Coalition Member Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) Releases Report on Attacks in Southern Syria
ICRtoP member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), has published a report documenting the attacks occurring in southern Syria allegedly carried out by the Russian-Syrian alliance, as well as Islamic State (ISIL) forces from mid-June to 30 July 2018. The SNHR gathered and compiled photos and videos from internet sources as well as information directly from local activists in order to analyze the extent and gravity of the attacks. The report asserts that the US’ failure to intervene is an abandonment of its bilateral ceasefire agreement with Russia to maintain stability in the region.
The report calls on the international community to act on its Responsibility to Protect as long as the UN Security Council remains divided and unable to act in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to applying pressure on the UNSC, the SNHR hopes that justice and accountability remain at the forefront of the Syrian response, by holding the Syrian government responsible for its actions, urging for the referral of the Syrian Civil War to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for UN agencies to continue documenting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and open commissions of inquiry and investigations.
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The IOM, 19,000 refugees, and local workers built 1,150 shelters for Rohingya people, as part of a quick response plan to improve the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees living at risk in Bangladesh during monsoon season.
On 25 July, the Indian Government commissioned a project to compile a list of biometric data of Rohingya refugees who fled to India from Burma to deport them “if necessary.” Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior, stated that the report will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so deportation negotiations with Bangladesh and Burma can begin if necessary. India sees many of the Rohingya as immigrating illegally, but the possibility of forced return to unsafe conditions is of concern under the RtoP norm and refugee law.
The Burmese Government announced on 30 July it would establish a four-person commission to investigate human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State as a reaction to the growing international calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Independent Commission is formed by two local and two international members and it is considered part of Burma’s national roadmap to “address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine”
Central African Republic:
The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced 118 incidents against humanitarian workers in CAR in the second quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the first quarter of this year. Aid organizations are being forced to reduce service delivery for already vulnerable people, and the instability continues to place CAR at the top of the list for most dangerous countries for humanitarians.
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) condemned the attacks occurring against civilians and peacekeepers in Pombolo, southeastern CAR, during the month of July. These human rights violations were largely committed by members of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) or local anti-Balaka forces. MINUSCA identified over 250 perpetrators to date, and pledges to continue working to restore security in the area.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
In a UNSC Briefing on 26 July, MONUSCO Head, Leila Zerrougui, told members that the right conditions for a free and fair Presidential election in the DRC did not yet exist. Human rights violations against protesters, opposition, and media continue to curb freedom of speech and assembly rights, in addition to arbitrary detention. In provincial elections, women only comprise 12% of candidates, and the electoral commission has yet to respond to MONUSCO’s offer to provide logistical support for the election.
Jean Pierre Bemba arrived back in the DRC for the first time in 11 years on 1 August in order to submit his candidacy for the December Presidential elections. His candidacy continues to raise questions regarding the security and credibility of the elections.
Gaza / West Bank:
Al Jazeera reported on 29 July that job cuts in the Gaza Strip office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), partly attributed to US aid cuts to Palestinians, is a “massacre for employees.” 113 employees lost their jobs this week, and reports say that 1,000 contracts will not be renewed from December. Protests against the cuts are ongoing, with staff members noting that there is little sense in letting go of the crucial workers helping “tens of thousands of refugees in the Gaza strip.” Fears over the reduction in aid workers persist; unemployment in the Gaza strip is already at 44%.
The Daily Star reported on 30 July that a Norwegian-affiliated activist boat which attempted to breach the 11-year-long blockade on Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy. The ship carried personnel and medical supplies, like many other activist groups attempts to breach the blockade with humanitarian relief for Palestinians.
Only three days after Tareq Baconi of the European Council on Foreign Relations released an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that the only way to prevent the currently looming war in Gaza is for Israel to “loosen the chokehold” on the Gaza strip and prioritize “core political drivers,” Israel has blocked entry of fuel supplies into Gaza. The move is in retaliation for the continuing use of incendiary kites by Hamas causing at least 19 fires on Wednesday, Israel reported. The Gaza Strip’s two million residents will continue to suffer from a lack of power and essential services.
In further post-election political fall-out, authorities charged five more election officials with corruption on 28 July, Reuters reported. Officials running election offices in both Jordan and Turkey were also fired. The May election result is not yet confirmed as ballot recounts are still underway, and protests calling for improved government services and access to electricity, water, and jobs continue across the country.
The UN Refugee agency released new figures showing that since 2014 around 2.14 million Iraqis have been displaced in attempts to flee ISIS-related violence. Many homes have been destroyed and internally displaced persons have nowhere to return to from the camps they currently live in, Al Jazeera reported on 29 July.
On 31 July coalition member, Human Rights Watch, expressed its concern that torture allegations made against security forces in Iraq are not adequately investigated. Concern is mounting as numerous alleged ISIS members are detained and tortured into giving confessions because authorities want to “achieve convictions” to reaffirm the strong message of the group’s defeat in the country. While there is the legal infrastructure within the justice system to investigate such claims, judges and lawyers interviewed by HRW noted that it is scarcely used.
Spanish charity ProActiva Open Arms claims that an Italian towboat rescued and returned over 108 migrants back to Libya on Monday, 30 July. If confirmed by the UN, such a return would be a violation of international law.
The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded that 1,504 people have died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe 2018 to date. This marks the fifth consecutive year where over 1,500 people have died attempting the crossing.
NGO Acción contra el Hambre reported on 26 July a new outbreak of violence amongst the Tuareg community in northern Mali. These clashes threaten to exacerbate the food crisis already present in the country and to increase the number of displaced people.
Over 300 people have been killed so far this year in the Mopti region as a result of the increase in ethnic violence. As a result, many members of the Fulani community have been forced to move to Bamako’s outskirts. Jihadists groups are using the conflict and ethnic tensions to recruit members for their cause.
In a telephone interview on 27 July, the head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Sahel region told said that direct humanitarian assistance provided by international forces makes it riskier for aid organizations to carry out their work, as it makes it more difficult to distinguish armed forces from humanitarians. She also explained how Doctors Without Borders is negotiating with international actors to convince them to contribute to the construction of infrastructures or provide assistance in areas where their NGO does not work instead of implementing direct humanitarian assistance activities.
Several violent incidents occurred during Malian elections, despite President Keita deploying 30,000 security personnel throughout the country. Violence disrupted and even halted voting in some villages, with 105 polling stations closed because of security concerns. Approximately 4,000 others were affected in some way by violence. Results are still unknown, but voter turnout is expected to be low.
On 31 July, the French Ministry of Defense reaffirmed the success of its stabilizing operation “Barkhane,” which neutralized over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Sahel last year.
Eight people were killed and seven injured on 23 July in a suicide attack on a mosque in the Borno region, historically known as the birthplace of the extremist group Boko Haram. However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is the last of a series of attacks to mosques that have been occurring in recent months.
The International Crisis Group reported on 26 July that the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria is more lethal than Boko Haram in 2018 thus far. The pastoral conflict has become Nigeria’s severest security challenge with 1,300 deaths, and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, strengthening ethnic, regional, and religious polarization.
On 29 July, the President Buhari ordered the deployment of aircraft and 1,000 troops to combat banditry in Zamfara State, which has resulted in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds in the region.
On 27 July, UNSG Guterres welcomed Duterte’s new legislation which grants more autonomy to Muslim communities in the Southern Philippines. SG Guterres congratulated negotiators, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their work, and describes the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a “landmark achievement on the road to lasting peace”. The legislation institutionalized terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which the the government and MILF signed in 2014.
11 people died on 31 July when a car bomb exploded in the city of Lamitan. The Philippine government condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “war crime.” The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack.
On 2 September, members of Nepal’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were accused of allegedly raping two teenage girls. UNSG Guterres’ office responded, announcing they would send in investigators as the SG has pledged to take a harder line in responding to misconduct among UN forces against members of the populations they are supposed to be protecting.
A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US is willing to negotiate with Assad’s government in the hope of working towards a “democratic, decentralized Syria.” Faced with a choice between further fighting or negotiations over the fate of the northeastern region of Syria in which they function, the alliance hopes to build a “decentralized” state working “alongside the Syrian government,” Al Jazeera reported on 28 July.
Arab News reported on 30 July that recent attacks on the Sweida province by Daesh fighters left over 200 dead and 36 women and children kidnapped since last Wednesday. At least two of those kidnapped have since died. Syrian military planes conducted airstrikes on Monday in the Sweida area against the group. Daesh holds small areas of territory in the Syrian desert in both Sweida and Daraa.
According to the Guardian, Syrian government forces took control of Daraa province, previously under ISIS control, on 31 July. Members of the White Helmets that were not evacuated last week are still appealing to be rescued, fearing the progressing government military.
On 31 July, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, tweeted: “The crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship in Venezuela will not go unpunished”. Also, he reminded the international community of its commitment to enforce freedom and justice in the country.
On 2 August CNN released rare drone footage taken from the capital city, Sanaa, which exhibits the destruction caused by years of siege and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch alleges that the coalition has conducted 85 illegal airstrikes in the area.
Save the Children estimates that over 6,000 residents of the port city, Hodeidah, flee “every single day” and are in “extreme danger.” Half of those fleeing are children, with their escape involving encountering “minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting.” The UN continues to hold talks between the warring parties – the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition – over the fate of the city, but Save the Children representatives describe the city as a “ghost town” with extensive destruction already clear to see. 22.2 million out of the country’s total 27.4 million (80%) of civilians require humanitarian assistance, representing a 15% increase on last year’s figures.
In an initiative lead by Rwanda, the US, and the Netherlands, 32 countries urged UNSG Antonio Guterres to take administrative actions when UN Peacekeepers violate the Kigali Principles of civilian protection. The signing states also pledged to ensure that the troops they provide peacekeeping missions take more proactive measures in mitigating potential threats to civilian safety.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, announced that the OHCHR would investigate the reports of human rights violations and escalating violence against the Anglophone community in Cameroon. Although violence has occurred on both sides, the Anglophone community alleges economic and political discrimination in government policies and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.
Following the 30 July elections, violence once again fell upon Zimbabwe, in what many hoped to be a peaceful event. The government deployed forces against unarmed and peaceful protesters in its capital, Harare, which turned violent. Prior to the official Presidential Election results, ZANU-PF, the party of former President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the necessary two-thirds vote to amend the country’s constitution in the parliamentary election. Following the instability and violence, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the army’s role and conduct against protesters.