Alla Gutnikova, Armen Aramyan, Natasha Tyshkevich and Volodya Metelkin—had been under house arrest for nearly a year after being detained for posting the three-minute video on YouTube. In the video, posted in January 2021, they asserted that it was illegal to expel and intimidate students for participating in demonstrations in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Prosecutors claimed that the video encouraged the "involvement of minors" in anti-Kremlin protests, leading to the arrest of over 100 people under the age of 18 in the demonstrations then sweeping Russia.

Sri Lanka to Lima: ripples from Ukraine storm

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nationwide state of emergency April 2, as angry protests over fuel shortages and power cuts erupted in the capital Colombo. When police repression failed to quell the protests, Rajapaksa sought to appease demands for his resignation with a purge of his cabinet. The emergency order was lifted April 5—the same day Peru's President Pedro Castillo imposed a curfew in Lima and its port of Callao in response to an eruption of protests over dramatic fuel price hikes. As street clashes broke out in the cities, farmers outraged at a jump in fertilizer costs blocked highways at several points around the country—including Ica, where a toll-booth was set on fire. The world has seen an oil price surge to $100 a barrel in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (The Hindu, PTI, NYTJurist, Al Jazeera, DW, BBC News, AFP, El Popular)

Israel: detention of 'terror suspects' without charge

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services March 28 to hold any "terror suspects" in "administrative detention," even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians within Israeli a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited "a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives." The order came a day after two Border Police officers were killed in a shooting attack at the coastal city of Hadera by two Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called "Islamic State." The assailants were both shot dead by security forces.

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