Tag Archive | "protests"

Protestors hold signs and placards

Critical Analysis: Protesting China’s Pre-Approved Candidate List

October 20, 2014

Thousands of people in Hong Kong are protesting a decision by China’s top legislative committee that voters would be able to choose only from a list of pre-approved candidates for the office of Chief Executive of Hong Kong. This decision, which came down in August of 2014, is a way in which the Chinese government can fulfill its promise to Hong Kong to have direct elections for Chief Executive by 2017, while controlling who is eligible to be elected through the new system of universal suffrage.

The promise to have universal suffrage in Hong Kong stems from a 1984 agreement between China and Great Britain, in which Great Britain restored Hong Kong to China. This agreement promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong’s leader, the chief executive, is currently elected by a 1,200 member election committee, which many view as pro-Beijing. The Chinese government decision to vet the candidates for chief executive is what sparked the protests in Hong Kong.

Two main groups lead the protests, which began in late September of this year. Occupy Central was founded by moderate pro-democracy activists and is insisting the Chinese government not assess and pre-approve candidates for election in 2017. The other main organizer of the protests is the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which initially boycotted classes, but is now protesting at sites throughout Hong Kong. Protestors believe that the Chinese government will use the vetting process to weed out any nominees who are not pro-Beijing. In a call for true democracy and genuine universal suffrage, the protestors have assembled in the streets of Hong Kong to pressure the government to make a change.

Protestors hold signs and placards

Pro-democracy lawmakers hold up a banner and placards to protest as the deputy general secretary of the National People’s Congress of China speaks during a brief session in Hong Kong. Photo and Caption Credit: Bobby Yip/ Reuters, http://www.wsj.com/articles/photos-hong-kong-election-decision-prompts-protests-1409515247.

The groups leading the protests have advocated for non- violent campaigns in the streets of Hong Kong. Street protests soon led to the students of the Hong Kong Federation of Students threating to occupy government buildings if the current Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung did not resign. In recent days, the protests have been mired in violence. On Saturday, October 18, protestors reclaimed a site that had been previously cleared by the Hong Kong police, sparking violent clashes with police using pepper spray and batons to gain control of the crowd. Pictures and video have surfaced of police officers, who are now on temporary leave, beating protestors. These photos have surfaced in the midst of increasingly violent altercations between police and protestors, including the use of riot shields and tear gas to disperse crowds.

The next step for the protestors advocating for a genuine direct election process will happen on Tuesday October 21st. Hong Kong Chief Executive, CY Leung, has set up talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students but it is said that these talks will not address the core issue of genuine universal suffrage in 2017. Instead, these talk will focus on the recent violent clashes with local police.

While the upcoming talks between protestors and Hong Kong officials may not cover the key issues, they are a step forward for the protestors. In a time when violence is growing, dialogue between protestors and officials is increasingly important. The people of Hong Kong fighting for genuine democracy must continue to fight in a non-violent manner, to take the higher road. They are gaining the support of the international community and their movement will only be bolstered by a peaceful civil protest that delivers a message unblemished by violence.


Julie Marling is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and is a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Protests and Violence Continue in Venezuela

Opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro continued to protest this past weekend, despite a controversial court ruling limiting protests in the troubled country. The Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling gives police the power to suspend protests that don’t have a permit. The ruling states that Article 68 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which provides for a right of peaceful protest, does not grant an absolute political right to protest. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that political organizations and Venezuelan citizens must exhaust all administrative remedies before potentially being allowed to peacefully protest. Even then, the protests must be pre-approved.

Protests began earlier this year in February amid reports of food shortages and high consumer prices. Current reports from the Central Bank and various economists show that food prices have risen 6.1 percent since February, and that the inflation rate is currently running at nearly 60 percent. These protests have been widely student-driven, but have also included opposition forces.

Violent protests in Venezuela have left 41 people dead and hundreds injured. Image Source: Washington Post

Violent protests in Venezuela have left 41 people dead and hundreds injured. Image Source: Washington Post

Often, protests have become violent, and at least 41 people have been killed since they began. Furthermore, almost 600 people have been injured, and around 100 have been detained. According to some who were detained, they were “kicked, pistol whipped, doused with pepper spray and battered with helmets and shotgun butts” in an attempt to discourage further protests. Allegations of murder and other human rights violations have also spread. However, the government’s actions have only made Venezuelan opposition forces more defiant; this weekend’s protests are evidence of just that.

These facts are only recently coming to light in international news, as President Maduro’s government censored most, if not all media coverage of the protests and strife. Due to the rampant censorship, many Venezuelan students turned to foreign sources and social media to have their voices heard. However, reports from late February stated that the Venezuelan government had blocked many Venezuelan users’ Twitter access in an effort to curb further social unrest and protest. Twitter eventually confirmed the government’s supposed actions.

So far, peace talks and negotiations between the Maduro government and opposition forces have not been particularly fruitful. Many students do not trust the current government enough to enable healthy negotiation, as they claim that “years-old efforts” to negotiate with various local, state, and federal officials about problems in Venezuela have solved nothing. There are, however, several hopeful signs. Venezuela’s neighbors are becoming increasingly dismayed with the government’s alleged actions of human rights violations and brutality, leading to more of their involvement in the situation. Recently this month, foreign ministers from the Union of South American nations, which included diplomats from Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, pressed both sides into limited negotiation, with the government and opposition forces agreeing to create a commission to investigate supposed human rights abuses during protests. Despite the small improvement, however, protest and opposition in Venezuela do not show any sign of slowing down.


Bailey Woods is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Is it Economically Responsible for a Country to Host the Olympic Games?

The cost of hosting the Olympics. Is it a mistake or an opportunity to profit?
Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Once athletes and tourists pack their bags and head home, Olympic host cities must determine how to move forward.  Although the Olympics bring great opportunity to a city and country, host cities often struggle to profit from such a wildly popular event.  Significant losses result when cities cannot put Olympic stadiums to use, new infrastructures negatively impacts other areas (i.e. traffic), and the boom of tourism drops. Oftentimes, host cities aim to avoid substantial loss and hope to simply break even.

Athens, Greece spent $15 billion hosting the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.  Athens reveled in its recognition as the smallest country in history to host the Olympic Games.  However, following the 2004 Games, Greece was the first European Union country to be placed under financial monitoring by the European Commission in 2005.  Furthermore, the Games are said to have contributed to Greece’s declaration of bankruptcy.   The state contributed a large portion of the funding to host the Olympics and spent a significant amount on permanent structures.  However, since 2004 the structures have fallen into disrepair and the new transportation infrastructure has created flooding and traffic problems.  Unfortunately, in the years following the Olympics, Greece realized it has failed to use the Games as a stepping stone into the future.

Beijing continues to experience the effects of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.  Of the $42 billion dollars China spent on hosting the 2008 Games, $3 billion was dedicated to permanent stadiums.  Most venues have since been abandoned.  The city continues to lose money because it cannot secure long-term tenants in its Olympic stadiums.  In addition, the stadiums still in use suffer significant loses each year, even with the financial assistance from the public.

Although London intended to scale back its expenses for the 2012 Olympics by building dynamic and temporary structures, it still cost about $16 billion to host the Games, some of which included public funds.  Now, London must move quickly to avoid becoming the next Athens or Beijing.  Although efforts are moving rapidly thanks to large government and private contributions, London can only hope its regeneration efforts for the East End succeed, and sooner rather than later.

It remains to be seen how the much-anticipated 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will impact the city and country.  Already protests have begun in Brazil in response to hosting not only the 2016 Olympics but also the 2014 World Cup.  At first, protests occurred in response to a fare hike on the public bus system, but now protests are in response to accusations of misappropriation of funds and a corrupt system.  If the government continues to sink money into fancy new structures but fails to use the opportunity to improve the city’s infrastructure, protests will continue.  Without the necessary infrastructure and a plan for the years following the sporting events, the long-term benefits to the Brazilian people will be lost and Brazil will be added to the growing list of countries incurring huge losses in the wake of world-renowned but short lived Olympic Games.

One can hope the future hosts of the Olympic Games will learn from the mistakes of previous host countries.  Cities need to focus not just on celebrating the event but also how to yield long-term profits from the opportunity.  The Olympics provide the chance for a country to build essential infrastructure, boost its economy, and gain global recognition.  More importantly, the Olympics have the potential to propel a country into the future.

Lindsey Weber is a 2L and the Projects Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Protestors burn a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. (Ahramonline)

Critical Analysis: Egyptians Protest Christian’s Death in Libyan Prison

Protestors burn a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. (Ahramonline)

Protestors burn a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. (Ahram Online)

On March 11, Egyptian protestors burned a flag belonging to the Libyan Embassy in Cairo to protest the death of an Egyptian Christian suspected of proselytizing in Libya. The Egyptian Christian, Ezzat Atallah, died in prison where he was detained in Libya with four other Egyptians – all charged with spreading Christianity.  While the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claimed that Ezzat Atallah died of natural causes, protestors suspected that poor prison conditions and possible torture contributed to Atallah’s death in Libyan prison.  The Coptic Christian protestors, which numbered around 100, chanted “the killing of Copts is illegal,” while some masked the Libyan flag with an Egyptian one. In response, Libyan nationals inside the embassy attempted to burn the Egyptian flag and raise two more Libyan flags.

Last week, fifty-five Egyptians suspected of spreading Christianity, the same crime for which Ezzat Atallah was detained, were released from Libya. Thirty-five of the released prisoners were deported for illegal entry into Libya, while the remaining twenty were allowed to stay.  The protests come amid reports that one hundred Coptic Christians are being held by the “ultraconservative” Islamist Libyan militia.  Currently, four foreigners are still being held in Libyan prison for espionage and proselytizing including a Swedish-American, South Korean, South African and an Egyptian.

The Coptic Youth Front began the protest when it announced that it would start its sit-in by the embassy. The Youth Front simultaneously demanded that Atallah’s family be appropriately compensated for his death and that the other prisoners arrested on the same charges be released and returned back to Egypt. The Youth Front stated that they would not move until this had occurred. The previous day, Atallah’s brother spoke to the media stating that his brother had been tortured after moving from Benghazi.  Protestors were outspoken about Libya’s actions.  “Egyptians should not be arrested arbitrarily (in Libya) just because they are Christian,” Sameh Saad, a lawyer, told one media source.  “Atallah had a business there and his wife and children.  Why would he jeopardize his life?”  Others protested to stand up for the rights of Christians globally, especially in strict Islamic nations where Christian animosity is the greatest.  “I joined the vigil here to call for the release of Christians detained for simply possessing Bibles and portraits (of Jesus),” Mina Karas, a university student, told the media.  Karas went on to claim that Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi must do more to help those detained in Libya.

The Egyptian church is in charge of wrapping up the legal ties of Atallah’s death.  Bishop Pachomius, a leading pope of the patriarchic Coptic Church, has been in touch with officials in Egypt, the Egyptian Embassy in Libya, and the ministry of foreign affairs.  He recommended that the victim’s family contact the Egyptian embassy in Libya to complete the legal affairs of Atallah’s death and to discuss logistics of transporting his body from Libya to Egypt.  As more attention is drawn to Libya for detaining Christians for “proselytizing,” hopefully the ultra-conservative Libyan government will be deterred from such harsh punishment against Christians who simply possess Bibles.

Dan Warhola is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Executive Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Egypt's President Mohammed Mursi receives the draft constitution from the Constituent Assembly. (Al Arabiya)

Constitutional Crisis: The Similarities Between Egypt’s Past and Present

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi receives the draft constitution from the Constituent Assembly. (Al Arabiya)

On November 22, 2012, President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt gave himself broad new powers related to the writing and ratification of Egypt’s constitution.  The most controversial of these powers, which led to mass protests in Egypt, stated that “Morsi’s decisions could not be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, until the new constitution had been ratified and a fresh parliamentary election is held.”  Although Morsi said that those powers would last only until the new constitution is ratified, many Egyptians perceived this action as a power grab.

This added to the already controversial nature of the draft constitution, which “has been criticized for not protecting the rights of women and minority groups, and…restricting freedom of expression.”  Another concern is that the charter apparently favors Islamists, both by giving clerics influence over legislation and by taking power away from other groups.  The perceived enhancement of Islamist power has divided the country; the Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood (of which Morsi is a member) support the draft constitution, while youth groups, Coptic Christians, and other more liberal groups oppose it.

A referendum on the draft constitution is supposed to be held on December 15, and protesters have already demonstrated in opposition to the event taking place. Morsi stated that he still intends to hold the referendum in the wake of the protests.  On December 6, Morsi offered to engage in a dialogue with opposition members, but many groups, including the prominent National Salvation Front, declined.  Instead of being perceived as an attempt to negotiate, opposition parties saw the proposed dialogue as Morsi’s willful ignorance of the Egyptian people’s demands.

Morsi’s supreme powers evoke memories of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, and many of the protests against Morsi echo those from early 2011 when Mubarak’s regime fell.  Like those protests, the recent demonstrations have also turned violent.  Indeed, the protests represent “the first time supporters of rival camps have fought each other” since the protests against Mubarak.  Although the violence alone is reminiscent of the Mubarak protests, the similarities run deeper than that.  Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei noted the danger “that Morsi’s rule was ‘no different’ than Mubarak’s…[and] ‘is perhaps even worse.’”  ElBaradei particularly noted that Morsi’s supporters had violently attacked peaceful protesters near the presidential palace, and he called on Morsi to “[c]ancel the constitutional declarations, postpone the referendum, stop the bloodshed, and enter a direct dialogue with the national forces.” 

Today, the protests face additional uncertainty.  Morsi approved a decree authorizing the use of martial law in order to quell the demonstrations.  This runs contrary to any proposed discussions between Morsi and liberal parties.  Some changes have taken place during the past few chaotic days; among other things, Morsi “has sought to redefine his initial decree so it fits within judicial precedents instead of stepping over the courts…[and] has said that the decree would be canceled after the referendum…, even if the constitution is rejected.”  Other government officials said they would permit additional constitutional amendments by opposing parties.  However, the proposed martial law decree undermines the force of these apparent concessions.

Tanya Sevy is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Survey Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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A mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

Critical Analysis: The Role of the United States in Syria

A mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

The Syrian crisis is a hot topic in the U.S. Presidential election.  Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria and suggested that the United States should take a tougher stance on ensuring rebels receive the assistance they need.  So far, the Obama administration has limited its assistance to “non-lethal support,” such as providing communications equipment.  Amidst growing fears that the Syrian government’s crackdown on rebels may spark a regional war between Syria and Turkey, questions are rife in the U.S. political sector as to what role the United States should take in this conflict.

On Wednesday, October 3, the Syrian government shelled Akcakale, a Turkish town on the border of Syria and Turkey, resulting in five deaths.  The victims were all civilian women and children.  Turkey retaliated for two consecutive days, shelling a Syrian military position, and authorizing its troops to move beyond its borders.  The U.N. Security Council condemned Syria for the attack, and urged both countries to exercise restraint.  The Council President, Gert Rosenthal, the ambassador from Guatemala, stated “the members of the council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”  The relationship between Turkey and Syria began deteriorating when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began cracking down on Syrian protestors, which sparked an 18-month civil war between the government and rebels fighting to oust the Syrian President.  Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations stated that Syria does not seek to fight with Turkey, however, the ambassador called on Turkey to cease allowing armed Syrian rebels to cross the border, as well as to cease allowing media coverage for opposition groups operating from Turkey.

Syria has not confirmed whether the incident in Turkey was a mistake or intentional, but one possible motive behind the shootings is that rebels have allegedly been using Turkey as a safe haven to regroup and rearm.  The rebels are “severely outmatched” and are improvising weaponry, such as taking guns off of Syrian tanks that they have commandeered and mounting them on civilian automobiles.  The increase in improvised weapons is an indication that, without outside assistance, the rebels may be unable to maintain adequate weapons and ammunition.

The Syrian government, on the other hand, has continued to receive arms shipments from Russia, despite calls to from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others in the international community to stop the shipments.  However, the Russian state-controlled arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, stated, “No one can ever accuse Russia of violating the rules of armaments trade set by the international community.”  The dealer further stated that while it continues to supply Syria with mobile gun and missile air defense systems, the contract was signed “long ago,” and the armaments that it supplies to Syria are defensive arms, not attack weapons.

Additionally, Syria continues to receive small arms, infantry weapons, and personnel from Iran, using Iraqi airspace.  In a televised interview between al-Assad and Iran’s intelligence chief, Saeed Jalili, Jalili stated that the situation in Syria “is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand and regional and global enemies of this axis on the other.”  During the same interview, al-Assad stated that it was “unacceptable” that some countries were “supporting terrorism” by arming the rebels in Syria.

If the United States does take a tougher stance on Syria and ensures that the rebels are armed, the implications could be far-reaching.  Iran could interpret U.S. assistance in arming the rebels as U.S. assistance in backing terrorism in Syria, thereby inviting terrorism in return.  Additionally, the possibility still exists that the United States, in arming Syrian rebels, may be arming those who may be terrorists in the future, as happened in Afghanistan.  Given the candidates’ differing stances, the result of upcoming U.S. Presidential election may alter the fate of Syria and the region.

Lisa Browning is a 2LE at the University of Denver School of Law and a Staff Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 

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Sources: BBC, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, NY Times

News Post: Violence and Protests Again Pervade Egypt’s Capital

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, NY Times

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, NY Times

Four days of violent clashes between protesters and government officials in Tahrir Square have left at least 29 people dead and more than one thousand injured.  At least 100,000 protesters fill the Square due to their lack of confidence in Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military council that took over following the fall of former President Mubarak.  The protesters fear that the military will not willingly cede power to a democratically elected president.

On Tuesday, Field Marshal Tantawi announced that Presidential elections will be held sooner than previously planned and no later than July 2012.  He further confirmed that the Parliamentary elections, scheduled to start this Monday, would proceed.  In addition, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his Cabinet offered their resignation to SCAF on Monday; many citing the violent treatment of protesters as the impetus behind their resignations.  Although there are differing reports, it seems Tantawi also reported that the resignations have been accepted, “but the current government will remain as a caretaker government until a new prime minister is named to form a new government.” Finally, Tantawi stated that the military is willing to hold a referendum on immediately transferring power to a civilian authority if that is what the Egyptian people demand.

From the outside, it may seem that these responses are appropriate and that the current government is attempting to address many of the protesters’ demands.  However, protesters are still shouting that they will not leave Tahrir Square until Tantawi leaves power.  According to a report from Amnesty International released earlier this month, the Supreme Council, “in the name of ensuring security and stability . . . [has] committed numerous human rights violations, ignoring the very demands for social justice and fundamental freedoms that triggered the uprising.” Sometimes the violence and brutality employed has exceeded that of  applied by Mubarak’s own regime.

Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, stated that, “No one is going to accept another civilian government micromanaged” by the military commanders.  Therefore, the questions remain as to what credible civilian leader is willing to step into the role of Prime Minister if, as Tantawi says, SCAF will remain in control until the new government is fully formed, and whether the upcoming Parliamentary elections will really have much of an affect on the current state of Egyptian affairs?  Amr Hamzawy, a liberal parliamentary candidate, recently declared that if turnout is above 50% and the elections are genuinely free and fair, then the whole of Egypt can consider itself victorious. This may be true; but it may also turn out to be a disappointingly small victory.

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