what happened last week


Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. The launch of the podcast Memento Moria – Was heute an Europas Grenzen passiert that I had been working on for the past few months was more time-consuming and emotionally challenging than I expected. Please excuse my absence. I'm back, with gratitude and love for your staying right here while I figured out some stuf.

Issue #307 is about justice, or the lack of it for Rohingya in Myanmar and Afghanistan. Plus: What's the United States' real problem with gun violence? And: Angola's former president died, Islamic extremism killed at least 12 people in Togo, a court in France jailed another a**hole responsible for the genocide in Rwanda and Japan is still paying for the Fukushima disaster, and so much more.
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New report: The United States' problem with gun violence goes beyond mass shootings

The United States has a huge gun problem. The Washington Post wanted to know just how huge this problem really is and who it affects the most. The results are in: The country’s problem with gun violence goes beyond mass shootings. Gun deaths happen nearly every day inside homes, outside bars and on the streets of many cities.

Why this matters: There are some 400 million guns in the United States aka there are more guns than people living there.

Tell me more
Journalists at The Washington Post – Mark Berman, Lenny Bernstein, Dan Keating, Andrew Ba Tran and Artur Galocha, with illustrations by Álvaro Valiño – wanted to look beyond the headlines and ask the question: There have been over 300 mass shootings in this country so far in 2022. Why?

Before I share their conclusion, here are three facts you should know: 
  • Never have so many people in the U.S. bought this many guns as they did in 2020 and 2021. Some 43 million were purchased, and this is only the official number. The data does not capture weapon sales from private sellers at gun shows or online marketplaces.
  • At the same time, gun deaths in those years hit the highest level since 1995, with more than 45,000 people dying each year.
  • About 60 percent of the gun deaths in the United States each year are suicides.
To me, the answer seems obvious. It’s guns, right?
“There is not one clear answer… but possible factors include the stress of the coronavirus pandemic, fraying ties between the police and the public, mounting anger, worsening mental strain and the sheer number of guns in America. You put all that into a pressure cooker, and you let the pressure cooker blow up,” said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Miami. Still, there is little consensus. Is there more gun violence because there are more guns around? Some say: yes. A lot of people have a lot of access to guns, so fights that would have previously led to fist-fights instead escalate to gun-fights. Others also say, ‘well, no, the police just doesn’t solve a lot of murders, so people take matters into their own hands.’

What did the journalists find out about who is likely to pick up a gun and kill somebody?
Well, politicians keep saying, ‘it’s people with mental health challenges.' That’s not the entire picture. “Three decades of research has established that people with mental illness are responsible for just a small percentage of interpersonal and gun violence. … In fact, they are more likely to be victims of violence,” The Washington Post journalists say. 

OK, if it’s not mental illness, then what?
There are so many different reasons for why someone would commit such a violent act. For example, experts say, those who are likely are people who have experienced trauma and violence during childhood, living in neighborhoods where there is a lot of violence, people who have not had/do not have access to therapy to learn how to deal with impulse or anger control. And, perhaps most of all, easy access to guns.

Who is affected by gun violence the most?
Young Black men and older White men. 
  • White people are six times as likely to kill themselves with guns than to be shot by others, and Black people are 17 times as likely to be killed with a gun by someone else than to kill themselves.
  • Of the 90,498 gun deaths in 2020 and 2021, 38,796 were homicides. Nearly 21,000 of those victims were Black men. Hence the saying, “When America gets a cold, Black America gets the flu.”
What now?
Some states, including New Jersey, have stricter gun laws now (and yes, generally, states with tighter laws have lower death rates). At the federal level, there’s now more funding for mental health services and school security initiatives and more criminal background checks for some gun buyers. In my (very European) opinion: This is most likely not enough.

The International Court of Justice will finally rule on the genocide case against Myanmar

The British army committed war crimes in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to a new BBC investigation published on July 12

Why this matters: A lot of war crimes have been committed in Afghanistan; many of them also by Western military, including that of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Not many people have been prosecuted for these crimes so far. 

Tell me more
The BBC found evidence that suggests that the special forces unit of the British Army, also called the SAS, may have killed 54 unarmed people during night raids in Helmand province in 2010/11, and then tried to cover it up.

As the BBC says, ‘We found a pattern of strikingly similar reports of Afghan men being shot dead because they pulled AK-47 rifles or hand grenades from behind curtains or other furniture after having been detained.’ Basically, too many people were being killed on night raids and the explanations didn't make sense.

Witnesses who talked to the BBC said they saw SAS operatives even plant weapons at a scene to justify the killing of an unarmed person, that there was a competition for the ‘most kills’ among the SAS, and that civilians (who they thought were Taliban) could easily end up on the ‘Kill or Capture’ list. 
What does the British government say?
The Ministry of Defence said British troops “served with courage and professionalism in Afghanistan,” and were held to the “highest standards.” And, it disagrees with the conclusions that the BBC has reached, and that
there will be no new investigation. Amnesty International is like, ‘that’s a no-no. An immediate investigation is needed.’ The Guardian agrees, “Any decent prime minister would launch an independent investigation into claims.”

The bigger picture: This news is unsurprising. In 2020, the International Criminal Court found evidence that the British military also committed war crimes in Iraq

The United Kingdom may have killed unarmed civilians in 2010 and 2011 in Afghanistan – and tried to cover it up, too

Refresher: In 2019, The Gambia took Myanmar to international court over genocide against the Rohingya.

This week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague,
Netherlands will finally rule on the case against Myanmar. 

What did the military in Myanmar do?
In August 2017, the Myanmar military committed a lot of crimes against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, in northern Rakhine State. Thousands were killed and over 740,000 people fled to neighbouring
Bangladesh. Just over two years later, The Gambia – with the support of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – filed a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, saying that Myanmar’s ruling junta did that to the Rohingya because they were Rohingya; basically, that the military had committed genocide. The United Nations agreed, ‘potentially genocidal in nature, yes’ and the United States was like, ‘ditto’. 

Plus: ‘This violated the Genocide Convention,’ says The Gambia. The Genocide Convention is an international treaty that basically codifies genocide as a crime and forces those who have signed it to go after those committing this crime. The Gambia and Myanmar have both signed the Genocide Convention. The court will deliver its judgment this Friday, July 22. 

What’s Myanmar’s defence like?
Among other things, Myanmar has been trying to have the
case thrown out on the grounds that The Gambia was acting as a proxy for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and that the court can only hear cases between nations.

Why did The Gambia get involved though? 
In an
interview with Reuters’ Aaron Ross, the country’s justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou said he had to do this, especially after visiting refugee camps that reminded him of what he saw and heard while prosecuting cases after the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Hey, very quickly. What’s ‘genocide’ again?
According to the Genocide Convention, you put ‘intent to destroy’ and any national, ethnic, racial, or religious group in whole or in part together and add proof, and there you have it. Read the
original resolution.

Why this matters: This was the first time that a country without any direct connection to the alleged crimes has used its membership in the Genocide Convention to bring a case before the International Court of Justice. It is one of the most high-profile international legal cases in a generation.

What now?
Not sure what impact, if any, a guilty verdict will have. Myanmar is already pretty lonely internationally (a lot of sanctions) and the court can't really do too much in terms of enforcing verdicts.

More you might have missed 

The bad
Angola: Former President José Eduardo dos Santos died last week. He was 79 years old. He was in power for longer than 73% of Angola’s 33-million people have been alive.
Japan: Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a speech in Nara. I still can’t wrap my head around this.
Togo: At least 12 civilians are killed by Islamic extremist gunmen during an attack against two villages in northern Togo.
Haiti: At least 89 people, including 42 civilians, are killed after gang warfare over the control of the Cité Soleil neighborhood began a week ago between the G9 and G-Pèp gangs in Port-au-Prince. 
The 'We'll See'
Sri Lanka: Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned as President of Sri Lanka after fleeing to Singapore. Are your news feeds full of this story or would you like me to give you a run-down in the next issue? Reply to this mail if you feel strongly about this.
Vanuatu: The country declared a malaria outbreak in four of its provinces.
The good
Kenya: Eighteen year-old Angella Okutoyi has become Kenya’s first Grand Slam winner.
Rwanda: A court in Paris, France jailed 78-year-old Laurent Bucyibaruta, a former very high-ranking Rwandan official, for 20 years after finding him guilty of complicity in the 1994 massacre.
Japan: I was surprised that this had not happened already but... A Tokyo court has ordered former executives from the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant who were involved in the 2011 disaster to pay about 13 trillion yen (US$139.96 billion) in damages.

On a funny note

The numbers are in: Hong Kong’s new chief executive, John Lee, spent US$1.1 million on his election campaign in which he was the only candidate.
That's it from me. 

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