On behalf of the undersigned civil society organizations, we are writing to request your government’s explicit support for the new “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.”
Over the past few years, the world has witnessed an intolerable rise in the commission of atrocities against civilians. Populations from Syria to the Central African Republic to South Sudan, to name but a few, suffer daily from the very same crimes that the international community has repeatedly vowed to prevent.
At such a moment of global instability, expectations have grown for preventive, timely, and decisive action by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as the UN organ primarily tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security. The UNSC has indeed exerted leadership by taking recent action on a number of situations of atrocity crimes.
However, due to the veto power wielded irresponsibly by its Permanent Members, the UNSC has failed to adopt similarly strong measures in other cases where these crimes are imminent or occurring, for example in Syria, Palestine, Myanmar, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Vetoing resolutions that attempt to prevent or respond to atrocities makes it difficult for the international community to uphold its Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), a landmark norm unanimously endorsed 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.
Catch up on developments in…
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Refugee Agency warned of an expected surge before monsoon season of mostly Rohinghya and Bangladeshi refugees heading for Southeast Asia. On Monday, President Thein Sein signed into law the Monogamy Bill, the last of four controversial bills criticized by rights groups for discriminating against the country’s Muslim minority.
Asia and the Pacific Policy Society published, Will Myanmar be the World’s Next Mass Atrocity?, by United to End Genocide’s Daniel P Sullivan, which warns that attacks against Rohingya Muslims are likely to escalate ahead of the November election.
The head of Burundi’s parliament accused an unnamed East African country of sheltering an insurgency that has carried out attacks since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his third term bid. Anti-government protests resumed in the capital after residents accused the police of harassment, stemming from the disarming of Bujumbura neighborhoods amid political tensions surrounding the president’s controversial re-election this summer.
Central African Republic:
An anti-Balaka militia in CAR released 163 previously enslaved children this weekend. Though welcome, this is in fact only a partial fulfillment of a UN-brokered deal, as it is speculated that 6,000 children have been captured by the group. UNHCR indicated that several thousand people have been forcibly displaced from renewed violence in the Bambari region.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, announced an additional allegation of sexual abuse against a member of the French military force in the CAR. The girl was believed to be in her mid to late teens and she gave birth to the child in April.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The trial of former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntganda began this week at the International Criminal Court. Ntaganda is wanted for 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity in the DRC. At the opening of his trial, which marks the first time that a militia leader faces charges for sexual and gender-based violence committed against child soldiers under his command, he pled not guilty to all 18 charges.
MONUSCO reported that more than 100 child soldiers were able to escape and deserted their positions with the Front for Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FPRI) during clashes between the FPRI and government forces. Six soldiers were killed in the North Kivu province of the DRC.
The UN published a report warning that the Gaza strip could become “uninhabitable” by 2020. The Israeli military claimed an attack on a Hamas military position in Gaza, in response to Hamas gunfire on homes in Netiv Haasara in southern Israel.
Suspected ISIL attacks on commercial areas around Baghdad left at least 11 civilians dead and 28 wounded. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that during the month of August, 1,325 people (585 civilians) were killed and over 1,811 people (1,103 civilians) injured from terrorism, violence and armed conflict in the country.
The UN Security Council condemned the use of sexual violence in Iraq and Syria as a “tactic of war” and urged all parties to the conflicts to take feasible steps to prevent and protect civilians from such acts.
The UN Special Envoy for Libya, Bernardino Leon, met with leaders of the Tripoli based unrecognized government, the General National Congress (GNC) and said he hopes a draft agreement on forming a national unity government can be finalized in coming weeks. The GNC announced their intention to take part in the peace talks on Wednesday, just before they began in Geneva on Thursday. At the talks, the envoys from the GNC declared their optimism that a deal creating a unity government could be reached, on the condition that a draft accord is modified first. The two Libyan government parties will soon present their candidates for Prime Minister and two deputies to lead such a national unity government.
Unidentified gunmen killed two Malian soldiers on Tuesday in an attack at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Timbuktu. The attack fuels concerns at simmering violence after the breakdown in the UN peace deal signed in June between the government and rival armed groups.
Boko Haram attacked Baanu village, killing 56 people, during a meeting with the parents of the 219 girls abducted by the group back in 2014. Further attacks from Boko Haram took place in the Northeast, killing an estimated total of 80 people over the weekend. Since the inauguration of President Buhari at the end of May, more than 1,000 lives have been lost to deadly Boko Haram ambushes and the use of suicide bombers.The Nigerian intelligence agency reported the spread of Boko Haram into Nigeria’s biggest city of Lagos, warning that a dozen members of Boko Haram had been seen and apprehended in the city since July.
Rebels and government actors accused each other on Sunday of not abiding by the ceasefire, just hours after it came into effect. The South Sudanese military called for IGAD, the eight nation regional bloc who helped bring about the ceasefire, to monitor the area and compliance with the peace agreement.
The UN Security Council threatened sanctions against “any party” who does not respect the peace deal agreed to last week. A UN panel of experts warned the Security Council that the violence will likely continue in South Sudan, even if battling parties agree to end the conflict. The panel also urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and to place sanctions on those in the position to perpetuate or cease the ongoing conflict.
The World Food Program reported that approximately 4.6 million people in South Sudan are struggling with severe food insecurity and that aid convoys are often restricted by local authorities. Since independence, the South Sudanese economy has continually declined, and over 10,000 people have been killed with more than 1.6 million displaced.
President Omar Al-Bashir visited China on Monday, defying calls by various international human rights organizations to arrest him for crimes against humanity. China is a permanent member of the Security Council which referred the case to the ICC, but is not itself a party to the Rome statute.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Monitor, published by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), noted that South Sudan spent roughly 30 million dollars last year on machine guns, grenade launchers, and other weapons from China, along with Russian armored vehicles and Israeli rifles and attack helicopters.
A van filled with explosives was detonated in front of a school on the outskirts of Latakia, killing at least 10 people and injuring 25. The UN confirmed, although Syria’s head of antiquities denied, that ISIL militants had destroyed the Temple of Baal in the second attack this week on the ancient city of Palmyra.
The International Red Cross reported that water has become a “weapon of war” in Syria, with civilians undergoing extreme suffering due to deliberate cuts to water and electricity supplies in Aleppo. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, warnedthat 1 million people have been displaced by violence in 2015 alone and that the humanitarian crisis could yet worsen if a political solution is not found.
ICRtoP member, International Crisis Group, published a new report arguing that a significant but realistic U.S. policy shift on deterring regime airstrikes represents the best chance of reaching a political settlement in Syria.
The Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic released its 10th report, which details how civilians have been specifically targeted by one or more of the warring parties, often on aspects of their identity. Additionally, the report condemns the failure of the international community to assist civilians fleeing the war-torn country, calls for all parties and states to work to resolve the conflict, and urges the Security Council to “open a path to justice.”
At least 31 people were killed by a pro-government airstrike which hit a bottling plant in the northern province of Hajjah. According to the UN, almost 4,500 people have died since the Saudi-led pro-government coalition began its campaign in March. A suicide attack and subsequent car bomb, detonated near a Zaidi mosque in the rebel-held Yemeni capital of Sanaa, resulted in the death of at least 20 people. Unknown gunmen shot dead two Yemeni Red Cross aid workers in northern Yemen as they were travelling from a mission in the city of Saada to the organization’s main office in the capital.
The UN OCHA’s latest crisis update reported that at least 95 civilians were killed and 129 injured between 14 and 27 August from indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling. OCHA additionally stated that militants violated international law when they forced all 80 patients out of the Yemen International Hospital in Taiz after seizing the facility.
The UN OHCHR described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as “untenable” and that the increase in the number of civilian casualties in the Taiz province is alarming.The OHCHR reiterated its concern regarding the near collapse of the healthcare system in Taiz, as all six public hospitals in the area are no longer operational. Save The Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres also warned that major hospitals in Taiz and Sanaa are struggling to function due to supply shortages caused by the ongoing conflict and a blockade by pro-government forces.
Human Rights Watch reported that Southern armed groups and Houthi forces have committed serious abuses against civilians and fighters in their custody. Southern militants have summarily executed at least seven Houthi prisoners since March and Houthi rebels have unlawfully detained and mistreated civilians.
What else is new?
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect welcomed Rwanda as the 50th state to join the Global Network of R2P Focal Points. Meanwhile, the EU became the first regional organization to appoint a Focal Point.
ICRtoP member, Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Economicas y Sociales (CRIES), published their latest edition of Pensamiento Propio, Latin America and the Responsibility to Protect: Divergent views from the South?
Russia rejected a proposal from France for permanent members to refrain from using their veto when action is required to address mass atrocities.