Authorities in Tunisia have recovered some 150 bodies of more than 250 African migrants who went missing after their over-crowded boat capsized in the Mediterranean earlier this week, the International Organization for Migration said in Geneva on June 4. The migrants were reportedly on their way to the Italian island of Lampedusa from Libya when their vessel ran aground and capsized some 19 nautical miles off Tunisia's Kerkennah islands. Survivors say there were more than 800 people on board when the accident occurred. Tunisia's coast guard and army managed to rescue about 570 from the ill-fated vessel. (RTT, June 3)
Authorities in Serbia on May 26 announced the capture of Ratko Mladic, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former military commander of the self-declared Serb Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is most infamous for ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in 1995. Extradition proceedings to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague are to begin immediately.
Belarus's Minsk City Court last week sentenced former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau to a five-year maximum security prison term for organizing protests following the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in December 2010. Lukashenko reportedly won 80% of the vote, while Sannikau was second with a distant 2.5%. Currently, four other presidential candidates are awaiting trial, while one was released in January, and another has fled Belarus to seek asylum in the Czech Republic.
Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the main squares of Spain's cities for the past week to protest government austerity measures—in defiance of a government ban imposed ahead of municipal and regional elections. Madrid's central square has been occupied for days by some 30,000 protesters, who have been dubbed "los indignados" (the indignant). Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero admitted he may not enforce the ban. "I have a great respect for the people protesting, which they are doing in a peaceful manner, and I understand it is driven by economic crisis and young people's hopes for employment," Zapatero said during a radio interview. (BBC News, May 21; Reuters, May 20)
A group of 150 "self-styled" (sic) anarchists stormed into an Athens hospital where a protester who was severely injured in a protest march on May 11 is being treated and attacked three police officers guarding him there, a police official said. Thousands of workers walked off the job, pouring onto the streets of Athens and other Greek cities to protest a package of proposed "reforms" and cost-cutting measures designed to save the crisis-hit country $33 billion through 2015. In Athens, some 30,000 marched on the nation's parliament building, jeering lawmakers and calling them "thieves" and "robbers." Police used tear gas and pepper spray in running street battles with black-clad youth. (Reuters, LAT, May 11)
Laurie Penny writes for the New Statesman, April 29:
This is England in 2011: as the country gears up for the Wedding of Mass Distraction, police up and down the country have been bursting into squatted social centres and private homes, arresting anyone whom they suspect of having connections with the anti-cuts movement, on the pretext of preventing disorder at the happy event—sometimes seizing known protestors on the street or from their cars.
Italy's government on April 19 announced it is indefinitely suspending plans to build the country's first nuclear power plants—ahead of a June referendum on the nuclear development plans, which the administration says is no longer necessary. "The program had been halted in order to acquire more scientific evidence," the government said in a surprise clause inserted in the text of a decree which submitted to parliament. The damage at Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactors "has imposed a pause for reflection," Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said.
Even as the world is gripped by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Russia announced it will build a reactor in neighboring Belarus—where large areas still remain closed off due to the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian-designe plant is to be built near Ostrovets, just 50 miles from the capital city of European Union member Lithuania. The deal was announced March 15 at a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Under the agreement, Russia's state-owned Atomstroyeksport will build the nuclear station, with the first reactor due to come on line in 2016 and as many as four more reactors operational by 2025.