UN Security Council Set to Vote on Resolution Assigning Blame for Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria
On Thursday, 6 July 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Russia had agreed to support a Security Council resolution that would aim to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The draft, introduced by the U.S. in July, would set up a “Joint Investigative Mechanism” (JIM) to determine culpability for employing the banned weapons. The JIM would be led jointly by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who will submit to the Council, within 20 days, recommendations for the mechanism’s establishment and operation. (Read more about the specifics of the mechanism at Security Council Report.)
Nevertheless, chemical weapons are not the only weapons used causing indiscriminate harm to Syrians. The Assad regime’s incessant and overlooked use of barrel bombs, as noted by Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth, have “pulverized neighborhoods, destroyed entire buildings, and left broad strips of death and destruction.” Barrel bombs are part of the Assad government’s larger strategy to punish and terrorize civilians who happen to be in rebel-held areas. The international community has devoted comparatively little resources or attention to stopping the continued use of barrel bombs, though such a process may be “the single most urgent task to reduce” the suffering of Syrians.
The devastation wreaked by barrel bombs adds increased urgency to the U.S.’s draft resolution establishing an investigative mechanism on chemical attacks. Council unity on such a mechanism would not only be a first step to ensuring accountability for this violation of international humanitarian law. It could also, as described by Security Council report, open up future avenues of cooperation within the Council, such as on a French-proposed resolution on indiscriminate attacks, including the Syrian government’s use of barrel bombs. Establishing such a mechanism, therefore, may indicate an increased willingness by some Council members to fulfill their responsibility to protect.
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Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights envoy to Burma visited the country this week to meet with government officials, civil society representatives and other stakeholders to assess human rights and gather information on the electoral process. She is set to release her findings to the General Assembly in October. Representatives of the Karen National Union, the Restoration Council of Shan State, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Karen Peace Council and Harn Yawnghwe, an adviser to some ethnic armed groups, met with President Thein Sein and called on him to run for a second term, believing that his continued presidency is necessary for the success of the nationwide ceasefire and peace agreement. However, it has been argued that the continued religious and ethnic conflict in the country inhibits democratic progress. During the past year, over 11,000 Burmese fleeing ethnic and religious persecution resettled in the US, making them the largest refugee population in the US.
General Nshimirimana, ally of President Nkurunziza and former internal security advisor, was killed in a drive by shooting on Sunday. A journalist who was photographing the scene, Esdras Ndikumana, was detained and beaten by the National Intelligence Service of Burundi. Burundi rights activist, Pierre Mbonimpa, who openly opposed President Nkurunziza’s third term run, was shot by a group of motorcyclists and left in intensive care. On Wednesday, Côme Harerimana, a representative of President Nkurunziza’s party the CNDD-FDD was also attacked and killed. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a statement condemning the attack on human rights defender Pierre Mbonimpa. The UNSC urged Burundi citizens to stop the ongoing violence surrounding the presidential elections. The AU also called on all Burundians to not be provoked by these acts.
Human Rights Watch reported that arbitrary arrest and torture of Burundi civilians and protesters were perpetrated by the Intelligence Services, police, and youth CNDD-FDD group known as the Imobonerakure. Some victims were tortured into giving false confessions while others were intimidated into voting for CNDD-FDD candidate Nkurunziza. Over the past three months, an estimated 71,000 Burundian asylum seekers arrived in Rwanda.
Central African Republic:
Amnesty International released their latest report, “Erased identity: Muslims in ethnically cleansed areas of the Central African Republic,” on how many Muslims in CAR are being forced to convert or are being violently threatened and attacked by anti-Balaka groups. OCHA warned of an impending humanitarian crises in the CAR, with only 31% of their funding secured.
MINUSCA peacekeepers were attacked, resulting in one death and eight injured. Despite recent attacks, Babacar Gaye, the head of MINUSCA, expressed optimism about the improving security situation in CAR. Gaye also reported that nearly a quarter of eligible voters have already registered to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum in October.
Cote d’Ivoire’s military court convicted Anselme Yapo Seka, Simone Gbagbo’s head of security, of homicide and assault during the 2010 election. Simone Gbagbo, the former first lady, is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Human Rights Watch advocated for the ICC to investigate the role of sitting President Outtarra in the 2010 election violence.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
UNHCR repatriated more than 600 refugees from CAR back to the DRC, who had fled LRA attacks six years ago. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) kidnapped 6 Muslim Clerics and are holding them for ransom in the DRC.
Israeli tanks entered Gaza on Tuesday, violating the 2014 agreement. Hamas media outlets claimed that an explosion in Rafa that killed four was caused by an unexploded Israeli missile still present in Gaza from last year’s war. Ban Ki- moon urged all donors to contribute to the $100 million dollars still needed by UNRWA.
Turkey, in their campaign of air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq, was accused of killing civilians in Zargala. Turkey denied the presence of civilians in the “Zargala terrorist camp.”
Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, reported that ISIL engaged in widespread & systematic violations of human rights in both Syria and Iraq, which may amount to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Airwars, a team of independent journalists claimed that the US-led coalition against ISIL in Syria and Iraq has killed at least 459 civilians, which includes more than 100 children. The UN announced that they will look into the reports of the US-led airstrike campaign against ISIL that allegedly killed 40 civilians in Iraq near Ramadi last Friday.
The UN reiterated the need to hold perpetrators accountable for last year’s ISIL attack on at least 200,000 civilians from the Yezidi, Shi’a Turkmen, Shi’a Shabak and Christian communities. Human Rights Watch also called on the international community to do more to help Yezidi victims of ISIL. It was reported that over 100 Yazidis leave Iraq on a daily basis and that an estimated 300 Yazidis are still being held by ISIL.
The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims has not yet been extended to those who suffered from persecution in Kenya’s 2007-2008 election violence. The victims of the violence asked that the ICC re-investigate the charges against sitting head of state Uhuru Kenyatta. UNOCHA reported that ethnic violence still plagues Kenya, with over 200,000 people displaced and over 300 killed thus far in 2015.
Libyan state prosecutors announced their investigation into the ill-treatment of detainees, including al-Saadi Gaddafi, who was shown seemingly being beaten by unidentified guards in a Tripoli prison.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni emerged as a possible bridge-builder who could encourage the GNC to agree to a unity government, as proposed by a UN-led mediation. After reports emerged that European countries were planning a military operation to fight illegal immigration in the Mediterranean amidst the deadly ship wreck carrying 600 migrants off the coast of Libya, Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thanni said that Libya rejects any foreign military intervention.
A terrorist attack on a MINUSMA convoy in Mali killed six peacekeepers and the Security Council called for the actors to be held accountable. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed an attack on a security post, which killed 11 Malian soldiers. Ousmane Oumarou Sidibe, an academic and former minister for the main opposition party in Mali, was named the new head of Mali’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR), which was established last year in order to investigate violence and abuses committed in the country from Mali’s independence to 2013.
Representatives from Nigeria and Benin met in Cotonou to discuss cooperation in their fight against Boko Haram through the Multinational Joint Task Force on Saturday. Sunday, Boko Haram attacked Malari Village in Borno State, killing 13 people. However, the Nigerian army rescued 178 civilians in Borno State being held by Boko Haram and cleared the main road in Borno of all planted Boko Haram explosives.
The SPLM-IO accepted the IGAD proposal to demilitarize Juba. However, activists protested against the IGAD proposed peace deal that includes a power-sharing agreement granting the rebels greater control of the Upper Nile region, two armies, and the demilitarization of Juba. The government of South Sudan also refused the IGAD proposal and announced that it would unveil its own peace plan that will include all leaders from all states. The South Sudanese delegates left to resume peace talks in Ethiopia and discuss their proposal before the mid-August deadline.
In an independent media crackdown, the government shut down two newspapers. Reportedly, the South Sudanese army (SPLA) has been ordered by commanders to steal food and relief supplies from civilians in the Unity State, in order to cut resources from rebels and drive civilians into government held areas. OCHA also reported that the government placed restriction on aid transport, which later the government dismissed as “propaganda.”
Thabo Mbeki, the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), met with President Bashir to discuss resuming peace talks with the Sudan People’s Liberation and the conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan. He also announced his intention to consult with the Sudanese armed groups in mid-August. Bashir confirmed his plans to attend the UN General Assembly in New York, despite being indicted by the ICC, and is scheduled to speak on September 26th. Amnesty International released a report which confirmed that Government forces in Sudan have committed war crimes against the civilian population of South Kordofan.
A Syrian fighter jet crashed into civilian market in Ariha, killing at least 27 people. Iran confirmed that it would present the UN with a new plan for a political solution for the conflict in Syria, after Iran held a dialogue with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Tehran.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, met with Arab League leaders to discuss plans for a political solution to the ongoing crisis in Yemen, which has had an enormous impact on civilians, killing almost 2000 and injuring over 4000. The Yemeni government in exile diverted aid ships from the Houthi rebel-held north to loyalist areas farther south.
What else is new?
UN OHCHR reported that, in the first half of 2015, there have been almost 5,000 civilian casualties stemming from ongoing violence and targeted killings in Afghanistan. The country has seen increases in civilian death caused by pro-government forces as well as suicide bombers. In addition, the number of women and children being killed has also risen.
The Kosovo Parliament voted to amend the Constitution to allow for the creation of a war crimes court in The Hague in order to try ethnic Albanians accused of war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo war. The establishment of the court is seen by many to be vital for reconciliation; however, it is opposed by many ethnic Albanians who fear the court will turn victims into perpetrators.
The Asia-Pacific Center for the Responsibility to Protect launched its new youtube channel where you can find presentations, panel discussions, events and more on RtoP.