Berlusconi’s libido, Israel’s human rights record and Argentina’s fudged economic data just the tip of iceberg in a varied week for international news

January 25, 2013

By Jasper Wenban-Smith, international editor of ForesightNews.

A round up of world news in the week ahead from journalist resource ForesightNews.

Monday 28 January


The case against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who stands accused of paying for sex with the then 17-year-old call girl Karima el Mahroug (aka Ruby) continues Monday with a hearing in Milan at which Mahroug’s mother is expected to testify. Last week, further hearings were scheduled for March, meaning the case will now not conclude before general elections scheduled for 24-25 February.

In Moscow, meanwhile, a hearing is due to take place in the case against whistleblowing lawyer Sergey Magnitsky for tax evasion. This despite the fact that Magnitsky died whilst incarcerated in November 2009. He had previously testified against a Russian Interior Ministry official while exposing an alleged $230m fraud. His name was subsequently attached to a bill in the US limiting the activities of those thought to be linked to his plight, which in turn led to Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a bill restricting US adoptions of Russian children.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, with plenty on his plate given the French intervention in Mali, will host a conference on Syria in Paris on Monday. Representatives from the Syrian National Council will be in attendance.

Finally, in neighbouring Spain, an IMF team is due to arrive for a week-long visit in advance of a second monitoring report of reforms to the country’s banking sector.

Tuesday 29 January

On Tuesday, Joint United Nations-Arab League Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi is due to brief the UN Security Council in New York on his efforts to bring the conflict in Syria to an end. It follows a January 11 Triple B meeting (with US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov) in Geneva that failed to make any substantive breakthrough.

Despite large protests in Paris against a proposed same-sex marriage bill on 13 January, the country’s National Assembly on Tuesday will take up the controversial bill. Discussions on the bill are scheduled to last until at least 10 February.


In Geneva, Israel’s human rights record is due to be scrutinised by the UN Human Rights Council. Israel has repeatedly accused the body of bias and is likely to boycott the process. The report – known as the Universal Periodic Review, is scheduled to be adopted on Thursday.

Finally on Tuesday, a donors’ conference for Mali will take place at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Wednesday 30 January

A further donors’ conference, this time for victims of the Syrian conflict, will take place on Wednesday in Kuwait. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will attend the conference, has said he hopes to raise $1.5bn.

Spain, meanwhile, will release its GDP data for the fourth quarter of 2012. It follows unemployment data released last week that showed the overall rate of unemployment has risen to 26%. Youth unemployment, staggeringly, rose to just a shade under 60%.


Finally, in the United States, the Senate Judiciary Committee is due to hold the first of a series of hearings on gun violence in America following the Newtown massacre. This follows yet another combative diatribe from the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre last week, in which he described proposed curbs on automatic rifles and high capacity magazines as an assault on ‘God-given freedoms’, adding, ‘They belong to us as our birthright. No government ever gave them to us and no government can ever take them away.’

Thursday 31 January

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch is scheduled to release its annual World Report – this, as noted, on the same day the UN Human Rights Council report on Israel is due to be adopted.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels for their first meeting since British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership.

In the US, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is scheduled to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee in what is expected to be a tense hearing to consider his nomination to replace Leon Panetta as US Secretary of Defense. Hagel’s previous comments on Israel and Iran in particular are likely to be questioned. He will also be asked about operations in Africa, particularly the campaign in Mali. Depending on whether North Korea follows through with its threat to test another nuclear device, this may also feature heavily.

Hillary Clinton

Finally, outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to deliver what may be her final big speech before stepping down from the post at the Council on Foreign Relations in DC. As with the Hagel nomination, Syria, Mali, Algeria, and North Korea will all likely feature.

Friday 1 February

On Friday, the IMF will at last take up the issue of the serious concerns raised over Argentina’s official inflation and growth data. Specifically, the Fund’s Executive Board is scheduled to consider a report submitted on 17 December by Managing Director Christine Lagarde on the progress made by Argentina in addressing these concerns. Lagarde has warned of ‘additional measures’ from the Fund should Argentina fail the test.

Key figures from the world of international security and diplomacy will convene for the prestigious Munich Security Conference from Friday. As usual, exactly who will be in attendance remains under wraps but if previous years are anything to go by, expect some seriously big-hitters to turn up.

Finally, highly-anticipated monthly unemployment data in the US will be released Friday.

Simone Simone /