#R2P Weekly: 20-24 July 2015

Rtop weekly

#R2P10: The Responsibility to Protect and Counter-terrorism

The following is an excerpt from the most recent submission to the ICRtoP’s RtoP at 10 blog series, written by Kyle Matthews, Senior Deputy Director of Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), and Cédrick Mulcair, MIGS Junior Fellow.

On the 10th anniversary of the endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) by all member states at the United Nations, an important question has arisen: are we seeing a convergence between the mass atrocity prevention and counter-terrorism communities? While acts of terrorism and mass atrocity crimes are easily comparable and sometimes overlap, some human rights practitioners have demonstrated ambivalence in admitting that RtoP is more than just a humanitarian concept and touches upon national and international security.

Open Briefing by the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Photo Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Open Briefing by the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). Photo Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Over the past few years, the world’s gaze has been routinely directed to atrocities committed by non-state actors in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and West Africa. There, groups such as the Islamic Stateal-Shabaab and Boko Haram have been waging wars on their governments and respective civilian populations through mass casualty attacks. Yet these groups are more often condemned for acts of “terrorism”, as opposed to crimes against humanity.

Some even argue that acts committed by such groups fall outside of the scope of RtoP, and purely into that of counter-terrorism. The cause of this detrimental gap in interpretation dates to the manner in which the RtoP was initially discussed and endorsed at the 2005 World Summit. This can partly be explained by that fact much emphasis was placed on cementing the notion that national governments bear responsibility for not committing atrocity crimes against civilians in their respective jurisdictions, leaving non-state actors on the margins of the policy debate.

(…) Read the full blog here.

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar:
UNHCR called for concerted support for the displaced peoples of Rakhine State, in particular the Rohingya. The Coalition of Indigenous Peoples in Myanmar/Burma announced their plan to submit the range of difficulties facing the indigenous people to the Universal Periodic Review Working Group of the Human Rights Council that will meet in November. Nationwide ceasefire talks resumed between the government and armed ethnic groups, in hopes to finalize agreements before the upcoming November election. Burmese youth launched a social media campaign to combat hate speech in the country against ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Rohingya.

Burundi:

Negotiations between the ruling government party CNDD-FDD and various opposition groupsended on Sunday when neither CNDD-FDD or government representatives attended.Former presidents Domitien Ndayizeye, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and former Speaker of Parliament Jean Minani all dropped out of the presidential race in Burundi citing unfair election conditions.
The presidential election took place on Tuesday the 21st, despite many appeals by the international community for their delay. Explosions and gunshots were reported throughout the night and there was very low voter turnout as fear of participating loomed.

On Wednesday, Agathon Rwasa the main opposition leader called for a unity government, to which President Nkurunziza’s spokesperson replied that the CNDD-FDD would also accept the unity government.The African Union began its initial deployment of human rights observers and military experts to Burundi.

Burundi’s electoral commission CENI has begun to count the votes. The victor of the presidential election is expected to be announced later today. In a new report, Amnesty International warned that Burundian authorities have used excessive lethal force, including against women and children, to silence those opposed to the President.

Central African Republic:

In a recent surge of rebel assaults, a convoy of World Food Program trucks was attacked by suspected members of the rebel group, Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain (FDPC), while being escorted by the UN Peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, which led to the death of a driver and several injuries.

Flavia Pansieri, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned citing health concerns. It was also reported that in a confidential statement given by Ms. Pansieri when speaking before a separate internal investigation, she expressed regret for her “failure” to follow up on allegations of child sexual abuse by French soldiers in the CAR for months.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) released its latest report on CAR citing the need for a new strategy in addressing the conflict, as dependence on aid has become “dangerous.” The IRC outlines the need for continued aid in country but also new support in governmental and security reform as well as economic development.

Gaza

Four bombings took place in Gaza that targeted officials from Islamic factions, including Hamas. The Palestinian Housing Minister laid the first brick for Gaza reconstruction after the 50 day Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which took place in the summer of 2014.

The EU Council’s conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process stressed that there is no other viable option but a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where Palestine is recognized as an independent, democratic, and sovereign state. The EU also urged for the immediate address of the dire humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The UN held an Arria-Formula meeting on Gaza where the Norwegian Refugee Council, Gisha, and academics and experts in the field, briefed the Security Council on the issues of accountability, freedom of movement, and the humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza.

Iraq:
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for detonating the explosion of a merchant ice truck in an open market in Khan Bani Saad on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, killing 120 and wounding 140 others, making this the single most deadliest attack by IS. Continuing violence attributed to IS killed 37 people in four separate bombings in Baghdad and 22 Iraqi soldiers from the Popular Mobilization Forces in Fallujah.

OCHA warned that about 40% of the critically needed water and sanitation programs supporting 74,000 IDPs will be forced to shut down at the end of the month, due to a lack of funding.

Two UK-based organizations, Conflict Armament Research and Sahan Research, reported that IS recently used chemical agents against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria.

Libya:
An estimated 37 people were killed and many more wounded in violent clashes between the Tuareg and Tebu peoples in southern Libya.

The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini confirmed that the EU is looking to impose sanctions on individuals opposing the Libyan peace agreement with ties to Islamist forces in Tripoli. General Khalifa Haftar, leader of forces aligned with the House of Representatives and a former Gadaffi aide, was also reportedly threatened with travel bans and asset freezes, but dismissed the EU’s warnings of sanctions as meaningless.

Nigeria:

At least 30 people were killed in bombings of two bus stations in Gombe, attributed to Boko Haram. UNHCR warned that continued attacks and violence from Boko Haram have caused a massive and unsustainable refugee influx to Cameroon from Nigeria. President Buhari saidthat he would be willing to negotiate for the safe return of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls if the negotiator on the side of Boko Haram proved to be credible.

After firing all of his top military officials, President Buhari announced that he will name new cabinet members in September after putting in place measures for good governance.

South Sudan:

The expulsion of Unity State coordinator of UNMISS, Mary Cummins, was officially reversed by the Unity State Government. South Sudan peace talks are expected to resume today in Addis Ababa, and are hoped to be the final meeting to reach a peace agreement; however, the government of South Sudan said that they will not accept any new additions to the deal.

Human Rights Watch released a report detailing widespread atrocities carried out by South Sudanese government forces that may amount to war crimes. In response to the report, South Sudan army spokesperson announced that the government would accept an investigation. Opposition leader, Riek Machar, removed two top generals whom are ethnic Nuer in a move to prepare for peace talks with the South Sudanese government/

Sudan/Darfur:

The national dialogue body for Sudan, the 7+7, said that they intend to ask President Bashir to delay the process, which was promised to resume after Ramadan, until October in order to allow for more contact with opposition groups.

Syria:
Evidence indicates that the Islamic State fired chemical mortar shells late last week at Kurdish forces.The UN Envoy to Syria, warned that civilians continue to be caught in the conflict and that new bombings in the city of Zabadani by the government have caused unprecedented levels of destruction. The Global Peace Index determined Syria as the “most dangerous country in the world.”

Yemen

After being driven out of Aden last week, Houthi rebels fired rockets at the city killing at least 43 people on Sunday. On Monday over 100 more people were killed in a Houthi attributed shelling, just south of Aden. The UN reported that civilian casualties continue to rise in Yemen and at least 36,000 people, 50% of which were civilians, have been killed since Saudi Arabia launched its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels at the end of March.

The largest UN aid shipment in months arrived in Aden carrying enough food to feed 180,000 people for a month.

What else is new?

Former Chadian Dictator Hissène Habré’s trial for the alleged commission of war crimes began on Monday in Senegal, but was subsequently postponed for 45 days. Habré is indicted for killing up to 40,000 people during his rule in the 1980’s.

The controversial Law on Association and NGOs (LANGO) in Cambodia was passed by the National Assembly, despite a boycott by 55 Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) members, and is now pending a Senate vote expected to take place later today. Hundreds of people gathered across Cambodia to demonstrate against the pending law around the country on Wednesday. Local and international NGOs along with the U.S., U.N. and European Union oppose the law as it would give the government the power to shut down organizations.

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