Catch up on developments in…
Central African Republic
Burma’s newly elected democratic government is facing criticism after submitting a draft bill that would punish protesters spreading any “wrong” information, allow only pre-registered chants at gatherings, and refuse the right of non-citizens to protest. In practice, such a bill would have the largest impact on the rights of the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Burmese government has announced charges against student leaders, who led an interfaith “peace walk” of almost 100 people in Rangoon last Saturday.. The peace walk, avowing interreligious tolerance, was held against an environment of increasing Buddhist ultra-nationalism.
The US declared that it would be renewing the majority of its current sanctions against Burma when they expire at the end of the week. However, some modifications will be made in order to boost investment and trade. The US has stated that the continuation of sanctions against Burma is a reflection of serious concern over “human rights issues, including ongoing attacks against ethnic minorities, as well as the military’s extraordinary grip on key institutions of power.”
China has announced it would begin deporting Kokang refugees back to Burma if they did not leave of their own volition immediately. In 2015, over 100,000 Kokang fled to China after months of violence between the Burmese government and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang ethnic armed group. It is estimated that there are still 20,000 refugees living in makeshift camps on the Chinese side of the border.
Fighting broke out last week in the northern Shan State between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and the Burmese army, reportedly killing 28 government soldiers. The SSA-N is one of a dozen rebel groups that refused to sign last year’s national ceasefire agreement. Meanwhile, on May 11, the Burmese Army and Border Guard fought with a Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) splinter group in Karen State. Unlike the SSA-N, the DKBA had signed the ceasefire agreement.
More violence erupted on Wednesday, when bombing raids by the Burmese government were reported in Kachin and Shan states. The bombing raids in Shan state were complemented by attacks by the Burmese army and militia on SSA-N outpost outside Pein Hsai.
A confidential report to the UNSC has accused Rwanda of training, financing and providing logistical support for Burundian rebels fighting against the government through 2016. These claims, made by a panel of six independent experts, counter claims from western officials that such aid had already ceased and have also been denied by the Rwandan government.
Burundi officials said that Rwanda has expelled more than 1,300 Burundian refugees after they refused to move to refugee camps.
After the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights released a report on continuing human rights violations in Burundi, the AU stated that it would conduct in-depth investigations into the ongoing violations.
Around a hundred people were arrested in the Burundian capital, adding to a series of crackdowns on opposition strongholds. The authorities have stated that the arrests were necessary in order to control the movement of people. Dozens of arrests were also made in Mugamba, a town to the south of the capital.
On 19 May, Burundi’s government announced that it would attend regional peace talks in Tanzania. Burundi’s leading opposition party, the CNDD, will also participate the talks, but other opposition representatives have yet to confirm their presence.
Central African Republic:
Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, asked the court for a 25 year sentence for Jean-Pierre Bemba for crimes his troops committed in CAR, citing deterrence as one of the main factors behind the long sentence. Bemba was already found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in March. However, the Court has yet to determine the length of his sentence.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UNSG, said the UN has received 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and that 41 investigations were underway.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:
UN experts reported that North Korea has been delivering arms to the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the being an arms embargo on North Korea forbidding it from exporting weapons.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea would be held accountable and that the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the country is continuing to gather evidence of these violations.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
UN experts have further accused a Congolese General, Muhindo Akili Mundos, of aiding attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than 500 people. According to a confidential report for the UNSC, a Congolese general recruited, financed and armed elements of a Ugandan Islamist group aiming at killing civilians. The report also revealed that other Congolese army officers are involved in the killing of civilians.
Police fired teargas and threw rocks at of protesters in Lubumbashi. Thousands of people had gathered outside the prosecutor’s office, where authorities were questioning Moise Katumbi, a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the UN reported that Congolese police arrested four protesters and injured three others at a peaceful protest in Goma.
Opposition leaders in the DRC have urged the United States to impose sanctions on President Joseph Kabila. Olivier Kamitatu, a leader of the G7 opposition coalition, said:“We believe that the imposition of sanctions will force Joseph Kabila to reconsider his position and to leave power on the 19th of December.” Civil society groups, in a letter to the President Joseph Kabila, urged to take the needed steps to stop the massacre of civilians, underscoring their concern over the deteriorating situation.
Islamic militants killed about 50 Christians including women and children in the DRC, causing thousands to flee the area.
Human Rights Watch called for Jordan to ease travel restrictions it is currently imposing on Palestinians from Gaza that wish to travel to third countries, stating that such restrictions hinder access to education and professional opportunities for Palestinian youths who are already in a precarious situation.
Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemned Israel’s demolition and confiscation of humanitarian aid intended for the West Bank, the Israeli authorities having demolished seven homes and confiscated the materials for three others.
The UN Security Council expressed condemnation about the three terrorist attacks that occurred last week in Baghdad, which resulted in at least 93 deaths and a large number of injuries. The Security Council urged all States to actively cooperate with the Iraqi authorities in order to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice, highlighting that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation and wherever, whenever and by whomsoever it is committed, and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”
In a continuation of the violence, ISIL carried out three bomb attacks and one suicide bombing in Baghdad killing 69 people and injuring over 100 others on Tuesday.
The Pentagon released a statement outlining how much territory ISIL has lost in Iraq, which estimated that ISIL had lost slightly upwards of 45% of the territory that it once controlled. ISIL still controls important Iraqi cities, including Mosul and Fallujah.
On Thursday, Iraq announced that it has recaptured the western town of Rutba, which had been seized by ISIL in 2014. The town is situated in western-Anbar province and serves as a linkage between ISIL controlled areas on the Syrian and Jordanian border and the rest of Anbar province.
The US military stated that an airstrike on 13 May had resulted the deaths of two senior ISIL commanders, one of which was responsible for launching chemical weapons against Iraqi and allied forces.
Kenyan police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters who gathered outside the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the resignation of the electoral body. The protest was the third of this kind in less than a month and opposition leaders said more would follow. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a leading rights group, has accused the police of beating protesters with clubs and using “gruesome violence” to break up the protest even after the protesters were “subdued”. On Tuesday, 15 opposition supporters pleaded guilty to charges of participating in the illegal protest in the capital, but they denied charges that they were armed and had breached the peace. Kenya’s police chief said that they will hold an internal inquiry into the allegations against the police, but he maintained that officers intervened in order to rein in “lawlessness”.
On 16 May, the United States and more than 15 other nations announced that they were willing to supply Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons and training to fight ISIL. In this regard, these states plan to ask the UN to lift the arms embargo on Libya.
In a recent report, the International Migration Organisation (IOM) has said that the number of displaced people in Libya has reached 417,123, a total which is a result of three waves of displacement: the first taking place in 2011; the second from 2012 to mid-2014, and the third and largest, which began in mid-2014.
HRW released a report detailing the horrors occurring for Libyans living under ISIL control, citing kidnappings, crucifixions, executions, food shortages and forced prayer as examples of what they are forced to endure.
Gunmen killed five Chadian peacekeepers with MINUSMA in a shootout following an ambush on their convoy on Wednesday. After the attack, MINUSMA captured three suspects and reported that they would be transported to the “relevant authorities”.
China has announced that it would deploy 395 peacekeeping troops to MINUSMA by the end of this month. The force will include medical workers, security officers, and military engineers.
Amina Ali Nkeki has become the first of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls found in two years. She and other abducted girls were reportedly forced to convert to Islam and made to marry some of their captors and have their children. Other abducted women have reportedly been “brainwashed” by Boko Haram and forced to fight for the group.
The U.S. announced that it is prepared to sell at most 12 light attack aircraft to Nigeria in an attempt to aid Nigeria’s efforts against Boko Haram. This comes after the blocking of a sale of American-made attack helicopters from Israel less than two years ago due to human rights concerns. Human rights groups have criticized the proposed sale, claiming that President Buhari has not done enough to end the abuses and corruption in the military which were rampant during his predecessor, former President Goodluck.
Nigerian military forces have arrested several suspected Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) militants, who are thought to be behind the recent violence against oil pipelines in the country’s oil producing southern region.
Two weeks after having formed the Transitional Government of National Unity with the rebels, ceasefire monitors say President Salva Kiir’s forces are still not cooperating with security monitors in implementing the security arrangements set forth in the peace agreement. Government forces have both refused to declare their numbers both in and outside of Juba.
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa landed in Juba on Monday to learn firsthand about the progress being made in the implementation of the August peace agreement.
On Monday, Ethiopian officials confirmed that dozens of children previously kidnapped by a South Sudanese militia group have been returned home after negotiations with the armed group. The children has been abducted several weeks ago in a cross-border raid into Ethiopia wherein 200 people were killed and 125 children were abducted. A further 32 children had been rescued by the South Sudanese government several days earlier. The Gambella region of Ethiopia, where the raid took place, is currently home to 280,000 South Sudanese refugees since 2013.
The UNHCR has released a statement noting the continued flow of Sudanese refugees into South Sudan. In the first two weeks of May, 2,114 refugees arrived in South Sudan from South Kordofan State, Sudan. This represents a 124% increase over the previous two weeks, with the UNHCR highlighting hunger, aerial bombardments, and ground attacks as the main reason given by those who fled.
The UN and African Union officials urged Sudanese authorities to investigate recent attacks on an IDP camp that resulted in the killing of five people, including two children. The UN also stressed the importance of maintaining UNAMID’s mandate, which prioritizes the security and protection of civilians across Darfur, including the displaced.
Burkina Faso has announced that it plans to withdraw its troops deployed with UNAMID in Darfur in light of concerns over growing security threats in the Sahel-Saharan region. Currently, Burkina Faso has one battalion of 850 soldiers in Darfur.
The implementation of a security arrangement with 145 ex-rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement has begun in North Darfur. The rebels reported to a military training base in North Darfur, where they will will hand in their weapons and be compensated.
On Monday, the Sudanese government publicly welcomed a proposal put forward by two rebel groups to include Qatar in mediations currently being led by the African Union between the two opposing sides. Both the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) believe the inclusion of Qatar will allow for dialogue on certain topics relating to Darfur that the Sudanese Government has yet refused to discuss. However, later in the week, President Bashir publicly rejected the call to merge the African and Doha forums. He claimed it was an attempt by the rebel groups to circumvent the African Union peace plan, to which the two groups (JEM and SLM) are not party.
On Thursday, a Sudanese government official announced that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, has applied for a US visa to attend the next United Nations General Assembly. It would be his first visit since his indictment by the ICC in 2009, having previously applied for a visa in 2014.
On Tuesday, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which comprises the United States, the Russian Federation, the UN, the Arab League, the European Union, along with 16 countries, failed to come to agreement on a new date to resume the Syrian peace talks. Despite this, the ISSG remained firm on meeting the objective of meeting the target date of August 1, set by the UNSC, for the warring parties to reach an agreement on a framework for political transition. At the same time, the ISSG called on the World Food Program (WFP) to carry out a programme for air bridges and air drops for all areas in need, starting 1 June, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of the designated besieged areas.
Despite claiming to have begun a withdrawal of its forces from Syria in March, the Pentagon has stated that the Russian military remains firmly entrenched in the country and is even expanding in some areas. The Pentagon further noted that Russia is currently building a forward operating base in the ancient city of Palmyra.
On Wednesday, an aid convoy reached the besieged town of Harasta, where 10,000 people awaited the first aid delivery in four years under siege. This comes in light of the Syrian government previously denying an aid convoy to the besieged town of Daraya earlier in the week.
Violence escalated over the past weekend, as the fragile truce in Syria was strained in several locations. The Syrian government shelled several residential neighborhoods of the Daraya suburb of Damascus over the past weekend. Additional shelling and sniper fire took place in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Eshieh, where 12,000 are currently trapped. Further fighting broke out in both Idlib province and around Aleppo.
Syrian government forces retook a hospital in Deir al-Zor after it was taken the day before by ISIL. ISIL controls the over-whelming majority of the eastern province and has been laying siege to the government controlled portions of the city since last March. ISIL has so far made several significant gains in the offensive, which if successful would end the presence of the Syrian government in eastern Syria. There are currently 200,000 civilians trapped in the besieged government controlled portion of the city.
On Wednesday, a Syrian regime air strike killed 13 civilians in Rastan, one of the last rebel strongholds in the central province of Homs. Rastan has been under siege from government forces since 2012.
On Thursday, the Syrian government, in collaboration with Hezbollah as well as other allies, seized a large area southeast of Damascus in Eastern Ghouta. The seizure included the rebel-held town of Deir al-Asafir, which could serve as a bridgehead for further government advances into the province.
According to a senior Israeli official, Syria’s regime has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, dropping bombs laden with sarin on ISIL fighters outside Damascus. The use of the nerve gas is claimed to have happened roughly three weeks ago in order to halt an ISIL offensive set on seizing two air-bases located north-east of Damascus. If demonstratively proven, this use of sarin would show that the Assad regime has retained the ability to gas its enemies, despite an agreement that supposedly disarmed Syria of its chemical arsenal.
Ten Yemeni journalists who are being detained by Houthi forces started a hunger strike to protest their maltreatment and torture.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, stated that the two parties had reached consensus on certain issues during the continuing peace talks in Kuwait. The parties have thus far discussed security arrangements and the political process needed to reach an agreement. However, on 17 May, Yemeni Foreign Minister, Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi, announced the suspension of peace talks, highlighting the Houthis refusal to abide by a UNSC resolution and stating “the talks are a waste of time and only used to amass forces of the militias.” Mr. Al-Mekhlafi called on the international community to step in to resume peace talks.
ISIL killed 31 police recruits in a suicide attack in the port of Mukalla, which was reclaimed by the Saudi-led Coalition last month.
John Ging, Director of Operations in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has reported that more than 13 million people are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance in Yemen.
Amnesty International has reported that Houthi rebels carried out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of their opponents, including political opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and others between December 2014 and March 2016.
What else is new?
The U.S. government released a new Executive Order on the Atrocity Prevention Board, which “continues in place the Board established in 2012 as I [President Obama] directed in PSD-10, sets out the support to be afforded by executive departments, agencies, and offices, and updates and memorializes the terms on which the Board will continue to operate in the service of its important mission.”
To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 2001 birth of the RtoP principle, the Canadian Centre for R2P is releasing a journal entitled “R2P Dispatch” in autumn 2016. For more information on the guidelines to submit your RtoP-related piece for consideration in the inaugural journal, please click here.