A Trumped-Up Emergency: Daily Brief

Presidents Day in the United States; Trump's national emergency; European Union's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland; worrying news before elections in Thailand; ICC time for Myanmar's army chief; Pakistan should address Pashtun grievances; victories for human rights highlight Australia’s tarnished global reputation; and some good news to start the week. 

Today is Presidents Day in the United States, but with the current president again calling the press the "Enemy of the People", it's not much of a holiday for those who cherish free media as a cornerstone of democracy. 

When the heads of US intelligence agencies briefed the Senate on national security threats in late January they focused mainly on Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Hardly a mention of immigrants or the southern border. But guess what was declared a national emergency by Donald Trump?

President Trump also spoke fondly again about the practice of executing drug traffickers, in China this time. Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch' Asia division, is not impressed at all. “Not only do they execute people without due process, they run a dictatorship that’s getting tighter and tighter by the day.”

The European Union often defends democratic institutions and the rule of law when they are under attack abroad. But if the EU is serious about defending the bloc's values, they need to show even more resolve when these values are under attack at home, in Poland and Hungary.

There's worrying news from military junta-ruled Thailand, before elections that have been scheduled for March 24.

Min Aung Hlaing, the top general in Myanmar who may face prosecution for crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims, has denied any systematic army persecution.

Ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan have been protesting the death of activist Arman Luni as the latest outrage against this beleaguered community. Luni, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, a social movement for Pashtun rights, died during a sit-in. The police reported that he died of a heart attack following clashes between police and protesters. But Luni's supporters allege he died from torture while in police custody.

Read this comment by HRW's Australia director Elaine Pearson, on two recent human rights victories, that at the same time highlight Australia’s tarnished reputation on this topic.