#R2P Weekly: 6-10 July 2015


Veto on Srebrenica Resolution Hinders Ability to Prevent Next Genocide 

The following is an excerpt from the latest ICRtoP Press Release. To read the full version, click here.

With today’s veto of a resolution commemorating the Srebrenica genocide, the United Nations Security Council again showed its inability to function properly when the veto is used, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) said today.

“Unfortunately, today’s veto is only the most recent example of the Council failing to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes,” said Don Deya, chair of the ICRtoP. “Whether it’s a resolution on Syria, Palestine, Myanmar—or on a genocide that occurred twenty years ago—vetoes show how this outdated power cripples responses to atrocities by the Council and the world at large.”

The use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes hinders the ability to fulfill the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), a landmark norm unanimously agreed to by States in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. Under RtoP, States and the international community agreed that they had an obligation to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.

The resolution would have acknowledged the massacre of 8,000 civilians (mostly men and boys killed because of their identity) as genocide; called weekly1on states to prevent the future commission of genocide and reaffirmed the principle of the Responsibility to Protect in that regard; encouraged States to appoint national focal points on atrocity prevention; and welcomed the use of the UN Framework of Analysis on Atrocity Crimes as an early warning and preventive tool.  Among other reasons, Russia vetoed the text on the grounds that the tragedy in Srebrenica fails to qualify as genocide, despite international judicial rulings.

“By vetoing the resolution, Russia has erected a new barrier to reconciliation and remembrance,  said William Pace of ICRtoP member World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy. “Acknowledging the truth of what happened—and how we let it happen—is the only way to honor the victims, live up to our Responsibility to Protect, and prevent future genocides.”

Today, the UN Security Council has again shown its divisions when it comes to fulfilling that promise to prevent atrocities; though, the ICRtoP welcomes the strong support shown by most Council members for the resolution and RtoP norm.  The vote shows once again the vital need for Permanent Members of the Council to refrain from using their veto when it is facing the gravest of tasks—that of responding to situations of mass atrocities.

The international community must continue to work to develop regulations or pledges to restrain veto use.  If not, populations in Syria, Darfur, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—to name a few—will continue to pay the same price as the victims of Srebrenica.

Catch up on developments in…

Central African Republic
South Sudan

Myanmar announced its election would take place on Nov. 8th, which will be the first open general election the country has seen in 25 years. New clashes between Myanmar’s army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) took place in Southern Myanmar, with cease fire talks set for next week.

Myanmar passed a bill that prevents interfaith marriage. Human Rights Watch and other various rights groups criticized the bill as a campaign by nationalist Buddhists to incite hatred against Muslims.

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 29th Session, adopted without a vote a resolution (A/HRC/29/L.30) on the “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar,” tabled by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In this resolution, among other points, the HRC stressed that “States have the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights” and “Calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take all necessary measures to ensure accountability and to end impunity for all violations of human rights, including in particular against Muslims, by undertaking a full, transparent and independent investigation into reports of all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

The Burundian government demanded that Abdoulaye Bathily, the UN-appointed mediator, resign from his post, claiming that he is not impartial. The East African Community (EAC) then asked Ugandan President Museveni to spearhead mediation efforts; however, this appointment by the EAC was immediately rejected by Burundi’s opposition parties.

President Nkurunziza’s party, the CNDD-FDD, won the parliamentary elections, getting the vast majority of seats with a total of 77 out of 100. UN election observers declared that Burundi’s parliamentary and local elections were not free, credible and inclusive and pointed to the widespread fear and campaigns of intimidation by police and armed groups. The African Union (AU) reaffirmed that there must be an end to violence in Burundi and that all actors must be brought to the table for a peace agreement. The AU also asked the Burundian government to allow AU military and civilian experts to enter the country and observe the ongoing elections.

ICRtoP member the Pan-African Lawyers Union, together with the East African Civil Society Organizations Forum and members of Burundian civil society, filed  a petition with the the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to seek an annulment of the decision by the Constitutional Court and Burundian INEC/CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante), which found Nkurunziza’s 3rd term run legal under Burundian law.

During a UN Security Council briefing on Thursday, the Representative from Burundi delivered a speech denying claims made by UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Al Hussein, that the Burundian government and its youth militia, the Imbonerakure, acted violently against protesters, human rights defenders, and the media. Instead, he attributed the attacks to an opposition group and claimed the surge of refugees leaving Burundi had been caused by the “media onslaught” of rumors.

Central African Republic:
French officials in Central African Republic (CAR) began interviewing children allegedly abused by French troops. An armed group, disguised as UN peacekeepers, raided and destroyed a local state-run radio station in Bangui. The UN dismissed 20 peacekeepers from the CAR for the use of excessive force.

July 8th marked  one year since the 50 day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which claimed the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians, 70 Israelis and destroyed 100,000 buildings.

OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper,expressed concern for the ongoing crisis in Gaza and the failure to rebuild the community that was destroyed. Since July 2014, almost 100,000 people have been displaced and 120,000 still lack access to water. Amnesty International, in cooperation with Forensic Architecture, launched a new digital tool to document patterns of Israeli military violation on Gaza dating back to initial attack in 2014.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution (A/HRC/29/L.35) on “Ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” with 41 States in favor, five abstentions and one no vote from the US. The resolution calls for the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry report and reaffirms the obligation to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The resolution also “calls upon the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened.”

Iraq has seen a rise in civilian casualties as fighting intensified between Islamic State (IS) and Iraqi forces, with 25 civilian deaths in the past week and many injured. The Iraqi courtsentenced 24 IS militants to death for taking part in killing and torturing Iraqi soldiers when IS overran Tikrit last summer.

Al-Shabab launched another attack at a local quarry in Mandera County that borders Somalia, killing 14 people. Al-Shabab previously attacked Mandera County in December 2014.

After the UN-led peace talks stalled this past Wednesday, the self-declared government of Libya announced the restructuring of its army into 11 brigades, including the militiamen who fought in the 2011 revolution. Fighting in the city center of Benghazi between pro-internationally recognized government forces and rebel forces resulted in the death of 14 people.

Ansar Dine claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against UN peacekeepers in Bamako and in Mali’s border regions.

Violence attributed to Boko Haram in Nigeria continued, with two bombs set off in Jos killing a total of 44 people and two female suicide bombers killing 5 in Potiskum. Later, another bombexploded in Zaria, killing 25 people. Nigeria is starting to bolster security measures to combat this recent string of Boko Haram attacks. Boko Haram is reportedly willing to release over 200 Chibok girls taken last year in exchange for 16 Boko Haram militants currently being detained by the Nigerian government. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered an official condemnation of Boko Haram’s campaign of violence in Nigeria and across the region and called for renewed support for the Multi-National Joint Task Force.

South Sudan:
This week marked South Sudan’s fourth year of independence from Sudan; however, the situation remains bleak as fighting continues between the South Sudanese government and the Sudan People Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-IO) with over 10,000 people killed and 2 million people displaced since the conflict began in Dec 2013. A second attack in under a week on an UNMISS Protection of Civilians site took place on the 5th, killing one Internally Displaced Person.

Riek Machar, the SPLM–IO leader and former vice president, claimed he wanted a power-sharing deal with President Salva Kiir. However, a day later, Machar gave President Kiir an ultimatum; vowing that the civil war would continue as long as he remained in power.

Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, without seeing prospects for a political solution, urged the UN Security Council to place an arms embargo on South Sudan and to impose sanctions on more rival leaders.

A landmine exploded in the Blue Nile, killing at least five people amidst the continuation of hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Northern Sector (SPLM-N) and Sudanese forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. 1,800 Sudanese soldiers weredeployed to East Darfur to contribute to security in the area and prevent clashes between armed groups. The European Union affirmed its support for a national dialogue to take place to address political issues among all parties to the conflict in Sudan. Displaced persons and refugees from Darfur presented a package of demands to the UN Security Council on security in the region. Meanwhile, Sudan remained firm on its demand for UNAMID to exit.

Armed groups in Sudan and South Sudan have repeatedly gained access to weapons from UN and AU peacekeepers. The report by Small Arms Survey concluded that 500 weapons and 1 million rounds of ammunition (including heavy machine guns and mortars) were taken from peacekeeping forces in Sudan and South Sudan from 2005-2014.

The Islamic State took control of the city of Ain Issa as part of a strategic effort to push Kurdish forces out of Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that barrel bombs and fighting between the Syrian government and opposition force in Aleppo killed 15 civilians including several children. A Belgian military operation has rescued over 240 civilians from Aleppo who will now gain asylum in Belgium.

According to UNHCR, the number of Syrian refugees now living outside of Syria has grown to be over 4 million, which is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in over 25 years. Almost 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced.

A rocket was launched into the city of Aden and killed 12 refugees. UNHCR reiterated that all sides to the conflict must respect civilian life as well as allow access by humanitarian workers to go unhindered.

The Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of Yemen have agreed to pause fighting for the rest of Ramadan, to begin today and end on 17 July, so that  humanitarian relief can be delivered in the country.

What else is new?
Save the Date: Join the Stimson Center and the Hague Institute for Global Justice on the 14 July 2015 from 3- 4:30 pm in the Trusteeship Council at UN Headquarters for the launch of the Report of the Commission on Global Security entitled, “Confronting the Crises of Global Governance.” Dr. Madeleine Albright will be present in her role as Co-Chair of the Commission. You can RSVP here .


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