Context: Armenia’s Parliament has voted to join the International Criminal Court.
Analysis of Armenia’s decision to join International Criminal Court
- Key reason behind Armenia’s decision to join the International Criminal Court is Azerbaijan’s offensive against the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
- Armenia’s decision to become a party to the International Criminal Court is expected to strain relations with Russia as International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants against President Putin of Russia for committing human rights abuses during Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
- Armenia being a state party to ICC will be under obligation to arrest Putin. Thus, this will constrain Russia-Armenia relations.
- Armenia is a landlocked country, part of the Caucasus region.
- Neighbouring countries of Armenia: Turkey on the West, Georgia on North, Azerbaijan on east, Iran and Azerbaijan’s enclave of Nakhchivan on South.
- Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia.
About Nagorno-Karabakh Region
- It is a landlocked mountainous region, encircled by Azerbaijan.
- The region is majorly inhabited by ethnic Armenians.
- The region has been subject of territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- Nagorno-Karabakh region has been under the self-declared Republic of Artsakh.
- Recently, in September 2023, Azerbaijan attacked the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The attack resulted in the removal of institutions of Republic of Artsakh.
- Nagorno-Karabakh was connected to Armenia by a small corridor known as Lachin Corridor.
- More than half the population of Nagorno-Karabakh region has fled to Armenia. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of committing ethnic cleansing in the region.
About International Criminal Court
Origin of International Criminal Court
- ICC came into being and is government by the Rome Statute. Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 after ratification by 60 countries.
- It is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
- ICC is an independent international organisation and is not part of United Nations.
- ICC has 18 judges who are elected by Assembly of State Parties and serve 9-year, non-renewable terms.
- Seat of International Criminal Court: is in The Hague in the Netherlands
Jurisdiction of International Criminal Court
- International Criminal Court investigates and tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern:
- War crimes
- Crimes against humanity
- Crime of aggression
- ICC may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes only if they were committed on the territory of a State Party or by one of its nationals.
- However, ICC may exercise jurisdiction if a situation is referred to ICC Prosecutor by the UNSC or if a State makes a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of ICC.
- Under the Rome Statute, ICC can only investigate and prosecute the above four international crimes in situations where states and unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Thus, ICC acts as a court of last resort and seeks to complement, not replace, national courts.
Parties of International Criminal Court
- Currently, 123 countries are state parties to the International Criminal Court.
- However, countries such as India, China, USA, Russia etc are not a party to it.
Context: Maldives has elected Mohamed Muizzu as President of Maldives. He will replace Ibrahim Solih as the President of Maldives. Mohamed Muizzu is seen as pro-China and has promised to remove Indian military personnel stationed in the country.
About Mohamed Muizzu
- Mohamed Muizzu belongs to Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the same party to which Abdulla Yameen belonged. He was earlier the Housing and Urban Development minister under the Presidency of Abdulla Yameen.
- Abdulla Yameen had close ties with China. President Muizzu is seen as a proxy for Abdulla Gayoom who pursued a pro-China tilt in his foreign policy and launched an ‘India-Out’ campaign.
- Mohamed Muizzu has indicated to continue with the India-Out campaign of Gayoom, calling for removal of India’s military personnel stationed in Maldives.
- The incumbent President Ibrahim Solih pursued an India-First Policy resulting in greater cooperation between India and Maldives over projects like Greater Male Connectivity Project, Security Cooperation and India’s assistance to Maldives during COVID-19 pandemic.
Concerns over the election of Pro-China President Muizzu of Maldives
- Concerns over India’s defence and security partnership: The stance taken by President Muizzu to remove the presence of military personnel from Maldives. These moves seem to be a continuation of earlier policies pursued by President Yameen when Indian Navy helicopters and personnel were requested to be removed from Maldives.
- Increasing China’s influence in Indian Ocean Region: The strategic location of Maldives near the International Sea lanes makes Maldives critical for China’s economic and energy security. To gain an increasing influence in Maldives, China has been courting Maldives as part of its Maritime Silk Route project of the larger Belt & Road Initiative.
- China’s infrastructure projects in Maldives: China has been heavily investing in physical and social infrastructure in Maldives by financing important projects like China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, Housing units and expansion of Velana International Airport.
- Free-Trade Agreement with China: President Abdulla Yameen signed the Free Trade Agreement with Maldives in 2017 to enhance trade and Maldivian marine exports to China. However, this agreement was not ratified by President Ibrahim Solih feared China will leverage its economic power to commercially dominate Maldives and pursue its geopolitical objectives. Ex. Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka. President Muizzu is expected to ratify the FTA with China.
- China’s weaponisation of economic relations: China debt to Maldives accounts for one-fifth of Maldivian GDP and China has become a critical source of tourists to Maldives, which is critical for Maldivian economy.
Way forward for India
- Leveraging India’s strengths: India enjoys proximity, convergent security interests and deep cultural ties with Maldives. India has been the first responder to any crises in Maldives. Chinese has no diaspora or no military presence in Maldives as compared to India. Thus, the geographic and cultural connect that India enjoys with Maldives is hard for China to overcome.
- Prompt delivery of infrastructure projects: Slow progress on India backed India projects such as Greater Male Connectivity Project, this has increased attractiveness of China’s projects in Maldives. India needs to build on prompt delivery of India’s infrastructure projects to make it attractive for countries to have deeper relations with India.
- Highlight China’s policies: India should highlight Chinese designs of using its commercial and business ties to pursue its geopolitical agenda. Chinese debt trap diplomacy and designs to accommodate Maldives in its ‘Strings of Pearls’ strategy for countering India. Thus, India should continue to assist Maldives to make its economy more resilient.
- Pursue multiparty democratic engagement: India must not take sides in the domestic politics of neighbouring countries and pursue broader ties with all voices
Context: The Ministry of Education released draft guidelines known as UMMEED (Understand, Motivate, Manage, Empathise, Empower, Develop), for schools to prevent suicide among students.
Reason for increasing cases of suicides among students
- Suicide is a complex interplay of personal and social factors, which is rarely caused by a single circumstance or event. It has an impact on the family, school and community at large.
- Students go through many transitions during their school life which can cause extreme stress, for example, transition from home to school, from one school to another, school to college, losing a parent/sibling/friend/near and dear one, etc.
- Also experience changes as they progress through the developmental stages, leading to concerns such as those related to physical changes and appearance, peer pressure, career decisions, academic pressure, and pressuring students into preparing for competitive examinations.
- Negative school environment like negative relationships with peers/teachers, discrimination, bullying, harassment, humiliation, isolation, etc.
- Absence of school-family connects, parental neglect/ abuse, lack of acceptance/recognition by family members, family history of suicide, Criticism/ bullying by family members .
Warning Signs of Students at Risk
- Feelings: Hopelessness, guilt, shame, self-hatred, exhaustion persistent sadness among students.
- Behaviours: Withdrawal from Social Interactions, friends, classmates, and family, lack of concentration such as being absent-minded, forgetful, and/or restlessness in class, sudden, mood changes, change in appetite/sleeping patterns.
- Actions: Lack of Participation, losing interest in previously enjoyed school activities, being careless about safety, use of substances (smoking, alcohol, etc.), decline in overall quality of academic and other school work and becoming detached.
- To serve as directions to schools for enhancing sensitivity, and understanding, and providing support in case of reported self-harm.
- Guidelines have been issued under the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, which aims for holistic education, encompassing cognitive and emotional development.
- Taking proactive steps to identify students exhibiting warning signs and thereby at risk for self-harm, creating a dedicated team in school, promoting a supportive school environment, and building the capacity of the stakeholders
Plan of action for schools
- Setting up of School Wellness Team (SWT): This may be formed under the leadership of the School Principal, where each member of SWT is oriented in handling crises.
- When a student displaying warning signs has been identified by any stakeholder, they need to be reported to the SWT, which takes immediate action.
- It plays an important role in the implementation of school activities directed towards creating awareness about mental well-being, leading to suicide prevention.
- It is important for the school to review the effectiveness of SWT and its functioning on an annual basis.
- Promoting a positive school environment: To be prepared to respond to a crisis, it is also important to promote and strengthen the protective factors and reduce the risk factors.
- It plays a pivotal role in supporting student well-being and reducing the risk of suicide. Raising awareness about mental health is an integral part of it.
- It promotes open dialogue, which can reduce the stigma associated with seeking help and encourage students to reach out for support without fear of judgment or isolation.
Actions for promoting a positive school environment:
- Encouraging peer support: Through group activities, clubs, events, etc.
- Organising activities regularly for relaxing/reducing stress: Like yoga, meditation, art, music, etc.
- Providing channels for expression: Such as access to a trained counsellor, help boxes, or suggestions boxes to express concerns and seek help.
- Compiling resources to seek support: Helpline numbers, phone numbers and email IDs of Counsellors and SWT members, brochures and pamphlets on causes, risk factors, protective factors, warning signs, etc.
- Integrating Mental Well-being in School Functioning: Including aspects of mental well-being in daily interactions, open discussions, assembly time, different programmes, subject-teaching, etc.)
- Creating a Safe Environment in School and Beyond: In school: Locking empty classrooms, lighting up dark corridors, cleaning gardens and areas with excess growth of grass and places beyond school: vigilance at railway tracks, river banks, bridges, cliffs, medical shops, etc.
- Encouraging School-Community Partnerships: Among all stakeholders: school administrators, teachers, counsellors, students, medical staff, supporting staff, parents, and community.
- Building Awareness about Mental Well-being among all Stakeholders: Through Role plays, Storytelling, Nukkad natak, Rallies, Posters, Exhibitions, Annual Day themes, etc.)
- Building capacity for different stakeholders to prevent suicides and respond to crises in schools, it is crucial to empower all stakeholders, including teachers, staff, students, and families.
- Responding immediately and supporting students at risk: Immediate action is required in both situations of at-risk behaviours, i.e., when the student is displaying warning signs and attempting self-harm through maintaining records of at-risk behaviours of a student and follow-up on the student and SWT members need to connect with parents after the incident to follow up on the student.
- They divided warning signs into three categories– feelings, behaviour and actions.
- Students who exhibit feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt and shame, or have a lack of concentration, withdrawal from social interactions and sudden mood swings are at risk.
- They also place students with reckless behaviour, talking about self-harm or ending life and becoming detached, among others, as those displaying warning signs.
- Appraisal of actions taken by the school: Schools should conduct regular assessments to reflect on their suicide prevention efforts. SWT and other stakeholders should meet periodically to discuss their experiences in implementing guidelines and analyse feedback for areas needing improvement.
Explain why suicide among young women is increasing in Indian society. (2023)
Context: Arrests and questioning of individuals associated with NewsClick, a news portal, have highlighted concerns about the potential misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) of 1967 and its implications for freedom of speech and expression.
UAPA, although originally designed to combat terrorism with a focus on national security, has evolved over the years into a tool criticized for suppressing dissent. It faces criticism for its vague definitions and the extensive discretionary powers it grants to the government in designating individuals as terrorists.
In this article, we will delve into the details of the UAPA, its amendments, and the significance of this law in contemporary India, as well as the challenges it poses to fundamental rights and civil liberties.”
- UAPA was first introduced, during the British era, in the form of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908, aimed at curbing dissent against the Crown.
- Post-independence, it remained in place, and in 1967, after wars with Pakistan and China, it was expanded to grant extensive powers for identifying unlawful associations and penalizing those involved in activities supporting India’s secession.
- Amendments in 2004 introduced a chapter on ‘terrorist activities,’ while post the 2008 Bombay attacks, further amendments allowed for prolonged detention based on personal information, restricted anticipatory bail, and permitted the categorization of individuals as ‘terrorists’ in the 2019 amendment.
About The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (Act)
- Act defines “Unlawful activity” as “any action taken by individual or association that leads to cession of a part of the territory of India, questions the sovereignty of India or disrupt the integrity of India etc.
- Powers with the government: Under the Act, Central government can declare a person or an organization as a terrorist/ terrorist organisation, if it/ he:
- commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes terrorism, or is otherwise involved in terrorism.
- Government can impose all-India bans on associations which are declared ‘unlawful’ under the Act.
- Both Indian nationals and foreign nationals can be charged under the Act.
- Also, Act holds offenders accountable in the same manner if crime is committed on foreign land outside India.
- Investigating powers: Cases can be investigated by both State police and National Investigation Agency (NIA).
- Appeal mechanism: It provides for tribunal to review or to hear an appeal against the ban.
Amendments to UAPA
- Amendments in 2004: Criminalized indirectly supporting a terrorist organisation by raising of funds for a terrorist act or membership of a terrorist organization etc.
- Amendments in 2008: Broadened the scope of the provision of “funds” to ensure a wider coverage of the financing of terrorism offences.
- Amendments in 2012: Expanded the definition of “terrorist act” to include offences that threaten the country’s economic security.
- Amendments in 2019:
- Government is empowered to designate individuals as terrorists. Earlier, only organisations could be designated as terrorist organisations.
- If an investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of property connected with terrorism. (Earlier, approval of the Director General of Police was required).
- Empowered officers of NIA, of rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
- Added International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005) to the Schedule under the Act.
Significance of UAPA law in the contemporary times for India
- To uproot terrorism from India: Terrorists and insurgents continue to receive material support and funds.
- Focus on individuals: Not designating individuals as terrorists, would give them an opportunity to circumvent the law and they would simply gather under a different name and keep up their terror activities.
- This is also important in the context of lone wolf attacks, which do not belong to any organisation.
- Quickens process of justice delivery by empowering officers in the rank of Inspector to investigate cases and investigation has to be completed within 90 days.
- Reduces delay in attaching proceeds: Act allows seizure of property connected with terrorism without taking approval of Director General of Police in case investigation is conducted by an officer of National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Challenges Posed by the UAPA Act, 2019:
- Erosion of Fundamental Rights, including Article 14, 19(1)(a), 21: The Act denies individuals labeled as terrorists the opportunity to present their case before arrest, allowing detention for up to 180 days without a formal charge sheet, thus significantly infringing upon their fundamental rights.
- Contrary to the Principle of ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’: The Act contradicts universally recognized principles by not upholding the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, which is a fundamental tenet of justice.
- Excessive Discretionary Authority: There is a lack of objective criteria for classifying individuals as terrorists grants the government almost unchecked authority to designate anyone as a terrorist, posing a significant risk of misuse of power.
- Ambiguous and Unclear Definitions: Vagueness in definitions of terms like “terrorism” and its broad definition of ‘unlawful activity’ create confusion and leave room for differing interpretations, impacting the Act’s effectiveness and fairness.
- Concerns in the Appeals Process: While the Act provides for appeals, the establishment of a government-appointed three-member review committee, potentially including serving bureaucrats, raises concerns about the independence and fairness of the appeals process.
- Low Conviction Rates: The fact that less than 3% of cases registered under the UAPA Act between 2016 and 2020 (PUCL report) resulted in convictions underscores significant challenges in effectively prosecuting cases under the Act, although this is less immediate but still a notable issue.
With a low conviction rate and concerns regarding the appeal process, the UAPA remains a subject of intense debate, where striking a balance between national security and safeguarding civil liberties remains a challenging task. The ongoing dialogue surrounding the UAPA highlights the need for continued scrutiny, refinement, and thoughtful consideration of its provisions to ensure a just and equitable legal framework in India.
Context: The Madras High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed in 2017 against the first pour of concrete for units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) without complying with norms on restricting the population growth in the sterilized zone — the area within a 5km radius of the plant.
- Location – Kudankulam, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu.
- 2000 Megawatt (2 GW) of current Installed capacity out of the total planned capacity of 6000 Megawatt (6 GW).
- It will be achieved through Six VVER-1000 Pressurised water reactors (PWR) reactors built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
- It is India’s largest Nuclear Power Plant (in terms of Installed capacity).
- Indo-Russian Agreement -1988 – Initially planned to build two reactor units. The project got stuck due to dissolution of the USSR but revived under a new agreement between India and Russia in 1997.
- Construction works started in 2002 but the project suffered delays due to persistent protests by local inhabitants and activist groups over safety concerns.
- Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan (2011) fuelled the opposition thus construction works were suspended for several months.
- The construction was resumed after the Supreme Court of India rejected petitions to block the project and permitted the commissioning of both the units in May 2013.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)
It is a Public Sector Enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India. The Company was registered as a Public Limited Company under the Companies Act, 1956 in 1987.
Its objective is to operate atomic power plants and implement atomic power projects for the generation of electricity in pursuance of the schemes and programmes of the Government of India under the Atomic Energy Act, of 1962.NPCIL is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of nuclear power reactors.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)
It is a Public Sector Enterprise under the administrative control of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India. The Company was registered as a Public Limited Company under the Companies Act, 1956 in 1987.Its objective is to operate atomic power plants and implement atomic power projects for the generation of electricity in pursuance of the schemes and programmes of the Government of India under the Atomic Energy Act, of 1962.NPCIL is responsible for design, construction, commissioning and operation of nuclear power reactors.
Context: The World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the R21/MatrixM malaria vaccine, which has been jointly developed by the University of Oxford (Jenner Institute) and the Serum Institute of India.
Technology Used :
- The Vaccine was developed using Novavax’s adjuvant technology.
- Adjuvant technology
- An adjuvant is an ingredient used in some vaccines that helps create a stronger immune response in people receiving the vaccine. In other words, adjuvants help vaccines work better.
- Adjuvants help the immune system better recognize what’s in a vaccine and remember it longer, increasing the amount of time that a vaccine may offer protection.
- Adjuvanted vaccines can cause more local reactions (such as redness, swelling, and pain at the injection site) and more systemic reactions (such as fever, chills and body aches) than non-adjuvanted vaccines.
- Novavax’s adjuvant technology
- Matrix-M adjuvant comes from saponins, naturally occurring compounds in the bark of the Quillaja saponaria (Soapbark) tree, commonly found in Chile.
- Recommended after detailed scientific review by the WHO’s independent advisory body, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG)
- Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) – The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization was established by the Director-General of the World Health Organization in 1999 to provide guidance on the work of WHO. SAGE is the principal advisory group to WHO for vaccines and immunization.
- SAGE is comprised of 15 members, who serve in their personal capacity and represent a broad range of disciplines encompassing many aspects of immunization and vaccines.
- Members are recruited and selected as acknowledged experts from around the world in the fields of epidemiology, public health, vaccinology, paediatrics, internal medicine, infectious diseases, immunology, drug regulation, programme management, immunization delivery, health-care administration, health economics, and vaccine safety.
- UNICEF, the Secretariat of the GAVI Alliance, and WHO Regional Offices participate as observers in SAGE meetings and deliberations.
- WHO also invites other observers to SAGE meetings, including representatives from WHO regional technical advisory groups, non-governmental organizations, international professional organizations, technical agencies, donor organizations and associations of manufacturers of vaccines and immunization technologies.
- Additional experts may be invited, as appropriate, to further contribute to specific agenda items.
- The Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG) – Formerly called Malaria Policy Advisory Committee, It was established in 2011 to provide independent advice to WHO to enhance the control and elimination of malaria.
- It is an independent advisory group bringing together the world’s foremost experts on malaria, the MPAG provides strategic advice and technical input to WHO, and extends to all aspects of malaria control and elimination, as part of a transparent, responsive and credible process.
- The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP),
- The Welcome Trust
- The European Investment Bank (EIB).