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Musings From Abroad

European Parliament to punish Hungary for erosion of democracy

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The European Parliament on Wednesday voted to punish Hungary for cracking down on democratic institutions, setting off a process that could ultimately lead to the suspension of the country’s voting rights in the European Union.

It is the first time that the parliament has launched the EU disciplinary process against a member state, known as Article 7, and it exposes the deep unease in parts of Europe about the policies pursued by Hungary’s hardline prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

The vote comes nine months after the European Commission used its power to launch the same process against Poland. The rarely invoked process is designed to prevent member states from breaching the EU’s “core values.”

Wednesday’s vote in Strasbourg, France, followed a report from Dutch Green member of the European Parliament Judith Sargentini that raised concerns about Hungary’s erosion of democracy in recent years, including crackdowns on migrants, the media and academic institutions.

The vote was passed 448-197 with 48 abstentions, giving it the crucial two-thirds majority needed.

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But in a text message sent to CNN, Hungary’s government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs called the results into question, “Clearly: less than two-thirds voted yes under the treaty. Pro-migration political representatives are so desperate to punish us for our stance that they even violate the rule of law.”

“The whol(e) procedure is not simply a witch hunt and shameful for the EP(P) — but a FRAUD,” he added.

Musings From Abroad

UN rights chief pushes for reparations for slavery

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United Nations head of human rights on Friday called on countries to take real steps toward reparations for people of African descent. He appealed while adding his voice to calls for justice for the horrible crimes committed during slavery.

African and Caribbean countries are becoming more in favour of setting up a panel to deal with reparations for crimes that happened during the transatlantic slave trade. Reparations could include money payments and other forms of making amends.

“I join your demands for action now,” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in an address at the closing of the four-day U.N. Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD).

“On reparations, we must finally enter a new era. Governments must step up to show true leadership with genuine commitments to move swiftly from words to action that will adequately address the wrongs of the past.”

Although Turk did not say how reparations should be handled, he however expressed support for the group but is not one of its 10 members.

The idea of making reparations has become more popular but remains controversial, and most countries that used to colonize others do not agree with it with some expressing remorse for being part of the transatlantic slave trade and planning a 200 million euro fund to make up for it.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office recently admitted that the country was responsible for transatlantic slavery, but there were no plans to pay reparations because “today’s challenges” should be the focus.

The PFPAD, which can’t make laws but can give advice to other U.N. groups, released its findings on Friday and reiterated as it did in 2023, that a court should be set up to deal with slavery. This time, it said that the General Assembly, which makes policy for the UN, should be used to ask for this.

It specifically asked the proposed court to look into what happened in Haiti “and provide reparations, restitution, and compensation appropriately.” This came after Haitian groups at the forum asked France to repay the billions of dollars that people who had been slaves were forced to pay in exchange for the island’s independence being recognized two hundred years ago.

Lately, there has been the return of some “stolen” artefacts by colonialists to some African countries like Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria.

Over 90% of the world’s 193 countries of the world were colonized by notable eleven – Belgium, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, and the United States of America.

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Musings From Abroad

US bans four former Malawian officials over bribery

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The United States State Department said on Wednesday that four former government officials from Malawi were not allowed to come to the US because they were involved in major crime.

“The United States stands with Malawians working towards a more just and prosperous nation by promoting accountability for corrupt officials, including advocating for transparency and integrity in government procurement processes,” department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The people named are Reyneck Matemba, who used to be solicitor general and secretary of justice, John Suzi-Banda, who used to be director of public procurement and disposal of assets, Mwabi Kaluba, who used to be an attorney for the Malawi Police Service, and George Kainja, who used to be inspector general of the Malawi Police Service.

The State Department said that the four “abused their public positions by accepting bribes and other articles of value” from a private businessperson in exchange for a grant to work on government policy.

In the past few years, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has been fighting crime hard. In January 2022, he got rid of the whole Cabinet because three ministers were being accused of corruption.

Later that same year, Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau caught and charged Saulos Klaus Chilima, the vice president of the country, with graft. According to the group, public officers in Malawi stole money from the government by trying to change how contracts were awarded through the country’s public procurement system.

A lot of people in Malawi live on less than $2 a day, making it one of the most fragile places in the world. The population density puts it in the top 10 in Africa, even though it is a small country.

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