Welcome back to Through the FCIL Lens series! Several important events took place this past month of May 2023 in different flashpoints all over the world. Per usual, in this series, I aim to shed some light on rapidly (d)evolving events which can potentially become of interest to Foreign, Comparative and International Law (FCIL) librarians or any researcher interested in this type of work.
There are innumerable challenges and pitfalls when pursuing FCIL research on current events taking place in other countries. Some of the obvious challenges include evaluating sources, translation, mis- and disinformation, fast sequence of events, etc. From a research standpoint, I believe one of the major challenges is how to connect the current events with the research that you’re trying to do. There is simply not enough information or analysis to help you connect the dots. Therefore, this translates into yet another step in your research strategy which you simply can’t ignore. In my FCIL class at the University of Arizona College of Law, I try to convey to my students the idea that once you begin working with legal information from other countries, you are really working with ever-changing “living organisms” which require analysis and understanding beyond the law and legal sources. Unfortunately, our legal education in the United States does a terrible job at exposing students to interdisciplinary sources and research methodologies from other areas of knowledge which are crucial to FCIL research.
For this post I have chosen events that took place over this past month of May 2023 in the following countries: Ecuador, Rwanda/South Africa, Turkey, Pakistan and Thailand. As in previous posts, these summaries aim to be descriptive, introductory, and to provide a stepping stone for further comprehensive research. Each summary also includes at least three important authoritative secondary sources.
Ecuador’s Muerte Cruzada Prompts New Elections in the Country
As he was about to face an impeachment process, Ecuador’s President, Guillermo Lasso dissolved the parliament and prompted new elections using a constitutional clause called, muerte cruzada or crossed death. The mechanism was written into the Constitution in 2008 as a tool to end deadlocks between the presidency and the legislature. But until now, no president had ever enacted it. Lasso’s announcement on May 17 came just hours after the start of his impeachment trial, in which he stood accused of having been aware of an alleged embezzlement scheme involving the state-run oil transport company, Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (FLOPEC). Lasso’s few allies in the National Assembly called on their peers to halt the process, citing a lack of evidence tying Lasso to the public contracts in question. Following the declaration of muerte cruzada, the country’s election body, the Consejo Nacional Electoral announced August 20 as the first round of upcoming elections. Lasso will rule by decree until then. The newly elected president and National Assembly would then govern until the end of the original term, 2025. Lasso’s market-first economic ideas have won him friends in the US but have contributed to his deep unpopularity in his own country. Lasso’s policies pushed poor and Indigenous Ecuadorians to go on strike; a cut to fuel subsidies was untenable for people already struggling, and increased mining and petroleum extraction threatened Indigenous land.
- Blanksten, G. I. (2022). Ecuador: Constitutions and caudillos. Univ of California Press.
- Cachanosky, N., Salter, A. W., & Savanti, I. (2022). Can dollarization constrain a populist leader? The case of Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 200, 430-442.
- Collins, J. N. (2022). Ecuador: The Return of Neoliberal Ghosts with Pandemic Woes. In Latin American Politics and Development (pp. 311-331). Routledge.
Rwandan Genocide Fugitive, Kayishema Captured in South Africa
After 22 years evading justice, Fulgence Kayishema, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives of the Rwandan genocide, has been arrested in Cape Town, South Africa on May 24. Hiding among refugees in several countries, masking himself behind various aliases and using the false name of Donatien Nibashumba, Kayishema managed to remain at large from authorities authorities who say he orchestrated the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. South African police said the arrest was made in response to an Interpol red notice. It took a multinational team, including the South African police and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, casting a wide net to catch him. Kayishema was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2001, which charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in the Kibuye prefecture. According to the indictment, Mr. Kayishema was the chief police inspector in 1994, overseeing and participating in the days-long massacre of civilians. More than 800,000 Rwandans, most from the Tutsi ethnic group, were killed during 100 days of violence by forces and vigilantes from the Hutu ethnic group. Thousands of moderate Hutus were also killed in the violence, considered one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Kayishema will be held at Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison ahead of extradition to Rwanda. He could face trial either in Rwanda itself or the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- Ancietos, M. (2021). Political opportunism, impunity and the perpetuation of Victors Justice: A case of the Rwandan Genocide. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 15(2), 76-89.
- Drumbl, M. A. (2020). Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda. Journal of International Peacekeeping, 22(1-4), 247-262.
- Lakin, S. J., & Wibabara, C. (2022). Transitional Justice in the Wake of Genocide: The Contribution of Criminal Trials and Symbolic Reparations to Reconciliation in Rwanda. In the Shadow of Genocide, 110-131.
Erdogan Consolidates Even More Power in Turkey
Despite record inflation, economic woes, meager response to the massive earthquakes in February 2023, and humanitarian crisis with Syrian refugees, Erdogan manages to capture the Turkish electorate and win the presidential election. He defeated rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the second round of voting, after coming just short of an outright victory the first time around on 14 May. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will rule until 2028. In two victory speeches, the 69-year-old thanked voters for entrusting him with power again and called for unity as well as targeting political foes, such as challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas and the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Erdogan prevailed, thanks to fervent support from a significant portion of the population and his skills as a campaigner. Religiously conservative Turks who appreciate his expanding the role of Islam in public life stood by him, and even many of those angry about inflation said they did not have faith that the opposition could govern any better. International observers noted the tremendous advantages Mr. Erdogan had before voting began, including his ability to unleash billions of dollars in state spending to try to offset the negative effects of inflation and other economic strains and the abundant, positive media coverage he received from the state-funded broadcaster. This is the outcome President Vladimir Putin wanted – no surprises that he was one of the first to offer his congratulations to the Turkish leader. Mr Putin did what he could to tilt the scales in his favor, including postponing a $600m payment for Russian natural gas. Erdogan successfully took the focus away from a cost-of-living crisis during the election campaign – making significant hikes to pensions and salaries, providing discounts to household energy bills, all while moving the debate to issues such as security and family values. Inflation peaked at 85 percent late last year, dropping to 44 percent last month, although independent economists dispute the official figures and say it is at 105 percent.
- Cagaptay, S. (2020). The new sultan: Erdogan and the crisis of modern Turkey. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- Göksel, O. (2019). Foreign policy making in the age of populism: The uses of anti-Westernism in Turkish politics. New Middle Eastern Studies, 9(1).
- Yavuz, M. H., & Öztürk, A. E. (2019). Turkish secularism and Islam under the reign of Erdoğan. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 19(1), 1-9.
Imran Khan vs. Pakistan’s Military Establishment
Former Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan was arrested on May 9 in connection with corruption involving the Al-Qadir University Trust, headed by the opposition leader and his wife Bushra Bibi. Since his removal from power in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April 2022, Khan has been slapped with dozens of charges, all of which he has denied and said were politically motivated. His detention set off violent protests across the country as thousands of his supporters came to his defense, attacking military installations and clashing with security forces. The violence subsided after Khan was released on the orders of the country’s Supreme Court.The court declared that the authorities had unlawfully arrested Mr. Khan, who was in a hearing on Tuesday when he was taken into custody, stressing that security forces must obtain permission before carrying out an arrest on court premises. Khan, who says he is facing nearly 150 legal cases against him since he was removed from power in April last year, was granted bail until June 8 in eight cases related to violence at the court complex in March this year. Since his controversial arrest and the violence that followed it, more than two dozen leaders from former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have quit the party. Khan, his wife, Bushra Bibi, and more than 500 leaders and members of his PTI party have also been added on the no-fly list preventing them from traveling abroad.
- Batool, F. (2023). Populism in Pakistan: The Exclusionary-Inclusionary Divide in the Politics of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Imran Khan. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 46(2), 265-282.
- Shafqat, S. (2022). Pakistan in 2021: End of the Innings for Imran Khan?. Asian Survey, 62(1), 173-184.
- Shah, A. (2019). Pakistan: Voting under military tutelage. Journal of Democracy, 30(1), 128-142.
Thai Elections Give Oxygen to the Country’s Pro-Democracy Forces
The progressive Move Forward Party and its leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, which gained a huge following among young Thais for its reformist platform, won the most seats and the largest share of the popular vote on May 14. Results are also a clear repudiation of the two military-aligned parties of the current government, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a coup that ousted an elected government in 2014. The election was the first since youth-led mass pro-democracy protests in 2020 demanded democratic and military reforms, constitutional change, and – most shockingly for Thailand – to curb the powers of the monarchy. Pheu Thai, the main opposition party that has been a populist force in Thailand for 20 years, came second. The two parties have now agreed to begin coalition talks. But even with their stunning majority, it remains unclear if the royalist-military elite — who have staged two coups amid waves of protests in the past 20 years — will hand over power easily. There are fears the military-appointed Senate could block the new administration, however Pita has presented his party’s path to government as a democratic inevitability, to counter conservative opposition from the Senate. Whatever the outcome, the 2023 elections in Thailand are already a significant development in a region dominated by authoritarians.
- Farrell, W. C., & Phungsoonthorn, T. (2020). Generation Z in Thailand. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 20(1), 25-51.
- Morell, D. (2020). The Political Dynamics of Military Power in Thailand. In The Armed Forces in Contemporary Asian Societies (pp. 138-152). Routledge.
- Sinpeng, A. (2021). Hashtag activism: social media and the# FreeYouth protests in Thailand. Critical Asian Studies, 53(2), 192-205.