#RtoP Weekly: 5 – 10 August 2018

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Impunity for Rights Violators in Cote d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara granted amnesty to over 800 people implicated in serious human rights violations in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, a decision many feel denied justice to victims and their families. President Ouattara excluded members of the military and armed groups that committed “blood crimes” from amnesty, around 60 people, in spite of Ivorian judges indicting far more than that over the past seven years of proceedings. This has left many confused and concerned about who will indeed face justice for the crimes committed.

After the 2010-2011 post-election crises, Côte d’Ivoire took steps to rebuild and reconcile its fractured country, establishing a National Commission of Inquiry and prosecuting actors on both sides of the conflict. As it is party to multiple international and regional treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and Rome Statute, Côte d’Ivoire has a legally binding obligation to investigate and prosecute the atrocity crimes, but the amnesty measures granted by President Ouattara directly contradict the spirit of truth, justice, and reparations that the treaties represent.

Many major international human rights and humanitarian organizations have denounced the decision, with 11 organizations releasing a joint statement saying, “there should be no amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-11 post-election crisis.” The statement also noted that Côte d’Ivoire’s own history shows that impunity for atrocity crimes can enable further violations and test the resilience of already-fragile states of stability.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly this month, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and crisis situations around the world in September. 

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi 
CAR
DRC

Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Nigeria
South Sudan

Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Kingdom assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on 1 August and established the Rohingya refugee crisis as a priority for the Council this month. The UK Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Karen Pierce, also mentioned the importance of following up on the events occurring in Burma and continuing to make progress on the implementation of the MoU, allowing UN agencies to start talks with the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments to “make a credible plan to bring refugees back home in security, dignity, and safety.”

Japanese and Burmese representatives held a meeting on 6 August to discuss possible solutions for the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. The Japanese Foreign Minister suggested establishing a new commission to conduct a free and transparent examination into the alleged human rights abuses in Rakhine State.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, asked governments from the Asia-Pacific region to show solidarity regarding the Rohingya and offer more support and protection “until solutions are found for refugees.” He also of the importance of working towards a comprehensive solution in order to allow people from the Rakhine State to stay in Burma and not be forced to leave their homes to begin with.


Burundi:

Prior to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), civil society organizations (CSOs) released a letter on 8 August, calling on the body to return the Commission of Inquiry for Burundi. The letter, which Coalition member Human Rights Watch released, outlines the ongoing necessity of the Council’s work to monitor, document, and report on the human rights situation ahead of the 2020 elections and encourage the government’s cooperation and adherence to relevant UN special mechanisms, treaties, and presence in the country.


Central African Republic:

Three UN Peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo were found guilty of the murder of 11 civilians while they were on mission in the Central African Republic. In spite of the gravity of their crimes, the perpetrators only received three-year sentences, leaving human rights organizations dismayed at the lost opportunity to promote justice, accountability, and end impunity for atrocity crimes. Human Rights Watch called it a “slap on the wrist,” and noted that the case not only sets a dangerous precedent for how these cases are handled, but also that the many of the family and community members felt justice was not served.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Moise Katumbi, former Governor of Katanga and one of President Kabila’s biggest opponents, announced his intention to return to the DRC on 3 August, despite the likelihood of his arrest. Katumbi, who went into self-imposed exile in 2016, planned on submitting his presidential candidacy. The discrepancy in treatment between Jean-Pierre Bemba and Katumbi’s returns by President Kabila continues to raise suspicion about the credibility of the elections, as Katumbi was ultimately refused entry into the DRC on 7 August and unable to submit his candidacy.

President Joseph Kabila did not file for an unconstitutional and term-defying re-election. Registration closed on 8 August ending years of speculation about the strength of its democracy. The ruling coalition instead nominated former Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Ramazani, a close ally of Kabila, was sanctioned by the EU in 2017 for alleged human rights violations. Other candidates officially include Jean-Pierre Bemba, Felix Tshisekedi, and Vital Kamerhe.


Gaza / West Bank:

Gaza peace talks continue to progress between Israel and Hamas. The potential deal would allow Palestinians more access to goods, airports, and crossings in exchange for Hamas ceasing to use incendiary kites. Airstrikes launched by Israel on 9 August “struck dozens of targets” in the Gaza strip, killing at least three Palestinians, risking derailment of the ongoing peace negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post reported on 5 August that “three people were wounded when the Israeli Defence Forces opened fire at Palestinians” protesting at the border with Israel on Sunday.

Israeli cabinet member, Zeev Elkin, stated on 6 August that “Egypt is no less responsible” for the dire humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. As UN mediation over Gaza continues, some Egyptian officials have stated that they “would resist any attempt” by Israel to push the responsibility for the situation on to Cairo.


Iraq:

On 3 August, The Guardian reported on the “collective trauma, grief, and loss” plaguing the children of Mosul due to living through constant war throughout their childhoods. Save the children affirms the need for psycho-social assessments and support for all children impacted.

According to an Al Jazeera report produced on 8 August, many wives of ISIL fighters in Iraq whose husbands have been killed or imprisoned now fear attacks if they return  to Mosul. One commented that “if you’ve been branded as an ISIL family, it’s too dangerous to return.”


Libya:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  estimates that over “100 bodies of Europe-bound migrants” escaping violence in Libya have been found by Libya’s coast guard since the beginning of 2018, with around 12,600 “intercepted or rescued” within that same time frame, according to a report released on 6 August.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) launchedtheir “reconciliation is good” media campaign on 6 August to raise citizen awareness about peaceful conflict resolution and the importance of rejecting violence in Libya. The initiative seeks to educate civilians about the need for “a culture of tolerance, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, solidarity and the rejection of violence.”


Nigeria:

On 2 August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) denounced the forced returns of Nigerian asylum seekers and refugees from Cameroon. Over 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers have suffered from forced returns from Cameroon since the beginning of 2018. UNHCR asked the Cameroonian government to stop forced returns and respect its obligations under international law.


South Sudan:

On Friday, 3 August, President Salva Kiir announced his intention to sign the latest peace agreement, which features a power sharing deal reinstating Dr. Riek Machar as First Vice President. He added that he willingly made compromises in order to ensure all parties involved would respect the agreement, and is optimistic about its implementation since it was negotiated without pressure from the international community. Opposition forces in South Sudan also voiced their intentions to continue debates over the future of South Sudan, saying they were not keen on signing the peace agreement, but did so with the assurance that future debate and negotiations for power-sharing and political reform. Parties signed the peace deal on Sunday, 5 August.

South Sudan expert, Douglas Johnson, has commented on the likelihood of the agreement’s implementation and success, providing an analysis of the agreement’s contents. The UN Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Chief, David Shearer, also commended the deal, and urged all sides to continue negotiations for integrating and developing comprehensive security plans to ensure its success.


Syria:

Since 2011, the Syrian government has reportedly conducted attacks on over 450 hospitals, which would be a severe breach of international law. Emergency medicine has been “driven underground,” to the point that “cave hospitals” are being built to avoid air strikes destroying crucial infrastructure.

The US-led coalition in Eastern Syria is preparing training and security projects in efforts to initiate a “stabilization” process in the area. This includes training locals to look for improvised explosive devices and training police to deal with prisons for “former ISIS members” is being instituted.

A map produced by Al Jazeera on 7 August provides a useful demonstration as to which parties control the various territories in Syria after the most recent government offensive in the South-Western region.


Venezuela:

On 1 August, Peru’s Foreign Minister acknowledged the possibility of asking the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a preliminary investigation into Venezuela regarding reported human rights violations.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on 7 August that approximately 117,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum in 2018, surpassing the total number of Venezuelan asylum seekers last year. The Agency also welcomed Brazil’s decision to reopen its borders to arrivals.

Ecuador declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 8 August as new arrivals from Venezuela have climbed to 4,200 a day. The measure aims to expedite medical, social, and immigration assistance to new arrivals.


Yemen:

On 5 August, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces in Hodeidah resulted in over 80 deaths and 100 injuries. Parties hope the city’s port will not close, cutting off aid supplies to Yemen.

On 9 August a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus in the Saada province, killing 43 people and injuring 77. The Red Cross (ICRC) noted that most victims were “under the age of 10.” The bus was travelling through a market at the time it was hit.


Other:

Women offer and occupy a unique role in peacekeeping, and their meaningful participation has been proven as beneficial to the process, yet their deployment numbers in UN Peacekeeping missions remain low. PassBlue released a status update and insight into the situation, analyzing recruitment methods, and barriers to entry including gender-bias in the countries from which they come.

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#RtoP Weekly: 30 July – 3 August 2018

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 Coalition Member Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) Releases Report on Attacks in Southern Syria 

ICRtoP member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), has published a report documenting the attacks occurring in southern Syria allegedly carried out by the Russian-Syrian alliance, as well as Islamic State (ISIL) forces from mid-June to 30 July 2018. The SNHR gathered and compiled photos and videos from internet sources as well as information directly from local activists in order to analyze the extent and gravity of the attacks. The report asserts that the US’ failure to intervene is an abandonment of its bilateral ceasefire agreement with Russia to maintain stability in the region.

The report calls on the international community to act on its Responsibility to Protect as long as the UN Security Council remains divided and unable to act in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to applying pressure on the UNSC, the SNHR hopes that justice and accountability remain at the forefront of the Syrian response, by holding the Syrian government responsible for its actions, urging for the referral of the Syrian Civil War to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for UN agencies to continue documenting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and open commissions of inquiry and investigations.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The IOM, 19,000 refugees, and local workers built 1,150 shelters for Rohingya people, as part of a quick response plan to improve the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees living at risk in Bangladesh during monsoon season.

On 25 July, the Indian Government commissioned a project to compile a list of biometric data of Rohingya refugees who fled to India from Burma to deport them “if necessary.” Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior, stated that the report will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so deportation negotiations with Bangladesh and Burma can begin if necessary. India sees many of the Rohingya as immigrating illegally, but the possibility of forced return to unsafe conditions is of concern under the RtoP norm and refugee law.

The Burmese Government announced on 30 July it would establish a four-person commission to investigate human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State as a reaction to the growing international calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Independent Commission is formed by two local and two international members and it is considered part of Burma’s national roadmap to “address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine”


Central African Republic:

The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced 118 incidents against humanitarian workers in CAR in the second quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the first quarter of this year. Aid organizations are being forced to reduce service delivery for already vulnerable people, and the instability continues to place CAR at the top of the list for most dangerous countries for humanitarians.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) condemned the attacks occurring against civilians and peacekeepers in Pombolo, southeastern CAR, during the month of July. These human rights violations were largely committed by members of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) or local anti-Balaka forces. MINUSCA identified over 250 perpetrators to date, and pledges to continue working to restore security in the area.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

In a UNSC Briefing on 26 July, MONUSCO Head, Leila Zerrougui, told members that the right conditions for a free and fair Presidential election in the DRC did not yet exist. Human rights violations against protesters, opposition, and media continue to curb freedom of speech and assembly rights, in addition to arbitrary detention. In provincial elections, women only comprise 12% of candidates, and the electoral commission has yet to respond to MONUSCO’s offer to provide logistical support for the election.

Jean Pierre Bemba arrived back in the DRC for the first time in 11 years on 1 August in order to submit his candidacy for the December Presidential elections. His candidacy continues to raise questions regarding the security and credibility of the elections.


Gaza / West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 29 July that job cuts in the Gaza Strip office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), partly attributed to US aid cuts to Palestinians, is a “massacre for employees.” 113 employees lost their jobs this week, and reports say that 1,000 contracts will not be renewed from December. Protests against the cuts are ongoing, with staff members noting that there is little sense in letting go of the crucial workers helping “tens of thousands of refugees in the Gaza strip.” Fears over the reduction in aid workers persist; unemployment in the Gaza strip is already at 44%.

The Daily Star reported on 30 July that a Norwegian-affiliated activist boat which attempted to breach the 11-year-long blockade on Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy. The ship carried personnel and medical supplies, like many other activist groups attempts to breach the blockade with humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

Only three days after Tareq Baconi of the European Council on Foreign Relations released an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that the only way to prevent the currently looming war in Gaza is for Israel to “loosen the chokehold” on the Gaza strip and prioritize “core political drivers,” Israel has blocked entry of fuel supplies into Gaza. The move is in retaliation for the continuing use of incendiary kites by Hamas causing at least 19 fires on Wednesday, Israel reported. The Gaza Strip’s two million residents will continue to suffer from a lack of power and essential services.


Iraq:

In further post-election political fall-out, authorities charged five more election officials with corruption on 28 July, Reuters reported. Officials running election offices in both Jordan and Turkey were also fired. The May election result is not yet confirmed as ballot recounts are still underway, and  protests calling for improved government services and access to electricity, water, and jobs continue across the country.

The UN Refugee agency released new figures showing that since 2014 around 2.14 million Iraqis have been displaced in attempts to flee ISIS-related violence. Many homes have been destroyed and internally displaced persons have nowhere to return to from the camps they currently live in, Al Jazeera reported on 29 July.

On 31 July coalition member, Human Rights Watch, expressed its concern that torture allegations made against security forces in Iraq are not adequately investigated. Concern is mounting as numerous alleged ISIS members are detained and tortured into giving confessions because authorities want to “achieve convictions” to reaffirm the strong message of the group’s defeat in the country. While there is the legal infrastructure within the justice system to investigate such claims, judges and lawyers interviewed by HRW noted that it is scarcely used.


Libya:

Spanish charity ProActiva Open Arms claims that an Italian towboat rescued and returned over 108 migrants back to Libya on Monday, 30 July. If confirmed by the UN, such a return would be a violation of international law.

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded that 1,504 people have died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe 2018 to date. This marks the fifth consecutive year where over 1,500 people have died attempting the crossing.


Mali:

NGO Acción contra el Hambre reported on 26 July a new outbreak of violence amongst the Tuareg community in northern Mali. These clashes threaten to exacerbate the food crisis already present in the country and to increase the number of displaced people.

Over 300 people have been killed so far this year in the Mopti region as a result of the increase in ethnic violence. As a result, many members of the Fulani community have been forced to move to Bamako’s outskirts. Jihadists groups are using the conflict and ethnic tensions to recruit members for their cause.

In a telephone interview on 27 July, the head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Sahel region told said that direct humanitarian assistance provided by international forces makes it riskier for aid organizations to carry out their work, as it makes it more difficult to distinguish armed forces from humanitarians. She also explained how Doctors Without Borders is negotiating with international actors to convince them to contribute to the construction of infrastructures or provide assistance in areas where their NGO does not work instead of implementing direct humanitarian assistance activities.

Several violent incidents occurred during Malian elections, despite President Keita deploying 30,000 security personnel throughout the country. Violence disrupted and even halted voting in some villages, with 105 polling stations closed because of security concerns. Approximately 4,000 others were affected in some way by violence. Results are still unknown, but voter turnout is expected to be low.

On 31 July, the French Ministry of Defense reaffirmed the success of its stabilizing operation “Barkhane,” which neutralized over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Sahel last year.


Nigeria:

Eight people were killed and seven injured on 23 July in a suicide attack on a mosque in the Borno region, historically known as the birthplace of the extremist group Boko Haram. However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is the last of a series of attacks to mosques that have been occurring in recent months.

The International Crisis Group reported on 26 July that the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria is more lethal than Boko Haram in 2018 thus far. The pastoral conflict has become Nigeria’s severest security challenge with 1,300 deaths, and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, strengthening ethnic, regional, and religious polarization.

On 29 July, the President Buhari ordered the deployment of aircraft and 1,000 troops to combat banditry in Zamfara State, which has resulted in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds in the region.


Philippines:

On 27 July, UNSG Guterres welcomed Duterte’s new legislation which grants more autonomy to Muslim communities in the Southern Philippines. SG Guterres congratulated negotiators, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their work, and describes the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a “landmark achievement on the road to lasting peace”. The legislation institutionalized terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which the the government and MILF signed in 2014.

11 people died on 31 July when a car bomb exploded in the city of Lamitan. The Philippine government condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “war crime.” The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack.


South Sudan:

On 2 September, members of Nepal’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were accused of allegedly raping two teenage girls. UNSG Guterres’ office responded, announcing they would send in investigators as the SG has pledged to take a harder line in responding to misconduct among UN forces against members of the populations they are supposed to be protecting.


Syria:

A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US is willing to negotiate with Assad’s government in the hope of working towards a “democratic, decentralized Syria.” Faced with a choice between further fighting or negotiations over the fate of the northeastern region of Syria in which they function, the alliance hopes to build a “decentralized” state working “alongside the Syrian government,” Al Jazeera reported on 28 July.

Arab News reported on 30 July that recent attacks on the Sweida province by Daesh fighters left over 200 dead and 36 women and children kidnapped since last Wednesday. At least two of those kidnapped have since died. Syrian military planes conducted airstrikes on Monday in the Sweida area against the group. Daesh holds small areas of territory in the Syrian desert in both Sweida and Daraa.

According to the Guardian, Syrian government forces took control of Daraa province, previously under ISIS control, on 31 July. Members of the White Helmets that were not evacuated last week are still appealing to be rescued, fearing the progressing government military.


Venezuela:

On 31 July, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, tweeted: “The crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship in Venezuela will not go unpunished”. Also, he reminded the international community of its commitment to enforce freedom and justice in the country.


Yemen:

On 2 August CNN released rare drone footage taken from the capital city, Sanaa, which exhibits the destruction caused by years of siege and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch alleges that the coalition has conducted 85 illegal airstrikes in the area.

Save the Children estimates that over 6,000 residents of the port city, Hodeidah, flee “every single day” and are in “extreme danger.” Half of those fleeing are children, with their escape involving encountering “minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting.” The UN continues to hold talks between the warring parties – the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition – over the fate of the city, but Save the Children representatives describe the city as a “ghost town” with extensive destruction already clear to see. 22.2 million out of the country’s total 27.4 million (80%) of civilians require humanitarian assistance, representing a 15% increase on last year’s figures.


Other:

In an initiative lead by Rwanda, the US, and the Netherlands, 32 countries urged UNSG Antonio Guterres to take administrative actions when UN Peacekeepers violate the Kigali Principles of civilian protection. The signing states also pledged to ensure that the troops they provide peacekeeping missions take more proactive measures in mitigating potential threats to civilian safety.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, announced that the OHCHR would investigate the reports of human rights violations and escalating violence against the Anglophone community in Cameroon. Although violence has occurred on both sides, the Anglophone community alleges economic and political discrimination in government policies and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.

Following the 30 July elections, violence once again fell upon Zimbabwe, in what many hoped to be a peaceful event. The government deployed forces against unarmed and peaceful protesters in its capital, Harare, which turned violent. Prior to the official Presidential Election results, ZANU-PF, the party of former President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the necessary two-thirds vote to amend the country’s constitution in the parliamentary election. Following the instability and violence, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the army’s role and conduct against protesters.

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#RtoP Weekly: 22 – 27 July 2018

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 ICRtoP and partners release new report from CSW side event on inclusion of rural women and girls 

In March 2018, over 200 representatives of civil society, the UN, and Member States met during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to attend a side event co-convened by UN Women and several CSOs, including the ICRtoP, entitled “Leaving No One Behind for Planet 50-50 by 2030: Every rural woman and girl everywhere.” The event included a dialogue among activists from rural areas, including indigenous women, refugees, and members of the LGBTI community, demanding gender equality, and to discuss how to ensure no woman or girl is left behind in the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The session included a call for greater representation, visibility, and participation of women in government, and universal application of policies enshrining the rights of women and girls.

“The fact that this Commission (CSW) is shining a light on the condition of women and girls in rural areas is very fitting, because they face some of the most daunting challenges of our time,” stated Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division at the opening of the event.

Empowering women and girls in the peace and security and development processes is critical in conflict prevention and building resilient societies. The ICRtoP was excited to have the opportunity to support and give voice to the activists, policy-makers, and participants of the event at the CSW62, whose report is now available.

To read the full report, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Venezuela
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published its report update on the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Response for the 13-19 July 2018 period. The report specifies the current situation and the actions carried out by the organization to improve the Rohingya refugees’ conditions in the areas of health, shelter & non-food items, needs & population monitoring, site management & development, protection, resilience & disaster risk reduction, accountability to affected population, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

On 19 July, the Southeast Asian human rights group Fortify Rights released a new report entitled, “Myanmar: International Accountability Needed for Military-Planned Genocide Against Rohingya.” The report highlights “reasonable grounds” that the crimes committed against the Rohingya population amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, and that Burmese authorities conducted extensive and systematic preparations for attacks against this minority. This paper also calls on the UNSC to immediately refer the Burmese situation to the ICC, as it identifies that 22 Burma Army and Police officials should be investigated and brought to justice for the roles they played in committing atrocity crimes.

The International Security Consulting Group (ISCG) released a situation report on the Rohingya refugee crisis on 19 July. The report outlines many improvements such as: (i) Continuous effort on improving the shelters in the refugee camps (90% of the target shelters were upgraded), (ii) Good work of the Health Sector which has provided a total of 2,480,273 outpatient consultations, (iii) 36,037 refugees were moved to newly developed sites, and (iv) Finally all individuals older than 12 have received an ID card and all households have been provided a family certificate.

The UN Human Rights Council reported on 19 July that the flow of Rohingya refugees still moving to Bangladesh shows that human rights violations in Burma persist. Muslim Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh report that Burma is still unsafe, as violence and torture persevere.

Experts at Save the Children evaluated research carried out by UN bodies finding that the Burmese Government violated at least seven key articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report addresses “indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of Rohingya children, and the torture, ill-treatment, and gender-based violence” committed against them.

On 23 July, UNSC held a meeting regarding the situation in Burma in order to discuss a number of issues about the Rohingya refugee crisis. Both the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and the High Commissioner for Refugees exposed their briefings about their travels there during the month of June.


Central African Republic:

The Institute for Security Studies, Africa (ISS) released a report on 23 July revealing the widespread sexual violence occurring against men and boys in CAR. The report notes that currently CAR has no judicial precedent for SV against males, and urges the special prosecutor of the new Special Criminal Court to take steps to ensure perpetrators do not act with impunity. The report notes that cultural stigmas, humanitarian workers being under-trained in recognizing male victims of SV, and a need for comprehensive rehabilitation strategies are needed not only to prevent further sexual violence but to curtail widespread human rights abuses and potential atrocity crimes.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following Former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s announcement to run in the 2018 Presidential election, concerns about the election among opposition leaders and the international community has grown. Bemba scheduled a return to the DRC 1 August, on a passport issued by President Kabila. Possible collusion between Bemba and Kabila or a plan by Kabila to force a 3-way opposition split are among the theories spread. President Kabila’s running status is uncertain, causing increased political tension in the country.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 21 July the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged Hamas to end the “launching of rockets and incendiary kites.” He also appealed to the Israeli military to “avoid further inflaming the situation” in the hope that the parties will “step back from the brink” of another violent conflict.

Al Jazeera noted the “uneasy calm” over the Gaza area on 21 July as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces, which was put in place at midnight on 20 July, appeared to be holding up. However, comments from Phillis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies shared her skepticism over the deal leading to total peace in the region.

On 23 July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, reminded all fighting parties in the Gaza strip that “any disproportionate or indiscriminate use of weapons” injuring or killing civilians is prohibited by international law, as many protesters have been targeted in recent months. He noted that parties must focus on addressing the “root causes” of demonstrations and inadequate living conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza. He also expressed concern over the Palestinian children who are detained in Israel without charge, an additional breach of international law.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, praised diplomatic efforts lead by Egypt and the UN for calming tensions between Israel and Hamas, on 24 July. He noted that further conflict would further impact the lives of civilians in the region who are already suffering from an 11-year trade blockade by Israel and Egypt and infrastructure as a result of the violence.

On 25 July Israel allowed a partial reopening of a vital commercial crossing allowing goods such as fuel, food and medicine to enter the region. Concerns this week reached a high point when fuel shortages threatened the closure of many hospitals in the area which could have resulted in death for those on life-support machines and lack of ability to perform operations, as well as the inability to provide basic services.


Iraq:

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Marta Ruedas, stated that as of 24 July, nearly 870,000 people have returned to Mosul following the liberation of numerous villages in the region from Islamic State militants roughly a year ago, following work by the UN Mine Action Service. Nearly 43,700 explosive hazards from “roads, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, water treatment plants and municipal buildings” have been cleared, but two million still remain internally displaced.

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, condemns the “excessive use of lethal forces” used against protesters in Basra between 8 and 17 July, which killed at least three and wounded over 40 people, including children.

Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has promised to penalize government officials who have been reluctant to carry out their jobs, providing crucial services and responding to requests to the people of Iraq, in response to the protests.


Libya:

The NGO Proactiva Open Arms expresses its disappointment over the Libyan Coastguard’s “lack of assistance in international waters” when it slashed an inflatable vessel migrants were using, before abandoning the migrants and boat last week. The NGO found the wreckage of the boat with the bodies of a woman and child who were already dead, and only one survivor. The NGO wishes to file a manslaughter charge against the Libyan coastguard due to the deaths being “no accident.”


Mali:

On 17 July, the OHCHR confirmed 289 civilian deaths in 2018 to date as a result of inter-community violence, particularly in the Mopti region. These numbers show the deterioration of the situation and increased civilian displacements.

In an OCHA report released on 22 July stated Mali is in its most critical humanitarian situation since the conflict began in 2012 as a result of the rise in insecurity and the lack of assistance. 4.3 million Malian people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and “if the necessary assistance is not offered immediately, the situation could continue to deteriorate and would require more resources than now to be addressed.”


South Sudan:

In the latest efforts to establish a peace deal for South Sudan, the government and Machar’s SPLM-IO have reached an agreement. The deal establishes a power-sharing deal with President Kiir remaining in his position, and restoring Dr. Machar to the First Vice Presidency, in addition to four other VPs, one of whom will be a woman. There are provisions for a transitional legislature as well. A coalition of other rebel groups are rejecting the decision, however, saying their concerns were not taken into account.


Sudan:

On 24 July, UN Under Secretary General for Field Support, Atul Khare, visited the Darfur region of Sudan. Talks focused on UNAMID withdrawal, the continuance of development programs, and arms collection to continue improving peace and security.


Syria:

Despite the successful evacuation of 422 White Helmets members and their families in southwest Syria over the weekend of the 21 and 22 July, the BBC is concerned over the remaining 378 facing the advancing government forces. The Syrian regime views White Helmets as supporting “terrorists” and their safety cannot be guaranteed if the government regains control over the rebel-held regions where they are currently based.

The Syrian government condemns the evacuation called for by the US, UK, and other European countries being conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces, claiming it to be a “criminal operation” and a “despicable act” because the group allegedly supports terrorist organizations.


Venezuela:

On 17 July, the Venezuelan Parliament proclaimed that it will create a commission to study children abandoned by their parents who have had to let them in the country alone in order to emigrate. There is no official count of abandoned children in Venezuela but, according to the NGO Fundana, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of babies who are handed over to the association, many come in critical feeding situations.

The Government of Venezuela announced on 18 July that it had opened 3,000 food houses to assist the victims of the “economic war” allegedly influenced by the opposition and foreign governments by offering them free food. These food houses have already helped 626,328 people, including vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people.


Yemen:

On 23 July, Reuters reported around 8.4 million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation. There has been a 25% increase in the level of “severe hunger” for Yemenis. UN agencies have reported famine-like conditions already existing in certain areas of the country, but “not all the criteria” has been met yet. Fears over continuing violence between Houthis and Saudi-led forces still threatens the closure of the Hodeidah port and the entrance of crucial food supplies and humanitarian goods. 


Other:

UNSG Antonio Guterres and Chairperson for the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, signed a Framework Agreement between the UN and AU, respectively, in order to address peace and security issues on the African continent. Senior UN spokesperson, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the need for conflict prevention and resolution efforts saying, “[the organizations] also need to recognize the critical role of sub-regional organizations, which are often the first to detect early warning signs of impending conflict, and are important partners in promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

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#RtoP Weekly: 15-20 July 2018

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The Rome Statute at 20 and International Justice Day 

Each year on 17 July, the world celebrates International Justice Day (IJ Day) and the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on this day in 1998. This year, IJ Day takes on particular significance, as the world marks the treaty’s 20th anniversary. In celebration of this historic day, actors from all levels came together this week to commemorate the progress made over the past two decades within the international justice system and the fight for accountability for victims of atrocities across the world.

ICRtoP partner, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), the world’s largest civil society partnership working for the advancement of international justice, has compiled remarks commemorating this important anniversary from some of the leading international justice voices throughout the world, including: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; Mr. William Pace, Convener of the CICC; and Mr. Donald Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)and Chair of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, among others. Mr. Deya stated:

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, the international community is provided with a timely opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, but also how far we still must go to end impunity and better protect populations from atrocity crimes, particularly in ensuring the transition from commitments to action. Experience has shown that seeking justice for victims is not easy, but it is vital to the prevention of their recurrence. With this in mind, we all must take advantage of this historic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards international justice by working together to strengthen national, regional, and international atrocity prevention tools to reinforce accountability for perpetrators and uphold our obligations under the Responsibility to Protect.”

To view the full list of remarks, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 17 July, Burma’s 2018 Peace Conference in Panglong concluded with 14 more basic principles adopted as the second part of a peace accord. The new principles, which address politics, economy, society, environment, and land, were signed by leaders of the government, military, and armed groups. On that same day, William Lacy Swing, Director of the International Organization on Migration (IOM), urged the global community to remain focused on the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh with roughly one million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar “in danger of becoming the wretched of the earth, homeless, and without a future.”


Central African Republic:

Tensions continue in CAR with a Christian militant group promoting violence between religious and ethnic groups. A brief lapse occurred when Muslim communities disassociated with these acts of violence, but MINUSCA identified nearly 70 cases of abuse and rights violations over the second week of July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Friday, 13 July, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Spokesperson, Charley Yaxley, told reporters that the UN Refugee Agency had obtained access to the Ituri province. Many displaced Congolese report returning only to find their homes, villages, and public building burned to the ground. Returnees also report armed groups killing people indiscriminately. Due to the lack of functioning infrastructure and dire humanitarian aid and protection funding situation, there are many concerns over public health and food security. The document, released later in the week can be viewed here.


Gaza / West Bank:

Two young boys are among those confirmed killed by Israel’s latest round of air raids, which hit a rooftop in Gaza where they were playing on 14 July, according to Al Jazeera. While the targeting of civilians is illegal under international law, international groups are concerned that civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military attacks are in fact not “mistakes,” but are deliberate. The Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, confirmed on 17 July, that the killing of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian medical worker providing treatment to peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Israeli border, was deliberate. This finding correlates with al-Najjar’s previous accounts of being targeted by Israeli security forces at the border before her death.

The ceasefire agreement that began on 15 July between Israel and Palestinian combatants remains in effect.


Iraq:

Demonstrations which began last week, fueled by “dissatisfaction with corruption and services,” and calls for a more balanced spread of oil wealth, continued across the south of Iraq with injuries recorded of both civilian protesters and government forces. According to Al Jazeera, protest violence led to at least seven deaths and dozens wounded.

The partial recount of the May election, plagued by allegations of corruption and fraud, is still ongoing despite beginning on 9 July, over a week ago.


Libya:

Ghassan Salame, the UN Envoy to Libya, notes that the “status quo in Libya cannot be sustained” and efforts to prevent “frequent and intense outbreaks of violence” must be pursued, following the sharp increase of conflict-related civilian deaths in May/June from March/April.


Mali:

On 16 July, Tuareg militia informed that 14 people were killed in an attack the day before, allegedly committed by Islamist militants in eastern Mali. Their intention is to generate terror amongst civilians prior to the upcoming presidential election. In an interview with Jamal Mrrouch, coordinator of Doctors Without Borders in Mali, published the same day, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in recent years was explained. Several factors ranging from the lack of rain and the inability to harvest to the insecurity and instability of the country contribute to the deterioration. “Insecurity pushes the population to a limit situation”, he states Mrrouch.

During the press briefing on Nicaragua, Mali, and Kashmir on 17 July, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) indicated an alarming upward trend in the number of civilians being driven out of their homes “either after being directly targeted themselves, because of the community they belong to, or after deadly attacks on members of their community in neighbouring villages.” As a result, there has been a widespread displacement of vulnerable civilians. The UNHCHR welcomed the Government of Mali’s efforts in intervening in this precarious situation and calls on it to continue on this same path to prevent future grave abuses of human rights.


South Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted on 13 July to renew sanctions against South Sudan in addition to  imposing a new arms embargo through 31 May 2019. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke on behalf of the Council and Resolution stating, “if we’re going to help the people of South Sudan, we need the violence to stop. And to stop the violence, we need to stop the flow of weapons to armed groups, that they are using to fight each other and to terrorize the people.” The Foreign Affairs Minister stated the sanctions will not solve the crisis, nor are officials pleased about the sanctions. Peace talks are scheduled to continue next week amidst reports of violations that may amount to atrocity crimes.


Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted to extend the UNAMID mandate in the Sudan, but reduced it’s personnel numbers by roughly half, keeping the police force stable. This vote follows the previous announcement of scaling back the mission in the Sudan over the course of the next two years, providing there are no significant changes to the on-the-ground security situation.

SLM leader, Minni Minawi, stated on 15 July that the peace process in Darfur is contradictory to what UNAMID and Qatari officials announced. He claims that Sudanese officials fabricated the ceasefire agreement’s success in order to mislead international public opinion and that the violence is ongoing.


Syria:

According to Al Jazeera, a large number of displaced Syrians were refused entry into the Israel-occupied Golan Heights by Israeli military on 17 July. Many people are attempting to flee the violence that has recently intensified in the Deraa and Quneitra provinces in south-western Syria. The Israeli and Jordanian borders remain firmly closed to the Syrian people, who are at continued risk of death from violence or persecution by Assad’s forces if they remain in the country.

On 17 July, airstrikes conducted by Syrian military hit a small town just four kilometres away from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights frontier. The attack killed 10 people as it hit a school that civilians were using as shelter.

Similarly, on 18 July, the Syrian government conducted another “intense overnight bombing campaign” against the densely populated town, Nawa, which is also near the frontier. At least 12 people are reported dead and hundreds wounded. A spokesman from the White Helmets reported that the only hospital in the town faced bombing on Tuesday and is rendered non-operational, according to US News.

Rebel commanders in the Dera’a province say that Russian military forces are in breach of the current ceasefire deal by not permitting some civilians – specifically those who do not support the current regime – a safe right of passage into northern rebel-held areas in Syria.

Amnesty International (AI) alleges that the US-led coalition, which conducted a four-month assault in Raqqa against ISIL fighters last year, is “deeply in denial” regarding the number of civilian deaths it caused throughout the assault, admitting to only 23 deaths. AI claims that the number is in fact in the hundreds.


Yemen:

Gulf News reported on 15 July of the “onslaught against Iran-aligned Al Houthis” in the Haradh district of north-west Yemen. According to Al Jazeera, the Hodeidah offensive conducted by the Saudi-led coalition has re-intensified following unsuccessful, UN-led peace talks between opposing parties. While it is alleged that military analysts note that the “coalition is not making much progress,” the lack of aid reaching civilians in the area and the ongoing air-strikes attacking crucial infrastructure are continuing to diminish the already dire standard of living for civilians in the Hodeidah region.

The Times Live reported that, while the Houthi-rebel chief is willing to cede control of Hodeidah to a UN-supervised committee on the basis that the Saudi-led coalition would stop its offensive and destruction of the port city,  the coalition is opposed as it would allow Houthis to remain in the city.

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#RtoP Weekly 8 – 13 July 2018

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UNGA holds Formal Debate on the RtoP

On 25 June and 2 July 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened its first formal debate on “The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” since 2009 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The debate followed the release of the tenth annual UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) report on RtoP, and the second by Secretary-General António Guterres’, entitled “Responsibility to Protect: From Early Warning to Early Action.”

Following the opening remarks by the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, 79 Member States and two regional organizations (the EU and the Pacific Island Group) delivered statements on behalf of 113 States. Over the course of the debate, many countries expressed their gratitude regarding the inclusion of the RtoP as a stand-alone item on the General Assembly’s agenda to be able to discuss it formally. Member States also reaffirmed their commitments to the RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and narrowing the gap between early warning and early action. In fact, 107 Member States acknowledged that the costs to “pick up the pieces after crisis” are far greater than those that go into prevention efforts. Member States additionally supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers of effective implementation of the RtoP norm. For example, support for veto restraint by members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resounded throughout the debate, with 69 Member States presenting arguments for the benefits and necessity of exercising restraint in the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes by Security Council Members. This concern also manifested itself through expressed support for the France-Mexico Initiative and/or the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT Group) Code of Conduct.

Throughout the debate, 83 Member States also mentioned the importance of accountability mechanisms as a way to prevent recurrence of mass atrocity crimes, and subsequently acknowledged the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to counter impunity. Emphasizing findings in the report, many Member States gave support to the idea of including civil society in atrocity prevention measures and for denouncing violations and giving specific expertise at local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, 74 Member States expressed support for including the RtoP as a standing agenda item in the General Assembly to continue such discussions on these important topics.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary and infographic for both the 2018 report and dialogue and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues. To view these material and all of the ICRtoP’s UNGA coverage, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Nigeria 
South Sudan 
Sudan 
Syria
Venezuela 
Yemen 
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

During the week of 2 July, the UNSG visited Bangladesh and called on all countries to step up, help, and give support to the Rohingya refugees with real action. He also described the Rohingya situation as a clear case of ethnic cleansing.

The UNHCR announced on 6 July that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will start receiving credit card-sized plastic IDs in the refugee camps. This will enable the consolidation of “a unified database for the purposes of protection” and recognition amongst other things. The IDs will play a crucial role in formalizing refugees’ identities and will preserve their right to voluntarily return home when the appropriate safety conditions are in place. However, on 8 July, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee reported that the Government of Burma made no progress in eliminating systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in its domestic law to make the Rakhine safe for their return, preventing such action in the near future.

On 11 July, the third peace conference between the Burmese government, military, and ethnic minorities began. The government allowed members of the Northern Alliance to attend as well. During the opening remarks of the conference, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called for an agreement amongst stakeholders prioritizing peace over political demands.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock highlighted the lack of funding available to solve the humanitarian situation in the DPRK on 11 July, and is trying to raise $111 million to meet the needs of approximately 6 million people for health, water, sanitation, and food security.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 9 July, Israel announced the closing of the Karam Abu Salem commercial border, a key passageway for goods entering the Gaza Strip. The existing blockade by Israel already imposes a significant impact on the Gazan economy, and the additional closure will prevent citizens from receiving crucial resources such as clothing and construction materials. Only limited humanitarian necessities such as wheat, flour and cooking gas will be allowed. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressedconcern over this decision citing that it will likely escalate the conflict and cause more suffering of civilians in the area.


Iraq:

Save the Children released a report on 5 July entitled “Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the Lives of Mosul’s Children After Years of Conflict and Violence,” exploring the “constant fear and intense sorrow” that children who have lived through the conflict have to come to terms with. Save the Children Iraq Country Director, Ana Locsin, noted that the successful rebuilding of the country and its future success will depend on “the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”

Iraq began the recount of ballot votes from the 12 May election on 9 July, following accusations that vote-rigging and fraud occurred. UN representatives as well as members of political parties, embassies, and media outlets are allowed to attend the recount, which is taking place at the Baghdad International Fair.

Concerns over the high rates of prosecutions for suspected IS fighters and their suspected affiliates, including ISIS wives, remain in what are deemed to be unfair trials by many international observers. The Sun Herald reported on 9 July that over 3,000 punishments have been given in the last few weeks, with cases going through the courts at an concerningly fast rates. Unease is particularly prominent over the court’s “reliance on informants” who potentially have “personal grudges” against those on trial being considered in sentencing, and secondly the duration of some trials, which last only 10-15 minutes. One third of cases result in the death penalty.


Libya:

While General Haftar announced a couple of weeks ago that his LNA’s forces have fully captured the city of Derna, as of the beginning of July, nine women have reportedly been kidnapped in a further bid by the government military to assert its dominance in the area. Rebels deny that the LNA have control of the area. Aid groups and the UN Support Mission in Libya are concerned over the lack of acknowledgement by government forces regarding their ability to deliver basic supplies and “deliver life-saving assistance” to civilians.


Nigeria:

On 8 July, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the importance of having women in leadership positions and their participation in peace processes in order to prevent conflicts and violent extremism. Mohammed describes women’s roles as “critical” for the future of Nigeria and the pursuit of improvement of the country’s current instability.

On 9 July, the Nigerian Army released 183 children, from the ages of 7 to 18, suspected of belonging to Boko Haram into UNICEF care. The children were arrested in several northeastern states affected by terrorist violence. They will now receive medical attention and psycho-social support from UNICEF specialists before reuniting with their families.


South Sudan:

After several rounds of discussions and cease-fire violations, South Sudanese leaders came to a power-sharing peace agreement on 7 July. The new agreement establishes four Vice Presidents, one being exiled opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar. There are hopes that the agreement brings about an end to the four year conflict. However, days later, rebels announced that they rejected the peace deal on the basis of no formal, written agreement ever being presented to or consented by Dr. Machar. They went further stating that they also believed the agreement maintained the status quo and didn’t do enough to address the reforms they saw as necessary for the country’s success.

On 10 July, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) released a statement accusing South Sudanese government forces of pursuing a “scorched earth” policy, deliberately targeting civilians and vulnerable populations. Attacks were carried out against elderly, people with disabilities, and young children, in addition to widespread sexual violence against women and girls. UN monitors allege that the actions may amount to war crimes.


Sudan:

Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in the Jebel Marra region continue to displace hundreds of families. IDP camps saw over 450 new family arrivals since the end of Ramadan last month, with hundreds more allegedly seeking refuge in caves in the mountainous region.

The Foreign Minister voiced some criticism over actions that would delay the timeline for UNAMID troop withdrawal. The joint AU-UN peacekeeping operational timeline garnered concern from several organizations due to the ongoing instability and security situation, who called on UNAMID not to downsize, after their announcement at the end of last month. The FM sees these concerns as creating tension and doubt about the stability in the Sudan.

Peace talks have no timeline for their resumption, as of 8 July, according to the presidential Envoy. Al Bashir’s envoy said that a timeline would be discussed after consulting with the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), but each side blames the other for the deadlock in the stalled negotiations.


Syria:

The UN estimates that around 320,000 civilians have been displaced in Southern Syria since 19 June due to ongoing fighting and air strikes. The Assad Government continues to try to take hold of the parts of the Dera’a Province that are currently held by rebels, firing deadly barrel bombs and missiles on a daily basis.  Al Jazeera reports that the area has been “completely burnt to the ground” with over 20 civilian casualties recorded.

Since mid-June around 60,000 Syrians moved towards the Jordanian border in a plea for refuge from the violence. Jordanian activists continue their campaign which began on 1 July to have the border reopened, citing that they have not abandoned the Syrian people and wish to help protect them. However, the border still remains closed to Syrians, forcing them to return to conflict-stricken areas deeper within the country.

On 11 July, Al Jazeera reported that rebels in Dera’a have agreed to hold negotiations with Russian military officials regarding a potential evacuation of fighters to northwestern, rebel-held areas in Syria. Fighters and their families are currently surrounded by government troops with few other prospects of safe survival.


Venezuela:

On 5 July, 50 countries asked Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid and assistance, and to cooperate with the Council’s human rights mechanisms to combat the increase in shortages of medicine and malnutrition in the country. Following this request, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN condemned the “foreign interference”, singling out the United States’ role in this “aggression”.


Yemen:

Fighting continues in the port city of Hodeidah between Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels. The UN Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, continues to work towards a peace deal between the parties, proposing the Houthis turning over control of the region to the UN. He hopes that parties will show commitment to the peace negotiation process, particularly as the situation is untenable and citizens nation-wide face total famine if the port’s infrastructure, which receives the majority (80%) of food and medicinal imports for the Yemeni people, is damaged by the violence.

The UNICEF Chief, Henrietta Fore, described on 3 July that over 2,200 children have been killed and a further 3,400 injured as a result of the ongoing conflict. There is also concern over mines scattered across the city, putting civilians lives at risk.

UN News reported on 10 July that the World Health Organization (WHO) described the health situation in Hodeidah as the “most dire in the country,” which has been made even worse by the “intensification of fighting” in the area. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) continues to urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians, including migrants.


Other:

On 10 July the AU and UN held its Annual Conference on the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. The Conference focused on regional peace and security issues and the need to achieve cohesion with national development frameworks.

Ahead of its annual meeting in August, the SADC  released a framework to mainstream women and gender into national peace and security agendas. The region continues to take steps to better increase women’s presence in decision making processes, and the Secretariat acknowledged that incorporating the WPS Agenda into its policies is beneficial to creating more peaceful and equitable societies.

Reports out of Harare, Zimbabwe seem promising, as the country is witnessing a “pre-election calm” that was not seen during former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure. The coercion, harassment, and violence against ZANU-PF opposition members and supporters, largely fueled by Mugabe himself, remains absent as political opponents agreed to an electoral Code of Conduct last month. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) meeting saw political leaders committing to prevent pre-election practices that were present in prior elections.

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#RtoP Weekly : 17 – 22 June 2018

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 RtoP in the UN General Assembly

It is a busy and exciting time at the ICRtoP, as we wrote to you in our Weekly a fortnight ago, the first formal debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly since 2009 will be taking place 25 June. As such we have been preparing for the debate and are looking forward to advocating for the inclusivity, importance, and perpetuity of RtoP’s inclusion on the UN Agenda.

Secretary-General Guterres has remained committed to conflict and atrocity prevention over his tenure, and the upcoming debate and side events next week in New York will provide Member States an opportunity to develop formal, on-the-record statements and encourage further dialogs on the doctrine’s domestication and implementation. As the Secretary General noted at the Oslo Forum this past week, the number of countries involved in conflict and number of people killed in conflicts increasing at significant rates, preventative action is “more necessary than ever.”

**Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly 22 – 29 June due to the Formal Debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly. However, we will resume publication with an update on these events, including the Secretary General’s Report on the RtoP, the debate, and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 30 June – 6 July.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya 

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

A photojournalist travelled with the UN Children’s Fund and interviewed 14 Rohingya refugee women survivors of brutal sexual violence. On 18 June, he published a photo-essay in his personal blog where he explains how the issue of rape is still a taboo in Rohingya society. The blog also highlights how the shame that rape carries decreases the prospects of victims to marry or remarry close to zero. UNICEF also collected testimonies from various victims whose children have been called the “forgotten victims of war” by Secretary General Guterres.

Prior to World Refugee Day on 20 June, a report by the UN stated that a record number of people were displaced, and noted the Rohingya was one of the largest groups of refugees.


DPRK:

On 20 June, the follow up after the historic summit demonstrated flaws as James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, claimed to be unaware of the steps of the alleged process of dismantling nuclear weapons by North Korea, nor does know when the next meeting discussing denuclearization will be held.


DRC:

Following his release from detention at the ICC, Former VP Bemba returned to Belgium, where he owns a home, the International Justice Initiative reported on 18 June. The ICC and Belgium signed an agreement in 2014 allowing for the interim release of detainees into their territory. As part of his release conditions, Bemba had to provide his address and contact information to authorities, in addition to agreeing to surrender himself immediately if required by the trial chamber.


Gaza/West Bank:

In retaliation for the release of incendiary kites by Palestinian protesters, the Israel Defense Forces struck nine targets in Gaza in through air strikes on 19 June. Concern continues over Israel’s “excessive use of force.”

On 20 June, Palestinians in Gaza fired “several dozen rockets and mortar bombs” into Israel. No Israeli casualties were reported. Hamas spokesperson noted that the strikes were in line with a “bombardment for bombardment” policy they have implemented, and that strikes were in “retaliation for an earlier Israeli air strike.”

Injured Palestinian protesters continue to face barriers to healthcare access due to the 11 year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza. Hospitals have extremely limited access to medical supplies and only one third of injured people had exit permits approved to travel out-with Gaza for life-saving treatment. Instead, many lacking treatment have just faced a “slow death,” Al Jazeera reports.


Iraq: 

The wives of ISIS fighters continue to face prosecution for terrorism in Iraqi courts, following the defeat of ISIS in the country. PBS reports that while Iraq wants to extradite the women back to their home countries, such as Russia, the governments are refusing to accept them. If women with children are convicted, the children will remain in prison with them until they reach school age, when they will be sent to orphanages in Iraq. Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, is expressing concern over the lack of fair trials for these women and also the lack of consideration of individual circumstances in each case, particularly as those charged face the death penalty as punishment.


Kenya:

On 19 June the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report that 60 percent of sexual violence cases that were reported during the 2017 General Election were perpetrated by security officers. The KNHCR also noted that many of the crimes went unreported due to a lack of trust in law enforcement agencies.


Libya: 

Fighting continues as the Libyan National Army attempts to take over the city of Derna. The LNA claims to claims to have captured 75% of the city, DW News reported on 18 June. Over 2,183 families have fled so far, according to the UN Migration Agency. Conditions are expected to continue deteriorating as the conflict continues.

A study released by Airways and New America reports that, since October 2011, 2,158 air strikes have taken place in Libya, by US, UAE, French and Egyptian forces. The report claims that strikes killed 395 civilians.


Mali:

On 14 June, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations highlighted the importance of consolidating democracy in Mali through the upcoming Presidential elections that will be held on 29 July. He also stressed that Mali should implement the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation after the elections, as it will help towards the peaceful resolution of disputes.

On 18 June, members of local human rights NGOs informed EFE about 25 civilian bodies found in a mass grave in the region of Mopti, in central Mali. More than half of them were identified as part of a list of arrested people by FAMA, which suggests an “extrajudicial execution” committed by soldiers. AI and HRW have also recently denounced FAMA for their alleged abuses against Malian civilians with the pretext of counter-terrorist struggle. On 19 June, Mali’s defence minister Coulibaly admitted that its armed forces were implicated in the killings of the 25 civilian bodies found in three mass graves. Coulibaly instructed military prosecutors to open an inquiry to fight impunity and promote the enforcement of humanitarian conventions and international rights.


Nigeria:

On 16 June, the UNSG condemned the killing in the north-eastern Nigerian area of Damboa by six suicide bombers allegedly conducted by Boko Haram. This attack took the life of 30 people and targeted the Eid al-Fitr celebrations by Muslims which mark the end of Ramadan. Guterres reminds that attacks which affect civilians go against international humanitarian law and he demands Nigeria to find the people responsible for the massacre and that they are brought to justice.


South Sudan:

President Salva Kiir rejected an offer for his peace talks with Dr. Riek Machar to be hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in favor of a more neutral location, South Sudanese officials announced a week prior to the anticipated discussion. There were concerns about an IGAD country hosting the peace talks, with alleged competition and interests between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, as each country offered to host the negotiations. Instead, Michael Makuei, Information Minister and government spokesperson, said that President Kiir would prefer to travel to South Africa to meet with Dr. Machar, where the former has been on house arrest since 2016. In spite of protestation from the South Sudanese government, the peace talks between President Kiir and Dr. Machar took place in Addis Ababa on 20 June, though little about the discussion or its outcome is known at the time of writing.

In efforts to impose economic effects on officials, the Trump Administration announced “network sanctions” against the families and commercial ties of  South Sudan’s leaders last week. The proposal, advocated for by John Prendergast and The Sentry, urges Kenyan and Ugandan leaders to investigate ties and seize relevant assets. As of 19 July, Kenya has resisted the push from the US saying it “will only act within the context of international practices through the United Nations conventions and the Bretton Woods institutions.” The Trump Administration, which is keen to end the conflict in South Sudan, believes that officials in Nairobi and Kampala have not done enough to curb illicit money flowing through their system.


Sudan/Darfur:

Since 15 June, the Jebel Marra area of Darfur saw increased violence, including indiscriminate shelling by government forces, tribal clashes, and by villagers against displaced farmers, according to Netherlands based Radio Dabanga. In the Rokoro locality, they reported of indiscriminate shelling by government forces in addition to the detention and beating of several teenage boys. Meanwhile, a tribal conflict south of Abu Jubeiha city left two dead and dozens more wounded until police and security forces intervened and stopped the violence on 16 June. Police forces also intervened in the attacks in South Darfur, in which hostile villagers retaliated against displaced farmers hoping to settle and cultivate the land. 17 were injured. Violent attacks also wounded returnees on 19 June, when a group of over 70 armed militants fired upon farmers returning to cultivate their land, reinforcing the need for secure, safe conditions and the collection of arms if government officials are as serious about implementing a voluntary return program to Darfur.

The detention of Humanitarian Azrag Hasan Humeid on 18 June also incited protection concerns. Humeid, who started a youth initiative aimed at helping families through small enterprise ventures in East Darfur, was arrested upon the return from a trip to Khartoum and transferred to Ed Daein. An anonymous source suspects that his membership in a minority tribal group in the region, as well as the unfavorable position the leading National Congress Party has against civil society initiatives, contributed to his arrest.

ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, delivered another biannual report to the Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Darfur. She noted that after 13 years, and 27 reports, the victims of the violence in Darfur had still yet to see any steps taken towards bringing the perpetrators of the alleged crimes to justice. She called for the UNSC to supporting the effective implementation of its own Resolution which referred the Darfur situation to the Court in the first place.


Syria:

Syria’s state-run news agency, Sana, accused a US-led coalition of conducting air strikes on 17 June which killed 52 people. The  Syrian Observatory for Human Rights verified the number of deaths. The US Operation Inherent Resolve, denies the reports, claiming that Israeli forces conducted the strikes.

The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on 20 June accusing the Assad regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Eastern Ghouta earlier this year. The targeting of civilian areas, denial of food and medicine to civilians and attempts to starve 265,000 people all amount to breaches of international law.

On 21 June however, the New York Times revealed that the UN report in fact omitted crucial details that were included in an earlier draft that they received a copy of. The earlier draft placed more direct blame on the Assad regime for use of chemical weapons. A member of the Commission however stated that more evidence was required to back up claims in the earlier draft which they would continue to look into

The Citizen reported on 21 June that in the last three days alone 12,000 Syrians had to “flee their homes” as a result of continuing attacks by the Assad regime on rebel-held areas of Daraa in the south.


Venezuela:

On 19 June, Jorge Valero, Ambassador of Venezuela in the UN, rejected the report on human rights on Venezuela that the UN plans to publish. They accuse the UN of relying on unverified information and that it “lacks scientific rigor”. This coincides with the publication of UNHCR’s report on Global Trends in Forced Displacement, which ranked Venezuela fourth in the list of countries of origin for new asylum seekers in 2017. The number of Venezuelans requesting international protection was 111,600 in 2017, triple the numbers registered in 2016.


Yemen:

Despite talks between Houthis and the UN Envoy to Yemen occurring over the weekend regarding a UN administrative take-over of Hodeidah, Martin Griffiths reportedly left the country without comment. It is unclear so far whether they reached a peaceful agreement.

Reuters reported on 19 June that the Saudi-led coalition invading Hodeidah captured large swathes of the port city from Iran-aligned Houthi fighters. Residents are reporting that “water has been cut off” to many homes and “death and destruction” is everywhere.

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#RtoP Weekly : 10 – 15 June 2018

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Attacks on Hodeidah, Yemen endanger an already fragile environment

Despite intense negotiations between UN officials and members of the Saudi-led coalition forces endeavoring to peacefully resolve fighting around Hodeidah, Yemen, the coalition began attacking the city on 13 June. The attack comes as an attempt by the coalition forces to seize the Houthi-held region and return it to Yemeni-government rule. The UN and numerous humanitarian aid groups remain concerned over the attack which risks damaging the infrastructure and port that currently supplies the vast majority of food and aid to the country. Indeed, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, says that “250,000 people may lose everything – even their lives.”

Saudi-led coalition forces remained within 10km of the city while negotiations were underway.

Martin Griffiths, UN Envoy to Yemen, arrived in the country on 2 June to propose that the Houthis cede control of the city to the UN, in an attempt to avert the likely “bloodbath” attack. The war-torn country is home to hundreds of thousands of people who already face starvation and an intense cholera outbreak, what is arguably one of the severest humanitarian crises at the time.

Despite the initiation of the attack on Wednesday, The Norwegian Refugee Council reported on 14 June that the Hodeidah port remains open. The port serves as a crucial lifeline, as the “main entry point for food and aid” to the whole of Yemen.

Saudi-led coalition forces are fighting against Houthi rebel forces within Yemen, whom it accuses of acting as a proxy force of Iran. The Saudi-led coalition supports the Yemeni president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Of over 10,000 civilian casualties killed in the Yemeni civil war since 2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has noted that almost two thirds were as a direct result of Saudi-led coalition air attacks. There are already 2 million internally displaced people in Yemen, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and over 20,000 people have fled the country to seek shelter refugee camps in Somalia, Jordan, and Ethiopia.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR

DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali 
Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

On 8 June, the Burmese government held a meeting at the presidential palace to discuss, amongst others, the situation of the Rakhine State, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the UNHCR and the UNDP, national security, and international relations.

On 11 June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that monsoon rains destroyed many refugee shelters in Bangladesh, which host one million Rohingya refugees from Burma. So far, 9,000 refugees have been affected and the number continues to grow.

Britain’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, stated that he had spoken with Prime Minister Suu Kyi and also urged her to implement measures for safe return as soon as possible now that Burma has agreed to the UN supervising the return of the refugees, and that an investigation be carried out on the alleged atrocities.


Central African Republic:

On 11 June, the UN announced the death of another UN Peacekeeper. The attack also left another injured during regular patrol outside of Bambari. It is the second death of MINUSCA forces in two weeks. UN Officials warned that attacks against Peacekeeping forces may constitute a war crime.


DPRK:

On 11 June, UNSG Guterres described Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump’s meeting as “a promising development for global peace and security.” Guterres also highlighted that the way towards peace and denuclearization is with cooperation, compromise, and a common goal. He also drew attention to the fact that the North Korean humanitarian situation is far from ideal, as the UN estimates that 40 percent of the population requires assistance.

On 12 June, the long-awaited historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump took place in Singapore. They signed a statement where Jong-un reaffirmed his commitment to complete North Korea’s denuclearization and, in exchange, Trump agreed to “provide security guarantees” to North Korea, halting military exercises with South Korea. The statement keeps the countries engaged, but it fails to resolve any issues, lacking a specific plan of action or timeline.

On 14 June, US Secretary of State Pompeo denied the sanction relief on North Korea, suggested by DPRK state media. According to Pompeo, these sanctions will not disappear until North Korea denuclearizes.


DRC:

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) DRC Country Director, Ulrika Blom, published a call to action in order to protect the people of the DRC and prevent a regional crisis. Humanitarian aid to the DRC is severely underfunded, leaving many Congolese displaced, without shelter, and without adequate food supply. Blom noted regional clashes between armed groups, tribal warfare, and unrest are causing people to flee their homes both internally, and across borders. Such large-scale displacement and instability, she warns, will inevitably affect regional politics and humanitarian aid responses.

On 8 June, the ICC Appeals Chamber acquitted Former Vice President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Court ruled that Bemba was convicted based on crimes outside the scope of charges and that the Trial Chamber made errors in assessing whether or not he had taken all reasonable and necessary measures to prevent, repress, or punish the commission of his subordinates of the crimes that were within the scope of the case. Bemba was originally sentenced to 18 years in prison for two counts of crimes against humanity, and three counts of war crimes.

Following his acquittal on war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC ordered the release of Jean-Pierre Bemba on 11 June. The former VP faces sentencing in his appeals trial for witness tampering, but his release concerns many who believe his freedom could impact the elections scheduled later this year in the DRC. The judge was clear, however, that his release is temporary, pending the determination of the second case for which he stands up to five years in detention. Elise Keppler of HRW’s International Justice Initiative said that the ruling raises questions about the ICC’s credibility and may shock many who survived the violence in CAR.


Gaza/West Bank:

Coalition member Human Rights Watch called for the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged attacks on Palestinian medical workers at the Gaza border  by Israeli forces. Deliberate targeting of civilians and medical workers could amount to war crimes, particularly when targeted against civilians “who posed no imminent threat to life,” Human Rights Watch has noted in relation to the Gaza protests.

At a meeting on 9 June, the Israeli cabinet failed to adopt new decisions regarding proposals on how to deal with the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claims that Israel is the country that is doing the most, despite the 11 year-long blockade it has put on the Gaza strip, which has caused a humanitarian crisis in the region.

Meanwhile, on 13 June the UN General Assembly passed a resolution which “blamed the Israelis for the casualties” seen in Gaza since Palestinian protests began on 30 March. Despite the US and Israel being critical of the lack of inclusion of Hamas-based criticism in the resolution, it has been seen by many as a “moral victory.” Palestinian Ambassador, Riyad H. Mansour, urged that Palestine needs “protection of [its] civilian population.” While the resolution is not legally binding, and a similar legally-binding resolution put forward to the Security Council was vetoed by the US, it nonetheless displays the US and Israel’s overwhelming “isolation” relating to the conflict at the UN.


Iraq:

On 9 June, a huge fire engulfed the warehouse that is storing the ballot boxes from Iraq’s parliamentary election which took place on 12 May. The fire represents a deliberate “plot to sabotage the country and its democratic process,” says Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as it comes just before a planned recount of all votes following accusations of election foul play.

On 11 June, the Iraqi court issued  arrest warrants for four suspected perpetrators, including policemen and an Independent High Elections Commission employee, Al Jazeera reports. Further, the current parliament proposed that nine judges take over the leadership of the Independent High Elections Commission. Haider al-Abadi is rejecting a call to repeat the elections, despite his third place election result. He reminded the country that the decision is one for the “judiciary, not politicians” and Parliament would not have the power to cancel the election anyway.

On 12 June, first and second-place election winners Moqtada al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri announced their political blocs will create an alliance for the future government. They have announced that they “would keep the door open for other winning blocs to join them in forming a new government.” Their alliance is “a Nationalist one,” which al-Abadi may yet join.

The Iraqi Government has estimated that around $90 billion is required to rebuild Iraq in the wake of the previous 15 years of war in the region. At a donor conference in February, Iraq’s allies pledged only $30 billion to aid the reconstruction effort.


Libya:

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, continue to call for General Khalifa Hiftar to open humanitarian corridors and allow civilians still trapped within the city of Derna to leave before the Libyan National Army advances further into the city. On 11 June, Amnesty released a report stating their fears that civilians would be caught up in a “bloody street battle” if advances continue.

Meanwhile on 11 June, a US Navy ship assisted and rescued a group of migrants off the Libyan coast. While Italy refuses to take migrants, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has pledged to accept those rescued at sea, stating that “it is our obligation to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a ‘safe harbor’ to these people.”

On 12 June, the UN Security Council extended the Libya arms embargo for another year. Both of Libya’s governments have called for the arms embargo to be lifted, on the basis that they want to “create an army and police force to defend against crime” and need arms. The opposition, however, maintains that an effort must be made to seize the millions of arms already circulating among civilians and militias before any more weapons should be imported.


Mali:

The UNSG published a report on the situation in Mali which includes some of the findings and recommendations recently put forward by the independent strategic review of the MINUSMA. The report states that the protective environment, particularly in the center of Mali, continued to deteriorate during the reporting period. Indeed, during this time 43 civilians were killed and 24 were injured in targeted attacks and conflicts among communities, with many others displaced.

On 8 June, thousands of Malians protested in Bamako against President Keita. The civil opposition movement, Trop c’est trop, organized the march to denounce proposed constitutional amendments which would give excessive powers to the president.

On 9 June, security forces informed Efe International News Agency that two attacks perpetrated by alleged jihadists in Mopti killed three Malian soldiers and wounded nine others. The International Crisis Group confirmed jihadist groups are settled along the Niger-Mali border are utilizing the instability and insecurity of the country in their favor.


Nigeria:

On 14 June, President Buhari assured that “Nigeria will continue to deepen relationships with her allies, particularly those with whom her shares mutually beneficial interests.” During his meeting with the Ambassador of Ethiopia, he highlighted the importance of security and economic development for any country and that was why he has been visiting Nigeria’s immediate neighbors.


Philippines:

The House of Representatives of the Philippines approved a bill which aims to provide full protection to children in armed conflict. It declares children below the age of 18 as “zones of peace” and gives them certain rights in situations of armed conflict. These rights include, amongst others, the right to life, survival and development, special respect and protection against any form of abuse, and the right to be treated as victims.


South Sudan:

Over the past week peace talks between President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader, Dr. Riek Machar,show promise with Khartoum offering to host the talks between the two leaders. Both leaders are insisting a right to self-defense, causing concern that the talks may result in escalated violence.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government denied plans to forcibly evict the internally displaced from camps in Darfur. On 9 June, the Sudan Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) has announced, however, several options for IDPs; voluntary return, integration into their local communities, or resettlement in another location of their choosing. This came along announcements of 400,000 voluntary returns of IDPs this year to date, making a total of 1.9million people residing in one of the 39 remaining IDP camps. According to the report released by ReliefWeb (linked) the HAC has not announced a timeline or plan of action for the various return and integration plans.

With the situation on the ground shifting, the joint mission between UNAMID and the AU must change, said UN Under Secretary General, Jean-Pierre Lacroix in a Security Council meeting on 11 June. Shifting its peacekeeping priorities to Jebel Marra, the location of continued conflict, and addressing the humanitarian issues as needed throughout Darfur. The newly proposed two-year strategy would continue peacekeeping operations to ensure the protection of civilians, mediation of conflicts, and humanitarian aid, but also include a shifting focus towards early recovery and development focusing on long-term projects and solutions.

An AU communique on 12 June announced the extension of the joint UNAMID mission in Darfur for 12 months, following the Joint Special Report by the AU Chairperson and UNSG. The Council also addressed the ongoing attacks in Jebel Marra, which has resulted in attacks against and the displacement of civilians. The region remains under humanitarian concern, and that security, land ownership, and public services delivery remain of concern. The communique also stressed that returns must be voluntary, safe, and in dignity, as stipulated by international standards. The Joint Special Report proposed dissolving the mission in June 2020, but the AU was clear that consideration must be given to the political and security situation, gradually paring down operations to remove the threat of a security vacuum.


Syria:

In a development for the prevention of international impunity for atrocity crimes, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice issued an international warrant of arrest for Syria’s Air Force Intelligence Chief, Jamil Hassan, on 9 June. The charges issued are in relation to his alleged ordering of forces under his command to murder, torture and perpetrate sexual violence against Syrian detainees between 2011 and 2014. Secretary General of The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) stated that “Germany is prepared to make its contribution to the legal reappraisal of these serious human rights crimes.” The principle of universal jurisdiction within international law allows the prosecution of such crimes to be pursued anywhere, regardless of where the acts were physically committed. While Syria has not ratified the Rome Statute and therefore is not under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, Hassan could theoretically be tried in the UN Court of Justice, permitting that Syria does not veto such action in the Security Council.

In a statement released on 10 June, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed his condemnation of last week’s airstrikes allegedly committed by Russian Jets, which targeted the rebel-held town of Zardan. The White Helmets reported that the attacks resulted in at least 47 civilian deaths. The UN is calling for a full investigation into the strikes.

The Islamic State (ISIL) mass executed 90 of its own members in Syria due to them being “reluctant about the defense battles against Syrian army,” Iraqi News reported on 14 June. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on 13 June that while he is “giving the political process a chance” with regards the supposed liberation of the southwest region currently held by rebels, but will “liberate it by force” if diplomacy does not prove successful.

Proposals for the creation of a constitutional committee for Syria will be discussed on 18-19 June by senior Iranian, Russian and Turkish officials and UN representatives. The meeting will take place in Geneva, and is aimed to “rewrite the Syrian constitution, paving the way for new elections as part of a post-war political reform.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the chemical Sarin was in fact used in an attack in Latamina on 24 March 2017, in which at least 32 people were injured. Although the OPCW did not assign blame, but it is urged that government forces were attacking the area at the time. The OPCW did however assign blame on the Syrian government for using Sarin in a different attack in Khan Sheikhoun a few days after the Latamina attack.


Yemen:

On 14 June Amnesty expressed concern over the arrest of key human rights activist and Executive Director of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, by Yemeni security forces. They note that if the arrest is solely on the basis of his invaluable human rights work then “he must be released immediately and unconditionally.”


Other:

On 31 May ICRtoP coalition member, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) published a handbook for Parliamentarians on preventing violent extremism and mass atrocities. The handbook, written by Phil Gurski, in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation and Parliamentarians for Global Action, was born out of the November 2017 Milan Forum.

The Dominican Republic became the 117th signatory to the ACT Code of Conduct on 1 June. The Code of Conduct calls upon all members of the Security Council, in particular the P5, to refrain from using the veto in cases of mass atrocity situations. A full list of signatories can be found here.

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#RtoP Weekly: 3 – 8 June 2018

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Updates from the ICRtoP: national and international atrocity prevention initiatives

It may have been a while since you’ve seen an RtoP Weekly from us. We apologize for putting our newsletter on hold, but we’re excited to announce we will be resuming of our weekly updates on RtoP-related situations from around the world.

2018 has already proven to be a busy and exciting year for the Responsibility to Protect. Recently, ICRtoP staff traveled to Kampala, Uganda to participate in the third Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes conference (GAAMAC III), where representatives of governments, international and regional organizations, relevant UN offices, civil society, and academia gathered to exchange and discuss best practices for “Empowering Prevention”. Furthermore, ahead of GAAMAC III, the ICRtoP partnered with the Ugandan National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and Human Rights Network-Uganda to co-host a pre-GAAMAC CSO (civil society organization) Symposium, which featured discussions and panels focused on approaches in mass atrocity prevention, particularly in dealing with the past and deficits of governance, the Rule of Law, and democracy at the national level. Please find the symposium communique here.

Furthermore, in the coming weeks, the Global Network of R2P Focal Points will convene its eighth annual meeting in Helsinki and the UN General Assembly will convene the first formal debate on the Responsibility to Protect since 2009 on 25 June 2018. Both the convening of the Focal Points meeting and the formal UNGA debate provide great opportunities for Member States to engage with one another on best practices for atrocity prevention. The UNGA debate on RtoP, in particular, provides an historic opportunity for Member States to discuss the norm formally and to develop on-the-record statements, necessitating greater discourse and consideration of RtoP and its implementation within capitals and therefore outside of the UN. This should therefore raise the potential for increased implementation and domestication of RtoP.

For more information on this and all things RtoP, please visit our website here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On 31 May, Burma and the UN announced deal for the return of Rohingya Muslim refugees to the country, but many are still concerned about gaps in the memo and  reported ongoing violence against the Rohingya. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees alerted that “conditions are not conducive for voluntary return yet,” but they will be working with the government to make improvements. In fact, Kunt Ostby, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Burma, stated that the two key conditions for the UN to allow repatriation were, 1) an assured citizenship for the Rohingya and 2) assurance that they will not have the fear of being attacked. Rohingya have also expressed fears that it does not do enough to guarantee their safety.

On June 6, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the Government of Myanmar, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). It addresses the UN system’s support to creating suitable circumstances in order to provide refugees a voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return from Bangladesh and their effective non-violent reintegration into the country. The UNSG Guterres also encouraged Burma to take “decisive steps to implement the agreement” and restated his call for an end to violence.


Burundi: 

In an unexpected turn, President Pierre Nkurunziza announced on 7 June that he would not run for another term, and would support the new Executive who will be elected in 2020. The results from May’s referendum on presidential term limits caused concern that Nkurunziza would try and extend his tenure to 2034, in spite of the violence and ethnic tension that resulted from his reelection in 2015.


Central African Republic:

Child Soldiers International confirmed on 5 June that many children who were released by armed groups in CAR have voluntarily joined rebel groups. While the organization believes that the majority of children are kidnapped, but many see membership in a rebel group as an option for a better life or to avenge the death of a loved one.

An attack by armed militants on 6 June resulted in the death of a UN Peacekeeper from Tanzania. Secretary General Guterres condemned the killing, and urged authorities to investigate the attack so the perpetrators could be brought to justice. He also reiterated his support for MINUSCA and its mission to protect civilians and help stabilize the country. So far four UN Peacekeepers have been killed in action this year.


Gaza/West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 28 May that Israeli troops are deliberately using snipers to target volunteer medical teams tending to injured unarmed Palestinians during “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition also expressed concerned over “interferences with delivery of healthcare, obstruction of medical transport, and denial of impartial care to wounded civilians.” The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory released on 31 May a “humanitarian snapshot” showing the total casualties during protests.

The death of 21-year old medic, Razan Al Najjar, who was reportedly shot and killed by an Israeli sniper on 1 June, has sparked further outcry from human rights groups. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick, reminded the international community that “healthcare workers must be allowed to perform their duties without fear of death or injury” in a recent statement. Unless there is an “imminent threat of death or serious injury,” use of lethal force is illegal under human rights law. The death toll from the demonstrations has reached 119.

Two rival UN Security Council Resolutions ascribing blame for the situation in Gaza, proposed by parties on opposing sides of the conflict were vetoed last week, The Independent reported on 2 June. Such fundamental disagreements at the UN are continuing to delay the international community’s response to the ongoing atrocities.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to meet with the Israeli cabinet this week to decide on an action plan for Gaza, with a view to easing the humanitarian crisis. Proposals to be discussed include a UN infrastructure reconstruction program funded by the UN and the international community.


Iraq:

Volunteers discovered over a thousand dead bodies of ISIL fighters in Mosul, as they attempt to clear up the Old City, Al Jazeera reported on 31 May. The group of around 30 volunteers is working to rehabilitate the area, although experts predict that it “could take a decade” before Mosul is fully cleared. Rebuilding efforts are hampered by the remnants of “unexploded artillery” and “complex booby traps” that still pose a potentially life-threatening risk to volunteers.

The Iraq election probe continues; on 5 June Iraq’s current Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, banned all high-ranking people working within Iraq’s election commission from leaving the country, citing that criminal charges may be pursued against some of them due to purported election rigging. Al-Abadi asserted that, while there are alleged violations by party members, the election commission “bears the largest share of the responsibility.”  On 7 June, the Iraqi Parliament ordered a total recount of the ballots and fired all officials within the Electoral Commission who oversaw the election process.

Indeed fears are being raised of expected backlash from growing tensions between Iran and the US that will potentially destabilize Iraq, Al Jazeera reports. While pro-Iran militias helped to defeat ISIL in Iraq, the US allegedly “wants to limit” Iranian influence in Iraq, including in its currently fragile politics. Iran also favors a new Iraqi government sympathetic to Iranian interests. However Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon coalition won the most election seats; he envisages an Iraq with absolutely no “foreign interference.”  With the current political unrest, formation of a government is likely to be somewhat delayed.

The New York Times plans to return “The ISIS Files” recovered from Iraq which help to piece together “how a terrorist group like ISIS was able to control such a large area for as long as it did.” Journalists involved in the removal of the documents from Iraq claimed that it was best to gather and remove the documents from Iraq, where they were “at risk of being destroyed.”

On 31 May, Antonio Guterres appointed Karim Khan to head the investigative team “tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of serious crimes committed” by ISIL in Iraq. However, Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the limited mandate of the UN investigation, which only authorizes investigation into alleged ISIL-perpetrated crimes committed in Iraq, and not anti-ISIL forces. A UNSC resolution adopted in September last year approved the investigation.


Libya: 

United Nations Migration Agency reported almost 900 individuals fled the region of Derna on 30-31 May due to continued shelling severely affecting local population, with 17 recorded dead in the area since 16 May.

On 4 June, the Libyan National Army (LNA) allegedly entered Derna to retake the town from militant group Derna Mujahideen Shura Council. The advance into several neighborhoods comes after “heavy shelling and air strikes” in recent weeks by the Libyan National Army, under the command of General Khalifa Hiftar, Reuters reports. The council is comprised of anti-Hiftar fighters and Islamists.

United Nations Refugee Agency released coverage on 1 June regarding over a dozen refugees coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who were attacked and recaptured by human traffickers as they tried to escape a detention center south of Tripoli on 23 May. Survivors explained that they were subjected to “torture, abuse and exploitation” by the traffickers, some for up to three years. UNHCR Spokesperson, William Spindler, notes that this is “not an isolated case.” He claims that many refugees attempting to escape war and persecution in other neighboring African countries are being subjected to similar detention conditions at the hands of traffickers, in and around Bani Walid.

 


Mali:

On 2 June, Secretary General Guterres asked for “calm and restraint” after incidents in Mali’s capital, where the police allegedly used tear gas to break up opposition supporters who wanted to march through Bamako with the aim of calling for more transparency before the presidential elections held next month. He also highlighted the importance of inclusive political dialogue as it is a key element for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedom of expression.


Nigeria:

On 5 June, Nigeria’s National Assembly threatened to impeach Muhammadu Buhari over killings in the country, questionable fight against corruption, and his appointees’s actions seen as “persecuting his opponents” unless certain conditions are met. The first condition states, “The Security Agencies must be given marching orders to curtail the sustained killing of Nigerians across the country and protect lives and properties of Nigerians, as this is the primary duty of any responsible Government.” Conditions also include for the National Assembly to liaise with International Communities through the IPU, APU, ECOWAS, CPA, Parliament, Pan African Parliament, EU, UN, US Congress, and UK Parliament to secure their democracy.


Philippines: 

On 7 June, President Duterte declared that martial law countrywide “is not feasible” as it will lead to a “divided nation.” This statement comes as a clarification after his latest comments about making “radical changes in the coming days” because “too many crimes” were happening in the country.


South Sudan:

On 4 June, IGAD officials said it is now up to President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Dr. Riek Machar to meet in order to advance the South Sudan peace process. This call for a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders comes at a time when lack of trust is at a low, and both insist they cannot work with one another. The date for such a meeting is unclear, though it must be decided by the IGAD heads of state meeting prior to July’s AU meeting.

The same day, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, called on governments to impose economic sanctions against leaders on both sides of the South Sudan crisis. He reaffirmed that humanitarian aid was still being provided, but voiced an opinion that the perpetrators of violence did not seem to be bothered by the welfare of the South Sudanese people and were concerned more with their own personal economic interest.

The Carnegie Corporation released the latest episode of their “Peacebuilders” podcast on 5 June, discussing the crisis in South Sudan. They discuss how South Sudan was hoped to be a symbol of international cooperation, but instead how the country has regressed into conflict and is now a humanitarian crisis without an end in sight, bringing about the implementation of multiple securitization approaches and tactics in order to find a durable solution.

A report by the Associated Press on 6 June stated they had learned of 14 unreleased human rights reports by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan, the independent watch-dog charged with monitoring the current cease-fire agreements, and diplomats from the US, UK, and UN. The unreleased reports allegedly contain evidence that soldiers continue to commit atrocity crimes such by killing, raping, and destroying property. While the reports detail violations by both sides, they describe deliberate targeting of the military against civilians. Edmund Yakani, Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said that IGAD and AU leaders need to take action as “silence on the violations on encourages further violations.”


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese Communist Party issued a statement on 31 May against the downscaling of UNAMID operations, stating that it would have negative consequences on the people of Darfur. The party called on the UN Security Council and international human rights organizations to take action to protect the people and property in the region. Additionally they called on the Human Rights Council to take action in order to ensure justice by bringing rights violators to court.


Syria:

According to a Reuters article released on 2 June, the Syrian government is committed to recapturing territory in the Southwest, currently held by insurgents. Walid al-Moualem, foreign minister, says the US must pull out of the southeastern Tanf base.

Amnesty International’s report, “War of Annihilation,” released on 5 June investigates the devastating effects of conflict in Raqqa between ISIL & US Coalition forces. While Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty, recognizes the commission of war crimes by ISIL, she notes that this does not relieve coalition forces “of their obligations to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.” The report asserts that Coalition strikes appear to be “disproportionate or indiscriminate” and potentially constitute war crimes, before recommending further investigation.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly plans to meet with the President of the DPRK, Kim Jong-Un. While both countries largely face international isolation, Assad mentions of the meeting that his administration “will as ever fully support all policies and measures of the DPRK leadership” and “strengthen and develop the friendly ties with the DPRK.”


Venezuela:

On 4 June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Venezuela to be suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS) as a consequence of the country’s May presidential vote that resulted in the re-election of President Nicolás Maduro. At the OAS headquarters, Pompeo told representatives of the 35 member countries that Maduro was not acting under constitutional order and failed to follow OAS responsibilities, displaying “unmistakable bad faith and exhausting options for dialogue under current conditions.” Moreover, Pompeo urgedincreasing sanctions against Maduro’s government in addition to its suspension from the OAS which implies penalties such as the suspension from aid granted by the Inter-American Development Bank.

On the 5 June Resolution on the Situation of Venezuela, the OAS declared that “ the electoral process as implemented in Venezuela, which concluded on 20 May 20 2018, lacks legitimacy, for not complying with international standards, for not having met the participation of all Venezuelan political actors, and for being carried out without the necessary guarantees for a free, fair, transparent and democratic process.” This resolution takes the first steps towards the historic suspension of a South American country from the OAS.

The European Commission announced on 7 June it would give £35.1m in emergency aid to help thousands of affected by the severe economic crisis. “This package will improve the Venezuelan people’s access to food and nutrition, as well as basic services like water, sanitation and hygiene”, stated Neven Mimica, Europe’s Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.


Yemen:

The UN Refugee Agency published “Yemen’s Critical Requirements” detailing that 22.2 million people require assistance in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” in Yemen. Priorities include “protection space for refugees” and “advocacy against unlawful detention.”

Saudi-led coalition forces are now within 8km of Hodeidah, a Houthi-held territory. Martin Griffiths, UN Envoy to Yemen, arrived in the country on 2 June to propose that the Houthis cede control of the city to the UN. The proposal comes amid fears that the city’s population of 400,000 will be put in substantial danger from a likely “bloodbath” between Houthi and Saudi-led coalition forces. Any destruction of infrastructure would obstruct crucial aid supplies that the country’s population is heavily reliant on. Griffiths is likely to discuss the situation of Hodeidah at his Security Council briefing on 18 June.


Other:

On 31 May ICRtoP coalition member, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) published a handbook for Parliamentarians on preventing violent extremism and mass atrocities. The handbook, written by Phil Gurski, in collaboration with the Stanley Foundation and Parliamentarians for Global Action, was born out of the November 2017 Milan Forum.

The Dominican Republic became the 117th signatory to the ACT Code of Conduct on 1 June. The Code of Conduct calls upon all members of the Security Council, in particular the P5, to refrain from using the veto in cases of mass atrocity situations. A full list of signatories can be found here.

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#R2P Weekly 19 – 23 February 2018

UN rails against Syria’s “monstrous campaign of annihilation” in Eastern Ghouta
The United Nations is pleading for a halt to one of the deadliest air assault campaigns of the Syrian conflict, as Syrian government forces have reportedly continued to attack Eastern Ghouta for over five straight days, killing more than 335 civilians, in what the UN has called a “massacre”. On 19 February, Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of the last remaining rebel-held enclave near the capital, allegedly indiscriminately killing more than 100 civilians that day alone, and marking one of the deadliest attacks in three years. Moreover, in just the past few days, Syrian government forces and its allies have reportedly conducted 420 airstrikes and dropped 140 barrel bombs in Eastern Ghouta. While the Syrian government claims that there are few civilians left in Eastern Ghouta, according to the UN, almost 400,000 people remain trapped in the area.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres maintains that the Syrian government’s bombing campaign has turned Eastern Ghouta into “hell on earth” and has called for an immediate halt to the fighting. Similarly, both Panos Moumtzis, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, as well as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, have urged all parties to strictly adhere to their international humanitarian obligations and to take all feasible measures to protect civilians. They have further underscored that “International humanitarian law was developed precisely to stop this type of situation, where civilians are slaughtered in droves in order to fulfill political or military objectives”. The High Commissioner railed at the “monstrous campaign of annihilation”.

Earlier this month, Sweden and Kuwait introduced a draft resolution, requesting that the UN Security Council (UNSC) vote “as soon as possible” on the proposed 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which would allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuation. During intense negotiations and in a concession to Russia, the draft resolution was later amended to specify that the proposed ceasefire would not apply to the Islamic State (ISIL) or Al-Qaeda. The UNSC vote, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was later delayed and set to take place on Friday, 23 February.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

 

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria 
Venezuela
Yemen

 

Burma/Myanmar:

On 23 February, a bomb killed two people and injured 22 others at a bank in the northern city of Lashio. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but violent incidents carried out by armed ethnic groups are not uncommon in the northern part of the country. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee warned in a statement this month of the need to focus not only on the Rohingya crisis, but to also focus on the general ethnic strife of the country.

The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on Burmese General Maung Maung Soe, citing his alleged complicity in the violations of rights of the Rohingya population. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also stated that the acts committed against the Rohingya constitute ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The European Union (EU) is also preparing sanctions against Burmese generals involved in the systematic abuse of human rights against the Rohingya, Reuters has reported. European diplomats also announced the EU’s desire to strengthen the arms-embargo currently in place on Burma.

Burma has agreed to resettle the 6,000 Rohingya stranded in no man’s land, an unclaimed piece of land near the Tombru border between Burma and Bangladesh. While most of the Rohingya refugees have fled to the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, some are stranded in this area as a result of the Bangladeshi government denying their entrance to the country. The decision comes after Bangladeshi and Burmese authorities visited the impromptu camps to encourage Rohingya refugees to return to Burma.


 

Burundi:

UN Development Programme Representative to Burundi Garry Coville reported that one in three Burundian people will require humanitarian assistance in 2018, a 20 percent increase from last year’s needs. Coville stated that the socio-economic situation in the country, as well as the increase of natural disasters, will exacerbate the need for humanitarian aid.

Opposition groups in Burundi are accusing the government of allegedly intimidating and forcing citizens to register to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum. The government has allegedly set up checkpoints, mostly run by the party’s youth militia wing, the Imbonerakure, to verify registration papers. Other residents stated that local authorities have allegedly threatened to withhold fertilizers and not provide health insurance validation if citizens are not registered. Burundi’s First Vice President acknowledged that some members of the Imbonerakure might have abused their power, but denied any other allegations.


 

Central African Republic:

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called on the international community to increase its support to the humanitarian response in the Central African Republic (CAR) after her visit to the country. While the funding for humanitarian programs has decreased in the last three years, the number of internally displaced persons in the country has doubled to 694,000 in the last year. Mueller emphasized the need to strengthen the protection of civilians during her meetings with national authorities and key stakeholders. Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the CAR Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum also urged for an open dialogue between factions, the need to establish judicial mechanisms, and for an increase in humanitarian assistance in the country, citing the 2.2 million people in need of aid.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) of the DRC has revealed new electronic voting machines for the upcoming referendum later this year. The machines will allow the voter to touch the photo of a candidate, which then prints a marked ballot paper that the voter must place inside a ballot box. Additionally, the machines are only available in French, the official language of the country, but not in the four other recognized national languages. Opposition groups, however, have rejected the machines, citing concerns over easy manipulation of votes. The Catholic Church has called on the government to allow international experts to certify the machines, while the US firmly opposes an electronic vote.

Switzerland has imposed sanctions on 14 individuals allied with the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila. These sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, largely replicate the sanctions already imposed by the European Union.

On 20 February, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned of a looming humanitarian disaster of colossal proportions in the southeastern area of the DRC. The province of Tanganyika has been the stage of conflict and violence between different ethnic groups as well as between government and militia forces, with UNHCR partners reporting 800 protection incidents in just the first two weeks of February. The atrocities include attacks against villages, abductions, and gender-based violence, including rape. Head of Operations for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) Jean-Philippe Chauzy has also raised concerns over the dire humanitarian situation in the DRC, stating that the international community cannot stay dormant to the country’s situation. Chauzy reported that malnutrition levels in the Kasai province have risen by 750 percent as a result of the constant displacement due to violence. In response, the European Commission, alongside the UN and the Dutch government, will co-host a donor conference on 13 April focusing on funding for humanitarian relief in the DRC.

Over the weekend, unidentified armed men killed two aid workers and kidnapped another one in the eastern province of North Kivu in the DRC, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The workers were part of the NGO Hydraulique sans Frontières, which provides technical support in water-related projects in developing countries. OCHA warned of the security situation in the region, citing the 2017 December attack when a rebel group killed 15 UN Peacekeepers and injured 53 others.


 

Gaza / West Bank:

During a briefing to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that no Plan B exists for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, affirming the UN’s support to a two-state solution. In the same meeting, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Nikolay Mladenov called on the international community to continue to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while also urging for the return of control over Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, who was also present at the meeting, proposed an international peace conference later this year to solve the situation. However, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon stated that the only way to solve the problem is through direct negotiations between the two parties.

On 21 February, Egypt re-opened the Rafah crossing point along its border with Gaza for four days only. While thousands of Gaza residents are on the authorized travel list, mainly composed of medical patients and students, it is likely that only a few thousand will make it out in the allotted time.

After a rocket fired from Gaza hit the southern part of Israel over the weekend, Israeli warplanes struck 18 Hamas facilities on Monday, 19 February. No casualties were reported, but the exchange is seen as the most serious escalation since 2014. Hamas officials, however, have stated they do not wish for a further escalation of the situation.


 

Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against Iraq’s Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units on 19 February, killing at least 27 people southwest of Kirkuk.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that on 19 February, a court in Baghdad convicted 11 women from Turkey and one woman from Azerbaijan for non-violent crimes under Iraq’s counter-terrorism law, sentencing ten to life in prison and one to to death. Six months ago, approximately 1,400 foreign women and children, along with ISIL fighters, surrendered to Iraqi security forces. Charges leveled against these women include: entering Iraq illegally; aiding or abetting ISIL; and membership in ISIL. Despite these defendants having access to lawyers during interrogations, unlike earlier cases, HRW maintains that their trials were unfair. Additionally, HRW claims that in these cases, the women received the harshest possible sentences for what appears to be either marriage to an ISIL member or a coerced border crossing. Accordingly, HRW asserts that Iraqi authorities ought to develop a national prosecutorial strategy and prioritize prosecuting those accused of being most responsible for the most serious crimes. To that end, HRW is of the view that authorities should consider alternatives to criminal prosecution for those suspected only of membership in ISIL, without any evidence of other serious crime.


 

Libya:

Seven years after Libya’s revolution, the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to persist and the forecast for 2018 is bleak. Current events, including the elections tentatively scheduled for late 2018, have the potential to reignite an armed conflict rather than lead to a unified Libya, especially in the absence of a constitution and the fact that no single faction appears strong enough to stabilize the country. Indeed, it seems that election-related violence has already begun. Moreover, this power vacuum and the looming possibility of returning to civil war, creates fertile ground for the Islamic State (ISIL) and Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recover from their 2016 and 2017 setbacks and return time and again. According to reports, ISIL is already rising again, and currently disrupting oil production and expanding its reach southward. Additionally, ISIL is allegedly using Libya as its primary base in Africa, where it receives foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle east, and from where it plans and coordinates attacks against the West. Disarray in the country could also make the humanitarian situation even worse, by preserving a slavery economy, destabilizing neighboring states, and intensifying migration to Europe.


Mali:

Infighting between the government of Mali and ethnic Tuaregs in the north over which side is responsible for the failure to produce security or economic benefits for the northern tribe could lead to civil war. This could in turn create an opening for terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to further entrench their operations in northern Mali.

In central Mali, nearly 400 schools have already closed since Islamist militants expanded their operations and attacks toward the more densely populated Segou and Mopti regions. It also appears that the jihadists are targeting French schools, claiming they “want Koranic schools” instead. Worse still, it seems as though the campaign of violence is gaining support from local communities who feel that they have been marginalized by the government, which they also view as ineffective. Fatou Dieng Thiam, who heads the UN mission’s office in Mopti claims that in addition to militants organizing prayer sessions and telling people to stop paying government taxes, the militants are also “threaten[ing] every symbol of the state: teachers, administrative officers, mayors.” ICRtoP partner Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also documented several cases of rights violations where Malian forces have been involved in their own violations which is creating its own unique cycle of violence.


 

Nigeria:

Four years after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Boko Haram militants attacked a school in Dapchi, Yobe State on 19 February. While it was originally thought that the students and teachers fled before Boko Haram arrived, three days after the attack at least 13 girls are still missing and two were found dead. However, officials have been reluctant to call this a kidnapping, as about 76 of the girls who had fled were later found hiding in surrounding villages, so officials say it may still be possible to find those who are still missing. Still, one parent told the BBC they had seen a truck full of students being taken away. Security services continue to search the area to locate the missing girls.

On 19 February, Nigeria’s justice ministry said that 205 Boko Haram suspects had been convicted on charges related to their involvement with the militant Islamist group. The mass trial marks the end of the second stage of the country’s largest legal challenge against Boko Haram. Jail terms range from three to 60 years. Rights groups have criticized how the Nigerian authorities have handled some of these cases, claiming that some detainees had been held without trial since 2010. Still, the justice ministry also noted that 526 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram were released for rehabilitation and said that 73 cases were adjourned.


 

South Sudan:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that approximately 200,000 refugees from South Sudan will arrive in Sudan during 2018. As the five-year conflict continues, OCHA warns of the need for a long-term strategy, rather than just an emergency response. The organization emphasized plans to provide more durable infrastructure to refugee camps and assistance to host communities.

Two clans in the eastern state of Jonglei in South Sudan have reached a peace agreement, ending a violent conflict over land that has killed 37 people in the past two months. The parties agreed to create a buffer zone, where government security forces will keep the two clans apart.

The South Sudan Peace talks failed to reach an agreement by 16 February as was previously hoped. Hirut Zemene, deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers reported that arranging security and sharing responsibility were the two major items under consideration. While no specific date for continuing the peace talks has been set, Zemene hoped that the break would be short and that talks would resume soon, so as to maintain the momentum and finalize pending issues. However, the government delegation, after its return to Juba, reiterated its rejection to the proposals presented by the opposition forces and blamed them for stalling the talks. The government particularly opposed the plan to dissolve the security sector and transfer power to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to the Regional Protection Force. On the other hand, the opposition forces blamed the government for the failure of the peace talks, citing the government’s strict demands such as refusing to demilitarize Juba and rejecting to reconstruct the army.  On 21 February, more than 200 civil society groups issued a statement urging the IGAD, the African Union, and the international community to increase pressure on all parties to reach an agreement in the next phase of negotiations in March.

A new UN report exposed the “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in South Sudan, citing 60 confirmed incidents where journalists had either been killed, beaten, or arrested. The report also described the restrictions placed upon media outlets, including blocked websites and denying entry to 20 foreign reporters. The head of UNMISS, David Shearer, further reported that the journalists and entities who were targeted were deemed to be critical of the government.


 

Sudan:

The Governor of Central Darfur Ja’afar Abdel-Hakam announced that a security forum would take place in Nertiti next month, bringing together the security committees of North, South and Central Darfur. The purpose of the forum will be to discuss security issues and the impact of the disarmament campaign in the region. Sudan’s Vice President Abdel-Rahman also reported that large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have returned to Darfur, following an improved security situation in the country. He urged the committee in charge of overseeing the return to provide more assistance to all five states in Darfur. Additionally, during Pramila Patten’s visit to Darfur, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict commended the efforts of the government to end sexual violence in the area. However while meeting with Ms. Patten, Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) of allegedly hiding Mission staff involved in sexual offenses.

On 18 February, the Sudanese government released over 80 political opponents and activists who partook in the protests over the rising prices of bread last month. The opposition party, the National Umma Party (NUP), welcomed the release but called on the government to release the remaining detainees, and also called for the repeal of laws that restrict the freedom of expression and assembly. The NUP also accused the government of holding the remaining detainees as hostages, citing the Sudanese government’s press statement announcing that the remaining prisoners would be released as long as the demonstrations and vandalism stopped in the country. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged the government to release the remaining detainees, and noted that Sudanese groups monitoring the release reported that only 50 people were released, not 80 as the government claimed.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North led by al Hilu (SPLM-N al-Hilu) allegedly attacked SPLM-N forces led by Agar (SPLM-N Agar) in the Blue Nile state on Saturday 17 February. The two factions used to be part of a united opposition force against the Sudanese government until they clashed last year over the right to self-determination and other organizational issues.

The Enough Project in Sudan distributed an open letter to UN commissioners citing issues with the Sudanese government’s suppression of peaceful protests, arbitrary arrests, and detentions. The letter asked the UN commissioners to request the Sudanese government to respect their citizens’ right to protest and to refrain from using force against protesters. In addition, the letter also asked that the Sudanese government allow detainees legal counsel and family visitation rights. The Enough Project and the other signatories to the letter have also requested that the government conduct an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and into the ill-treatment and torture of the detainees.


Syria:
Seven years of conflict in Syria has left more than 465,000 dead, over 1,000,000 injured, and at least 12,000,000 displaced.

On 16 February, the US and Turkey agreed to hold talks in order to de-escalate the situation in Syria, particularly to avoid clashes in the northern city of Manbij. Previously, Turkey had said it would attack US-backed Kurdish forces in the city, while the US had threatened of an aggressive response.

On 20 February, Syria’s “Popular Forces” entered Afrin to counter Turkey’s attack against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), raising the possibility of clashes between Syria and Turkey. While Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Bekir Bozdağ has apparently warned Syria of “disastrous consequences” should the Syrian government send forces to support the YPG, Syria’s government has called Turkey’s offensive on Afrin a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.


 

Venezuela:

On 20 February, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) called on Member States to impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela, including sanctions “against the regime itself”. Until now, sanctions had focused only on individual members of the Venezuelan government.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable, a coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties, announced on 21 February that they would not participate in the presidential election scheduled for 22 April. The opposition stated that the election lacked the necessary conditions for a free and fair result, and further claimed that the election was premature and that it was intended to provide a mirage of legitimacy to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. President Maduro responded by announcing his intentions to also hold municipal and state legislative council elections the same day. The opposition stated that it would reconsider its decision if certain conditions were met.

According to a closely-watched university study, Venezuelans lost on average 11 kilograms in body weight during 2017 as compared to only 8 kilograms during 2016. The study, which was conducted by three Venezuelan universities, provides one of the few statistical analyses of the economic crisis and food shortage in the country, amid a government information void. The report also stated that over 69 percent of Venezuelans have said they have woken up hungry in the previous three months because of lack of funds to buy food.


 

Yemen:

On 16 February, United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres announced the appointment of Martin Griffiths of the United Kingdom as his Special Envoy for Yemen.

A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is occuring in Yemen. On 20 February, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley asserted that a United Nations report had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo”, demanding that the Security Council act. Apparently, Reuters has seen a draft UN resolution, which urges the Security Council to take action against Iran over sanctions violations and which also urges the Security Council to condemn Iran for failing to stop is ballistic missiles from falling into the hands Yemen’s Houthi rebel group. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the accusations against Iran, and Russia appears to have opposed a bid to condemn Iran.

Battlefield losses have pushed Houthis to public conscription, annulling voluntary recruitment. Houthi militia leaders are set to review and possibly simplify conditions for recruitment. According to observers, the “simplification” of terms could include abolishing age limits and allowing children to join.

On 21 February, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called on the United Kingdom, as the penholder on Yemen at the Security Council, to either demonstrate that it can lead the Council to take meaningful action on Yemen, or hand over the responsibility to another Council member. Suze van Meegen, NRC’s Protection and Advocacy Adviser on Yemen, further asserted that “Another weak presidential statement will have little effect on the ground, if any at all” and went on to say that “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world deserves more than just an ‘expression of concern’.” In that regard, the NRC maintains that the Security Council should break its eight-month silence on Yemen by adopting a binding resolution in which it demands a complete lifting of the blockade and a cessation of hostilities.

 

 

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#R2P Weekly: 12 February – 16 February 2018

Syria: Aid finally reaches Eastern Ghouta after death toll rises above 200 in four day assault

Syria picture

As the death toll from a four-day assault on Eastern Ghouta rose above 200 last week, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Thursday, 8 February to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country. However, Russia rejected Assistant Secretary-General and UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis Panos Moumtzis’ appeal for a month-long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria as “unrealistic”. The UN has said that since calling for the ceasefire on 6 February, bombings in the country have intensified and the suffering of civilians in Syria has worsened. On Saturday 10 February, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that between 4 – 9 February, Syrian airstrikes, as well as those of its allies, had killed 230 civilians, which, depending on the circumstances, may constitute war crimes. The High Commissioner also called for “urgent international action.” In an official statement released on 12 February, Ali al-Za’tari, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, also described the recent surge in violence as “some of the worst fighting of the entire conflict” and asserted that the “escalation is taking its cruelest toll on civilians… with reports of hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries, massive displacement and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities.” Even though Russia maintains veto power at the Security Council, Sweden has insisted that it must nevertheless try to gain support for a ceasefire. As Sweden has asserted, “when international law, including humanitarian law is violated on a daily basis, it is our duty to act”.

Finally, on 14 February, after weeks of appeals from the UN, the Eastern Ghouta region received its firsthumanitarian aid delivery. However, much more is needed and will be difficult to deliver without a cessation of fighting in the area. In the meantime, the humanitarian situation remains one of the worst the world has seen.

Source for above photo: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali

Nigeria
Philippines
SouthSudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other

 


 

Burma/Myanmar:

Complicity in International Crimes: In an interview on 14 February, UN Special Envoy on Human Rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, expressed the possibility of a future international tribunal finding State Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of being complicit in crimes against humanity. Ms. Lee also said that there are clear hallmarks of genocide in the country. The Burmese government has barred Mrs. Lee from entering
entering Burma, citing her alleged bias in favor of the Rohingya minority group.

Killings demand our action and attention: A new report released this week alleges the killing of ten Rohingya Muslims in Burma by Buddhist villagers and government troops. The report draws on interviews with victims as well as with the alleged perpetrators of the crimes. Buddhist villagers and Burmese soldiers admitted to burning and looting the village, arresting the ten men, digging their graves, and subsequently killing them. The report also contains disturbing pictures and accounts of the raid in the city of Inn Din in Rakhine State. In response, Deputy Chief of UN Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca told the UN Security Council that reports of grave human rights abuses “demand our attention andaction.”

Ceasefire Agreement: On 13 February, two armed ethnic groups signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA), a ceasefire and peace process agreement with the Burmese government first signed by other parties to the conflict in 2015. The new signatories will also participate in the upcoming Panglong Peace Conference, which will focus on federalism and the formulation of new principles for the country.


Burundi

Referendum on Constitutional Amendments: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has criticized President Nkurunziza’s attempt to make constitutional amendments through a proposed referendum, which would allow the president to hold two seven-year terms and would also change the ethnic quotas required between the Hutus and Tutsis. These requirements were outlined in the hard-won Arusha Peace Accord that ended the civil war and has allowed for ten years of peace in Burundi.

Crackdown on Campaigning: On 13 February, the police force in Burundi posted a video threatening to arrest anyone who prematurely campaigns against the upcoming referendum. The allotted time for campaigning is two weeks before the vote, which it is scheduled to take place in May. Police also reported the arrest of four students and one teacher, who were campaigning door to door for people to vote “no”. Opposition forces condemned the crackdown on campaigning and further claimed police were only arresting those campaigning against the proposed measure.


Central African Republic:

UNICEF Failure to Support Alleged Victims: In early 2017, an award-winning investigation by the Swedish television program, Mission Investigate, exposed the UN Children Fund’s (UNICEF) negligence of its mandate to protect underage victims of alleged sexual abuse by UN Peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. Following the release of the results of the investigation this week, UNICEF has recognized its failure to provide support to the victims and has announced increased efforts to address the institutional failure.

Constant Attacks:  On Monday, a new report detailed how the increasing violence and constant attacks in CAR are indications of a growing general humanitarian crisis. Attacks by armed groups in CAR are increasing dramatically in a reported effort to secure territories before the rainy season begins in April. The violence has directly resulted in record numbers of displaced civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Ethnic Violence: As of 13 February, ethnic violence between the Hema and Lendu groups in the DRC’s Ituri Province has reportedly displaced approximately 200,000 people in the past two months. Over 22,000 refugees have fled to Uganda, and many of those fleeing are risking their lives in the arduous journey. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that at least four refugees drowned while crossing Lake Albert, which separates the two countries. Refugees are fleeing the DRC because of people burning houses, pillaging villages, recruiting people against their own will, and kidnapping. Militias are also allegedly raping girls and women. One half of those who have fled are children. The current violence comes in light of the uncertainty surrounding President Joseph Kabila’s decision to stay in power past the end of his previous term.

Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers: On 14 January, the UN reported that it registered 18 cases of alleged sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers in the DRC during 2017. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged to take a tougher stance on allegations of misconduct by the blue helmets. Similarly, the South African military opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct and sexual exploitation committed by its peacekeepers in the DRC, indicating that “corrective actions” would be taken if the allegations are found to be true. The UN requested that the investigation be completed within 90 days.

UN Deaths: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley asked the DRC’s Foreign Minister to deliver a message to President Joseph Kabila regarding the actions taken against individuals on a list provided by the US connected to the murder of two UN investigators in March 2017. A UN Inquiry found that a group of Congolese, likely militia members, murdered the two investigators, but did not rule out the possibility of other suspects. In October 2017, the trial of the suspects in the DRC was suspended, pending the arrival of four UN experts to assist in the investigations. Since then, no serious action has been taken, the US complained.


Gaza / West Bank:

Medical Permits: In a joint statement on 13 February, human rights organizations, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), condemned the record-low rate of medical treatment permits issued by Israel for Palestinians. In 2017, Israel approved only 54 percent of the requested permits – the lowest rate since the World Health Organization began collecting data. The organizations called on Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza, particularly to allow the freedom of movement for people with health problems.


Iraq:

Reconstruction: Iraqi officials have indicated that it will cost at least 88 billion USD to rebuild Iraq in the aftermath of its three-year war with the Islamic State (ISIL). Jassim Mohammed al-Jaaf, Iraq’s Minister of Migration and Displacement stressed that “The priority now is to bring back normal life to Iraq’s cities” so that the 2.6 million Iraqis who remain displaced can return home – or choose to stay in a  new city. At the ministerial meeting of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq (KICRI), held on 14 February in Kuwait, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asserted that the UN was firmly committed to the reconstruction process in Iraq. Additionally, the government of Kuwait confirmed that Iraq also received $30 billion in pledges to fund its reconstruction efforts. Still, according to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, the funds fall short of what is needed.

Explosives left behind: The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is also leading efforts to clear massive amounts of explosive material in Mosul and other cities.

Mass Grave: On 8 February, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that it located a mass grave near the village of Bardiya in Iraq. New evidence suggests that the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Asayish security forces from the West Tigris branch may have carried out mass executions of alleged ISIL detainees, possibly killing hundreds. Authorities must urgently investigate war crimes allegations and hold to account those responsible.

Child Soldiers: A new study conducted by the United Nations University, found that at least 10 major armed groups operating in Syria and Iraq – not just ISIL – have recruited and used child soldiers.

NATO: Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, announced on 15 February that NATO would expand its military training mission in Iraq, which could involve up to 200 personnel.


Kenya:

Illegal Deportation: Kenya’s High Court ruled that the deportation of opposition lawyer Miguna Miguna was illegal. The Kenyan government arrested Miguna and charged him with treason for partaking in the mock inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga. On 7 February, Kenya deported Miguna back to Canada, where he maintains dual citizenship. The Court now demands the government present Miguna’s passport to the Court within seven days. The Interior Ministry responded that it will appeal the ruling.

Media Crackdown: On 9 February, Canada expressed its concern over current human rights violations in Kenya, as well as concern over the crack down on the media. The Canadian government also urged the Government of Kenya to respect the law and “uphold its Constitution, to allow freedom of expression and to respect court orders, including those that order the release of those granted bail”. Canada also said that a free media is essential in a democracy.


Libya:

Further attacks against mosques : On 9 February, an explosive device detonated at the Saad Ben Obadah mosque in Benghazi, killing at least two people and wounding up to 129 more. According to the Libyan human rights group, Human Rights Solidarity (HRS), the preliminary information shows that “the perpetrators of this crime had the intention to inflict the greatest harm on the innocent civilians during the Friday Prayer.” Noting the lack of concern of local authorities to investigate the killings and bombings, HRS called on the United Nations to conduct a thorough international investigation into the bombing.

A potential step towards elections: Earlier this month, Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya  (UNSMIL) said he hoped for parliamentary and presidential elections in the country by the end of 2018, but also warned that conditions were not yet ready for polling. Some analysts similarly warned that elections could complicate the situation even further. However, a 14 February ruling by Libya’s Supreme Court could pave the way for a referendum on a draft constitution, which is in turn a part of the UN’s Libyan Political Agreement. While the road forward will not be smooth, this could jump-start a process towards reconciliation in the country.

Right to vote at UNGA: For the third year in a row, Libya has lost its right to vote within the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as a result of unpaid dues amounting to approximately $6.6 million. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has indicated that once Libya pays its debts, it will regain its right to vote.


Mali:

Civilian landmine deaths: On 9 February, a passenger vehicle hit a landmine while travelling between Dera and Konna, killing five civilians and wounding 18 more. This incident occurred just two weeks after 26 civilians were killed in a similar incident in the same central Mali area.

Sahel Region: Spain is concerned about the possible influx of Islamic State (ISIL) fighters into the Sahel Region, which is made up of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger. These countries suffered attacks, which have claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more. According to Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s Foreign Minister, “It’s clear that the security situation in … Mali is not improving.” In December, Spain increased the number of military personnel in Mali from 140 to 292.


Nigeria:

Boko Haram releases hostages: According to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram released three university lecturers and ten women, who it had kidnapped in 2017. This release comes after President Muhammadu Buhari authorized the International Committee of the Red Cross to facilitate negotiations. All 13 people are now in the custody of the Department of State Security Services and will be provided healthcare assistance.


Philippines:

Incitement to Commit War Crimes: In a press briefing on Friday, 9 February, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would train members of the indigenous community as paramilitary fighters and pay an amount of $384 per each communist rebel they successfully kill. Human rights groups, such as ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, as well as indigenous activists have denounced the statement as inciting the military to perform war crimes.

Calls for Gender-Based Violence: In last week’s speech in Malacañang, President Duterte ordered soldiers to shoot female guerrilla fighters “in the vagina,” a statement that reportedly drew laughter from the crowd. Unfortunately, this is not the first comment Duterte has made supporting sexual or gender-based violence. In 2016, President Duterte joked about wishing to have had participated in the rape of an Australian missionary who was gang-raped and killed in a prison riot in 1989, as well as allegedly telling soldiers that even under martial law, he will protect them if they committed rape.

Body Cameras for Police: On 14 February, the Philippine police announced the adoption of body cameras and other measures in an effort to reduce violence in anti-narcotic operations. The announcement comes after the International Criminal Court launched a preliminary investigation into the alleged crimes committed by President Duterte’s war on drugs. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also reported in the conference that more than 4,000 individuals had been killed between 1 July 2016 and 8 February 2018 by police forces in anti-drug raids and operations.


South Sudan:

Increasing Numbers of Refugees: The Chairman of the Technical Coordination Committee for Refugee Affairs in Sudan’s White Nile State has reported that the number of South Sudanese refugees in that state reached 150,000. Currently, the state accommodates refugees in 8 camps, with two in the Al-Gabalain area and the rest in Al-Salam. However, he also called for more camps due to the increased refugee flow.

UN-Mandated Force Grows: More troops have arrived in South Sudan’s capital to form part of the Regional Protection Force (RFP), a UN Security Council mandated-force to provide protection for Juba’s routes and facilities. 270 Rwandans joined RFP’s existing personnel numbering 600 on Saturday, 10 February. The spokeswoman for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) announced that the force will eventually grow to 4,000 people. Policy analyst Ting Mayai has said that the new troops should be deployed in other parts of South Sudan, rather than the relatively stable Juba. However, the UNMISS chief stated that the growth of the RFP will free existing UNMISS peacekeepers to cover areas outside of Juba.

James Gatdet Dak Sentence: On Monday, South Sudan sentenced James Gatdet Dak, the former spokesman of rebel leader Riek Machar, to death for treason and incitement against the government. His former lawyer said the sentencing violated the ceasefire signed in December, which called for the release of all prisoners and detainees.

Peace Talks Deteriorate: On 9 February 2018, the South Sudanese government refused to agree to terms requiring punitive measures for officials deemed to be undermining the peace process. The government representatives refused to sign the Declaration of Principles, which is meant to be the guiding force for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) talks to reinstate the 2015 peace agreement. Additionally, on 12 February, the country’s opposition party allied to Riek Machar boycotted the peace talks, stating that the alleged attacks by the government against opposition forces on Monday in the town of Nyatot constituted a violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. The government’s spokesperson responded that the blame falls on the opposition for instigating the clash.


Sudan/Darfur:

Permanent IDP Camps: The government in South Darfur State has announced plans to transform International Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps into permanent towns. While speaking about the El-Sereif Camp in particular, the governor of South Darfur said IDPs would have access to residential plots inside the camp, while maintaining the right to stay or return to their villages of origin. Since 2003, there are 2.7 million people living in displacement camps.

Arrests of Opposition Leaders: The Sudanese government has continued to arrest opposition leaders, the Sudan Tribune reports. Hours after opposition calls for more protests against the rising prices of goods in the capital city of Khartoum, security forces arrested a member of the Ba’th party and a member of the Civil Society Initiative. The EU has condemned the detention without charge of opposition leaders and activists, calling for their immediate release or trail. The US Embassy in Sudan has also expressed concerns over the arrests.

Support for Demobilization and Reintegration: The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Commission has announced that the US will join their donor country list supporting its programs in Sudan. The DDR’s main goal is to demobilize and reintegrate current and former combatants to civilian life. For example, it has established a camp for rebel fighters and Sudanese army forces in South Darfur.


Syria:
Child Soldiers: A new study conducted by the United Nations University found that at least 10 major armed groups operating in Syria and Iraq – not just the Islamic State (ISIL) – recruit and use child soldiers.

Human Rights and Fair Trials: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have recently detained Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, two British nationals suspected of torturing and executing western hostages. HRW stressed that the capture of these ISIL suspects should “jump-start international discussions on ensuring justice for [ISIL’s] horrific crimes” but cautioned that the trials must be fair and respect due process, as well as permit genuine victim participation. HRW also argued that the men should be prosecuted in foreign countries that are able to exercise jurisdiction, as local courts in Syria are not currently able to ensure basic due process. To date however, no country has agreed to prosecute the foreign fighters.


Venezuela:

Brazil Braces for an Increase in Refugees: Brazil has announced an increase in funding and army presence at its northern border to control the influx of Venezuelan refugees. The local government reported that around 40,000 Venezuelan refugees currently live in the Brazilian capital of the northern state of Roraima.


Yemen:

Escalation in fighting takes toll on civilians: On 12 February, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced alarm at the escalating hostilities in Yemen and the resulting civilian casualties that continue unabated. The High Commissioner reported that at least 5,974 civilians have been killed and nearly 10,000 injured since the civil war began in March 2015. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) acknowledges that the number of civilian deaths could indeed be higher. The same day, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that in Yemen, there have been a total of 9,245 conflict-related civilian deaths and 52,807 injuries to since the beginning of the civil war. Between 1 and 8 February alone,  OHCHR verified that at least 27 people had been killed and 76 were injured. The High Commissioner expressed particular concern over this “upsurge in fighting in the south-western Governorate of Taizz”, where “civilians are under fire on all sides” and where “the conflict is not just escalating but inescapable”.

Humanitarian Assistance: On 12 February, MSF reported that an estimated 22.2 million Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian or protection support. On 13 February, Col. Turki Al-Maliki, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, indicated  that between March 2015 and February 2018,  the coalition gave permission a total of 18,557 times to allow for evacuation and humanitarian operations by land, sea and air. The same day,  the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s and the United Arab Emirates’ pledge of $1 billion to support humanitarian action in Yemen.

Peace Talks: On 9 February, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that Oman would host a new round of Yemeni peace talks once the new Special Envoy to the Secretary-General on Yemen was appointed. Col. Turki Al-Maliki, while asserting that the coalition “seeks peace,” , also maintained that the coalition would not change its peace strategy under any circumstances, including following the appointment of the new UN envoy. Muhammad Al-Bukhaithi, Deputy Dead of the Department of External Relations of Houthis and member of the group’s political bureau, also confirmed Houthis were “open for negotiations with all parties to the conflict” and reportedly also confirmed in an interview with MEMO in October 2017 that Oman could “play a key role in stopping the war if they have the will to play a neutral and frank role with the Saudi regime.” On 14 February, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed, held a rare meeting in Abu Dhabi with leaders of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to encourage them to join peace talks.

Child Soldiers: During a press conference in Riyadh on 13 February, Col. Turki Al-Maliki accused Houthis of recruiting child soldiers, despite international condemnation and in violation of international law.

Human Rights and Fair Trials: Amnesty International reported on 15 February, that a woman and two men were forcibly disappeared, ill-treated, and then sentenced to death in a grossly unfair trial by a court in Houthi-controlled Sana’a for allegedly aiding an enemy country. Amnesty argued that these sentences must be quashed immediately as “Sentencing anyone to death after such deeply flawed proceedings is a clear violation of international law”. Furthermore, according to Amnesty, the trial also followed several grave violations and crimes under international law, some of which may amount to war crimes.


Other:

Violence following Guinean elections: Following eight years of delays, on 4 February 2018, Guinea held its first local elections since the end of military rule. However, violence erupted soon after the elections, and young people reportedly took to the streets after opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo denounced “massive fraud” in the vote. While the electoral commission has not yet announced the election results, at least seven people have been killed in post-election clashes and over 70 arrests have been made. On 12 February, Guinea’s government warned against ethnic violence between the Malinke and Peul groups, and the Minister of National Unity and Citizenship claimed the government would “create a commission to identify anyone inciting ethnic hatred and violence.”

 

 

 

 

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February 16, 2018 · 12:01 pm