This week the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his seventh report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), “A vital and enduring commitment: implementing the responsibility to protect”. The report reiterated the commitment that States made a decade ago, i.e. to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing as articulated in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. The report assessed the progression of the RtoP norm over the past ten years, identified core challenges and opportunities for implementation, and detailed six core priorities for the international community to undertake to more effectively fulfill RtoP.
Over the past decade, there have been situations in which the international community has responded proactively to the risk of atrocities and acted to prevent their recurrence, as well as cases where the international community ultimately failed to adequately protect populations. Through the discussion of the cases of Libya and Syria, the Secretary-General recognized the practical challenges that remain for RtoP’s effective implementation. The international action taken in Libya highlights the need to better understand when and how force should be used as well as the necessity of long-term support. In addition, the inability to effectively prevent and respond to the crisis in Syria has led some to criticize the norm’s utility in catalyzing action, which has further contributed to misconceptions of RtoP as a coercive doctrine. Despite such issues, the Secretary-General stated that this “should not shake our resolve to live up to the responsibilities” agreed to in 2005. He noted that a cross-regional consensus has developed on the core framework of RtoP, one which encompasses the need to a) prioritize prevention; b) utilize all available diplomatic, political, and humanitarian tools; c) consider military force as a last resort and to be used only in accordance with the UN Charter.
Catch up on developments in…
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights envoy to Burma, was barred from meeting with Rohingya Muslims during her visit last week to assess human rights in the country and announced that it was impossible for her to fulfill her mandate.
Nearly 4000 names from 78 parties, along with 100 independent candidates, have signed up to run in the November general election. Rohingya Muslims have been told that they will not be able to vote in the elections, though many could in 2010.
Forty-five senior military officers retired in order to join the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Among those who joined USDP is Khin Zaw Oo, who was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2005-2006 Burma Army offensive in Karen State by the International Human Rights Clinic. Shwe Mann, the USDP party chief, was ousted by President Thein Sein in an event surrounded by security forces.
Following the post-election violence last week and the assassination of Nkurunziza’s ally General Nshimirimana, the Burundian authorities detained at least 21 people in a “security crackdown.” Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France International (RFI) condemnedthe lack of response by Burundian authorities to persecute those responsible for the abuse and torture of their journalist, Esdras Ndikumana.
Diplomats from the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Belgium and United States expressed concern that the government of Burundi intends to do away with ethnic quotas for positions of power, a key agreement in the Arusha Accords. In addition, they all called for the government of Burundi to immediately resume an inclusive political dialogue.
Central African Republic:
On Saturday, a Rwandan peacekeeper shot four of his colleagues dead and wounded eight others. MINUSCA has launched an investigation into the incident.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon vowed to take decisive action on the reports of sexual violence committed by UN peacekeepers and briefed the UN Security Council in this regard. The Secretary-General also accepted the resignation of the Special Representative Mr. Babacar Gaye as the head of MINUSCA and commended him for his tireless efforts.
Amnesty International called for an investigation into the August 2 and 3 incidents in which UN peacekeepers allegedly raped a girl and killed a father and his 16 year old son. The UNlaunched an inquiry into the incident.
The Institute of Security Studies urged CAR to include refugees in the October election.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch urged the government of the DRC, with the support of the UN, to improve efforts to protect civilians in a report on the widespread killing and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in northern Katanga.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel agreed to establish a sea route between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus in return for a long–term ceasefire with Hamas. A UNRWA studyrevealed a recent alarming rise in infant mortality rate in Gaza. The UNRWA health director stated that Israel’s blockade of health facilities, medicine, and equipment on the coastal strip of Gaza could be a contributing factor.
ISIL claimed a car bomb suicide attack in Shiite-dominant Baquba that killed 30 people and injured 40 others. Senior Iraqi officers reported that former officials in the military and intelligence under Saddam Hussein now dominate ISIL leadership and may have contributed to its quick advancement into Iraq and Syria. Amidst widespread protests due to corruption and poor public services, the government of Iraq announced a sweeping reform of the government to reshape the dysfunctional political system, including the establishment of a corruption inquiry and the elimination the American-imposed system of sectarian and party quotas in the appointment of top officials.
Kenya ratified a peace treaty with Uganda and Rwanda on the East African Community Protocol on Cooperations in Defense Affairs and on the establishment of the East African Standby Force. The treaty is aimed at enhancing cooperation in regional ‘defense affairs’ such as peacekeeping, peace missions, information sharing and shared military trainings.
The victims’ representative in the collapsed ICC case against Kenyatta criticized the Office of the Prosecutor for failing to undertake effective investigations. Additionally, the IDP Network Kenya stated that the ICC Prosecutor failed to deliver justice.
Defense lawyers in Libya announced their intention to appeal the death sentences given last week for war crimes committed by senior officials in Gaddafi’s regime.
Rival factions resumed UN- led peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday. Notably, the GNC joined the talks after boycotting the peace process last month. During the negotiations, the UN Special envoy called on the warring parties to agree on a national unity government plan by the end of August.
ISIL attempted to recapture the city of Derna, which it was forced out of last month by the al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade in an offensive that took place over the weekend. The attempt left at least 10 dead and injured 21 others, most of whom are believed to be civilians. Amnesty International pressed the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by armed groups in the last four years. FIDH released a report on the increasing danger against human rights defenders in Libya whom are targeted by armed groups and in many cases either face exile or death.
17 people died in an al-Qaeda claimed attack on the Byblos Hotel in Bamako. A day after, unknown gunman killed 10 civilians in the village of Gaberi in northern Mali. The UN OHCHR expressed deep concern over the release of detainees on July 16 were implicated for war crimes, terrorist acts, and gross human rights violations, and warned that their release is contrary to international law and violates Mali’s Peace and Reconciliation agreement.
Boko Haram is suspected to have killed hundreds of people in recent weeks in response to the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force. A bomb attributed to Boko Haram was detonated in a busy market on Tuesday in Borno State, killing at least 47 people and wounding dozens more. President Buhari called for the establishment of a Military Industrial Complex to begin the domestic production of weapons as an additional step in the country’s fight against Boko Haram, which will decrease the reliance on foreign imports to support the weapon supply of the state armed forces. President Deby of Chad announced that Boko Haram’s leader has reportedly been killed and replaced with a new leader who is “willing to negotiate.”
The two rival factions resumed talks on 6 August amidst pressures from President Obama to come to an agreement by 17 August or face sanctions. However, the Information Minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, reported that it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached as there are many outstanding issues.
Machar’s former commanders, Gathoth Gatkuoth and Peter Gadet, announced their split from the SPLM-IO and rejected the ongoing peace process. Reportedly, both have stated that they are now at war with both Machar and President Kiir for their actions in starting the crisis and failed leadership. However, SPLM-IO spokesperson denied the split in the party, arguing that the change is only a “defection” by two “disgruntled” generals.
Rebel forces in the Unity State accused the government forces and its allied militias of killing over 200 civilians, mainly women and children, last month in Leer and Mayiandit counties. They also accused the government of committing crimes against humanity in the abduction of children and murdering of civilians.
Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch argued that Bashir’s visit to the UN would be an affront to victims in Darfur and that he must face his outstanding warrants for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC. Bashir ordered the Ministry of Justice to compensate the victims of the September protests in Khartoum during which about 200 people died. Despite assurances from the Ugandan government that he would not be arrested, Al-Bashir declined to travel to Kampala for talks on South Sudan.
The Popular Committee for the Follow-up of the Implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, made up of 300 Darfuri leaders & academics, proposed a reform of the Darfur Regional Authority and warned that a referendum at this time would only lead to further divisions.
The AU Peace and Security Council called on the AU, UN, and the Sudanese government tocontinue formulating an exit strategy for UNAMID.
The Security Council adopted resolution 2235 on Friday, formally establishing the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to identify those whom are involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria. Russia hosted Saudi Arabia in Moscow in talks on Syria but again failed to agree on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
Two day ceasefires between Syrian rebels and pro-gov’t forces reportedly began in Zabadani, Fuaa, and Kafraya on Wednesday in order to allow food and medical supplies to be delivered. After an ISIL attack on the town of Qariyatain in Homs Province, it is reported that at least 250 Christians are missing and believed to be held captive.
The New York Times explained that actions to combat ISIL are becoming complicated due to the actions of Turkey against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. The Nusra Front declared its withdrawal from the front lines in the fight against ISIL in Syria, claiming that the actions of the US and Turkey are not in line with the Syrian rebel cause but rather serve to advance Turkish interests. There are mixed reports, however, as to whether Nusra Front has actually begun moving off the front lines or not.
A new report released by Amnesty International includes evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Syrian government as it continues to launch a widespread and systematic campaign targeting civilians under siege in Eastern Ghouta.
Over the weekend, pro-government forces recaptured Zinjibar from Houthi rebels, killing at least 19 people and injuring 150 others injured during the fight. Pro-government fighters additionally seized six districts in the central province of Ibb, as they make their way closer to the currently Houthis-controlled city of Sana’a.
The ICRC president, Peter Maurer, determined the situation in Yemen to be ‘catastrophic’ on his visit to Sana’a.
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food warned that the deliberate starvation of civilians could constitute a war crime and/or crime against humanity. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen appealed for significant contributions to scale up humanitarian efforts in Yemen, where 80 per cent of the population requires live-saving assistance.
What else is new?
Alex Bellamy with the International Peace Institute released his new piece titled, Can new sustainable development goals add firepower to the war on war?, which discusses the inclusion of the reduction of all forms of violence among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Stanley Foundation published a Policy Analysis Brief on the Economic Drivers of Mass Atrocities: Implications for Policy and Prevention.
The ICRtoP welcomed four new members to the Coalition: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant and Episcopal Church of America (USA), Syrian Network for Human Rights (Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, UK), Justice without Frontiers (Lebanon) and the Carl Wilkens Fellowship (USA).