CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in June in sixteen countries and conflict situations – the majority in Africa and Asia – as well as improved situations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Somaliland.
In India, counter-insurgency operations inside Jammu and Kashmir sharply intensified, while the most lethal border clashes in over five decades with China killed at least twenty Indian soldiers.
In Ethiopia, frictions heightened between the federal government and Tigray region over the electoral calendar, and the killing of a popular ethnic Oromo musician sparked deadly unrest in the capital Addis Ababa and the Oromia region.
Meanwhile, criminal groups’ persistent violence led to Mexico’s deadliest day in 2020 on 8 June, setting the country on course for its bloodiest year on record.
Looking ahead to July, CrisisWatch warns of two conflict risks. In Israel/Palestine, a potential parliamentary vote to extend Israeli sovereignty over portions of the West Bank could significantly raise tensions. In Libya, fighting could escalate after the front line shifted eastward around the strategic city of Sirte and Egypt threatened military intervention.
We also flag a resolution opportunity in the coming month in Afghanistan. Following incremental progress in the peace process between the government and the Taliban in June, long-awaited intra-Afghan talks could start in July.
In his introduction to this month’s edition of CrisisWatch, our President Robert Malley reflects on critical crossroads for protracted conflicts in Libya and Afghanistan, and a possible turning point in the Nile Waters dispute.
Talks between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile river resumed but soon faltered. Following tripartite commitment in May to revive talks after months-long hiatus, Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese water ministers 9 June began new round of negotiations. Talks however broke down 17 June over lack of consensus on mechanism for resolving disputes and minimum downstream flows in cases of drought, as well as legal status of final agreement. Sudan immediately suggested negotiations be pursued at heads-of-state level to break deadlock, for which Egypt next day blamed Ethiopia. Ethiopia 19 June reiterated it would start filling GERD’s reservoir in July with or without agreement, prompting Egypt same day and Sudan few days later to call on UN Security Council (UNSC) to intervene. Egyptian President Sisi 20 June reiterated commitment to using diplomacy to resolve crisis; Sudan next day warned against escalation, urging further negotiations. FMs of Arab League member states 23 June warned water security of Egypt and Sudan is “integral part of Arab national security”, urged Ethiopia to refrain from filling dam’s reservoir before reaching agreement. Following online meeting convened by African Union 26 June, all three countries agreed to return to talks with view to reaching agreement within two weeks, with Addis Ababa holding off on filling reservoir until agreement is reached; however Ethiopian PM Abiy next day said country would “start filling GERD within next two weeks”. At UNSC meeting 29 June, Cairo said GERD posed existential threat to Egypt, warned of conflict if UN fails to intervene.
Amid ongoing jihadist violence in north and east, security forces, self-defence militias and volunteers fighting alongside security forces were accused of killing civilians, notably ethnic Fulanis, whom they accuse of supporting jihadists. Violence continued in Sahel region’s Soum province (north). IED attack 6 June killed two soldiers in Pobé-Mengao area. Troops 9 June repelled jihadist attack on Kelbo military camp, killing 12 militants; one soldier also killed. Volunteers fighting alongside security forces 12 June killed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) middle-rank officer in Arbinda town; next day reportedly killed five civilians in Djibo town, whom they accused of supporting jihadists. In North region’s Loroum province, unidentified assailants 26 June reportedly ambushed security forces convoy on Sollé-Ingané axis killing six; IED next day killed three civilians in same area. In Centre-North region, security forces and Koglweogo community defence group 15 June reportedly killed six civilians in Kaya city, Sanmatenga province. In East region, tit-for-tat attacks continued between jihadist groups and civilians on one hand, and Koglweogo or volunteers on the other. Suspected jihadist militants 5 June killed six suspected Koglweogo in Nagare market, Gnagna province; Koglweogo next day reportedly killed unspecified number of Fulani civilians in neighbouring locality. Volunteers fighting alongside security forces 7 June reportedly killed two Fulani civilians accused of supporting jihadists in Tanwalbougou locality, Gourma province. Suspected jihadists 13 June ambushed and killed two volunteers fighting alongside security forces in Liamou village, Gourma province, allegedly in retaliation for exactions against civilians committed days earlier by volunteers and Koglweogo in area. Hundreds of mostly Fulani local notables and civil society activists same day protested in Fada N’Gourma city against stigmatisation of their community. Locals mid-June accused security forces of arbitrarily arresting and killing three herders in Koalou locality, Kompienga province 15 June. Meanwhile, infighting between ISWAP and Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants continued to extend eastward from Sahel region in north into East region, with clashes reported late May-early June in Seno and Yagha provinces in Sahel, and Kompienga province in East.
Political crisis escalated after tens of thousands demonstrated against President Keïta; meanwhile authorities faced new allegations of extrajudicial killings amid persistent jihadist and intercommunal violence in centre and north. In capital Bamako, tens of thousands took to streets 5 and 19 June to call on Keïta to step down, citing worsening insecurity, failure to secure release of opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé abducted in north in March, and controversial annulment of parts of legislative elections’ results by Constitutional Court in April; protests followed calls by coalition of opposition and civil society groups led by prominent religious leader Imam Mahmoud Dicko. Keïta 11 June reappointed PM Boubou Cissé after he resigned same day, 16 June promised to open consultations on Constitutional Court’s decision and form unity govt; opposition immediately rejected latter proposal. Regional bloc West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) 18 June sent high-level delegation to mediate dispute, and 20 June called for formation of unity govt and partial rerun of legislative elections. In Mopti region in centre, army faced new accusations of extrajudicial killings. Ethnic Fulani association 6 June said soldiers killed at least 14 civilians in village of Niangassadiou, Douentza circle 3 June, and 26 others in village of Binédama, Koro circle 5 June. Govt 7 June announced investigation. Meanwhile in Mopti, jihadist violence continued. IED 7 June killed at least eight civilians on Dianwely-Douentza axis. Suspected jihadists 27 June attacked military in village of Dinangourou near Burkina Faso border, killing at least two soldiers. In neighbouring Ségou region, suspected jihadists 14 June ambushed military patrol near Bouka Wéré locality, killing at least 24 soldiers. In north, French forces 3 June killed leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Abdelmalik Droukdal in operation in Talhandak, Kidal region near border with Algeria; French Barkhane forces same day killed several suspected jihadists near Ouatagouna town, Gao region. Meanwhile, suspected jihadists 13 June attacked UN mission (MINUSMA) convoy near Tarkint village, also Gao region, killing two peacekeepers.
Jihadist attacks persisted in south west near border with Mali and Burkina Faso, while govt faced new accusations of extrajudicial killings. In south west, suspected jihadists 4 June attacked Intikane refugee camp near border with Mali in Tahoua region, killing three local leaders and forcing thousands to flee; 24 June abducted ten humanitarian workers in village of Bossey Bangou near border with Burkina Faso in Tillabery region. Meanwhile, security forces continued to be accused of extrajudicial killings: NGO Amnesty International, corroborating earlier reports, 10 June said security forces killed 102 civilians in Inates area, Tillabery region 27 March-2 April; NGO Human Right Watch 12 June accused govt forces of killing two unarmed men in 11 May operation in Diffa region in south east. Misappropriation of defence funds involving senior state officials, first revealed in Feb, continued to spark controversy. After govt audit of 2017-2019 military contracts late May concluded state had lost $120mn through inflated costs of equipment or materiel that was charged but never delivered, four opposition parties 16 June accused govt of considering out-of-court settlement with suppliers involved in embezzlement scheme. Humanitarian agencies early June reported authorities projected that number of children suffering from severe malnutrition would rise by as much as 30% in 2020 due to impact of COVID-19 on food security and access to health services.
Violence continued in Anglophone North West and South West regions, while jihadists launched further attacks in Far North despite counter-insurgency operations. In North West, tit-for-tat attacks between security forces and suspected Anglophone separatists continued. Notably, govt forces 3 June killed four separatists in Ndop town; suspected separatists 5 and 7 June killed gendarmerie commander and local official in Njikwa and Mbengwi towns; govt forces killed 11 suspected separatists in Mbokam town 12 June and 24 others in Bali, Widikum and Jakiri towns 11-15 June and raided Ngarum village 16-17 June, reportedly killing five civilians; separatists and soldiers 29 June clashed in Ndu area, seven killed including civilians. In South West, separatists and govt forces accused each other of 10 June killing of five civilians in Eshobi village; army 19 June reportedly killed separatist leader “General Obi” in Ashum village, Mamfe area. UN 4 June condemned “significant increase” in attacks on humanitarian and health workers in Anglophone regions over last two months. After military 5 June admitted Anglophone journalist Samuel Wazizi, who went missing after his arrest by police in South West’s capital Buea in mid-2019, died in custody, ten local and international NGOs 9 June called for independent investigation. Violence persisted in Far North. Jihadists 2 June killed civilian in Djibrilli village, Mayo-Tsanaga department. Security forces next day killed jihadist and arrested another in Kolofata town, Mayo-Sava department; 5 June repelled jihadist attack on Sagme village, Logone-et-Chari department, killing four; and 12 June reportedly launched missiles at Boko Haram (BH) splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province combatants in Nigerian border town of Dambore, death toll unknown. Authorities 23 June said suspected BH abducted at least 16 villagers previous day near Kolofata town. International Organization for Migration 1 July reported 400 civilians forced to flee Cheripouri locality, Kolofata area 24-28 June following attacks by armed groups. Following non-fatal skirmishes between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea armies around border town of Kye-Ossi in May and June, defence ministers from both countries 29-30 June met in capital Yaoundé to discuss border tensions.
Armed groups violence decreased in north east but intensified in west, while attacks on NGOs increased in centre. In north east, attacks by armed groups eased following late May-early June joint operation by UN mission (MINUSCA) and armed forces around Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé and govt 5 June deployment of police forces to support troops in area. Prominent Sudanese Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, under International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for 15 years, reportedly surrendered to CAR authorities in north-eastern Vakaga prefecture’s capital Birao 7 June and was transferred to ICC next day. Violence increased in west after armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) 5 June suspended participation in Feb 2019 peace agreement. 3R elements 9 June launched several attacks in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, notably against base of special mixed security units – comprising demobilised armed group members and soldiers – near city of Bouar, national army-UN checkpoint in Pougol village, and security forces outside Baoro village, reportedly leaving several injured. 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 11 June denied attacks and accused govt of “orchestrating chaos to justify postponement of [presidential and legislative] elections scheduled for Dec”. After MINUSCA and military 17 June launched joint counter-offensive in Nana-Mambéré prefecture, 3R elements 21 June allegedly ambushed joint MINUSCA and national army convoy near Besson town, killing five soldiers. MINUSCA and 3R reportedly clashed 29-30 June in Koui locality, Ouham-Pendé prefecture, death toll unknown. In centre north, NGOs 25 May-8 June suffered multiple attacks between Batangafo town in Ouham prefecture and Kaga-Bandoro town in Nana-Gribizi prefecture. In centre, anti-Balaka Ayoloma group 3-16 June carried out at least ten attacks on NGOs and UN vehicles on Grimari-Sibut axis in Ouaka and Kemo prefectures. Also in centre, armed group Patriotic Movement for Central Africa 11 June kidnapped several Fulani herders and stole livestock in Kemo prefecture. Constitutional Court 5 June rejected govt’s project to amend Constitution to enable extension of President Touadéra and MPs’ terms in case Dec elections are postponed due to COVID-19.
Violence broke out in Tibesti province in north and parliamentary elections planned for Dec were postponed to April 2021 due to COVID-19. In Tibesti province near border with Libya, clashes between gold miners and suspected highway robbers killed ten in Suisra locality mid-month and 14 near Zouarké locality 19 June. President Déby 9 June dismissed army General Moursal after he criticised management of military in open letter 4 June. Despite govt’s commitment to increase military efforts against jihadist groups in Liptako-Gourma region in border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger at G5 Sahel summit in Pau city (France) in Jan, Déby 18 June at fourth follow-up meeting of Pau summit said that troops will only be deployed once control over Lake Chad region has been restored. MPs 26 June voted to promote Déby to rank of Marshal for his leadership in recent operation against jihadist groups in Lake Chad basin. Electoral commission 8 June delayed parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec until mid-April 2021, citing disruptions to election preparations amid COVID-19 pandemic. Déby 23 June gave electoral bodies one week to agree on detailed timetable for parliamentary, local and presidential elections.
Inauguration of President-elect Ndayishimiye was fast-tracked following sudden death of incumbent President Nkurunziza, opposition continued to suffer repression from ruling party’s youth wing, and relations with Rwanda remained tense. Constitutional Court 4 June rejected presidential election runner-up Agathon Rwasa’s May appeal against provisional results and confirmed ruling party CNDD-FDD candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye as winner. Rwasa next day accepted decision and said he would not bring case before East African Community’s Court of Justice. With new president due to take office in Aug, death of President Nkurunziza 8 June created power vacuum. While some within CNDD-FDD called for National Assembly President Pascal Nyabenda to become interim president as foreseen by Constitution, govt 11 June asked Constitutional Court for guidance; Court next day ruled that President-elect Ndayishimiye should be sworn in immediately. In inauguration speech in capital Gitega 18 June, Ndayishimiye promised to carry on legacy of his predecessor. In session boycotted by opposition, National Assembly 23 June approved nomination of Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni as PM and Prosper Bazombanza as VP; Ndayishimiye 28 June appointed cabinet of 15 ministers dominated by regime hardliners; both Bunyoni and Interior Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca under international sanctions for alleged involvement in political repression and violence against civilians since 2015. Meanwhile, CNDD-FDD youth wing Imbonerakure continued to repress members of Rwasa’s National Congress for Freedom (CNL) party. Notably, Imbonerakure 10 June reportedly captured three CNL members whom they accused of celebrating Nkurunziza’s death in Citiboke province. Although Rwandan President Kagame congratulated Ndayishimiye for electoral victory 6 June and offered condolences over Nkurunziza’s death 10 June, reportedly his first public statements on Burundi since 2015, Burundi-Rwanda relations remained tense. Rwandan Defence Ministry 27 June said around 100 armed men from Burundi, some equipped with Burundian army material, attacked Rwandan Defence Forces in Ruheru sector near Burundian border; Burundi govt same day rejected accusation (see also Rwanda).
Armed groups continued to target civilians in north-eastern Ituri and eastern North Kivu provinces, while tensions deepened within ruling coalition. In Ituri’s Djugu territory, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) launched several attacks on civilians, including ethnic Lendu. Notably, suspected CODECO combatants killed Lendu local official in town of Kpandroma 2 June, at least 16 civilians in Lendu village of Kpadinga next day, and at least 14 others in ethnic Hema villages of Lenga and Lodjo 10 and 17 June. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces continued to consolidate positions in border area between Ituri and North Kivu provinces, killing at least 30 civilians and four soldiers 4-22 June, mainly in Ituri’s Irumu territory. Kinshasa-Gombe High Court 20 June sentenced Tshisekedi’s former chief of staff and president of Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party, Vital Kamerhe, to 20 years of forced labour for role in embezzlement of $50mn of public funds. Kamerhe’s lawyers 24 June appealed decision. In following days, Kamerhe’s supporters clashed with police in South Kivu province’s capital Bukavu. Amid deepening tensions within ruling coalition, Constitutional Court 18 June confirmed destitution, voted by Parliament late May, of Tshisekedi’s ally and National Assembly First VP Jean-Marc Kabund; Deputy PM and Justice Minister Celestin Tunda wa Kasende, ally of former President Kabila, also briefly arrested 27 June; senior figures from Kabila’s camp, including PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, expressed their anger and threatened to leave coalition govt. Amid persistent regional tensions, Tshisekedi and Ugandan President Museveni 12 June agreed on new information-sharing strategy to combat armed groups along common border. Ituri local officials 17 June accused South Sudan military of at least six incursions in area since May.
Despite diplomatic overtures, Rwanda-Burundi relations remained tense. In reportedly his first public statements on Burundi since relations soured in 2015, President Kagame 6 June congratulated Burundi’s President-elect Ndayishimiye and 10 June offered condolences over death of incumbent President Nkurunziza. Relations between two countries however remained tense. Notably, Rwandan Defence Ministry 27 June said around 100 armed men from Burundi, some equipped with Burundian army material, attacked Rwandan Defence Forces in Ruheru sector near Burundian border; Burundi govt same day rejected accusation (see Burundi). Following arrest of Rwandan genocide financier Félicien Kabuga in France in May, French Court of Appeal 3 June ordered Kabuga to be transferred to UN tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania within 30 days.
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, authorities restricted campaigning activities ahead of general elections scheduled for early 2021. Musician-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine and former president of opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party Kizza Besigye 15 June announced alliance to unseat incumbent President Museveni in 2021 general elections. Electoral commission next day said elections would be held between 10 Jan and 8 Feb and banned campaign rallies amid COVID-19 pandemic, directing candidates to campaign online and through media; opposition denounced measure, which it claimed will favour ruling party. Wine 24 June said he would hold public rallies despite ban; former intelligence chief and Security Minister Henry Tumukunde, who said he would run for president in 2021, 25 June called for elections to be postponed, and opposition Conservative Party led by John Lukyamuz same day threatened to boycott them. Police 1 June detained FDC MPs Gilbert Olanya and Odonga Otto in Gulu town for allegedly mobilising protesters to demand closure of Elegu border post with South Sudan over rise in COVID-19 cases in border region; Olanya and Otto released on police bond next day. Museveni 22 June extended COVID-19 lockdown into July.
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt accused of deliberately starving ethnic minority, while tensions with Yemen increased over disputed Hanish islands. NGO Red Sea Afar Human Rights Organisation (RSAHRO) 7 June called on international community to put pressure on govt to “lift the deliberate siege and stop the systematic starvation” of ethnic Afar in mineral-rich Red Sea region in south east, where govt has imposed draconian COVID-19 restrictions since April. Inside Yemen’s territorial waters, between Hanish Islands – most of which belong to Yemen since 1998 international arbitration – and Yemen’s Al-Khokha coast, Eritrean naval forces 3 June seized 15 Yemeni fishing boats and arrested 120 fishermen; Yemeni coast guard same day detained two Eritrean ships and arrested seven Eritrean soldiers attempting to alight on Greater Hanish island. Yemeni govt immediately urged Eritrea to stop trespassing inside its territorial waters and to release its fishermen; Eritrea 4 June released around 60 fishermen, in exchange Yemen released captured Eritrean soldiers (see Yemen).
Killing of popular ethnic Oromo singer sparked deadly unrest in capital Addis Ababa and Oromia region while tensions heightened between federal govt and Tigray region over electoral calendar. In Addis Ababa, unidentified gunmen 29 June shot and killed popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa; large-scale protests erupted next day in Addis Ababa and across Oromia region, clashes between security forces and protesters left at least 52 dead on both sides; amid unrest, authorities 30 June shut down internet and arrested Jawar Mohammed, prominent critic of PM Abiy and member of opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress. Senior official of Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party Keria Ibrahim 8 June resigned from her post as speaker of federal parliament’s upper house, citing opposition to postponement of Aug general elections due to COVID-19. Upper house 10 June voted to extend federal and regional parliaments’ terms – set to expire in Oct – until elections take place; despite term extension, Tigray regional parliament 12 June voted to go ahead with regional elections. Electoral board 24 June said Tigray has no legal right to hold elections. In Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region in south, regional parliament 18 June transferred power to new Sidama regional state following 2019 referendum for ethnic Sidama statehood. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, clashes between ethnic Amhara and Berta youth early June reportedly left at least four dead in Bambasi district. Fighting between police and local militias 4 June killed at least three in Asosa zone. In Oromia region in centre, armed opposition faction Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 3 June shot and killed police officer in East Wellega zone; 48 suspected OLA members arrested in area over next few days. Talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam resumed 9 June but broke down 17 June due to disagreements over drought mitigation, arbitration mechanism and legal status of final agreement; parties 26 June agreed African Union would facilitate another two weeks of talks (see Nile Waters).
President Kenyatta continued to assert control over ruling party, intercommunal violence erupted in north and Al-Shabaab attacks persisted in north east and east. Following April purge of senators aligned to deputy president and deputy party leader, William Ruto, Kenyatta continued to take steps to sideline Ruto within ruling Jubilee Party. Notably, in party meetings that Kenyatta chaired, 18 Ruto-aligned MPs removed from key positions in National Assembly 2 June, and National Assembly majority leader ousted 22 June. Kenya’s 2020-2021 budget presented by Finance Ministry 11 June also revealed cut of over 40% to Ruto’s budget allocation, and Jubilee Party 17 June signed cooperation agreements with Wiper Democratic Movement–Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani parties to work together ahead of next general elections in further attempt to consolidate position against Ruto. In border area between Marsabit and Wajir counties in north, clashes between ethnic Borana and Degodia early to mid-June reportedly left at least 13 dead. In Mandera county in north east, Al-Shabaab raid 14 June left one police reservist and two militants dead in Warankara village. Security forces late June arrested two Al-Shabaab militants near border with Somalia. In Garissa county in east, Al-Shabaab night of 23-24 June set fire to several shops in Ijara town. Police brutality in context of COVID-19 continued: in capital Nairobi, police 1 June reportedly shot and killed homeless man for violating curfew, some 300 protesters that night took to streets to voice outrage; in western city of Lesos, police 25 June killed three in clashes with protesters denouncing arrest of taxi driver for flouting COVID-19 restrictions. UN General Assembly 18 June elected Kenya as non-permanent member of UN Security Council for two years (2021-2023).
Al-Shabaab attacks continued across country, electoral commission said elections could not take place as scheduled and talks with Somaliland resumed after five-year hiatus. In centre and south, Al-Shabaab attacks against security forces throughout month killed at least 14 soldiers and three civilians in Hiraan, Lower Juba, Bay, Gedo, Middle Shabelle, and Lower Shabelle regions. In Lower Shabelle region, fighting between Al-Shabaab and local self-defence militia 18 June left at least seven dead, and unclaimed bombing 20 June killed at least four soldiers and civilians. Security forces 6-26 June reportedly killed at least 67 Al-Shabaab insurgents in counter-insurgency operations in Bakool, Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Hiraan regions. In Puntland in north, security forces 6 June shot and killed Al-Shabaab militant in Mudug region. In capital Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab militants 7-27 June shot and killed four police officers and one local official. Unclaimed roadside bombing 18 June killed at least three civilians. Al-Shabaab suicide bombing at Turkish military base 23 June left two civilians dead. In Galguduud region in centre, inter-clan fighting 24-27 June reportedly left around a dozen dead. Following pressure from international community, federal parliament’s upper house, several federal member states and opposition parties, President Farmajo 24 June invited heads of federal member states to meeting in Mogadishu 5-8 July to discuss modalities of parliamentary elections due by end of year and presidential election scheduled for 2021. Head of electoral commission 27 June announced that it could not organise elections on time citing “significant technical and security challenges”. Amid ongoing standoff with Jubaland state, federal govt 14 June announced it would recognise state President Madobe as “interim” president for two-year period; Madobe immediately rejected move saying he was elected to four-year term. In resumption of dialogue process which broke down in 2015, Farmajo and Somaliland President Bihi mid-June met in Djibouti over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which Mogadishu does not recognise; in following days, both sides agreed to further talks and to establish subcommittees to discuss technical issues in July.
After five-year hiatus, President Bihi and Somalia President Farmajo revived talks over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which Mogadishu does not recognise, while tensions increased with Somalia’s Puntland state. At meeting in Djibouti under auspices of Djibouti President Guelleh and Ethiopian PM Abiy, Bihi and Farmajo mid-June established joint technical committee to resume talks over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty which broke down in 2015; in following days, committee failed to make significant headway, but both sides agreed to form joint subcommittees to discuss technical issues in July. President of Somalia’s Puntland state, Said Abdullahi Deni, 15 June said he would reject any outcome from talks as Puntland – which has a longstanding territorial dispute with Somaliland over Sool, Sanaag and Ayn regions – was not consulted; Deni 21 June called on Somaliland to “withdraw its troops” from Puntland, and threatened to “use military force”. Prior to Djibouti meeting, Somalia FM early June accused Emirati shipping line DP World of violating Somalia’s sovereignty by its operations at Somaliland’s Berbera port. In response, Somaliland immediately urged Mogadishu to stay out of its internal affairs. In Sanaag region, govt early June signed peace agreement with rebel group “Xaqdoon”. In Togdheer region in centre, inter-clan violence around 11 June reportedly left one dead in Gocondhale district. Parliament’s lower house 28 June approved two opposition members of National Electoral Commission, paving way to organising long-delayed parliamentary and local elections. In capital Hargeisa, police 25 and 27 June reportedly shut down two independent television stations.
In major breakthrough, President Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar reached agreement on local power-sharing, while intercommunal violence persisted in east and centre, and tensions emerged within Kiir’s political base. Kiir and Machar 17 June reached consensus on appointment of state governors, ending three-month deadlock; Machar obtained appointment of governor of contested Upper Nile state instead of South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA); SSOA to appoint governor of Jonglei state instead. Kiir 29 June appointed eight of ten governors; Upper Nile state governor not appointed despite Machar reportedly submitting nomination; SSOA continued to debate appointment for Jonglei state. Deputy Interior Minister Mabior Garang de Mabior 3 June resigned to protest stalled implementation of transitional security arrangements; official body monitoring unification of armed groups into single army 10 June warned training and cantonment sites “near collapse” over lack of resources and logistical support. Intercommunal violence continued in Jonglei state in east. Notably, suspected ethnic Murle gunmen reportedly killed ten people in cattle raid in Jalle area 17 June; unidentified gunmen reportedly killed 12 people in Makuach area 19 June. Kiir 23 June formed committee to ease tensions between ethnic Dinka, ethnic Lou Nuer, and ethnic Murle. Intercommunal clashes also persisted in centre, allegedly killing 69 in Warrap and Lakes states 25-29 June. Rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 3 June claimed Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition had killed 15 civilians in Central Equatoria state in south 31 May. UN Mission in South Sudan 9 June and EU 11 June called on govt and NAS to abide by truce brokered in Jan. Tensions mounted within Kiir’s political base. relative of Kiir 3 June killed four civilians in clash over land dispute in capital Juba, sparking intra-Dinka tensions and prompting some 1,000 residents to take to streets same day; govt next day established investigative committee. Former political prisoner Kerbino Wol Agok, member of Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group, 5 June announced creation of new rebel group “7th of Oct Movement”; govt forces 14 June killed Agok during military operation in Lakes state, sparking public outcry.
Peace talks between transitional govt and rebel groups suffered new delays and security forces reportedly repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian troops. After govt and rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) failed to meet self-imposed 20 June deadline to reach comprehensive peace deal despite “significant progress”, representatives of SRF groups and South Sudanese mediation team 25 June arrived in capital Khartoum to hold face-to-face talks with govt in bid to narrow differences on outstanding issues. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu 17 June resumed talks with govt following months-long absence from peace negotiations. Following spate of cross-border clashes in recent months and with negotiations over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) at an advanced stage, Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti”, head of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and deputy head of Sovereign Council 17 June met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Security forces 22 June said they had repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian troops on Anfal military base in Al-Qadarif state previous day, inflicting “heavy casualties”; following incident, Khartoum and Addis Ababa reportedly agreed to continue dialogue and exercise restraint. Tens of thousands 30 June took to streets across country to demand greater civilian rule in transition, one protester reportedly killed. New round of talks with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of GERD on Blue Nile river started 9 June but faltered 17 June; negotiations resumed 26 June (see Nile Waters). International Criminal Court 9 June said former Popular Defence Forces and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, sought for alleged war crimes in Darfur in 2003-2004, had surrendered in Central African Republic 7 June; Kushayb transferred to The Hague next day. UN Security Council 3 June created UN assistance mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to support country’s transition; next day extended mandate of UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) until end of year. At Berlin Sudan Partnership Conference 25 June, foreign donors pledged $1.8bn to support transition.
Authorities continued to restrict civil and political rights and harass opposition ahead of general elections, while President Magufuli further downplayed risk posed by COVID-19. Unidentified assailants 8 June assaulted chairman of main opposition party Chadema Freeman Mbowe in capital Dodoma, reportedly breaking his leg; Chadema immediately alleged attack was politically motivated. Parliament 10 June passed bill granting leaders of executive, legislative, and judiciary immunity from prosecution for any actions undertaken while in office, also restricting to those “affected personally” eligibility for challenging laws that violate constitution’s bill of rights, in effect banning public interest litigation by preventing rights groups to file cases on behalf of victims; move sparked outcry from opposition and coalition of over 200 civil society organisations, who said bill violated constitutional rights. Magufuli 16 June dissolved Parliament as required by constitution ahead of general elections scheduled for Oct, next day said he would seek re-election. Police 23 June arrested leader of opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency (ATC) Zitto Kabwe and at least seven other ATC members for holding “unlawful assembly” in Kilwa district in south; court next day released Kabwe and all others on bail. Amid absence of official figures on spread of COVID-19 in country since April, universities and high schools reopened 1 June, and schools 29 June. Tanzania and Kenya 17 June reached agreement on implementation of COVID-19 testing for cargo drivers after drivers from both countries remained stranded at Namanga border crossing for weeks.
Opposition candidate won rerun of 2019 presidential election. Following 23 June presidential election rerun, incumbent President Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) next day accused opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of intimidating its supporters in opposition strongholds during vote, said it had lodged complaint with electoral commission. Electoral commission 27 June announced victory of Lazarus Chakwera, leader of Tonse Alliance – electoral coalition of opposition parties United Transformation Movement (UTM) and MCP – with 58.57% of vote; Chakwera next day sworn in. Ahead of poll, Mutharika 7 June appointed High Court judge Chifundo Kachale as new electoral commission chairperson; 12 June put Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda on leave pending retirement in retaliatory move after he presided over Supreme Court of Appeal’s May decision confirming rerun of disputed 2019 election. NGO Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Malawi Law Society and Association of Magistrates 13 June filed appeal against Nyirenda’s forced retirement with High Court, which suspended Mutharika’s decision next day. Hundreds of lawyers 17 June took to streets in capital Lilongwe and Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu cities to protest against govt interference with judiciary. VP and UTM leader Saulos Chilima 10 June filed complaint with International Criminal Court against Mutharika and Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa for alleged crimes committed in 2018-2020.
Jihadist violence continued in far north, while demobilisation of troops from former rebel group, now opposition party Renamo, resumed in centre amid continued tensions between govt and armed dissident faction of Renamo. In Cabo Delgado province in far north, suspected Islamist militants launched at least 24 attacks against civilians and security forces throughout month, killing at least 54 civilians. Notably, in Macomia district, militants killed 17 civilians 9 June, and 15 others next three days. In Mocimboa da Praia district, insurgents killed four civilians in Malinde village 14 June and three others in Chimbanga village 17 June. Several attacks also reported in Meluco and Quissanga districts. Security forces along with foreign private security contractors continued counter-insurgency operations, notably driving militants out of Narere village, Mocimboa da Praia district 9 June; security forces killed at least 24 insurgents in operations that day, and allegedly executed another 13 after capturing them. Security forces launched counter-offensive after Islamic State (ISIS) 27 June attacked Mocimboa da Praia town, ten soldiers and at least seven assailants reportedly killed in clashes. Demobilisation and disarmament of Renamo forces resumed 4 June. UN Special Envoy for Mozambique Mirko Manzoni 13 June announced first base had been dismantled in Dondo district, Sofala province in centre, ending months-long hiatus as Aug deadline to dismantle all Renamo bases nears. Mariano Nhongo, leader of Renamo dissident faction which calls itself Renamo Military Junta, immediately declared resumption of process “null and void”; Manzoni 5 June said he was willing to meet with Nhongo to negotiate peace deal, 19 June said attempts to negotiate had failed. Suspected Renamo Military Junta 28 June attacked civilian bus near Inchope locality, Manica province, killing 11-year-old boy. Court in Gaza province 18 June sentenced six police officers to between three and 24 years in prison for involvement in killing of prominent rights activist and election observer Anastacio Matavele before Oct 2019 presidential election.
Authorities continued to use judicial process to suppress main opposition party, which remained divided over dispute for leadership. Amid rumours on social media of impending military coup against President Mnangagwa early June, which govt denied, National Security Council 10 June accused allies of deceased former President Mugabe and some opposition figures of stirring unrest. Meanwhile, main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe continued to vie for control of party. Supporters of faction led by Khupe with support from security forces 4 June seized party’s offices in capital Harare; police next day cordoned off building, arrested Chamisa’s faction VP Tendai Biti and four other MDC officials who attempted to enter premises. Law Society of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights 8 June expressed concern over recent arrest of seven lawyers on charges of defeating or obstructing course of justice. Police 10 June arrested MDC MP Joana Mamombe and two MDC female youth leaders for allegedly “fabricating evidence” of their reported abduction and sexual assault by security forces in May; Mnangagwa same day accused women of taking part in coordinated foreign-backed plan to spark unrest; High Court 26 June granted them bail. Amid growing COVID-19 outbreak, security forces 2 June tightened COVID-19 lockdown in Harare; police 4-5 June arrested over 1,300 people countrywide for reportedly violating COVID-19 restrictions. Police 19 June also arrested Health Minister Obadiah Moyo over allegations of corruption in govt procurement of COVID-19 tests and equipment; court next day released Moyo on bail.
Jihadist group launched deadliest attack in country since 2016, and preparation for presidential election planned for Oct continued. Suspected Katiba Macina militants 11 June attacked army and gendarmerie post in Kafolo village near border with Burkina Faso in north, reportedly killing 12 soldiers, one assailant also killed; attack believed to be retaliation for Burkina Faso-Côte d’Ivoire joint counter-insurgency operation in border area in May. Govt next day promised response “commensurate to the attack”; 22 June said several people involved in attack, including group leader, arrested previous day. In north west, suspected gold diggers also 11 June opened fire on army outpost near locality of Gbéya, wounding two soldiers. Political manoeuvring continued ahead of presidential election. In joint statement published 3 June, former President Gbabgo’s faction of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) called on their militants to collaborate ahead of poll; amid ongoing power struggle within FPI, party president Pascal Affi N’Guessan 8 June however rejected move, said he had not been consulted. Doubts persisted over PM and ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace presidential candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly’s capacity to campaign given his hospitalisation in France in past two months. Bédié 20 June announced his candidacy to PDCI’s nomination, due in late July. Amid surge in reported COVID-19 cases, govt mid-month reintroduced some restrictions, including prohibition of gatherings of over 50 people in economic capital Abidjan, and extended closure of borders and state of emergency until end of month.
Opposition stepped up pressure on President Condé ahead of presidential election, notably over allegations govt altered text of draft constitution after putting it to referendum in March. Coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) 2 June filed complaint with regional bloc West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) against govt’s attempt to amend electoral code through new electoral bill; however, Parliament 18 June started to discuss bill. After lawyer late May revealed significant differences between text of draft constitution subjected to referendum in March and constitution enacted by Condé in April, opposition and civil society early June accused govt of forgery; notably, enacted text stipulates that all election candidates must belong to political party (while draft implied possibility of independent bids), and that state-controlled Supreme Council of the Judiciary will appoint Constitutional Court judges (instead of more independent Association of the Magistrates, as foreseen in initial draft). Constitutional Court 12 June rejected request submitted 4 June by group of 15 MPs to suspend constitution; opposition immediately threatened to bring case before ECOWAS. FNDC 15 June announced resumption of anti-govt protests – suspended due to COVID-19 – 8 July. Under pressure, Condé 19 June sacked Justice Minister Mamadou Lamine Fofana. Electoral commission same day proposed to hold presidential election 18 Oct. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Condé 10 June denied reports on failing health; Parliament mid-June extended COVID-19 state of emergency for one month.
President Embaló secured majority in Parliament, opening way for long-delayed formation of new govt. After weeks of power struggle between Embaló’s MADEM G-15 party and African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cap Verde (PAIGC), winner of March 2019 parliamentary elections, over formation of new govt, Embaló 28 June dismissed five ministers, including defence and interior ministers; all five resumed positions as MPs that had remained vacant since their nomination within govt, allowing Embaló to move closer to securing majority in Parliament. In parliamentary session next day, 55 out of 102 lawmakers approved Embaló’s candidate Nuno Gomes Nabiam as PM, opening way for formation of new govt; several PAIGC MPs reportedly turned sides and supported Gomes Nabiam. Embaló 25 June extended COVID-19 state of emergency for one month and lifted curfew. Media reports late month argued country is facing “one of Africa’s worst COVID-19 related crises” as political crisis prevents efficient response to limit spread of virus.
Boko Haram factions launched deadly attacks on civilians in north east, armed groups’ attacks on villages left over 140 dead despite military offensives in north west, and ethnic and herder-farmer violence persisted in several states. In Borno state in north east, local security official 11 June said insurgents had carried out 19 attacks since start of month; notably, Boko Haram splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 9 June killed at least 81 and abducted seven including village head in Faduma Kolomdi village, Gubio area. ISWAP 11 June released video showing execution of abducted soldier and policeman; 13 June attacked Usmanati Goni village in Nganzai area, killing at least 35; 28 June released video of five aid workers abducted earlier in month and reportedly demanded $500,000 ransom. Troops 11 June repelled insurgents’ attack on Monguno town, killing at least 41 insurgents; two soldiers also killed. Troops 27 June clashed with insurgents along Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road, at least 20 insurgents and ten soldiers reported killed. In north west, military launched several ground and air operations against members of armed groups, notably killing 70 in Kaduna state’s Kachia forest 5 June and scores of others including prominent armed group leader in Zamfara state’s Doumborou forest 23 June. However, armed assailants continued to attack villages, killing over 140 civilians and abducting dozens in Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states. Notably, gunmen 9 June killed 60 villagers in Faskari, Dandume and Sabuwa areas of Katsina state, 2-3 June killed at least 21 in Maru and Talata Mafara areas, 20 June killed at least 26 in Ruwan Tofa village in Maru area, all in Zamfara state. Herder-farmer and ethnic violence persisted in several states: notably, nine people killed 3 June in Kajuru area, Kaduna state; nine farmers killed 14 June in Adana village, Benue state; and three farmers killed 19 June in Adiyani village, Jigawa state.
Tensions continued over disputed island chain in East China Sea. Japan’s Okinawa city council 22 June approved bill changing administrative status of disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea, asserting Japanese claim to islands; Beijing same day said it would lodge strong protest with Tokyo and warned “administrative re-designation is a serious provocation”, after Chinese Foreign Ministry 19 June cautioned against any change to status quo. Amid daily Chinese maritime presence around disputed islands since 14 April, Japanese coast guard 22 June reported four Chinese coast guard vessels in contiguous zone outside Japanese territorial waters. Japanese military 20 June reported detecting suspected Chinese submarine near Amami-Oshima island in East China Sea. Lawmakers from Japan’s ruling-Liberal Democratic party 4 June submitted resolution calling on govt to protest China’s “stalking” of Japanese boats in waters near islands. Amid controversy surrounding new Chinese national security law in Hong Kong, Beijing 10 June criticised Japanese PM Abe’s effort to take lead on G7 (group of seven nations including U.S. and Japan) statement on proposed legislation; G7 statement, released 17 June, highlighted “grave concerns” and urged China “to re-consider this decision”; Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono 30 June said passage of law would “significantly affect” Chinese President Xi’s planned state visit to Japan.
Inter-Korean tensions significantly rose as Pyongyang increased pressure on Seoul, demolished liaison office near border and threatened military action; meanwhile economic situation in DPRK continued to deteriorate. After North Korea 9 June ended all inter-Korean communication, Kim Yo-jong, top official and sister of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, warned 13 June that Pyongyang will “take its next action” and “break with the South Korean authorities”; Seoul’s Ministry of Unification next day urged Pyongyang to “honour all inter-Korean agreements”. North Korea 16 June demolished inter-Korean liaison office in border town of Kaesong set up after 2018 summit between two Korean leaders, citing Seoul’s failure to stop activists and North Korean defectors sending leaflets, food and aid across border, as well as South Korea’s continued military exercises and lack of progress in lifting sanctions. In attempt to prevent anti-Pyongyang leafleteers earlier in month, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification 10 June said it would press charges against two activist groups. Following demolition of office, DPRK 17 June rejected South’s offer to send special envoy to de-escalate tensions and vowed to redeploy troops to border areas of Mount Kumgang and Kaesong; South Korea’s Defence Ministry reiterated support for 2018 agreement but warned of “strong response” to any military provocation. After South Korean unification minister 17 June offered resignation, members of ruling-Democratic Party called for reshuffle of U.S.-South Korea working group, claiming Washington was damaging inter-Korean relations; Seoul’s chief nuclear negotiator same day arrived in Washington to discuss recent tensions on peninsula and potential responses; DPRK state media 24 June said Kim suspended “military action plans against the south”. North Korea’s economy reportedly continued to deteriorate amid COVID-19 and halting of nearly all trade with China due to closed borders; Pyongyang continued to blame international sanctions. Amid ongoing dispute between U.S. and South Korea over cost sharing of maintaining 28,500 U.S. troops on Korean peninsula, U.S. military 2 June announced Seoul agreed to pay $200mn for 4,000 Korean nationals working with U.S. forces.
Tensions increased between Taipei and Beijing amid increased Chinese incursions into Taiwanese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) and continued U.S. military presence. Amid heightened tensions following top Chinese general’s 29 May threat to use “all necessary measures” to prevent Taiwanese independence, Chinese military activity spiked mid-month; Taiwanese army reported eight incursions by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwanese ADIZ 9-22 June, including: several Su-30 fighter jets 9 June, a Y-8 surveillance aircraft shortly after Taiwan carried out missile tests off eastern coast 12 June, intrusions by J-10 fighter 19 June and several jets including H-6 bomber 22 June. U.S. Navy destroyer 4 June sailed through Taiwan Strait; Taiwanese Defence Ministry 9 June said U.S. navy transport plane that day entered Taiwanese air space with permission; in response, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office 11 June said flight was “illegal act and a seriously provocative incident”; U.S. military jets, including P-8A maritime patrol aircraft and reconnaissance planes, flew daily over waters near Taiwan 21-30 June. Committee established by Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang party to examine party’s cross-strait policy 19 June recommended that “1992 Consensus” – tacit agreement between China and then ruling-Kuomintang on principles of cross-strait relations – be used as “historical description” of cross-strait interactions; China’s Taiwan Affairs Office same day urged adherence to “1992 consensus”. Amid concerns over controversial new Chinese national security legislation for Hong Kong, Taiwan govt 18 June announced that it will open office in July in Taipei to offer humanitarian assistance to Hong Kong citizens, including those seeking asylum. Taiwanese coast guard 3 June reportedly intercepted flotilla of illegal Chinese sand dredgers in Taiwan strait.
U.S. pressure led to incremental progress in peace process, raising prospect of long-awaited intra-Afghan talks starting in July, while violence persisted as new govt appointments stalled. Amid U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad’s continued diplomatic efforts – including 7 June meetings with Taliban’s deputy leader in Doha and Pakistan's chief of army staff in Islamabad – Taliban refrained from major attacks on govt forces or large cities while govt continued to release prisoners, reportedly bringing total Taliban fighters released to date to 4,000; moves on both sides raised hopes for intra-Afghan talks to begin in July. Following Taliban-govt ceasefire late May, Taliban militants rejected ceasefire extension but reportedly communicated to U.S. their willingness to continue period of “reduced violence”; decrease in Taliban violence uneven across country: provinces of Balkh (north) and Faryab (north east) recorded reduced violence throughout month, while several provinces saw unchanging or increasing levels of conflict, including Kapisa (north east), Khost (east), Zabul (south) and Wardak and Ghazni (centre); govt late month released casualty figures showing several hundred security forces killed per week, controversially claiming these to be a record high. Taliban appeared to shift tactics with uptick in roadside bombs, targeted killings and ambush shootings, while continuing abductions and running of checkpoints. Market bombing in Sangin district, Helmand province (south), 29 June killed at least 23 civilians; Taliban and govt blaming each other. Despite May agreement between President Ghani and main opponent Abdullah Abdullah to form inclusive govt, domestic political stasis continued; new govt yet to appoint half of cabinet, Abdullah and allies did not submit list of preferred candidates while Ghani has already filled his share of posts with acting appointees. Pakistan 6 June appointed diplomat Muhammad Sadiq as special envoy on Afghanistan (see Pakistan). Amid concerns over conflict hindering COVID-19 response, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 21 June released report detailing 12 deliberate attacks affecting healthcare personnel and facilities 11 March-23 May; report attributed responsibility of eight targeted attacks to Taliban and three attacks to govt forces, while May attack on Kabul hospital remained unattributed; local media reported severe mismanagement of foreign aid for tackling pandemic.
Amid ongoing crackdown on critics, security operations continued against alleged members of banned militant groups. Despite international and domestic concerns over Awami League (AL) govt’s use of controversial Digital Security Act, police continued to detain journalists and academics using controversial law throughout month: police 9 June detained two journalists after leader of Hindu community in Habiganj district accused them of offensive social media posts; 13 June arrested Dhaka University teacher and 17 June Rajshahi University teacher for posts allegedly criticising senior AL leader Mohammed Nasim, following his death on 12 June; 18 June arrested two individuals after local AL leader in Barekha district accused them of critical social media remarks about PM Hasina and cabinet; 23 June arrested man for anti-govt social media posts in Narayanganj district; 26 June arrested editor in capital Dhaka for article criticising PM’s political affairs advisor. NGO Transparency International 20 June expressed deep concern over recent arrests and urged govt to respect freedom of speech. In anti-militancy efforts, paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion arrested alleged Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh members, including five in Myemensingh district 1 June, two in Dhaka 9 June and one in Madaripur district 14 June. Amid concern over potential COVID-19 spread in Rohingya refugee camps, with surge in national cases following 31 May lifting of lockdown, govt 2 June reported first refugee death from disease in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp; aid groups and UN early June confirmed low testing capacity in camp amid concern that number of cases could be higher than govt reporting. Group coordinating activities of UN agencies and NGOs 10 June warned that lack of funding hindered assistance to Rohingya and host communities, with only 27% of $877mn appeal for 2020 joint response plan provided.
Clashes on informal border with China killed at least 20 Indian soldiers, tensions rose with Pakistan and Maoist-related violence continued. Following series of skirmishes on Indo-China border in May, Indian and Chinese soldiers 15 June clashed along Line of Actual Control in Galwan Valley in Ladakh, killing at least 20 Indian soldiers and unknown number of Chinese soldiers, in deadliest clash in over five decades; incident occurred despite 6 June agreement between Indian and Chinese military officials that they would disengage in several areas along border; Indian media 16 June announced govt gave army emergency powers to respond to border situation. Delhi and Beijing 17 June agreed to de-escalation amid mutual accusations of territorial incursions and violations of disengagement agreement; PM Modi same day said India wanted peace but threatened response to any provocation while New Delhi rejected China’s 17 and 19 June claims over Galwan Valley as “untenable”. Military officials from both sides 22 June agreed on outline for mutual disengagement at border; diplomats on both sides 24 June endorsed agreement under Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs (WMCC); military officials met again 30 June to discuss de-escalation. Police in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad 15 June briefly detained two Indian embassy employees, accused of involvement in road accident; India claimed they were illegally detained and 23 June said it would expel half of Pakistan’s embassy staff in Delhi over spying allegations within seven days; Pakistan took reciprocal measure, also accusing Indian officials of “illegal activities”. In Bihar state on border with Nepal, clashes 12 June broke out between Nepali border police and Indian nationals attempting to cross border; Nepali police shot and killed one Indian citizen. Meanwhile, Maoist-related violence persisted: security forces killed Maoist 2 June in Chhattisgarh state’s Bijapur district and 18 June in Jharkland state’s Koderma district; Maoists killed civilians 8 and 11 June in Madhya Pradesh state and 18 June in Gadchiroli district. UN General Assembly 17 June elected India to two-year UN Security Council term (2021-2023).
Counter-insurgency operations inside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) sharply intensified, amid ongoing clashes across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir). Month saw sharp increase in number of militants killed amid insurgent-related violence. Security forces killed over 35 militants 2-29 June in Pulwama district; 2 June killed two alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants and suspected JeM commander, as well as two overground workers following day; 4 June killed militant in Rajouri district, while militant 6 June reportedly shot dead civilian in Baramulla district. In Shopian district, security forces targeted alleged Hizbul Mujahideen militants: 7-8 June killed nine militants – which triggered local protests and confrontations between demonstrators and security forces; 10 and 16 June killed seven more. Militants 9 June killed Kashmiri Hindu Pandit in Anantnag district. Security forces 18-19 June killed eight militants in Pulwama and Shopian districts, while police 22 June killed three fighters in gun battle in capital Srinagar. Gun battle between militants and security forces in Anantnag district 26 June killed paramilitary soldier and boy; security forces 26 June killed three militants in Pulwama district and 29 June killed three militants in Anantnag district. Army’s regional commander 8 June held Pakistan responsible for “inducting weapons and pushing weapons” into region. Meanwhile, cross-LoC fire between India and Pakistan continued amid sustained hostile rhetoric on both sides: New Delhi accused Pakistan of several days of cross-LoC fire beginning 2 June and said Pakistani fire 4 June killed two soldiers; 11 June killed soldier and wounded civilian; 22 June killed soldier; and 26 June injured girl. Islamabad claimed Indian fire responsible for spate of killings mid-month, including civilians 12-21 June. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry 2 June urged international intervention to end Indian forces’ killings and rights abuses in J&K. Pakistan 12 June claimed to have arrested two “Indian spies” who allegedly crossed LoC into Gilgit Baltistan; claim followed New Delhi’s 31 May expulsion of two Pakistani diplomats on charges of “espionage” (see also India non-Kashmir).
Pressure on govt increased following rising tensions with India linked to competing territorial claims, prompting calls within ruling party for PM to resign, while peaceful public protests took place against govt’s poor handling of COVID-19 pandemic. Parliament 13 June unanimously approved constitutional amendment updating country’s political map to reflect Kathmandu’s claims over territory contested between Nepal and India, escalating dispute with Delhi. Several senior leaders of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) 26 June criticised PM KP Oli at party meeting — which Oli skipped — for failing to initiate talks with India over border dispute and for govt’s overall lack of competence. Amid tensions with Delhi, Oli 28 June accused India of trying to unseat him as PM; NCP senior leaders, including former PMs Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, 30 June urged Oli to step down from both PM and party chair positions, with other party leaders demanding proof of Oli’s claims against Delhi, describing them as “diplomatic disaster” for bilateral ties. Widespread peaceful anti-govt protests throughout June demanded better quarantine facilities and transparency regarding use of donor funds earmarked for COVID-19 response. Opposition parties and private-sector leaders expressed concerns late June over govt’s authoritarian turn following proposed legislation enabling national anti-corruption body to investigate private-sector entities; parliament 27 June decided to review bill in light of criticism.
Govt used anti-corruption cases to silence political opponents, deadly militant violence persisted and govt stepped up diplomatic efforts on Afghan peace process. Ruling-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) continued targeting of opposition and critics through controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB): NAB 29 May issued warrants for former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Sharif and summoned former PML-N PM Abbasi, former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) PM Gillani and President Zardari. NAB 9 June questioned PML-N president and parliamentary leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif; and 26 June summoned former PML-N Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. Balochistan National Party-Mengal 17 June withdrew support for PM Khan’s govt for violating earlier agreements, including on recovery of Baloch missing persons, reducing PTI majority to eight. Supreme Court 19 June rejected PTI govt corruption charges against Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa. Militant violence continued: in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb blast 4 June killed two people in Bajaur tribal district. Bomb 10 June killed two police officers in North Waziristan tribal district, where, on 21 June, officer and soldier killed in militant attack. Sindhi separatist group claimed three separate attacks on 19 June on paramilitary Rangers force in three cities in Sindh province, killing three Rangers and two civilians. Militant attack on Pakistan Stock Exchange building claimed by Baloch separatist group in Karachi 29 June killed seven, including one police officer and two guards; security forces killed all four militants. Anti-terrorism court 18 June sentenced four leaders of Jamaat-ud-Dawa to prison on terror-financing charges, sentences ranging from one to five years. Police in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad 15 June briefly detained two Indian embassy employees (see India). Govt stepped up diplomatic efforts relating to Afghan peace process: govt 6 June appointed diplomat Muhammad Sadiq as Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan; Sadiq, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and director of military intelligence Faiz Hameed 9 June met Afghan President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of intra-Afghan talks, to discuss peace process; Sadiq 16-17 June met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of Taliban’s political office, in Doha.
Supreme Court (SC) ruling granted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa authority to govern without parliamentary oversight, while Gotabaya’s appointment of two new bodies with far-reaching powers signalled further steps toward authoritarianism and hard-line Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. SC 2 June dismissed civil society and opposition parties’ petitions challenging constitutionality of 20 June legislative polls and dissolution of parliament; ruling allows Gotabaya to govern without parliamentary oversight for at least another two months, as Election Commission 10 June again rescheduled elections for 5 August. PM Mahinda Rajapaksa 28 June promised voters that, if elected, his ruling-Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party would defeat “domestic and international conspiracies” allegedly backed by main opposition parties. Gotabaya 2 June appointed two task forces headed by Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne: one entirely made up of military and police officials with broad mandate to turn Sri Lanka into “a virtuous, disciplined and lawful society”; the other composed exclusively of Sinhalese Buddhists charged with “preserving the historical heritage of Sri Lanka” in Tamil- and Muslim-majority Eastern province. Prominent civil society group Friday Forum 13 June called for abolition of military task force arguing that it could be first step toward “military dictatorship” while leader of Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan 17 June said intention of all-Sinhalese task force is to “convert the Eastern province into majority Sinhalese areas”. UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet 3 June expressed concern over clampdown on free speech. In Colombo, police 9 June raided home and seized computer of Dharisha Bastians, govt-critical journalist who fled country after Rajapaksas came to power. Colombo magistrate 25 June sharply criticised police for manipulating witness statements in case against prominent Muslim lawyer, Hejaaz Hizbullah, detained for alleged involvement in Easter 2019 Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired terror attacks. Expert review committee presented strongly critical final report to president on proposed U.S. govt $480mn Millenium Challenge Corporation grant; U.S. embassy expressed disappointment at the “politicization and spread of disinformation” related to grant.
Suspected Islamist militant activity surged in South Kalimantan, while month saw series of protests calling for release of Papuan activists accused of pro-independence activities. In South Daha district, South Kalimantan province, suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militant 1 June set fire to police car and attacked police officers, killing one and seriously injuring another, before being fatally shot; counter-terror unit Densus 88 7 June arrested two alleged members of South Kalimantan branch of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, who they accused of co-planning attack. In Central Sulawesi province, members of joint police-military taskforce – established in 2016 to capture or eliminate Islamic militant group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) – 2 June allegedly shot and killed two Muslim farmers in Poso regency; hundreds of people 10 June demonstrated in town of Poso demanding investigation into shooting; police and National Human Rights Commission next day established team to look into farmers’ deaths and that of civilian reportedly also killed by security forces in April. Thousands rallied in series of demonstrations early-to-mid June in Papua, East Java, Jakarta and East Kalimantan provinces demanding release of seven Papuan activists, including Buchtar Tabuni, accused of “treason” for pro-independence activities; dozens injured as protest in Jayapura in Papua turned violent and some buildings were attacked. Balikpapan District Court 17 June sentenced all seven Papuan activists to between ten and 11 months in prison for treason. Jakarta State Administrative Court 3 June ruled unlawful govt’s internet shutdown in Papua and West Papua during 2019 protests. Local fishermen 25 June rescued 99 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea north of Aceh province, ignoring govt hesitations to allow them in due to COVID-19 risk.
Deadly fighting between military and Arakan Army (AA) persisted in Rakhine State. Govt negotiators 9 June proposed to Brotherhood Alliance – coalition of armed groups AA, Kachin Independence Organisation, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – to resume peace talks via videoconference but coalition rejected offer. Violence between AA and military continued across Rakhine State. AA 10 June reportedly launched rocket-propelled grenades at two navy vessels, which returned fire killing civilian in nearby village in Sittwe township; AA ambush on military column same day prompted several thousands to flee in Minbya township; suspected AA fighters 11 June stabbed soldier and abducted another in Sittwe, military reportedly killed civilian in retaliation. AA 22 June reportedly launched attack on police convoy killing three officers and one civilian in Rathedaung township; landmines targeting military column 2 June killed civilian and unknown number of soldiers in Ponnagyun township. Govt issued order 23 June to villagers in part of Rathedaung township to leave their villages due to imminent military “clearance operation”; thousands fled and intense fighting ongoing since 24 June, prompting UN and Western embassies to raise alarm and call for urgent civilian protection measures. Clash between military and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) 4 June left two ARSA fighters dead in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State; ARSA claimed “sizable” number of military casualties. Govt 12 June said internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin states would remain in place until at least August; on 21 June, one-year anniversary of internet ban, international community and more than 100 civil society organisations called on govt to lift ban. Rise in detected COVID-19 cases in Rakhine State due to informal returns from Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, prompted govt to announce criminal penalties for illegal cross-border travel and fuelled anti-Rohingya hate speech.
Low-intensity fighting between security forces and communist rebels continued, while violence persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in south. Clashes between communist New People’s Army (NPA) and armed forces in Luzon in north, Visayas in centre and Mindanao in south continued, although at lower level of violence compared to April-May due to weakening of some NPA front units; at least 18 combatants and civilians killed throughout month. In BARMM, clan feuds continued in Pikit and Pagalungan municipalities, often involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders, leaving several houses destroyed and hundreds displaced. In South Upi municipality, Maguindanao province, IED 22 June exploded targeting the town’s mayor who was unharmed. Clashes between soldiers and elements of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) 7-13 June continued in multiple provinces: four soldiers and two ASG militants killed and 17 injured in Pakitul, in Sulu province 5 June; one ASG militant killed during operations against drug syndicates in Bongao municipality in Tawi-Tawi province 7 June; two policemen killed and two injured after armed men attacked Parang police station in Sulu province 13 June. In Maguindanao province, members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters 9 June killed one soldier in Sultan Kudarat town. Despite delay in formal aspects of peace process due to COVID-19 outbreak, Bangsamoro Transition Authority 16 June resumed parliamentary sessions after temporary COVID-19 suspension. House of Representatives and Senate 8 June agreed on controversial “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” to be signed by President Duterte into law; human rights groups and other critics highlighted concern that police and military could resort to extended detention and more unchecked arrests. Authorities 15 June indicted social news network Rappler.com CEO Maria Ressa for cyber-libel; journalists, NGOs and UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech David Kaye condemned verdict as attack on freedom of press. FM Teodoro Locsin Jr. 2 June announced govt suspended 11 Feb notice to terminate Visiting Forces Agreement with U.S., citing “political and other developments in the region.”
Tensions between China and SCS claimant parties continued amid U.S. reiteration of its rejection of China’s claims in region. In notable toughening of rhetoric, South East Asia regional organisation ASEAN 27 June affirmed UN Convention on Law of the Sea as “basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones”. Beginning mid-June, three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups – USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan – simultaneously patrolled Western Pacific for first time since 2017; U.S. 17 June stated that deployment was to “promote security, stability and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific region”. U.S. media Fox News 9 June reported that U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers operated over SCS. U.S. envoy to UN Kelly Craft 2 June reiterated in note to UN Sec Gen Guterres that U.S. rejects Chinese claims as “inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.” Meanwhile, reports of regular Chinese activity in SCS continued. Chinese ship 8 June began laying undersea cables between its outposts in disputed Paracel Islands; satellite imagery suggested that cables were laid between Tree Island, North Island and Woody Island. U.S. media Radio Free Asia (RFA) 10 June reported Chinese research and survey vessel entered waters close to Pratas islands, which Taiwan controls and China claims; 16 June reported that two separate vessel-tracking tools detected other Chinese survey vessel within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Vietnamese FM 14 June stated that two Chinese ships 10 June rammed Vietnamese fishing boat near Chinese-occupied Lincoln Island in Paracels before seizing its catch and equipment. Filipino Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana 9 June marked completion of construction work on Thitu island in disputed area of Spratlys. Australian High Commissioner to India 2 June raised concern over maritime militias in SCS and 17 June noted that China “not as committed” to existing international order as Australia and India. After Indonesia 28 May stated China’s “nine dash line” claim in region lacks basis in international law and violates Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, China 2 June offered boundary negotiations with Jakarta; Indonesian MFA 5 June rejected offer.
Insurgent violence persisted in south and abduction of pro-democracy activist in exile sparked outrage and small-scale protests. In deep south, security forces 16 June exchanged fire with suspected insurgents in Saiburi district, Pattani; next day shot and killed suspected insurgent after he allegedly opened fire on them at checkpoint in Muang district, Pattani. Head of Thai delegation in Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations 19 June expressed his intention to restart talks with main insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) in July or August. In two separate attacks, unidentified gunmen 22 June shot and killed village official and timber worker in Pattani and Yala provinces. In Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, unidentified gunmen 4 June abducted exiled Thai pro-democracy activist Wanchalerm Satsakit, who had fled Thailand after 2014 military coup; Wanchalerm’s disappearance 15 June sparked series of small-scale protests in capital Bangkok while prompting calls on social media to repeal article 112 of country’s criminal code under which insulting monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison; PM Prayuth Chan-ocha same day warned activists that such criticism could damage their job prospects. To mark anniversary of 1932 coup that ended absolute monarchy, pro-democracy activists 24 June staged peaceful commemorations across country. Security officials 23 June attempted to link discovery of small-arms cache in Mae Sot, Tak province, on Myanmar border, to alleged anti-government plot to coincide with 1932 coup anniversary; in fact, arms were destined for rebels in Myanmar.
Bosniak and Croat party leaders overcame longstanding political impasse to reach power-sharing agreement in Mostar, ending years of political paralysis in city. In line with 2010 Constitutional Court ruling and 2019 European Court of Human Rights ruling, Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) 17 June signed landmark deal on new statute to govern Mostar, ending decade-long dispute in southern city divided between Bosniaks and Croats and paving way for first local elections there since 2008, scheduled for Nov. Following detention of PM of Federation entity Fadil Novalic and two alleged accomplices in late May-early June as part of investigation into corruption charges over purchase of defective respirators from China in response to COVID-19 outbreak, opposition parliamentary deputies in Federation entity 1 June called for govt’s dismissal in no-confidence motion.
Despite initial steps by new coalition govt toward restarting Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, broader efforts stalled following indictment of President Thaçi for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Parliament 3 June confirmed new govt led by former Deputy PM Avdullah Hoti; 61 voted in favour out of 86 MPs present in 120-seat chamber, while MPs from largest party Vetëvendosje (LVV) did not attend session in protest; EU and U.S. welcomed govt’s formation. Govt same day announced readiness to restart EU-led dialogue with Serbia on normalising relations that stalled in 2018, without “allowing the border to be changed or territories to be exchanged”; 6 June lifted new trade restrictions against Serbia introduced by outgoing PM Kurti late-May. U.S. Special Envoy Richard Grenell 15 June announced Kosovo-Serbia meeting 27 June at White House to resume talks, with focus on Kosovo pausing its applications to international organisations and Serbia committing to “temporarily pause the derecognition campaign”. PM Hoti 17 June invited opposition parties LVV and Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) to discuss upcoming dialogue with Serbia; both parties however rejected invitation on grounds that govt lacked legitimacy. Special Prosecutor of The Hague Special Chamber on alleged crimes by Kosovo Liberation Army 24 June publicised indictment (filed under seal in April) of President Thaçi on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges relating to 1998-1999 conflict in Kosovo; Thaçi’s office same day cancelled upcoming U.S. trip for talks with Serbia and Thaçi 29 June denied charges, stating he will resign immediately as president if indictment is confirmed. Hoti 27 June reaffirmed govt was “committed to the process” of talks and new date would be set.
Party leaders set new date for parliamentary elections. After March postponement of 12 April elections over concerns surrounding COVID-19 outbreak, leader of ruling party Social Democratic Union of Macedonia Zoran Zaev and head of opposition VMRO-DPMNE party Hristijan Mickoski 16 June reached agreement to hold parliamentary election on 15 July.
Tensions between ruling party and pro-Serb opposition mounted ahead of Aug elections, while dispute between govt and Serbian Orthodox Church continued. President Milo Djukanovic 18 June announced parliamentary elections to be held on 30 August, paving way for start of electoral campaigning. Amid escalating tensions between Djukanovic’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and pro-Serb opposition, police 17 June arrested Budva town’s incumbent opposition mayor for refusing to hand over power after ruling DPS gained majority in local assembly; hundreds of opposition protesters same day gathered in Budva; police dispersed demonstrators with tear gas and arrested dozens. Opposition protesters across country, including in capital Podgorica and Budva, 24 June took to streets in support of Budya opposition mayor; after clashes between protesters and police left seven police officers injured, police detained dozens, including two opposition lawmakers. Amid ongoing tensions between govt and Serbian Orthodox Church, police 14 June arrested several priests and 21-22 June questioned Church leaders about mass rallies over controversial Dec 2019 Freedom of Confession Act held in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings; chief of police 21 June said Church rallies posed threat to region’s security, citing spread of religious radicalism and hate speech.
Parliament pressed ahead with constitutional changes following cancelled referendum while political infighting centred on persistent COVID-19 outbreak. Following govt’s March decision to cancel referendum vote on constitutional changes due to COVID-19 outbreak, parliament 22 June approved constitutional amendments, which could lead to govt suspension of three out of nine Constitutional Court judges and election of new head of court; opposition criticised changes, calling them politically motivated. Country remained worst-affected by COVID-19 pandemic in South Caucasus, with PM Pashinyan 1 June reporting he had tested positive (and reporting his recovery 8 June). Pashinyan 8 June dismissed heads of army, police and national security service over alleged violations of COVID-19 restrictions; govt extended COVID-19 state of emergency until 13 July. Leader of largest opposition faction Prosperous Armenia party Gagik Tsarukyan 5 June called on govt to resign due to “ineffective efforts” against COVID-19 and country’s “failing economy”; Parliament 16 June voted to strip Tsarukyan of his parliamentary immunity, leading to his arrest on suspicion of vote buying, fraud and illegal land appropriation; Tsarukyan denied wrongdoing. Authorities 20 June released on bail former President Kocharyan who was arrested in June 2019 for ordering violent crackdown against opposition protesters after 2008 election.
Govt’s reimposition of COVID-19 lockdown following resurgence of cases led to small-scale protest and heavy-handed police response. Amid sharp rise in reported COVID-19 cases, govt 4 June introduced curfew for weekend of 6-7 June. Police enforcing curfew 7 June confronted by small protest of residents throwing rubbish, jars and bottles from buildings in central district of capital Baku; govt next day deployed hundreds of police from quasi-military special police force Agile Police Regiment in Baku, and police arrested 11 people in their apartments without court order; all 11 sentenced to administrative detention for between 15 days and two months; after opposition groups criticised police forces’ aggressive methods, authorities 9 June detained several accused police officers. Govt 18 June announced return to strict COVID-19 lockdown until 5 July and general lockdown until 1 August.
De facto Abkhazia leadership faced increasing financial pressure and opened humanitarian corridor for return of residents from Georgia. Amid growing speculation that leadership of breakaway republic Abkhazia has insufficient funds to cover basic budget payments, de facto PM Aleksandr Ankvab 11 June commented on financial situation, stating “this is no more just a horror story, this is now our reality.” De facto authorities 12 June officially extended until 1 July some COVID-19 measures, including restrictions on economic exchanges across Russian border; dozens of local residents fearing loss of tourist income previous day protested against restrictions at main border crossing with Russia calling for reopening of border, while pensioners in at least two towns (Gali and Gulrypshi) did not receive pension payments during month. Abkhazia’s State Security Service 19 June announced temporary reopening of Enguri (Ingur) checkpoint with Georgia’s western Samegrelo region to allow local residents to return to Abkhazia 22-24 June. In secessionist territory South Ossetia, International Committee of Red Cross, sole international organisation active in territory since start of COVID-19 pandemic, 19 June delivered over $70,000 of protective equipment to hospitals. Ahead of parliamentary election in Oct, Parliament 29 June adopted constitutional amendments to reform voting system, aimed at more proportional distribution of parliamentary seats; EU and U.S. same day congratulated Parliament, stating “these much-needed reforms will help ensure a free, fair, and transparent election environment.”
Heated diplomatic exchanges escalated between Armenia and Azerbaijan over planned road infrastructure development in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), while negotiation process remained static. Following Armenian National Security Council’s 2019 announcement of controversial highway between Armenia and NK, de facto NK President Araik Arutyunyan 5 June confirmed road will be constructed in 2020. European Parliament’s rapporteurs on Azerbaijan and Armenia and chair of delegation to EU-Armenia Parliamentary Partnership Committee 10 June issued joint statement stating new road “could symbolically entrench the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and of its surrounding districts”. Azerbaijan 13 June thanked rapporteurs for their statement, saying it was based on EU Council’s 11 May Conclusions on Eastern Partnership Policy beyond 2020; de facto NK authorities 12 June said new road was necessary to combat Azerbaijan’s ongoing efforts to isolate NK; Armenian MPs of EU-Armenia Parliamentary Partnership Committee 13 June criticised statement for referring to NK as “occupied”, while also citing 2009 Basic Principles that stipulate final status of NK should be based on legally binding free expression of NK population. Armenian Foreign Ministry 13 June issued statement to mark “28th anniversary of the occupation of the Shaumyan region by the armed forces of Azerbaijan”, asserting that Armenian population in Shaumyan had suffered “ethnic cleansing” in response; Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry 14 June responded by criticising Armenian statement, while also accusing Yerevan of escalating situation. Armenian authorities 12 June detained Azerbaijani citizen at Areguni village in Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik region, which borders Gadabey district in western Azerbaijan; detained man handed over to Armenia’s National Security Service while investigation ongoing.
Govt moved ahead with constitutional referendum on extending limit on number of presidential terms, while small-scale protest against police brutality took place in Dagestan. Following April postponement of referendum on constitutional reform aimed at extending limit on number of presidential terms, govt 1 June confirmed vote would take place on 1 July, with remote and online voting starting 25 June; amendments are aimed at resetting presidential two-term limit, which would allow Putin to run again for president in 2024. In North Caucasus, over 1,000 residents of Manas town in Dagestan 9 June protested against violent police arrests of several residents who allegedly violated COVID-19 quarantine measures; police apologised for behaviour and released detainees after issuing fines. Dagestan police 18 June clashed with dozens of Azerbaijani citizens at the border, hundreds of whom were stranded along Russian-Azerbaijani border due to COVID-19 lockdown. Govt 30 June arrested man on charges of suspected terror plot in Vladikavkaz, Republic of North Ossetia.
Major demonstrations erupted across country opposing President Lukashenko’s attempt to run for sixth term in August election, and police arrested dozens of opposition members and protesters, including main opposition candidate. Following end of May protests of 1,000 demonstrators in capital Minsk against his bid for sixth presidential term, Lukashenko 1 June announced that he would not allow “any colour revolutions” and banned protests until 9 August presidential election. Hundreds of opposition supporters 6-7 June rallied in Minsk and other cities in attempt to collect 100,000 signatures necessary to register alternative independent presidential candidates. Belarusian human rights NGO Vyasna 19 June reported police arrested over 40 activists and prominent members of opposition, including opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich, and leader of non-registered opposition Belarusian Christian Democratic Party Paval Sevyarynets; those arrested subsequently detained for taking part in “unsanctioned rallies”. Authorities 18 June arrested main opposition presidential candidate Viktor Babariko on suspicion of financial crimes, including allegations of tax evasion and money laundering while he was head of Belgazprombank (local unit of Russia's Gazprombank); Babariko’s campaign team same day called allegations “absurdity” and released pre-recorded video message from Babariko proposing return to 1994 constitution, including limit on presidential terms. Several thousand protestors 18-20 June joined opposition rallies in Minsk, Gomel, Babruysk, and Vitebsk in solidarity with Babariko; police reportedly arrested over 100 protestors and journalists in Minsk and dozens in other cities. Lukashenko 19 June said that govt had thwarted plan of political forces “both from the West and from the East” to destabilise country, while Babariko same day said actions taken against Belgazprombank were part of intimidation campaign conducted on “political orders”; EU 19 June called on govt to release Babariko immediately, and urged authorities to ensure “meaningful and competitive political contest” in August election. U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, head of U.S. Helsinki Commission, 25 June said Belarusian authorities made free and fair election “impossible” due to arrests and intimidation throughout month. Lukashenko 3 June dismissed current govt under PM Sergei Rumas and named former head of state military-industrial committee Roman Golovchenko as new PM; Lukashenko described move as “a natural process” to “determine an almost final composition of the government” ahead of election.
Amid ongoing violence in east, high-level debates continued on how to implement the Minsk agreements’ political provisions. Violence along Donbas front lines remained concentrated around Svitlodarsk, Avdiivka-Yasynuvata, Donetsk city, and Shyrokyne on Azov Sea, according to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Fighting in June killed four govt servicemen, according to military press service, and 21 Russian-backed fighters, according to pro-Ukrainian non-government source; one civilian injured in Avdiivka, east of Donetsk city in same period, according to OSCE. Russian-backed forces continued to limit access for OSCE ceasefire compliance monitors. Head of presidential office Andriy Yermak 17 June said that govt prepared new bill incorporating Steinmeier Formula which states that “special status” for de facto regions as provided for in 2015 Minsk agreements should be recognised simultaneously with Kyiv holding elections in these areas; govt discussed draft with Minsk political sub-group comprising civil society representatives from Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Following series of Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) virtual meetings 9, 11, 15 and 25 June attended by newly appointed representatives of Ukraine govt , OSCE’s top TCG envoy 25 June noted that sides were unable to agree on security modalities for opening of new civilian crossing points in Luhansk region; welcomed partial reopening of existing crossings. Govt 10 June partially reopened two civilian checkpoints at contact line; de facto authorities 18 June began allowing entry in Luhansk region; entry into Donestsk People’s Republic remains restricted. Sides 22 June opened Novotroitske/Olenivka checkpoint in Donetsk region for entry into govt-controlled areas; confusion over crossing procedures left dozens stranded at checkpoints. NATO 12 June granted Ukraine “enhanced opportunities partner” status, enabling “access to interoperability programs and exercises”. U.S. 17 June delivered $60mn in military equipment to govt. Govt 17 June extended COVID-19 quarantine measures until 31 July due to spike in infections.
Prospects for restarting reunification talks remained bleak amid ongoing tensions in Eastern Mediterranean. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 6 June said Cyprus reunification talks can “definitely” resume if Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı is reelected in polls currently scheduled for Oct 2020; last round of UN-led talks ended without agreement in mid-2017. Turkish drilling continued in maritime areas claimed by Republic of Cyprus; Turkish energy minister 2 June announced seven licensed areas in Eastern Mediterranean for oil exploration and gas drilling under maritime deal reached with Libya in late 2019. President Anastasiades 6 June said Turkey should lose its status as candidate for EU accession if it “doesn’t dial down its aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean”. Following meeting with Republic of Cyprus’ FM, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 25 June said “Turkish illegal drillings must stop” and affirmed EU support for Cyprus’ previous calls to negotiate a maritime border agreement with Ankara; Turkey 27 June rejected EU’s call for talks, describing them as “far from serious”. Ongoing tensions over maritime borders and drilling triggered heated exchange between Turkey and Greece as both sides early June signalled their readiness to use force to protect their respective interests; Greek PM Mitsotakis 11 June signalled willingness to discuss delimitation of maritime zones with Turkey. Republic of Cyprus FM 21 June held telephone conversation with Egyptian counterpart to discuss developments in Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish involvement in Libya’s conflict; FM 23 June met Israeli counterpart in Tel Aviv to discuss bilateral issues.
Man 16 June hospitalised in west Belfast after sustaining gunshot wound to leg following what police described as paramilitary-style attack.
Tensions continued between Turkey, Greece and EU in Eastern Mediterranean; security forces stepped up offensives against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq; and military operations continued in north-eastern Syria and south-eastern Turkey. In northern Iraq, Turkey 14-15 June heavily bombed PKK positions around Sinjar and Qandil mountains ahead of ground offensive on 17 June, ostensibly in response to uptick in PKK attacks on Turkish military in region; Defence Ministry 28 June said one Turkish soldier killed and PKK fighter “neutralised” same day. In Turkey’s south east, military continued operations against PKK, particularly in rural areas of Şırnak, Hakkari and Bitlis; PKK-attributed roadside bomb 18 June killed four state construction workers in Şırnak’s Silopi district. Govt continued efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish political opposition; security forces detained over 60 pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members. Parliament 4 June stripped two HDP MPs of immunity after Supreme Court upheld conviction for “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”; HDP 15 June organised march on capital to protest but faced clampdown by Turkish police. In north-eastern Syria, low-intensity clashes continued between Turkish security forces and People’s Protection Units (YPG) (see Syria). In Libya, where Tripoli-based govt made significant military gains during month, Turkish FM 10 June labelled Egypt’s 7 June call for ceasefire “stillborn” and called for talks under UN auspices. High-level Turkish delegation 17 June visited Tripoli, Libya, reportedly to discuss offensive and business contracts (see Libya). Meanwhile, amid rising tensions in Eastern Mediterranean as Turkish drilling continues in maritime areas claimed by Republic of Cyprus (see Cyprus), Turkish military 11 June prevented Greek vessel, operating under EU naval mission enforcing Libya arms embargo, from inspecting cargo ship bound to Libya from Turkey, raising further tensions with Greece and EU. Military 12 June conducted naval and air exercises in Eastern Mediterranean, and next day held joint submarine drills with Italy near Libya’s coast. Govt continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey: security personnel throughout month reportedly detained over 100 individuals with suspected ISIS links, including 18 June arrest of high-ranking ISIS member in Gaziantep.
Several protests took place throughout month, while number of reported COVID-19 cases surged. After govt late May amended law to permit certain protests if organisers notify authorities ahead of time, opposition parties Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan and Democratic Party organised 6 June protests calling for range of democratic reforms; police same day detained over 100 protesters on grounds of violating COVID-19 regulations, sparking public outrage. Dozen activists 10 June gathered in front of EU office in capital Nur-Sultan calling for release of three activists, sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 days. NGO Human Rights Watch 12 June called on authorities to release rights activist Asya Tulesov, arrested and sentenced for “violence against the police” after participating in 6 June protest, citing “disproportionate charges”. Meanwhile, more than a dozen women 8-10 June staged “silent protest” in Nur-Sultan over lack of financial assistance from govt; after protesters refused to leave site, authorities 10 June forcibly placed them in quarantine. Senate 11 June approved bill decriminalising libel; free speech advocacy group Adil Soz called change “partial” given custodial sentences of 25 days remain in place. Health authorities 17 June claimed COVID-19 situation was getting “out of control” following spike in infections among govt officials; press service of former President Nazarbayev next day confirmed Nazarbayev tested positive for disease. Govt next day tightened public health restrictions in Nur-Sultan and five other major cities and President Tokayev 25 June dismissed health minister.
Violence flared in Batken region on Kyrgyz-Tajik border amid stepped-up diplomatic efforts to resolve local tensions. After 8 May clashes on Kyrgyz-Tajik border, violence erupted again in Batken region on border as unknown assailants 2 June shot and wounded Kyrgyz national. Authorities 1 June said ethnic clashes in Sokh exclave inside Batken region late May injured 25 Kyrgyz nationals; Deputy PM Boronov and Uzbek PM Aripov same day met at border checkpoint to resolve tensions while Kyrgyz and Uzbek presidents engaged in talks by phone; Uzbek President Mirziyoyev 5 June visited area affected by violence. Parliament 25 June approved bill giving authorities power to shut down websites containing false information and to request customers’ data from internet service providers; NGO Committee to Protect Journalists same day said bill, which awaits presidential approval, would “mark a serious step toward curtailing press freedom”; hundreds of protesters in capital Bishkek 29 June called on President Jeenbekov to veto new legislation. Lawmakers 18 June absolved govt from allegations of involvement in billion-dollar money-laundering scheme uncovered in joint journalistic investigation in Nov 2019, which had sparked protests in Bishkek. Court 23 June sentenced former president Atambayev to 11 years and two months in prison for illegal release of high profile convicted criminal Aziz Batukaev in 2013.
New COVID-19 law came under criticism for stifling rights. Parliament 10 June passed bill that would criminalise spreading COVID-19 and punish first-time offenders with prison sentences of up to five years; same day approved fines for disseminating false information about COVID-19. NGO Reporters Without Borders 12 June criticised law on grounds that “this new, vaguely defined legislation could be exploited to violate the right to information”. Court in southern Khatlon region 8 June convicted Muslim cleric and nine relatives of involvement in banned organisation Muslim Brotherhood; defendants face prison terms of up to seven years.
Amid ongoing reports of food shortages and rising food prices, govt further tightened food rationing. In sign of further rationing measures, authorities early June reportedly introduced registration books in western Balkan province to track household purchases at state-owned stores that sell goods at subsidised prices. President Berdymukhammedov throughout month visited several provinces after wheat harvesting campaign began 5 June, including Lebap, Mary and Dashoguz. While govt continued to claim it had not registered any COVID-19 cases, authorities mid-June reportedly locked down hospitals in capital Ashgabat and Lebap regional capital Turkmenabat in east as reports surfaced of potential COVID-19 outbreak. Govt late June reportedly approved World Health Organization (WHO) mission scheduled for early July after WHO cancelled visit early May citing no official invitation.
Uzbek and Kyrgyz govts stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve heightened tensions at border. After clashes near Sokh exclave in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region late May reportedly injured 187 local Uzbek residents and 25 Kyrgyz nationals, PM Aripov and Kyrgyz Deputy PM Boronov 1 June met at border checkpoint to resolve tensions; President Mirziyoyev same day engaged in telephone talks with Kyrgyz counterpart and 5 June visited area affected by violence.
National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla reiterated willingness to resume negotiations as it released prisoners, a govt precondition to resume talks, while armed groups exploited COVID-19 pandemic to increase control over territories. Following mediation by International Red Cross, govt ombudsman and Catholic church, ELN 12 June released two people held in Arauca department (east) since early May, 15 June released six others, including former police officers, in Norte de Santander department (north east), and 18 June handed over army captain captured 7 June in Arauca. ELN chief negotiator Pablo Beltrán 16 June reiterated group’s willingness to negotiate with govt; however, govt insisted group is still holding up to ten hostages. Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC, one of country’s main drug trafficking groups) 12 June also released minor in Bajo Cauca area of Antioquia department (north west). Amid COVID-19 pandemic, several municipalities in Antioquia reported throughout month that criminal groups including AGC and AGC splinter group Caparros imposed checkpoints to limit movement. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident groups also reportedly issued movement restrictions notably in Putumayo (south), Cauca (south west), and Amazonas (south) departments. ELN prohibited return of urban residents to rural areas in south of Bolívar department (north). Amid national COVID-19 lockdown, govt ombudsman early June warned that armed groups were recruiting children out of school; concerns also grew over rise in femicides and forced disappearances of women, as bodies of two women were found 16 June in Segovia and Fredonia municipalities, Antioquia. Amid high rates of COVID-19 transmission notably in Amazonas department along Brazilian border and in Barranquilla and Cartagena cities on Atlantic coast, govt extended nationwide lockdown until 15 July; in capital Bogotá and second-largest city Medellín, protesters sporadically blocked major roads to protest movement restrictions, delays in distribution of food aid, and corruption in management of aid. Killings of social leaders continued; authorities 24 June recovered body of activist Edier Adán Lopera, allegedly killed 15 June by Caparros in Tarazá municipality, Antioquia.
Political crisis escalated further as President Maduro’s govt took series of steps to strengthen control over electoral framework and silence opposition ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. After talks between govt and opposition led by Juan Guaidó over composition of new electoral authority (CNE) broke down early June, govt-controlled Supreme Court 12 June appointed new CNE with absolute majority for Maduro allies and no seat for Guaidó-led opposition; Supreme Court also ordered changes to electoral law expanding seats in National Assembly from 167 to over 200, increasing number of lawmakers elected through party list rather than individually and modifying method for electing legislators representing indigenous communities; opposition leaders including Guaidó immediately rejected ruling, insisted only National Assembly is constitutionally allowed to elect CNE members. In following days, Supreme Court named new leaders, representing dissident factions more lenient toward govt, for two out of four parties that compose mainstream opposition – Acción Democrática 15 June and Primero Justicia 16 June – and 17 June threatened third party Un Nuevo Tiempo with same fate; Supreme Court also reportedly looked to dissolve fourth party, Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular. International actors including EU, U.S., regional body Lima Group and EU/Uruguay-led International Contact Group mid-June condemned recent moves as further deterioration of political crisis. After EU 29 June imposed sanctions on 11 senior officials for “undermining democracy and rule of law”, Maduro same day ordered EU ambassador to leave country within 72 hours. Previously, govt and opposition 2 June said they had reached agreement with Pan American Health Organization to cooperate to raise funds to address COVID-19 pandemic; humanitarian organisations celebrated move as precedent that could allow broader agreements.
Amid COVID-19 spread and controversy over govt’s management of pandemic, political polarisation deepened as Supreme Court continued moves toward investigations of close allies of President Bolsonaro, and president’s supporters took to street to protest against legal proceedings. Following rise of tensions between Bolsonaro and Supreme Court after latter in recent months launched multiple investigations against close allies of president, including two of his sons, president’s supporters 13-14 June protested in Brasília, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, launching fireworks on Supreme Court building in capital Brasília; then Education Minister Abraham Weintraub who attended demonstration in Brasilia, said Supreme Court judges should be arrested; Weintraub resigned 18 June and left for U.S. after Supreme Court announced investigations against him over accusations of libel and disinformation. Amid Bolsonaro’s supporters’ call for military to close Supreme Court, Secretary of Govt General Luiz Eduardo Ramos 12 June said military would not intervene. 70 retired army officers next day published letter accusing Supreme Court of making politically-motivated decisions. Following Supreme Court order, authorities 15 June arrested pro-Bolsonaro protest leader Sara Giromini over accusations of raising funds for anti-democratic actions that could threaten national security. Amid COVID-19 spread, power struggle continued between Bolsonaro on one hand, and mayors and governors on the other after Supreme Court in April allowed local authorities to impose isolation measures amid COVID-19 pandemic; São Paulo 19 June and Rio de Janeiro next day extended quarantine until early July. Small-scale demonstrations took place 28 June in several cities against Bolsonaro’s handling of COVID-19 crisis, which reached 1mn reported active cases and 50,000 deaths 19 June.
President Giammattei dismissed health minister over allegations of mismanagement of COVID-19 crisis, while tensions with U.S. persisted over deportation of migrants. Giammattei 19 June replaced health minister and three other Ministry officials; move followed investigation by Presidential Commission against Corruption into Ministry’s alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 pandemic, including creation of ghost jobs – salaries collected without work being performed – and hiring of unqualified people, and newspaper Prensa Libre’s 6 June accusation that Ministry had manipulated numbers of reported COVID-19 infections and deaths. Meanwhile, police reported they had arrested 24,800 people for violating COVID-19 lockdown 22 March-13 June. Amid concerns over potential spread of virus in overcrowded prisons, director of prison system 16 June said eight prisoners had died from COVID-19. Police 2 June reported improving security with 978 homicides Jan-May 2020, compared to 1,515 in same period last year. Criminal violence and local conflicts however continued. Notably, alleged smugglers 4 June set up roadblocks and attacked police precinct in San Marcos city (west). Violence also persisted in Sololá department (south), where govt imposed state of emergency in three municipalities late May following deadly clashes over longstanding territorial dispute; after renewed clashes there 11 June left two dead, govt 25 June extended state of emergency for 30 days. Tensions with U.S. remained high over continued deportation flights amid COVID-19 pandemic and despite broader restrictions on international flights. U.S. under-secretary of state 5 June stated flights would continue; authorities reported 159 deportations 1-15 June; govt 23 June reported six new deportees tested positive for COVID-19.
Govt faced accusations of using COVID-19 crisis to stay in power, while controversial new penal code came into force. Amid persistent opposition concerns that govt will use COVID-19 pandemic to call off general elections scheduled for 2021 and remain in power, head of National Electoral Council 9 June said body will not convene primary elections as planned in Sept due to delay in updating electoral register amid pandemic. President Hernández same day reiterated he will not run for re-election in 2021 and ruling National Party will hold primaries. Controversial penal code came into law 25 June despite objection from opposition, civil society and private sector who say code poses threat to freedom of expression and protects corrupt politicians and traffickers. Unrest and protests over food shortages and deteriorating livelihoods amid COVID-19 crisis continued nationwide, including protests in capital Tegucigalpa by govt workers 4 June and taxi and bus drivers 15 June. Concerns grew over COVID-19 spread in prisons with outbreaks reported at El Porvenir prison (north) and Támara prison (centre). Human rights organisations 15 June called for “humanitarian intervention” in Támara prison after authorities reported five inmates died of virus 8-14 June. Hernández was hospitalised 17 June after testing positive for COVID-19. Sentencing of Hernández’s brother, found guilty of drug smuggling by U.S. court in Oct 2019, delayed to 16 Sept.
Power struggle continued between, on one hand, President Bukele and, on the other, Legislative Assembly and Supreme Court, over terms of COVID-19 restrictions. Bukele 4 June issued executive decree extending nationwide quarantine until 15 June; 6 June vetoed emergency bill passed late May by Legislative Assembly, which set out plan to restart economy 8 June. Supreme Court 8 June ruled 4 June decree unconstitutional. Legislative Assembly 12 June passed new bill to reopen economy; next day, Bukele said he would veto it and issued new decree to reopen economy in phases from 16 June onward. Amid increase of reported COVID-19 cases, Bukele 25 June sent legislative proposal to Assembly to reinstall rolling 15-day nationwide quarantine. Meanwhile, opposition party Nuestro Tiempo 13 June called on Assembly to lift Bukele’s legal immunity for breaking rule of law and defying checks and balances on power; Bukele’s supporters immediately branded move as coup attempt. Justice and public security minister 4 June boasted improvements in security in first year of Bukele’s presidency, with 62% decrease in homicides and 36% decrease in disappearances since June 2019. Newspaper El Faro 13 June reported burials carried out with COVID-19 protocol suggest death toll may be higher than official figures.
President Ortega’s management of COVID-19 crisis continued to come under scrutiny, opposition created united front and govt faced further international pressure to ensure accountability for human rights abuses. Opposition platform Blue and White National Unity 6 June sent letter to UN Sec Gen Guterres requesting special representative be sent to Nicaragua to help with political and public health crises; relatives of political prisoners 11 June said 45 political prisoners suffering from COVID-19 still jailed. NGO Citizen Observatory, whose members include health workers, continued to dispute govt’s account of low number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, counting 1,688 possible deaths against govt-reported 64 as of 17 June. Major opposition parties and civil society organisations 25 June signed agreement creating National Coalition to “fight for justice, democracy and against the dictatorship” ahead of general elections scheduled for next year; signatories include Blue and White National Unity and other opposition platform Civic Alliance, whose hesitancy to sign agreement created internal rifts, with several figures announcing departure 17-25 June. International actors maintained pressure on govt to ensure accountability for human rights violations, including repression of opposition and civil society since 2018 protest movement. U.S. Senate 16 June passed resolution encouraging President Trump’s administration to hold Ortega and allies accountable for human rights violations and to couple pressure with diplomatic efforts; at Organization of American States’ Permanent Council meeting 24 June, Sec Gen Almagro suggested organisation declare rupture of democratic order in country; Switzerland same day imposed sanctions on six high-level officials sanctioned by EU in May in response to ongoing human rights violations and curtailment of democracy and rule of law, and urged authorities to uphold national and international laws on human rights.