#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 February 2019

Weekly

This week in focus:
Accountability for Syria: Germany arrests two Syrians accused of torture under Assad regime

This week Germany arrested two former Syrian intelligence officers, who are suspected of carrying out acts of torture on detainees under the Assad regime. The men allegedly worked at the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) prison, where up to 2,000 detainees are claimed to have been tortured between 2011 and 2012. These acts may amount to crimes against humanity and would be the first case to examine the accountability of senior members of the regime, their authority, involvement, and compliance in the commission of atrocity crimes.

Germany, as well as several other European countries, are investigating dozens of other former officials under “universal jurisdiction,” a legal principle that allows foreign courts to try individuals regardless of where the alleged crimes were committed, their nationality, or relationship to the State or prosecuting entity if they are suspected of committing atrocity crimes. This is a significant step in ending impunity for actions in the Syrian Civil War and would likely spur cases in countries throughout the globe to examine the accountability of Syrian officials for their actions that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as torture, forced disappearances, and targeting of civilians and humanitarian actors.


What to Watch:

 Cameroon: Hospital Attack; Medical Staff, Patients Flee (Voice of America)
A hospital in Kumba, Cameroon, was burned down by an armed group, causing patients and staff to flee. The government blamed the attack on Anglophone separatists. Local papers claim the separatists attacked due to the hospital’s treatment of government soldiers and disclosure of militia members’ identities, though separatists describe it as a ploy by the government to discredit them. The Cameroon Medical Council released a statement denying the accusations and reaffirmed its commitment to neutrality in the conflict.

Cameroon: Cameroon’s main opposition leader charged with rebellion – lawyer (Reuters)
Maurice Kamto, a prominent opposition member, has been charged in military court with rebellion and seven other charges including, “hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offence against the president of the republic,” among others. In October, Kamto lost the Presidential Election, which he described as fraudulent, and held a demonstration with supporters in protest, which ended with violence by state forces. Along with the return of instability in the Anglophone regions, there are fears Kamto’s trial and its outcome may spark further violence.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: The Rohingya Diaspora Is Crucial to Achieving Justice in Myanmar 
In this Op-Ed, it is argued that the Rohingya diaspora has a vital role to play in pushing the international community to achieve justice and accountability in Burma.

Guatemala: Opinion: Guatemala Must Not Grant Amnesty To War Criminals
A bill before the country’s Congress would free military officials convicted and waiting trial for crimes against humanity, in addition to prohibiting further investigations.

Mali: How international court may give Mali’s women a second chance at justice
An International Criminal Court case on forced marriages in Mali may allow women to seek justice for gender-based crimes and violence through the Court.

South Sudan: South Sudan: The Human Rights Council should fully renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
In a joint-statement, several prominent NGOs, including coalition member Human Rights Watch, called upon the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to renew its mandate during the 40th session of the UN Human Right Council.

Turkey: Turkey calls on China to end mass detention of Uighur Muslims
Turkey joined others in the international community in condemning China for its mass repression and detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.


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#R2PWeekly: 2 – 8 February 2019

Weekly

This week in focus:
UN Community Engagement Guidelines Survey

In his last report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for increased engagement with civil society and local communities. In this vein, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) developed system-wide Community-Engagement Guidelines (CEG) this past September in consultation with civil society partners in peacebuilding, particularly at the country-level. As a first step to create comprehensive guidance on multilateral collaboration in building and sustaining peace, the PBSO has launched an online survey to provide feedback. The ICRtoP invites and encourages all its interested civil society partners to complete the survey, which should take approximately 10-15 minutes of your time. Your voices will impact the development of comprehensive practical and useful suggestions for UN engagement within local communities.

To complete the survey, please click here. We encourage you to share it widely within your networks. The deadline for submission is Friday, 15 February.


What to Watch:

Central African Republic (CAR): Q&A: Why new peace talks on CAR really matter (IRIN News)
Najat Rochdi, head of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) operation in CAR gave an interview with IRIN news on the importance of inclusive dialogue as the country seeks to end its six-year internal conflict. She sees dialogue and transparency as key elements in the peace process, remaining optimistic that there is a political will behind these negotiations that will keep parties motivated and accountable to its realization. In spite of this, Rochdi warned that CAR continues to remain in a fragile humanitarian state, with nearly two-thirds of the population in need of some sort of assistance, and that a return to sectarian violence would continue pushing the country towards a state of famine.

Mali: Strengthening resilience in Mali (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
The ongoing crisis in Mali has caused tension between communities over scarce resources as food insecurity continues. To prevent a further decline of the situation, the FAO and its partners have teamed up with the Malian government to support a community resilience initiative. The program aims to teach technical, financial, and social skills necessary for communities to become self-sufficient. Some examples include providing families with animals to restore households’ access to income and a nutrition education program to assist in diversifying diets. Additionally, the project supports the Village Savings and Loan Associations to allow women to access income and improve financial literacy. By implementing these development measures, among others, the initiative to strengthen social cohesion and community resilience follow broader UN-system work to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

MENA: ISIS regrouping in Iraq, Pentagon report says (NBCNews)
Pentagon report concluded the Islamic State is quickly regrouping in Iraq. In the wake of American withdrawal from Syria, the Pentagon warns that ISIL could regain territory in six to twelve months in absence of, “sustained military pressure.” The report also found that such a resurgence would occur if socioeconomic, political, sectarian grievances were not addressed properly by national and local governments in areas where the group previously operated.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Cote d’Ivoire: Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo released to Belgium
After being acquitted by the International Criminal Court, former Cote d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo was released to Belgium on the condition that he will return in the event of an appeal by the prosecution.

Iraq: Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Detained Children
Human Rights Watch reports that the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq is torturing children to confess their alleged involvement with ISIS.

Nigeria: North-east Nigeria displacement crisis continues amid ‘increased sophistication’ of attackers,
The UN reports Boko Haram attacks have destroyed humanitarian hubs, causing further internal displacement.

Yemen: UAE recklessly supplying militias with windfall of Western arms
An Amnesty International investigation has concluded that the United Arab Emirates is supplying Western arms to militia groups in Yemen who operate with little oversight and may have committed war crimes


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#R2PWeekly: 28 January – 1 February 2019


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This week in focus:
CSOs Meet with New UN Special Adviser on RtoP

On 20 December, 2018, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment of his new UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Ms. Karen Smith, of South Africa. Ms. Smith has spent the first few weeks in her new role in New York, and graciously accepted an invitation from the ICRtoP to meet at an informal meeting with our New York-based civil society members and partners. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue such important discussions around RtoP and its implementation with the newly appointed Special Adviser, standing ready to serve as a partner in the advancement of the norm to better protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.

The ICRtoP Secretariat will continue to work hard in this aim in 2019 and is looking forward to further engagement with global stakeholders across all levels and increased partnerships with the members of our Coalition.

Please find the ICRtoP’s statement on the appointment of Ms. Smith here.

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What to Watch:

Mali: How Mali Is Pursuing Justice for a War That Never Really Ended (World Politics Review)
Though violence and insecurity continue to plague Mali, the nation is taking steps to pursue justice. Backed by the UN, the government has initiated a wide variety of initiatives including disarmament, establishing a truth commission, and beginning criminal trials. President Keïta called for a partial amnesty bill to help resolve issues, but impunity may prevent full reconciliation and achieving sustainable peace.

Venezuela: Guaido calls for more protests as Maduro displays military might (Al-Jazeera)
The political situation in Venezuela remains uncertain with President Maduro and self-proclaimed interim President Guido both vie for legitimacy at home and abroad. Concerns over military deployment, humanitarian assistance, as well as debates of sovereignty remain of top concern in the international community.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur
UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee delivers her findings on the poor state of human rights in Burma.

Cameroon: Cameroon: Opposition Forces Arrested: Violent Crackdown on Leaders
State forces have arrested several prominent opposition leaders over the past week, where in what is seen as an attempt to silence those challenging the government.

Cote d’Ivoire: A Shrinking Window for Justice in Cote d’Ivoire
Human Rights Watch sees diminishing opportunities for the International Criminal Court and Cote d’Ivoire to hold perpetrators accountable for rights violations committed.

Sudan: Sudanese government releases 186 protesters
The Sudanese government released detainees arrested during the protests, this does not include opposition leaders and activists, however.

Zimbabwe: Daylight beatings instill public fear in ‘lawless’ country
Violent crackdowns by police and military forces against civilian protesters continue.


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RtoP Weekly: 3 – 7 December 2018

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This week in focus:
The 70th Anniversaries of the Genocide Convention

On 9 December, the international community will mark the 70th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”). In honor of this historic event, the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Denmark, and Switzerland, as well as the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in Geneva and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, will host a panel discussion entitled “Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention: Challenges, good practices, and ways forward in prevention,” on Friday, 14 December in Geneva, Switzerland.

Seventy years after the international community ratified this landmark document, human rights violations and atrocities continue to occur in spite of the historic calls of “never again.” Yet much can still be done to prevent these crimes. In this vein, the event aims to share stories of success and best practices to mitigate these threats and create sustainable peace. In order to better protect populations and uphold the obligations States and the international community have under the Responsibility to Protect, it  requires strong and capable national policies, the use of existing global mechanisms, and multilateral collaboration. Next week’s event hopes to provide a variety of stakeholders with an opportunity to reflect on the future implementation of the Genocide Convention at all levels.

For those interested in joining the event in Geneva, the full event invitation can be found here, or your RSVP can be submitted directly via this link.

**Please note that this will be the last RtoPWeekly in 2018. We will resume publication in the new year. Happy holidays to all those celebrating from the ICRtoP Secretariat team!**


What to Watch:

Syria: A vision from Syrian civil society organizations about the General Principles of the Rebuilding process of Syria (Syrian Network for Human Rights)
A group of civil society organizations released a statement, including Coalition Member the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), specifying their vision of the reconstruction process in Syria. In the statement, the organizations expressed their concern over the use of the international aid, as it could potentially be used by the coalition of Russia, Iran, and Assad’s government as political, focusing aid deliverance solely in those areas they considered. The CSOs argue, that if this were to happen, the international community would, in essence, be rewarding war criminals. In this vein, the authors propose alternatives to ensure the appropriate use of funds, stressing that democracy is a crucial condition for a successful rebuilding process, and identify several principles which are necessary under human rights and international law such as victim compensation, transparency, democracy, and full and localized participation by civil society.

Syria: 231 Civilians Killed in Syria in November 2018 (Syrian Network for Human Rights; Middle East Monitor)
SNHR, released its monthly reports, documenting 231 civilian deaths in November 2018: 72 by regime forces, and 79 in air attacks by the international coalition. In other findings, the organization recorded 529 cases of arbitrary arrest, with 70 percent made by regime forces. The severity of human rights abuses and evidence of war crimes has not gone unnoticed, with Stephen Rapp, Chairman of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), noting that the evidence of war crimes committed by the Syrian government is the strongest collected since the Nuremberg trials.

Yemen: Yemen talks set to start in Sweden after wounded Houthis evacuated (Reuters; CNN; CBC News)
Yemen’s Houthis agreed to attend UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden after the Saudi-led coalition approved the medical evacuation of their wounded members. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Sana’a, Yemen to escort the delegation to the talks in Stockholm. Many see the peace talks as “the most significant step” toward reaching a solution to end the conflict. Negotiations come after growing international pressure for an end to the war as the humanitarian situation continues deteriorates. At the negotiations, Griffiths will seek to secure a truce in the country’s main port, Hodeidah, ending the air strikes that have killed thousands of civilians to date, though the warring parties are reportedly still far from agreement at the time of writing.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: The Kachin IDP crisis: Myanmar’s other humanitarian disaster
A Burmese military division is now reportedly targeting the Kachin minority in the Kachin State, leading to large numbers of IDPs. The same unit previously carried out the crimes against the Rohingya.

Burma: ‘Genocide’ Evidence in Case of Myanmar’s Rohingya Growing
The US Holocaust Museum found evidence that genocide was committed against the Rohingya in Burma and urges for accountability.

Burundi: Burundi orders UN to close Human Rights office in Bujumbura
After high levels of criticism over its human rights situation, Burundi has ordered the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to close its Bujumbura office within two months.

Cameroon: Peace Operations: International Manual Presented in Yaounde
The Leuven Manual on the International Law Applicable to Peacekeeping Operations, focusing on legal obligations and best practices at the UN and regional levels, was dedicated in Yaounde.

GAAMAC: The Importance of Atrocity Prevention [Video]
During GAAMACIII participants discussed what atrocity prevention is and how it can be achieved.

South Sudan: UN Says More Than 150 Women, Girls Raped in South Sudan
Over 150 cases of rape and sexual violence occurred over the past week near Bentiu. The heads of UNICEF, UNFPA, and the USG for Humanitarian Affairs issued a joint-statement urging accountability for those carrying out the attacks.

Sudan: UN Women’s Org. hosts North Darfur peacebuilding workshop
UN Women conducted a workshop at a Darfurian IDP camp in Sudan on strengthening women’s involvement in peace building.


 

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RtoP Weekly: 26 – 29 November 2018

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This week in focus:
Making “Never Again” a Reality – Germany and the UNSC

With Germany taking a seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2019 and 2020, it provides the country a great opportunity to uphold its obligations under the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and promote atrocity prevention measures to better protect populations within the Council. In Making “never again” a reality: What Germany can contribute during its next term in the Security Council toward preventing mass atrocities, a new report fromo the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation’s (AIPR) Dr. Tibi Galis and Jack Mayerhofer argue that in order to better institutionalize atrocity prevention, Germany should move away from “conflict-hopping.” This approach is one that predominately reacts to the various crises that are already occurring, often causing the UNSC to fall into political gridlock, stalling actions that could prevent the commission of atrocities crimes at a cost to human life. The authors argue that instead, Germany should prioritize atrocity prevention in all deliberations of the Council, increasing and normalizing its implementation, leveraging other UN human rights systems, and avoiding political standstill in the Council.

We would like to congratulate our colleagues on their publication, and are honored to be participating in its launch event in New York next week. ICRtoP’s Brittany Roser will be featured as a panel discussant in the off-the-record discussion alongside the report authors from AIPR, Kerstin Pürschel of the German Mission to the United Nations, and moderator, Sapna Chhatpar Considine of Strategy for Humanity. Please note the event is by invitation only.

A full-text version of the publication can be found here.


What to Watch:

Assembly of the States Parties of the ICC: Next Friday, 7 December, the governments of Liechtenstein, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands will host a panel event on “Hard Law Obligations, Atrocity Crimes and Veto” as part of the 17th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the ICC side events. The discussion will focus on the use of the Security Council veto in situations of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. Participants will examine whether or not the use of such instrument by the Permanent Five members of the Council (“the P5”) is in accordance with existing international legal principles and standards. The event will be aimed at encouraging discussions on new approaches to the restriction of veto in situations of mass atrocity crimes, the various legal arguments related to the unrestricted veto, seeking a way forward for the UN General Assembly to consult the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on questions related to veto and mass atrocity crimes, and the different initiatives for voluntary veto restraint.

Nigeria: European Asylum Support Office (EASO)- Country of Origin Information Report(EASO)
Widespread violence, insecurity, and serious crimes continue to prevail in Nigeria, as documented by several reports issued during this week. The EASO issued a report detailing the persecution and rights violations experienced by individuals in the country and the numerous mass atrocity crimes committed by several groups during the past few years, including killings, torture, abductions, and sexual violence. Similarly, Amnesty International published its findings on the targeting of women in IDP camps, where they are often the victims of violence and serious abuses that, according to the organization, could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both offices call for accountability and justice as the crisis persists.

Yemen: US ‘slams the brakes’ on UN Yemen ceasefire resolution (CNN)
A resolution drafted by the UK calling for UNSC action for a ceasefire and additional humanitarian aid in Yemen has been stalled by the US over concerns of angering Saudi Arabia. Human rights groups already criticized the resolution for being insufficent, as it only calls for a limited ceasefire in Hodeidah. The US, together with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, are concerned that if the resolution is adopted, Saudi Arabia or the Houthis may decide not to participate in the peace talks that are scheduled to take place next week in Sweden.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar Seizes Boat With Rohingya Fleeing To Malaysia
Burmese authorities seized another boat carrying Rohingya Muslims trying to reach Malaysia. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reiterated its message that it is crucial to “address the root causes of displacement” in order to deal with the crisis.

China: Academics Condemn China Over Xinjian Camps, Urge Sanctions
Academics called upon the international community to impose sanctions over China for the mass detention of Uighur Muslims adding countries should grant group members asylum, and urged the UN to open an investigation.

Israel: Israel Votes Down Recognition of Yazidi Genocide, Citing UN
Israel voted against a bill to recognize the crimes committed by ISIL against the Yazidi people as genocide in Iraq and Syria.

Liberia: AFL Soldiers Ready to “Deal With” Threats Concerning War Crimes Court
Liberia’s armed forces expressed support for the creation of the War Crimes court assuring the population they were ready to protect their safety if any instability occurred.

Libya: UNHCR appeals for more resettlement, end to detention as Libya evacuations near 2,500
UNHCR evacuated almost 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers who were previously detained in Libya, urging countries to offer additional resettlement places due to the dangers migrants face should they be returned.

Philippines: Philippine Court Jails Three Police Officers For Drugs War Murder
A court in the Philippines convicted three police officers involved in the extrajudicial killings carried out during the war on drugs. Rights advocates noted, however, that the “killings must stop.”

Syria: Chemical weapons agency to investigate alleged Aleppo attack
Rebel forces allegedly committed a gas attack in Aleppo on Saturday, that harmed 100 civilians. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Syrian officials will investigate.

Syria: Children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic – Report of the Secretary-General
Secretary-General Guterres’ report describes the violations committed against children in the Syrian war, documenting over 7000 casualties, forced recruitment, torture, abductions, and sexual violence.

Yemen: Prospects Grow for Yemen Talks in Sweden Next Week
Yemen’s warring parties will attend the UN-sponsored peace talks expected to take place next week in Sweden, following pressure from Western countries for an end to the conflict.


 

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Call for Internship Applications
The ICRtoP Secretariat in New York City is now accepting internship applications for Spring 2019. Interested parties can find more information by following the link.

Engage with the ICRtoP!
Tag or mention us! Use #ICRtoP or @ICRtoP to share your RtoP news and updates, or for a chance to be featured by ICRtoP.

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RtoP Weekly: 12 – 16 November 2018

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This week in focus:
RtoP and the Protection of the Internally Displaced

Dr. Phil Orchard, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Wollongong and a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, recently published a new book, entitled Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality. Please find below an excerpt of Professor Orchard guest post on our blog in which he discusses the linkages between internal forced displacement and the RtoP norm. 

RtoP and the Protection of the Internally Displaced 
Dr. Phil Orchard

Today, there are 68.5 million forced migrants globally. Yet, while much focus has been put on the expansion of refugee numbers – now up to 25.4 million – the dramatic growth of numbers of conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) -which now number 40 million – has been virtually ignored.

This in spite of the fact that forced migration and atrocity crimes are inexorably tied together. Thus, in Syria today we see 6.2 million IDPs, many of whom have been displaced due to “indiscriminate and deliberate attacks” which the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry has argued constitute war crimes. Thus, IDPs can be a product of atrocity crimes and an early warning sign as they seek to flee from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Or they can in themselves be a form of atrocity crime, deliberately displaced through ethnic cleansing and forcible transfers, with the latter qualifying as both a war crime and crime against humanity under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.

But, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that asylum could provide one form of protection from atrocity crimes, and that the protection of both refugees and IDPs was a direct goal of the RtoP, there has otherwise been only limited engagement with specific mechanisms to do so.

(…)

Therefore, while there is growing international recognition of the linkages between atrocity crimes and internal displacement, there are two distinct remaining problems. The first is that the explicit standards reflecting this are either in soft or regional law, rather clear international standards. The second is that while this has led to the creation of a number of domestic instruments, their record remains mixed. Both problems point to the need for further support by both the United Nations and its agencies and by civil society organizations at the international and domestic levels.

To read the full blog, please click here.

**Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly 16 – 24 November due to the American Thanksgiving Holiday. We will resume publication the week of  25 – 29 November.**


What to Watch:

Burma: Rohingya Refugees Flee Camps To Avoid Return To Myanmar (The Guardian; Reuters)
Ahead of the imminent start of the repatriation plan of Rohingya Muslims, many refugees are reportedly leaving Bangladeshi camps or hiding in order to avoid their repatriation. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that it will not provide humanitarian aidto repatriated Rohingya if they are held in camps, a decision meant to avoid “supporting long-term camps for the Muslim minority.” The international community continued to call for Bangladesh and Burma to postpone the plan’s implementation.

Cameroon: Cameroon’s Renewed Anglophone Fighting Displaces Hundreds of Civilians (Voice of America)
Fighting between Cameroon’s military and armed separatists in the Anglophone regions increased this week after President Biya warned against insurrection in his inaugural address. The military raids in separatist stronghold areas sparked another round of civilian displacement, as people seek safety in more stable cities and areas. President Biya’s crack-down on those disrupting peace and security in Cameroon included the arrest of well-known journalist, Mimi Mefo, who was charged with spreading false information and terrorism based on her reporting of the crisis, though she was later released.

Gaza/West Bank: Report: Al-Sisi Persuades Abbas to Agree to Hamas-Israel Ceasefire Terms (The Jerusalem Post; The Times of Israel)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to a ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas, following negotiations mediated by Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Nevertheless, violence escalated in Gaza this week, resulting in Israel’s halting negotiations as rockets were fired between Israel and Gaza. Several Israeli ministers were allegedly in support of intensifying its military response to the rocket fire from Gaza, but Hamas announced it was holding meetings with several other countries to halt attacks against Gaza, indicating the movement is interested in ending the ongoing violence.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Côte d’Ivoire: Ivory Coast Civil War Survivors Demand Justice
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued a report accusing the government of overlooking war crimes allegedly committed by President Outtara’s supporters, including acts of torture and rape.

DRC: A tool to silence: torture to crush dissent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Freedom from Torture issued a report documenting the widespread use of torture in DRC detention facilities based upon medical documentation of asylum seekers in the UK.

DRC: Two Congo opposition leaders pull support for joint election candidate
Two opposition leaders withdrew their support for a unity candidate in the December elections, making it unclear whether or not the plan will proceed.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia: Police unearth mass grave of 200 people
Police discovered a mass grave of over 200 people as part of an investigation into Abdi Mohammed, former President of the Somali Region.

Liberia: War Crimes Court Campaign Gaining Momentum as Some Lawmakers Show Support
Lawmakers expressed support for the establishment of a war crimes court saying “justice is very important,” and is an important precedent for the future.

Syria: Torture in Syria: Investigations in Austria are a First Step – Now Arrest Warrants Must Follow
Austrian courts will investigate Syrian officials for their alleged use of systematic torture, complainants hope it results in arrest warrants and accountability for the commission of war crimes.

Venezuela: Venezuelan migrant exodus hits 3 million – U.N.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced the number of Venezuelans who have left the country is now over three million, and called for response in the international community.

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition halts Hodeidah assault as West presses for Yemen ceasefire: sources
The Saudi-led coalition halted its attacks against Houthi rebels in Hodeidah, Yemen as Western countries increase their calls for a ceasefire.


 

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Call for Internship Applications
The ICRtoP Secretariat in New York City is now accepting internship applications for Spring 2019. Interested parties can find more information by following the link.

Engage with the ICRtoP!
Tag or mention us! Use #ICRtoP or @ICRtoP to share your RtoP news and updates, or for a chance to be featured by ICRtoP.

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RtoP and the Protection of the Internally Displaced

Dr. Phil Orchard

Diapositiva1Today, there are 68.5 million forced migrants globally. Yet, while much focus has been put on the expansion of refugee numbers – now up to     25.4 million – the dramatic growth of numbers of conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) -which now number 40 million – has    been virtually ignored.

This in spite of the fact that forced migration and atrocity crimes are inexorably tied together. Thus, in Syria today we see 6.2 million IDPs, many of whom have been displaced due to “indiscriminate and deliberate attacks” which the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry has argued constitute war crimes. Thus, IDPs can be a product of atrocity crimes and an early warning sign as they seek to flee from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Or they can in themselves be a form of atrocity crime, deliberately displaced through ethnic cleansing and forcible transfers, with the latter qualifying as both a war crime and crime against humanity under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.

But, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that asylum could provide one form of protection from atrocity crimes, and that the protection of both refugees and IDPs was a direct goal of the RtoP, there has otherwise been only limited engagement with specific mechanisms to do so.

In part this is because – unlike refugees – IDPs lack a binding convention at the international level. Instead they are protected only through the soft law Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. But these Principles reflect established international human rights and humanitarian law as well as analogous refugee law. And, in Principle 6, they establish a clear explicit duty to prevent arbitrary displacement, including through ethnic cleansing or other practices aimed at altered the composition of the affected population as well as in situations of armed conflict.

The Principles have also played an important role in developing regional law, including the African Great Lakes Protocoland the African Union’s 2009 Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africawhich entered into force in 2012. The Kampala Convention adopts the Principles’ conception of arbitrary displacement. It also specifies that all state parties have a duty to refrain and prevent atrocity crimes against IDPs and, following Article 4(h) of the African Union’s Constitutive Act, that the AU has the right to intervene in such cases.

Beyond regional law, the Principles have also led to a range of laws and policies at the domestic level to protect and assist IDPs, with some forty countries now having adopted such instruments. Supporting the development of these instruments has been recognized by the UN General Assembly and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But this is also an important Pillar 2 mechanism to ensure that IDPs fleeing atrocity crimes have their rights respected as much as possible during displacement, but also to ensure that they have access to durable solutions, including return to their homes, integration into a host area of the state, or resettlement elsewhere within the state.

However, the implementation record of these instruments is mixed. Less than half explicitly mention the Guiding Principles, and they frequently adopt more narrow definitions of IDPs than incorporated within the Principles. They have a tendency to prioritize returns over other forms of solutions, which frequently leave IDPs who cannot return (frequently a case with victims who have directly experienced traumatic events) with little assistance and support. In addition, less than a third of these instruments have been implemented without significant issues.

So what does work well? Successful laws and policies tend to be introduced early on in the displacement process, reflecting credible government commitments, or as part of wider peace agreements. And they tend to be supported by independent domestic institutions that can support the process and serve as accountability checks by engaging in monitoring, providing independent information and, where possible, seeking to ensure the government follows the outlined process. These institutions include the courts and national human rights institutions, but also national and local NGOs and other civil society organizations.

Therefore, while there is growing international recognition of the linkages between atrocity crimes and internal displacement, there are two distinct remaining problems. The first is that the explicit standards reflecting this are either in soft or regional law, rather clear international standards. The second is that while this has led to the creation of a number of domestic instruments, their record remains mixed. Both problems point to the need for further support by both the United Nations and its agencies and by civil society organizations at the international and domestic levels.

Phil Orchard is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Wollongong and a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. His research focuses on international efforts to provide legal and institutional protections to forced migrants and war-affected civilians. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which won the 2016 International Studies Association Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Studies Section Distinguished Book Award, and the co-editor, with Alexander Betts, of Implementation in World Politics: How Norms Change Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014).His new book, Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality, is now available from Routledge.

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RtoP Weekly: 2 – 8 November 2018

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This week in focus: Pause Rohingya Repatration Plans

After Burmese and Bangladeshi officials announced their intention to begin the repatriation of Rohingya refugees last week, many international actors including NGOs, state governments, and UN officials have called upon both countries to postpone the implementation of the plan. UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, urged Bangladesh to postpone their repatriation, owing to the fact that the population is still in “high risk of persecution” upon their return.

Actors advocating with and on behalf of the population continue to reiterate that there is still a “widespread and well-founded fear that their lives, families, and communities will once again face further attacks once they are back in their homeland.” Furthermore, fundamental rights including citizenship, equal protection under the law, and non-discrimination cannot be ensured within the current political and socio-cultural environment, and Burma must address the protection, rights fulfillment, and root causes of mass violence in the country before it can be considered safe for the Rohingya’s return. Fear and mistrust persist not only from the Rohingya population, but also other marginalized ethnic and religious groups and experts on the situation in the country.

The ICRtoP continues to monitor the ongoing developments on the crisis in Burma, and had the pleasure to include Burmese activist and peacebuilder, Ms. Khin Ohmar, of Progressive Voice, as part of our event during the week of the UN Security Council open debate on Women, Peace, and Security. Ms. Ohmar’s work focuses on strengthening civil society and advocating for the protection of human rights and the end of military atrocities in Burma, particularly against ethnic and religious minorities, among others.


What to Watch:

Cameroon: Cameroon: Biya Sworn In, Challenger Arrested – Report (AllAfrica)             This week Cameroonian President Paul Biya was sworn into his seventh term and delivered an inaugural address in which he promised to continue fighting until the “terrorists” in the Anglophone regions were defeated. Meanwhile, Maurice Kamto, one of the main challengers in the Presidential Election, was arrested and detained without cause given, and other separatist leaders began their military trial, possibly facing the death penalty for their roles to establish the Anglophone State of Ambazonia.

Iraq: ISIL’S ‘legacy of terror’ in Iraq: UN verifies over 200 mass graves (UN News)
The Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) discovered 202 mass graves in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by ISIL. The findings of the report will be crucial to conducting investigations and prosecuting actions by ISIL, which may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stressed that the families of the victims “have the right to know what happened” and underscored the importance of justice and reparations. Furthermore, the report asks for a victim-centered approach and a transitional justice process created in consultation with Iraqis.

Syria: No fewer than Five Massacres in Syria in October 2018 (Syrian Network For Human Rights)
ICRtoP Coalition Member, Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) released its October atrocity data. SNHR documented no less than five massacres were committed in Syria in October, resulting in the deaths of 41 civilians, including 14 children, with four of these massacres committed by International Coalition Forces. Syrian-Russian alliance forces also allegedly violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 by conducting indiscriminate attacks, according to the report. SNHR also documented 488 cases of arbitrary arrests, with 63% of the arrests made by Syrian Regime Forces. Arbitrary arrests and detention are frequent tactics employed by regime forces, with detainees being held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, according to the SNHR’s findings.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Côte d’Ivoire: Prosecution Outlines Evidence on Gbagbo and Blé Goudé’s Alleged Criminal Responsibility
Despite continued efforts by former Côte d’Ivoire President, Laurent Gbagbo, and former Minister Blé Goudé, to be acquittal from the ICC, the Court still intends to prosecute them for crimes against humanity outlining the evidence to back its decision.

Gaza/West Bank: New Israel bill seeks expulsion of families of Palestinian ‘terrorists’ Israel is set to pass a new law that will allow the forced displacement of Palestinian families of suspected terrorists in the West Bank.

Libya: Statement to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Libya, pursuant to UNSCR 1970 (2011)  International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, confirmed to the UN Security Council that Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi will be prosecuted for crimes against humanity in Libya despite his assertions that the case is inadmissible before the ICC.

Philippines: Independently Probe Police “Hitmen” Human Right Watch urged the Philippines to create an independent body to investigate the role of the police in Duterte’s war on drugs after an official said they were allegedly “responsible for many of the extrajudicial killings” of suspects.

Syria: French judges issue international arrest warrants against three high-level Syrian regime officials   France issued international arrest warrants against three senior Syrian intelligence officials accused of complicity in acts of torture, enforced disappearances, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Yemen: Yemen: UN chief hails ‘signs of hope’ in world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, welcomed recent discussions of possible peace talks to end the Yemen Civil War, urging all parties to end the violence and reach a political solution.

Yemen: As Famine Looms in Yemen, Saudi-Led Coalition Redoubles Attacks  The Saudi-led Coalition has drastically escalated violence in Hodeidah, Yemen over the past week, targeting Houthi rebels and worsening the humanitarian crisis.


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RtoP Weekly: 26 October – 1 November 2018

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This week in focus: Concerns in Post-Election Cameroon

Human rights violations and other indicators of atrocities continue to persist in Cameroon following the announcement of President Biya’s reelection. Over the past several months, complaints of state and societal discrimination against the English-speaking population has grown, as has violence against them, particularly in the Anglophone regions of the country. The presidential election was of particular concern, as state forces began to clamp down on political dissidents and members of the Anglophone community leading up to Election Day.

Since the election, that concern has not abated. Opposition groups tried, and failed, to petition electoral results on the basis of voter suppression and ballot manipulation. This past week, Cameroonians who fled prior to the election returned to find their homes and villages razed by government forces instructed to target separatist strongholds.

The government also issued a statement in which they cautioned that attempts to “disrupt public order will be handled with all firmness.” Such firmness, manifested itself in reported arrests and beatings of singing protesters, who have taken to schools and churches in order to find safe spaces of dissent. The Cameroonian government stated that the election was conducted according to international standards, and encouraged its people to refrain from “giving ear” to dissidents and their calls to “destabilize” the country.

With protests likely to continue, as well as Biya’s intent to continue his tenure, the situation in Cameroon remains of concern. The ICRtoP continues to monitor the developments on the ground and engage with members of our coalition, international actors, and other stakeholders with the aims of preventing an atrocity situation.


What to Watch:

Burma: Bangladesh, Myanmar to Start Returning Rohingya in November (Al Jazeera)
Last Tuesday, Burma and Bangladesh agreed to start the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in mid-November after developing a “concrete plan.” Many, however, fear that the Burmese government will not guarantee minimum rights to the returnees, including “citizenship, access to healthcare, and freedom of movement.” The United Nations continues to warn about the “ongoing genocide,” and urges the return of refugees to be “voluntary, and conducted with dignity and security.”

Burundi: Burundi Talks Leave Many Questions (The Citizen)
The inter-Burundi dialogs scheduled to take place in Arusha, Tanzania this past week encountered an obstacle when government officials to decide to boycott the discussions. The government delegation failed to appear on the basis of the mediating body not ensuring or meeting their demands that the failed 2015 coup and its actors not be on the agenda or represented in the talks. Opposition groups, however, viewed the discussions positively, though Former Tanzanian President and Moderator, Benjamin Mkapa, stressed that government participation was needed to end the crisis. The goal of the dialogs was to establish a pathway to free and fair elections in 2020.

Liberia: Liberians against Amnesty for War, New Survey on Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Shows (Front Page Africa)
A new study on social cohesion and reconciliation shows that most Liberians are opposed to giving amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with 69% believing that it would be “unfair to the victims of the civil war.” This adds to the mounting pressure for the government to address reconciliation, ensure truth, and provide compensations. Moreover, the survey offers a new push for the Liberian government to implement the TRC (Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission) recommendations, which included the establishment of a war crimes court, and have not been considered a priority for the government so far.


But Also Don’t Miss:

DRC: DR Congo opposition parties agree to name unity candidate by mid-November
Opposition parties in the DRC agreed to select a single candidate with the hope of strengthening their chances for victory in December’s election.

DRC: Hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee Angola in need of aid
Oxfam warned of the growing humanitarian crisis due to continued expulsions from Angola, saying that returnees reported suffering for multiple forms of abuse and risk malnutrition and disease.

Gaza/West Bank: Palestine demands ICC investigate occupation’s killing of three children The Palestine Liberation Organization appealed to the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation of the killing of three children on the border of the Gaza Strip, calling the Israeli attacks “intentional and deliberate.”

Nigeria: Clashes in Nigeria Between Security Forces and Shia Protesters
Clashes between security forces and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) erupted in the capital amidst allegations by rights groups that Nigeria’s military has murdered over 300 IMN members, burying them in mass graves.

Syria: Syrian Government’s ‘different understanding’ of UN role, a ‘very serious challenge’ – Special Envoy 
Staffan de Mistura, UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, stated in a UN Security Council briefing that different understandings of the UN’s role pose a “serious challenge” to the peace process in Syria.

Syria: Syria – Jordan: relief convoy fails to reach “desperate” border camp 
A relief convoy with aid supplies for the 45,000 Syrians trapped on the Jordanian border failed to reach the Rukban refugee camp; according to activists the blockade is orchestrated by the Syrian government.

Yemen: US defence chief demands Yemen ceasefire; peace talks in 30 days
The United States Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, asked for a ceasefire in Yemen following the Saudi-led coalition’s deployment of more than 10,000 new troops toward Hodeidah.

Yemen: Yemen death toll five times higher than previous estimate, researchers say 
New data shows that the number of combatant and civilian casualties as the result of armed violence in Yemen is five times higher than previously estimated.


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RtoP Weekly: 22 – 25 October 2018

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This week in focus: R2P: from Promise to Practice

Dr. Alexander J. Bellamy of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) and an ICRtoP Steering Committee member, and former UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, Dr. Edward C. Luck, have recently published a new book, entitled R2P: From Promise to Practice. Please find below an abstract from the authors, as well a full summary by the authors on our blog in which they discuss the book’s motivations and findings.

R2P: From Promise to Practice 
Alex J. Bellamy & Edward C. Luck

Following more than a decade of decline, the incidence of atrocity crimes is again rising. The tide of forcibly displaced populations is at the highest level since the end of the Second World War.  We need to do far better at preventing such horrific crimes and at protecting vulnerable populations.  That is the purpose of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a set of rules and principles that has advanced far more rapidly in debating halls than in national and international policies and actions. This book is about how to turn the promise of R2P into practice.

As scholars and practitioners, however, we felt that something was missing, that the literature has been incomplete. While the scholarly and analytical work on R2P as a normative innovation and political enterprise has been truly impressive, there has been far less attention to what R2P looks like in practice. Following a decade of normative development and maturation, R2P principles have now been tested in practice for a decade as well.  The principles have reached a settled state, but their practice is still far down the learning curve. We believe, nevertheless, that there is now enough of a track record to begin to offer some rough assessments of what is or is not working.

History tells us that the journey from principle to practice is never quick or sure.  It demands persistence as much as intellect, learning from mistakes as well as from successes, and never forgetting where we are going or why we undertook the journey in the first place.   Stepping aside, giving up, looking for easier paths is not an option.  Curbing atrocities is as difficult as it is compelling.  But experience also shows that it can be done.  Those are the core lessons from R2P’s early years.  They offer the promise of stronger institutions, deeper commitments, and better policy in the years ahead.  R2P is just getting started.


What to Watch:

Burma: UN expert: Myanmar government shows ‘no real interest in building democracy’ (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
Yanghee Lee, UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, said “the government is demonstrating no real interest in establishing a functioning democracy” in the country, and calls for the referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), given the inability of the government to fulfill its international obligations. From her findings, she concluded the Burmese government is not doing enough to achieve peace and reconciliation in the country, abide by international law, and ensure accountability. Though she acknowledged the positive steps taken to create an independent mechanism to investigate and collect information about the atrocities perpetrated, she believes more needs to be done. She urged the international community to continue working to ensure accountability and that the independent mechanism has all resources needed to be fully functioning.

Gaza/West Bank: Interview: How Palestinian Authorities Crush Dissent (Human Rights Watch; Middle East Monitor)
A recent report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that the Palestinian Authority has been conducting the systematic, arbitrary arrests and torture of critics and opponents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Together with Hamas, who has de facto control inside the Gaza Strip, critics and opponents are detained regardless of nonviolent expression, according to the interviews conducted. HRW documented more than two dozen cases of detained persons for writing a critical article, or a Facebook post. In response, the Palestinian Ministry of Interior and National Security refuted the report, claiming it is inaccurate and ignores the reality in the Gaza Strip.

South Sudan: Violations and Abuses Against Civilians in Gbudue and Tambura States (Western Equatoria) (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNMISS)
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNMISS, the UN Peacekeeping Operation in South Sudan, released a report on the human rights situation in the western states. In addition to High Commissioner Bachelet noting the SPLA still has yet to return some abducted civilians, Human Rights Watch attests that government forces are finding different ways of harming civilians in spite of the recent peace agreement, calling it “the latest chapter in a long history of violence and impunity.”


But Also Don’t Miss:

Cameroon: Cameroon’s President Paul Biya wins seventh term
The Constitutional Council announced President Biya was re-elected as President earning over 70% of the vote.

CAR: Central African Republic: Special Criminal Court Gets Underway
The country’s hybrid court is set to begin, presenting its investigative strategy to prosecute atrocity crimes that have taken place since January 2003.

India: JRL Urges UN to Play Role in Ending Crimes Against Humanity in Kashmir
Over increasing allegations of Crimes Against Humanity in Kashmir, the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) asked the UN Secretary-General to take action to end human rights abuses in the region.

Mali: UN Secretary-General Report – Situation in Mali
UN Secretary General issued a report highlighting the the deterioration of human rights  and the continued breaches of international law, calling upon authorities to comply with their responsibility to ensure accountability.

Syria:  Rebels continue attacks inside Idlib buffer zone
Militants proceed with attacks in Idlib, Syria, violating the ceasefire agreement. Russia administered humanitarian aid for civilians in areas previously controlled by armed groups.


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