The Education Ministry in Taipei has been blockaded by student protesters for five days now, and the ministry has opened talks with protest leaders. The protests were launched to oppose textbook revisions that would emphasize the "One China" view of history. Protesters attempted to occupy the ministry building on July 23; after being ejected they returned a week later, tore down a fence and established an encampment in the courtyard. The protest camp has been maintained since July 30. The action was partially sparked by the suicide of student activist Lin Kuanhua, who was among those arrested in the July 23 action. The protests have drawn comparison to last year's Sunflower Movement, in which the Legislative Yuan was occupied for 24 days to oppose the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), decried as a "black box" deal with China that the ruling Kuomintang attempted to push through undemocratically. The new "black box" textbooks would reportedly emphasize that Taiwan is part of the "Republic of China," portrayed as the rightful government of all mainland China—even refering to the RoC's capital as Nanjing and its highest mountains as the Himalayas. Protesters are demanding that the textbook revisions be dropped and that Education Minister Wu Se-Hwa resign. (Channel NewsAsia, New Bloom, Aug. 3)
A Tibetan nomad imprisoned for eight years for publicly calling for the return of the Dalai Lama was released after serving his full term, his supporters said this week. Runggye Adrak was taken into custody on Aug. 1, 2007, after shouting slogans from a stage during an annual horse-racing festival in Lithang county in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province. His arrest sparked days of protests in Lithang. He was sentenced in November 2007 for "inciting to split the country" and "subverting state power." He was severely beaten and tortured in prison. "There is no information available on his [present] physical and psychological condition," The India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a statement. Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet has cited unconfirmed reports that this year’s festival in Lithang has been canceled "as a crackdown in the area deepens" following the unexplained July 12 death in prison of popular spiritual leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. (RFA, July 31)
With ISIS in control of a chunk of Libya and Tunisia militarizing after a deadly terrorist attack, an article appears in the United Arab Emirates' The National warning of a "narco-jihadist" threat in North Africa. The commentary by Abdelkader Cheref, a professor at the State University of New York, warns that "huge quantities of Moroccan hashish transit through the Sahara where so-called narco-jihadists, who control a triangle of no-man's land between northern Mali and Niger, eastern Mauritania, southern Algeria and Libya, smuggle the shipments to Europe. There are mounting concerns regarding the links between Moroccan drug barons and narco-jihadists linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa."
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on July 18 announced details of an operation to seize nearly 278,000 hectares said to have been illegally usurped by the FARC in Meta region, on the eastern plains. "Operation Yari" was led by the military's elite Task Force Omega, although it was not clear if any actual combat was involved. Santos said the lands were a mixture of private predios (collective peasant holdings) and "vacant" state lands. While Santos named the FARC's East and Southern fronts as controlling the lands, there was some ambiguity as to how they had been usurped. He said: "These lands had been acquired illegally, because the titles were not legal or because they were occupations of vacant lands" that pertain to the state. He said the former predios would be turned over to the government's Banco de Tierras for redistribution to expropriated campesinos, as mandated by the terms of the peace process now underay. He said the lands were used by the FARC both for cattle ranching and processing cocaine. Many of the lands were in La Macarena, an area the government has especially targeted for coca eradication. (MiRegión, La Macarena, El Espectador, Bogotá, Radio Caracol, Reuters, July 17)
Colombia surpassed Peru last year in land under coca cultivation, resuming its number one position for the first time since 2012. The latest annual report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) finds that territory under coca cultivation dropped 14% in Peru, from 49,800 hectares in 2013 to 42,900 to 2014—the smallest area under cultivation since 1998. Colombia meanwhile experienced a 44% jump from 48,000 hectares to 69,000. Peru made gains againt coca in the Upper Huallaga Valley, while coca fields expanded in Colombia's Putumayo, Caquetá, Meta and Guaviare regions—all on the frontier lands of plains and rainforest east of the Andes. The findings do not necessarily mean that Colombia is now the world's top cocaine producer, as much of Peru's crop is more mature and higher yielding, having never been subjected to eradication. While Peru eradicates in the Upper Huallaga, it resists US pressure to do so in a second coca cultivation zone, the Apurímac-Ene Valley, for fear of inflaming peasant unrest. (AP, UNODC, July 15; UNODC, July 2)
A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia on July 30 rejected a legal challenge from a Guantánamo Bay detainee who claimed that his detention at the naval base was illegal. Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi from Yemen was captured in Afghanistan and has been held at Guantánamo since 2002. In his challenge, he claimed that his imprisonment was unlawful due to recent statement by President Barack Obama that hostilities between the US and the Taliban have ended. Warafi brought the action under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), arguing that the stated end of hostilities made it unlawful to continue holding him. However, Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote that the government had presented "convincing evidence that US involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan, against al-Qaida and Taliban forces alike, has not stopped... A court cannot look to political speeches alone to determine factual and legal realities merely because doing so would be easier than looking at all the relevant evidence." Warafi has yet to decide if he will appeal.
Violence was reported across the West Bank and Jerusalem July 31, as Palestinians protested the "price tag" killing of an 18-month-old infant in Duma, near Nablus. The 18-month-old was killed an arson attack when suspected Israeli settlers smashed the windows of two homes in Duma, throwing flammable liquids and Molotov cocktails inside and catching the homes ablaze. The infant, Ali Saad Dawabsha, was trapped inside the family's home as the fire spread. The child was burned alive. His parents and four-year-old brother were left with severe burns. Graffiti near the scene of the attack said "Price tag," "Revenge" and "Long live Messiah the king" in Hebrew. Israeli authorities, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, condemned the attack as "terrorism."
A court in Tripoli sentenced Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of former Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, and eight others to death for war crimes dating back to the 2011 revolution. Twenty-three other defendants were handed sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The sentence for Saif al-Islam was handed down in absentia, as he is currently detained by a militia in the city of Zintan. Saif al-Islam and others were accused of suppressing peaceful protests, inciting violence, and murdering protesters. The sentences have been criticized by many international advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch, which stated the trial was "undermined by serious due process violations" and failed to deliver justice.