A UN report this week warned that the violations of international humanitarian law, together with gross human rights violations and abuses committed by the Islamic State in Iraq may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
The “Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Iraq”, released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), highlights the “severe and extensive” breadth of abuses endured by civilians in Iraq. A total of 15,000 civilians have been killed since January 2015, with another 30,000 injured.
At the hands of the Islamic State, certain groups of civilians (such as those perceived to be affiliated with the Iraqi government or security forces, journalists, doctors, and those who refuse to align with the group) have been systematically killed, kidnapped, or subjected to ill-treatment including amputations and executions. Moreover, the Islamic State is showing signs that it is implementing an ongoing policy to “suppress, permanently expel, or destroy” Christians, Faili Kurds, Kaka’e, Sabaeans, Shabak, Shi’a Arabs, Turkmen, Yezidi and others in areas under its control. The group has also committed sexual and gender-based violence and recruited and used children in military operations.
At the same time, military operations by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), as well as its associated forces, “at times may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality, and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attacks.”
UNAMI and OHCHR urged parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as to take necessary measures to prevent and respond to the displacement of the civilian population. The Government of Iraq, meanwhile, must ensure that the ISF, and all forces associated with it, are held accountable for their actions. The Government must further allow all displaced civilians to be admitted to safe areas and given access to humanitarian services. Furthermore, UNAMI and OHCHR claimed, Iraq should accede to the International Criminal Court or refer the situation in Iraq to the Court.
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Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Burmese government initiative to issue new identification cards or “green cards” to those going through the citizenship process has not been well received by the Rohingya. In order to apply for the ID card and go through the citizenship process, the Rohingya must first identify themselves as Bengali, as Rohingya is not an accepted term.
More than 100 Birmingham City Councillors signed a letter calling for the British Government to push the UN Security Council to intervene in Myanmar in order to “stop the genocide and persecution” of the Rohingya. It has been reported that UNHCR officers were denied access to visit Rohingya leaders in Maungdaw on 11 July; however, they were later given access by the Maungdaw authority to meet only those Rohingya leaders selected by the authority.
Seven UN Special Rapporteurs called for immediate UN Security Council action to prevent Burundi from regressing further back into violent conflict, urging the Council not to “simply stand by and wait for mass atrocities to unfold.” An umbrella of civil society organizations, including ICRtoP Steering Committee Member, the Pan-African Lawyers Union, sued the government of Burundi for President Nkurunziza’s third term bid at the East Africa Court of Justice. Burundi’s former second vice president of the ruling CNDD-FDD Gervais Rufyikiri, with the support of other high profile people in exile, pushed for the establishment of a “National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord and the Rule of Law in Burundi,” with the ultimate goal of removing President Pierre Nkurunziza from power.
The East African Community mediator, Ugandan President Museveni, left Burundi without a negotiated peace agreement between the Burundi government and opposition, though the Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga is expected to take over the mediation efforts.
Central African Republic:
UNHCR urged the Central African Republic to allow refugees to participate in the elections expected to take place in October.
For the first time, about 20 members of the army that helped place President Alassane Ouattara in power in 2011 have been indicted for alleged crimes committed during the fighting, which claimed thousands of lives.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Nine people were killed in eastern DRC by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has repeatedly attacked several villages north of Beni. The UN Security Council met to discuss the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and determined that the success of MONUSCO rests on securing a successful partnership with the government on security and the electoral process. The UN also dropped the demand that the Congolese government replace two generals accused of human right abuses before resuming cooperation with the Congolese army against the FDLR. Human Rights Watch called on the DRC government and the UN to arrest Sylvestre Mudacumura, the military commander of the FDLR, indicted on nine counts of war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
The Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Military Police opened investigations into 10 reported incidents of military misconducts by five high ranking officials, which took place during the war in Gaza last summer. Palestine also formed a committee to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Israel during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Israel conveyed its willingness to the EU to participate in a dialogue on the economic situation in the West Bank, which would take place in September.
The Iraqi government announced that it has launched a new offensive against IS in Anbar Province.
A rocket was launched into Benghazi, killing 15 people. A UN-drafted peace agreement was reached with the internationally recognized government of Libya, the House of Representatives. However, the main opposition group, the General National Congress, has not signed. Libya accused the UN Security Council of hampering its fight against the Islamic State (IS); meanwhile, the UN envoy to Libya stressed that Libya can only effectively address the IS after warring parties agree on a national unity government.
At least 33 people were killed in three suspected Boko Haram attacks in northeast Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari fired and replaced the government’s top military officials for their failure to address Boko Haram and for human rights violations. Human Rights Watch’s Nigeria researcher, Mausi Segun, called for the new military chiefs appointed by President Buhari to immediately and publicly signal support for the president’s commitment to upholding human rights in military operations as well as to ensure the country acts on its obligations under international humanitarian law.
The government of South Sudan’s Unity State expelled an UNMISS official, Mary Cummins, in retaliation over the UN’s report on human rights abuses committed by the government; however, the South Sudanese government later said that she would not be expelled, stating that the Unity State’s administration has no constitutional ability to expel UN officials.
The East African mediation group “IGAD” announced a new deadline, August 10th, for President Salva Kiirr and rebel leader Riek Machar to sign a peace agreement. “IGAD-Plus”, which includes IGAD as well as the US, UK, Norway, China, the EU and the UN, are set to meet on July 10th to draft a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Ban Ki-moon called for President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, the SPLM–IO leader and former vice president, to agree on a political solution and “make true to their promises to protect their people.”
The AU may release the Commission of Inquiry report on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the civil war later this month. The report will be discussed at the AU ministerial level meeting on July 24th.
The UN Security Council renewed the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for an additional five months. The Blue Nile Centre for Human Rights and Peace Studies accused the Sudanese government of forcibly displacing people in Blue Nile state.
The leaders of the Berti and Ziyadiya warring tribes in North Darfur signed a cessation of hostilities agreement. Clashes between the Rizeigat and Habaniya peoples in South Darfur resulted in the deaths of over 170 people on Tuesday.
The government of the United Kingdom was accused of human rights abuse complicity by providing military support and training to the government of Sudan.
Syrian government helicopters bombed Aleppo with over 4 barrel bombs and missiles, killing at least 22 civilians. The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met with the opposition leaders of the Southern Front alliance for the first time. The UN Security Council is expected to vote next week on the creation of a panel to investigate the use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria.
The cease-fire brokered by the UN to pause fighting for the rest of Ramadan failed, as fighting continued between Houthi rebels and rival militias and a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led airstrikes drove the Houthi rebels out of the city of Aden over the few days and Ministers from Yemen’s exiled government, previously forced out by the rebels in March, returned to the city on Thursday with the intent of reviving the country’s institutions.
What else is new?
Listen to the ICRtoP’s Senior Program Officer, Megan Schmidt, and the Security and International Relations Programme Director at the University of Westminster Aidan Hehir, in an interview with the Monocle’s Foreign Desk discussing the progression of the Responsibility to Protect norm.