The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 65

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, May 20th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, the Prime Minister of Slovakia was shot several times in an assassination attempt, and Germany’s AfD lost its case against being designated as a suspected right-wing extremist organization.

Over in the Middle East, South Africa and Israel return to court, and the ICC applies for warrants for the arrest of prominent Israeli and Hamas officials.

Meanwhile, in Africa, the DRC holds a funeral for civilians killed in a bombing, Kenya’s deployment to Haiti faces another legal challenge, and the DRC foils a coup attempt.

In the Americas, Dominicans took to the polls, the US removed Cuba from a list of countries not cooperating fully against terrorism, and one of Argentina’s largest unions held widespread anti-corruption protests.

In Asia and Oceania, widespread protests erupt in the tropical French territory of New Caledonia and China declares new authorities to the coast guard.

All in all, it’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Iranian President Killed

Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi (Photo - Murat Gok/Anadolu/Getty Images).

May 19th, 2024: (2 Minute Read) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been killed in a helicopter crash, alongside the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, Malik Rahmati, and the crew of the helicopter.

Initially reported as a “hard landing” by Iranian state media, conflicting reports on the president’s condition were finally set straight when his death was confirmed by Iranian state news agency IRINN in the early morning of today, May 20th.

The confirmation came after a several-hour-long search and rescue effort by Iranian authorities, which was assisted by personnel and equipment from both Russia and Turkey, including a Turkish drone that surveyed the area.

Search efforts were significantly hampered by heavy fog and cold weather. The extreme fog, paired with the mountainous terrain of the region, are likely factors in why the helicopter crashed, although Iran has offered no official explanation as to the circumstances that caused the crash. Iran has not claimed there to be any likelihood of sabotage in the incident.

President Raisi was traveling back to Iran from Azerbaijan when the crash took place. He had been in Azerbaijan in order to meet with Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, where they held bilateral talks and an inauguration ceremony for a hydroelectric dam along the Araz river.

A number of different Iran-allied nations and militant groups have offered condolences for the death of the president, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Iran’s Ayatollah, Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, has named the Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber, as the acting president until a new one is elected within a maximum of 50 days.


May 15th, 2024 - An assassination attempt against the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, sent waves across the world on Wednesday after the national leader was shot multiple times while greeting supporters following a meeting with the politician’s party in the town of Handlova. The Prime Minister is now in stable condition, while the gunman, a 71-year-old by the name of Juraj Cintula, according to local media, was arrested at the scene. Despite the arrest of Cintula, a motive has not yet been revealed, leaving some to speculate if some deem Fico’s support for Russia to be the motive for the crime. Following the attempted assassination, a number of political figures within and outside of Slovakia condemned the attack, with President Zuzana Caputova stating that such an attack is not only an attack against a person, “but it is also an attack on democracy.”

Responders transporting Fico to a hospital in Banska Bystrica. (Photo - Jan Kroslak/TASR)

May 14th, 2024 - The Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia upheld a designation by Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) labeling the controversial political party, the Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD), as a suspected right-wing extremist organization on Monday. This designation followed an investigation conducted by the BfV into the AfD, which found that the party had become "increasingly radicalized." Regional arms of the AfD had already faced this classification, with chapters in Thuringia, Saxony, and Saxony-Anhalt being labeled as official extremist organizations. While the AfD has not been labeled a confirmed right-wing extremist group, the BfV may take motions to label the political party as such. Such a move would have to enter new court proceedings. The designation as a suspected right-wing extremist group allows German authorities to enact additional surveillance measures against the AfD. Such measures include recruiting undercover agents, utilizing informants, and using wiretaps in their investigations against the party. Days later, one politician who holds office in Thuringia, Björn Höcke, was found guilty for using a phrase which was used by the Nazi party’s infamous Sturmabteilung (Storm Division). The charges resulted from a speech that Hocke gave in Saxony-Anhalt, wherein the politician stated, "Everything for our homeland, everything for Saxony-Anhalt, everything for Germany." This charge could have landed Höcke in prison for a maximum of three years alongside being barred from holding public office, however, the court decided instead to fine the politician 13,000 euros (14,000 USD), with the proceeds going to a grassroots anti-extremism program, according to DW News.

Middle East

May 16th - 17th, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard the oral arguments of both South Africa and Israel concerning South Africa’s emergency request for provisional measures to be instated against Israel. South Africa presented their arguments on the 16th, followed by Israel’s on the 17th. Initially, South Africa had requested three provisional measures. The first is to halt Israel’s offensive upon Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip; the second is to allow the unimpeded access into Gaza of the UN, humanitarian aid organizations, investigators, journalists, and other relevant organizations; and the third is for Israel to submit a report that details their adherence to previous orders as well as their adherence to the new order, should it be instated. However, during their oral argument, South Africa expanded the first of these provisional measures to seek a halt to Israel’s operations in Gaza entirely. Notably, this was previously requested by South Africa during their initial court filing, which was filed in late December, but was denied by the court during hearings in January. This is the fourth time South Africa has taken Israel to the ICJ, requesting provisional measures since the filing of their case, which accuses Israel of genocide. In two of the previous rulings, the ICJ instated provisional measures against Israel. Israel has continually spoken against the case, claiming an order to halt their offensive would violate their right to self-defense and accusing South Africa of attempting to weaponize the genocide convention.

A photo of the International Court of Justice courtroom during initial court proceedings on May 16th, 2024 (Photo - UN/ICJ-CIJ/Wendy van Bree).

May 20th, 2024 - An International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has announced the application for arrest warrants for several Israeli and Hamas officials. The ICC is seeking warrants for the arrest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, the commander in chief of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. Karim A. Khan, the prosecutor, has accused both the Israeli and Hamas officials of an array of war crimes and crimes against humanity. For Israel, he stated these crimes began on at least October 8th, 2023, and include the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, among several other crimes. For Hamas, he stated that these crimes began from at least the 7th of October, 2023 (the date of the Hamas attack on Israel, which began the current conflict) and include extermination and murder as crimes against humanity, hostage taking, and more.


May 17th, 2024 - As Kenya’s police deployment to Haiti is expected to finally come to fruition soon, it is facing yet another legal challenge at home. The Kenyan government had agreed to head the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to Haiti in order to help the island nation combat the many gangs that plague it. However, it has faced a series of legal challenges by Kenyan opposition politicians that have seen the deployment get struck down by the Nairobi High Court on several occasions. The latest challenge seeks to attack the “reciprocal agreement” that was signed between Kenyan President William Ruto and former Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. This agreement was signed in order to satisfy previous court requirements for the deployment to take place. The previous week, civilian contractors reportedly began construction on living quarters for the MSS, signaling their deployment is to take place soon. As the head of the force, Kenya is set to deploy 1,000 police officers.

Haitian civilians walk near the remains of vehicles that were burnt out by gangs during attacks in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, near to the Presidential Palace (Photo - Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters).

May 15th, 2024 - The victims of the May 3rd bombings of four different Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps received a state funeral in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At least five rockets fell in and in proximity to four different IDP camps, killing 35 and injuring 37. Notably, one rocket that fell continues to sit idly, unexploded. It is unclear if the government has any plans for the rockets' removal. The camps that were struck are just a few of many that lie between the town of Sake and the city of Goma. In these camps, several hundred thousand people live temporarily, having fled conflict from other regions of the country. Many of them live in very harsh conditions. Humanitarian access to these areas remains difficult due to ongoing fighting in the area. Fighting has been steady since early February, when the DRC’s M23 rebels advanced into the area. The M23 has made consistent pushes for the town, but has been repulsed by the DRC’s military thus far.

May 19th, 2024 - Up to 20 people, including three US nationals, have been arrested after a coup attempt took place in the DRC. A group of armed men, headed by a man named Christian Malanga, attempted to storm the residences of both President Felix Tshisekedi and the DRC’s Deputy Prime Minister of Economy, Vital Kamerhe. Two police officers from Kamerhe’s guard were killed during the attack. Malanga was also killed after he resisted arrest following the attacks’ failure. One of the US nationals who was arrested was Malanga’s son. Malanga was the head of the ‘New Zaire’ government in exile and the president of the United Congolese Party. Malanga was self-exiled from the DRC and had been based in the US since 2012. It is unclear why exactly Malanga chose to launch a coup. His forces were distinctly underequipped and undermanned to carry out the task. Several injuries were reported in the neighboring Republic of the Congo, where a shell that fell in Brazzaville injured several people.

The Americas

May 19th, 2024 - The first round of voting for the new President of the Dominican Republic alongside new representatives in parliament began on Sunday with strong support for incumbent Luis Abinader, as reported by CID Gallup. Abinader, the President of the Dominican Republic since 2020, enjoys a public approval rating of 70%, standing as the fourth most popular political figure in Latin America behind the President of Mexico, Andres Lopez, and the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, who stand at 78% and 90%, respectively. Abinader is squaring off against two major opponents, Leonel Fernandez, who has held the presidential office for three separate terms, and Abel Martinez, who campaigned largely on his success as mayor of the country’s second-largest city, with polls placing the candidates at 64%, 19%, and 10%, respectively. Key issues for voters include crime, inflation, and the cost of living in the country. However, the ongoing security situation in Haiti, the country’s neighbor, is sure to be on the minds of voters as well. If no candidate secures over half the vote, a second election will be arranged for June 30th.

President Luis Abinader is currently leading in polls regarding voting intention. (Photo - Dominican Today)

May 15th, 2024 - The United States officially removed Cuba from a list of countries it deems to not fully oppose terrorism on Wednesday, in a move that may pave the way for Cuba to be removed from the list of countries considered to sponsor terrorism. The US State Department stated that the removal of Cuba from the list is due to further cooperation between US and Cuban authorities between 2022 and 2023, ending a four-year-long designation since they were originally classified under the Trump administration. Then-president Donald Trump classified Cuba as a country that sponsors terrorism, a designation that led to further sanctions against the island nation while also classifying Cuba as ineligible for foreign assistance from the US, allowing American citizens to file lawsuits for acts of terrorism supported by Cuba, and further damaging Cuba's standing in the international community. Cuba has claimed this designation has worsened the economic crisis within the country, adding further economic stress to the nation since the US began sanctions in 1960.

May 17th, 2024 - The Argentine State Workers Association (ATE), one of Argentina's largest unions, which represents a number of public sector employees, held a protest at the headquarters of Techint, a corporate group which owns a number of companies specializing in the production of steel, the construction of buildings, and other architectural products, which protestors claim to be where "the real power is." The protest is a demonstration against President Javier Milei's proposed "Bases Law" alongside the president's controversial budget cuts to a number of government sectors in an effort to revive Argentina's struggling economy. These cuts have resulted in the firing of fifteen thousand state employees as well as cuts to public universities' funding. The ATE claimed that a large number of politicians have attained their positions with aid from Paolo Rocca, the owner of Techint, further stating that it is because of this influence that they targeted the private company. A key focus for protestors is discussion centered around the proposed "Bases Law," which previously passed through Argentina's lower house of Congress, the House of Deputies, and is now being debated in the Senate.

Asia and Oceania

May 13th, 2024 - Protesters from pro-independence parties and police clashed in the city of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, as widespread chaos shook the island this week. The protests occurred after the French Parliament tabled a constitutional amendment that will expand who can vote in local elections in the overseas French territory. The unrest began when a pro-independence Field Action Coordination Committee (CCAT) aligned with the Union Caledonienne party (UC), one of the main components of the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), organized demonstrations and marches throughout the island group, and several protesters clashed with police during the demonstrations, with most clashes occurring in the capital’s suburbs, such as the villages of Mont-Dore and Saint Louis. The protesters blocked and burned several vehicles on roadways throughout the capital and burned several cars at dealerships near La Tontouta International Airport. Multiple buildings and factories were also looted and set on fire throughout the day, such as the Stade Numa-Daly Magenta and Decathlon sports goods stores. The president of the UC-FLNKS and the head of the organization’s Union Nationale pour l’Independance (UNI) group condemned the violence and destruction of property. Both individuals stated that CCAT, or any organization aligned with it, is not responsible for organizing the rioters. The UNI head said that the lack of political awareness among young people was the cause of the riots and called for calm and dialogue to take hold. The French government also declared a statement of emergency for territory in response to the rioting.

Smoke from several fires fills the air in Noumea, New Caledonia, amidst the rioting. (Photo - Associated Press)

May 15th, 2024 - The China Coast Guard (CCG) posted a statement on its website announcing Decree No. 3, or the Regulations on Administrative Law Enforcement Procedures for Coast Guard Agencies. The statement said the regulations contain new provisions for the administrative law enforcement procedures for the CCG. The purpose of the new regulations is to standardize administrative law enforcement procedures and build on the two previous criminal procedure regulations issued in 2023. The regulations are the first time the CCG has issued provisions regarding how to detain individuals and seize their vessels if they “trespass.” The new CCG provisions are set to come into effect on June 15, 2024.

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