ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 28 May – 3 June

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 28 May to Sunday 3 June from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

Foreign Secretary William Hague visits Moscow on Monday for talks with Sergey Lavrov. The meeting, which always has the potential to be a bit awkward when it comes to Syria and bilateral issues, will likely focus primarily on Iran, as Moscow agreed last week to host the next round of P5+1 nuclear talks on 18-19 June.

Back in London, radical cleric Abu Qatada faces a bail hearing as he continues to fight against attempts to deport him to stand trial in Jordan. Qatada was arrested on 17 April after Home Secretary Theresa May received assurances from Jordan regarding his trial there in order to bring his deportation in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR ruled in January that Qatada could not be deported because there was a risk that evidence obtained through the torture of a third party would be used at his trial, but rejected claims that he also faced risk of ill-treatment and lengthy pre-trial detention.

The African National Congress has called for a demonstration outside the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg on Tuesday to protest the gallery’s display of Brett Murray’s painting The Spear, which depicts President Jacob Zuma’s genitalia. The gallery actually closed on 22 May after two men destroyed the painting by slathering it in red and black paint, but Zuma is continuing legal action in an attempt to ban the painting from being reproduced in newspapers and online. The Sudanese and South Sudanese governments are due to resume negotiations in Addis Ababa on border security, ongoing violence in border regions, citizenship and oil revenues, under the auspices of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Sporadic negotiations have been interrupted and delayed by ongoing military action by both sides, which have threatened to reignite the countries decades-long civil war less than a year after South Sudan gained independence.

What do Madeleine Albright, Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison have in common? All of them will be among those awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama at a ceremony in Washington, honouring their contributions to the security and national interests of the United States, world peace, or culture. Israeli President Shimon Peres is also honoured, but will not be in attendance.

To the courts on Wednesday: the Special Court for Sierra Leone, sitting at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, hands down the sentence for former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was convicted on 26 April of 11 charges, including crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and other serious violations of humanitarian law. The prosecution has called for an 80-year sentence for the 64-year-old, while his defence team have argued against him serving any sentence in a British jail, which they say would constitute a ‘punishment within a punishment’.

Speaking of the British justice system, the Supreme Court issues its ruling on the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested in December 2010 on a European Arrest Warrant requested by Swedish police, who want to question him about allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange has been slowly making his way through the UK courts ever since, having had his extradition to Sweden approved by lower courts and appeals rejected.

The European Commission issues its annual economic recommendations for member states in Brussels, which include structural reforms to be implemented within the next 12-18 months. The recommendations come on the same day that France releases its latest unemployment data, another indicator for new President Francois Hollande of the economic situation he’s just taken over.

Neither of those is likely to be the big EU story of the week though, with Ireland’s referendum on the new Fiscal Stability Treaty taking place on Thursday. Though polls show that the ‘Yes’ campaign is in the lead, between a quarter and a third of voters are still undecided, with Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brian Hayes recently saying that the vote will be ‘much tighter than people think’. The result is announced on Friday.

The annual four-day Bilderberg Conference – which, despite its extremely secretive nature seems to always have at least its date and venue leaked to the transparency activists and conspiracy theorists that hound it – kicks off in Chantilly, Virginia on Thursday. Mario Monti, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and the Queens of Spain and the Netherlands are among guests rumoured to be attending, as well as Josef Ackermann, who steps down from his 10-year role as chief executive of Deutsche Bank on the same day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin makes his first official foreign visits since taking office, meeting with Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus on Thursday before travelling to Germany and France for meetings with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande on Friday. Putin raised eyebrows by choosing not to go to the G8 and NATO summits in the US earlier this month, opting instead to send Dmitry Medvedev, so his first meetings with Barack Obama and David Cameron won’t come until the G20 summit in Mexico on 18 June.

Bulgaria’s recently-approved smoking ban comes into effect Friday, prohibiting smoking in all indoor public spaces, including restaurants, bars, cafes, and stadiums during sporting and cultural events, as well as outside nurseries and schools. The ban has been criticised by restaurateurs and bar owners, who say it will hurt business and cause job losses as smokers stay away, but heath authorities are hoping it contributes to a drop in the number of smokers in the country, which includes around 40% of all adults.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annual Shangri-La Dialogue begins in Singapore, bringing together defence ministers from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delivers the keynote address, while US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta uses the meeting a springboard for a week-long Asian trip, which will see him visit Vietnam and India.

The verdict in the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal is due on Saturday. The former leader was tried for premeditated murder and attempted murder in connection with the deaths of over 800 protesters during the country’s January 2011 revolution, while his sons were charged with profiteering, using th
eir positions for illicit gains, and squandering public funds. The prosecutor in the case has asked for the death penalty if Mubarak is convicted, though delays and accusations of stalling from the interior ministry during the trial mean that the outcome of the case is anything but certain.

Italy’s three largest trade unions have called for a mass demonstration against the government’s economic policy in Rome. The protest coincides with Republic Day, which the unions say marks the birth of a Republic ‘founded on labour’ a concept which has been ‘disregarded’ by the government.

The Organization of American States’ annual General Assembly begins in Cochabamba, Bolivia on Sunday. It is currently unclear whether Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will attend, as he’s been keeping a low profile while undergoing and recovering from cancer treatments; but if he does, he’s unlikely to be very popular, having recently called for Venezuela to withdraw from the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, likening it to a ‘sword of Damocles’.