The forced diversion of a plane carrying a Belarusian opposition journalist on 23 May sparked international outcry. As global powers resolve to take action, there are doubts about the efficacy of sanctions against authoritarian regimes.
The subsequent removal and arrest of Roman Protasevich from a grounded plane in Minsk prompted calls to punish Belarus, where officials, including the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, already face sanctions from multiple states for rule of law violations.
Despite recent efforts to sanction the country, Oksana Antonenko, Director, Global Risk Analysis at Control Risks, says the international community has been powerless to stop the egregious human rights violations being committed by the authorities. ‘We’ve seen now almost a year of really severe repression and violence against its people on a daily basis, including arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture,’ she says. ‘That’s happening in the middle of Europe. Of course, sanctions have been applied, but they so far have done nothing to stop these activities within Belarus.’
On 3 May 1921, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 came into force, drawing a border on the island of Ireland for the first time. Legislators at the time could not have predicted the situation that is currently facing Northern Ireland, a century after partition.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement that creates a de facto border in the Irish Sea, has prompted resentment and widespread protest. The slogan ‘No Irish Sea Border’ can be seen on walls and lampposts from Londonderry to Larne.
The deal replaced the already-controversial Irish border backstop, designed to guarantee an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland regardless of the final terms of the Brexit deal.
The international community breathed a collective sigh of relief on 23 April when opposition leader Alexei Navalny ended a 24-day hunger strike in prison after finally receiving medical care. Yet ongoing efforts to suspend his political organisation and restrict other fundamental freedoms threaten to cripple Russia’s already deteriorating human rights situation.
On 26 April, the Moscow prosecutor’s office ordered Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and its regional network to suspend all activities, pending a court ruling on whether to designate the opposition group as ‘extremist’.
The move, which would give the authorities the power to arrest FBK staff, supporters, and even crowdfunding donors, was yet another nail in the coffin for the ailing Kremlin critic, who was imprisoned in February on a range of charges shortly after returning from Berlin where he received treatment for Novichok poisoning.
The pandemic has laid bare the increasingly blurred lines between public and private sectors when it comes to securing coveted government contracts. As allegations of Covid-related cronyism continue worldwide, lobbying scandals highlight the urgent need for greater transparency and stricter rules governing the ‘revolving door’ between public and private office.
In March, it emerged that former UK Prime Minister David Cameron personally lobbied the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Treasury ministers to secure Greensill Capital access to an emergency loan scheme established in the wake of the pandemic. Cameron, who acts as an adviser to the firm, claims he didn’t break any rules since former ministers are only banned from engaging in lobbying for two years after leaving office.
Separately, it has come to light that last year Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised he could ‘fix’ tax issues to enable a high-profile businessman to build ventilators in the United Kingdom. These scandals have only intensified calls to overhaul lobbying laws and raised alarm bells about the misuse of status, power and connections to improperly influence business dealings.
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