Update from Panama – state of emergency, flights from Europe banned, but at least plenty of toilet rolls in the shops, and the weather is lovely. The authorities also clamping down on large meetings of people in violation of controls – include a large wedding apparently…
15 March 2020
Includes an article by yours truly, on page 33: “The Canal and beyond: Panama”
HOW THE UPCOMING OPCW REPORT ON SYRIA COULD IMPACT NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL
On 13 March, an article from the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College, London says that in early 2020, a long-awaited report by the new attribution team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is expected to be published. If the report concludes that the Syrian government is responsible for chemical weapons use, then it will drive another wedge between the P3 (US, UK and France) and the Assad regime’s main diplomatic allies: Russia, China and Iran. Although an UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has already found that the Assad regime used chemical weapons, a finding by the new OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) could be functionally different. If the IIT found the Syrian government responsible for chemical attacks, then Syria would have been found by the Technical Secretariat to be in non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which could mean collective measures by States Parties in conformity with international law, and this potential mechanism for imposing sanctions that avoids the veto in the UN Security Council that has clearly alarmed Russian officials. The article says that the real question for the international community is whether the OPCW and, by extension, the CWC can survive disagreement over the IIT’s findings and new ability to attribute attacks. The IIT’s first report and how states react will bring the OPCW and CWC to a crossroads. Russia’s reaction, be it a state withdrawal or boycotting of proceedings cannot be ruled out would be a heavy blow for the CWC.
“FOSSIL POACHING” IN MONGOLIA – HOW ONE DINOSAUR IS GOING HOME
On 15 March, the South China Morning Post carried an article about the theft of dinosaur fossil from Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. It explains the rough methods used to extract and transport the bones, using superglue and plaster, and says that dinosaur bones are abundant here, and relatively easy to find. It is impossible to say exactly how many have been smuggled out of the country since the trade began in the 1990s. Experts think the bones were removed from Mongolia loaded into the back of the coal trucks and buried, and then transported into China across the border. All fossils remain the property of the state in Mongolia and you need a permit to extract them and export them – but they reach high prices abroad. The article focuses on one example, which appeared in Europe in 2010.
THE CYPRUS MONEYVAL EVALUATION REPORT
On 27 February, local law firm A Karitzis & Associates LLC published an article about the recent Moneyval mutual evaluation report on Cyprus. It says that, in general, the report notes that even though there are some areas in need of improvement and further attention, Cyprus effectively formulates its national AML/CFT policy and strategy and implements adequate measures against money laundering and terrorist financing. The article points out that Cyprus was told that it should conduct a more comprehensive assessment of several areas, including its “investment programme” (i.e. the scheme for effectively purchasing passports), proliferation financing and its casino.
SAUDI ARABIA WIDENS CRACKDOWN, DETAINS 298 PUBLIC OFFICIALS ALLEGING BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION
On 15 March, Middle East Eye reported that Saudi Arabia had announced the detention of hundreds of government officials, including military and security officers, on charges involving bribery and exploiting public office. It is said that an anti-corruption body known as Nazaha tweeted that it had arrested and would indict 298 people on crimes including bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power. Those detained included 8 defence ministry officers suspected of bribery and money laundering in relation to government contracts 2005-2015, 29 interior ministry officials, 2 judges for receiving bribes, and 9 officials accused of corruption at Riyadh’s Al Maarefa University.
HOW HOMEMADE WEAPONS ARE GIVING TERRORISTS NEW OPTIONS AND THE RESULTING DANGERS THEY POSE.
Lawfare in the US on 15 March published a post saying that as 3D printers and other DIY devices spread, terrorists are using them to make weapons. It says the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, highlights terrorists’ growing affinity for homemade firearms. It also says that the most extensive evidence for extreme right terrorists’ growing interest in homemade firearms is on Telegram and can also be seen in private chats.
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