Tajikistan gets president-for-life

Voters in Tajikistan on May 20 approved changes to the country's constitution that will allow President Emomali Rahmon to rule indefinitely. Voters approved amendments to remove presidential term limits, lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30 and ban religiously based political parties. The first provision allows Rakhmon, 63, to extend his rule, which he has held since 1992. The second provision would allow his son, Rustam Emomali, 29, to be able to run for president in the next election in 2020. The final provision would continue to ban the main opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, which was declared a terrorist organization and banned last year. Election authorites reported that the 41 proposed amendments were approved by 94.5% of voters, with 92% turnout.

Venezuela: high court upholds state of emergency

Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) on May 19 ruled that a state of emergency declared by President Nicolas Maduro is constitutional. The declaration, issued May 13, gives the president special reach in matters pertaining to the state of the economy for 60 days. The Venezuelan population is currently suffering from the highest inflation rate in the world. The court declared Maduro's response to the situation to be appropriate "given the extraordinary circumstances of social, economic, political, natural and ecological that seriously affect the national economy." Maduro will be able to take such measures as ordering a decrease the work week for private businesses to cut back on electricity use. He has already implemented changes allowing the Venezuelan armed forces to control food disbursal. The decision of the court upholding the decree conflicts with its rejection by congress earlier this week.

Egypt sentences protesters to five years

Egyptian officials announced on May 15 the conviction and prison sentences of over one hundred demonstrators who were peacefully assembling without a permit. Fifty one individuals were sentenced to two years in prison while another hundred and one individuals were sentenced to five years in prison. The sentences were handed down in connection with the April demonstrations to protest Red Sea islands being turned over to Saudia Arabia. Many believed the islands were apart of an economic deal, and opposed against the government decision, leading to the charges of joining terrorist groups and disturbing the peace. The demonstrations were broken up by police officers who used tear-gas. The courts are permitting the convicted to appeal, as there is a dispute about the evidence and a claim that innocent bystanders were arrested in the disturbance.

Turkish authorities block opposition party congress

Turkish police on May 15 prevented members of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) from holding a party congress in direct opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by sealing off a hosting hotel. Police put up barricades to prevent party members from gaining access to the hotel where they had planned to hold a congress to challenge the growing power of Erdogan. Dissident party members previously sought judicial measures to force an extraordinary session, but the courts have failed to decide if the dissidents have a legal right to hold the congress. The MHP dissidents were attempting  to gain enough signatures to force the extraordinary congress, after party losses in the November 2015 election.

Nigeria: mass death in military detention

Nearly 150 individuals, including 11 children, have died this year in Nigeria's military detention barracks, Amnesty International (AI) reported May 11. According to the report, the Giwa detention barracks in Maiduguri holds around 1,200 people, many of whom were arbitrarily detained and are being held without evidence. The detainees are allegedly housed in dirty, overcrowded cells and often face with starvation and dehydration. AI claims the overcrowding is "a consequence of a system of arbitrary mass arrest and detention" in the government's fight against Boko Haram. Netsanet Belay, AI's research and advocacy director for Africa, called for an immediate closure of the Giwa barracks. Nigeria's military spokesman Rabe Abubakar rebutted the report, stating that Nigeria has made improvements to the barracks, and the reported conditions are overstated.

Bangladesh executes Islamist for war crimes

Bangladesh authorities on May 11 executed Motiur Rahman Nizami for war crimes during the the 1971 war of independence. Nizami, a leader of the banned political party Jamaat-e-Islami, was convicted for crimes including rape and genocide, and is the fifth JI leader to be executed. Party leaders called on their followers to strike as a sign of opposition to the hanging. There has been international criticism of the Bangladesh tribunals, while the government claims they are necessary for the healing process to continue. The parliament of Pakistan has officially condemned the hanging of Nizami.

Turkey refuses to modify anti-terrorism law

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced May 6 that he does not plan to change the country's anti-terrorism law, a requirement of a deal struck between Turkey and the EU in March. Erdoğan made the announcement after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was the key figure in achieving this deal, announced he would step down. EU leaders agreed to the deal with Turkey to stem migrant flows to Europe, particularly of Syrian refugees, in return for financial and political incentive to Ankara. One of the benefits for Turkey was visa-free travel for Turks, but a change in the anti-terrorism law is one requirement that Turkey is required to complete before the EU makes that determination. Erdoğan had previously told EU leaders that if all promises were not fulfilled, Turkey would not continue its responsibilities to receive migrants under the deal. Experts have expressed concern that the EU-Turkey deal may fall apart if Turkey does not agree to changes in the anti-terrorism law.

Iraq: protesters camp out in Green Zone

One day after storming parliament, Iraqi protesters began camping out May 1 within the confines of Baghdad's International Zone, or "Green Zone." The Green Zone, a secured area that includes embassies and government buildings, was breached by protesters mobilized by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A state of emergency was declared for the city and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded arrest of protest leaders. The demonstration was launched to protest alleged corruption within the Iraqi government. Al-Sadr called on the government to speed long-delayed plans for a non-partisan, technocratic cabinet.

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