The world at a glance ...
Russian missile downed plane: Confirming U.S. findings, an international investigation has concluded that Russia was complicit in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine two years ago, which killed all 298 people on board. The missile system that hit the plane was brought across the border from Russia at the request of Moscow-backed separatists—who wanted it to fend off airstrikes by Ukrainian jets—and returned to Russia the same day, the Dutch-led team of prosecutors said this week. The report drew on satellite information, intercepted phone calls, social media posts, and witness testimony. It does not say who gave the order to move the missile system or fire on the plane. Flight 17 was bound from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur; most of the dead were Dutch citizens. Russia denied the allegations, calling the report “speculation.”
Separatists welcome: A Kremlin-funded organization invited a dozen separatist groups from around the world to Moscow this week, including representatives of secessionist movements from Texas, California, and Puerto Rico. The Dialogue of Nations summit was supposedly intended to affirm the right to self-determination, but Sergei Markov—a former member of the ruling United Russia Party—said that the event was also staged to rattle Western nations. Louis Marinelli, who wants California to split from the U.S., told The New York Times he was thrilled to get a fully paid trip to Moscow to discuss how to break the “shackles of statehood.” No separatist group from Russia attended: Questioning the country’s territorial integrity is punishable by five years in prison.
Guts in a bag: Customs agents at Graz airport got a shock last week when they stopped a Moroccan woman to carry out a random baggage check—and found pieces of her late husband’s intestine in her suitcase. The 35-year-old woman, who has not been identified, said she suspected that her husband had been poisoned while visiting Morocco by relatives who didn’t approve of their marriage. She had a doctor preserve pieces of his intestine in formaldehyde so they could be examined at a lab in Austria, where the couple lived. Police said the entrails were wrapped properly and no law was broken. The intestines were sent for tests.
Peace and apologies: The Western Hemisphere’s longest civil war is officially over. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the leader of the Marxist rebel group FARC signed a peace treaty this week using a pen made from a bullet. “I would like to ask for forgiveness for all the pain that we may have caused during this war,” said FARC head Timochenko, who goes by one name. “The horrible night has ceased,” said Santos, quoting a phrase from Colombia’s national anthem. Those words ended a conflict that has raged for 52 years and killed more than 250,000 people. The accord, years in the negotiating, is a triumph for Santos, a former hawk. Under the deal, FARC will become a political party with 10 seats in the 268-seat national legislature. Its roughly 7,000 fighters must come out of their jungle camps and turn over their weapons to a United Nations mission. Rebels who committed crimes such as kidnapping, murder, and child recruitment will face tribunals, but will serve only community service if they confess.
Santos said Colombian authorities would take possession of the companies and ranches FARC has used to launder drug money, and it will use those assets to pay reparations to victims. Ex-guerrillas will be eligible for a monthly government stipend for two years and could receive a one-time payment of up to $2,000 to start a business. The peace deal now has to be approved in a national plebiscite on Oct. 2; polls show most Colombians support the agreement.
More leaders fall: Former Brazilian Finance Minister Antonio Palocci this week became the latest senior politician to be arrested on corruption charges connected with a huge kickbacks scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras. Prosecutors said Palocci helped construction giant Odebrecht secure government contracts worth millions of dollars in exchange for donations to the ruling Workers’ Party. Another former finance minister, Guido Mantega, was arrested last week on charges of taking a $2.5 million bribe for the party; two days earlier, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was ordered to stand trial on corruption charges. One of the few top Workers’ Party officials who hasn’t been arrested is former President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached for breaching budgetary accounting rules, an infraction that doesn’t rise to the level of a crime.
Stalking capital: Women’s rights activists are calling on police to act against stalkers after two women were stabbed to death by spurned suitors in the Indian capital last week— both in front of bystanders who did nothing. Karuna Prajapati, a 21-year-old teacher, was killed by a man who had been following and harassing her for a year, while a woman identified only as Lakshmi was killed by an ex-lover. National crime statistics show Delhi to be the stalking capital of India, as well as the rape capital, but police there often refuse to act, telling victims to work out an arrangement with the stalker. Activists are also calling on Bollywood to stop making movies in which persistent suitors always win over the lead actress.
Human rights lawyer convicted: China continued its crackdown on human rights lawyers this week by sentencing Xia Lin, who has defended the outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, to 12 years in prison for fraud. Xia’s lawyer said the punishment appeared to be payback for Xia’s robust defense of Guo Yushan, a Chinese activist who was arrested after he supported pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. China has only about 300 lawyers who take cases for political dissidents, migrant laborers, and minorities, and since July 2015 authorities have arrested or brought in for questioning most of them, accusing them of supporting a U.S.-led plot to topple the Communist regime.
Typhoon alley: Taiwan was battered this week by its third typhoon in two weeks. Typhoon Megi hit the island nation with the force of a Category 4 hurricane, dumping 2 feet of rain, blasting winds of 130 mph, and ripping up trees by their roots. At least five people were killed and hundreds injured, including eight Japanese tourists who were hurt when the wind flipped their bus over. Some 4 million households lost power. A recent study in the journal Nature Geoscience found that typhoons have increased in number and intensity in Southeast Asia as climate change has warmed the oceans.
Shimon Peres dies: Israel is mourning the death of statesman Shimon Peres, who died of a stroke this week at age 93. Born in a village in what is now Belarus, Peres held nearly every high office in Israel over his long career, including prime minister, president, finance minister, and defense minister. In the 1950s he helped develop Israel’s military and nuclear capability, and in the 1970s encouraged Jewish settlement in Palestinian territories. But in the 1980s he said that peace with Arabs would not come through military might alone, and as prime minister in 1986 pulled Israeli troops out of most of Lebanon. As foreign minister, he shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for negotiating a framework to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We live in an ancient land,” Peres said, “and as our land is small, so must our reconciliation be great.”
Islamist vandal: For the first time, an international court has convicted an Islamic extremist for destroying cultural heritage sites. After an unusually rapid trial, the International Criminal Court sentenced Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to nine years in prison for organizing the 2012 attacks that destroyed ancient monuments in Timbuktu, a UNESCO world heritage site, including nine mausoleums and a mosque. Mahdi pleaded guilty and apologized. The verdict is a victory for international cultural preservation, but Ma lians are asking why local and international courts haven’t yet prosecuted the Islamists who murdered, raped, and tortured hundreds of people during the brief insurgency.
Women seek independence: Saudi Arabian women are ramping up their campaign for equal rights. Some 15,000 Saudi women signed a petition, submitted to the government this week, that calls for an end to the country’s male guardianship system. Another 2,500 women sent telegrams to the king. Saudi women must get permission from a husband, father, uncle, or brother to travel, and often to work or go to school. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to impose such onerous conditions on women, and it and Iran have the strictest dress code for women. But over the past year, activists have been making progress. Women won the right to vote last December, and this spring, a social media campaign titled #IAmMyOwnGuardian went viral. “I’m very proud of the young generation for being so involved in human rights,” said veteran activist Aziza Al-Yousef.