News Timeline: March 2019


March 7 – International Organizations / Middle East:
Twenty-eight Syrians, who were forced to flee Syria to Jordan as a result of the ongoing civil war, file lawsuits with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The lawsuit calls on the ICC to investigate the crimes against humanity committed since 2011 when the civil war has begun. Because Syria does not recognize the International Court and does not fall under its jurisdiction, the lawsuits were filed in Jordan, which is party to the ICC. The evidence includes testimonies from Syrian refugees who describe their experiences of bombings and torture.[1]
Effectiveness and legitimacy issues of the ICC (video: 02:35 min)

March 8 – Latin America: VENEZUELA
Venezuela is hit by an electricity blackout for two days. First it happens in the capital, Caracas, and then spreads to the country’s other 15 states. Although blackouts are not unusual in Venezuela as a way to control power shortages, up to six hours at a time, this one is unplanned and widespread. President Nicolas Maduro blames the opposition for the blackout, accusing them of sabotage. The opposition, on the other hand, under the leadership of Juan Guaido, accuses the government of incompetence and inefficiency. Venezuela gets its electricity from its vast hydroelectric infrastructure, but decades of underinvestment and neglect have damaged the major dams, causing blackouts.[2]
In pictures: Venezuelans search for water amid power cut
Living without power (video 02:33 min)

March 12 – East Asia: NORTH KOREA
North Koreans vote to elect 687 members of the country’s rubberstamp parliament called the Supreme People’s Assembly. Voting in North Korea is mandatory; everyone receives a voting ballot with one state-approved candidate’s name on it already. . The government claims the turnout was 99.99 percent. For the first time, the country’s authoritarian leader Kim Jong-un does not run as one of the candidates. Analysts suggest the reason is to make the country’s look more “democratic” as the president should not be a member of the parliament at the same time. Kim Jong-un’s sister, however, Kim Yo-jong, who is also Kim’s close aid, is elected as a member of the parliament in her quest to have a more influential role in governing the country.[3]
What it’s like to ‘vote’ in North Korea

The UK House of Commons, for the second time, overwhelmingly rejects Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union (EU).
(Mar 13): The House rejects the plan of leaving the EU without a deal, so-called no-deal Brexit. This, however, only applies to the 29 March deadline and does not rule out the prospect of a no-deal exit at a later date, if Parliament is unable to agree on any deal.[4]
(Mar 14): UK lawmakers vote to delay the Brexit process, acknowledging that more time is needed to come up with an agreement over Britain’s departure from the EU. Any delay beyond March 29th, however, will require unanimous approval from the remaining 27 EU member states. The MPs also overwhelmingly reject a call for a second referendum.[5]
(Mar 21): The European Council gives the UK an extension until May 22 to prepare for a withdrawal from the EU, if the third vote in the UK’s Parliament succeeds. If it fails, however, the EU will allow the UK government to come up with a new Brexit plan by April 12. They also say there will be no further extension beyond 30 June.
(Mar 29): MPs defeat May’s withdrawal agreement for the third time. By holding a vote on the withdrawal agreement only, the government had hoped to secure a short delay to Brexit and avoid the UK taking part in the European elections scheduled for May. Prime Minister Theresa May will now seek a longer extension to the negotiation process to avoid a no-deal Brexit.[6]

March 14 – North America / Middle East:
The United States Senate votes to withdraw the military aid for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the war in Yemen. The U.S. sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and provides logistical and intelligence support used in the Yemen air strikes. The bipartisan vote is a rebuke to President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Saudi Arabia. This non-binding resolution, however, is mostly symbolic as it still needs to clear in the House of Representatives, and is facing the presidential veto.[7]

According to the UN human rights office, OHCHR, the war in Yemen, since March 2015, has resulted in 18,173 of civilian casualties, which includes 7,025 killed and 11,148 injured. Some 3.3 million people have also been forced from their homes. Eighty percent of the 24-million people there is in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.[8]

March 19 – Central Asia: KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan’s authoritarian ruler, Nursultan Nazarbayev steps down and assigns the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, as acting president to serve the rest of his term. Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan’s unchallenged president since the country’s independence in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nazarbayev, however, will continue as chairman for life of the powerful Security Council. Kazakhstan is a vast country with a wealth of natural resources.[9] It has implemented major investments into its oil sector, but recently it has tried to shift this investment into green energy.
The new green superpower? from The Guardian (video: 13:09 min)

March 28 – East Asia: BRUNEI
Brunei approves a new law that will punish homosexual sex and adultery with death by stoning. It also allows amputations as punishment for theft. Human Rights organization, Amnesty International, condemns the move saying “Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations. The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”[10] Brunei has grown more conservative in recent years, banning alcohol and introducing the Sharia law, which stresses corporal punishments.

Brunei is a tiny oil-rich kingdom in southeast Asia situated on the island of Borneo and surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. Borneo is the third largest island in the world, shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

March 31 – Africa: ALGERIA
Algeria’s 82-year old ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announces major changes in his cabinet after weeks or protests and demonstrations across the country calling for his resignation. Although the protests forced him to drop his candidacy for a fifth term in the April elections, he is retaining his title as defense minister. Bouteflika has been in power since 1999, but in 2013 he suffered a stroke and has not been seen publicly since. He won elections in 2014 despite doing no personal campaigning.[11] The ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) was the only legal party ruling Algeria since gaining independence from France in 1962. In 1989, other parties were legalized, but the opposition has been fragmented and divided.[12]

[1] “Syria war: Lawyers submit first war crimes cases against Assad.” BBC News. 7 March 2019. Web. Accessed 26 March 2019.
[2] “Venezuela power cuts: Blackouts hit Caracas and spread.” BBC News. 8 March 2019. Web. Accessed 27 March 2019.
[3] “North Korea election: Surprise as leader Kim Jong-un ‘not on ballot’.” BBC News. 12 March 2019. Accessed 20 march 2019.
[4] “Brexit: Theresa May says she understands ‘the voice of the country’. BBC News. 13 March 2019. Web. Accessed 28 March 2019.
[5] Tara John. “British lawmakers approve Brexit delay but reject second referendum.” CNN. 14 March 2019. Web. Accessed 27 March 2019.
[6] Andrew Sparrow. “MPs debate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement ahead of vote.” The Guardian. 29 March 2019. Web. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[7] Senate votes to end US support of Saudi-led Yemen war.” BBC News. 14 march 2019. Web. Accessed 24 March 2019.
[8] The United Nations. “UN and partners to hold conference seeking urgently needed funds to save millions in Yemen from ‘horrific’ plight.” UN News. 24 February 2019. Web. Accessed 27 March 2019 from
[9] “Kazakh leader Nazarbayev resigns after three decades.” BBC News. 19 March 2019, Web. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[10] Rachel Chhoa-Howard. “Brunei Darussalam: Heinous punishments to become law next week.” Amnesty International. News. 27 March 2019. Web. Accessed 29 March 2019.
[11] “Algeria protests: Bouteflika appoints new government.” BBC News. 31 March 2019. Web. Accessed 1 April 2019 and Rana Jawad. “How does reclusive President Bouteflika run Algeria?” BBC News. 6 March 2019. Accessed 1 April 2019.
[12] “National Liberation Front.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. March 22, 2016. Accessed April 01, 2019.