WHILE YOU SLEPT

Fallujah Surrounded, Snowden "Service", Cheese Rolling

SPOTLIGHT: CHAD, THE TIME OF JUSTICE

Since the post-War trials of Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, the world has wrestled with the task of bringing the worst of humanity to account for their crimes. It is a challenge that requires both courage from the individual victims and a commitment to justice by society at large. It also, in some cases, requires an abundance of patience and determination. By the time a court in Senegal sentenced Hissene Habre to life in jail yesterday for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Chad’s former dictator had been out of power for more than 25 years. The decision by authorities in Senegal â€" where Habre had taken refuge in 1990 after a coup â€" to arrest him in 2013 was key to the conviction, but observers also noted the decades of work by activists and victims, both inside and outside of Chad, who never gave up on the case.


Now 73, Habre reigned over his country with what the judges said was “a system where impunity and terror were the law.” Some 40,000 people were killed and many others kidnapped, raped and tortured during his eight-year term as president of Chad. Beyond the scale of his crime, one particularly powerful part of the verdict was the judges’ ruling that Habre had personally raped Khadidja Hassan four times.


Many of the defeated despots of history wind up dead by their own hand (Hitler, Pol Pot) or those of their enemies (Mussolini, Richard III). But when men and women of peace mete out justice in an open court of law, it sends a message of progress â€" and persistence â€" to both the good and evil people of this world.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



NORTH KOREAN MISSILE FAIL

Another North Korean ballistic missile test has failed, South Korean officials told Reuters this morning. Tension has risen in the region since Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January.


â€" ON THIS DAY

What do Ramesses II and Seinfeld have in common? They’re both in today’s 57-second shot of history!


ISIS SURROUNDED IN FALLUJAH

An Iraqi general this morning declared that the city of Fallujah, which has been held by ISIS since 2014, is surrounded and set to fall to government forces. More from CNN


BRAZIL MINISTER RESIGNS IN LATEST CORRUPTION MESS

A second minister (Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira) has resigned in Brazil, 19 days into the new interim government, after leaked recordings suggesting he was planning to interfere with the "Lava Jato" anti-corruption probe , Folha de S. Paulo reports.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Brian Molina and Maximiliano Fernández, two of Argentina's emerging rap stars, met in jail. Writing for Argentine daily Clarin, Nahuel Gallotta tells their story: “Molina cannot remember how many times he had been detained by police for some offense or the other, how many times he had been packed off to an institution and how many of them he's fled. One time, when he was 13, Molina was jailed with three gunshot wounds. He heard about a Freestyle event, where people gather to improvise with rap, and he escaped to participate, Molina recalled, one of the many times he did so for music. His performance won him prizes, and he became known on the rap scene. ... But at 18, Molina was back at Marcos Paz’s prison wing for those aged 18 to 21. There, he met Maximiliano Fernández, then 19. Fernández had begun to steal at 13, and had learned to play the guitar at 15, when he was housed at a psychiatric ward. Like Molina, he too had written songs while locked up.”

Read the full article here, Two Friends, Prison Time And Breakout Rap In Buenos Aires.


VERBATIM

"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate," former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a podcast released Monday, the AP reports. Holder added that he still thought that “the way he did it was inappropriate and illegal," and that the whistleblower should “come on back and decide what he wants to do â€" go to trial, try to cut a deal."


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

The Other Island Of Tears â€" Minsk, 2001


GOLDEN STATE BACK FROM BRINK

Defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors won its third consecutive game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to return from near elimination and qualify for the finals against the Cleveland Warriors. Read more from Sports Illustrated.


â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

WHO DOESN’T LOVE MICKEY?

It looks like China’s newest, giant theme park, hailed as the “anti-Disneyworld” is having a hard time hating Disney characters after all.


WHO DOESN’T LOVE CHEESE ROLLING?

All there is to know on this year’s edition of the only race worth watching, really. Courtesy of the Gloucestershire Echo.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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