In Foreign Policy Magazine former ICISS co-chairman Gareth Evans outlines how the debate over ending instance of genocide and mass atrocity has been won by recasting the debate “humanitarian intervention” and the “right to intervene” to the “responsibility to protect”.
The Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a member of the Coalition, published a policy brief on the challenge of protecting ethnic minorities in Vietnam and the country’s engagement with RtoP, as well as another brief on the current situation in Burma (Myanmar), after political developments in the country indicated a potential turn towards the implementation of political reforms.
Roberta Cohen of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement published a piece on the impact of war on women, and highlights RtoP as reinforcing the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which affects millions of women around the world.
Developments in Syria continue to unfold fluidly, as the government continues its crackdown despite increasing pressure from regional actors and the United Nations. Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) Irwin Cotler argued in a piece for the Ottawa Citizen that “all the conditions for invoking the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) doctrine exist in Syria, if they have not already been in place for some time”, and urges for a UN Security Council Resolution in response to the situation.
On 27 November, the Arab League approved imposing economic sanctions against the Assad regime for refusing to allow 500 monitors into the country. It was the first time the regional organization has taken punitive action against one of its members. The measures imposed by the League includes cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank, a travel ban on senior Syrian government officials traveling to other Arab countries, a freeze on assets of the Assad government, and an embargo on investments into the country. The decision was endorsed by 19 members of the 22-member organization, with Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria abstaining.
On 28 November, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was presented with the report from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which found that the Syrian military and security forces have commited “serious violations of international human rights law”, including the excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence and violations of children’s rights. The report states:
“The scale of these attacks against civilians in cities and villages across the country, their repetitive nature, the levels of excessive force used consistently by units of the armed forces and diverse security forces, the coordinated nature of these attacks and the evidence that many attacks were conducted on the orders of high-ranking military officers all lead the commission to conclude that the attacks were apparently conducted pursuant to a policy of the State…According to international law, when certain crimes are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilians and the perpetrators know that their conduct is part of this attack, such offences constitute crimes against humanity.”
The report states that the Syrian government bears criminal responsibility for the commission of such crimes, and, as such, bears the responsibility to ensure that individual perpetrators – regardless of rank or title – are prosecuted and victims receive reparations.
Furthermore, the report calls on the Syrian government to put an immediate end to gross violations of human rights, and recommends that the Syrian government initiate prompt, independent and impartial investigations to ensure accountability and bring perpetrators to justice. The report also urges that the opposition movement within Syria respect and act in accordance with international human rights law.
Finally, the report makes recommendations for all Member States of the United Nations and regional organizations, particularly the Arab League, to “support efforts to protect the population of the Syrian Arab Republic and to bring an immediate end to gross human rights violations”.
Amnesty International (AI) urged states to act on the recommendations of the report, including referring the situation to the ICC, as “events over the past months provide little reason to believe that the Syrian authorities will investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. The UN and its member states must act to ensure accountability”.
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Louis Moreno-Ocampo, said that, pending approval from ICC judges, the trial of Saif Gaddafi could proceed under the auspices of the Court on Libyan territory. Two other options were put forth by the Prosecutor, including Libyan officials asking the ICC to determine on whether its courts could prosecute Gaddafi, or Libyan courts trying him on other charges for which he is wanted and the Court prosecuting him on separate charges of crimes against humanity.
The Telegraph reported on 25 November that meetings had taken place between members of the Libyan NTC, the Syrian National Council (SNC), and the Turkish officials in Istanbul where NTC officials allegedly offered arms, money, and potentially volunteers to assist the Syrian opposition.
In a briefing to the Security Council on 28 November, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented his first report on situation in Libya since the end of the civil war. Ian Martin, Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Libya, told the Council that Libya’s new authorities face many pressing challenges moving forward, the most important of which, he said, is the consolidation of security.
The report raised concerns regarding the National Transitional Council (NTC) holding up to 7,000 prisoners in prisons and makeshift detention centres, and included that allegations of torture and the mistreatment of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa have arisen in the country.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered (GCC) initiative on 23 November, agreeing to step down from power within 30 days and transferring power to his Vice-President to begin the political transition. The UN Security Council welcomed the GCC initiative, and urged for its timely implementation on 28 November, and reiterated that those responsible for human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable. However, the GCC initiative reportedly grants President Saleh and other senior government and military officials immunity from prosecution, which Amnesty International has said taints the transition and “deals a serious blow to victims of human rights violations”.
An interim Prime Minister was named on 27 November, but violence has continued to wrack the country. A report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 25 November details a “brazen disregard for the lives of Yemeni civilians” since the Security Council passed a resolution demanding an end to attacks against civilians and up to the signing of the GCC initiative by Saleh.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Violence, voter intimidation, electoral fraud, and logistical delays reportedly marred the DRC’s second inclusive vote in its history on 28 November, leading the electoral commission to extend the deadline for voting to 29 November. The situation has lead to fears of widespread post-election violence in the country.
However, Roger Meece, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the DRC and the head of the UN peacekeeping operation (MONUSCO) in the country, was reportedly satisfied with the “relatively orderly and peaceful way” in which voting proceeded, and reiterated calls for authorities to refrain from any actions that could lead to further violence.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to crush the rebellion staged by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and stated that those in the country who were waiting for an Arab Spring-like revolution to arrive, “will be waiting for a while”.