June 28, St. Vitus' Day, marks a century since the Serb nationlist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, thereby starting World War I. Commemorations in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the scene of the 1914 assassination, were predictably—indeed, inevitably—contested by the two political entities that make up contemporary Bosnia: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by Muslims and Croats, and the Republika Srpska or Serb Republic. (See map.) The Institute for War & Peace Reporting notes that the commemorations were boycotted by Serb leaders, who instead held an alternative event in the Republika Srpska. Aleksandar Vucic, prime minister of Serbia, charged that what was supposed to be a joint commemoration had been co-opted by the Federation. Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic said the event amounted to an "accusation" against his people. Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, declined his invitation in a letter to Austria's President Heinz Fischer, stating that the Sarajevo city government had abused the commemoration and "subordinated its meaning to the context of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
A three-man civilian panel in the Jordanian State Security Court on June 26 declared radical preacher Abu Qatada (ABBC profile) not guilty of terrorism offences relating to an alleged plot in 1998 on the American school in Amman. The court ruled there was insufficient evidence to find Qatada guilty of terrorism charges for the 1998 plot, but he will remain imprisoned in Jordan for his alleged role in an attempted attack on tourists during the Jordanian New Year celebration of the year 2000. That hearing is scheduled for September and it extends the 20-year timeline of involvement with al-Qaeda in Jordan and the UK. In December Qatada's defense argued the presence of a military judge in the three-judge panel of the State Security Court violated the deportation agreement between the Jordanian and UK governments to provide Qatada with a fair trial, which was established as part of his deportation from Britain last July. Qatada was tried by a three-judge panel of civilians on Thursday, and the composition of the judicial panel of the State Security Court in September may be a point of contention because of its vague and controversial nature as a quasi-military judicial body with civilian judges.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on June 26 condemned Iran's use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and called on authorities to halt the announced execution of Razieh Ebrahimi. Ebrahimi, who was legally married to her then-28-year-old husband when she was 14, was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband when she was 17. "Regardless of the circumstances of the crime, the execution of juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law," Pillay said, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party, which prohibit the execution of those who commit their crimes while under the age of 18. In the same statement, Pillay also criticized Iran's use of the death penalty for political prisoners and for drug-related offenses.
Colombia's coca eradication program was cited by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as reason for historic lows in cocaine production in the Andean country. According to the UNODC's World Drug Report 2014, Colombian cocaine production fell 25% in 2012, driving a global decline in cocaine supply for the year. In 2012, Colombian security forces manually eradicated 34,486 hectares (85,217 acres) of coca and sprayed over 100,549 hectares (247,000 acres) with herbicide, by official figures. The country's potential cocaine production estimates for the year fell to 309 tons, the lowest levels in nearly two decades. Coca cultivation has been cut by half from 2007 to 2012, the report boasts. However, the area under coca cultivation remained stable between 2012 and 2013, at some 48,000 hectares. Colombia remained the second largest coca producer, ahead of Bolivia and behind Peru. Gains were also claimed in Peru and Bolivia. Peru reduced the area under coca cultivation by 17.5% between 2012 and 2013, bringing the figure down to 49,800 hectares. The area under cultivation in Bolivia dropped to its lowest in 12 years, decreasing 9% from 2012 to 23,000 hectares. (Colombia Reports, BBC News, June 26; AP, June 23)
Workers from the Sepecol private security firm blocked the rail line leading from the mammoth Cerrejón coal mine in northeastern Colombia's La Guajira region for seven days over a contract dispute, before the company agreed to enter a dialogue over their demands June 26. The workers, who are mainly from the indigenous Wayuu group, launched their protest after the termination of the contract between Sepecol and Colombia's largest coal mining company. According to a company statement, the blockade of the rail line linking the mine to Puerto Bolívar was putting export obligations at risk. In announcing the dialogue, the company agreed to maintain 80% of its 770-strong security force from Sepecol and local firm Vigilancia Guajira. (El Heraldo, Barranquilla, June 28; Colombia Reports, EFE, June 26)
First nations across British Columbia are celebrating a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26 that recognizes aboriginal title to their traditional territories outside reserves. The court upheld the Tsilhqot'in Nation's claim to lands in the Nemiah Valley, some 160 miles north of Vancouver, rejecting the provincial government's argument that aboriginal title should be restricted to actual settlement sites and other places frequently occupied by semi-nomadic native peoples. Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tsilhqot'in Nation, said the ruling is a victory in a struggle that had its roots in deadly conflict with a wave of Gold Rush settlers during the 1860s. He said the communities need more control over resources to support more people living on reserves. "We didn't fight in this case to separate from Canada," Alphonse told a news conference in Vancouver. "We fought in this case to get recognized, to be treated as equals in a meaningful way."
Libyan women's rights activist and attorney Salwa Bughaigis was assassinated June 25 by five gunmen who broke into her home in Benghazi's Hawari district and shot her in the head. Her husband, Essam al-Ghariani, recently elected to Benghazi's Municipal Council, is missing, and presumed kidnapped. A gardener was also shot and wounded in the attack. Bughaigis had just returned home after voting in Libya's second general election since the 2011 revolution, and posted pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote. She was also on local TV earlier in the day, speaking about ongoing clashes in the city, which she said she could see from her house. She urged people to go out and vote in spite of the violence.
The ISIS militants that have seized Iraq's northern city of Mosul have, not surprisingly, been engaging in a campaign of cultural cleansing—targeting not only the city's inhabitants, but its artistic and historical treasures. Religious buildings, cemeteries and public art have been destroyed or defaced, witnesses say. Among the destroyed works are sculptures of 19th-century musician and composer Osman al-Muesli and Abbasid-era poet Abu Tammam. The grave of Ibn Athir, a philosopher and chronicler who travelled with Saladin during the 12th century, is also reported destroyed. ISIS consider visiting religious sites to be idol worship, and have also destroyed many shrines and other ancient buildings in Syria. A jizya tax has been imposed on the city's Christian population, but most of the area's Christians—some 160 families—fled before the ISIS advance. (Aydinlik, Turkey, June 21)