Three Years On, Libya Still Providing Lessons for RtoP Implementation

NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya to prevent the imminent slaughter of Benghazi’s civilians, threatened by Moammar Qadaffi and his forces, was hailed by many as the first real test-case for implementation of the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) – and a successful one at that. However, the intervention also sparked controversy and raised important lessons about the norm’s implementation. Most prominently, many UN Member States expressed concern that through the course of pursuing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, the mandate to protect civilians morphed into something that more closely resembled regime change.

A rebel mans an anti-aircraft gun in Ras Lanuf

A rebel manning an anti-aircraft gun during the 2011 civil war. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.

This has since led to debates surrounding Security Council monitoring, and the relationship between RtoP and regime change. Three years later, as Libya sits on the precipice of civil war, it appears more lessons have emerged regarding the oft-neglected importance of providing states with post-crisis assistance to prevent the reoccurrence of atrocity crimes, as well as the necessity of employing RtoP measures that straddle the various pillars.

Libya on the Brink

Currently, Libya faces the genuine risk of sliding into civil war. Since Qadaffi’s overthrow, the country’s militias have run rampant, with no effective central government or security force to rein them in. Often, these militias have provided the only security guarantee for many of Libya’s tribes and city-states, while informal cooperation – and often competition – with the regular security forces is common.

Although a delicate balance of power previously kept the militias from engaging in all out fighting against one another, the election of a new Parliament on June 25th, 2014 dealt a significant blow to Libya’s Islamists. Instead of accepting the results peacefully, Islamists and their Misrata-based allies began a siege of Tripoli and its airport. The goal of the assault was to wrest it from the control of the Zintan-based militias they perceived to be Qadaffi sympathizers leading a counter-revolution. The alliance, named ‘Libyan Dawn’, has gone on to reconvene the former General National Congress in Tripoli, in opposition to the newly formed House of Representatives sitting in Tobruk. Simultaneously, the city of Benghazi has plunged into factional fighting as former Qadaffi General, Khalifa Haftar unilaterally launched operation ‘Libyan Dignity’, with the stated intention of ejecting Islamist militants that allegedly pose a threat to Libyan national identity.

As it stands, Libya therefore currently has two opposing governments sitting in different parts of the country, each backed by their own respective armed groups, but neither with any real authority. Militia violence continues to engulf several of Libya’s major cities, with recent reports  from groups like Human Rights Watch noting that since taking control of Tripoli and its airport, Libya Dawn elements have turned their aggression on civilian populations. Given this reality, the risk of mass atrocities is perhaps greatest since the 2011 uprising.

Humanitarian Consequences and Unfolding Atrocities

The recent bout of fighting between rival militias has had devastating consequences for Libya’s civilians. Recent figures provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimate that over 1,000 Libyans have perished, while 107,028 are internally displaced and an additional 150,000 have sought refuge abroad.  Meanwhile, those remaining in conflict zones are experiencing frequent shortages of food, water, gasoline, and electricity.

Fighting near Tripoli airport

Fighting near Tripoli airport leaves a trail of billowing smoke. Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images.

Amnesty International called attention to the indiscriminate nature of the violence, stressing that “The warring parties in Tripoli and Benghazi have displayed a wanton disregard for the safety of ordinary civilians who have found themselves mercilessly pinned down by indiscriminate shelling with imprecise weapons.” Citing the rising civilian death toll and the damage to civilian infrastructure, they warn that the failure to distinguish between military and civilian targets is punishable as a war crime under international law.

Notably, a local civil society organization called Lawyers for Justice in Libya has indicated that on top of the suffering caused by fighting, activists and civil society advocates are being targeted for assassination on a frequent basis, while both state and non-state detention facilities rampantly use torture against detainees, with little hope of due process. The group has warned that “the Libyan state’s ongoing tolerance of such grave acts may constitute a crime against humanity,” and has reminded the newly elected House of Representatives of their responsibilities and legal obligations under international law to prevent such action, and prosecute perpetrators.

The Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed reports of torture and other abuses. The Office echoed warnings that such violations could constitute war crimes, stating “The direct perpetrators of any such crimes in Libya, as well as commanders who ordered or failed to stop the commission of such crimes, could be prosecuted, including by the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

Calls for Action and Forthcoming Assistance

The situation in Libya has deteriorated to the point that on August 13th the democratically elected government called on the UN to take action to protect civilians and help build state institutions. While specific protection measures were not mentioned, Libyan government officials have since suggested that a UN peacekeeping force tasked with disarming militias is needed. France seems to agree with this assessment, calling for “exceptional support” to Libya, and warning that the country could fall into chaos without UN intervention.

However, there appears to be little appetite for this on behalf of the UN and other members of the Security Council. Indeed, Bernadino Leon, the incoming head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has stressed that “…more conflict, more use of force will not help Libya get out of the current chaos.” Instead, he emphasized that Libya needs “a lot of international support” to back “Libyans who want to fight chaos … through a political process.

Likewise, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently elaborated on this sentiment stating, “There is no space for violence in the political transition process…Concerns must be addressed through inclusive political dialogue, including with those in Tobruk, Misrata, Tripoli, Benghazi and elsewhere.”

Accordingly, recent revelations that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates allegedly launched airstrikes against Islamist targets have been met with condemnation by both the Council and neighbouring states.

Security Council Meeting: The situation in Libya. Vote, 15 in favor.

Head of UNSMIL Bernardino Leon briefs the Security Council on the situation in Libya. UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

On August 27th, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2174, which further confirmed the preference to settle the conflict through inclusive political dialogue. Additionally, as head of UNSMIL, Leon has sought to use his good offices to broker a ceasefire – an effort that may finally be yielding results. However, more coercive measures were also laid bare, as Resolution 2174 modified the sanctions regime established in Resolution 1970 to target those responsible for inciting current violence, though the Council has yet to release a new list of names for inclusion.

As for NATO’s involvement, the trans-Atlantic organization has been considering sending military assistance to the Libyan state for some time, but seems to have delayed these plans due to the volatile security situation. However, at the recent NATO Summit that took place in Wales, the organization confirmed its support for UNSMIL’s ceasefire efforts, and reiterated its willingness to provide assistance for security and defense institution building, as well as to forge a partnership under the Mediterranean Dialogue.

 

 New Lessons for Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect

Several atrocity indicators, as outlined in the Analysis Framework laid out by the Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, have persisted since the NATO intervention of 2011. These include, but are not limited to: a permissive environment created by ongoing armed conflict, the presence of multiple armed groups and militias, impunity for past crimes, a history of mass human rights violations, and a lack of credible judicial, human rights, and security institutions.  These indicators underscore the importance of international assistance in completing Libya’s transition, as well as for preventing and halting fresh atrocities.

In his 2012 report ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response,’ Ban Ki-moon noted that  “Putting an end to the four specified crimes and violations in a particular situation should be the beginning of a period of social renewal and institutional capacity-building aimed at making future violence less likely.”

 The Secretary-General goes on to explain the importance of “building the institutions, legislation, practices and attitudes to lessen the likelihood of…[atrocity] reoccurrence.” This demonstrates that action taken by the international community to halt atrocities can and must also be used as to assist the state and strengthen its capacity to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect.

It also means that the Responsibility to Protect does not end once an atrocity situation does. Rather, it is an ongoing effort that requires the steadfast support of the international community. The case of Libya demonstrates this plainly, as insufficient attention to post-crisis institution-building has led to a Libyan state too weak to prevent the reoccurrence of atrocities.  As Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch has bluntly stated, “The international community that played such a pivotal role in abetting the revolution is failing in its duty to save it.”

Update: A previous version of this article mistakenly indicated that Qatar had allegedly launched airstrikes. The article has been revised to indicate Egypt and the UAE as the responsible parties. 

 

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Filed under Justice, Libya, National Transitional Council, Post-Conflict, Rebuilding, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action

Civil Society Reflections on the Sixth General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP

On September 8, 2014, the UN General Assembly held its 6th annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect and the thematic issue of Pillar II international assistance. The following day, the ICRtoP Steering Committee also met for its annual meeting. Blog and Social Media Coordinator Matthew Redding sat down with some of our Steering Committee members, including Alex Bellamy, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P), Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer of the Pan-African Lawyer’s Union (PALU) and current Chair of the ICRtoP Steering Committee, and William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement- Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) to get their unique perspectives on the General Assembly dialogue.

 

Regional Voices

In the wake of the dialogue, the ICRtoP was fortunate enough to obtain reflections on common themes and key statements from Steering Committee members representing diverse regions of the globe. With APCR2P’s focus on promoting RtoP in the ASEAN region through initiatives such as the High Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia, Alex Bellamy highlighted some developments seen from these member states. 20140908_162219

 “We’ve definitely seen stronger participation. In past years, we’ve had a difficult time persuading member states to participate. ASEAN states usually haven’t been forthcoming and now they’re expressing their views. This year we had 5 of 10, which is I think the highest number we’ve had. Of those, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand were incredibly strong. They were as strong a supporter of RtoP as any European or any other proponent of RtoP would be.

In regards to Indonesia, Bellamy noted their reaffirmation that “…they’ve always been supportive of RtoP, that they’re a champion of it, and that they are firmly committed to it.”  On Thailand’s statement, he drew particular attention to the mention of “…the empowerment of women and the importance of gender perspective,” while enthusiastically recalling that “The Philippines also had a strong endorsement of RtoP and expressed their desire to move the agenda forward towards implementation.”

On a less positive note, Bellamy referred to Malaysia’s statement, which showed that “Malaysia is cautious, it’s always been cautious. It’s concerned about things like conditionality, its concerned when it sees what it perceives as attempts to expand the concept. There was no movement in what Malaysia said this year from last year and the year before that…so we need to spend more time engaging with Malaysia.”

However, this was tempered with a reminder of the importance of Myanmar’s participation, “Myanmar was the 5th to contribute and I think it’s a really good sign. The following day, their legal advisor attended the launch of the High-Level Report on Mainstreaming RtoP in Southeast Asia and said that this [RtoP] was now customary international law. So Myanmar accepts the principle, but of course, there are all sorts of issues regarding their political transition – specifically in relation to the Rohingya situation, where there is deeply embedded discrimination against that group…It’s really encouraging that Myanmar is participating and it just shows how well embedded RtoP is becoming. It’s not surprising that they’re cautious, but it reminds that we still need to engage them more.”

Representing an organization that works closely with the African Union on legal and human rights issues, Donald Deya of PALU expressed somewhat mixed views on the African participation in this year’s dialogue.

Deya recalled that “In previous years the African Union Mission to the United Nations has made a statement, so I was disappointed to see that this year they did not.” Deya compared the absent AU presence with the strong European Union statement he believed the AU should have also delivered, given the large number of RtoP cases located on the African continent.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivering his remarks at the opening of the GA dialogue.

He also added that he would have liked to see more statements from African countries in general, particularly from Kenya “…which is one of the areas in which the international community’s RtoP intervention has been successful.”

However, Deya was sure to mention that he was happy with the few African countries that did make statements. For example, when recalling Cote d’Ivoire’s  comments, he asserted that it was “…very useful, and of course their acknowledgement that assistance has been important from the international community in terms of pillar I and pillar II was also welcomed.”

 

RtoP Implementation at the UN

An important aspect of RtoP’s evolution is how it is prioritized and applied by the major organs of the UN, in particular the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaking on behalf of the WFM-IGP – an organization that works tirelessly to improve the effectiveness of these bodies to ensure they better serve the world’s peoples – Bill Pace reflected on RtoP’s development at this level:

 “I am optimistic from the GA [General Assembly] meeting that governments are taking RtoP more seriously every year. This includes the Security Council, in spite some of the controversies over misuse, selective application, or inappropriate enforcement.”

Pace noted that there is certainly room for improvement given these controversies, and added that:

“Over the next decade, I hope the democracies of the UN system will continue to press the permanent and elected members of the Security Council to do peace enforcement and peacekeeping on a much more efficient, and non-selective level. In that regard the permanent members of the Security Council must be pressured to refrain from using the veto in situations where mass atrocity crimes under international law are being committed.” Encouragingly, the dialogue provided Pace with some hope, as he stated, “I am personally optimistic that the General Assembly and the Security Council are moving in that direction.”

 Importantly, he provided a reminder that next year will be the 10th anniversary of the 2005 World Summit and mentioned that, “The assessment we will be doing at the UN and within the GA may result in RtoP moving from an informal dialogue into a more formal agenda item that may be discussed and have a resolution every year.” He added that the Coalition would be actively involved in efforts to strengthen RtoP within the General Assembly.

 

General Reflections

Each interview concluded with some general thoughts on the dialogue, including some stand-out statements, and speculation on what the event means for RtoP moving forward. Bellamy singled out Iran as a surprisingly “fantastic” statement, noting that:

Iran has contributed before and has always been broadly supportive, though cautious. The positive thing about Iran’s statement is that there was no caution at all. This might be because of the subject matter and that international assistance is less controversial than pillar III and pillar I, but I think it’s also a sign that the consensus on RtoP is getting more deeply embedded.”

Bellamy also reflected on the evolving consensus and deepening shared understanding of what RtoP is, “A couple of missions talked about sequencing, but not very many and certainly much fewer than the year before. Also, nobody was disputing what RtoP is, what the three pillars are, what crimes it related to, or what the development mechanisms are.”

Bellamy ended with a couple of positive observations, concluding that “…now the debate really is shifting to this question of implementation, or what to do in practice, and not what the principle is and whether or not the Assembly is committed. Even Cuba and Venezuela have toned it down in terms of their comments, and I think this shows that there is a consensus and that the debate is indeed moving forward.”

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ICRtoP Steering Committee in discussions with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

Deya agreed with Bellamy on several points, noting that, “…there has been progress in the sense that a couple of years ago the level of suspicion and even outright hostility was quite palpable, and the number of states expressing these sentiments was quite high. But a lot of the skepticism has changed to support, even if it is conditional support.” 

He also agreed that consensus is deepening, stating that“…there is a sense of resignation where there is no longer a question of whether RtoP exists at the UN or the community of states. It’s more or less a comment on how we can do it better.” Deya also made note of the softening stance of traditional opponents such as Cuba and Iran, agreeing that Iran’s statement in particular was “quite positive.”

Additionally, Deya made an important point on the increased involvement of civil society, observing that “one of the things that has happened under the current joint office and the two current Special Advisers [on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect]  is that they have given more scope to civil society.”

As a sign of this progress, he recalled that there was “…more opportunity to address the interactive debate than ever before, with 4 civil society organizations that were allowed to speak.” Perhaps more importantly, he also noted “…the whole process of being consulted extensively by Dr. Welsh on the drafting of the Secretary-General’s report and the mobilization of the Coalition and its members is very positive. “

Pace recalled a different statement as being particularly notable. He expressed that there had been worry over Russia’s position, given current hostilities in Ukraine. However, ultimately he believed that the Russian statement “…was actually much better than expected.”

Pace’s concluding thoughts were a poignant way to summarize the dialogue. He took note of the broad participation from roughly 70 countries, some of which spoke for up to 28 countries in their region. He called the day-long event “quite an achievement” that demonstrated “growing political will,” evident in the diminishing number of skeptics in the General Assembly. Pace then provided a solemn reminder that the goal of RtoP and its measures under the various pillars is to bring about a reality where mass atrocities are an exception, rather than the rule and where application of the norm is a non-issue.

 

A detailed overview of the dialogue and a full listing of member state, regional and civil society statements are available via the ICRtoP website.

The opinions expressed in these interviews are those of the individuals featured, and do not represent the position of the ICRtoP.

 

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Filed under Event, General Assembly, ICRtoP Members, Informal Interactive Dialogue, Second Pillar

The Unexplored Links between Humanitarian Disarmament and RtoP

The following is a guest post by Alexandra Hiniker. Alexandra is the Representative to the United Nations for PAX, an ICRtoP member, and founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition. PAX works together with civil society organizations around the world as well as supportive governments and relevant international organizations to promote the cluster bomb ban. Before joining PAX, Alexandra spent five years working in three of the countries most affected by cluster bombs – Lebanon, Laos, and Cambodia.

 

The Unexplored Links between Humanitarian Disarmament and the Responsibility to Protect

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Controlled demolition of cluster munitions in Laos. Tracie Williams/CMC.

As 100 governments gather in San Jose, Costa Rica, this week to discuss implementation of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), this post will look at the treaty from another angle – the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). While the inclusion of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty in the 2013 United Nations Secretary-General’s (UNSG) Report on RtoP established a clear link between arms transfers and the norm, there are also existing humanitarian disarmament treaties and processes, such as the CCM, that impact RtoP and the ability to protect populations from atrocity crimes.

By signing onto treaties such as the CCM, states are taking an important measure towards fulfillment of their Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. In light of the upcoming UN General Assembly dialogue focusing on Pillar Two of RtoP – the building of state capacity to protect populations from atrocity crimes – this analysis also highlights the CCM provisions that help states implement this second pillar, using the recent educational document  by the ICRtoP on clarifying Pillar Two.

 

Cluster Munitions Cause Unacceptable Harm to Civilians

Cluster munitions are weapons containing multiple submunitions, or bomblets, which can be dropped from the air, or launched from the ground or sea. At the time of use, the weapons cannot distinguish between military and civilian targets. Additionally, the weapons do not always go off as intended, leaving behind unexploded bomblets that become de facto landmines. These bomblets remain buried for decades after a conflict ends, not only killing and injuring innocent civilians, but also preventing any future development. Land contaminated with unexploded bomblets cannot be used to grow food, build roads, or construct hospitals and schools – although some people face such dire situations that they knowingly take risks simply to survive. According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, 60% of casualties occur when such activities are being undertaken, and one-third of all recorded casualties are children. Due to their indiscriminate nature, cluster munitions were banned through the Oslo Process, which resulted in the CCM.

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Unexploded sub-munition buried in a field in Laos. Wikimedia Photo Commons.

The CCM, which contains similar provisions to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, or Ottawa Convention, bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions, and requires stockpile destruction and clearance of all known contaminated areas. The CCM also includes articles on victim assistance, international cooperation and assistance, and treaty universalization.

 

The Role of the CCM in RtoP’s Second Pillar

As the 2014 Report of the Secretary-General specifies one of the elements of Pillar Two is encouraging a state to uphold its Pillar One obligations. Therefore, encouraging states to adopt this treaty, as called for in the universalization clause in the treaty itself, as well as points on discouraging use of such weapons by any actor, are examples of Pillar II action.

Another component of Pillar Two, building state capacity to protect, is an essential part of the CCM addressed in the provision on international cooperation and assistance. Technical and financial assistance can support ongoing efforts to clear affected areas, destroy stockpiles, and educate communities about the risks of living in contaminated areas. Additionally, support can go to providing victim assistance, which benefits not only survivors of accidents and their communities, but overall healthcare systems as well.

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UNIFIL solider guarding unexploded ordnance in Lebanon. UN Photo.

Indirect capacity development results from the required periodic reports on treaty implementation status, which leads government agencies and military branches that would not necessarily interact to cooperate and share information, contributing to overall strengthening of governance capacities.

Military cooperation at the international level also increases, as militaries often share information and expertise on technical issues, such as clearance and stockpile destruction. Affected states that have received capacity development support have even gone on to apply their skills and expertise to others through United Nations Peacekeeping operations. For example, Cambodia, one of the countries most affected by explosive remnants of war, began providing demining assistance to the United Nations Mission in Sudan in 2006.

 

A Relationship Needing Further Attention

As the recent Cluster Munition Monitor report shows, great strides have been made in ridding the world of these horrific weapons since the ban treaty entered into force. However, continued use in Syria, South Sudan, and Ukraine indicate that further efforts are necessary to fully achieve the CCM’s objectives. Treaty universalization, stronger and more consistent condemnation of increasingly rare use, and more follow-up on international cooperation and assistance requirements to clear affected areas, destroy stockpiles, and assist victims are a few examples of steps that can be taken.

Additional humanitarian disarmament processes underway can also contribute to strengthening the implementation of RtoP. These include, but are not limited to, nuclear weapons, depleted uranium, toxic remnants of war, and fully autonomous weapons. Practices and policies regarding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and casualty recording are additional areas that should also be further explored. It has long been acknowledged that humanitarian disarmament is a human rights and development issue, and international humanitarian law has developed in response to this challenge. However, identifying the connection between humanitarian disarmament and atrocities prevention is a relatively new objective. Further research and a better understanding of this connection with RtoP could help strengthen both agendas.

 

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Filed under Arms Trade Treaty, Guest Post, Second Pillar

“Convert, Pay, Flee, or Be Killed” Iraq’s Minorities Under Threat

The rapid advance of the Islamist militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that began in June of 2014 shocked the international community due to its ferocity and the sheer inability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to stop the group’s progress. ISIS has now taken control of significant portions of north-western Iraq, declaring its goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate through Iraq and Syria.  

ISIS fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP. AP File.

Throughout the ISIS onslaught and the ISF counter-offensive, civilian populations have suffered gravely. Among the most troubling consequences are the targeting and expulsion of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as mass displacement that has affected nearly 1.2 million Iraqis. The United Nations, civil society groups, and the wider international community have expressed extreme dismay at the unfolding situation, sounding alarm bells over the commission of atrocities and the worsening humanitarian situation.

The recent announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that he had authorized airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops, in part to protect the Yazidi minorities stranded and besieged on Mount Sinjar, is reflective of the dire situation. Many have hailed this move, as well as the offer of various forms of assistance by European governments, as necessary measures to prevent the imminent genocide of the Yazidi population, and a clear example of upholding the second pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Encouraging as this is, premature celebration would be naïve, as much work remains to solve the political impasse and humanitarian emergency that prevents the Iraqi state from upholding its primary protection obligations.

ISIS Targeting Iraq’s Minorities

Since the early days of the ISIS advance, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch has documented  the persecution of minority groups in great detail. In a statement released in July, the organization noted the “killing, kidnapping, and threatening” of religious and ethnic minorities in Mosul and the surrounding area. Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson warned that “Being a Turkman, a Shabak, a Yazidi, or a Christian in ISIS territory can cost you your livelihood, your liberty, or even your life.” She went on to state that “ISIS seems intent on wiping out all traces of minority groups from areas it now controls in Iraq.”

Violence against Iraq’s minorities is alarming for the fact that such targeting is identified as an indicator for determining the risk of genocide under the Analysis Framework released by the Office of the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide.  Indeed, ISIS has gone about destroying religious and cultural relics deemed heretical, while most of the Christian population have fled Mosul after the July 19th ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or be killed. This practice has spread to other Iraqi towns in recent days, as ISIS has begun to challenge the Kurdish Regions of Iraq, resulting in more devastating consequences for minority groups.

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Displaced Yazidis participate in demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border August 13, 2014. Reuters/Youssef Boudlal

The smoking gun that triggered a more proactive international response was the attack on the town of Sinjar that left approximately 25,000 Yazidi Iraqis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Before rescue efforts began, stranded Yazidis faced the very real risk of being slaughtered by ISIS as they attempted to leave, while those who remained were cut-off from adequate food and water supplies.  ISIS is believed to have killed several hundred Yazidis and threats from the Islamist group and other sympathetic Sunnis continue.

While it has been reported that many Yazidis have since been rescued, other accounts claim that those too weak to leave – namely children, the elderly, and the sick – remain immobilized on the mountain. Iraq’s Christian population faces similar dangers, as Qaraqosh – the  largest Christian town in Iraq – was recently overrun, creating 200,000 additional refugees that have faced the same ultimatum as those in and around Mosul.

UN Officials Respond to Mass Atrocities, Invoke RtoP

These worrisome developments have prompted a number of UN experts to express grave concern. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák has since stated that “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours – civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril.” She added that “the responsibility to protect populations at risk of atrocity crimes falls both on the Iraqi Government and the international community.”

The Special Advisers to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and The Responsibility to Protect, Adama Dieng, and Jennifer Welsh also condemned the attacks, warning that such acts “constitute grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” Ominously, they also cautioned that “The reports we have received of acts committed by the “Islamic State” may also point to the risk of genocide.” Like other UN officials, they have called on regional and global actors to provide support to help avert further atrocity crimes.

Secretary-General meeting President elect of the Republic of Iraq. UN Photo.

Additionally, the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov drew special attention to the plight of vulnerable women, girls and boys after reporting that “Atrocious accounts on the abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner.” The two jointly condemned these acts of sexual violence as potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, while joining other UN officials in invoking RtoP.

 

RtoP’s Second Pillar in Action

While the term ‘Responsibility to Protect’ was not used directly in authorizing airstrikes in Iraq, the action taken by the U.S. and others was requested by the Iraqi Government, and done—at least in part—with the intent of preventing an imminent genocidal threat to civilians.  For all intents and purposes, the assistance offered constitutes a second pillar response to a mass atrocity situation.

As ICRtoP’s recent publication on the matter explains, pillar two can indeed include the use of force when requested by a sovereign state; though this is usually subordinated to capacity-building measures that allow states to uphold their primary protection obligations. The latter has been pledged by the UK and Germany and includes financial and non-lethal aid to the Iraqi army, in addition to France’s offer to transfer arms to the Kurds.

Prominent RtoP scholars and advocates have confirmed the legitimacy of the U.S. intervention, lauding it as an appropriate measure to protect Iraq’s minorities.  For example, Gareth Evans wrote in an article titled “The Right Iraqi Invasion” that:

The United States’ action is completely consistent with the principles of the international responsibility to protect (R2P) people at risk of mass-atrocity crimes…The US military intervention touches all the necessary bases of legality, legitimacy and likely effectiveness in meeting its immediate objectives.

Similarly, Alex Bellamy clarified the intervention’s second pillar nature by stating:

This US action to help protect Iraq’s civilians from ISIS sits squarely under pillar two of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle, which relates to the international community’s responsibility to assist states to fulfill their responsibility to protect their populations…The use of force comes in response to a specific request for assistance from a member state—helping a state fulfill its R2P (as mentioned in paragraph 138 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome on R2P) and assisting a state under stress (paragraph 139 of the same agreement).”

Certainly, such assistance is a positive development for the Yazidi population, and a welcome example of the international community embracing its second pillar responsibilities. However, many challenges remain to permanently defeat the ISIS threat and to ensure all civilians are protected in Iraq.

 

A More Effective Pillar II Response

There is widespread acknowledgement that at the heart of the crisis is the political division between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds that has been fermented by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian form of governance, and prevented any unified response to extremism. In recognizing this reality, Obama reiterated a key tenant of the U.S. strategy when he authorized military action, stating that ultimately there can be “no military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

It is worth noting again that while current U.S. action falls within the second pillar of RtoP, there are also non-military protection measures that can be taken. While this includes the financial and logistical assistance provided by European countries, additional contributions can include dialogue and mediation assistance to help Iraqis overcome divisive issues obscuring the path to reconciliation. It is also important that actors assess how their assistance affects the likelihood of the further commission of atrocity crimes, and that action is taken accordingly.

In this vein, the recent Security Council resolution that extended the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) recognized the importance of dialogue and reconciliation and stressed the need for continued support to the Iraqi people, civil society and the Government in this regard.

International Crisis Group also recommends that “International recognition of Maliki’s legitimacy, or that of any successor, should be contingent on statesmanship, namely immediate and consequential movement on the reforms expected of him for years,” thus ensuring that the patterns of exclusion and repression are not repeated.

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Iraqi Yazidis receive assistance at the Newroz refugee camp. UK DFID.

RtoP’s second pillar also outlines a role for international actors to assist Internally Displace Persons when the capacity of the state to protect these groups is weak or non-existent. To this end, Amnesty International has encouraged an expanded effort to provide relief,  statingThe Iraqi central government, the Kurdish Regional Government, donor countries and international agencies must take concerted action to provide safe shelter and humanitarian assistance to men, women and children of all backgrounds forced to flee in the face of such ferocious brutality.”

The recent UN declaration that Iraq has reached a third level humanitarian emergency was made in hopes that it will “facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements.” It is now mostly up to the international community to provide this support.

Uniting to Protect Iraq’s Civilians

In Iraq, there remains a dual challenge of ensuring the immediate protection needs of threatened populations, and achieving a long-term political solution backed by a unified government, representative of all segments of society.  Maliki’s recent decision to step down after tension over the selection of Haidar Al-Abadi as his replacement is a positive sign of progress. Further pressure from the international community is needed to encourage Iraq’s leaders to set aside political and sectarian grievances and unite for the common cause of defending Iraq’s civilians from the extremist threat and averting an all out civil war. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warnedThere is no way humanitarians can clean up the mess made by politicians. What they really need is peace.

For more information on the crisis in Iraq, see the country pages by ICRtoP and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

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Filed under genocide, Reconciliation, RtoP, Second Pillar, Syria

Myanmar’s Controversial Census, Discriminatory Laws Further Stoke Atrocity Fears

Myanmar’s Rohingya population currently faces a worrisome combination of grave human rights conditions and a dire humanitarian crisis. For decades, the Muslim minority have been marginalized under the military junta and remain so since the country began undertaking some democratic reforms beginning in 2011. However, since 2012 the situation has become markedly worse following the violence and forced displacement inflicted upon them by Buddhist mobs in Rakhine state. An ICRtoP post from August of last year provides an overview of the deadly violence, detailing government participation and the response of civil society organizations.

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UN Special Adviser on Myanmar meets with Buddhists, and Muslim refugees in March 2013. AP Photo/Khin Maung Win.

Since last covering the crisis, the situation remains largely unimproved and indeed appears to be worsening. 140,000 Rohingya have been forced into cramped displacement camps, criticised by international aid groups for their languid conditions. Some observers have even evoked the imagery of a “concentration camp”  to describe them. Many more Rohingya have fled, embarking on perilous journeys to neighbouring Malaysia and Thailand where they are exposed to the dangers of trafficking and other abuses.

Violent attacks continue, as for instance in January of 2014, when 40 men, women and children were killed in northern Rakhine, and as recently as a week ago when Buddhists mobs looted and attacked Muslim shops and mosques in Mandalay, killing 2 and injuring many more. Compounding all of this is the government’s decision to order the suspension of Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) operations in Rakhine State, cutting off a major source of humanitarian assistance and health care for displaced Rohingya. Other aid groups have since come under attack, further limiting assistance to populations in need.

Marginalization and persecution also continue, as Rohingya are denied the right to citizenship by the state. Restrictions on freedom of movement and policies for population control, including a two-child policy, also feature as official state decree. Such treatment is enforced by the state security forces and endorsed by the country’s majority Buddhist population, encouraged by extreme nationalist factions such as the 969 movementwho are convinced that Muslims threaten to overtake Buddhists as the dominant religious group.

 

Proposed Laws and the National Census Exacerbate Human Rights Concerns

The most recent Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar continued to express deep concern for the situation of the Rohingya. Recent developments do little to assuage such concerns. First, the government recently sponsored a discriminatory bill advocated by the 969 movement through way of petition that received 2.5 million signatures, many of which are believed to have been obtained forcefully. The bill places restrictions on religious conversion and inter-faith marriage, both policies seen to be aimed at placating the anti-Muslim sentiments of the 969 movement by unlawfully preventing the further spread of Islam. In response, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom and Belief has called on the government to scrap the bill, claiming “State interferences into the right to change one’s religion or belief are per se illegitimate and incompatible with international human rights standards.”

Furthermore, the recent national census has now added to the potential discord, due to its controversial inclusion of data on religion, ethnicity and citizenship that groups such as International Crisis Group (ICG) warned would exacerbate inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions.  A last minute government decision to remove “Rohingya” as an official ethnicity, instead allowing the option to identify as “Bengali,” was the result of such tensions. The decision was largely taken due to threats of violence and census boycotts by Rakhine state Buddhists and the 969 movement, who objected to the Rohingya’s inclusion. Bowing to this pressure and labelling Rohingya as Bengali has been a common method used to paint the group as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Speaking to this, The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect criticised the decision, stating that “Denying Rohingyas the ability to self-identify on the census…reinforces the dangerous perception that Rohingya are ethnic outsiders.”

 

Civil Society Warns of Myanmar’s “March to Genocide”

Many NGOs are raising alarm bells over the abuses being committed in Myanmar. For example, Bangkok-based ICRtoP member Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-BURMA) has done valuable work documenting human rights abuses through publications such as their “monthly bulletin”. The bulletin for the month of June, 2014 warns that “In Arakan [Rakhine] State, regime security forces and extremist Buddhist Rakhine continued discriminatory policies and open attacks on Rohingya communities.” The bulletin lists a number of incidents involving unlawful arrests, looting, and physical violence committed against Rohingya and their property.

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A woman and her child walk past a damaged mosque after clashes in Meiktila. AFP/BBC photo.

Fortify Rights’ February 2014 report examined leaked documents that confirm and detail state-supported policies of persecution, primarily targeting the Rohingya. Their findings led them to conclude that:

The government policies…systematically single-out Rohingya as a group on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, and at times gender, stripping them of a range of human rights, including the rights to non-discrimination, health, nationality, and freedom of movement. The degree of deprivation is so severe that it would qualify as “persecution” as a crime against humanity under international law

In March, 2014, ICRtoP member United to End Genocide also commissioned a report, ominously titled “Marching to Genocide in Burma” based on a recent fact-finding mission. After witnessing the suffering of the country’s Rohingya, they made the alarming claim that “Nowhere in the world are there more known precursors to genocide than in Burma today.

In yet another instance, Human Rights Watch reported in April of 2013 that “The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues today through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement.

 

The Responsibility to Protect in Myanmar

These findings make it clear that the government of Myanmar is failing its primary obligations to protect the Rohingya from a series of atrocity crimes. Sustained pressure and response from both national and international actors can convince the government to change course, end restrictive, discriminatory policies, and play a more active role in mitigating violence and hatred towards the Rohingya.

ICRtoP member U.S. Campaign for Burma has taken the initiative to encourage the U.S. government to use its rapprochement with Myanmar as an entry point to influence change. Such advocacy led the House of Representatives to pass House Resolution 418, urging the Burmese government to end the persecution of ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims.

Likewise, United to End Genocide has launched a public campaign aimed at the U.S. President and Congress. The campaign calls on the U.S. government to pressure the Myanmar government to rescind their expulsion of MSF, demand a credible and independent investigation into violence against the Muslim minority in lieu of the flawed Rakhine Inquiry Commission, and to update their sanctions list to include those responsible for the most recent violence. The campaign seems to have resonated in Congress, as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently called for a range of punitive measures against the government of Myanmar that includes visa bans, an end to U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation, and potential economic sanctions.

Police officers guard a Muslim residential area in Mandalay

Police officers guarding a Muslim residential area in Mandalay. Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters.

The broader international community also has a key role to play. Given the potential for the census results to inflame further violence, ICG recommends that census donors accept responsibility for their lack of due diligence in ensuring a sound process, and encourage Myanmar’s government to reconsider the release of the results, given the sensitive political realities.  Refugees International has also recommended donors establish a “crisis cell” in cooperation with Myanmar’s Minister of Immigration and Population, Minister for the President’s Office, and the UN resident humanitarian coordinator to respond to any crisis associated with the census.

In addition, Fortify Rights has called on the international community to urge the government to abide by recommendations of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, abolish local orders that restrict the basic human rights of Rohingya, and communicate to all national, local and community authorities that these practices are not to be encouraged or enforced.

Importantly, they also recommend the provision of “financial, technical, and advocacy support” for local human rights defenders. This constituent could be crucial in changing the government’s current course, and indeed a growing swell of civil society resistance from prominent groups such as the 88 Generation Student Group is increasing domestic pressure to end abusive and discriminatory practices.

There is some indication that this pressure is working, as the government has introduced a pilot program for validation of citizenship that may offer Rohingya a path to naturalization. However, the viability of this program is in question after controversy over the census. It has also been noted that such support runs the risk of putting these groups in danger, as overt assistance may be seen as reinforcing the Buddhist narrative that their way of life is under threat from both Muslims and the international community. Therefore, donors should be calculated in their support programming.

 

Myanmar’s Democratic Transition: Entry Point for Assistance?

Given the democratic transition occurring in Myanmar, it is easy to focus on this good news story and forget about the conditions making life for the country’s Rohingya insufferable. However, just as the country’s political opening has created the space for extremist voices; it also provides opportunity to foster a true democratic culture. The international community’s reengagement can be used as an entry point to provide assistance under the second pillar of RtoP, thus providing incentives and capacity-building for the government of Myanmar to uphold its primary responsibility. Addressing the question of citizenship and abolishing all current and proposed government policies that limit basic human rights would be a positive first step.

For more information on the crisis in Myanmar and how the Responsibility to Protect applies, visit our crisis page and our ‘At a Glance’ feature.

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UN Peacekeeping: New Trends and Implications for Civilian Protection

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International UN Peacekeeping Day celebration in DR Congo. MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani

International peacekeeping is a vital tool in the United Nations’ proverbial ‘toolbox’ for upholding its Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).  May 29 was celebrated as International UN Peacekeeping Day to the refrain of “Force for the Future,”  kicking off a six-month initiative to raise political support for the modernization of UN peacekeeping with the hopes of further realizing its value and cost-effectiveness, and meeting the present realities faced by today’s ‘blue helmets’.

In the words of the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edward Mulet, “The world is changing. The threats are changing. The levels of conflict are changing in many places in the world…so we have to adapt and we have to evolve and we have to learn how to deal with these new challenges.”

These new challenges are linked to a number of features of modern conflict. Today’s conflicts tend to be intra-as opposed to inter-state, and disproportionately affect civilians populations who are often targeted by armed groups. Conflicts are becoming more complex and multi-dimensional, as are the threats they produce. Furthermore, it is common for operations to be launched in the midst of a conflict, where there is in fact no peace to keep. These developments are challenging the precepts that characterise what has been called the ‘holy trinity’ of ‘classical peacekeeping,’ namely: host-government consent, impartiality, and minimal use of force.

Protection of Civilians (PoC) and Other Evolving Trends

A recent report by the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the implementation of Protection of Civilian (PoC) mandates in UN peacekeeping operations touches on an important evolutionary characteristic of “modern” operations. The report notes that to date, thirteen UN peacekeeping missions have included a robust PoC mandate – nine of which are current. In addition, several have included an “all means necessary” stipulation under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The PoC agenda evolved from the same discourse that spawned RtoP and shares much of the underpinning legal and moral justification. Indeed, the two agendas reinforce each other in many ways. However, it is important to note that PoC and RtoP remain separate areas. A crucial distinction is that RtoP is narrowly focused on the four mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. RtoP does not extend beyond these crimes, though it does extend to situations outside of armed conflict. On the other hand, PoC is narrowly focused on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, but applies to a larger range of human rights violations than just the four crimes. For more information on the distinctions and similarities between the two agendas, visit ICRtoP’s PoC information page.

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Brazilian peacekeeper on patrol in Haiti. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David A. Frech/Released)

Along with the proliferation of PoC mandates and Chapter VII authorizations, developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may be indicative of another new trend. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2098 established the UN ‘Force Intervention Brigade’ (FIB) in DRC, providing MONUSCO with the capacity and authorization to proactively engage in the protection of civilians through disarmament of Congo’s many armed groups, unambiguously approving the use of force with “targeted offensive operations.” The brigade played a decisive role in the defeat of the M23 movement last year. However, as it stands now, this remains an exceptional case and indeed was only agreed to by Russia and China on this condition.

 

How effective have PoC Mandates Been?

While it is important to continuously adapt to new challenges, it is also important to assess how these are being implemented in actuality.

On the issue of civilian protection, OIOS found several obstacles to the effective implementation of PoC mandates. Strikingly, the report found that, for a number of reasons, force is almost never used to protect civilians – even as a last resort and with legal authorization to do so. Such reasons include the interpretive viewpoint of mission commanders, an aversion to putting troops in harm’s way, a shortage of troops and resources, fear of consequence for the misuse of force, and confusion over how the notion of consent applies in instances where government forces appear to be instigating or perpetrating violence against civilians.

OIOS made a number of recommendations for improving this record, importantly pointing to the necessity of bridging operational understanding at all levels to mend the broken “chain” of activities designed to protect civilians. It also recommended reporting to the Security Council in the event that instructions are not fully carried out in regards to civilian protection, along with improved coordination between peacekeeping and humanitarian entities.

 

Security Council Holds Open Debate on New Trends in UN Peacekeeping

The open debate held on June 11, 2014 brought together troop, police and finance-contributing countries (TCCs, PCCs, and FCCs respectively) to discuss these findings, as well as other recent trends in UN peacekeeping.

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Head of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, inspects an Unmanned/Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for use in eastern DRC. MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti

A concept note that preceded the debate highlighted technological innovations that have presented the UN with new tools for carrying out their mandates more effectively. This includes the use of Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UUAVs) and new medical and engineering equipment. Such technological innovation is said to“… contribute to the fuller implementation of mandates by peacekeepers and improved safety and security of personnel, as well as better situational awareness.” 

The note also mentions that missions have become much more multi-dimensional in nature, with military, police and civilian components deployed by various international actors existing simultaneously. This covers the full spectrum of intervention, from the brokering and monitoring of a ceasefire, to disarmament, reconciliation, peacebuilding and statebuilding activities.

Thus far, these have been implemented within a “fragmented policy and legal framework”, making consensus and standard guidance crucial – particularly as the time-honored principles of neutrality, consent and minimal use of force are being challenged.

Different Perspectives on Peacekeeping Developments

While 47 delegates made statements during the debate, a few samples from major TCC, PCC, and FCCs illustrate the scope of concerns.

As the third largest African troop and police contributing country, as well as the current Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, Rwandan Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana touched on some key issues. The Ambassador voiced his support for robust peacekeeping mandates stating:

“Given the nature of current threats to peacekeeping, Rwanda believes that the deployment of robust peacekeepers is essential to not only effectively protect civilians but also to protect themselves in increasingly hostile and volatile environments.”

However, he qualified this statement with the warning that:

“…we cannot expect peacekeepers to engage in robust peacekeeping tasks without necessary preparation and resources. If we do not have the ability to insert forces and to conduct casualty and medical evacuations or airlifts, then we have major problems and should not have deployed in the first place.”

On the question of new technologies, Gasana recognized its value as a key enabler, but simultaneously cautioned that, regarding the use of UUAV’s, “Questions still exist regarding control of information collected, confidentiality, and third party impartiality.” The concern over use and legalities were common themes among many member states.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers his remarks at the open debate on June 11, 2014. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis of the Permanent Mission of the United States spoke for the world’s largest FCC, and mirrored the concerns of other countries that insist the traditional model of peacekeeping is outdated. Like Rwanda, they were supportive of more robust peacekeeping mandates. The focus of their concern was on ensuring mandates are implemented as effectively as possible, particularly given the bleak findings of the OIOS report. Reflecting on this, the Ambassador lamented:

“At its essence, the report reveals a significant gap that has emerged between the commitments we set down on paper – which constitute a responsibility to act – and the way missions perform in practice. The larger this gap grows, the more vulnerable civilians become, and the less credible this organization and the peacekeepers representing it become.” The Ambassador urged consideration of the report’s conclusions.

Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, the Permanent Representative of India provided a different perspective. A noted skeptic of the expanding role of UN peacekeeping, India was particularly vocal in its opposition to the FIB:

In our view, such a mixing of mandates directly affects the operational effectiveness of the peacekeeping operation, exposing traditional peacekeepers to unnecessary threats from armed internal conflicts which the United Nations has not itself instigated.”  

Furthermore, India bemoaned the lack of funding and resources being volunteered for peacekeeping operations, particularly in complex and multi-dimensional environments:

On the one hand, the new mandates of UNPKOs are ambitiously drafted, running into many pages, as good governance templates. On the other hand, the very same pen-holders drafting these new mandates cavil at having to pay more money for peacekeepers tasked to implement these mandates.”

India’s comments represent a number of states who expressed similar reservations over the use of force and overly-ambitious mandates, seen as threatening classical peacekeeping.

Key Recommendations for Improvement

Though an outcome document has yet to emerge from the debate, it is possible to piece together some of the main recommendations to address concerns of TCCs, PCCs and FCCs alike. These include:

  • Inclusive consultations between the Security Council and the General Assembly to derive consensus on delicate issues, such as use of force, equipment and mission costs.
  • Providing clear mandates with standard operating procedures plainly defined.
  • Better communication at command and tactical levels to bridge the gap between planning and implementation.
  • A standard regulatory framework for the use of new technologies, such as UUAV’s.
  • Improvement of inter-mission cooperation to fill logistical and capacity gaps and leverage synergies.
  • Matching ambitious multi-dimensional mandates with adequate resource and funding commitments.
  • Continuing to recognize and create an enabling environment for activities that lead to sustainable peace and development – including incorporating a Women’s Peace and Security lens, security and justice sector reform, and dialogue and reconciliatory efforts.

Steps such as these could help reconcile the need for innovation and adaptability with the concerns of states that are leery of leading UN peacekeeping too far from its roots. Ultimately, this will ensure peacekeeping operations are better prepared and equipped to protect vulnerable civilians from mass atrocities, securing its status as a key tool in the RtoP toolkit and making it a true “Force for the Future.”

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Spotlight Member Series: The Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

In the re-launch of ICRtoP’s ‘Spotlight Member Series’, we turn our attention to one of our Canadian coalition members – The Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Recently, the organization has been active in promoting The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP or R2P) through scholarly and political engagement within Canada and beyond, with campaigns like “From the Rwandan Genocide to the Responsibility to Protect: A Journey of Lessons Learned” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Read on to find out more about their great work:

 

Founding Objectives – Continuing Canada’s Leadership on the Responsibility to Protect

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The Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

 When the international community was faced with the critical question of how to reconcile the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities with state sovereignty, the Canadian government was at the forefront of efforts to address this challenge. They emerged as a key government-sponsor of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which led to the groundbreaking 2001 ICISS report that gave birth to, ‘The Responsibility to Protect’.

However, in recent years Canada’s leadership on advancing RtoP has waned due to changes in government and its priorities. Many organizations recognized this missing gap in the Canadian leadership since the endorsement of RtoP in 2005, including our colleagues at the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (CCR2P) – an independent non-partisan research organization in the Munk School of Global Affairs established in 2010.  According to co-founders Victor MacDiarmid and Tina Park, “We felt a compelling need to continue Canada’s leadership on the R2P principle through research and advocacy,” which the Centre has strived to do by promoting scholarly engagement on RtoP at all levels.

 

Advancing RtoP through Research, Advocacy and Networking

We asked our partners at CCR2P to share some of their initiatives for advancing the RtoP principle and were impressed with the activities used to further dialogue with the academic community, political actors, civil society groups and the general public.  One forum is their annual conference that has brought together notable Canadian personalities such as Hon. Bill Graham, the former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence, Ms. Naomi Kikoler from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, as well as other international scholars and policy-makers.

More recently, the organization has been expanding its efforts and is becoming increasingly innovative in their means of promoting RtoP. In the spring of 2014, CCR2P co-hosted a campaign with the International Relations Program and the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at The University of Toronto (U of T) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide (which largely created the impetus for the RtoP principle) and the journey of lessons learned.

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CCR2P student panel discussion featuring Lloyd Axworthy and Madeleine Albright.

The ‘Rwanda20’ campaign consisted of many events, including their annual conference “From the Rwandan Genocide to the Responsibility to Protect” featuring Dr. Jennifer Welsh, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Responsibility to Protect, as keynote speaker. Additionally, they hosted a student panel discussion with Dr. Madeleine Albright and Hon. Lloyd Axworthy  and conducted outreach to ten high-schools in the Greater Toronto Area for a workshop on genocide education using the ICRtoP toolkit. Lastly, utilizing different media platforms, CCR2P generated discussion and debate, creating a publication series called “Canadian Voices on R2P” with the Canadian International Council (CIC)’s OpenCanada.org . A film festival called “Eyes on Genocide” covering the Rwandan Genocide, the Armenian Genocide and the Cambodian Genocide was also held.

This multi-faceted campaign was complemented by the launch of CCR2P’s ‘R2P Scholars Network’ – a program aimed at connecting junior and senior researchers working to advance the RtoP principle to “collectively work together in promoting R2P-related scholarship and activism.” The global network consists of 24 fellows ranging from the Hague Institute for Global Justice to Yale University, and is rapidly expanding. A CCR2P Journal with contributions from their fellows is planned for release in 2015.

 

Focus on Building the Knowledge Base for RtoP

Already, CCR2P’s student researchers have been carrying out important work. The Parliamentary Division based at U of T tracks the Canadian government’s policy on RtoP, as well as different ways in which RtoP has been reflected in Canadian foreign policy since its inception. On the crisis in Syria research is being conducted to analyze the civilian impact, most notably using infographics to educate and call for timely protective action, and to trace humanitarian aid to Syria to better understand distribution. Additional research is being conducted on the African Standby Force and implications for RtoP as well as how new surveillance and military technologies can help spur effective mass atrocity prevention.

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CCR2P researchers and panelists at the 2014 annual conference.

Perhaps the most innovative CCR2P contribution is their R2Plive.org database, which tracks and catalogues various RtoP-related findings online, reporting in a real-time basis andcategorizing them by variables such as region of origin, key themes, language, genre, and more. This useful information hub aims to eventually cover all six official UN languages and add to its current 3000+ articles.

 

Providing a Platform for Discussion to Influence Canadian Policy

When asked what future policy developments CCR2P wished to see in regards to RtoP and Canada’s involvement, our partners pointed to their plan to host an all-party panel discussion to advocate for a national RtoP focal point in the fall of 2014. The RtoP Focal Point initiative is one mechanism for domesticating genocide prevention strategies, as well as expanding the global “community of commitment” to RtoP, which to date, Canada has yet to join.

Many influential Canadian voices featured in CCR2P’s publication series with the CIC have echoed such sentiments for renewed Canadian leadership. For example, Naomi Kikoler wrote in her piece, ‘Time for Canada to Recommit to R2P’ that:

Canada is largely absent from conversations about how to ‘domesticate’ R2P… we are not part of this broader effort to coordinate and systematize early warning and timely action… Canada should be advancing R2P domestically by appointing an R2P Focal Point and leading efforts to operationalize R2P internationally, including by defending R2P from detractors and taking action to save lives…

Others such as Roméo Dallaire and Canadian senator Hugh Segal added to the choir of voices calling for Canada to follow countries like the United States in internalizing genocide prevention strategies, and to lead international efforts towards more effective and timely peacekeeping responses.

These would be crucial steps in reigniting Canada’s strong support of the RtoP norm and addressing the missing gap in leadership that was the impetus for launching the CCR2P. Their efforts in this regard, along with all ongoing research and awareness-raising activities are both welcomed and applauded by the ICRtoP.

 Stay up to date on the work of CCR2P by following them on Twitter, liking their page on Facebook and visiting their website.

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Filed under CivSoc, ICRtoP Members, RtoP, Spotlight Post, Uncategorized

Crisis in Nigeria: A Case for RtoP’s Second Pillar

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Protesters take to the streets of Abuja to demand the release of the abducted girls. AFP/Getty Images.

In recent days, there has been unprecedented international attention on the Boko Haram threat in Nigeria. Largely spurred by the appalling kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok and the ensuing social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, popular pressure has forced western governments to take notice and answer the Nigerian government’s request for assistance in their efforts to combat Boko Haram and rescue the kidnapped girls.

Such action is consistent with pillar II of the responsibility to protect (RtoP), which calls on the international community to provide assistance and capacity-building to states that are under stress and unable to protect their civilian population from mass atrocity crimes. Nigeria is a strong case for RtoP’s second pillar, as numerous sources have warned the despicable acts occurring in the country can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a United Nations Security Council (UNSC)press statement, the Council condemned the Boko Haram attacks and stressed that “all perpetrators of such acts must be held accountable at national or international levels, and that some of those acts may amount to crimes against humanity under international law.”

Amnesty International echoed these concerns, based on interviews with residents, lawyers, human rights campaigners, and hospital staff, as well as satellite imagery. Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa stated that:

The escalation of violence in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014 has developed into a situation of non-international armed conflict in which all parties are violating international humanitarian law.  We urge the international community to ensure prompt, independent investigations into acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

 

International Action

The 2009 Secretary-General’s Report “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” suggests that pillar II assistance can take any of the following forms: (a) encouraging States to meet their responsibilities under pillar one; (b) helping them to exercise this responsibility;  (c) helping them to build their capacity to protect ; and (d) assisting states “under stress before crises and conflicts break out.” The report lays out a variety of tools for delivery that range from education and training, diplomacy, and development assistance, to military support and consent-based peacekeeping.

The type of assistance that has been forthcoming so far is mostly in line with the military option. This includes intelligence, surveillance, and technical support for hostage negotiations and counter-terrorism efforts offered by the UK, US, France, and China. On April 17, France hosted a security summit gathering regional African heads of state from Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Cameroon and Niger. Here, regional cooperation and information and intelligence sharing were emphasized as crucial mechanisms in the fight against Boko Haram.

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The Paris Summit for Security in Nigeria. Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images.

While these developments are welcomed, it would be wise to heed warnings about the limitations of such action. This type of technical military assistance – while a good short-term measure for rescuing the kidnapped girls – does not address the structural weaknesses of the Nigerian state, or the dubious human rights record of their security forces.

 

The Limitations of Military Assistance in Nigeria

Sarah Margon of Human Rights Watch offered a searing indictment of the government’s military response that reveals a stark conundrum:

The tactics of the government security forces are barely more palatable than those of the militants themselves. Nigerian security forces are known for raiding local communities, executing men in front of their families, arbitrarily arresting and beating people, burning residential property and stealing money while searching homes.

Meanwhile, in writing for UN Dispatch, Mark Leone Goldberg stressed the multi-dimensional nature of the crisis:

“#StrengthenInstitutionsofGovernance doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as #BringBackOurGirls but the fact is, the inability to deliver healthcare, security, education, and other basic services fuels the instability that gives rise to militant groups like Boko Haram

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A Nigerian soldier patrolling the streets of Baga in Borno State, April 30, 2013. Pius Utomi Ekpei AFP/Getty Images.

This demonstrates the complex challenge that faces efforts to assist the Nigerian state in combating Boko Haram and bringing stability to the country. In this sense, what is required is what is referred to in the 2009 Secretary-General’s report as “conflict-sensitive” development analysis to alleviate, and not exacerbate, conditions that may lead to mass atrocity crimes. Approaching the crisis through this lens reveals a need for what the Secretary-General describes as “…assistance programmes that are carefully targeted to build specific capacities within societies that would make them less likely to travel the path to crimes relating to the responsibility to protect.

In the case of Nigeria, provision of technical military assistance without sufficient attention to the egregious conduct of the state security forces, or underlying societal issues that  create the breeding ground for radicalism, risks becoming a mere “band-aid” solution. Worse, it may intensify conditions leading to mass human rights violations.

 

Conflict-Sensitive Pillar II Assistance: Recommendations from Civil Society

For truly effective pillar II assistance that will strengthen the Nigerian state’s ability to uphold its RtoP while simultaneously addressing root causes, several ICRtoP members and civil society groups have provided useful recommendations.

In the article mentioned above, Coalition member HRW recommends that in assisting the Nigerian government, the United States should follow their own federal due diligence laws to ensure that no military personnel accused of human rights violations are involved in operational planning or initiatives, while encouraging the Nigerian government to conduct impartial investigations of any personnel that have been involved in such crimes. According to Magnon, “To do any less might make the situation worse — and make the U.S. complicit in Nigeria’s abuses.” The same can be said for other states offering assistance.

International Crisis Group has called on Nigeria’s international partners to support domestic initiatives such as a Far North Development Commission, anti-corruption campaigns, small business investment and other programs that address poverty, youth unemployment and women’s lack of empowerment. Doing so will “switch from a mainly military approach to the challenge from Boko Haram, and radicalism in general, to one more attuned to root causes.” This is essential, as it has been noted that corruption and underdevelopment motivate Boko Haram’s youth recruits more than an extreme Islamist agenda.

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A UNDP-supported Nigerian school. Bridget Ejegwa/UNDP

From a regional standpoint, African civil society group African Women’s Development and Communication’s Network called on regional organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS to provide “…substantive support to the Nigerian Government to address the underlying systemic issues, including the climate of violence and insecurity in which groups like Boko Haram thrive,” highlighting the importance of ensuring safe spaces for education and justice for crimes committed in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

A local Nigerian organization, The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria also stressed a multi-disciplinary approach to combating Boko Haram, while making specific recommendations to “engage the communities with a view to restoring/building public confidence and cooperation with the police/security forces,” emphasizing the crucial role of civil society in cultivating positive relationships.

Such recommendations are representative of a range of options that are more long-term and deep-rooted than military assistance alone.  They satisfy the different forms of second pillar assistance identified in the 2009 Secretary-General’s report, with a focus on such interconnected  issues  as socio-economic development, improving access to justice and the rule of law, and reform of the security sector. The latter was recently reaffirmed as a critical tool for conflict prevention in a UNSC resolution and linked directly to the state’s ability to uphold RtoP by Ban Ki-moon. This is particularly relevant in the Nigerian context, and in delivering appropriate second pillar assistance, context is everything.

For a detailed overview of the conflict in Nigeria within the context of the Responsibility to Protect, visit our recently updated crisis page.

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No Stability Without Accountability

On 15 December 2013, political tensions within South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), boiled over. In Juba, members of the presidential guard loyal to President Salva Kiir fought those who supported former Vice-President Riek Machar. Violence spread quickly throughout the capital and into Unity and Jonglei states, taking on a worrying ethnic dimension as Dinka and Nuer – Kiir and Machar’s ethnic groups, respectively – targeted one another. (See our South Sudan page for more details about the crisis). 

As the Security Council prepares to meet on Friday, 2 May on the situation in South Sudan (with a briefing from UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng), ICRtoP releases its latest blog piece. Written by ICRtoP’s Aisling Leow, the blog examines the most recent shocking ethnic violence in the South Sudanese towns of Bentiu and Bor, the latest attempts at peace talks and mediation, and the ultimate need for accountability. 

Attacks in Bentiu and Bor, April 15-17 

While South Sudan has been consumed by violence since December, the events of two weeks ago are arguably the most shocking of the conflict. On the 15th and 16th of April, predominantly Nuer rebel forces captured the town of Bentiu in Unity state, killing at least 400 in ethnically targeted violence. The following day, a Dinka group gained entry to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Bor and opened fire on its mostly-Nuer inhabitants. Initial reports stated that at least 58 people were killed, and 100 wounded, including two UN peacekeepers.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the Bor attack as a war crime, a move followed by the Security Council and several states. UNMISS has decried the killings in Bentiu, and the use of hate speech over the radio. Civil society groups have been vocal, including Coalition member United to End Genocide, and have called for a full cessation of hostilities and an investigation into the violence.

There has also been increased activity at the UN. The Security Council has held an emergency meeting on 23 April 2014, while Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, have travelled to South Sudan on 28 April at the Secretary General’s request.

But where do we go from here? As the world wakes up to an ongoing crisis suddenly highlighted by the attacks in Bentiu and Bor, it should be aware of the possible ‘next steps’ in the international community’s response and the undeniable necessity of ensuring accountability for such atrocities.

The Immediate Need for a Ceasefire

In the short-term, everything hinges on an enforced ceasefire. Speaking in Juba on 28 April, Pillay said the ‘immediate concern’ was that both parties respected the cessation of hostilities agreement – signed on 23 January 2014, and largely ignored since.

Peace negotiations mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – a regional organisation – are the most promising efforts toward this end. In fact, the talks have been described by Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as ‘the only game in town’. But this is worrying, given that the status of Phase II negotiations seems to have alternated between ‘delayed’ and ‘stalled’ for the past three months.

To keep parties at the table, the international community has threatened targeted sanctions against those who undermine the peace process. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may impose unilateral American sanctions during his upcoming visit to East Africa. And the Security Council is reportedly considering sanctions too.

Along with the release of four political prisoners in Juba (a previous sticking point in negotiations) these measures are cause for cautious optimism as the third session of talks resume. But US Ambassador to South Sudan, Susan Pagesays she can’t see progress in negotiations without a ceasefire – a worrying catch-22.

One measure meant to ‘reinforce or realize the cessation of hostilities’ was the IGAD Protection and Deterrence Force (PDF) authorised on 13 March 2014. These forces would protect the IGAD teams that have been monitoring the current ‘ceasefire’ since the beginning of April.

There was talk that the force might cooperate with UNMISS on this front, but the PDF has yet to be deployed, and UNMISS has its hands full with more than 75,000 people sheltering in overcrowded UN compounds.

Critical Humanitarian Crisis

Supporting humanitarian access is vital, as ongoing fighting disrupts aid deliveries to 4.9 million people in need of assistance. According to Amnesty International, the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan will kill more people than the conflict.

A ceasefire is crucial to protect a population threatened not only by conflict, but also by the most devastating famine anywhere in 30 years. In light of this, on 29 April 2014 the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Toby Lanzer called for a month-long truce in May to allow people to plant and cultivate before the rains come.

But on 30 April, after meeting both Kiir and Machar, Pillay described the leaders’ reaction to the proposal as ‘luke-warm’.  At the press conference in Juba, Pillay’s remarks reflected the thoughts of many:

“If, in the very near future, there is no peace deal… I shudder to think where South Sudan is heading”.

The Ultimate Need for Accountability

Unfortunately, the events of April 15th – 17th are, as former BBC correspondent James Copnall puts it, ‘only one in a long series of massacres… stretching back decades’. Indeed, many in the rebel army – the force reportedly responsible for massacre in Bentiu – say they joined because of the massacre of 200-300 Nuer by the Dinka in the first days of the war.

At the heart of the problem is South Sudan’s culture of impunity. David Deng, director of the South Sudan Law Societysays it plainly: “No one in South Sudan has ever been held accountable for anything”.

This lack of accountability is – metaphorically – part of the country’s DNA; the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)instrumental to the birth of South Sudan as the world’s youngest country, had only a ‘vague reference’ to reconciliation, and ‘nothing in terms of real accountability for past human rights’. This was in spite of a bloody fight for independence from Sudan (1983-2005), marked by its own massacre in 1991, where 2,000 people are estimated to have died.

Accountability is important not only because it brings justice to victims, but also because it acts as a deterrent to future crimes, and facilitates reconciliation for wounded communities.

As actors pursue a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, the international community has been clear about the need to end impunity this time around – in ‘marked contrast’ to roughly ten years ago, says Amnesty International.

Civil society has been at the forefront of this movement. Days after the attack, the International Centre for Policy and Conflict stressed that:

“Kiir and Machar must unequivocally renounce senseless criminal ethnic violence being committed by their militia supporters and take concrete positive steps to secure peace and stability”.

Citizens for Peace and Justice, based in Juba, called on the government and opposition to:

“Publicly denounce crimes committed by your forces and hold accountable those who directly target civilians as well as those with command responsibility over the acts”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the United Nations Security Council should request a fact-finding mission, and also called on the government of South Sudan to investigate the attack in Bor. Daniel Bekele, HRW Africa Director, warned that:

“[C]ommanders and leaders responsible for abuses on both sides have been let off the hook for too long… Unless they are held accountable for their crimes, the ethnic violence will continue to engulf this young country, with UN peacekeepers left to pick up the pieces.”

On 24 April 2014, in a press statement released following their emergency meeting, the Council asked for an ‘urgent investigation’ into the attack in Bentiu. In the meantime, UNMISS has said the mission’s comprehensive report on human rights violations in South Sudan – due in ‘the coming weeks’ – will cover the attack in Bentiu.

But the most promising avenue for accountability in South Sudan may be the African Union Peace and Security Council Commission of Inquiry – the first of its kind.  Established on 30 December 2013, the commission’s first field mission is taking place between 24 April and 1 May.

The commission’s mandate is challenging, as it is expected to not only investigate the crimes, but also make recommendations on the ‘best ways and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation, and healing’.

Adama Dieng has called the commission a ‘ground-breaking development and a policy watershed’. Analysts say the commission is important not only for South Sudan, but for Africa more widely, given its unique position as a precedentAccording to Casie Copeland, an analyst at International Crisis Group, the commission is an opportunity for the AU to ‘define action in situations of mass atrocities elsewhere on the continent’.

A ceasefire will not be enough for a country where a conflict characterised by ‘tit-for-tat attacks’ has had a ‘brutalising effect’ on its population. If there is to be lasting peace in South Sudan, there is an overwhelming need to end impunity. Dieng’s remarks in Juba on 30 April are clear on this point:

“As we search for peace in this young nation, we must also ensure that those responsible for crimes committed here must be held to account. There can be no peace without justice. The current culture of impunity will only serve to undermine our efforts. We have learned this the hard way, from events in other places, including from the genocide that took place 20 years ago in Rwanda”.

South Sudan urgently needs a ceasefire, but the world’s newest country will not achieve stability without accountability.

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In the Central African Republic, Urgent Challenges Mean UN Peacekeeping no ‘Silver Bullet’ Solution

On April 10, 2014 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 2149 authorizing a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the violence-stricken country of the Central African Republic (CAR). The negotiations in the lead-up represented months of calls to strengthen the African Union and France’s existing forces – known respectively as the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and Operation Sangaris – from UN officials, civil society organizations and the Transitional Authorities of the CAR.

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The Security Council unanimously adopts resolution 2149 (2014), establishing  MINUSCA.UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The resolution authorized the transfer of authority from MISCA to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) effective as of September 15, 2014, while also reminding CAR’s transitional government of their primary responsibility to protect civilian populations. This has been hailed as a critical step in ending the chaos that has plagued the country since the Seleka military coup of March, 2013. The remarks of U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power immediately after its adoption were reflective of many:

“Today the Security Council took an important step toward bringing an end to the atrocities, inter-religious fighting, and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic by authorizing the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation… Having just returned from CAR this morning, I can personally attest to the critical urgency of bringing more security to the Central African Republic.”

The resolution is also notable as the third reference of 2014 to the Responsibility to Protect in a Security Council mandate. However, this is no cause for premature celebration and certainly no ‘silver bullet’ solution.

At present, MISCA and French troops face a complex series of challenges that have prevented the proactive pursuit of their protection mandate and an end to the violence primarily being carried out by the Christian anti-Balaka against the Muslim population. These challenges will not vanish with the announcement of a UN peacekeeping operation, especially as its full mobilization is estimated to take several months. A close examination of parts of the new UNSC resolution reveals its robust and ambitious nature, but must also be considered through the lens of current efforts, noting that many of the same challenges facing MISCA and Sangaris will also await MINUSCA.

 

Miguel Medina, AFP

Chadian MISCA soldiers on patrol in Bangui. Miguel Medina/AFP

Protection of Civilians

Importantly, resolution 2149 commits MINUSCA to the protection of civilians, “without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the Central African Republic authorities… from threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and areas of deployment…”

The additional 10,000 troops and 1,800 police and gendarmes authorized for MINUSCA certainly have the potential to improve protection capacities. However, joint patrols and disarmament efforts by MISCA and Operation Sangaris have so far failed to protect vulnerable civilians and prevent the further breakdown of law and order.

An Amnesty International report  released in February warned that the ethnic cleansing of Muslims was underway and highlighted the failure of international and regional peacekeepers to prevent it.  MISCA and French troops have reportedly been reluctant to engage anti-Balaka forces and have also been largely limited to Bangui in their operational reach. As of April 3, the situation was largely unchanged. Human Rights Watch observed several attacks on small village communities, prompting a researcher to state:

“Peacekeepers are providing security in the main towns, but smaller communities in the southwest are left exposed…International peacekeeping forces should redouble efforts to prevent attacks and protect people from these horrific assaults.”

The latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report estimates that about 632,700 remain internally displaced while another 316,918 have fled to neighbouring countries. Insecurity and the threat to the Muslim population remain so urgent that France and the United Nations have recently agreed to help facilitate their transfer to safer areas in the North and into Chad.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has attributed many of these shortcomings to the fact that international peacekeepers are “under-resourced and overwhelmed”. A larger troop presence could encourage a more proactive pursuit of the civilian protection mandate, and the recent deployment of an 800-strong European Union ‘bridging force’ is welcome in this regard. However, in his six-point plan the Secretary-General has rightly called for more funding and logistical support to assist MISCA in the meantime. Likewise, Refugees International stated in a press release following the adoption of the resolution that:

“There are tens of thousands of vulnerable Central Africans who need protection and assistance…Clearly, a UN peacekeeping operation, once fully deployed, can contribute to peace and stability over the long term. But this mission will not address the atrocities, displacement, and dire humanitarian needs on the ground today.”

Accordingly, they have highlighted some priorities for assistance, including the deployment of additional police personnel to urban areas, increased logistical support in the form of air and ground mobility, the fast-tracking of civilian human rights and civil affairs officers, and increased funding for humanitarian aid.

 

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Support for National and International Justice and the Rule of Law

Two other important and related aspects of resolution 2149 are geared towards improving the human rights situation and ensuring justice and the rule of law. The mission seeks to do this by providing human rights monitors and support to the International Commission of Inquiry. It will also support and assist the Transitional Authorities in prosecuting those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court. The mandate prioritizes strengthening judicial capacities and human rights institutions, as well as building an accountable, impartial and rights-respecting criminal justice system.

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Bernard Acho Muna, Chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

These measures are necessary for ending the current environment of “total impunity” described by Ban Ki-moon. However, this has proven difficult for MISCA and Sangaris. Part of this is due to the fact that they have no reliable national partner on the ground.  There is currently no functioning justice system, and limited police and court proceedings. In a recent article for the Global Observatory, Marina Caparini outlined ways in which UN police peacekeepers can make a difference in ensuring justice and upholding the rule of law:

“International police contribute to the reform, restructuring, and rebuilding of host state police and law enforcement agencies, through the provision of material support and infrastructure such as the refurbishment of police stations, and through the transfer of knowledge via training, monitoring, mentoring, and advising…”

In the long-term, efforts such as this will be essential for developing the Central African state’s ability to carry out rule of law duties and protect the human rights of its citizens. However, Thierry Vircoulon, writing for Coalition member International Crisis Group, has identified the immediate deployment of police resources as an urgent priority, given the escalation in mob violence in Bangui and elsewhere.

 

Transfer from MISCA to MINUSCA

Lastly, it is worth highlighting issues surrounding the transfer of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA. Several obstacles regarding political frictions, the issue of vetting and due diligence, as well as funding and troop contributions have been flagged.

On the political front, Arthur Boutellis and Paul D. Williams point to past difficulties transitioning from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Tensions were identified surrounding insufficient UN consultations with the AU, unclear sequencing, a lack of Security Council funding commitments, disagreement over the mission leadership, and negative AU perceptions of UN operations, which they perceived as too risk averse.

Such problems led Boutellis and Williams to conclude that, in the case of the AFISMA-MINUSMA transition, it revealed “considerable mistrust between the two organizations.” Currently, there is some indication that political tensions may also be arising in CAR, both between the AU and the UN, and MISCA and Sangaris. This could hamper efforts to get the mission off of the ground in a timely manner.

Press TV File photo

African Union troops dawn blue berets after transfer of authority from AFISMA to MINUSMA in Mali. Press TV/ File Photo.

Another noteworthy challenge will be the vetting and due diligence process to ensure that troops being folded into MINUSCA from the existing MISCA operation have not been involved in human rights abuses. Here, there is a dilemma, as the largest AU troop contributor – Chad – was recently involved in an incident in which Chadian peacekeepers opened fire indiscriminately on unarmed civilians. Chad has since withdrawn their troops, but regardless of whether Chad is part of the future UN force, ensuring that troops adhere to the highest standard of international humanitarian and human rights law according to the criteria outlined in the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, is essential for the proper protection of civilians.

Lastly are the challenges of garnering sufficient funding and troop contributions. Commenting on both of these issues, Mark Leone Goldberg wrote for UN Dispatch that:

“Despite these high profile demonstrations of support, traditional donor countries have been relatively stingy when it comes to helping pay for these operations. A pledging conference for the African Union peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA, fell about $100 million short of its $420 million goal”

He goes on to note that the new UN mission will have a price tag of roughly $800 million – $1 billion.

On the issue of troop contributions, Goldberg also added that – without a standing army – gathering enough troops and police personnel could be a lengthy and uncertain process. On this he pointedly states, “If key UN member states make this mission a priority, it will get off the ground quickly. If they do not, it will languish.”

Many challenges to peace and stability remain in the Central African Republic; spite the news of a UN peacekeeping operation. However, if the international community is to successfully meet its potential “R2P moment of truth”, calls to immediately improve protection capacities must be heeded, political will must remain in abundant supply, and political, financial, and logistical challenges need to be overcome.

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