ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 30 January – 5 February

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 30 January to Sunday, 5 February from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

European leaders gather in Brussels on Monday for an informal meeting of the European Council, during which discussions are set to focus on jobs and the new fiscal stabilisation treaty agreed at their controversial meeting last month. Leaders are planning to iron out the details of the treaty at the meeting, in hopes that it’ll be ready to sign by the time they meet again on 1 March.

While all eyes are on Brussels, two big trials are before the courts in South Africa. In Ventersdorp, Chris Mahlangu and an unnamed teenager are back on trial for the April 2010 murder of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, postponed from October to allow more time for hearings.

Meanwhile, Henry Okah, former Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) leader, goes on trial in Johannesburg on terrorism charges in connection with the October 2010 Independence Day bombings in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed 12 people.

Monday is also the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzon’s abuse of power trial resumes on Tuesday, with the judge himself expected to begin testifying if some preliminary matters are cleared up earlier in the day. There is speculation that the verdict for Garzon’s illegal wiretapping case – which was head on 17 January – could be delivered before Tuesday’s hearing.

The annual Herzliya policy conference kicks off in Jerusalem. Speakers throughout the three-day conference include Israeli President Shimon Peres, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Wednesday is all about Supreme Courts. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange begins a two-day hearing at the UK Supreme Court in London, appealing a 24 February, 2010 decision to extradite him to Sweden to face questioning on charges of sexual assault. The court is expected to reserve judgement after the hearing wraps up on Thursday, meaning the legal saga won’t quite be over yet.

In Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is back before the Supreme Court, which is looking into his government’s decision not to investigate corruption among politicians after passing a controversial amnesty law in 2007 known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance. Gilani appeared before the court briefly on 19 January.

A North Korean prisoner amnesty begins on Wednesday, as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of recently-deceased Kim Jong-Il in February and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung in April.

NATO Defence Ministers begin a two-day meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Discussions are expected to focus on Afghanistan and security transition following the 20 January attack on French troops by an Afghan soldier, which killed four.

Kuwaitis go to the polls to elect 50 members to Parliament. Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah dissolved Parliament by decree on 6 December, 2011 citing ‘deteriorating conditions in the country’. 50 members are elected for four-year terms. Four women were elected for the first time in the country’s last elections, which took place in 2009.

On Friday, The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia hears the appeal for Khmer Rouge Special Branch Chief Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, who was convicted of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in July 2010. Duch, who was head of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison camp, was sentenced to 35 years in prison over the deaths of up to two million people during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

The three-day Munich Security Conference begins Friday; though there’s no word yet on this year’s attendees, the guest list always features the great and good of international politics and defence (or at least the important). The MSC is often the site of important policy announcements, so is well worth looking out for.

Anti-Kremlin groups are scheduled to hold their latest protest in Moscow on Saturday, this one timed to coincide with the two-month anniversary of disputed parliamentary elections on 4 December, and with one month to go until presidential elections on 4 March almost certainly see Vladimir Putin return to the helm.

The month and a half long Rugby 6 Nations tournament begins, with France, Engand, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy hoping to end up in the 17 March final. England won the tournament in 2011.

The week closes with the runoff for the Finnish presidential race, following a first round vote on 22 January. Former Finance Minister Sauli Niinisto, who won 37 per cent of the first vote, faces off against Green party candidate Pekka Haavisto, who won 19 per cent of the vote.