During a press conference in Australia on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the world to act to protect Syrian protesters from the brutal crackdown by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Secretary General stated:
In situations where a government cannot – or will not – protect its people, we have a common obligation to act. In cases such as genocide or crimes against humanity, we are called upon to exercise a responsibility to protect.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated on Wednesday that the Syrian regime has committed ‘grave crimes against humanity’, and that it could face further sanctions if it does not immediately change its course.
On the same day, military forces backed by tanks attacked the urban centre of Homs, reportedly killing at least 20 civilians. The Arab League was to send an envoy to express its concerns over the Assad regime’s crackdown on Wednesday, but the diplomatic move was delayed at the request of the Syrian authorities until this coming Saturday.
Meanwhile, Iran – typically a stalwart ally of Syria and Bashar al-Assad – joined the ranks of those calling for an end to the violent crackdown against civilian protesters in the country, with a statement given by President Ahmadinejad on Thursday. Russia’s senate is expected to send a fact-finding mission to Syria to assess the situation in the country, further increasing the diplomatic pressure applied to the regime. China, however, has continued to insist that resolving the internal crisis in Syria will not come about by applying pressure, but rather through consultations and dialogue.
In the face of continued attacks, an umbrella group of Syrian activists has appealed to the international community for assistance in the form of providing human rights monitors to deter further violence against civilians.
Heavy fighting erupted this week in yet another area of Sudan, the Blue Nile states, which shares a border with the newly formed Republic of South Sudan. Agence France Press reported that the Government of Sudan inflicted heavy casualties against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
The UN Special Advisors to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Francis Deng and Edward Luck, issued a press release on Thursday expressing their grave concern over continued attacks against civilian populations in South Kordofan. The release reads:
According to independent sources, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have continued aerial bombardments in Southern Kordofan, particularly in the Nuba mountains region, resulting in further killing and displacement of the civilian population…We remind the Government of Sudan of its responsibility to protect its populations – irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation – from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The press release from the two UN advisors was followed by an open statement from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which stated that the UN Security Council was failing to protect civilians in South Kordofan. According to the GCR2P, silence on behalf of the Council has made it clear to Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese President, that he will not face consequences for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the region.
Meanwhile, the governments of Sudan and the South Sudan reached an agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) this week to pull their troops out of the disputed Abyei region.
Libyan rebels have moved closer to taking control of the remaining cities and towns that still support ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, including Bani Walid and Sirte.
Amid reports that a large Libyan convoy had crossed the border into Niger, Gaddafi has denied that he has left the country. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urged African nations not to shelter Gaddafi, while a presidential aide in Niger today stated that if Gaddafi or his son Saif al-Islam were to enter the country, it would respect its commitments to the ICC. Today, Interpol issued a “red notice” for Gaddafi, Saif Gaddafi, and Abdullah Senussi, Gaddafi’s former director of military intelligence, as requested by the ICC.
In a letter to the Security Council on the situation in Libya, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which would, “consist of substantive and mission support personnel with a broad range of political, electoral, constitutional, human rights, transitional justice, public security, rule of law, coordination, gender and other technical skills in the priority areas requested by the Libyan transitional authorities.”
The Security Council met today to discuss Ban’s proposal, and was briefed by Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor for Post-Conflict Planning in Libya. Martin hopes that a resolution will be adopted quickly by the UN Security Council so it can begin delivering in some of the priority areas of assistance requested by the National Transitional Council (NTC).
R2P, Libya and International Politics as the Struggle for Competing Normative Architectures
by Ramesh Thakur, former ICISS member and current professor at the Australia National University
Legacies and Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities in the Asia-Pacific: A Workshop Report by the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P)