#R2PWeekly: 19 – 23 September 2016

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UN Resumes Aid Delivery in Syria After Attack 

af0e1c83-b600-4b99-9ec4-07fe9e2039daThe United Nations decided to suspend all aid convoys in Syria this week following an alleged airstrike on Monday, which destroyed 18 aid trucks and killed around 20 civilians, including a humanitarian aid worker from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  All parties involved in the conflict, including Russia and the United States, were informed about the presence of the envoy carrying relief supplies for 78,000 civilians to rebel-held territories in the northern Aleppo. The intensification of hostilities led to the suspension of envoys planned for four other surrounding cities.

Shortly after the attack on the aid convoy, United States officials claimed that Russian aircraft had dropped the bombs which hit the convoy, however, both Russia and Syria have denied these claims and any involvement in the incident. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack in his address to the UN General Assembly, calling it “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate.” UN officials have also said that it is potentially a war crime.

The fragile ceasefire that was initiated, in part, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, has been widely tested as, first, on Saturday, a US-led coalition airstrike on a Syrian military base killed at least 60 Syrian troops in what the US military is calling an errant targeting of an Islamic State (ISIL) position. Then, on Monday, a Syrian army spokesperson stated that the week-long ceasefire had officially ended. The Syrian army has laid the blame for continual violations on the rebels and the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement stating that there is no reason for the Syrian government to continue to commit to the truce. Aleppo-based rebel groups have also declared the ceasefire a failure, citing a lack of commitment from the Syrian government as aid intended for Aleppo was forced to sit across the Turkish border for days as the Syrian government refused to give it entry, before the attack on the aid convoy.  US Secretary of State John Kerry responded to such statements, saying that the authority to declare the ceasefire over rests with the US & Russia, with officials from both countries working to extend it on the ground. Secretary Kerry also called for all war planes in Syria to be grounded in attempts to salvage the ceasefire, but the largest wave of airstrikes in weeks ravaged rebel-held areas of Aleppo late Wednesday and into early Thursday morning,killing at least seven people, including three children. The attacks are believed to have been perpetrated by either Russia or the Syrian government.

However, on Thursday, the UN resumed deliveries of humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, despite the continuing surge of hostilities and apparent dissolution of the ceasefire agreement.

Source for above photo: BBC News

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen 


Burma/Myanmar:

Late last week, a judge sentenced five Burmese soldiers to five years of hard labor for the murders of five civilians in June from one of Burma’s minority ethnic groups.

On Sunday, the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) came under review at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon. The meeting examined which ethnic and regional perspectives are to be discussed at the start of the national-level political dialogue, which is expected to now begin in January.

On Monday, eight people died in clashes in southeastern Burma that have left thousands displaced over the past month.The fighting took place between the Burmese army and a rebel-splinter group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in Karen state, where the dominant rebel group, the KNU, has signed a ceasefire with the government. Despite the continued fighting, Burmese army officers have pressured Karen internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes. Over 3,800 people have been displaced due to the fighting between the Burmese army and the DKBA since 9 September.

The latest reports from the Refugee Processing Center, run by the US State Department,show that from 1 October 2015 to 15 September 2016, 11,902 Burmese nationals, including many Rohingya, have resettled in the United States, outpacing even Syrian refugee arrivals in the US.

On Wednesday, Burma’s State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, addressed the United Nations General Assembly as the first civilian leader to represent the country at the world body’s annual debate in over 50 years. She noted that the “dreams and aspirations” of the people of Burma in shaping their future with the overwhelming majority won by her National League for Democracy party in last year’s elections, “echo those that had led to the founding of the United Nations.” In discussing the interethnic issues in the country, particularly of the Rohingya population in Rakhine state, she said, “We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state. Our Government is taking a holistic approach that makes development central to both short and long term programmes aimed at promoting understanding and trust.”


Burundi:

Independent UN investigators said on Tuesday that they have a list of suspects believed to have been involved with atrocities in Burundi. The investigators do not know the full extent of these crimes, but they have evidence of rapes, murders, disappearances, mass arrests, and torture of government opponents. Reportedly, there are likely thousands of victims. The investigators have called on international organizations to try and stop these atrocities before mass violence brings conflict to the entire region. Officials in Burundi have denied the allegations and described the report as biased.


Central African Republic:

Violence pitting the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels against rival Christian anti-Balaka militia members ignited on Friday. A spokesman for the presidency originally said on Saturday that the fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition killed 26 villagers. However, on Monday the spokesman cut that figure to six, matching the UN’s toll. The killings took place in the village of Ndomete, not far from Kaga-Bandoro.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released an infographic detailing humanitarian access in CAR as of August 2016. It further details how humanitarian access in parts of CAR is frequently hampered by looting, fighting and, most often, attacks against aid workers and the population.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

At least 17 people have been killed in the capital city of Kinshasa following violent clashes between political protesters and police, after months of civil unrest related to the potential extension of President Joseph Kabila’s tenure as President beyond the constitutional limit. A government-led “national dialogue”, which has failed to include many of the country’s main opposition parties, is set to present its final agreement on the issue in the coming days.

The headquarters of three opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo were alsotorched in the capital city. At least two casualties have been confirmed at the office of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS). Protests are expected to continue as the government stated Monday that it will be unable to hold elections in November.

On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the government of the DRC for their use of excessive force following the protests. The High Commissioner also expressed shock that men in uniform had participated in some of the attacks on the headquarters of opposition political parties and that President Kabila’s government deployed the Republican Guard, a notoriously heavily armed military unit, against the protesters.

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard infographic detailing the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of September 2016. The dashboard states that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), over 400,000 refugees, and 5.9 million individuals facing food insecurity throughout the DRC.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers killed a 16 year old Palestinian boy who tried to stab a soldier outside of Bani Na’im, a village in the occupied West Bank near the city of Hebron. This is the seventh death in the area since last Friday, resulting from an uptick of hostilities ahead of next month’s Jewish new year holiday.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian high court in Ramallah ordered the suspension of local elections in both Gaza and the West Bank previously scheduled for 8 October. This is the second time the court has frozen the elections. The first suspension, which took place earlier this month, was the result of a formal petition signed by several Palestinian lawyers and the West Bank prosecution in response to the invalidation of a Fatah list of candidates in the Gaza Strip by Hamas courts.

President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the UN this week for protection against Israeli occupation of its territories in Gaza and the West Bank, stating that direct peace talks can only take place in an international conference such as the one proposed by France for later this year.


Iraq:

On Sunday, two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers died in a suicide-bombing east of Mosul, as Kurdish forces continue to prepare for an assault on the city.

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces initiated an offensive to liberate the northern town of Sherqat from Islamic State (ISIL). Two days later, on Thursday, Iraqi Brigadier-General Yahya Rasoolannounced that the Iraqi military, backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, gained complete control of the northern town of Shirqat. The city had been under siege since 2014 when ISIL seized about a third of Iraqi territory. The retaking of Shirqat is considered a key prerequisite for the push to retake the main city of Mosul later this year.

ISIL militants reportedly fired a shell containing a mustard agent on Tuesday at an air base in Qayyara, where US and Iraqi troops are operating. No US troops were hurt as a result of the shelling. US troops tested the artillery shell after it landed and received a positive reading for the chemical agent. A second test turned up negative. Further lab testing has commenced.

The Global Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster has released an infographic detailing settlement status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout Iraq. The infographic shows that there are an estimated total of 3.35 million IDPs currently residing in Iraq.


Kenya:

On Monday, an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial chamber found the government of Kenya to be in noncompliance with its requirement to cooperate with the ICC, with regards to the case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The ICC has referred Kenya’s non-cooperation to the Assembly of States Parties, the court’s membership, for further action. Following thereferral to the ASP, Kenyan Attorney General, Githy Muigai, indicated that Kenya would not accept the court’s verdict.


Libya:

On Sunday, militia members loyal to military leader Khalifa Haftar and Libya’s eastern parliament launched a successful counter-attack on two of Libya’s most crucial oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, after briefly losing them to the Petroleum Facilities Guard, loyal to the UN-backed Tripoli based government the evening before. On Monday, General Haftar went on to call on the UN to cease injecting itself into Libyan affairs, claiming that Tripoli has been overrun by armed gangs.

Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, renewed their offensive on Islamic State (ISIL) in Sirte on Sunday, with the support of US airstrikes and special forces. The forces are attempting to push into the last section of the city still under the extremist group’s control.

On Tuesday, an airstrike near the town Houn in central Libya killed at least nine civilians and wounded 20 others. The identity of the planes that carried out the strike could not be confirmed, but armed groups loyal to factions based in eastern and western Libya are known to operate in the area.


Mali:

Over the weekend, at least 10 people died in clashes between the pro-government Gatia militia and the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) rebel coalition. The fighting took place north of the pro-Tuareg city of Kidal, which has been jointly controlled by the two groups since February. The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has released a statement expressing concern over the country’s fragile peace deal following the fighting over the weekend, saying such clashes, “as well as constituting repeated violations of ceasefire accords, threaten the progress achieved up until now in the implementation of the peace agreement.” MINUSMA also called on all parties to “take immediate measures to guarantee the protection of civilians and refrain from all action that could unleash a return to hostilities”.


Nigeria:

The government of Nigeria has announced that it has been negotiating with Boko Haram since July 2015 to free the over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok kidnapped by the group, with three separate rounds of negotiations having failed.

Over the weekend, American National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Maj-General Babagana Monguno, met in Washington to discuss how to better engage in dialogue with militants in the Niger River Delta and bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On Sunday, Nigerian police liberated 14 oil workers kidnapped earlier this month in the country’s southern Niger Delta region.

The same day, eight people died in an attack by Boko Haram in Kwamjilari village in northeastern Borno state.The attack took place as villages emptied out of church from Sunday mass, with the militants also lighting maize fields and houses on fire.

On Monday, Boko Haram militants staged two attacks in the country’s northeast that left eight people dead. The separate attacks included the beheading of a village chief and his son and the killing of six civilians in a commercial convoy escorted by the Nigerian military.

The Nigerian army has claimed victory in a battle fought against Islamic extremist militants in Malam Fatori, a town near the country’s border with Niger. Earlier in the day, Islamic State’s West Africa Province, a faction of Boko Haram, released a statement claiming to have killed over 40 soldiers and wounding many more from “a convoy of the African Coalition Crusader forces” in Malam Fatori. Neither side’s claim has been independently verified. However, the battle, which took place on Tuesday, was the first Islamic State-claimed attack in Nigeria since August.

Amnesty International published a report this week which details a Nigerian police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which systematically tortures its detainees as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes. This report is an extension of the larger humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, with a reported 20,000 deaths and the displacement of 2.6 million people throughout the seven years of Boko Haram insurgency.


South Sudan:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced late last week that the number of civilians seeking refuge from the war in South Sudan has surpassed one million, with an additional 1.6 million internally displaced.

On Saturday, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, created in March by the Human Rights Council, expressed deep concern over the slow pace of the implementation of the peace plan in South Sudan and the continuation of gross human rights violations. The report comes after the Commission’s visit to South Sudan earlier in the month.

Officials in Northern Liech state have announced that they have entered into talks with senior military officials of the SPLM-IO forces allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar in hopes of their joining the current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai’s faction of the SPLM-IO.

The United Nations has received reports saying people fleeing South Sudan into Uganda are forced to pay bribes at checkpoints run by South Sudan’s government and armed groups to reach safety. There are also reports of physical and sexual assaults and forced family separations.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published an infographic on Wednesday on the humanitarian situation and response in South Sudan. The infographic shows how the operating environment is increasingly dangerous and difficult. It also shows that the response is severely underfunded, as just 54% of the US$1.3 billion required under the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has been received. Despite the challenges, the infographic also shows that humanitarian partners were able to deliver lifesaving assistance and protection to over 3.2 million people in South Sudan in the first half of 2016.

Members of the United States Congress are pushing the Obama administration to support an arms embargo on South Sudan. In August, the UN Security Council said that if South Sudan did not accept a 4,000 strong regional peacekeeping force, it would place an arms embargo on the country. The US has been opposed to such action in the past, but has changed its view with recent developments in the country.

Sudan’s State Minister of Interior, Babiker Digna claimed on Wednesday that his country is hosting more than 400,000 South Sudanese refugees, but it is difficult to determine the exact number as the refugee influx still continues.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Saturday, Sudan’s Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid announced that a week of negotiations over a ceasefire and humanitarian access with rebel groups has not led to a comprehensive peace deal. The African Union, which is mediating the dialogue, has temporarily suspended the negotiations between the two parties. The following day, Hamid reiterated that Sudan will reject humanitarian aid from abroad, specifically referencing a planned package from Ethiopia. The comments come amidst mounting international pressure for peace negotiations as hostilities persist between forces loyal to the Republic of Sudan and the active insurgent groups loyal to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

On Tuesday, the US State Department commended the recent efforts by the Sudanese government to cooperate with the US on counterterrorism operations, while also noting that that economic sanctions against Sudan will remain in place. Grave concerns regarding human rights and the management of internal conflicts, specifically in the Darfur region, which has been labelled by the US as genocide, continue to complicate the normalization of relations between Sudan and Western countries.

On Thursday, Amnesty International and ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch called for the UN Human Rights Council, currently holding a session on Sudan, to press the Sudanese government to prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the deaths of protesters and civilians during the September 2013 civil unrest in Khartoum. The protests, which stemmed from an announcement from President Omar al-Bashir regarding cuts to fuel subsidies, left 185 people dead. According to the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, the majority of protesters were found to have been killed by gunshot wounds to the head and chest. As of today, none of the three state commissions of inquiry have been made public and only one policeman has been prosecuted.


Syria:

US Defense officials have confirmed that US Special Forces are now present alongside Turkish troops and rebels in northern Syria to take part in the Turkish-led “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Turkish forces have announced that they plan to extend the offensive to take the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, which sits on a critical juncture, with a Turkish “safe zone” possibly extending to up to 5,000 square km (1,930 square miles) of Syrian territory.

On Monday, the Homs governor postponed the planned evacuation of the last rebel-held district of the city due to “logistical obstacles”. Around 250-300 rebels are expected to be allowed to leave the city for rebel-controlled territory. However, rebels in other parts of Syria have stated that if the evacuation goes through, they would consider the ceasefire in the country to be over.

Russia announced on Wednesday that it will be sending its only aircraft carrier to waters off of Syria’s coastal region, which is likely a contingency plan for the dissolution of the present ceasefire.


Yemen:

 On Saturday, Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Yemeni government clashed on two separate fronts. Fighting broke out in the regions east of the city of Taez, which government forces are attempting to break a siege of, and east of the capital of Sanaa.

Recently released images and videos have led to claims that Saudi Arabia is using U.S.-supplied white phosphorous munitions in its military campaign in Yemen, with fears being raised over the threat that these munitions pose to civilians. US regulations dictate that white phosphorus, when sold to other countries, may only be used for signaling other troops and creating smoke screens. As of yet, it is undetermined how Saudi Arabia is using the munition in Yemen.

Recent reports have confirmed that a US-made bomb was used in an airstrike on a hospital on 15 August that killed 11 people. On Monday, Amnesty International urged that states immediately stop supplying weapons that could be used in the Yemen conflict.

On Tuesday, intensive airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, causing damage to neighboring homes, which left at least one civilian dead and three others wounded. The coalition also bombed the defense ministry and a checkpoint in the suburbs, killing two rebels and wounding four.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 20 civilians in the rebel-held Yemeni city of Hodeida late on Wednesday. The raid reportedly targeted a presidential palace used by the Houthi rebel movement, but missiles also hit neighboring houses.

The United Kingdom is set to increase the humanitarian aid it gives to Yemen, while the country is also facing criticism for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which could be used in Yemen.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 – 16 September 2016

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ICRtoP Releases Summary and Educational Tools on
2016 UNGA Dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held its eighth annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The dialogue followed the August release of the UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) eighth, and final, report on RtoP entitled, “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade and the responsibility to protect.”

68 Member States and one regional organization delivered statements on behalf of 95 governments. The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, represented by Mr. Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, as well as three ICRtoP members –The Global Centre for R2PThe Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P, and The Canadian Centre for R2P – delivered interventions. Over the course of the dialogue, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s vision for mobilizing collective action. In doing so, Member States supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers to implementation. Echoing past dialogues, but with increased support, 37 Member States as well as the European Union (EU), collectively representing 59 States, spoke of the need for veto restraint. This concern manifested itself through support of either/both of the complimentary initiatives led by the governments of France and Mexico, and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group (ACT). Many States as well as the Group of Friends of RtoP (GoF) and EU also proposed ways in which the UNGA could support RtoP in the coming decade, calling for a new UNGA resolution on RtoP and/or the formalization of the dialogue on the UNGA agenda. Emphasizing the title of the report, 11 Member States and the GoF called for the next UNSG to prioritize RtoP, with many others highlighting the need to further mainstream the norm. Finally, many Member States made note of the changing landscape of the past-decade, citing the rise of non-state actors in the commission of mass atrocity crimes as well as the continued disregard for international law, with many calling for ensuring accountability for perpetrators and more support for the International Criminal Court.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary of both the 2016 report and dialogue, an infographic highlighting the major themes raised in the meeting, and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues.

View the ICRtoP’s summary of the UNSG report here.
View the ICRtoP’s summary of the UNGA dialogue here.
View the ICRtoP’s infographic highlighting key themes here.
View the ICRtoP’s UN and RtoP page here.
To read interventions delivered at the UNGA dialogue, visit here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Aung San Suu Kyi made visits to leaders of the United Kingdom and United States this week, including a meeting with British Prime Minister, Theresa May on Tuesday, and US President, Barack Obama, on Wednesday. In her meeting with PM May, the two discussed British support for the people of Burma, with the Prime Minister expressing concern of the commission of human rights abuses by Myanmar’s military. After her meeting with President Obama, which marked her first visit to the country since her party’s electoral victory, the US President announced that he is prepared to lift American sanctions on Burma due to the further democratization of the country in past months. However, a senior US official said that some sanctions would remain in place, such as an arms ban, “in order to ensure that the military remains a partner in the democratic transition.” Human rights organizations haveurged the US to maintain such military sanctions until the military and its allies respect human rights and democratic norms.


Burundi:

It was reported on Thursday that a former army officer and his family were killed as a result of a grenade attack, with local residents stating that the attack may have resulted from the former officer’s links to the government.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Late last week, the DRC released eight pro-democracy activists and 170 other prisoners, some of which were found guilty of “insurrection, acts of war and political offences,” according to the ministerial release order signed by the country’s justice minister. The government’s release of the prisoners was in response to opposition parties’ demands as a pre-condition for their participation in the dialogue taking place in the capital. However, on Monday, opposition parties walked out of the talks after the government proposed that local elections should occur before presidential elections, claiming that their stance on the order in which elections will be held is non-negotiable. A government spokesman said that such an act is only a negotiating tactic and that the dialogue is not over.

The UN mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, reportedly rescued another 268 people from a national forest in the country’s northeast. Riek Machar, South Sudan’s main opposition leader fled South Sudan into the DRC after fierce fighting in Juba and over 750 of his supporters have followed him across the border. Officials are concerned over the stability of the region with the arrival of Machar and his supporters as the DRC government currently has limited control over its restive border regions and heavily depends on MONUSCO for security assistance. South Sudan has accused MONUSCO of supporting Machar in the conflict and have condemned the UN mission’s actions.


Gaza/West Bank:
 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video late last week that claims Palestinians want to “ethnically cleanse” the West Bank of Jews, and that Jews would be banned from living in a future Palestinian state. Palestinians have denied these claims and US officials have condemned the Prime Minister’s accusations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed that he was disturbed by the PM’s statement that opposition to the Israeli settlements is “tantamount to ethnic cleansing.”

On Thursday, the Israeli air force carried out strikes on three Hamas locations within the Gaza Strip after a rocket was fired into Israel on Wednesday. Later that day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referenced the attacks, warning that leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “do not serve the cause of peace.”


Iraq:

As the Iraqi military prepares for an offensive on Mosul, ISIL’s defacto capital in the country, the US has announced it will provide up to $181 million in humanitarian aid to assist with the expected consequences of the military action. The United Nations anticipates that up to one million people will flee their homes as a result of the offensive, which is expected to launch as soon as next month.

The US also announced that Iraqi forces, with the support of the US-led Coalition, have retaken almost half of the land previously held by ISIL.


Libya:

The British Foreign Affairs Committee released its report on Wednesday following an investigation into the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.The report found that the launch of the military intervention was based on “inaccurate intelligence” and “erroneous assumptions.” Furthermore, the report asserts that the British government, under then-Prime Minister David Cameron, “failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element,” which contributed to the political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal (warfare), humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”

On Tuesday, Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya,warned that although political space has opened up in the country, political divisions among the parties to the conflict are worsening. He added, “Today more than ever, strong action is needed to convince Libyan stakeholders to build institutions that are open, participatory and able to address the needs of all of its citizens.”


Mali:

Unidentified gunmen killed three soldiers and injured two others late last week in an ambush near the town of Boni in the Mopti region of central Mali.


South Sudan:

The Sentry released a groundbreaking report following its investigation into the networks led by President Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, in which the organization found a link “between systemic corruption and violent conflict, including the mass atrocities committed during the civil war.” The report’s findings indicate that those in power and leading these networks have amassed tremendous wealth as a result of rampant corruption, with officials financially benefiting from the continuation of the war and humanitarian crises that have erupted as a result.

The government of South Sudan has responded to the release of this report by threatening legal action against the organization, with the presidential spokesman stating that there will be steps taken to sue The Sentry. Action has also been taken against national newspaper, the Nation Mirror, allegedly for having published information on the report. The prominent paper has since been shut down, with no indication on how long this will last and causing increased concern for media freedom in the country.

Mercy Corps has stated that, unless humanitarian support is drastically and urgently increased, an estimated 40,000 people will be at risk of dying in Unity State from starvation that has been fuelled in part by the ongoing conflict in the country. In addition to those at risk of death, an estimated 4.8 million are directly impacted by the hunger crisis.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council held consultations on Wednesday to discuss the status of the Regional Protection Force, with Member States expressing concern over recent statements made by members of the South Sudanese government that went against commitments to the force. The Council met with President Kiir while in South Sudan earlier this month, and agreed to a joint statement that expressed acceptance of the force. Some governments stated at the 14 September UNSC meeting that if this commitment is not upheld then the Council must consider stronger measures, such as an arms embargo. The same day, it was reported that President Kiir stated that the UN was working to support his rivals as UN actors assisted in the transportation of Riek Machar to receive medical care, and thus the organization was “not part of the solution.”

On Thursday, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan expressed its concern for the state of human rights in the country, including harassment and intimidation of civil society and journalists, and the commission of sexual violence against civilians.


Sudan/Darfur:

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir is set to visit Shattaya, a locality in which 150 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have reportedly recently returned to their homes.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported 298 new Sudanese arrivals last month in South Sudan, bringing the year’s total to 9,291 so far. Around 90 percent of the arrivals were women and children.


Syria:

On Monday, a nationwide ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia took effect in Syria at 7.pm. local time. This is the second such attempt by the global powers this year. The ceasefire is an attempt to allow badly needed humanitarian aid to reach previously cut off populations and, if the ceasefire holds, the US and Russia plan to begin coordinating efforts targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra, who are not included in the truce. Prior to the ceasefire, neither the Syrian government forces nor any of the rebel groups had formally declared to respect the agreement, but representatives from both sides indicated that they would. However, at the deadline for the cessation of hostilities, the government said it would respect the ceasefire, but maintain the right to defend itself from attack.

Only a few hours before the ceasefire took effect, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a public appearance at a mosque in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus which was recently recovered from rebels after a four-year siege. While there, he promised that the government would take the land back from “terrorists” and rebuild Syria.

On Tuesday, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, lauded the “significant drop in violence” in the 24 hours following the start of the ceasefire. He said, “Sources on the ground, which do matter, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved with no air strikes.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that it had not received any reports of any combatants or civilians killed by fighting within any of areas the regions where the ceasefire is in effect.

By Wednesday, even with the successful holding of the ceasefire, no humanitarian aid had been delivered to Aleppo due to a lack of security guarantees. The UN attempted to negotiate for the safety of 20 aid trucks and their drivers. Mr. Mistura said, “There is always in these cases attempts to politicize humanitarian aid. So the government has been putting some conditions which I will not elaborate on and the opposition—at the receiving end in eastern Aleppo—have been putting some conditions.” He added that the deliveries would only be made when those conditions were met. By late Wednesday night, the US and Russiaannounced a 48 hour extension of the ceasefire, as UN officials continued to negotiate for the security of the aid convoys. However, within less than 24 hours, US and Russian officials accused their counterparts of violating the ceasefire agreement. Nonetheless, reports of relative calm continued from Aleppo and other areas covered by the truce, while aid convoys remained halted at the Turkish border on Thursday, continuing to await security guarantees.


Yemen:

The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen declared that he “remains deeply disturbed by the unrelenting attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure” in the country, this statement coming after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a well killed 30 civilians last Saturday. It was said that the attack occurred after the machinery being used by workers drilling for water was mistaken for a rocket launcher. In addition to those civilians being killed by direct fire, photos have shown the horrific impact the war has had on children as 1.5 million are facing malnutrition according to UNICEF.


What else is new?:

Dr. James Waller, Academic Programs Director for the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation will hold an event on Thursday, 29 September in New York City to promote his newest book, entitled Confronting Evil: Engaging in our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide. The event will take place in room 1302 of the International Affairs Building at Columbia University from 12-2pm. If you would like to attend, please send a short RSVP tojack.mayerhofer@auschwitzinstitute.org to confirm your attendance.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be holding a conference entitled, “Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS’s Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria” on 26 September. To learn more about the event, including how to register, click here.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 29 August – 02 September 2016

altICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation  to hold event: Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP

The UN General Assembly will hold the 2016 informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect on 6 September. This platform will gather Member States, regional organizations, and civil society to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest and final report on RtoP, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: the next decade of the responsibility to protect”. The report focuses on the achievements of RtoP and the challenges facing collective action and the norm’s implementation. However, it also suggests ways in which these obstacles might be overcome. To read ICRtoP’s summary of the latest Secretary-General report click here.

On 8 September, the ICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation will be holding a follow-up event to the UNGA dialogue, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP”. This event will include prominent panelists such as Gus Miclat, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Initiatives for International Dialogue and founding Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP; Dismas Nkunda, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Atrocities Watch – Africa; and Evan Cinq-Mars, the UN Advocate and Policy Advisor for the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Esteemed peacebuilding activist, Bridget Moix, US Senior Representative for Peace Direct, will moderate the event.

The panelists will focus on how the implementation of RtoP is translated into action at the grassroots level and will exhibit the vital ways in which local communities and civil society members work together to protect populations from atrocities. Although discussions will focus on civil society’s role in RtoP implementation and atrocity prevention, participants will also be welcome to reflect on the dialogue and raise questions and recommendations for Member States and the international community to advance the implementation of the norm and the prevention of atrocities to better protect populations.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 5 – 9 September, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 12 – 16 September.

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Catch up on developments in...

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Wednesday, historic 5-day peace talks began in Myanmar between the central government and hundreds of representatives of the country’s non-Burmese ethnic minorities, who constitute 40% of the country’s population. The Panglong Peace Conference is being attended by 17 out of the 20 principal rebel groups operating in the country. Many of the ethnic groups have been in a constant state of rebellion since the founding of the country. Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar, but seen as the de-facto leader of the country, stated the talks present a way forward as well as a way to make right on the 1947 Panglong Conference, which promised Myanmar’s ethnic minorities either autonomy or independence if they helped overthrow the British with the Burmese. Notably, there are no representatives from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority, despite numbering over 1.1 million. Three other rebel groups have been barred from attending the peace talks for not signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, with the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) pulling out at the last minute as well due to their exclusion.

On Thursday, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which has 20,000 troops and controls a portion of northern Burma on the Chinese border, dropped out of the Panglong Peace Conference on its second day after discovering they would not be allowed to address the Conference.


Burundi:

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng expressed his concern late last week over the inflammatory statements made by Pascal Nyabenda, the then President of the ruling CNDD-FDD party and President of the National Assembly, about the genocide in Rwanda. Mr. Nyabenda called the genocide a “fabrication of the international community” used to remove the Hutu government in Rwanda at the time. The Special Adviser warned that such an “irresponsible statement could be interpreted as genocide denial” and “has the potential to inflame ethnic tensions, both within Burundi and outside its borders.”

The country’s parliament is scheduled to begin reviewing the findings from the report by the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, which claim that the Burundian people are in favor of removing presidential term limits. However, the opposition has called for a referendum on the issue and accused the Commission of working to serve the interests of the president to remain in office.


Central African Republic:

The head of the Ugandan army, General Katumba Wamal, has announced that the Ugandan will shortly stop its operations in the Central African Republic against the Lord’s Resistance Army. There are currently 500 members of Uganda’s Special Forces in CAR.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the South Korean National Assembly, after eleven years, passed the North Korean Human Rights Act. The new law dictates that a special advisory group will be created to come up with new policies for the South Korean government to engage in to improve human rights in North Korea.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Thursday, police clashed with protesters in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, ahead of the National Dialogue, which seeks to avoid political chaos and tensions when President Joseph Kabila’s current term expires in November.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch released a statement claiming that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been mistreating journalists. HRW stated that both organizations are engaging in arrests, detentions, and physical violence against journalists whose stories they disagree with or who place their governance in a negative light.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article highlighting the legalisation of pirate settlements by the state of Israel. The illegal outposts in the West Bank have been established over the span of two decades without authorization from the government, and are now being retroactively legalized or will be retroactively legalized. The following day, Israeli authorities approved the construction of an additional 284 housing units in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has warned that the continued presence and construction of these housing units poses the largest threat and detriment to the peace process and undermines the likelihood of a two-state solution.

Israeli investigators have completed an internal investigation into the Israeli bombing of a UN school in Gaza in 2014, which left 10 dead and dozens injured. The investigators concluded that Israeli soldiers who fired the missile followed appropriate protocol and that the soldiers had sought to fire at a military target.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers came into conflict late Wednesday in the occupied West Bank at a religious shrine. One Israeli soldier suffered gunshot wounds.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 18 people died at a wedding in the town of Ain al-Tamer, southwest of Baghdad, when five members of ISIL wearing suicide vests, assaulted the wedding venue.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned in a new report that the recruitment of child soldiers is taking place in camps for displaced persons in northern Iraq by government-sponsored militias.

On 31 August, Kurdish forces, preparing for the assault on Mosul, warned of the likelihood of chemical attacks by ISIL as they attempt to keep a foothold in Iraq. While chemical attacks in Iraq have been sparse, Kurdish forces have documented at least 16 separate chemical attacks by ISIL since the start of 2016, a dramatic uptick over the previous two years.

The UN released the casualty numbers for Iraq for the month of August 2016 this week. 691 Iraqis died in the month of August due to acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict, while another 1,016 sustained injuries. Of the 691 deaths, 473 were civilians.


Libya:

On Monday, Libyan forces fighting ISIL in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte stated they had seized a residential neighborhood from ISIL in the center of the city, leaving ISIL in control of only one district of the city.

US President Obama has agreed to extend the US’s military mission in Libya against ISIL for another month.

On Tuesday, a UN-backed plan for Libya to ship the last of its chemical weapons stock out of the country successfully concluded, with the last shipment leaving for Germany on Saturday.

A second, previously boycotting member of the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed unity government, has agreed to rejoin the Tripoli-based GNA this week. GNA supporters are hoping this will help to strengthen the unity government’s position in the country.


Mali:

Canada has announced that it will send a “reconnaissance mission” to Mali in order to study the UN peacekeeping mission there. Although Canadian officials have insisted that this does not mean they will send Canadian peacekeepers to Mali, Canada recently promised that it would contribute up to 600 more troops to UN peace operations and has not yet announced which countries it is considering, which has left room for speculation.


Nigeria:

On Monday, the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group responsible for most of the attacks on pipelines in the country’s Niger Delta region, announced that it had ceased hostilities against the government and oil companies in order to enter into negotiations. However, on Tuesday, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, another militant group in the region who are also calling for a greater share of Nigeria’s oil profits to be granted to the population of the impoverished region, claimed responsibility for an attack on a pipeline owned by a subsidiary of the state oil company. The militant group, who were previously unknown until an 11 August attack, said “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate remains underailed on its mission to getting justice for the people.”

Refugees in northeastern Nigeria have staged almost daily protests this week against the poor distribution of food rations in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The children are most affected, with between 10 to 25 percent of children in one feeding center near death, according to a spokesperson for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has said it will open an investigation into the alleged diversion of food.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, has called on Nigerian authorities and the international community for urgent action to protect the hundreds of thousands of IDPs in northeastern Nigeria who are displaced due to Boko Haram violence. It is estimated that 2.2 million people in the Lake Chad region are trapped in areas controlled by Boko Haram and in need of humanitarian assistance, but are currently unreachable.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the past weekend, 160 members of a local armed group allied with the SPLM-IO surrendered themselves to state authorities in Western Equatoria state, taking advantage of a pledge of general amnesty and pardon from the President.

On 29 August, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) issued a statement denying reports that it had either targeted or massacred civilians in Yei river county for hoarding food and/or being possible sympathizers of the SPLM-IO. The statement comes after several days of intermittent clashes between the two sides in the area.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body for East Africa that helped to negotiate South Sudan’s peace agreement last year, has signalled that it will soon recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s First Vice President, despite continuing controversy over his appointment.

On Monday, 14 paramount chiefs of the Nuer tribe issued a joint-statement disavowing and refusing to recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s new First Vice President.

The South Sudanese government has issued a statement claiming that 60 soldiers have been tried and court martialed for their conduct in Juba in early July during the violence that swept the city. The stated crimes for which some of them have been found guilty include looting, murder and shooting and loitering.

On 30 August, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met in Juba with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, where they discussed last year’s peace deal and how to best stabilize the country. Mr. Kenyatta is the first foreign head of state to travel to South Sudan since the outbreak of violence in early July, using the opportunity to stress that the full-implementation of the peace deal is the only way forward.

On Wednesday, a South Sudanese foreign affairs official announced that UNSC officials will be visiting South Sudan at an undisclosed time this week, while US officials spoke of the possibility of sanctions over the continued use of child soldiers in South Sudan.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 28 August, fighting broke out between herdsmen and rebel fighters in North Darfur, leaving three people dead.

The same day, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Sudan’s internal opposition umbrella organization, gave its full support for peace talks aimed at ending the war in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan and allowing humanitarian access entry. However, the NCF still remains divided on signing the AU Roadmap for Peace in Sudan itself, claiming it will only legitimize and lead to a continuation of the current regime.

On Tuesday, the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth. met with Sudanese Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, who heads the government delegation to peace talks.  They discussed how to push the currently stalled peace talks forward, with Mr. Booth promising to attempt to bring the rebels to agreement over a peace deal.

A group of UN human rights experts released a statement this week condemning the Sudanese government’s arrests of and filing of charges against six human rights activists. The statement denounced the charges, which carry a sentence of execution, and called for the detainee’s immediate release. The six people belong to an organization called Training and Human Development (TRACKS) and have been detained for the past three months and have yet to face trial.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Sunday, Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish-held villages near the Turkish border left anywhere between 25 and 35 people dead, as conflicting reports from Turkish authorities claim they successfully targeted members of the Kurdish YPG, while other sources claim all casualties have been civilian. US authorities have tried to calm and de-escalate tensions between Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as the Turkish-backed FSA seized 10 more villages to the south of Jarabalus and reports of fighting between the FSA and SDF emerged. For now, a tentative ceasefire has allegedly been established between the two by the US, yet Turkish officials have continued to deny there is any ceasefire in place.

On Monday, ISIL launched an assault on the al-Talela district, near the ancient city of Palmyra, killing several Syrian government soldiers before being forced to retreat under airstrikes.

Syrian rebels, including hardline islamists and FSA groups, captured the critical town of Halfaya this week from the Syrian government in northern Hama province. Since then, the rebels have captured several more towns in the largest rebel offensive in the area since 2014.

On Tuesday, airstrikes in the suburbs of rebel-held Idlib City left seven civilians dead and multitudes wounded. The strikes, blamed by locals on the Syrian and Russian air forces, struck a vegetable market and come on the heels of the deaths of six civilians in airstrikes just the day before.

On Tuesday, ISIL announced the death of their number two man, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, near Aleppo. Adnani had served as ISIL’s spokesperson and had been considered their top strategist, serving as the group’s top recruiter, and chief of propaganda. He is also considered to have been the mastermind behind several ISIL terrorist attacks in Europe. Both Russia and the US are claiming responsibility for his death, which many experts consider to be a huge blow to the organization.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
The 4-year Syrian government siege of the rebel-held city of Daraya ended over the weekend in the suburbs of Damascus. After having reached an accord with the government, hundreds of rebel fighters and their families left for rebel-held Idlib province, while roughly 4,000 civilians left for government-run reception centers closer to Damascus.

On Thursday, residents of the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh stated that they have reached a ‘Daraya’ style deal to end the government’s siege and will begin evacuations in the next 48 hours.  A separate deal has also been reached in the government besieged neighborhood of al- Waer in the central city of Homs. An estimated 75,000 people still live in the neighborhood, which the government has agreed to stop bombing in return for the rebels being transported elsewhere.

On 29 August, The Guardian released the findings of an in-depth investigation that shows that the UN has awarded a multitude of contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars, to dozens of people personally associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the UN’s aid program in the country. The report further cements long-standing fears of Damascus having overt influence over what should be an impartial aid delivery program. The UN is now underintense pressure to set up an independent inquiry over the in the information revealed by the report.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press released a comprehensive assessment of the 72 known mass graves in Iraq and Syria, stating they contain a minimum of 5,200 and up to 15,000 bodies, giving the clearest picture to date of the scale of atrocities committed by ISIL.

In the aftermath of the completion of last week’s joint UN- OPCW investigation into chemical weapon attacks in Syria, which determined that the Syrian government was responsibility for two attacks, while also implicating them in several more, there is now growing pressure for a response from the UNSC. However, on Tuesday, the UNSC failed to come to terms on any course of action, despite previous UNSC resolutions giving them the authority and responsibility to do so.

On 1 September, UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that he is preparing a new political initiative to help jumpstart the stalled peace talks on Syria. He went on to announce he will present his plan prior to the UNGA ministerial meeting on 21 September. Current US-Russian talks on a ceasefire are likely to continue through the weekend, while separate negotiations pertaining strictly to Aleppo continue as well.

The High Negotiations Committee, Syria’s main opposition group, has announced that it will make public next week its plans for a political transition in Syria, including the length of the transitional period and the forming of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.


Yemen:

Beginning on Sunday, a Houthi delegation landed in Iraq and began a string of visits, meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister as well as leaders and politicians of the ruling political coalition. The delegation also held several meetings with al-Hashd al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shia militias, later in the week.

Two girls in Saudi Arabia died and five others were left injured on Sunday as a result of a cross-border rocket attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

ISIL has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 72 people in Aden earlier this week. The attack, which is the largest in Aden this year, targeted military recruits signing up for a new unit sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, a presumed US drone-fired missile struck a vehicle in Ataq, the capital of the Shabwa province in southern Yemen, killing a suspected al Qaeda member and wounding two others.

In a news conference in Sana’a on Tuesday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrickestimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the 18-month long civil war in Yemen.

On Wednesday, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 16 people in northern Yemen, including a local Imam and four children.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed spoke before the UNSC this week, where he warned that the continuation of conflict in Yemen between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels is allowing the spread of al Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen.


What else is new?:

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) published a new report on atrocity prevention this week, entitled “Atrocity Prevention through Dialogue: Challenges in Dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations”. The report focuses on the use of dialogue with violent extremist groups as a means of preventing widespread violence or atrocities, detailing the practice’s controversial nature and potential applications to prevent atrocities, rare as the may be due to the conditions necessary for successful prevention through dialogue with such groups.

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#R2PWeekly: 22 – 26 August 2016

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UNGA to hold interactive dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet for its 8th annual UNGA Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. The informal, interactive dialogue was first convened in 2009, following the Secretary-General’s first report on RtoP. Member States have met each year since that date to discuss the latest annual report and reflect on the advancement of the norm. This year, Member States, regional organizations, and civil society groups will meet to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest report, focusing on a vision for collective action in the future implementation of the norm.

General Assembly Discusses Responsibility to ProtectThis year’s report, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect,” is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s eighth and final report on RtoP. In it, Mr. Ban highlights the accomplishments made in the advancement of the norm and takes note of the international community’s failures in preventing and responding to atrocity crimes. He also points out that the world is facing an increasingly challenging context, where both State and non-State actors pose threats to populations. However, the Secretary-General also suggests a range of recommendations for actors at all levels with which these obstacles might be overcome, so that the international community can work together to better protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanityinto the next decade of RtoP.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

Read ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.

View ICRtoP’s page on key developments on RtoP at the UN here.


Source for above photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Libya
Mali
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria

Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On Thursday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing women’s participation in peace efforts in Burma and the harmful impact war has had and continues to have on women. HRW encourages the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to ensure that women actively participate in efforts to end the country’s recurrent armed conflicts.


Burundi:

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman has announced that the views they collected from across Burundi have shown public favor for removing the two-term limit attached to the country’s presidency. The Commission is made up of 15 members, including religious and political leaders and civil society representatives, and they are set to submit their findings in a report to Parliament for approval. However, President Nkurunziza will make the final decision.


Central African Republic:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)imposed sanctions against Salim and Ali Kony, the sons of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. These sanctions seek to restrain the notoriously violent rebel groupaccused of abducting 498 civilians in the Central African Republic between January and June 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The trials of 215 alleged members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) accused of massacring civilians began in the DRC over the weekend. 80 alleged ADF members were present in court on Saturday and the rest of the suspects are to be brought in at a later date. Six of the accused allegedly participated in the machete attack which killed scores of civilians near Beni last week.

Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday in order to protest fears that President Kabila will delay elections and remain in power past the constitutionally allowed date at the end of this year. The resulting strike crippled the capital city of Kinshasa where shops were mostly empty. Police also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered in Kinshasa to protest.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Sunday, Israeli forces bombarded the northern Gaza strip in the worst assault in the area since 2014. The attack was in retaliation to a rocket fired from the enclave into southern Israel. The Arab League and Turkey have both condemned the attacks, which have widely been labelled as disproportionate.

On Wednesday, Israel absolved its army of any wrongdoing for an airstrike during the 2014 Gaza War that struck a UN school. The incident resulted in 10 civilian deaths outside the school, causing international outrage.


Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the weekend, the Iraqi military and local militia successfully liberated the last ISIL-held portion of the island of Khalidya in western Iraq.

On Monday, six Iraqi civilians died fleeing the town of Hawijah when they hit a roadside bomb planted by ISIL. The past several weeks have seen several thousand people fleeing the area for government lines 140 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq announced the complete capture from ISIL of the city of Qayyarah on Thursday after Iraqi troops stormed into the city center on Tuesday and secured the outskirts of the city the following day. Located to the south of Mosul, the city and its airbase will serve as the staging ground for the inevitable assault to retake Mosul from ISIL.

The Humanitarian and Political Solution
On 21 August, Iraq executed 36 men for their alleged roles in the deaths of over 1,700 Shia Iraqi air force recruits during the massacre at the Speicher military base near Tikrit in June 2014. Several of the accused had claimed that they had been forced to confess under torture or had not even been in Tikrit at the time of the massacre, with these claims echoed by Amnesty International. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has publicly expressed his disappointment with the executions, highlighting concerns over due process and fair trials.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR warned that it expects hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced by the oncoming Iraqi and Kurdish assault to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The total number of people expected to be displaced could reach as high as 1.2 million.

A new Special Report from Reuters, has determined that Shia militias in Iraq, operating under the Iraqi government-sanctioned and supported banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), detained, tortured and killed significantly more Sunni civilians in the assault on Fallujah in June than US authorities have publicly admitted. In total, with over 700 Sunni men and boys still missing, the report uncovered that over 1,500 faced abuse at the hands of the PMU, while at least 66 Sunni males died by torture or execution.


Libya:

On 22 August, the eastern-based parliament of Libya voted to reject the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed attempt at a unity government for Libya, dealing the GNA a major setback in its attempt to reunify Libya. One of the main points of concern is that of military appointments, with many in the east backing renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, currently engulfed in his own campaign against Islamists and his other opponents, and fearing that the GNA leans too heavily on the support of extremist-oriented militias. The GNA has stated it will continue to seek approval of the eastern-based parliament  and will be changing cabinet proposals for the unity government in order to gain their support.

On Sunday, Libyan fighters continued their push to complete the capture of the center of ISIL’s operations in Libya, Sirte, capturing the city’s main mosque as well as a jail run by the terrorist organization. ISIL’s area of control has now been restricted to a small residential area in the center of the city.

Over the weekend, the US military, for the first time, acknowledged the use of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, flown by US marines, in the fight against ISIL in Sirte.


Mali:

The trial of Ahmad al-Fadi al-Mahdi began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week. He is charged with the destruction of cultural heritage sites – a first for the ICC – for his alleged participation in the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu. On Monday, al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to ordering the destruction of the sites – another first for the ICC. Many have lauded the landmark case, while others have criticized the ICC for not also holding al-Mahdi accountable for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder, and torture of civilians in Timbuktu during the same time period.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have reported that airstrikes carried out by the country’s military are believed to have killed senior Boko Haram fighters and fatally wounded Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the violent extremist group.

Later in the week, Boko Haram militants attacked Nigerian troops near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, but the soldiers repelled the attack and killed two senior Boko Haram commanders and several other militants.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech in the Nigerian city of Sokoto, stating that the overall success of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram depends on if the country can overcome the reasons people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and military are able to build the public’s trust.

As Nigeria’s military has advanced its campaign against Boko Haram in the northeastern region of the country, it has exposed the “catastrophic” suffering of the people who have previously been out of reach from humanitarian aid organizations for months or even years. Estimates suggestthat at least 65,000 people are facing “famine-like” conditions in the recently liberated and yet inaccessible regions of Yobe and Borno states. Furthermore, at 4.5 million, the number of those facing a need for food aid in the northeastern regions of the country has almost doubled since March of this year. There have also been reports of human rights violations, including forced disappearances and recruitment, murders, sexual violence, and others, in the region. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 49,000 children will die in Borno State this year if they do not receive aid.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
This past weekend saw intense fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, leaving over 250 dead. Later, on 20 August, fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in the northern Unity State left seven SPLA soldiers and three members of the SPLM-IO dead. As the fighting continued sporadically through the week, thousands have become displaced.

On 21 August, several regional commanders of the SPLM-IO defected to the SPLA in Unity State. They are believed to have taken with them 11,000 soldiers stationed in the Guit area of Unity State to the SPLA and South Sudanese government. However, officials with the SPLM-IO claim only 80 soldiers joined the commanders in defecting.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
On 21 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir gave the governor of Wau State permissionto establish peace deals with any members of the armed opposition in the area who are willing.

The newly appointed South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this week and met with Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir. They discussed both the continuing security disputes between the two nations as well as Sudan providing immediate humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Mr. Gai publicly called on the SPLM-N, who are currently fighting the Sudanese government, “to obey the call for peace”.

Speaking on Monday during an official trip to Kenya, US Sec. of State John Kerry warned both the South Sudanese government (SPLA) and the opposition (SPLM-IO) to fully implement the peace deal agreed to last year or be prepared to suffer sanctions and an arms embargo.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese government confirmed that former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar is currently in the country, days after Mr. Machar had emerged from several weeks of hiding in the neighboring DRC.  The Sudanese government further announced that Mr. Machar is in the country for urgent medical attention, but is currently in stable condition. The South Sudanese government has issued a warning to Mr. Machar, urging him to denounce violence and agree to censor himself from politics.

On 23 August, the UN announced that retired Dutch military officer Major General Patrick Cammeart will take the lead in an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the fighting in Juba in early July.

A peace conference has been announced between the rival communities of the Dinka Bor and Murle in Jonglei state in an attempt to put an end to rampant child abduction and cattle raiding between the two peoples in hopes of stabilizing the region. The peace conference is currently planned to start on 30 August.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has announced that peace talks with the armed groups who recently signed the African Union-brokered Roadmap Agreement for Peace for Sudan will resume in September. The talks originally collapsed soon after they began due to distrust and discord over the particulars of humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has announced that it will not join the umbrella opposition organization, the Sudan Appeals forces, and thus, will not join the two-track peace negotiations taking place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Tuesday, after several days of increasingly intense clashes and after having seized most of the city, Kurdish forces agreed to a truce with the Syrian government in the north-western city of Hasakah. Government control in the city has now shrunk to a small cluster of buildings in the city center. The truce outlines a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city.

On Wednesday, following the several days of shelling and the gathering of rebels on the Turkish side of the border, Turkish armed forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly entered Syria to launch an assault on ISIL-held Jarabulus. Titled Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that its aim is both at ISIL and the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. The combined-offensive marks the largest military effort by Turkey in the Syrian civil war and Turkey’s first offensive ground incursion into Syrian territory. Syria has condemned the incursion but offered no resistance.

Later that same day, ISIL launched an unsuccessful attempt to storm a US-backed FSA camp near the Jordanian border. The attack on the Forces of Martyrs Ahmad al-Abdo rebel group base is believed to have left at least 33 dead, including a majority of ISIL fighters.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
In a softening of its position on Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated over the weekend that while still holding firm to the belief that Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future, Turkey would be willing to see him stay on in a transition period if it helped to facilitate an overall end to the conflict. The Prime Minister went on to urge all powers involved in the conflict to “turn a new page on Syria”  and unite to stop the violence and form a country that maintained its territorial boundaries and represented all Syrians, highlighting Turkish concerns over growing Kurdish aims in Syria.

On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one way or another” US-Russian discussions over cooperation in Syia are coming to an end. Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Geneva where their meeting will heavily focus on Syria.

On 24 August, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the Syrian government is responsible for two of the gas attacks it investigated under its mandate, while ISIL is responsible for another one. A further three attacks hinted at the Syrian government being responsible but could not be definitively proven. The joint investigation was established by the UN Security Council to look into chemical weapons use in Syria.

On Wednesday, on a visit to Turkey, US Vice President clarified the US’s position on the YPG and the current Turkish offensive into Syria, stating that Turkey had the US’s full support and that the YPG must retreat to positions east of the Euphrates to keep receiving US support.

On Thursday, Russia agreed to the UN’s plan for weekly 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo to allow humanitarian access to the city. UN officials, however, are waiting for guarantees of security and agreement from the all belligerents present on the ground before they begin humanitarian operations.


Yemen:

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a near where an earlier pro-Houthi demonstration of thousands had taken place in the capital’s central square.

The Control Arms Coalition has condemned the United States, United Kingdom, and France for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales were deemed “illicit” due to the high number of civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

On Monday, a joint report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) detailed the displacement of over 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

The UN’s human rights office has requested an inquiry into the civilian deaths in Yemen, stating that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the killings.

On Thursday, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a new initiative to reignite peace talks between Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels. Additionally, Kerry pledged $189 million in U.S. aid towards the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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#R2PWeekly: 15 – 19 August 2016

untitledUN Secretary-General Releases Annual Report on the Responsibility to Protect

ef283cc8-01e9-4fa0-9516-276b23f5207c.pngWith the UN’s annual informal dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect set to take place this September, UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon released his final annual report on the Responsibility to Protect on 16 August, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect”.  In the document, the UNSG takes note of the accomplishments surrounding the advancement of RtoP, as well as identifies the failures of the international community to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes. He brings attention to the increasingly challenging context facing the world, where both State and non-State actors constitute threats to populations, and to international peace and security. The report provides a range of recommendations for actors at all levels, and notes that coordinated action is needed now more than ever to produce tangible results to prevent and halt atrocity crimes. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon therefore urges Member States to renew their commitment to RtoP and “to take the principled and practical steps necessary” to protect populations.

As the ICRtoP seeks to raise awareness and understanding of RtoP amongst actors at all levels, we have created an informative infographic on the latest UNSG report, which summarizes the major themes and key issues raised in the document. The ICRtoP will also be releasing a summary of the report ahead of the dialogue.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

See the ICRtoP’s infographic on the report here.

For more information on past UNSG reports and General Assembly dialogues, please visit our UN and RtoP page here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Libya

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar:

On Tuesday, authorities in Myanmar closed 457 cases against activists due to requests from President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Hundreds of activists have been freed from prison this year as part of the president’s amnesty.


Burundi:

The UN Committee on Torture found an alarming increase in torture cases in Burundi since last April and voiced concern over “genocidal rhetoric” used by the country’s senior officials. “The spike in torture cases we have seen in Burundi since the onset of the crisis is extremely alarming and must be urgently addressed by the Burundian government,” said an Amnesty International Director. The Committee made strong recommendations and issued a “wake-up call” to the Burundian government.


Central African Republic:

MINUSCA peacekeepers arrested and detained 10 men from the ex-Seleka armed group on 14 August. The peacekeepers stopped seven armed vehicles carrying 35 men, 25 of which managed to flee arrest. Two of the arrested men, Abdoulaye Hissene and Haroun Gaye, are former warlords from the radical 2013 Seleka rebellion. UN forces also reported that they recovered a “significant quantity of weapons and munitions” following the standoff.

On Thursday, ex-Seleka militias issued a threat to the CAR government, that if the group’s imprisoned members were not released within two days, they would “face robust action”.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Rebel groups killed at least 64 people in a massacre in the town of Beni on the night of 13 August. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed Islamist Ugandan group, is believed to have carried out the machete attack in revenge for military operations in the area.

Three days of mourning were declared on Monday, and protests erupted in response to the failure of President Joseph Kabila’s government to ensure safety in North Kivu just three days after Kabila visited the region. Clashes during the protests later resulted in the death of one protester and one police officer on Wednesday.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday,  Israeli security forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes that erupted in the Fawwar security camp near the city of Hebron. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there were dozens of other Palestinian casualties as a result of Israeli gunfire.


Iraq:

On Sunday, Iraqi President Fuad Masum certified the death sentences handed down last week to 36 people for the massacre of 2,398 security personnel at the Speicher military base in June 2014.

On Monday, after two days of battle, Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting an offensive against ISIL south of Mosul managed to seize roughly 58 square miles and a dozen villages and have reached Kanhash, the western side of the Gwer bridge. The bridge, once repaired, will help the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces to open a new front against ISIL in the overall offensive to retake Mosul. Iraqi forces also seized four more villages around the Qayyara airbase, which is being transformed into the command-center for the assault on Mosul.

The Iraqi Parliament has decided to allow a massive restructuring of Prime Minister Abadi’s cabinet to move forward, approving five of his six nominations for vacant spots. The structure of the PM’s cabinet has been the source of a political crisis since this past February as he attempted to dismiss most of them on allegations of corruption in favor of technocrats. The approval has alleviated much of this pressure in the face of the upcoming assault on Mosul. The move is also being welcomed by the US envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition.

A series of bomb and sniper attacks in Baghdad and the surrounding area killed six and injured 20 others this week.

ISIL allegedly executed 25 civilians in the town of Hawijah on Monday, claiming they had engaged in collaboration with the Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, ISIL assaulted an Iraqi border post on the country’s border with Jordan, killing nine.


Libya:

On Tuesday, Libyan forces claimed to have taken one of the last districts in Sirte captured by ISIL  militants. Progress of Libya’s Tripoli-based, U.N.-backed government has been aided by U.S. airstrikes.

On Thursday, two car bombs were detonated by ISIL militants in a suicide attack in western Sirte. The explosions killed 10 people and left many more wounded. After the attack, a raid was launched by pro-government forces, killing three ISIL militants.


Mali:

Hundreds of refugees, including Fulani nomads, have fled the conflict in Mali and arrived across the border in Mauritania. Many of the refugees, including women and children, have claimed that Malian soldiers beat and abused them. There is also evidence indicating that many of the refugees may have faced gender-based violence while they were still in Mali.

Police opened fire on a group of protesters in the capital city of Bamako on Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring several others. The group of people was protesting against the arrest on Monday of Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, also known as Ras Bath, a talk show host who has criticized the government.


Nigeria:

Boko Haram has released a new video featuring a lone gunman with around 50 of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014. The extremist group is thought to still hold over 200 of the 276 girls taken from the school, and many of them are feared to have been sexually abused and forced to marry or convert to Islam. In the video, the gunman calls for the release of captured fighters in exchange for the girls’ release. He also claims that some of the girls have died in airstrikes. The Nigerian government says it is in touch with the militants responsible for the video and is seeking to question Ahmed Salkida, the journalist who posted the video.

On Monday, Boko Haram killed five civilian traders who were travelling with a Nigerian immigration staff convoy on Monday when the militants ambushed the convoy on the road to Maiduguri.

Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) troops have reportedly killed 27 Boko Haram militants and apprehended 11 others in a town near the Cameroon-Nigeria border.


South Sudan:

Developments in the fighting

45 people died in Unity State over the weekend as armed youth attacked government forces in the area. Due to this and other recent clashes, the area is seeing gross amounts of displacement.

Over the weekend, several newly appointed members of the recently created Yei State died in an ambush believed to have been carried out by the SPLM-IO.

The SPLM-IO has leveled accusations against the SPLA of painting its vehicles in the colors of the UN so as to attack SPLM-IO positions in the vicinity of the capital, Juba.

Investigations into abuses and misconduct

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its latest report on the violence that swept Juba in July 2016, detailing soldiers killing and raping civilians as well as looting and destroying property.  In response, HRW is calling for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions against individuals accountable for the crimes. The report is collaborated by the work of the Associated Press, who through several interviews, learned of how marauding SPLA troops in Juba raped both foreign and local aid workers and executed locals. The report also claims that the UN peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile from the incident refused to send help. In response, the UN has begun an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers did not respond to calls for help to prevent sexual violence against both foreigners and locals.

South Sudan has gone on to  announce it has launched its own investigations over allegations made against SPLA soldiers that they engaged in acts of rape and looting during violence in the capital of Juba in July. 19 soldiers have already been arrested, though South Sudan has refused to state if they are in the SPLA or SPLM-IO. They face charges of murder, random shooting, and looting.

Political developments

On Monday, the South Sudanese government announced it would genuinely look over the UN’s plan to have an additional 4,000 troops in the country and then followed with the announcement that the final decision would rest with the South Sudanese Parliament on whether or not to accept the additional troops. The 4,000 troops would be in addition to the already 12,000 troops there with UNMISS. The parliament has previously rejected such a move.

However, late last week, the UNSC passed a resolution which will send the 4,000 additional troops to specifically secure the capital of Juba. South Sudan is still hoping to be able to negotiate over the exact size, weapons, mandate and troop contributing countries, including barring neighboring countries from committing troops.

Two years ahead of schedule and, despite not yet having seen through the full implementation of the peace deal which ended the civil war, South Sudanese Presindent Kiir has called for early elections in South Sudan to take place. In justifying the position, Mr. Kiir stated “I believe we need a new mandate and trust from the people” and that he fears others will and are attempting to become President through undemocratic means.

On the one year anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement to end the civil war in South Sudan, Amnesty International released a statement urging South Sudan and the African Union to fulfill the terms of the peace agreement and bring those accountable to justice by establishing a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As of yet, little to no progress has been made.

Officials of the SPLM-IO have confirmed that former Vice President and leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, has fled South Sudan for another country for fear of his life. While no confirmation has been given to his exact whereabouts, a spokesperson has stated that he remains in the region. Mr. Machar has not been seen since he fled Juba amid the fighting in early July.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Saturday, the Sudanese government bombed the outskirts of the capital of South Kordofan State, Kadugli, in violation of a declared six-month ceasefire.

The following day, the peace talks set out in the AU-Roadmap for Peace in Sudan between the Sudanese government and the opposition and several rebel groups broke down. Both sides accused one another of causing the sudden collapse in the still nascent peace talks, which were set to establish a permanent ceasefire and national reconciliation process. The point of contention that led to the breakdown of the peace talks appearsto be the delivery of humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas and who would control it.

The United States is calling for the immediate release of fifteen individuals detained after they met with the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, in late July. Sudan’s Foreign Minister has denied that any such detentions have taken place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting

180 civilians were killed over the weekend, with an overwhelming majority of the deaths taking place in or around Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has stated that in the past fifteen days of fighting, 327 civilians have been killed within Aleppo Province. The rapid increase in civilian deaths over the weekend coincided with a fresh rebel offensive in the southwest of Aleppo over the weekend, which ended in all positions seized being lost by Monday.

On Sunday, an ISIL suicide bomber killed at least 35 rebels on a bus close to the Atmeh border crossing with Turkey.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its new report, is warning that the joint Russian and Syrian air campaign in Syria has been using incendiary weapons in its aerial campaign. HRW has documented multiple attacks since June which have included the use of incendiary weapons, which are banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, of which Russia is a signatory.

This week, Russia, for the first time in the conflict, began using Iranian airbases to launch bombers for airstrikes in Syria. While long range bombers have been used by Russia throughout the government’s involvement in Syria, their positioning in Iran cuts travel time to Idlib and Aleppo provinces by 60% and represents a deepening of Russia’s ties and role in the region. As the strikes have continued throughout the week, the US is attempting to determine if the move is in violation of a UNSC Resolution restricting military interactions between Iran and the rest of the world.

On Tuesday, fighting broke out between Kurdish Security Forces and a pro-government Syrian militia in northeastern Syria in the city of Hasakah. The fighting, which continued through Wednesday, included the Syrian government’s use of aircraft to bomb Kurdish positions for the first time.

The deadly airstrike campaigns from the weekend continued on Tuesday, killing 19 civilians in eastern Aleppo. 12 rebels also died in an airstrike on their convoy as they attempted to enter eastern Aleppo.

On Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, airstrikes in Idlib city killed 25 people, including 15 civilians. There has been a recent intensification of air and artillery strikes against rebel positions, both in Aleppo and Idlib provinces, as the government attempts to halt rebel reinforcements to the assault in south-west Aleppo City by the rebels.

Political Developments

On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the United States and Russia are closing in on an agreement to jointly target militant groups in Aleppo. The US has made no comment over the remarks.

China has reached a “consensus” on delivering humanitarian aid to Syria after Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, met with senior Syrian and Russian military officials in Damascus on Tuesday.

The Humanitarian Situation

The complete capture of Manbij by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over the weekend has led to the freeing of 2,000 civilians previously used by ISIL as human shields. ISIL’s remaining forces had used them as human shields while retreating from the city.

In a new report, Amnesty International has released its latest figures on how many political prisoners have died in Syrian government prisons since the start of the conflict in 2011. The report, which through interviews with sixty-five former prisoners detailing a system of rape and physical abuse, puts the total number of dead at 17,723, or a rate of ten people a day or three-hundred a month.

On Thursday, amid growing frustration with the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura ended his weekly meeting after only eight minutes. The past month has seen a massive drop in humanitarian access, with not a single humanitarian convoy reaching a besieged area in the past month.


Yemen:

Over the weekend, at least 10 children were killed in an airstrike on a school in Yemen’s northwestern province. The Saudi-led coalition is suspected for the bombardment.

Yemeni pro-government troops have reportedly recaptured the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar in the southern province of Abyan. The two cities were seized by al-Qaida last year amongst the chaos of Yemen’s civil war.

On Monday, at least seven people died as the result of an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a Médecins Sans Frontières-supported hospital in northern Yemen.

The following day, an airstrike on a residential area northeast of Sana’a killed 17 civilians, mostly women and children. The warplanes reportedly belonged to the Saudi-led coalition forces.

Houthi shelling killed seven people in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, according to Saudi state television.

 

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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, RtoP, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, UN, Uncategorized, UNMISS, Yemen

#R2P Weekly: 8 – 12 August

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“Catastrophe” Looming in Aleppo as Humanitarian Situation Continues to Deteriorate 

 Aleppo, known as Syria’s second city, continues to suffer dire humanitarian consequences as a result of the ongoing civil war in Syria. On 7 July, after an intense military campaign, the Syrian government managed to encircle rebel-held eastern Aleppo and begin a siege of the city, effectively leaving the roughly 300,000 citizens with two choices: catastrophe or surrender. Since the beginning of the siege, the residents have been victim to brutal conditions that have left food and supplies running low, while hospitals crumble under repeated airstrikes from Russia and Syria. Speaking to the situation, Cameron Hudson, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of genocide at the United States Holocaust Museum, stated quite bluntly: “The world is facing another Srebrenica moment.”

However, on Saturday, the rebel coalition of Jaysh al-Fatah, which includes the newly rebranded al-Nusra, managed to break the siege of eastern Aleppo. Afteraleppo several days of fighting, they overran government positions and bases in the southwest of the city. Though the siege has technically been broken, the forces have failed to open up a safe corridor for civilians to escape or for use in delivering humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the fighting has now left the government-controlled western portion of Aleppo, home to 1.5 million people, cut off from the outside world. The UN has warned that the fighting has only led to the possibility of replicating the humanitarian crisis unfolding in eastern Aleppo, effectively stretching to encompass the entire city.

On Monday, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held an informal meeting on the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, hearing first-hand accounts of the suffering and situation of civilians in the city. The US Ambassador called on the Council to send a clear signal that all sieges in Syria need to end, calling on Russia to end its part in their facilitation. Russia, in response, has stated that the resumption of peace talks on Syria should not be hinged on the possibility of a ceasefire in Aleppo, stating peace talks must resume immediately with no preconditions.

Aleppo’s rapid plunge into battle has killed dozens of civilians over the past several weeks, displaced thousands, and cut off clean water and electricity to 2 million people. Both the original siege of eastern Aleppo and this week’s rapid uptick in fighting have taken place against a backdrop of international and domestic condemnation and humanitarian concern. Several human rights organizations have detailed how civilians under siege have suffered under the worst conditions seen in the war. Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO that tracks abuses against medical workers, has called last week the worst for medical facilities in Aleppo since the start of the war. They continued, noting that “destroying hospitals is tantamount to signing thousands of death warrants for people now stranded in eastern Aleppo.”

In the wake of these unprecedented assaults on medical facilities, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the UN Security Council to ask the Secretary-General to conduct an independent inquiry, citing that deliberate attacks against medical facilities are undeniably violations of the laws of war and should be prosecuted as war crimes. Furthermore, of the 35 remaining doctors within eastern Aleppo, 15 have attached their names to a letter written to US President Obama asking for an intervention to stop the bombing of hospitals, attacks which the doctors call deliberate in nature.

As the doctors’ letter was made public, Russia announced a daily three-hour ceasefire, which went into effect on Thursday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. local time to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, despite the announcement, fighting has continued in the city. Furthermore, most observers consider the window of movement presented by the ceasefire as inadequate or impossible to deliver the needed humanitarian aid to the city. UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien has continued his call for a weekly 48-hour ceasefire for Aleppo. Meanwhile, the fighting persists, including with the possible use of chlorine gas dropped by government forces on rebel-held positions in Aleppo this week, which reportedly killed four and injured many others. Such an act – if confirmed – would constitute a war crime, according to the UN special envoy for Syria. However, on both sides, Aleppo continues to suffer, with both portions of the divided city yet to receive humanitarian aid or have secure access to the outside world.

Source for the above photo: The Guardian via Ahrar al Sham, ISW, Archicivilians, Al Jazeera


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other

 


Burma/Myanmar:                           

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has set the date for the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference to begin on 31 August. The five-day conference will host multiple armed ethnic groups in efforts to hold peace talks to end the ongoing violence in Myanmar. However, three ethnic armies have rejected the national military’s call to disarm and have refused to lay down their arms to participate in the Peace Conference. The three groups, the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Palaung State Liberation Front/ Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), did not sign last year’s ceasefire agreement.


Burundi:

The UN Committee on Torture has expressed grave concern after four Burundian lawyers were threatened with disbarment for contributing to a report by the Committee on Burundi, which is set to be released on Friday. A Burundi prosecutor has alleged multiple offenses against the lawyers, including being involved in an attempted coup. The same day, the Burundi government stated it would not participate in any further dialogue with the UN Committee.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 7 August, armed groups killed at least 14 people in separate attacks in the troubled eastern region of Kivu. In the deadliest attack, members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) torched 60 houses in the village of Kibirizi, killing seven people. Mai-Mai tribal militants were also implicated in attacks that left seven more dead and scorched a total of 150 homes in villages throughout northern Kivu.

A senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, Ida Sawyer, has been blocked by the DRC government from continuing work in the country. Sawyer’s work permit was revoked in “the government’s latest attempt to curtail human rights reporting during a period of increased government repression,” according to HRW.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, Israel announced that a Palestinian official working for the UN Development Program is charged with assisting Hamas. Waheed Al Borsh allegedly confessed to using the international aid organisation in order to build a jetty for Hamas naval forces. This is the second incident of this nature. Last week, Israeli security officials discovered evidence suggesting that the head of World Vision was diverting money from the charity to Hamas. These allegations have prompted increased scrutiny of Gaza aid groups.


Iraq:

August 9th marked the two-year anniversary of the first US airstrikes against ISIL. Since that time, the US-led international coalition against ISIL has made 14,000 airstrikes against the terrorist organization, with the overwhelming majority undertaken by the US in Iraq.

Mercy Corps has released a statement warning that in addition to the estimated 70,000 people who have been displaced in recent fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIL in central Iraq, the group expects a further 200,000 people to become displaced over the next two weeks as they flee their homes for safety prior to the government assault on Mosul.

Over the weekend, ISIL allegedly executed 61 civilians in the town of Hawijah, in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province, for attempting to flee from ISIL captivity. The dead are believed to belong to the estimated 1,900-3,000 civilians that ISIL is believed to be forcibly holding for use as human shields in the area after their capture last week.

On Sunday, a triple-suicide-bombing carried out by ISIL near Qayyara, 50 km north of Mosul, killed 10 Iraqi security members.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry has stated that Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi survived an attempted assassination, by mortar attack, while surveying troops preparing for the liberation of Mosul.

On Wednesday, unidentified militants blew up an oil well in the province of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The same day, several separate attacks on the outskirts of Baghdad left ten people dead and scores wounded. The majority of the deaths took place in the town of Latifiyah, where four soldiers and three civilians died when a suicide-bomber struck an army checkpoint.

On Thursday, a car-bomb in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah killed two policemen.


Libya:

On Tuesday, Libyan and US officials confirmed the presence of US special operations troops on the ground helping Libya’s unity government fight ISIL.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, Western countries expressed concern about tensions around the Zueitina oil port. The states, which include the U.S., France and Britain, urged for a return of oil and gas infrastructure control to the government.

This week, Libyan pro-government forces liberated most of the city of Sirte, which has been under the control of ISIL since 2015. Libyan forces were able to seize the Ouagadougou complex – the jihadist group’s headquarters – with the help of airstrikes from U.S. drones and fighter jets. Moktar Khalifa, mayor of Sirte, reportedly stated that “Sirte is 70 percent free, it will soon be completely free.”

On Thursday, it was reported that French special forces have withdrawn from Benghazi.


Mali:

A string of attacks that began over the weekend in Mali and lasted into Monday, have left several people dead, including one UN peacekeeper. Several other peacekeepers sustained injuries on Sunday when their vehicle struck a mine buried in the road.

In a separate event, an Ansar Dine member died in an attack on the Malian army that also left five soldiers missing and possibly drowned as five bodies have been recovered from a nearby river, but whose identities have yet to be confirmed.

On Tuesday, clashes erupted between ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and members of the pro-government group, GATIA. The fighting continued through Wednesday.

In a recent interview, Mali’s ex-foreign minister, Tiebile Drame, called for a national dialogue to take place. Mr. Drame is currently the president of the main opposition party in Mali, the Party for National Renaissance (PARENA). While welcoming the peace agreement signed in 2015, he has cited the recent uptick in violence in urging the government to convene a national dialogue.


Nigeria:

On 9 August, gunmen dressed as priests killed three Nigerian Army soldiers in Nigeria’s southern oil state of Bayelsa.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the EU’s recent 50 million Euro contribution to the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), led by the Lake Chad Basin countries. Ban also commended the work of the MNJTF countries “for the significant progress achieved in combating the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram.”


South Sudan:

Political Developments

After the announcement that South Sudan had agreed to the deployment of a regional force by the  Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), on Sunday, the US began circulating a draft resolution to the UNSC that would provide a mandate for a 4,000 member deployment to secure the capital of Juba. However, South Sudan has both rejected the US’s proposal, which also includes an arms embargo, and has denied that South Sudan had been consulted on or agreed to such a regional force. Over the past week, South Sudan has noticeably decreased its cooperation with the UN, seizing the passports of 86 UN workers and denying the UN access to any part of the country south of the capital, which is in clear violation of the UN’s operating arrangement in the country.

Developments in the Fighting

On 7 August, the governor of Gbudue, Patrick Zamoi, survived an assassination attempt in which gunmen opened fire on his convoy.

On 9 August, the SPLA and SPLM-IO forces loyal to ex-First Vice President Machar engaged in fighting in the town of Yei, near South Sudan’s border with Uganda. The fighting erupted after SPLM-IO forces allegedly seized control of Lasu county, located to the southwest of Yei.

The Humanitarian Situation

On 8 August, Amnesty International publicly released its submission, entitled “South Sudan: Conflict and Impunity”, for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of South Sudan, which will take place in November. In the submission, Amnesty International attempts to highlight the failings of the human rights regime in South Sudan as well as the overall state of impunity that exists for any who commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the country.

On 10 August, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released its latest report on the outflows of refugees from South Sudan. The NRC warns that the number of South Sudanese fleeing to Uganda has reached the pace of 2,000 per day, with 70,000 already having fled in the past 20 days.The NRC expects that at least another 80,000 will flee by the end of the year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 8 August, Sudanese President Bashir announced that he will free all political prisoners prior to the start of the General Conference of the National Dialogue on 10 October in the lead up to the official signing of the AU-Roadmap for Peace by the opposition. Sudan Call, an umbrella group representing several Sudanese rebel movements, signed the AU-Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan the same day. The signing has been heralded by the Troika, the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, as “a laudable commitment to ending the conflicts in Sudan and moving towards a process of dialogue as a basis for lasting peace in their country.” Immediately after the signing, negotiations began over an initial and eventual permanent ceasefire between the government and the signatories as well as for the delivery of humanitarian aid to rebel-held regions.

On Monday, five people died in a Sudanese government airstrike on the town of Kabe in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region. Another child died in renewed bombings the following day.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting

As the battle for Aleppo continues, the city is seeing the influx of hundreds of foreign fighters. On Monday, Iranian media announced that more Shi’ite militia fighters from from both Lebanon and Iraq are soon set to arrive in the area, with 1,000 Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon alleged to have already arrived on Sunday.

Over the weekend, several airstrikes on hospitals in Idlib province left 10 people dead, while incendiary bombs, believed to be dropped by Russia, struck Idlib city.

On Sunday, ISIL launched an attack involving multiple suicide bombers on the US-backed rebel group, New Syrian Army (NSA), at the al Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

After 69 days,the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have managed to completely free the city of Manbij in northern Syria from ISIL. As Manbij begins to look towards a post-ISIL future, more than 60 local Arab tribes have begun meetings to discuss the future of the city.

On 10 August, Russian air strikes targeting the capital of ISIL’s supposed caliphate, Raqqa, allegedly killed at least 30 people and left close to 100 wounded. Seperately, 11 people died in airstrikes by the Syrian government on the town of Ariha in Idlib province.

The Humanitarian Situation

On 8 August, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released the latest tally of the dead in Syria’s 5-year civil war. The Observatory stated that from March 2011 – 1 August 2016, 292,817 people had died in the conflict.

Political Developments

Turkey will shortly be sending a negotiating team to Russia to discuss the ongoing war in Syria, including the possibility of a ceasefire, increased delivery of humanitarian aid, and a reigniting of the political process to end the war. Despite appearing to be on opposite sides in the conflict, Turkey and Russia are attempting a normalization of relations after a steady deterioration over the past year.

Having reached an agreement last August to assist the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a plan to the Russian legislature that would approve the indefinite residence of the Russian air force in Syria.


Yemen:

On Sunday, four children were reportedly killed and three more were injured in Yemen’s Nihm district, which lies east of the capital. UNICEF has deplored the killing of these children and has urged all belligerent parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and avoid civilian infrastructure.

On Tuesday, UNICEF released a statement claiming that 1,121 children have perished since March 2015, as a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a killed at least 14 civilians early this week. Jets targeted a potato factory in the Nahda district, situated inside an army maintenance camp. On Thursday, in the third day of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, warplanes reportedly struck the Al-Dailami airbase and a military school, both in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

Yemen’s prime minister has praised the support of the United Arab Emirates throughout recent conflict and fledgling peace talks.

This week, the U.S. stated its intention to rearm Saudi Arabia with $1.5 billion in military equipment, including with technical and intelligence support, in order to support the war against shiite militias in Yemen.

 

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Filed under Burundi, DRC, Libya, Myanmar, RtoP, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, UN, Uncategorized, Yemen

#R2PWeekly: 1 – 5 August 2016

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ICRtoP Releases two new educational tools exploring RtoP’s regional relevance in MENA and the Asia-Pacific

cf97b15f-acba-4cd8-a968-1d09266bf798.pngThe ICRtoP serves as a key resource to increase understanding of the Responsibility to Protect amongst civil society, government and regional organization actors, the UN, and the general public. Our vast range of educational tools has been used by diverse audiences throughout the world and has had a direct impact on strengthening the global awareness of RtoP.

To contribute towards this goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention, the ICRtoP has released two new educational tools exploring the regional relevance of the norm: The Responsibility to Protect in the Middle East and North Africa; and The Responsibility to Protect in the Asia-Pacific.108d9501-b557-4eb0-9a6d-905c9efbe3d7.png

These documents provide an overview ofRtoP’s relevance to the region in focus, explorin

g the efforts made by regional organizations, anddiscussing relevant country situations. The educational tools also provide examples of the contributions made by civil society to advance the norm.

The ICRtoP will release additional region specific tools focusing on Africa, the Americas, and Europe soon.

View the tools here:

The Responsibility to Protect in the Middle East and North Africa

The Responsibility to Protect in the Asia-Pacific


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) stated it would not sign an upcoming ceasefire agreement unless all of its nine ethnic member groups were included. The Burmese military has previously stated it will not allow three specific member groups to sign the agreement until they officially disarm, but retracted their statement later this week, noting their desire for peace.


Burundi:

On 28 July, three people were killed in an attack by unidentified armed men on a pub in central Burundi. Two men in the pub were killed as well as one of the attackers after the men, dressed in military uniform, stole telephones and money before opening fire.

The Security Council adopted Resolution 2302 on 29 July to send a police contingent of 228 forces to Burundi for an initial period of one year. The resolution established a police component to monitor human rights violations and the security situation while supporting the OHCHR office.

The next day, protests erupted in the capital of Bujumbura against the UN decision. Around 1,000 protesters marched peacefully towards the French embassy, critical of France’s role in drafting the adopted resolution. The government of Burundi has previously stated that it will only accept up to 50 unarmed UN police. However, on 2 August, the Burundi government rejected any UN police force presence, saying it is unnecessary and violates Burundi’s sovereignty.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters organized a rally in Kinshasa on Sunday following the return of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi last week after spending two years in Belgium for medical reasons. Supporters of the opposition are demanding that elections be held on schedule in November and President Joseph Kabila step down at the end of the year. Amnesty International called on DRC security forces to show restraint in handling the Kinshasa protests in light of recent violence used against protesters.

Six years after the mass rape of over 300 civilians in the Walikale region of the DRC, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, called for accountability and justice for the victims of one of the worst mass rapes in recent history. “To all the victims in Walikale and beyond, we say: justice may have been delayed, but it should not be denied,” stated Bangura.

On Tuesday, an opposition supporter wearing a tshirt with an image of political leader Etienne Tshisekedi was shot dead by a DRC soldier. The incident sparked clashes between police forces and the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) supporters.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Thursday, AFP revealed that Mohammed Halabi, the head of World Vision, had been diverting millions of dollars worth of foreign aid to Hamas. This was discovered by Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security organ, Israel is therefore charging the director of the U.S.-based Christian NGO for diverting an estimated 60% of World Vision’s annual budget since 2010.


Iraq:

On Sunday, two separate attacks by ISIL in Iraq’s oil-rich region of Kirkuk killed five people and damaged oil facilities.

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein publicly stressed his and the UN’s concern over the fact that Iraq has created a special committee to fast-track the carrying out of death sentences.  Underlying his concern, Mr. Hussein noted both the relative fragility of the Iraqi system as well as the role executions could play in deepening sectarian tensions and disillusionment with the government.

On 1 August, the UN released its figures on violence in Iraq for the month of July, stating that at least 760 people died in the month of July from acts of terrorism and violence. Civilians accounted for 629 of the dead.

After Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi testified in front of the Iraqi Parliament on Monday, where he accused several members of Parliament, including the Speaker, of corruption and attempting to bribe him,  Prime Minister Abadi issued travel bans for several of the lawmakers implicated. Meanwhile, the head of Iraq’s public prosecution has filed complaints against all those members of parliament accused by the Defense Minister.

The US-led international anti-ISIL coalition, on Wednesday, launched airstrikes destroying a former palace of Saddam Hussein’s which had been the headquarters and training centre for foreign ISIL recruits in Mosul since 2014.

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights has reported that ISIL has kidnapped 1,900 Iraqi civilians as they attempted to flee the Hawija district in Kirkuk province.

On the second anniversary of the start of ISIL’s genocide against the Yazidi minority, the UN has warned the world that the genocide in still ongoing, with 3,200 women and children still being held as captives by the group. ICRtoP member, the Global Centre for R2P, released a statement marking the second anniversary, in which the organization called for accountability for the commission of atrocity crimes.


Kenya:

On Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta requested that France support Kenya in securing stability and peace in the region, particularly in South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi. The President voiced his concern surrounding the withdrawal of the EU’s support to AMISOM and the security of Somalia, which shares a border with Kenya. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault responded by expressing his support and concern for security in the region.


Libya:

On 31 July, it was reported that over 120 bodies washed up on Sabratha shores in western Libya. The victims were predominantly identified as sub-Saharan Africans and some Tunisians who perished whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the US had conducted a series of airstrikes in Sirte, on Libya’s mediterranean coast. According to an administration official, the airstrikes were approved by President Obama last week and belong to a coordinated military campaign against ISIL.

Tuesday was the second day of U.S. airstrikes against ISIL in Libya. President Obama has called the military action critical to protecting U.S. security interests.

On Wednesday, Col. Miloud Zwai, a Libyan army spokesman reported that at least 18 Libyan soldiers had been killed and 20 more injured in a car bomb in Benghazi. The attack was claimed by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda.

On Thursday, the EU announced its decision to extend its civilian mission in Libya by a year, approving a $18.92 million budget to the assignment that is set to last until August 2017.


Mali:

Over the weekend six people died in clashes between a coalition of Tuareg rebels, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, and a Tuareg group, GATIA, allied with the government of Mali. Seperately, two Malian soldiers died when their vehicle ran over an IED, suspected to be planted by al- Qaeda.

On 31 July, the Malian government extended the state of emergency in the country for an additional eight months. The extension, until 29 March, 2017, is in response to renewed violence in the country’s northeast which recently saw Tuareg fighters storming an army base, killing seventeen. On the same day, a Malian army Captain died after being being ambushed by four gunmen outside of his home. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has taken responsibility for the attack.

The Follow-up Committee for the Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has announced that joint patrols will begin on 15 August 2016 in Gao, to be followed up by further joint patrols planned for Timbuktu and Kidal. The first battalion will consist of 600 officers and will consist of members of the Malian army and the ex-rebels of the Coordination of Azawad Movements group. Furthermore, the Committee said they had reached consensus on eight possible cantonment sites  ready to begin receiving fighters on the same day.


Nigeria:

A public inquiry found the Nigerian Army killed 347 Shia Muslims in an attack last December known as the Zaria massacre. A mass grave of the hundreds of bodies was found, prompting calls by groups such as Amnesty International for the Nigerian government to take immediate action. The Army is also accused of shooting prominent Shia leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been held in custody since December.

On Wednesday, Boko Haram announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its new leader in an Islamic State magazine. However, former leader Abubakar Shekau denounced the claim and accused al-Barnawi of staging a coup against him.

The UN has temporarily suspended aid delivery in Nigeria after an attack on a multi-agency aid convoy on 28 July. The attack by unknown assailants left one aid worker injured. Despite the temporary halt, UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian assistance efforts to reach the 244,000 malnourished children in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
The past weekend saw renewed fighting between the SPLA and members of the SPLM-IO still loyal to former First Vice President Machar in Nasir town, Upper Nile state, leaving nine dead.

After a week of clashes with members of the SPLM-IO, the SPLA has withdrawn from the county of Ngo-Bagari in Western Bahr el Ghazal state. The SPLM-IO in the region remains loyal to the recently deposed First Vice President Riek Machar.

On Tuesday, both the SPLA and SPLM-IO laid blame on the other for renewed fighting between the two in the Leer County of Unity State.  The same day, the SPLM-IO announced that they had forced the SPLA, loyal to Pres. Kiir, from all of their positions outside of Juba, only waiting on orders to enter the capital. The SPLA has denied the claims, instead stating that there have only been minor skirmishes over the past several days.

Political Developments
On 31 July, over thirty soldiers as well as three generals of the SPLM-IO defected to the South Sudanese government, recognizing Taban Deng Gai as both the country’s First Vice President as well as the leader of the SPLM-IO.

South Sudan has announced that it will be sending a high-level delegation to the UN to garner new support for the country, with the delegation being led by newly appointed First Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

South Sudan’s Agriculture Minister, Lam Akol, resigned from his position this week, calling on President Kiir to step aside and the current government to leave power. Mr. Akol, a powerful opposition figure and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), in his resignation stated “”There is no more peace agreement to implement in Juba. The only sensible way to oppose this regime, so as to restore genuine peace to our war-torn country, is to organise outside Juba.” Mr, Akol went on to announce he has begun working with other opposition leaders to begin “consolidating” anti-government resistance.

On Tuesday, President Kiir fired six ministers from his government who remain allied to his rival former First Vice President Machar. The positions have been immediately filled by members of a dissenting faction of the SPLM-IO who have rejected Mr. Machar as the continued leader of the group.

Humanitarian Situation
On his recent visit to South Sudan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien warned that the already dire humanitarian situation could deteriorate further in lieu of renewed peace talks and/or continued violence. Mr. O’brien went onto state that close to five million South Sudanese are going hungry on a daily basis.

On 2 August, the UNHCR updated its figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan, raising the total to 60,000.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has stated that preliminary findings from the UN’s investigation into the recent fighting in South Sudan have concluded that the SPLA engaged in widespread human rights violations during the violence. These violations include the killing of hundreds of civilians, including targeted executions, the rape of at least 100 women, widespread looting, and destruction of property. Mr. Hussein is calling on the UNSC to take action in light of these findings.


Sudan/Darfur:

This week, the European Union Mission in Khartoum, the UNDP, the UN, the African Union and the UNAMID began their joint Peace and Reconciliation Project. The Project aims to support the Comprehensive Partnerships for building Peace and Reconciliation in Darfur by funding and structurally supporting increased dialogues between tribes and local communities in Darfur in hopes of establishing pacific settlement of disputes.

On 2 August, the African Union stated that peace talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), the rebel groups in Darfur and the opposition alliance will start on the 8th of August. On that same date, the opposition will sign the Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan.

On 3 August, 200 fighters from the Democratic Justice and Equality Movement (DJEM) arrived in the North Darfur capital  of El-Fasher to begin the security arrangement procedure set out in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
Al-Nusra, one of the most potent fighting forces against the Assad regime, has officially severed its ties with al-Qaeda after originally starting off as the terrorist organization’s branch in Syria. Al- Nusra will now operate under the moniker of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (“the Levant Conquest Front). The move is believed to be in response to American and Russian plans to begin jointly targeting the group due to their association with al- Qaeda.

An alliance of Syrian rebel groups, including Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly al-Nusra) and Ahrar al Sham, have launched an offensive in an attempt to break the siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. The rebels have launched their offensive in the south and west of Aleppo in hopes of both opening a new supply line for rebels in the city as well as cutting off the government’s supply route. The focus has been on the Ramouseh district in south-west Aleppo, which if taken would cut-off government controlled western Aleppo from the outside world.  Meanwhile, the UN is pushing for a humanitarian pause to the fighting and hopes to announce a comprehensive plan in the coming days.

Over thirty people died from rebel shelling of government held Western Aleppo over the course of Monday and early Tuesday.

On 1 August, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian helicopter in Idlib province, killing all five on board. The following day, a Syrian rescue service operating in the area claimed that a helicopter dropped containers filled with gas, believed to be chlorine, on the nearby town of Saraqeb, with thirty three people suffering from its effects, while unrelated Russian airstrikes in Idlib allegedly killed 15 people and injured a further thirty.

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) are now in control of over 70% of the city of Manbij, after having pushed ISIL out of most of the western, eastern and southern portions of the city.

Political Developments
Over the weekend, the U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy E. Ramzy flew into Damascus to meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moulem to discuss how to budge the stalled peace process in Geneva. The UN is attempting to have the talks restarted by the end of August.

The Chief of the US Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, has admitted he is not sure whether or not Syria can or will remain one country. US Sec. of State John Kerry has previously mentioned a possible “Plan B” for Syria, which would see Syria be partitioned if a ceasefire could not take hold.

Humanitarian Situation
On 1 August, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) released its death toll report for the month of July. The SNHR  tallied the deaths of 1,557 civilians in the month of July at the hands of the main combatants in the conflict. 769 of the civilians died due to the government, with Russian forces allegedly being responsible for the deaths of 239 civilians. The report also noted that for the month of July, nine children died a day on average in the conflict.

On Wednesday, the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) stated that in the past week alone that the Syrian government has launched airstrikes against six different hospitals in Aleppo, calling it the single worst week for attacks on medical facilities in Syria’s civil war.


Yemen:

On Sunday, seven Saudi border guards were killed in clashes with Yemeni militants at the border with the war-torn country. The guards were fighting to stop attempts by the militants to cross the border into Najran, Saudi Arabia. Coalition aircrafts also helped to repel the attack.

On Sunday, Houthi rebels attacked government forces in Shabwa, a southern province, killing 42. The conflict continued until Tuesday as government forces tried to repel the fighters with air support provided by the Saudi-led coalition.

On Monday, the Yemeni delegation walked out of peace talks being held in Kuwait. This occurred after the Houthi’s rejected the peace plan, labelling it ‘incomplete.’ The return of the Yemeni delegation is contingent on whether the rebels will agree to a UN deal. Before leaving Kuwait, Minister Mikhlafi told reporters that they would ‘return any minute…if the other side agrees to sign’ and has given the Houthis an August 8 deadline to approve the deal.

On 1 August, Saudi Arabia’s civil Defence spokesman in Jizan has stated that four members of a family were killed by a missile from Yemen.

The next day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concern for the children of Yemen at a Security Council debate on children and armed conflict. He restated his support for the claim that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60% of child deaths and casualties in 2016, with the Houthi rebel group responsible for the remainder.

In addition to this, at least six soldiers were killed in a double car bombing at an army base of troops loyal to President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, in Habilayn, Lahj province.


What else is new?

Former leader of Chad, Hissene Habre, has been ordered to pay millions of dollars to victims in compensation. Convicted in May of this year of crimes against humanity, the decision of the special African Union court will likely impact 4,700 victims and relatives of those affected by Habre’s crimes.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 25 – 29 July 2016

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Close to 400,000 Civilians in Aleppo Facing Starvation

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Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, continues to be a site of intense fighting between government forces, rebels, and jihadists. Back-and-forth fighting between rebel groups and the Syrian government, backed by Russia, has been ongoing since July 2012, with heightened clashes the past three weeks.  Furthermore, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Syrian-Russian joint military operation is complicit in the use of cluster munition bombs in recent attacks against opposition-controlled territories. Last week, Syrian army forces cut off the Castello Highway, the last supply route for rebels in and out of the city, tightening the blockade of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Armed opposition groups retaliated with increased shelling of government-held areas of the city and on Wednesday, the Syrian Army officially cut off all rebel supply lines into Aleppo.

The next day, the governments of Syria and Russia announced that they would open uphumanitarian corridors into besieged Aleppo. Three routes will be opened for civilians, with a fourth for unarmed rebels. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also offered amnesty for rebels that lay down their arms and surrender within the next three months. Government forces have encircled Aleppo for days, in hopes of starving out rebel fighters and forcing them to surrender.

As the siege on Aleppo tightens, as many as 300,000 civilians currently living in the city face a dire humanitarian crisis. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien said on Monday that “food supplies are expected to run out in mid-August and many medical facilities continue to be attacked.” Aleppo is therefore close to becoming the largest besieged area in Syria. O’Brien called on the actors in the conflict to establish weekly 48-hour ceasefires to allow humanitarian services to reach civilians in besieged territories. In addition to Aleppo, as many as 60,000 people in the Manbij area have been cut off from aid, as well as thousands of civilians in Idleb and Daraya. With supplies quickly running out, almost 400,000 Syrians face starvation as fighting continues.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar:

Leaders representing 17 armed groups met this week in northern Kachin State in preparation for the upcoming Union Peace Conference in August. Participants discussed plans for a constitution based on a federal democratic union.


Burundi:

report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that members of Burundi’s ruling youth league party, the Imbonerakure, have repeatedly gang-raped women related to representatives of the opposing party since 2015. Security forces, including police, have also attacked women, usingrape as a weapon to discourage citizens from fleeing Burundi. HRW interviewed over 70 women and young girls who have fled the crisis and still face sexual assault in the Nduta refugee camp across the border in Tanzania. The government of Burundi rejected the allegations and accused HRW of falsely demonizing the Imbonerakure.

The UN Committee Against Torture is set to conduct a special review of Burundi on 28 and 29 July. The reviewers will discuss issues in the Committee’s written request for a report from the government last year, in light of the recent deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi. The findings will be announced on 12 August.


Central African Republic:

The Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2017. The renewed mandate stressed a more comprehensive strategy prioritizing the protection of civilians; the implementation of a disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration program; and effective security sector reform. The resolution also called on CAR authorities to strengthen the rule of law and justice institutions in fighting impunity. The mandate maintainsthe authorized troop ceiling of 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police.

Last Saturday, ex-Seleka armed fighters attacked the southern CAR town of Ngakobo, killing at least three people and injuring several.

On 22 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Fabrizio Hochschild of Chile as the new Deputy Special Representative for MINUSCA.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The Republic of Korea has announced that it will set up a human rights foundation in September to study and assess the situation in North Korea in order to develop policies relating to human rights issues there. The 50-member organization will be founded under the North Korean Human Rights Act, with a planned budget of $22 million USD annually.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following a four day visit to the DRC, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein made a statement commending the country’s recent attempts to improve human rights. However, he also reminded that some of these efforts may be threatened by “violations of fundamental civil and political rights by State actors” and the restriction of the political space ahead of the upcoming elections.

After the presidential pardon and release of six youth activists on Tuesday, Amnesty International released a statement warning that, “unless all prisoners of conscience and others detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights are freed,” the latest release of the activists “will be seen as little more than an exercise in window dressing.” Those released served five out six months of their sentence for “attempting to incite disobedience” and they had to be forcibly removed from the prison as they rejected the presidential pardons in order to show solidarity with the other detainees.


Iraq:

On Saturday, Iraqi forces began construction on a seven-mile long trench on the northern outskirts of the recently recaptured city of Fallujah in Anbar province. Iraqi commanders have stated the purpose of the trench is two-fold: to keep several hundred ISIL fighters still being pursued in Anbar province from launching attacks on the city, and to keep out Shi’ite militias barred from entering the city.

On 25 July, the UNSC extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for another year, with the mandate now extending to 31 July 2017.

That same day a string of bombings in and around Baghdad killed twenty-five people. The deadliest attack took place in the Shi’ite town of Khalis, fifty miles north of Baghdad. where a suicide- bomber drove his car into a police checkpoint.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi met with officials from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh province, announcing that Mosul and the surrounding region would be governed by a decentralized system after its liberation from ISIL. Complementing the Prime Minister’s words, the Iraqi parliament endorsed a bill that day that would increase the power of provincial capitals, allowing them a legal route to create semi-autonomous regions with greater administrative and political powers.

The US-led coalition against ISIL has estimated roughly 10,000 ISIL fighters defending Mosul remain, as the Iraqi government prepares for its offensive to retake the city.


Libya:

Forces loyal to rebel general Khalifa Haftar suffered losses during clashes with forces loyal to the Shura Council of the Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR).

Several of Libya’s most influential political and military figures, including Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and Awila Saleh, the head of the Libyan parliament, are in Egypt for talks aimed at ending the political deadlock. General Hifter, who is supported by Saleh and his parliament, is meeting with deputies of both Saleh and Serraj.


Mali:

Fighting in northern Mali between the mostly Tuareg group, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), and Gatia militiamen killed an estimated 20 people and wounded at least 40 more, threatening the already shaky peace deal in the country late last week. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, havereleased a statement condemning the attacks and calling on the leaders of the rival groups to restore calm, while also reminding them of their obligations to protect civilians under international law.

Malian security forces arrested Mahmoud Barry, also known as “Abou Yehiya”, one of the most senior members of Ansar Dine. Barry is alleged to have had involvement in several attacks, including the recent attack on a Malian military base which killed 17 soldiers and left many more wounded last week.


Nigeria:

Late last week, humanitarian aid, including 31 metric tons of food and other non-food stuffs, finally reached around 15,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Borno State.The food delivered is not expected to last more than a week.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has released another warning this week that Borno State in Nigeria is facing a “large-scale humanitarian disaster” with over 500,000 people living in deplorable conditions.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Security Council on the Boko Haram situation in the Lake Chad Basin region on Wednesday. Although military action against the terrorist group is essential, Feltman noted that in order to end the threat completely, countries must take steps to address the root causes contributing to Boko Haram’s emergence. This includes the social, political, and economic tensions amongst communities, he said.


South Sudan:

On 23 July, the mayor of Raja, in South Sudan’s Lol state, confirmed that he had defected to the armed opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

On 25 July, the UNHCR updated its figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan, stating that an average of 4,000 people are fleeing per day to Uganda from South Sudan, more than doubling from the 1,500 per day estimate released ten days ago. The past three weeks have seen more South Sudanese leave for Uganda than in the previous six months combined.

On Monday, South Sudanese Pres. Salva Kiir officially replaced Riek Machar with Taban Deng Gai as first vice president.  Mr. Machar has not been seen in public since fleeing the outbreak of violence in the capital of Juba in early July. The UN has released a warning, stating “any political appointments need to be consistent with the provisions outlined in the peace agreement.” Both the SPLM-IO armed forces sector commander and governor dismissedGai’s claims that he has their support.

On 27 July, reports surfaced that South Sudanese soldiers raped dozens of ethnic Nuer women and girls last week within sight of a UN camp dedicated to the protection of civilians from the recent uptick in violence.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 24 July, the umbrella opposition group Sudan Call announced it would meet with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki to discuss eventually signing the proposed African Roadmap for Peace in Sudan.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting
Forty-two people died in Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the town of al- Atareb in Aleppo province on Monday. That same day, airstrikes in East Aleppo struck four hospitals and a blood bank. Two days later, after having made gains into the territory, the Syrian government announced that they had officially cut off all rebel supply lines into East Aleppo. As the Syrian Army tightens its siege, it has sent text messages to the residents of the eastern part of the city claiming to have made several safe corridors, three of which will be for civilians and a fourth for rebels to surrender. Assad further offered amnesty to any rebels in East Aleppo who surrender in the next three months.

On Monday, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien addressed the UNSC on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Stressing the degradation of the situation in Aleppo, Mr. O’Brien called for the implementation of a weekly 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo to allow for humanitarian access.

On 25 July, the SDF and its allied forces announced that they are now in control of the majority of the besieged ISIL-held city of Manbij, claiming eighty-percent of the city was now in their control. The SDF reiterated calls for ISIL to allow civilians to leave the city, while opening up a new humanitarian corridor of their own.

A mortar attack on the Bab Touma district of Damascus killed six people and wounded scores more.  Meanwhile, a twin-bombing by ISIL in the predominantly Kurdish town of Qamishli, in Syria’s northeast, killed 44 people.

Political developments
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated further progress had been made on the proposed US-Russian military cooperation in Syria. Mr. Kerry went on to state he expects to have an agreed upon plan ready for the public in early August.

On Sunday, the Syrian government announced its desire to resume the peace talks in Geneva. After talks faltered and collapsed earlier in the year, the UN is hoping to begin a new round sometime in late August.


Yemen:

On Monday, operations by the Saudi-led coalition reportedly resumed and killed 20 Houthi rebels during airstrikes in Roudha, Taiz, Jawf, and Abyan.

The UN called for a ceasefire in the Taiz region this week, where conflict has recently escalated between the government forces and Houthi militia, especially in Al-Sarari, a town in the southeast of the region.

Five Saudi border guards were killed by Yemeni militants at the border with Yemen. According to Saudi authorities, the guards perished after an 8-hour long battle with the armed militia, who were said to be attempting to enter Saudi Arabia

On Thursday, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met separately with delegations from the Shia Houthi group and the Yemeni government in Kuwait. Negotiations had previously been suspended due to the Arab League summit in Nouakchott this week.

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#R2PWeekly: 18 – 22 July 2016

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Civil society tribunal attempts to bring justice to victims of genocide committed by Indonesian state in 1960s

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On Wednesday, a final report from an international people’s tribunal proclaimed the Indonesian state responsible for mass killings perpetrated between 1965-1966. The tribunal, which involved 16 witnesses, six international prosecutors and seven judges, was established in The Hague last year to put an end to impunity and demand accountability for crimes against humanity committed by the Indonesian government during the anti-communist purge that occurred half a century ago.

In 1965, Major General Suharto sought to eradicate members of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and its sympathizers. The subsequent massacre resulted in the deaths of over 400,000 alleged communists, in addition to women’s rights activists, the ethnic Chinese and any opponents to Suharto’s military regime. Other atrocities perpetrated include torture, sexual violence and imprisonment.

The tribunal has demanded that the Indonesian state compensate the victims and survivors of these human rights abuses. Zak Yacoob, chief justice of the civil society tribunal, has urged the state to address this issue in the form of an apology. Despite this request and the international attention garnered by the tribunal, Indonesia refused to participate in the hearings that took place in The Hague in November of last year, and has repeatedly denied an apology to the victims and survivors.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote d’Ivoire
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other  


Burma/Myanmar:

The Myanmar government established a specialized task force set to combat religious violence and hate speech in the country. The task force will be charged with preventing further ethnic violence, especially during racial and religious protests.

On 17 July, Aung San Suu Kyi held talks with the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) on the country’s peace process in Yangon.

The Myanmar military claimed responsibility for the death of five civilians killed by soldiers on 25 June and promised to prosecute the perpetrators in a military tribunal. The investigation came as a surprise to local rights groups, who said it was very rare for the military to be held accountable for alleged abuses.

New census data revealed the Muslim population in Myanmar has decreased from 3.9 percent of the population in 1983 to just 2.3 percent today. However, the data does not account for the 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state that were forced to identify as Bengali- excluding them from the census. The controversial data was held by the government for two years due to fears that the results may inflame religious tensions. Analysts still believe the real Muslim population in Myanmar is much higher, at a level close to ten percent.

Burundi:

The UN Security Council may send up to 220 police forces to Burundi to monitor human rights and mitigate violence in the country. The draft proposal, created by France, has yet to be approved by the government of Burundi, which has stated that it would accept a maximum of 50 unarmed forces.

Burundi pulled out of an African Union (AU) Summit in Kigali, Rwanda after accusing the AU of failing to address Burundi’s security concerns about Rwanda. Burundi has implicated Rwanda in backing rebels fighting President Nkurunziza’s government and accused the country of complicity in last week’s assassination of MP Hafsa Mossi.

 


Central African Republic:

On 18 July, 11 hostages from Cameroon were freed after being held captive by an armed group in the Central African Republic for 16 months. The hostages were captured in March 2015 after leaving a funeral in northern Cameroon.

The Central African Republic has been re-admitted to the African Union (AU) following three years of suspension.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The South Korean state-run Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) has released a new report titled “North Korea’s Tortures and Inhumane Treatment,” which brings attention to the torture and deplorable conditions that inmates face in North Korean labor camps. The report is based on surveys and interviews from North Korean defectors who had previously been subjected to such treatment while in labor camps in the country.

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The African Union has announced a plan to bring all DRC political parties together for a meeting before the constitutional deadline for the next elections in order to find a solution for the political impasse in the country.

In a presidential statement late last week, the UN Security Council has expressed “deep concern” over the restrictions of political space in the DRC and the recent arrests and detainment of opposition and civil society members. The Council called for the government and other relevant parties “to refrain from violence and provocation” and iterated the Council’s support for the AU dialogue under the recently appointed facilitator, Edem Kodjo.

A senior DRC official has denied claims that the current administration has undertaken a “witch hunt” in persecuting Moise Katumbi Chapwe, an opposition leader planning to run in the next presidential elections.

 

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli authorities froze mail services to Gaza last week in light of smuggled illegal materials being sent to the Strip.

Hamas announced its plans to participate in upcoming elections set to take place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in October. The group had boycotted the last round of local elections in 2012.

On 17 July, a Palestinian man carrying pipe bombs and a knife was arrested by Israeli police at a light-rail train station in Jerusalem. The man was also carrying improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

A Palestinian stabbed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank before being shot and arrested on 18 July. The soldiers were lightly wounded.

Iraq:

Fighting reportedly broke out in Mosul between members of ISIL and local residents of the Bab al-Jadid neighborhood in central Mosul. Further reports of clashes have come from Mosul’s southern neighborhood of Hammam al-Alil, with a total of five members of ISIL killed between the two incidents.

On Sunday, Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged his supporters to begin targeting US troops in Iraq currently serving as part of the anti-ISIL coalition. Sadr rose to prominence in the US media for the role his Mahdi army had in leading an insurgency against US forces previously occupying Iraq.

On Tuesday, Iraqi officers alleged that several of their soldiers had been detained by Kurdish security services and subsequently tortured.

On 20 July, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accepted the resignation of another minister in his cabinet bringing the total number of recent resignations up to six. The Prime Minister is attempting to reform his government by creating a cabinet of technocrats but has faced opposition from political parties who see these ministry positions as essential parts of a patronage system.

Kenya:

Kenyan authorities have charged four police officers with the murder of Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer, Josphat Mwenda, his client, and Joseph Muiruri, their taxi driver.  The government has claimed that no police death squads exist and said that “rogue officers” were to blame for any killings.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting the abuse of predominantly ethnic Somali Kenyans in the northeastern region of the country by State security forces. HRW believes that 34 people were forcibly disappeared and 11 killed, many of whom had ‘been under investigation for alleged links to or knowledge of Al-Shabaab.’

On Thursday, police in Mombasa killed two men suspected of belonging to al Shabaab.They had been under surveillance by Kenyan authorities for two months until police raided their hideout.

Libya

ISIL militants killed at least 20 fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) forces during a battle in Sirte’s Ouagadougou complex on 15 July. The fighting wounded another 120 soldiers as GNA forces struggle to retake ISIL’s Libya stronghold.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council on Monday that ISIL could relocate from Sirte and spread throughout Libya.

On July 20th, militia shot down a helicopter near Benghazi, killing three French soldiers, the first confirmation by French authorities that its special forces were operating in Libya. Libya’s UN-backed government called the operations a violation of its national sovereignty. Protests erupted in Tripoli and elsewhere against the perceived violation.

Mali:

Niger has reportedly brokered an agreement between the Coordination of Azawad Movements and the Platform, two armed groups in Mali which have frequently clashed over controlling the city of Kidal in northern Mali. The agreement is set to end the fighting between the groups in the city and establish a calm during the process of establishing the interim government there.

A “coordinated terrorist attack” on a Malian military base in the city of Nampala killed 17 soldiers and wounded 35 others on Tuesday. Three groups — AQIM, the Macina Liberation Front, which has ties to Ansar Dine, and an ethnic Peul group — took part in the raid, according to an army spokesperson. Ansar Dine also claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, Malian authorities have decided to extend the state of emergency in the country for 10 days after a recent series of attacks by armed groups, which have destabilized some areas of the country and killed dozens.

Aid agencies claim that a recent surge in violence and attacks on aid workers in northern Mali are obstructing aid deliveries to millions of people who desperately need the food, water, and healthcare the agencies provide.
Nigeria:

Oil militants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have reportedly attacked an oil pipeline operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) near the city of Warri.

The Adaka Boro Avengers (ABA), another oil militant group in the region, has claimed to have completed talks with other oil militant groups in the Niger Delta to declare the region an independent republic on 1 August. The group ordered the Nigerian government to vacate all military personnel and government agencies from the region, while also asking people from the northern and southwestern regions of the country to leave the territory. The ABA has threatened to “use many as an example in the Niger Delta region” after 1 August.

The Nigerian military has released 249 people, including women and children who were arrested on suspicions that they were Boko Haram terrorists or accomplices. The detainees are reported to have received no apology or compensation for their time of incarceration, apart from a small stipend to cover the transportation costs incurred for their return home.

Recent reports from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have reiterated other aid agencies’ calls for swift action in providing aid to people facing dire conditions in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. Currently two million people are still inaccessible in the region.
 

South Sudan:

International Response to the Recent Violence
On 19 July, the African Union (AU) approved a plan to send troops into South Sudan, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda to be the troop providing countries. The AU troops will be operating under a much broader mandate than the current UNMISS troops, with the AU Peace and Security Commissioner comparing their future operations to those conducted by the Force Intervention Brigade in the DRC.

South Sudan’s government has come out in opposition to the plan, stating that it would resist an “occupation” that would be in violation of the nation’s sovereignty, and has begun conducting protests in this regard.

President Kiir urged for direct talks with Vice President Machar to begin immediately. However, the Vice President is currently refusing to return to Juba, despite the declaration of a general amnesty and assurances of protection from the President, and has called the outbreak of violence a ‘calculated attempt’ to kill him. Machar noted that he would only return to the capital if a third-party force is entrusted with the security of the capital.

On 17 July, on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development in East Africa (IGAD) urged both Kiir and Machar’s troops to leave Juba and for the security of the capital to be turned over to a regional force.

Over the weekend, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, stated his opposition to any arms embargo against South Sudan. Kenyan President Kenyatta, however, reiterated previous calls for an arms embargo, targeted sanctions and a reinforcing of UNMISS.

Developments on the Ground
On July 18, the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) announced that it will soon be starting a military operation in eastern Jonglei State, an area mostly populated by the ethnicity of Vice President Machar, the Nuer. The SPLA claims it has information that thousands are gathering in order to engage in an offensive against the SPLA on behalf of Vice President Machar and the SPLA-IO.

On 19 July, South Sudanese authorities continued to deny permission to UN aircraft to deliver aid to several areas of the country, continuing a systematic denial process that started last week.

UNHCR gave the latest figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan. Over 5,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since 7 July, with the UN expecting thousands of new arrivals in the coming days as checkpoints on the main road to Uganda are dismantled. The UN is warning that the number of South Sudanese refugees could top one million in the coming months.

 

Sudan/Darfur:

Shelling by the Sudanese government killed two people in Southern Darfur on Sunday. Also on Sunday, members of the Sudanese government’s Rapid Support Forces began randomly firing into the village of Tabit in North Darfur, forcing many resident to flee their homes.

On 18 July, Sudan Call, an umbrella organization of Sudanese opposition groups and civil society, began deliberations over their position on the African Union Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. In March, the Sudanese opposition had rejected the Roadmap for Peace, claiming that it was simply a continuation of a dialogue and governing process dominated by the ruling party.

On 19 July, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has been engaged in fighting with the Sudanese government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since June 2011, called the recent unilateral ceasefire declared by the government a ‘hoax’. The group claims that the government is merely using it to rearrange and resupply their troops for a fresh assault. The SPLM-N further demanded a negotiated ceasefire mediated and monitored by a third party.
Syria:

Political developments
On 17 July, Basma Kodmani, a senior negotiator for the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee accusedthe US of failing to hold Russia responsible for its actions in Syria. Mr. Kodmani went on to state that the opposition expected the US to respond more forcibly to Russian “war crimes” in Syria, with a guarantee for a ceasefire that would include an end to Russia’s air campaign.

On 15 July, following his meeting in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US and Russia had come to an agreement on definitive actions needed to restore a ceasefire in Syria. Some have speculated that the announcement means that Russia and the US have reached a preliminary agreement to begin a joint air-campaign in Syria against ISIL and al-Nusra. However, the specifics of the meeting have yet to be disclosed.

Developments in the fighting
Last weekend, Syrian government forces seized the town of Kinsabba in coastal Latakia, taking back the strategic major-hub which had been captured by rebels, including al-Nusra, on 1 July. Also last weekend, fighting broke out in Aleppo between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the rebel-coalition group ‘Aleppo Conquest’.

On Sunday, Syrian government forces completed their encirclement of rebel-held eastern Aleppo, seizing full control of the last remaining rebel supply line into the city, the Castello Road. Eastern Aleppo is now effectively besieged by government forces, with food and fuel shortages already starting to hit the 200,000 – 300,000 people trapped there.

A anti-ISIL coalition airstrike allegedly killed 60 civilians in the ISIL-held city of Manbij. The US, announced that it would be launching a full investigation into the deaths. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has called for a temporary suspension of the US’s air campaign against ISIL while an investigation takes place.

Also in Manjib, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of an ISIL command-center, one of its main logistical hubs in the city. Following its fresh offensive in the city, on Thursday the SDF gave ISIL 48 hours to abandon Manbij, while urging civilians to flee as fighting may become more intense.

Israeli intelligence claimed that Iran has begun stationing an elite group of Shia Afghani snipers, trained by Hezbollah, in Syria.
Yemen:

On 16 July, UN-brokered peace talks on Yemen started up again in Kuwait after a two-week hiatus after the government decided to participate. While little overall progress has so far been achieved in resolving Yemen’s deep-seated political crisis, the talks have brought about a ceasefire which, despite its numerous violations, has significantly curtailed the violence and deaths. The internationally recognized Yemeni government is demanding that the Houthi rebels turn over all heavy weapons and withdraw from all territory captured since 2014, while the Houthis are demanding to be part of a transitional government that would set the stage for new elections. The UN Special Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed has promised to push for a final agreement to be reached within two weeks.

Despite the peace talks, Yemeni government forces launched a major military offensive on the Houthis in the northern province of Hajja, near the Saudi border, on Thursday. The offensive sought to take the strategically placed city of Haradh from the Houthis.

On 17 July, fighting between Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized Yemeni government allegedly left 38 dead in Taiz, al-Baydar, and Sanaa. The following day, two suicide bombings outside of the southern port city of Mukalla, held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, killed at least ten people. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a bomb killed four policemen and injured at least three people in Aden. The bomb was thrown by a suspected Al Qaeda operative concealed inside a plastic bag.

On Friday, six people were killed as a result of a car bomb explosion in Sana’a. The explosion occurred after midday Friday prayers as worshippers were leaving the Bilal mosque. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

 

What else is new?

The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect is available this week for pre-order to be shipped on 23 July. Edited by Alex J. Bellamy and Tim Dunne, this new volume features essays from some of the most prominent figures on RtoP and provides a “comprehensive study and comparative examination of the emergence of the Responsibility to Protect principle.” Click here for purchasing information.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 July 2016

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Renewed clashes in South Sudan results in urgent calls for action to protect civilians 

 “This is the time to massively reinforce UN action. When a Government cannot or will not protect its people, and when warring parties seem more intent on enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of their people, the international community has a responsibility to act.” —UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking to reporters on the situation in South Sudan, 11 July 2016.
The Secretary General’s condemnation of the violence in the South Sudanese capital of Juba as well as his call for increased action by the UN and international community has been echoed in several corridors. While a ceasefire declared on 11 July by President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, has largely held, the international community is debating the proper course of action to ensure not only a return of violence but a transition to a legitimate and fruitful peace.

On 8 July, an argument between soldiers of the SPLA, loyal to President Kiir, and soldiers of the SPLA-IO, loyal to Vice-President Machar, at a checkpoint in Juba started a gunfight, which soon spiraled out of control into six days of fighting and violence. Over 36,000 people have been displaced from their homes, with at least 300 killed, including civilians “reportedly targeted based on their ethnicity.” Additionally, UN personnel and compounds also came under fire in actions that may amount to charges of war crimes.

The Secretary General is urging the Security Council to take action on three fronts: the imposition of an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan; targeted sanctions against individuals attempting to derail the peace process; and for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to be reinforced. African regional organizations have gone even further, with the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) not only calling for an increase in troops from the region but also the creation of a force-intervention brigade.

In lieu of the threat of a return to the devastating civil war between the SPLA and SPLA-IO from 2013-2015, which left over 100,000 dead, the UN is urging both parties to move forward with the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 27 August 2015. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has urged “the Transitional Government of National Unity of its responsibility to protect its populations, irrespective of their ethnicity or political affiliation…[and] the urgent need to end impunity in South Sudan and bring to justice all those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, reminding both parties to the conflict of their agreement to establish a hybrid court to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as well as other serious crimes under international law.

Civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and The Global Centre for R2Pamong others, have  reiterated and strengthened the calls for a decisive response to the violence, with GCR2P stating  that “both parties must uphold their responsibility to protect and adhere to the cessation of hostilities.” Among the points made calling for action in the face of the violence, Amnesty International advocated for the African Union to undertake the measures needed to establish the hybrid court as a means for accountability and “to end the culture of impunity that continues to feed this cycle of violence.”


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote d’Ivoire
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


 Burma/Myanmar:

Myanmar nationalists protested in the streets of Yangon on 10 July, urging the government to refer to the Muslim Rohingya population as “Bengali.” Recently, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi banned officials from referring the the Islamic population of the Rakhine state as either “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to avoid ethnic tensions.

On 14 July, Myanmar’s Minister for Religion warned the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha, to refrain from hate speech against Muslims. The anti-Muslim nationalist group is losing its influence as Myanmar’s elite religious council denounced themselves from Ma Ba Tha, and several senior members left the extremist group.


Burundi:

On 13 June, an unknown gunmen shot and killed former Member of Parliament and BBC journalist Hafsa Mossi in Bujumbura. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination, reiterating “the need to intensify efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis in Burundi.”

Peace talks were stalled in Burundi when five major political parties boycotted a second round of talks in Arusha, Tanzania on 12 June. Representatives from the parties disapproved of the decision to invite certain Burundians accused of human rights violations during the attempted coup last year.


Central African Republic:

France announced on Wednesday that it will suspend its peacekeeping operation, Operation Sangaris, in the Central African Republic. The three-year-long military campaign will end in October.

At the Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, noted that CAR faces a “security climate that remains fragile and reversible,” despite considerable progress over the recent two years of political transition. The latest Secretary-General’s report recommended updates to MINUSCA’s mandate, particularly regarding the protection of civilians. Ladsous welcomed the CAR government’s efforts in tackling impunity and developing a mutual accountability framework.

UNHCR stated that more than 6,000 people from the Central African Republic have fled into neighboring Chad and Cameroon since mid-June. This year’s fighting has affected an additional 25,000 to 30,000 people in CAR.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts (OHCHR) have released a new joint report, which has found that some progress has been made in the fight against rape in the country, but it is “not enough”. The report calls for the strengthening of prevention measures and greater accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The government of the DPRK has closed its only direct diplomatic channel with the United States (its mission to the UN in New York) following the sanctions that the US imposed on Kim Jong-un and other leading DPRK officials for human rights violations last week.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

UN Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Jan Eliasson briefed the Security Council late last week and warned that political tensions are rising and the democratic space is shrinking in the DRC as a result of the electoral impasse and delays in the electoral process. DSG Eliasson argued that credible and inclusive political dialogue amongst DRC stakeholders is the only realistic way to defuse the situation.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel opened a major Gaza Strip crossing on Wednesday for the first time in nine years. The Erez crossing, the second border crossing in Gaza, will allow for the transfer of vehicles carrying goods. An Israeli defense ministry spokesman said “The measure has been taken to facilitate the work of Palestinian importers and thus help the economy of the Gaza Strip.”

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, is visiting Amman, Jordan to gather information on the situation of human rights in Palestine for the first time. Israel has failed to respond to Lynk’s request to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Israeli government approved a budget of $13 million for the construction of more Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are considered illegal under international law and have been repeatedly condemned by the UN.


Iraq:

In what has been considered the key first step to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces captured the Qayyarah Airbase West, about 60 kilometers south of the city. Iraqi forces then captured the town of Ajhala, north of the airbase. In doing so, they managed to link up along the Tigris river with troops from the Nineveh Liberation Operation, which had started its offensive on the opposite side of the river in March.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced this week that the US would be sending an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help in the offensive. However, the U.S. also signed a memo with the Peshmerga defence forces of the northern autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq to directly give them financial and military aid, skirting Baghdad as the middleman. The aid is said to include directly paying the salary for many Peshmerga fighters, who have not been payed for several months.

Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing the daily horrors of Iraqi villagers living under ISIL occupation for 21 months. The report describes a system of control predicated on summary executions, torture and collective punishment of villagers.

On 11 July, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced plans for a “massive” protest on Friday to demand the establishment of a technocratic government, replacing the current system where ministries are given out based on party affiliation. The next day, the Iraqi government called for a cessation of anti-government “reform” protests over fears of being unable to provide adequate security.

On 12 July, a car bomb in the northern Baghdad Shia neighborhood of  al-Rashidiya killedeleven people and wounded a further thirty-two. Another ISIL-car bomb killed at least eight people at a police checkpoint in the al-Rashidiya district, north of Baghdad on Wednesday.

Two days later, ISIL confirmed that Omar al-Shishani, the group’s Minister of War, has been killed in Iraq. The group claims he died  “in the town of Sharqat as he took part in repelling the military campaign on the city of Mosul”. The date of his death has not been given but it is considered a blow to the terrorist organization, with Omar “the Chechen” being considered one of their most prized strategists and propaganda pieces for foreign recruitment.


Libya:

The UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said on 13 June that Libya’s new army could be regionalized. The decentralized army is aimed at easing tensions between the UN-backed unity Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West and the rival governmental forces led by General Khalifa Hafta in the east. Formation of separate military councils in Libya’s west, east, and southern regions is being discussed.

A mass grave and secret prison used by ISIL was found by Libyan forces in the town of Sirte.


Mali:

On Tuesday, violent protests in the city of Gao in Northern Mali left four civilians dead and 31 others wounded. Malian authorities had banned the demonstrations and security forces reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters. Some involved claimed to have been demonstrating to call for justice in the implementation of the Malian peace process and to denounce the interim government and measures taken in which former militants are integrated into the regular Malian military. On Wednesday, protesters once more took to the streets, but this time to call for the resignation of the state’s governor and the national security minister in light of Tuesday’s incident. The government vowed to open an inquiry into the events. The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) released a statement condemning the violence and encouraging the government to ensure the population is better familiarized with the peace agreement.

Gunmen killed two soldiers and stole a military vehicle over the weekend at a military checkpoint near the Malian border with Burkina Faso.


Nigeria:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report this week detailing the “famine-like conditions” in Borno State, which were recently discovered by humanitarian convoys bringing aid to the hard-to-reach areas, including some still experiencing conflict. The report found that there are emergency levels of severe acute malnutrition in the region, especially for 275,000 people living in 15 satellite camps across the state. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have accused the UN of failing to respond to the food crisis in Borno State quickly enough to save lives. Hundreds of people are reportedly already dying each day in the region where Boko Haram attacks have devastated farming, which was feeding Nigeria prior to the insurgency. A majority of the displaced people living among the community in the state capital of Maiduguri are without any access to food or medical aid.

The fight against Boko Haram
At least 25 suspected Boko Haram militants died during an attack on a Nigerian military battalion in northern Borno State on Tuesday. One soldier died in the fighting and 11 others were wounded as the army successfully repelled the attack.

A vigilante group reportedly discovered and captured six suspected Boko Haram terrorists, including a senior leader, in Lagos late last week. This subsequently led to their arrest and a transfer of custody to Nigeria’s Department of State Services on Monday.

Cameroon has decided to reopen its border with Nigeria after reporting that the threat of Boko Haram attacks in the region has subsided enough to return to commercial activities.

Inter-community violence
Gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have killed at least 81 people in attacks on farming villages in Benue State in Nigeria within the past two weeks. The state government is currently working with security agencies to stem the violence between the herders and mostly Christian farmers over grazing lands which has gone on for decades.

Nigerian President Buhari has decided to send a special military task force of around 1,000 troops to the northern state of Zamfara to combat the growing threat of cattle rustlers in the region. The groups of cattle rustlers are allegedly to blame for the deaths of hundreds of people in the region within the past three years.

The Niger Delta
Security sources have reported that the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have blown up ExxonMobil’s Qua Iboe crude oil terminal, the largest crude oil stream in Nigeria. However, Exxon Mobil Corp has denied these claims.


Sri Lanka:

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski visited Colombo this week and commended Sri Lanka’s recent steps towards “democratization and reconciliation”. He cited the bill establishing an office to investigate missing persons, the release of lands previously held by the country’s military, and the ratification of the convention on disappearances, among others.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 9 July, the former chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Tijani al-Sissiannounced that the presidential decree which would end the mandate of the DRA and establish commissions and mechanisms to complete the remaining items of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) would be made soon. The DRA’s creation came about through the DDPD, signed by the Sudanese government and  former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement-Dabajo in 2011 and 2013, respectively. It had a four-year mandate to implement the DDPD, being extended by one year, but its remaining commissions will soon be overseen by the presidency.

On 10 July, 2 people died in an air raid in northern Darfur. The village of Tereng saw multiple barrel-bombs – barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel – dropped on it during the assault.

On 12 July, the International Criminal Court (ICC) referred both Djibouti and Uganda to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was on their respective territories. President Bashir currently has a warrant issued by the court and, as members of the court, both Djibouti and Uganda bear responsibility for fulfilling the warrant, which they failed to do. The UNSC has the capability to sanction both countries over the matter. Meanwhile, President al-Bashir will travel on 16 July to the 27th African Union Summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has stated that his government will not arrest President Bashir and that “President al-Bashir is welcomed in Kigali at any time. He will be free in his second home country. We will not respond to the ICC calls to arrest him. We will not take any action of such type against him.” Rwanda, though not a member of the ICC, has obligations to cooperate with the court as a member of the UN.

As a result of the recent violence in neighboring South Sudan, on 12 July, the Sudanese government began to make preparations for what they expect will be a new and large influx of South Sudanese refugees. Sudan already hosts 221,000 South Sudanese refugees, with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calling on all of South Sudan’s neighbors to keep their borders open to all those who may soon be seeking asylum.

On 13 July, Sudan’s Minister of Information Ahmed Bilal Othman stated that Sudan is willing toreschedule the final session of the general assembly of the National Dialogue, currently set for 6 August, for a later date, if those groups that oppose the Dialogue are willing to sign the AU Roadmap for Peace. This move would allow rebel and opposition groups currently excluded from the peace process to now be included.


Syria/Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting

On 8 July, ISIL shot down a Russian helicopter near Palmyra, killing 2 Russian pilots. There have so far only been twelve reported deaths of Russian forces operating in Syria. That same day, a combination of shelling and airstrikes in north-west Syria left over 60 civilians dead. Thirty-four civilians died, as well as a further 200 injured, when rebels began shelling government-held areas of Aleppo in response to having their supply-line into the city cut off. At least twenty-two civilians died in government airstrikes in the town of Darkush, with a further six dying on the Castello Road leading into rebel-held Aleppo.

On 9 July, Syrian government forces captured the town of Maydaa, east of Damascus, after a two-week long campaign. Maydaa had been, up until its capture, the easternmost portion of territory held by the rebels in their pocket in Eastern Ghouta.

The next day, a rebel attempt to retake their supply line into Aleppo, the Castello Road, failed as the government repelled the attack, killing at minimum twenty-nine rebels. The Castello Road leads into the rebel-controlled eastern half of Aleppo, which has effectively been under siege since last Thursday when government forces secured the surrounding hilltops overlooking the road. There are estimated to be 200,000-300,000 people still living in the eastern half of Aleppo. On 12 July, the UN began calling for humanitarian access as well as to be allowed to start evacuating civilians warning of the possibility of a severe humanitarian crisis. Currently, the UN and several other agencies only have enough food stored to feed145,000 people for one month. Having as of yet failed to reopen their supply lines, rebel-groups launched an offensive inside the city of Aleppo at dawn on 11 July, with a barrage of over 300 shells being fired into government-held Aleppo. However, gains have been minimal as they have come up against heavy air support on behalf of the Syrian government.

On 11 July, airstrikes in a diesel market in northwestern Syria killed 8 people.

On 12 July, Syria extended its original 72 hour ceasefire for another three-day period. This is the second such extension of the ceasefire and comes despite continued fighting on the ground in several areas leaving it with little actual effect. Later that same day, eight peopledied in airstrikes on a refugee camp near the Jordanian border. The airstrikes are believed to have mainly killed family members of the Eastern Lions rebel group, which is fighting ISIL. While no claim of responsibility has been made, Western officials have stated it appears Russian aircraft committed the attack, with cluster munitions believed to have been used.

Eleven civilians, including three children, died in airstrikes in the town of Ariha Idlib province on 13 July. The town is under the control of the Army of Conquest, a coalition of islamist rebel groups that includes al-Nusra.

UN Delivering Aid
On 10 July, the UN started an airlift campaign of humanitarian aid to the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, bringing in forty tons of food on the first day. There are 250,000 people living in the city, who have gone without access to food or other materials for 6 months, due to the area being labeled as a “hard-to-reach-area” by the UN. Over the next month the UN expects to make a total of 25 flights delivering aid to the city.

On 14 July, the first aid convoy in over a month reached the besieged al Waer suburb of the city of Homs.

International Developments
On 10 July, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met with a delegation of members of the European Parliament, laying the blame for terror attacks in Europe at the feet of western governments’ actions in Syria. Speaking to the delegation, headed by the Vice Chairman of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee Javier Couso, Assad stated “The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people…Especially when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria.”

On 12 July, Physicians for Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), in a joint-release, stated that sixty-five people have died from starvation in the Syrian government’s year-long siege of the town of Madaya, with another twenty-one dying from landmines, sniper-fire and easily-treatable chronic diseases. Despite five UN aid convoys having reached the town since January, the report states that twenty-seven people have still died from starvation in that time-period as the Assad regime has made frequent deliveries impossible while regularly raiding the aid convoys before allowing them in the city. The UN has been unable to access the town since April.

That same day, a newly released British parliamentary report stated that “there is historical evidence [that ISIL] received funding from within Arab Gulf states.” While not claiming that any states directly donated to ISIL, the report concludes that early on many of the Gulf States had a lax policy of allowing individuals, including some close to royal families in the region, to donate to the group, with early views casting them as protectors of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

On 13 July, Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), demanded to know from the government of Syria why it has four undeclared warfare agents, with indications of an additional five, despite previous statements declaring the destruction or removal of the country’s chemical stockpile. In January, the OPCW had announced that all of Syria’s  declared chemical weapons stocks had been destroyed.

President Assad gave a rare interview on 13 July, sitting down with NBC News. The interview covered the war in Syria, ISIL, the United States, and his own legacy, with Assad claiming  “it won’t take more than a few months” for his forces to retake the whole of Syria, further dismissing the role of the US in Syria and claiming the country had no real intention of tackling terrorism. The full interview can be seen here.

On 14 July, US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow where he will be meeting with Russian officials in hopes of brokering a new military pact between the two nations in Syria. If approved, the pact would dramatically change the dynamic of the relationship between the two countries actions in Syria. The two powers would operate out of a joint-command center in Amman, Jordan, where they would share intelligence and targeting information, and coordinate their actions, with Russia only bombing “vetted” targets, and certain areas being established as off-limits. Russia would further be expected to pressure Assad to stop his own bombing campaign against what the US sees as moderate rebels, and into allowing aid unfettered into besieged area. The full text of the proposed agreement can be read here.


Yemen:

On 8 July, Yemeni government forces seized a ship off the coast of Somalia loaded with weapons and ammunition believed to be bound for the Houthi-controlled Al-Mukha District.

Human Rights Watch released a report on 10 July accusing the Saudi-led coalition of deliberately targeting civilian economic infrastructure, including multiple factories, warehouses and power stations. The report details airstrikes on 13 facilities since March 2015 that killed 30 civilians, destroying stockpiles of food and medicine. HRW stated that  “taken together, the attacks on factories and other civilian economic structures raise serious concerns that the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen’s production capacity.”

On 12 July, the Houthi rebel coalition announced that they would be returning to Kuwait for the resumption of peace talks on 15 July. They further announced that they will do so without asking for any preliminary conditions. In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi of Yemen’s internationally recognized government reiterated the position made by President Hadi over the previous weekend, stating that they would not return to peace talks in Kuwait without a timetable and guarantees for a political transition already made. President Hadi has threatened to boycott the resumption of peace talks, claiming their current structure legitimizes the Houthi rebels who overthrew his government. United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has requested a personal meeting with President Hadi in hopes of salvaging the peace process.

On 12 July, a landmine killed a Saudi soldier patrolling along the Kingdom’s southern border with Yemen. Roughly one hundred Saudi soldiers and civilians have died along the border since March last year. In response, Saudi forces launched several artillery barrages and air strikes on Houthi positions along the border, while moving more troops to the border and attacking on the ground in several positions.

On 13 July, forty-four people died in fighting across the country over the previous twenty-four hours as  Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed touched down in the capital of Sanaa to meet with the Houthis before the resumption of peace talks in Kuwait. The fighting took place on multiple fronts across the country, with forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government edging close to Sanaa.


What else is new?

On 28 June, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Brookings Institution held the second annual Madeleine K. Albright Lecture on Global Justice. The lecture featured former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, who reflected on the development of RtoP, interrelated themes, and the state of global affairs. Watch the full video from the lecture here.

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