RtoP in the UN General Assembly
It is a busy and exciting time at the ICRtoP, as we wrote to you in our Weekly a fortnight ago, the first formal debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly since 2009 will be taking place 25 June. As such we have been preparing for the debate and are looking forward to advocating for the inclusivity, importance, and perpetuity of RtoP’s inclusion on the UN Agenda.
Secretary-General Guterres has remained committed to conflict and atrocity prevention over his tenure, and the upcoming debate and side events next week in New York will provide Member States an opportunity to develop formal, on-the-record statements and encourage further dialogs on the doctrine’s domestication and implementation. As the Secretary General noted at the Oslo Forum this past week, the number of countries involved in conflict and number of people killed in conflicts increasing at significant rates, preventative action is “more necessary than ever.”
**Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly 22 – 29 June due to the Formal Debate on the RtoP in the UN General Assembly. However, we will resume publication with an update on these events, including the Secretary General’s Report on the RtoP, the debate, and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 30 June – 6 July.
Catch up on developments in…
A photojournalist travelled with the UN Children’s Fund and interviewed 14 Rohingya refugee women survivors of brutal sexual violence. On 18 June, he published a photo-essay in his personal blog where he explains how the issue of rape is still a taboo in Rohingya society. The blog also highlights how the shame that rape carries decreases the prospects of victims to marry or remarry close to zero. UNICEF also collected testimonies from various victims whose children have been called the “forgotten victims of war” by Secretary General Guterres.
Prior to World Refugee Day on 20 June, a report by the UN stated that a record number of people were displaced, and noted the Rohingya was one of the largest groups of refugees.
On 20 June, the follow up after the historic summit demonstrated flaws as James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, claimed to be unaware of the steps of the alleged process of dismantling nuclear weapons by North Korea, nor does know when the next meeting discussing denuclearization will be held.
Following his release from detention at the ICC, Former VP Bemba returned to Belgium, where he owns a home, the International Justice Initiative reported on 18 June. The ICC and Belgium signed an agreement in 2014 allowing for the interim release of detainees into their territory. As part of his release conditions, Bemba had to provide his address and contact information to authorities, in addition to agreeing to surrender himself immediately if required by the trial chamber.
In retaliation for the release of incendiary kites by Palestinian protesters, the Israel Defense Forces struck nine targets in Gaza in through air strikes on 19 June. Concern continues over Israel’s “excessive use of force.”
On 20 June, Palestinians in Gaza fired “several dozen rockets and mortar bombs” into Israel. No Israeli casualties were reported. Hamas spokesperson noted that the strikes were in line with a “bombardment for bombardment” policy they have implemented, and that strikes were in “retaliation for an earlier Israeli air strike.”
Injured Palestinian protesters continue to face barriers to healthcare access due to the 11 year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza. Hospitals have extremely limited access to medical supplies and only one third of injured people had exit permits approved to travel out-with Gaza for life-saving treatment. Instead, many lacking treatment have just faced a “slow death,” Al Jazeera reports.
The wives of ISIS fighters continue to face prosecution for terrorism in Iraqi courts, following the defeat of ISIS in the country. PBS reports that while Iraq wants to extradite the women back to their home countries, such as Russia, the governments are refusing to accept them. If women with children are convicted, the children will remain in prison with them until they reach school age, when they will be sent to orphanages in Iraq. Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, is expressing concern over the lack of fair trials for these women and also the lack of consideration of individual circumstances in each case, particularly as those charged face the death penalty as punishment.
On 19 June the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released a report that 60 percent of sexual violence cases that were reported during the 2017 General Election were perpetrated by security officers. The KNHCR also noted that many of the crimes went unreported due to a lack of trust in law enforcement agencies.
Fighting continues as the Libyan National Army attempts to take over the city of Derna. The LNA claims to claims to have captured 75% of the city, DW News reported on 18 June. Over 2,183 families have fled so far, according to the UN Migration Agency. Conditions are expected to continue deteriorating as the conflict continues.
A study released by Airways and New America reports that, since October 2011, 2,158 air strikes have taken place in Libya, by US, UAE, French and Egyptian forces. The report claims that strikes killed 395 civilians.
On 14 June, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations highlighted the importance of consolidating democracy in Mali through the upcoming Presidential elections that will be held on 29 July. He also stressed that Mali should implement the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation after the elections, as it will help towards the peaceful resolution of disputes.
On 18 June, members of local human rights NGOs informed EFE about 25 civilian bodies found in a mass grave in the region of Mopti, in central Mali. More than half of them were identified as part of a list of arrested people by FAMA, which suggests an “extrajudicial execution” committed by soldiers. AI and HRW have also recently denounced FAMA for their alleged abuses against Malian civilians with the pretext of counter-terrorist struggle. On 19 June, Mali’s defence minister Coulibaly admitted that its armed forces were implicated in the killings of the 25 civilian bodies found in three mass graves. Coulibaly instructed military prosecutors to open an inquiry to fight impunity and promote the enforcement of humanitarian conventions and international rights.
On 16 June, the UNSG condemned the killing in the north-eastern Nigerian area of Damboa by six suicide bombers allegedly conducted by Boko Haram. This attack took the life of 30 people and targeted the Eid al-Fitr celebrations by Muslims which mark the end of Ramadan. Guterres reminds that attacks which affect civilians go against international humanitarian law and he demands Nigeria to find the people responsible for the massacre and that they are brought to justice.
President Salva Kiir rejected an offer for his peace talks with Dr. Riek Machar to be hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in favor of a more neutral location, South Sudanese officials announced a week prior to the anticipated discussion. There were concerns about an IGAD country hosting the peace talks, with alleged competition and interests between Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, as each country offered to host the negotiations. Instead, Michael Makuei, Information Minister and government spokesperson, said that President Kiir would prefer to travel to South Africa to meet with Dr. Machar, where the former has been on house arrest since 2016. In spite of protestation from the South Sudanese government, the peace talks between President Kiir and Dr. Machar took place in Addis Ababa on 20 June, though little about the discussion or its outcome is known at the time of writing.
In efforts to impose economic effects on officials, the Trump Administration announced “network sanctions” against the families and commercial ties of South Sudan’s leaders last week. The proposal, advocated for by John Prendergast and The Sentry, urges Kenyan and Ugandan leaders to investigate ties and seize relevant assets. As of 19 July, Kenya has resisted the push from the US saying it “will only act within the context of international practices through the United Nations conventions and the Bretton Woods institutions.” The Trump Administration, which is keen to end the conflict in South Sudan, believes that officials in Nairobi and Kampala have not done enough to curb illicit money flowing through their system.
Since 15 June, the Jebel Marra area of Darfur saw increased violence, including indiscriminate shelling by government forces, tribal clashes, and by villagers against displaced farmers, according to Netherlands based Radio Dabanga. In the Rokoro locality, they reported of indiscriminate shelling by government forces in addition to the detention and beating of several teenage boys. Meanwhile, a tribal conflict south of Abu Jubeiha city left two dead and dozens more wounded until police and security forces intervened and stopped the violence on 16 June. Police forces also intervened in the attacks in South Darfur, in which hostile villagers retaliated against displaced farmers hoping to settle and cultivate the land. 17 were injured. Violent attacks also wounded returnees on 19 June, when a group of over 70 armed militants fired upon farmers returning to cultivate their land, reinforcing the need for secure, safe conditions and the collection of arms if government officials are as serious about implementing a voluntary return program to Darfur.
The detention of Humanitarian Azrag Hasan Humeid on 18 June also incited protection concerns. Humeid, who started a youth initiative aimed at helping families through small enterprise ventures in East Darfur, was arrested upon the return from a trip to Khartoum and transferred to Ed Daein. An anonymous source suspects that his membership in a minority tribal group in the region, as well as the unfavorable position the leading National Congress Party has against civil society initiatives, contributed to his arrest.
ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, delivered another biannual report to the Security Council (UNSC) on the situation in Darfur. She noted that after 13 years, and 27 reports, the victims of the violence in Darfur had still yet to see any steps taken towards bringing the perpetrators of the alleged crimes to justice. She called for the UNSC to supporting the effective implementation of its own Resolution which referred the Darfur situation to the Court in the first place.
Syria’s state-run news agency, Sana, accused a US-led coalition of conducting air strikes on 17 June which killed 52 people. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights verified the number of deaths. The US Operation Inherent Resolve, denies the reports, claiming that Israeli forces conducted the strikes.
The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on 20 June accusing the Assad regime of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Eastern Ghouta earlier this year. The targeting of civilian areas, denial of food and medicine to civilians and attempts to starve 265,000 people all amount to breaches of international law.
On 21 June however, the New York Times revealed that the UN report in fact omitted crucial details that were included in an earlier draft that they received a copy of. The earlier draft placed more direct blame on the Assad regime for use of chemical weapons. A member of the Commission however stated that more evidence was required to back up claims in the earlier draft which they would continue to look into
The Citizen reported on 21 June that in the last three days alone 12,000 Syrians had to “flee their homes” as a result of continuing attacks by the Assad regime on rebel-held areas of Daraa in the south.
On 19 June, Jorge Valero, Ambassador of Venezuela in the UN, rejected the report on human rights on Venezuela that the UN plans to publish. They accuse the UN of relying on unverified information and that it “lacks scientific rigor”. This coincides with the publication of UNHCR’s report on Global Trends in Forced Displacement, which ranked Venezuela fourth in the list of countries of origin for new asylum seekers in 2017. The number of Venezuelans requesting international protection was 111,600 in 2017, triple the numbers registered in 2016.
Despite talks between Houthis and the UN Envoy to Yemen occurring over the weekend regarding a UN administrative take-over of Hodeidah, Martin Griffiths reportedly left the country without comment. It is unclear so far whether they reached a peaceful agreement.
Reuters reported on 19 June that the Saudi-led coalition invading Hodeidah captured large swathes of the port city from Iran-aligned Houthi fighters. Residents are reporting that “water has been cut off” to many homes and “death and destruction” is everywhere.