Category Archives: International Criminal Court

#RtoPWeekly 15-19 May

UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect holds panel series to inform preparations for upcoming report on RtoP

On Thursday, 18 May, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) co-organized a panel discussion in Geneva on “Mainstreaming an atrocity prevention lens in international human rights mechanisms.” This is the second of three such events to be held with Member States in preparation of the upcoming 2017 UN Secretary-General’s report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).

Next week, on 24 May, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Ivan Simonovic will chair the final panel in the series, which will be held at UN headquarters in New York. The final panel will focus on “Accountability for the prevention of atrocity crimes and UN mandated peace missions.”

The UN Secretary-General has released a report on RtoP annually since 2009. Each year the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) provides summaries and other educational tools on the annual report. For more information on the UN and RtoP, as well as to view the previous reports and tools, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
Iraq
Libya
Mali

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Central African Republic:
On 14 May, the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported another attack had occurred on its base in the city of Bangassou. According to MINUSCA, the violence was mostly targeted against the Muslim civilians in the region and resulted in the death and injuries of several civilians and soldiers. The UN mission added that the attacks were conducted by a wide coalition, including the anti-Balaka armed group. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for investigations into the incident “in order to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.” Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that it had treated 21 wounded at the hospital in Bangassou within a few hours of the attack.

According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued on 15 May, Ugandan peacekeeping forces deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) have allegedly been responsible for the sexual abuse and exploitation of at least 13 women in CAR since 2015. Last year, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported 14 cases of rape by the Ugandan peacekeeping forces in CAR. Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, declared that “Ugandan and African Union authorities should conduct proper investigations, punish those responsible, and make sure that the women and girls who were sexually abused or exploited get the services they need.” HRW called on MINUSCA to withhold from recruiting Ugandan peacekeepers until the facts have been established and accountability has been provided.


Cote d’Ivoire:

In a statement issued on 16 May, the UN Secretary-General welcomed “the return to calm in Côte d’Ivoire following the unacceptable acts of violence committed by soldiers of the Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire (FACI) over the past few days” and complimented “the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for its efforts to address the unrest and restore security.”


Iraq:

According to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 18 May, the Iraqi army and other security forces in the region have recently forced over three hundred families in the Hammam al-Alil and Hajj Ali camps for displaced people to return to areas in western Mosul that are still under threat of Islamic State (ISIL) violence, while also being deprived of water, food, and electricity. The decision was taken in order to arrange for the arrival of new families into the camps, yet humanitarian workers and the UN have evaluated that the camps still have the capacity to receive new families without the forced removal. Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, asserted that these families “should not be forcibly returned to unsafe areas and areas that lack adequate water, food, electricity, or health facilities.”


Libya:

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has encouraged EU member states to strengthen Libya’s border management, where the EU has been conducting patrols for several months in an effort to prevent migrants and contraband from reaching European coasts. Mogherini stated that a militarized border is an effective barrier to smuggling boats launched into the Mediterranean Sea, and would act as a control mechanism against the movement of migrants. Her statement was a response to a letter issued by Germany and Italy last week, which had requested the presence of an EU mission on the border between Libya and Niger, despite the existing training provided by the EU for rescuing people around its territory. Meanwhile, the condition of Libyan migrants fleeing the country, specifically for people smuggled and trafficked, has continued to raise concerns in the international community. Migrants have been subjected to poor detention conditions, insufficient food, beatings, forced labor, and sexual violence, among others.


Mali:

Last year, the United Nations asked Canada to provide urgently needed equipment and personnel to the UN mission in Mali, but as of yet the country has delayed giving a response, resulting in some UN Member States expressing their impatience. On 12 May, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Justin Trudeau, explained that the Canadian government will take the “appropriate” time required to decide as to whether Canada will send peacekeepers to Mali. Trudeau emphasized the importance of ensuring sure that his country would contribute to the mission with the proper approach, training, and equipment before engaging Canadian citizens in a peacekeeping operation.

On 14 May, four Red Cross employees were kidnapped by unidentified armed individuals in Mali while conducting a survey of the humanitarian situation. The negotiations took place immediately, and therefore the abductors released a Malian humanitarian aid worker the next day. The country has been plagued by rebel and Islamist groups, which have conducted attacks in recent months against the Malian government and its allies. Targeted attacks on humanitarian workers are becoming more frequent, resulting in the threatening, injuring, and kidnapping of humanitarian personnel. Last month, the Red Cross had to suspend operations in northern Kidal following a burglary in its office, while three other Red Cross employees were abducted by the militant Islamist Group, Ansar Dine. In that respect, the UN has stated that it may deploy an intervention force of Senegalese troops to deal with the insecurity in Mali.


On 16 May, the Nigerian Army claimed responsibility for the arrest of Abubaka Haram, a top Boko Haram commander known as ‘Pepper’, who was suspected to be involved in several terrorist activities in Yobe State and the neighboring region. European countries have resolved the crisis in Nigeria, but the humanitarian and migration situation is increasingly unstable.
Given the ongoing military operations, the governor of the state of Borno has decided not to close the camps in the area by the end of May, as was initially expected. He considered it not yet safe to allow people to return to their homes while Boko Haram continues to carry out attacks and bombings in the region.


South Sudan:

According to a UN aid plan that was presented in Geneva on 15 May, humanitarian agencies are seeking $1.4 billion USD in humanitarian assistance for refugees from South Sudan that have fled to neighboring countries. As of now, only 14 percent of the plan has been funded. The humanitarian situation in the country continues to worsen, with “a combination of conflict, drought and famine leading to further displacement.”


On 14 May, a representative of the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) briefed the Sudanese government regarding a 3 May meeting between two Sudanese armed groups that had been seeking a path to stable peace in Darfur. The representative reported that the groups expressed their support for a peace settlement with the government. In light of this information, a delegation of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) held a meeting on 15 May in order to discuss the recent developments with Sudanese government officials, as the 30 June withdrawal date of the mission draws ever closer. During the meeting, the Sudanese representatives updated the AUPSC on the latest security, political, and humanitarian developments, and the delegation reiterated its support for government efforts in achieving peace and stability.

On 17 May, the Sudanese President, Mr. Omar al-Bashir, was invited by Saudi Arabia to the upcoming Arab-Islamic-American Summit, which will discuss issues such as terrorism and trade, among others. The Summit will be attended by the United States President, Mr. Donald Trump, as well as the leaders of several countries named under Mr. Trump’s proposed travel ban. The international community will be monitoring the summit regarding the hopeful arrest of the Sudanese President, since Bashir is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor, has urged the United Nations Security Council to take action and for all ICC states present at the summit to arrest Bashir.


Syria:

On Monday, 15 May, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a second US-led airstrike on the city of Albu Kamal, currently controlled by the Islamic State (ISIL), had resulted in the deaths of 23 civilians. The SOHR reported a similar attack the day before that had also been conducted by the US-led coalition on the ISIL held provinces of Raqqa. In a statement issued on 17 May, the US-led coalition against ISIL denied it had been responsible for the strikes in Albu Kamal.

Also on 15 May, the US State Department claimed that the Syrian government had built a crematorium close to the Saydnaya Military Prison in Syria in an effort to cover up the alleged mass atrocities that have been taking place there. Stuart Jones, acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, asserted that the Syrian regime could be killing up to 50 detainees a day. He stated that the US would “bring evidence forward to the international community” regarding these claims.

On 17 May, the sixth round of the UN-supported negotiations for the crisis in Syria occurred in Geneva, as a part of the efforts for a political solution to the conflict. Among the parties that participated in the talks were the United Nations Special Envoy for the Syria crisis, Staffan de Mistura; the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy; as well as the Syrian government delegation and US representatives. The alleged use of a crematorium by the Syrian regime and the satellite images that supported this charge were among the topics brought by the US to the discussion.


Yemen:

On 17 May, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that about two hundred people have recently died due to the cholera outbreak in Yemen. Mohammed Al-Assadi, UNICEF’s representative in the country, declared that three thousand new potential cholera cases are being documented every day.

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Filed under CARcrisis, Cote d'Ivoire, ICRtoP Members, International Criminal Court, Libya, Nigeria, Peacekeeping, RtoP, Syria, UN, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly 8-12 May

New study finds ISIL killed or kidnapped almost 10,000 Yazidis in 2014

A new study published by the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine this week has shown that the Islamic State (ISIL) killed or kidnapped almost 10,000 Yazidis during the attack on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014. Valeria Cetorelli, a demographer from John Hopkins University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and lead researcher on the study has been conducting investigations on the number of people affected by this onslaught on the Yazidi population for possible use in a potential future trial to hold the perpetrators of such atrocities accountable. According to her research, ISIL killed approximately 3,100 Yazidis during the attack on Mount Sinjar and forcibly enslaved almost 7,000 people, forcing them into sex slavery or to become fighters in 2014 alone. These totals amounted to the death or enslavement of at least 2.5 percent of the minority group population by the time that Cetorelli carried out her initial interviews with Yazidis in camps for displaced persons in 2015.

Children that have escaped ISIL captivity and are now living in such camps for displaced persons have recently given testimonies on their treatment by ISIL militants while they were in captivity. According to their testimonies, ISIL abducted hundreds of young boys and forcibly held and trained them in camps to become fighters and suicide bombers. Human Rights Watch has estimated that 3,500 of them still remain captive in Iraq and Syria. In total, UN investigators have estimated that over 5,000 Yazidis have been killed and approximately 7,000 women have been forced into sex slavery.

The evidence of the atrocities carried out against the Yazidis gathered by legal experts and UN investigators is also intended to serve as documentation for the purpose of a future trial to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. Among the many calls for accountability, Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, has been trying to bring ISIL to trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the crimes carried out against the Yazidis. Clooney and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of the attack who was enslaved by ISIL and escaped, have continuously urged the United Nations Security Council and the entire international community, including the Iraqi government, to cooperate for the purpose of a UN investigation into the ISIL’s atrocities against the Yazidis.

On 15 June 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report entitled, “‘They came to destroy’: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis,” in which the Council reported that the atrocities committed by ISIL against the Yazidi population amounted to genocide and multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes.


Catch up on developments in…


Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Libya

Mali
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burundi:

Former Burkina Faso president, Michel Kafando, has been appointed the new UN envoy for Burundi. In addition, the EU has called for inclusive dialogue under the mediation of the Ugandan President with the former Tanzanian President as a facilitator. The EU has stated that these meetings are essential for the restoration of peace in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

After dozens of attacks on workers delivering aid in the Central African Republic, the UN humanitarian office said on 5 May that four international humanitarian organizations have temporarily suspended activities in northern CAR. The staff from these organizations will move to Bangui, the country’s capital, and may withdraw completely if threats of violence persist. Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for increased support of children in the “forgotten crisis,” adding that displacement has made children particularly vulnerable to “health risks, exploitation and abuse.”

A UN convoy was attacked by the “anti-Balaka” armed group near Yogofongo village on 9 May. Officials said four peacekeepers were killed and at least eight were wounded, while one remains missing. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks against the convoy and called on CAR authorities to investigate them in order to ensure swift justice.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Monday, the UN stated that the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is “dramatically deteriorating” as ethnic violence continues to spread and drive people from their homes. Last week alone, around 100,000 people were uprooted in the Kasai region, increasing the number of displaced to nearly 1.3 million. An estimated average of 4,600 people flee their homes daily in the DRC.


Iraq:

According to a 7 May report by ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities are responsible for the internal displacement of Sunni Turkmen, with the intent to compel them to return to towns controlled by the Popular Mobilization Forces’ Shia units (Hashd al-Sha’abi or PMF). Displaced Turkmen have reported that KRG authorities in Kirkuk have detained and abused them in order to coerce them to leave the region.

Lama Fakih, Deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, declared in the 7 May report that “all Iraqis have the right to live in safety, and forcing displaced Turkmen families out of their homes to parts of the country where they would be in danger is particularly egregious,” adding that “KRG forces should cease harassing Turkmen and unlawfully forcing them to leave Kirkuk.” Human Rights Watch has reported abuses against Sunni Turkmen in other places, including Fallujah and Nineveh.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, reported on 9 May that there are currently approximately 360,000 Iraqi civilians caught in the fight between the Iraqi forces and the Islamic State in the north-west Mosul, adding that “emergency assistance and basic services are being provided by humanitarian partners” to those families arriving in Badoush in northeast Iraq. Mr. Dujarric stressed that there is a high number of casualties in Mosul hospitals as well, with over twelve thousand people being hospitalized since 17 October.


Libya:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda presented her thirteenth report on the situation in Libya on 8 May to the United Nations Security Council. Recalling the climate of impunity and spread of human rights violations, she deplored that ordinary citizens have to suffer.

The Prosecutor briefed the Security Council about the relevant ICC investigations as the arrest warrant against Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, former Head of the Internal Security agency under Muammar Gaddafi, was unsealed on 24 April. Khaled is allegedly responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2011 uprisings in Libya. The arrest warrant was declassified in hopes of facilitating the arrest and surrender of Mr. Al-Tuhamy, and therefore Bensouda urged all states to cooperate with his arrest. She also called upon the Libyan government to take action and surrender Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC. In 2015, a Libyan court in Tripoli sentenced him and seven other former government officials to death. Gaddafi appears to have been released from prison, though his whereabouts remain unclear. Finally, regarding the case against Abdulah al-Senussi, she recalled the lack of compliance to fair trials standards while his case was being appealed before the Libyan Supreme Court.

Bensouda also added that because peace in Libya has been undermined by the serious crimes committed by government authorities, the country has also become a marketplace for trafficking and organized crime. Bensouda declared that the ICC is carefully examining the feasibility of opening an investigation into migrant-related crimes in Libya, and that her Office has the firm commitment to collect information related to serious and widespread crimes allegedly committed against migrants attempting to transit through Libya.


Mali:

The deterioration of the security and human rights situation in Mali has undermined the 2015 peace agreement struck between the Malian government and two coalitions of armed groups, according to an analysis released by the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights (FIDH) on 11 May. Indeed, the recent violent clashes have enabled the expansion of terrorist groups and created a climate of insecurity. FIDH stated in the report that there is an urgent need to strengthen the UN mission in the country and fight against impunity. FIDH and its member organization the Association malienne des droits de l’homme will be at the United Nations headquarters in New York from 7 to 13 May to discuss these issues and present their recommendations.


South Sudan:

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than two million children have been forced to flee their homes in South Sudan as a result of the civil war. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has deployed its peacekeeping troops in the Upper Nile region to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations Security Council has condemned the 3 May attack on UNMISS, calling for immediate adherence to the permanent ceasefire addressed in the August 2015 peace deal.

The South Sudanese Army (SPLA) said that its forces captured the headquarters of the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) on 5 May, allegedly reversing all gains made by the rebels in the past months. In addition, President Kiir has replaced his previous army chief, Paul Malong, with General James Ajongo Mawut, former deputy chief of general staff for administration and finance.


Syria:

During the Astana talks held in Kazakhstan last week, Russia and Iran signed a memorandum with Turkey that called for a “pause in fighting and airstrikes for six months in and around the rebel-held areas, unhindered aid deliveries, and the return of displaced civilians.” Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, referred to the memorandum as an “important, promising, positive step in the right direction.” The six-month agreement bans all attacks in the agreed “de-escalation” zones, apart from attacks targeted against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, and it also allows for humanitarian assistance in the agreed areas.

However, the memorandum was not signed by either the Syrian government or the non-state actors to the conflict, with Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian Foreign Minister, declaring on 8 May that the Syrian government does “not accept a role for the United Nations or international forces to monitor the agreement.” On 10 May, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, announced plans to meet this week with US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in order to discuss the situation in Syria and both countries’ role in the conflict.


Yemen:

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, urged on 7 May for “safe, unconditional, and sustained” humanitarian aid in the country. He also stressed that it is “imperative that humanitarians reach people in need without obstacle, wherever they may be.” There are currently approximately 17 million Yemenis in need.

On Tuesday, 9 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that the cholera outbreak in Yemen is worsening. Shinjiro Murate, head of the MSF mission in Yemen, stressed that the organization is “very concerned that the disease will continue to spread and become out of control,” also calling for “humanitarian assistance [that] needs to be urgently scaled up to limit the spread of the outbreak and anticipate other potential outbreaks.” The WHO reported 2,022 occurrences of cholera in Yemen just within the last fortnight, with at least 34 deaths among them.

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Filed under Burundi, DRC, genocide, International Criminal Court, Justice, Libya, Reconciliation, RtoP, Second Pillar, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly: 10-14 April 2017

The world reacts to chemical attack in Syria as civilians continue to suffer

On 4 April, a chemical gas attack in Khan Shaykhun, a town in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, killed more than 80 civilians. Shortly thereafter, images of victims showing symptoms associated with exposure to nerve gas, namely suffocation, foaming at the mouth, convulsions, constricted pupils, and involuntary defecation, as reported by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), led UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-Soo to comment that, if confirmed, this could constitute the worst chemical attack in Syria since the war began in 2011.

The news sparked strong reactions by throughout the international community, which gathered in the UN Security Council Chamber on 5 April to discuss which steps to take next. At the same time, the Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) officially announced that the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mission (JIM) had started to gather and analyze information from all available sources to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals in the country. At first, all Member States cohesively placed blame for the attack on Syrian government forces, expressing unanimous outrage for what was called “a new low, even for the barbaric Assad regime” by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Following these statements and appalled by the deadly consequences of the latest chemical attack, the international community was quick to react in the emergency session of the UN Security Council on 5 April. As the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned, when the international community proves unable to act collectively, states are compelled to “take their own action”. Shortly after her statement, the United States publicly announced that 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired at Al Shayrat airfield in Syria, from where the planes carrying the alleged chemical weapons are said to have been launched. The unilateral response implemented by the US represents an unprecedented step in its engagement in the Syrian civil war.

Many Member States have hailed the US response as the end of “an era of impunity” for the Syrian government, while others have claimed that Syria is a victim of aggression, describing the recent US attack on the Shayrat military airbase as a “blatant aggression” against a sovereign state.

In this regard, many issues have recently been raised concerning the legality of the US attack, as well as why this reaction has been elicited now in comparison to other previous uses of deadly chemical weapons throughout the conflict. However, what is indisputable is that after over six years, the conflict  in Syria has already claimed the lives of more than 450,000 people, internally displaced over 6.3 million civilians, and forced more than 5 million Syrians to flee their country as refugees. Furthermore, human rights groups continue to report on the use of banned weapons in areas of the country where civilians are still besieged. This is the time to call on all parties to uphold their RtoP populations from horrific atrocities. This includes calling on the UN Security Council to overcome infighting and internal divisions to allow legal and timely responses to the crises and refraining from exercising veto powers in situations of atrocity crimes.


The above is an edited excerpt from a new blog post written by Francesca Cocomero for the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). To read the full blog post, please click here.

Source of above photo: Reuters via BBC News

 Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burma/Myanmar:

During the 9 October army crackdown on the Muslim minority Rohingya population in Burma, government authorities reportedly arrested 13 Rohingya children. UNICEF has claimed that they are still under detention. It is not clear if the juveniles will be released, nor has it has been established whether the conditions of their detention have complied with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional provisions for the protection of children charged with crimes, ratified by Burma.


Burundi:

Human rights activists have voiced their concern regarding footage showing the youth wing of Burundi‘s ruling CNDD-FDD party, the Imbonerakure, calling for the intimidation of the group’s political opponents and threatening to rape all women linked to the opposition.

Two collectives of rights groups allied with the Burundian government argue that the inter-Burundian dialogue facilitated by the East African Community (EAC) iis no longer necessary due to “remarkable social, political, and economic improvements that have already been achieved.” In addition, Liberat Mfumukeko, EAC Secretary General, has dismissed a report discussing Burundi’s worsening human-rights situation presented by the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, Jamal Benomar, to the UN Security Council.


Central African Republic:

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and his visiting Central African Republic counterpart, Faustin-Archange Touadera, agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and reaffirmed the urgent need for armed groups fighting in CAR to lay down their arms and take part in reforms, including disarmament and reintegration.

The US began its first delivery of $8 million worth of nonlethal assistance to CAR, which is expected to include 16 more trucks and communications equipment. It also announced it is withdrawing its troops from a regional task force hunting the Lord’s Resistance Army.

On 12 April the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a statement sanctioning two CAR militia officers “for engaging in actions that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the Central African Republic (CAR)” by blocking their property in the US and prohibiting US citizens “from engaging in transactions with them.”


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo fired teargas and arrested over 80 people in an attempt to repress small protests across the country calling for the implementation of the New Year’s Eve Agreement, which called for a power-sharing deal in the government. DRC’s crisis was further exacerbated after militants attacked symbols of the state and released scores of prisoners from jail, which could worsen the terror afflicting the country.

On Wednesday, 12 April, Said Djinnit, the United Nations envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes region, encouraged the UN Security Council to help strengthen the fight against illegal armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, namely the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The EU has announced it will provide €47 million in assistance to the Greater Lakes, Southern Africa, and Indian Ocean regions. €32 of this will go to the Greater Lakes region specifically as it currently holds more than a million refugees, 430,000 of which are found in the DRC.


Gaza/West Bank:

On 7 April, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) condemned the recent hangings of the three Palestinians in Gaza. The military court explicitly accused them of “collaboration with the occupier,” amounting to a charge of treason. The Office urged “the authorities in Gaza to… comply with Palestine’s obligations under international law.”


Iraq:

An Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, said the Islamic State (ISIL) now controls less than 7 percent of Iraq, a tremendous success compared to 2014, when the group controlled 40 percent of Iraqi territory. However, ISIL’s influence can still be felt, such as in its killing of more than 40 civilians trying to flee Mosul last week, including many women and children.

On 10 April, the United Nation emergency food relief agency, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said that deepening food insecurity in Iraq could leave more than half the country’s population facing “unprecedented levels” of vulnerability. In cooperation with the Iraqi government, WFP prepared a Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, in which it underscored the need to improve access to education, for girls in particular, as important actors in the fight against hunger.

Due to the 5 million euro contribution provided by the European Commission Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has increased its humanitarian response in Iraq. The UNFPA will provide health services to more than 700,000 conflict-affected women and girls and will develop its Rapid Response Mechanism Consortium to give first line relief items to more than 120,000 newly displaced women from Mosul.


Libya:

The director of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated on 11 April that refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean through Libya are being bought and sold in modern-slave markets in the southern city of Sabha. People are held captive for about two to three months on average. Refugees and migrants are especially targeted by armed groups and people-smuggling networks, which typically extort extra money in exchange for allowing them to continue or risk being killed. The situation is especially perilous for women, with many accounts of forced prostitution and rape.


Mali:

Last Thursday, the head of the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations called the security situation in Mali “alarming,” particularly due to the increase in sophistication of extremist attacks being executed by the most active terrorist groups in the country. These groups, including Al Qaeda and now the Islamic State, are forming a makeshift alliance in the area.

“This convergence of threats is particularly worrying in a context where often the presence of the State is weak or sometimes nonexistent,” Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, told the UN Security Council earlier this month.


Nigeria:

On Thursday, 13 April, the day before the third anniversary of the abduction of 276 students from the Chibok Girls School, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that the government is negotiating with Boko Haram to secure the release of the students, as well as other captives of the group.

On 2 April, government security forces pushed tens of thousands of impoverished civilians out of their makeshift town of Otodo Gbame, and burned many of the structures down. The move was highly criticized by human rights groups such Amnesty International, which insisted the use of “brutal force and thugs” constituted a “clear violation of rights.”


South Sudan:

Following attacks on civilians and aid workers in South Sudan, the head UN humanitarian official in the country urged the government and opposition to ensure the safety of civilians and humanitarians. The government of South Sudan has openly condemned  the involvement of peacekeepers from outside the region, arguing it goes against a resolution of the UN Security Council calling for a “regional protection force.” Further, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) claimed that it has been prevented from accessing the town of Pajok, where it hoped to assess the humanitarian situation. The mission urged the South Sudanese government to immediately allow it access “so it can fully implement its mandate, including to protect civilians” from the “indiscriminate” attacks occurring there.

Civil rights groups have raised concerns over ethnic cleansing in South Sudan as militia members explicitly sought out and killed at least 10 people from the Lou and Fertit ethnic groups in the northwestern town of Wau.


Sudan:

In northern Darfur, gunmen have killed and wounded several civilians during a series of raids on small villages in the area. Additionally, there were several reports of government abuses over the past week. On 11 April, soldiers allegedly beat civilians looking for water in North Darfur. In an incident on Sunday, police fired upon a crowd in a west Darfur displacement camp when a protest broke out, resulting in two deaths. Government authorities insisted that the protestors were in possession of grenades, necessitating the force, although the truth of this statement is not known.

The Enough Project has linked funding from the European Union to the brutal treatment of refugees and migrants by the Sudanese regime through Rapid Support Forces. The EU aid is meant to halt the flow of refugees traveling from or through Sudan into Europe, but many believe it enables the government to commit horrible abuses. Thus, the authors of the “Border Control from Hell” report have criticized the EU’s funding as tacit support for an abusive regime. The full report can be found here.

Lawyers representing South Africa’s government appeared before the International Criminal Court on 7 April to defend against a finding of noncompliance for the country’s failure to arrest Sudanese Omar al-Bashir in 2015. The ruling of the judges is expected on a later date.


Syria:

On Monday, 10 April, the G7 group met in Lucca, Italy to discuss a unified approach regarding the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians, allegedly at the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as how to pressure Russia to distance itself from Assad. However, after a two-day session of meetings, the group failed to agree on a proposal by Britain for sanctions against Russia. The Italian Foreign Minister, Angelino Alfano, said the member states did not want to alienate Russia, instead preferring to engage in political dialogue with the country.


Yemen:

Amidst heavy conflict between government and rebel forces on Monday, 10 April, an errant bomb resulted in the deaths of three civilians and the wounding of two others. A security official has insisted that the bomb was actually intended for the convoy of General Ali Muqbel Saleh, commander of the 33rd Armored Brigade.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed to the world community to supply urgently needed funding in hopes of saving the millions faced with imminent famine and starvation in Yemen. According to a spokesperson for the UNHCR in Yemen, the millions of affected people are failing to secure their most basic needs, a situation she calls “catastrophic.” The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has announced that it will increase its emergency food operations in Yemen to ease the crisis, which is “close to a breaking point,” according to WFP’s Country Director in Yemen.

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, has called for the lifting of the blockade on Yemen to allow the necessary access for the humanitarian aid required by over 80 percent of the population. The Special Rapporteur raised particular concern regarding the situation in the port city of Hodeidah, as it is a point of entry for supplies into the country.

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Backgrounder on Referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court

This infographic takes a look at international justice and responding to atrocity crimes by giving you a glance at the referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court. 

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#R2P Weekly: 16 – 20 November 2015

Untitled

14th Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court

weeklyphoto20        The International Criminal Court, often referred to as “the legal arm” of the Responsibility to Protect, is holding its 14th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague. As stated by the Coalition for the ICC’s Amielle del Rosario, RtoP and the ICC can be viewed as part of a ‘justice continuum’, as both require a spectrum of action, from preventive measures to timely and decisive response to addressing the risks of recurrence. Indeed, accountability for the perpetrators of atrocity crimes serves as a vital element of upholding the Responsibility to Protect, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities.

Amnesty International, in a call that was echoed by the Coalition for the ICC, advocated for states to strengthen the ICC, rather than accept proposals by the governments of Kenya and South Africa that could undermine the Court’s independence. Such proposals, according to Amnesty, would “hit at the heart of the ability of the ICC to tackle breaches of international law.” The Coalition for the ICC further called for States Parties to the Rome Statute to express their commitment to gender justice, including by noting that sexual and gender-based crimes result from pre-existing gender inequalities that target those most vulnerable in society on the basis of their gender. FIDH, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and ICRtoP member African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, meanwhile, encouraged States Parties to, inter alia, support a strong Trust Fund for Victims, ensure the effective participation of victims in ICC proceedings, and to create a strong field presence to supply outreach to victims and affected communities.

Find more civil society recommendations to the ASP here. The Coalition for the ICC is providing daily summaries of proceedings at the ASP. You can also follow #ASP14 on Twitter for live updates.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

 

The Burmese Army has increased their attacks in the Shan State, with reports of ground and air offensives from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N). Last week, the Burmese Army reportedlyattacked a high school housing 1,500 internally displaced civilians (IDPs) in Kesi Township.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and the National League for Democracy (NLD) accused  Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, the current Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Vice President, of rigging votes.

The UN Human Rights Council completed the second Universal Periodic Review for Burma on 10 November, which outlines 281 recommendations from foreign governments, rights groups and civil society organizations. President Thein Sein has agreed to less than half of the recommendations from the review, breaking a commitment to political reform made at the beginning of his term. Civil society urged the newly elected Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party to accept the core UPR recommendations that have been rejected.

A joint statement between Amnesty International and FIDH called on “all UN member states to recognize the continued need for a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.”


Burundi:

Various UN independent experts expressed outrage at the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi after the United Nations Security Council adopted a new resolution condemning the violence. A group of seven Special Rapporteurs urged for the text to be followed by “concrete responses fitting the magnitude of the risks at stake.” Despite additional UN pleas for an end to violence, at least four people have been killed in separate shootings and explosions in Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura on Sunday, including targeted attacks on police and the residence of the mayor of Bujumbura.

UNICEF reported that child rights violations have multiplied since the beginning of the violent crisis in Burundi. UNICEF also raised attention to the lack of essential medicine and supplies for children and mothers.

The International Organization of Migration reported that over half of the thousands of displaced people are children, many of whom suffer from malaria and malnutrition. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy of Burundi to shrink by 7.2% this year, consequently reversing a decade of growth experienced by the country.


Central African Republic:

Suspected former Seleka rebels attacked two camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), killing nine individuals, including a UN peacekeeper. Later this week, raids assumed to be orchestrated by the ex-Seleka killed at least 22 people, with multiple people reported missing from the villages of Ndassima and Mala.

After talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo concerning its future involvement in the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations hasdetermined that the DRC troops have not been adequately vetted and therefore do not pass a pre-deployment assessment.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The director of the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office for the DRC, Jose Maria Aranaz, confirmed that government soldiers raped 14 women over a three-day period in September in South Kivu.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli military forces raided Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank before dawn on Monday, killing two Palestinian men and wounding several others. Residents said up to 1,000 soldiers entered the camp to destroy the home of the family of Muhammad Abu Shaheen, a resident who is charged with killing an Israeli civilian in June. The military reported three shootings and attacks from hundreds of Palestinians with fire bombs, improvised explosive devices, and rocks during the raids.
Palestinian attackers killed at least three Israelis in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, according to police forces. In the first attack, a Palestinian man stabbed two Israelis to death at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in Tel Aviv. Later on Thursday, attackers opened fire and rammed a car into pedestrians near the Gush Etzion settlement; one person was killed and five others wounded, according to the Israeli police.


Iraq:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a report on crimes against humanity committed by ISIL against several minority groups in northern Iraq, as well as on the possible genocide of the Yezidi people.

An ISIL suicide bombing killed 21 and wounded at least 46 when a bomber targeted a Shia memorial service in the Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Amala. An ISIL roadside bomb detonated at a Shia shrine in Sadr City killed at least five people and wounded 15.

Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave believed to contain the remains of 70 Iraqi Yazidis in Sinjar after the Kurdish forces retook the town from ISIL. The mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Xelil, said the grave would be left undisturbed so experts could analyze the remains and collect evidence for a case to recognize the atrocities as genocide.


Libya:

A Joint Report of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was released on 16 November,  stating “all parties in Libya appear to be committing violations of international humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes as well as gross violations or abuses of international human rights law.” The International Criminal Court is investigating the claims.

Martin Kobler, who formally took over from Spaniard Bernardino Leon on Tuesday as the U.N. Libya envoy, announced that he will restart the unity government talks and prioritize security-related issues.


Mali:

Military sources announced that its army had arrested Alaye Bocari, a financial supporter of the Islamist radical group Massina Liberation Front (MLF). The MLF has been responsible for many deadly attacks in Mali.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reported that Berlin planned to increase its military presence in Mali; Northern Ireland also expressed its willingness to send more peacekeepers to Mali.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the progress that has been made at the political level for Mali is not reflected within communities where fighting continues and people are forced from their homes. Aid efforts have also been affected by attacks on aid workers and their facilities.


Nigeria:

According to Nigerian top officials and international security experts, Boko Haram has lost much of its ground in northern Nigeria. Nevertheless, on Thursday an explosion believed to be the work of Boko Haram killed more than 30 people and injured about 80 in Yola.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, a key adviser to former President Goodluck in 2011, as well as other former high ranking officials who issued fraudulent arms contracts amounting to $5.4 billion, denying Nigerian forces weapons needed to fight Boko Haram.

The Institute of Economics and Peace released the “Global Terrorism Index” which determined Boko Haram to be responsible for more deaths last year than any other terrorist group. Boko Haram is reported to have killed 6,664 people, while the deaths of 6,073 were attributed to ISIL in 2014.


South Sudan:

The European Union vocalized its support for a continental network of African judiciaries under the African Union to establish a hybrid court. The AU Commission of Inquiry, alongside others, has recommended the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to further investigate rights abuses.

Both the South Sudanese rebels and the government have accused the other of further violating August’s peace deal with increased attacks or raids in Unity State, just ahead of their meeting at a regional peace conference in Juba on Nov. 23.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir stated that his country has struggled to resettle thousands of refugees and IDPs during the last two years of war, emphasizing that low world oil prices have depleted government coffers.


Sri Lanka:

The main Tamil party (TNA) and civil society organizations organized the complete shutdown in Sri Lanka’s North and Eastern provinces of public transportation, schools, offices, and businesses over the government’s failure to uphold its pledge to release all political prisoners by November 7 and repeal the terrorism law.

UN working group experts, Bernard Duhaime, Tae-Ung Baik, and Ariel Dulitzky, said they had “found a secret underground detention center at a Sri Lankan navy base where many post-civil war detainees were believed to have been interrogated and tortured.” However, the Sri Lankan navy denies these allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

OCHA released a statement on Monday that as many as 166,000 people have been forced to flee the country this year, in addition to 286,000 people last year. The head of OCHA’s Sudan office also raised his concerns over the 2.5 million IDPs in the region.

The Sudanese government chief negotiator expressed the readiness of his government to sign a humanitarian agreement with the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) ahead of a new round of dialogue on Thursday.

The UK-based charity Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) released a report by its network of human rights monitors, which verified 71 incidents of human rights abuses throughout four of the five states of Darfur. The Government of Sudan is deemed responsible for 32 of the incidents, with militias such as Janjaweed responsible for 34. Meanwhile, the SPLM-N has reportedly committed two of the abuses, with the remaining four conducted by unknown assailants. The abuses documented include targeted murder of civilians, destruction of villages, rape of women and minors, barrel bombing of civilian targets and situations of torture.


Syria:

Foreign ministers of nearly 20 nations devised an “ambitious yet incomplete plan” on ending the conflict in Syria in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. The plan sets a 1 January deadline to start the negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups. The Syrian government has reportedly already nominated representatives, and UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will begin immediate work to determine who will represent the opposition.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement instructing the United Nations Secretariat to accelerate planning on “modalities” to support the implementation of a political process in Syria and a nationwide ceasefire for further exploration with relevant parties. The statement also expressed the Secretary-General’s hope that this Saturday’s meeting in Vienna will make progress in ensuring humanitarian access throughout Syria, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

France bombed the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa on Sunday night, following the terrorist attacks in Paris. American forces launched attacks on 116 ISIL trucks carrying oil near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. The group has been selling oil as one of its main revenue sources and the US has increased strikes against infrastructure that allows ISIL to pump oil in Syria. Until Monday’s strikes, the US has refrained from striking the fleet of oil tankers out of concerns for causing civilian casualties. Following Monday’s strikes, an American official reported that there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.


Yemen:

A bomb explosion on Friday during midday prayers at a Houthi-frequented mosque in Shibam killed several worshippers and wounded others.

Yemeni and Saudi-led coalition forces attacked Houthi rebels in Taez province on Monday in an attempt to retake the territory.

The UNHCR reported that thousands of Yemenis are fleeing to Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden.

Following the US state department’s announcement on Monday to sell $1.3bn worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International reported that three types of bombs that the US proposes selling have previously been used in unlawful strikes in Yemen, which violated international humanitarian law. The US Congress now has 30 days in which to block the sale.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released evidence of the use of banned antipersonnel landmines by Houthis in Yemen, which have caused multiple new civilian casualties. HRW advocated for the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law by all warring parties in Yemen.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van der Klaauw announced that the ongoing war has caused over 32,000 casualties and 5,700 deaths, including 830 women and children. He also reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations, with an average of 43 violations occurring every day.


What else is new?

Jennifer Trahan, an Associate Clinical Professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, published an op/ed on the proposed “Code of Conduct” for Security Council action in the face of mass atrocities, calling on the United States to join.

During Geneva Peace Week, the Permanent Missions of Australia, Ghana, Hungary, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uruguay, with the support of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Graduate Institute, held an event entitled “10th anniversary of Responsibility to Protect: A Focus on Prevention.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights delivered a statement on the implementation of RtoP, concluding with the notion that no discussion in the world today is more important than “our common responsibility, as human beings, to protect other people” – a strong affirmation of the core values behind RtoP.


Above photo: Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 18 November 2015, ASP 2015

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Darfur ICC Referral Turns 10: Reflections on the Troubled Path to Accountability

March 31st, 2015 marks ten years since the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1593 referring the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. Ten years later, little progress has been made in the pursuit of peace and justice. The Sudanese leadership, including President Omar al-Bashir who was indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, has yet to be brought before the Court. Worryingly, many commentators are warning of a new threat of genocide as the government carries out a brutal “scorched-earth” counter-insurgency campaign against rebel groups.

ICRtoP Blog and Social Media Coordinator Matthew Redding had the privilege of speaking to our partners at the International Justice Project (IJP) to discuss the ICC referral and the challenges and opportunities associated with its implementation. Read on to learn how these impact efforts to ensure accountability for atrocities committed in Darfur, and in turn, to uphold the Responsibility to Protect Darfuris from future violence.

 

To begin with, let’s start with a brief overview of what the IJP believes are the main obstacles that have prevented the International Criminal Court (ICC) from bringing those indicted for atrocity crimes to justice after Resolution 1593 first referred the situation in Darfur to the Court in 2005?

 

Those who believe that a huge step forward was taken with the ratification of the Rome Statute are correct. As of now, 123 nations have committed themselves to supporting a permanent court with its own jurisprudence and an independent existence. However, the ratification of the treaty and its coming into force and effect as of 2002, did not end the struggle for international justice. Among other things, there will perhaps always be a tension between sovereignty and the status of sitting heads of states on the one hand, and the reach of international justice on the other.

1024px-Omar_al-Bashir,_12th_AU_Summit,_090131-N-0506A-342

Omar al-Bashir at the 12th African Union Summit. US Navy Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released.

This is evidenced by the fact that the two most controversial cases at the Court – charges against the president of Kenya and those against the president of Sudan – have been mired in controversy, and at this point must be regarded as unsuccessful proceedings.

In that context, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that there has been significant political, ideological, and diplomatic opposition, couched in jurisprudential terms, to the prosecution of Omar al-Bashir for genocide.

Additionally, whether it is a matter of the will of states or fiscal conservatism, the two referrals from the UN Security Council, including Darfur, have not been accompanied by financial support for their prosecution. Indeed, the Court has had to weather years of “zero budget growth” that produces general inadequacies in staffing and funding for the prosecution, defense function and victim participation. So on the whole, some of the obstacles to preventing the Bashir case are precisely those kinds of rough waters one should have expected the Court to encounter, while others are particular to the Darfur situation and Bashir case. Some member states of the Arab League and the African Union in particular have placed other interests ahead of the challenge of combating genocide.

Any observer who believes the mere existence of the Court and treaty are sufficient in and of themselves to guarantee justice is prizing hope over experience.

 

There are those who suggest that the backlash against the ICC referral, for example, Omar al Bashir’s decision to expel humanitarian organizations for their alleged cooperation with the Court, means that in some instances justice should be deferred for the sake of peace and stability. Others have suggested that Bashir has succeeded in politicizing the investigation in a manner that has only allowed him to tighten his grip on power. What does IJP have to say about these claims, and the overall relationship between justice and conflict resolution?

 

The peace or justice debate relies on a false premise. That premise is that peace and justice are somehow mutually exclusive and that either can be obtained at the expense of the other. It is difficult to conceive, for example, after years of interaction with the Darfurian diaspora and with Sudanese and other sympathizers, that there will ever be peace in Darfur without some true accounting for the genocide that transpired. On the other hand, timing can often be crucial.

It is widely accepted that the timing of the ICC investigation and warrants against Joseph Kony did interfere with a legitimate peace process. This criticism has been frequently articulated by friends of the Court in Uganda. However, few of them would argue that there was never going to be an appropriate time to bring warlords like Kony to account under the statute. Returning to Darfur, the attempt for an Article 16 deferral in 2008 on the grounds of a sincere peace initiative in Sudan was a ruse, and ultimately seen as one by the international community. The countless efforts “at peace” – and the consistent failures – have nothing to do with any attempts at prosecuting Bashir. Indeed, a stronger argument can be made that the failure to bring Bashir to account in The Hague has instead encouraged the ruling clique in Khartoum to believe that mass atrocities are a viable policy option, and has led to enhanced attacks in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and throughout Sudan, and ultimately making it more likely that the two Sudans would divide.

As to the point of “politicization”, it is true that Bashir has been adept at politicizing his circumstance. For some time, he played the “Islamist card”, letting certain Western countries believe that he could be a source of intelligence and a bulwark against violent Jihadis and terrorists. He argued to anti-Western forces that the ICC process is a western colonial project, and he has suggested that it is also an anti-Muslim, anti-Arab institution. At the end of the day, all such allegations can only be addressed in a fair and open trial in which the question of Bashir’s culpability, and that of his lieutenants who have been charged, are tested against well-settled principles of international humanitarian law in a process that for more than half a century has been widely accepted as fair.

In short, we reject any theoretical or practical opposition between justice and peace, and think that rigorous commitment to justice and sincere and common sense efforts at peace must go hand in hand and are not irreconcilable.

 

In December of last year, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda announced that she was “shelving” her investigation due to frustrations over the lack of cooperation shown by the United Nations Security Council. What effect does this decision have on future prospects for justice in Darfur? Why is cooperation between the ICC and the Security Council so important?

 

Let us start by saying IJP continues to have full confidence in Fatou Bensouda. She is an honest, professional, dedicated prosecutor who is being hamstrung by the failure of the international community to fully support her efforts in the Bashir case. That said, we were unhappy with her use of the word “hibernation” in her appearance at the Security Council in December 2014, not because it was an inaccurate term, but because it was twisted by enemies of the Court and comforters of Bashir to mean that the ICC had given up its efforts at prosecution with respect to the Bashir case and Darfur situation.

fatou bensouda ICC

Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. Photo via Journalists for Justice.

We fully understand that she was functioning under the circumstances in which the Security Council had given her virtually no support in the ten years since Resolution 1593 in the form of council, advice, fiscal assistance, or robust cooperation (we should note that other members of the international community, including several members of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, had failed to arrest Bashir when he was on their territories), and that tensions within the P-5, particularly with respect to the Chinese and Russians, meant that even the informal powers of persuasion of the Council had not been robustly employed to assist in bringing Bashir to account. Since Bensouda’s speech, the Court ruled that because this is a Security Council referral, both Sudan and all other member states of the United Nations are obligated to assist in cooperating with respect to the Bashir case. This marks an important milestone, and it will be important to see whether the Security Council and other regional and subregional organizations are willing to take a stand in support of justice.

 

What measures can the Security Council take to help enforce arrest warrants issued by the ICC? If the Security Council continues to waver over Darfur, what alternatives are there?

 

The measures that the Security Council can take are straightforward. It can be more comprehensive in the sanctions that it imposes on all members of the Sudanese government and leadership in terms of travel and holding resources abroad. It can insist that member states arrest Bashir, and could establish a sanctions regime for those who fail to arrest him when he travels. Minimally, it could urge member states to uphold their duties with respect to cooperation with the ICC. In other words, the Security Council could live up to its mandate under the UN Charter and insist that an accused, albeit a sitting head of state, be brought to account before a recognized Court, in connection with which it has statutory responsibilities for the most serious crimes that persons can commit against each other.

 

What does the renewed spectre of atrocities seen in the government’s latest “counter-insurgency” campaign, along with UN reports that up to 400,000 were displaced in 2014 alone, demonstrate about the Court’s ability to prevent future atrocities in a country where an investigation is ongoing?

 

We think it’s self-evident from what we’ve said before that the continued failure of the Security Council, some members of the Assembly of States Parties, and many members of the international community to rigorously assist the Court in pursuing justice in Darfur, strikes at the very heart of the integrity of modern ideas about humanitarian justice. It also strikes at the heart of international obligations in cases of genocide where the duty of the international community to “prevent and to punish” is clear. Some have argued that the great lesson of World War II was a commitment for the world not to be a bystander in the face of genocide. It can fairly be said with respect to Sudan that alongside Bashir, who faces charges of genocide, are the rest of us who face Bashir, who might meet charges of having stood silent and not exercised sovereign and other responsibilities to bring him to account.

 

What “lessons learned” can be drawn from this case, and how can these be applied to improve the effectiveness of international justice as a tool for responding to and preventing the commission of mass atrocities? For example, what can be done in cases where a lack of regional support for an ICC investigation leads to obstruction or non-compliance?

 

Before directly answering this final question, we think it important to address the sub-textual issue of the response of the AU and some African states to the charges against Bashir. Initially, it has been said that some resistance to the Bashir case is the result of African states concerned that currently all “situations” before the Court are in Africa. We think that this is a red herring. The 34 African states that have ratified the Rome Statute constitute the most robust regional response to the Rome project. Furthermore, despite various controversies – ideological, jurisprudential, and diplomatic – not a single African state has sought to withdraw from the treaty. The elevation of Fatou Bensouda to the position of Chief Prosecutor, and the fact that the ASP is currently lead by President Sadiki Kaba, further suggests that Africa is indeed deeply engaged with the Court (if a decade from now, all situations are in Africa, this may be a different kind of picture).

Haboob Chase in Darfur

A Rwandan member of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) stands guard. UN Photo/Albert González Farran.

With respect to regional efforts, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the advent of an African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Far from being a negative development, this reveals movement in the direction of the idea of complementarity that lies at the core of the Preamble and Article 1 of the Rome Statute. While IJP is opposed to the concept of immunity for sitting heads of state, which is part of the statute, on the whole, this African court should be viewed as a positive development, and the self-righteous response to it – even from some supporters of the ICC – is inappropriate.

This is not to ignore the fact that there are some leaders within the African continent who may very well feel personally threatened by the ICC, but this is, as we noted, a very logical and expected response from those who seek impunity. We mention this because one lesson learned can be to continue to be flexible and to take seriously the concept of universality in responding to initiatives from other parts of the world, and in many instances, to expect some opposition from vested interests in the robust application of justice.

Although the IJP was founded by two lawyers, Raymond Brown and Wanda Akin, who represent victims in the Darfur situation and Bashir case, we have been forced to learn new skills and to collaborate in the context of our representation. We are, for example, private citizens untrained in diplomacy, and yet we have had to learn in the last decade how to interact creatively with representatives of states – many of them non-lawyers, and many of them only minimally exposed to the details of the justice project with which we have spent a lifetime. We have collaborated with organizations who function in different environments, but with common objectives, such as the Pan African Lawyers Union, with whom as recently as November 2014, alongside the International Refugee Rights Initiative, we gathered and interacted with African human rights activists to explore challenges facing the Court.

We have also expanded our own work into an area sometimes known as “transitional justice”, which has involved developing a means of chasing Bashir (BashirWatch coalition) and working with universities to develop mechanisms for combating the understandable diasporian-wide depression affecting Darfurian diaspora. We have also become more engaged with our own government – with members of Congress and friends within the Executive branch – to encourage the US to assert more leadership, and perhaps even amend its own laws to permit the US to exercise more effective leadership in favor of justice and in opposition to genocide. We continue to teach at the university and law school levels and make public appearances to speak to a wide variety of groups and organizations on behalf of the Darfurian people. We have expanded the reach of our own Darfurian contacts, including within the Darfur People’s Association of New York, the Darfur Rehabilitation Project, and other advocacy groups, and finally, we have exposed a generation of undergraduate and graduate students, new professionals, and public leaders to these issues on an intimate level.

With ten years having passed since Resolution 1593, and still no accused in the dock, we encourage others to similarly advocate and send letters to their own governments promoting leadership on Darfur. A redacted version of our letter can be found here. Finally, thank you to the ICRtoP for providing this opportunity, and for its longstanding commitment to pursuing justice.

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Children in Armed Conflict: A War Crime We Have the Responsibility to Prevent

The following is a guest blog from ICRtoP member Child Soldiers International. Child Soldiers International works to end the military recruitment of children and their use in hostilities, as well as other human rights abuses resulting from their association with armed forces or groups. They promote the release of children, seek their successful return to civilian life, and call for accountability for those who recruit and use them.

More than 50 parties to armed conflict are listed by the UN Secretary-General for recruiting and using children in armed conflict in a variety of capacities. And this list is not exhaustive. The recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups is not only a disturbingly widespread practice: when perpetrated against children under 15 years of age it is a war crime.

Ensuring accountability for such war crimes, along with crimes against humanity and genocide is an essential part of upholding the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), as well as establishing a basis for sustainable peace and reconciliation. The International Criminal Court (ICC), which came into force in 2002, is the first permanent international judicial body mandated to investigate the commission of atrocity crimes and try alleged perpetrators when judicial mechanisms prove insufficient at the national level. Read on for excellent insight from Child Soldiers International on the importance of accountability and rehabilitation in ending the use and recruitment of child soldiers.

Rebel fighters surrender to FARDC

Child soldiers separated from the Mai Mai militia after surrendering to FARDC in the DRC. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

Accountability as Prevention

At Child Soldiers International, we believe that accountability for child recruitment is a crucial component of any strategy aimed at eradicating the use of child soldiers. States have a duty to investigate alleged violations committed by all parties to an armed conflict and prosecute those alleged to be responsible with a view to providing remedies to victims, and preventing the repetition of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

However, too many perpetrators continue to evade accountability: such impunity not only denies victims justice and reparations, but it also produces an environment conducive to the continuing perpetration of these crimes. Accountability is an essential component of prevention, and prevention is the most important aspect of the Responsibility to Protect.

Yet, time and again, accountability is dismissed as an obstacle to peace and stability. ‘Pragmatic’ considerations are often invoked – including by child protection agencies – to justify amnesties or de facto immunity for authors of child recruitment in order to secure the release of children from the ranks of armed forces and armed groups, for example. However, we believe that peace is neither achievable, nor sustainable without accountability. This has been repeatedly demonstrated in the context of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where impunity and integration into the armed forces of suspected perpetrators have simply fuelled further instability and consequent child recruitment.

While amnesties may be pursued for the sake of peace, stability or demobilisation efforts, it is well established (and it is a long standing UN policy) that they cannot be extended to individuals suspected of crimes under international law considered under RtoP – including war crimes like the use and recruitment of children in hostilities, as well as crimes against humanity and genocide.

Accountability and the ICC

When national authorities fail to take action, the International Criminal Court (ICC) offers potential recourse.In December 2014 we welcomed the conviction of former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo before the ICC. Mr Lubanga was found guilty of the crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into his militia, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), and using them to participate actively in hostilities. In its first judgment, the ICC signalled that these crimes warranted international attention and would not go unpunished.

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Thomas Lubanga on trial at the ICC. Lubanga was ultimately found guilty of the war crime of the use and recruitment of child soldiers. Reuters.

We have observed the deterrent effect of this conviction: in the DRC, where Mr Lubanga’s militia was operating, our partners negotiating the release of children from armed groups report that some commanders who have become aware of Mr Lubanga’s conviction are now fearful of the threat of criminal prosecution and have begun releasing children more systematically.

Similarly, in April 2012 we hailed the conviction of former Liberian President, Charles Ghankay Taylor, before the Special Court for Sierra Leone as a clear message from the international community that those who “aid and abet” armed groups that recruit and use children can and will be brought to justice. Mr Taylor was found guilty of a range of crimes under international law, including recruiting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. In 2007, the Court had already convicted Alex Tamba Brima, Ibrahim Bazzy Kamara and Santigie Borbor Kanu for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the recruitment and use of children.

There is huge potential for the ICC to send similar strong messages that these war crimes will no longer be tolerated. It is encouraging to see that it is currently dealing with several other cases of alleged crimes relating to child soldiers, including that of former militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, also from the DRC.

A Former Child Soldier at The Hague

Another ICC case that relates to the issue of child soldiers is that of Dominic Ongwen. A former commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Ongwen was abducted as a child in his native Uganda, spent two decades in the LRA and was brought before the ICC last month. He is the only former child soldier appearing before the Court so far. The charges he faces do not relate to any role he had in the recruitment or use of children; they cover numerous attacks on civilians in 2004 and 2005. However, some are asking whether, as a former child soldier, Mr Ongwen should receive more leniency than other war crime suspects.

Dominic Ongwen’s precise age is unclear. Some reports say that he was abducted while walking to school as a 10-year-old. He himself reported being abducted at 14. In any event, no one is denying that Mr Ongwen, as a child, was the victim of a crime which tore him apart from his family environment and shaped the rest of his life.

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Victor Ongwen makes his first appearance at the ICC accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. AFP.

It is alleged that he subsequently rose through the ranks of the LRA and became a senior commander involved in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In 2005 the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Vincent Otti, Joseph Kony, Dominic Ongwen and two other senior LRA members. In January, some 10 years later, one of those arrest warrants was realised when Mr Ongwen was transferred to the ICC.

His being a former child soldier raises the question about how such defendants can be justly treated in either national or international courts. This has caused some debate, particularly in Uganda where some community leaders and lawyers argue that former child soldiers are not wholly responsible for their actions.

The offences Mr Ongwen is charged with were committed during his adulthood. Using his own stated age, the offences under consideration allegedly took place when he was approximately 29 years old. Indeed the ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by someone who was under the age of 18 at the time (Rome Statute, Article 26). Mr Ongwen’s past experience as a child soldier may be relevant for his legal defence; however, without prejudice to other factual and legal issues, his being a victim of a similar crime is not a defence in itself. His status as a former child soldier may be more relevant at the sentencing stage, should he be found guilty. Once the Court establishes the correct sentence to impose on an offender, it must then consider whether it should be reduced to take into account the offender’s personal mitigating circumstances.

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Demobilized child soldiers in the DRC. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti.

It cannot be underestimated how significant these might be in Mr Ongwen’s case. Being abducted as a 10-year-old and experiencing the peripatetic and terrifying life of the LRA’s campaigns cannot but have had a lasting effect on any child. Many children associated with armed forces and armed groups will have endured severe beatings and sexual violence, and will have witnessed killings. Some will have victimised others. Extremely traumatic experiences within these groups are associated with marked emotional distress, behavioural difficulties and traumatic stress symptoms. Children’s ways of coping will be affected by whether they were able to demobilise, and by their post-conflict experiences. Those likely to fare better in the longer term are those who on return to their communities can receive family, peer and community understanding, support, acceptance and forgiveness. However, Mr Ongwen never went back: he grew into adulthood without being exposed to non-violent familial and community socialisation and developmental experiences.

Understanding and empathy towards victims of armed conflict must also be extended to those who emerge from such war-ravaged childhoods to commit crimes, even on a scale such as this. We believe that Mr Ongwen should not avoid justice because of his childhood experiences. However, it would be a potential injustice not to take into account his traumatic experiences when determining an appropriate sentence, should he be found guilty.

Case Studies for the Responsibility to Protect

Several lessons for RtoP can be gleaned from the cases above. First, accountability is the primary responsibility of national authorities, but failing this, can be achieved with the assistance of the international community, or through an ICC investigation. Accountability for crimes under international law such as the recruitment and use of child soldiers is essential for ending the cycle of violence and impunity that can lead to the re-commission of such crimes, as evidenced by the deterrent effect seen in the DRC.

In addition, as demonstrated by the Ongwen case, the RtoP extends to other post-conflict initiatives aimed at preventing future outbreaks of violence that can lead to the commission of atrocities. When dealing with child soldiers, it is critical for States to implement demobilization programmes that also include proper support that will aid the return to psychological well-being in emotionally distressed child soldiers. This, and associated work with their families and communities to facilitate their acceptance and forgiveness on return, is more likely to ensure peace in the longer term.

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Filed under DRC, First Pillar, International Criminal Court, Justice, Prevention, Reconciliation, Uganda

All eyes on upcoming elections as Kenya works to prevent the recurrence of atrocities

The people of Kenya are just days away from casting their ballots on 4 March in the country’s first election since the 2007 presidential race which resulted in unprecedented ethnic violence, leaving over 1000 people dead and 600,000 more displaced.  A country with over 70 distinct ethnic groups – the five largest being Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, and Kamba – Kenya’s past elections have largely witnessed voting along ethnic lines. This year, eight candidates are running, among them Uhuru Kenyatta and his running-mate, William Ruto, both of whom have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged role in the commission of crimes against humanity following the 2007 elections. While the Kenyan government has undertaken a range of measures to prevent a repeat of 2007’s deadly crisis, including the adoption of a new constitution to redistribute political power, the training of police and civil society to identify and monitor  hate speech, and educating the Kenyan population on the newly established electoral process , civil society organizations have raised alarm to the sizeable risk of violence that remains.  As several NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have reported,  Kenya has already experienced election-related inter-communal attacks that left over 400 dead and upwards of 118,000 displaced during 2012 and early 2013.  This election, which is expected to be extremely close and require a second round, known as a “run off” (scheduled for 11 April), will prove a great test for the Kenyan government as it works to uphold its responsibility to protect its population from the recurrence of mass atrocities, as well as ensure a free, fair and transparent presidential race.

Kenya’s 2007 disputed election: a political and humanitarian crisis

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre, head table), flanked by Kofi Annan (left, head table), former United Nations Secretary-General, and Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, participate in a meeting to end the two-week old deadly violence sparked by recent disputed results of the presidential elections, with the major parties to the conflict.
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The presidential election of December 2007 swept Kenya into a wave of ethnically charged violence following the contested announcement of incumbent Mwai Kibaki as president over the predicted favorite to win, Raila Odinga. The declaration of Kibaki as president, followed by the swiftness of his inauguration a handful of hours later, triggered widespread and systematic violence characterized by ethnically targeted killings, which evidence later showed to be largely pre-meditated by politicians and community leaders. Crimes committed included crimes against humanity – one of the four crimes and violations that all governments, including Kenya, committed to preventing and halting when endorsing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). The international community acted rapidly to keep the volatile situation from deteriorating by deploying former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to serve as international mediator and head of the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities.  The outcome of the Panel’s efforts was a power-sharing government that committed to address the long term issues and root causes of the conflict.

Pre-election preparation and reform: enough to prevent a repeat of 2007?

A range of preventive actions have been taken by the government, UN agencies, and civil society to prevent a repeat of the tragic violence that plagued Kenya five years ago.  Civil society and media representatives convened a forum organized by the Nairobi Peace Initiative – Africa and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, in Nairobi in early February 2013 to share their work to ensure peaceful elections, and discuss the concerns surrounding the poll with the goal of generating a collective voice and strategy for civil society and media.  At the national level, Kenyan authorities have trained hundreds of police and peace organization representatives in monitoring media and speech to bring attention to hateful language that can incite violence.  With the support of translators the monitors can identify hate speech in a range of dialects and, through partnerships with phone service providers, track phone messages too.

Monitoring will be crucial to determine the election results so organizations like the Carter Center, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, and the Elections Observation Group, as well as the East African Community and the African Union, have dispatched teams to oversee the upcoming poll.

UN officials and agencies have been vocal and active as well, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling on all leaders to “abide by legal mechanisms and to send a clear message to supporters that violence of any kind would be unacceptable.”  The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, was in Nairobi in early February where he recalled the responsibility of the Kenyan authorities to protect and noted the need to ensure a swift response by the international community to prevent a repeat of 2007.  His office was there to work with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to support Kenya’s National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide, which included holding a five-day workshop on RtoP and the prevention of inter-communal violence. To ensure that all preparations are underway in the event of displacement, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, created a humanitarian contingency, with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons calling on the government and international community to do everything possible to prevent massive displacement.

The government itself has adopted numerous reforms to create the environment needed for peaceful and fair elections and to address the country’s deep seeded grievances.  While these actions should be commended, remaining challenges and incomplete reforms have left many NGOs questioning if the government’s response will be enough.

Constitutional reform

Following a 2010 referendum, Kenya adopted a new constitution to prevent ethnically charged politics and check the power of the executive.  This has been done by giving greater power and resources to local political leaders through the creation of what International Crisis Group (ICG) calls a “new level of governance”– the establishment of 47 districts each with their own governor, senator and assembly. The government has also adopted measures to ensure full geographic (and therefore ethnic) support for the president-elect by creating new voting rules that require the winning candidate to receive more than half of all votes and at least 25% in 24 of the newly established counties.  While these new rules will serve to spread power and responsibility to a range of politicians, the majority of Kenyans have not received the information needed to understand the new Constitution and voting rules, as the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC) found in its report entitled Countdown to the March 2013 General Elections.  Through conducting polls and interviews throughout the country, KHRC’s research indicated that increased and continuous civic education is crucial “to secure an informed public for future elections.”

The devolution of presidential power is also meant to keep the nation from erupting into large scale violence; however the new counties and positions could very well create the likelihood for localized conflict.  This is in part due to the increased influence that local politicians will hold, which may lead “many local leaders seek to preserve the system of ethnic patronage that devolution was intended to remove.  As a result, the mobilization of ethnic grievances to garner political support remains rampant,” as the Global Centre for R2P (GCR2P) points out. These findings were echoed in ICG’s report entitled Kenya’s 2013 Elections, where the organization elaborates on how the constitutional changes can lead to risk of violence, stating that “although the new level of governance should give communities, including minorities, a greater say (…), it could also transfer political competition, violence and corruption down and create new minorities and new patterns of marginalization.”

Strengthening the security sector

Efforts were also undertaken to address the failures of the police to protect in the aftermath of the last elections. During the violent crisis, the government responded with excessive force, with Amnesty International (AI) recalling the role of police in “killing and injuring protestors and raping and sexually assaulting women and girls, particularly in opposition areas.”  The government subsequently established an ambitious framework which, as the International Center for Policy and Conflict in Africa noted, was meant to “establish and elaborate an effective system of democratic regulation and oversight of security services;” however, as AI points out, the framework has not been implemented to the fullest, and the capacity of security personnel remains an inherent problem, placing civilians at risk of violence yet again.

Little has been done practically to bring to justice those responsible for violent crimes committed following the previous election, and AI has stated that steps have actually been taken to cover up and politically manipulate cases against security personnel.  As a result, while conducting on the ground research, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has heard from countless Kenyans that “they view the police as ineffective and corrupt.” As the elections approach, police also remain understaffed and ill-equipped, with the Council on Foreign Relations reporting that the Kenyan force has about 70,000 police, “or roughly 160 per 100,000 residents, which is less than three-quarters of the 220 per 100,000 recommended by the United Nations.”  These forces will be stretched to their limits when tasked with patrolling the polling stations, which could exceed 40,000 nationwide.

Ending impunity

Upholding accountability for crimes committed during the 2007 election remains a critical challenge for Kenya, and one that has already had an impact on the elections.  HRW also pointed out that little has been done nationwide to arrest and prosecute civilians responsible for attacks on people and property, leaving those responsible for 2007 election-related violence free to repeat their actions.

At the government level, impunity has been stated to be at the heart of the 2007 crisis, with the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence calling for the creation of a domestic special tribunal.  After two failed government attempts to establish the tribunal, Kofi Annan sent to the ICC the names of a dozen suspects deemed most responsible, leading to the opening of an investigation by the Court’s then-Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.  From this investigation, six of the suspects, referred to in the media as the “Ocampo six”, were summoned to appear before the Court, ultimately resulting in the confirmation of charges for four of the “Ocampo Six”, including candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto.  The ICC indictments have influenced the presidential campaigns with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reporting that some are describing the polls as “a referendum against or for the ICC”.  The indictments have also resulted in an unexpected political alliance with the formation of the Kenyatta-Ruto ticket, as the two men are Kikuyu and Kalenjin respectively, two ethnic groups which violently targeted the other in 2007. Civil society organizations, including the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya (ICJ-Kenya), the Kenyan Human Rights Commission (KHRC), and the International Center for Policy and Conflict, fought to keep Kenyatta and Ruto from running, arguing that their candidacy violated the integrity clause of the new Constitution.  The Kenyan High Court, however, disagreed, ruling that it would not intervene, ultimately giving the two men the green light to participate.  This ruling has led many to wonder about the practicality of a Kenyatta/Ruto presidency, with ICJ-Kenya noting in their report entitled If Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto is Elected President or Deputy President, that such a presidency would cripple the government because the country would be left with leaders who are unable to carry out their vast domestic duties due to repeated trips to the Hague.  As of 27 February, the trial dates remained up in the air as the Chief Prosecutor for the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, indicated that she would accept a postponement of the trials to August.  Kenyatta and Ruto had been slated to begin their trials on 10 and 11 April respectively, with 11 April being election run-off date.

What do these risks mean for the elections and the people of Kenya?

As FIDH notes, the pre-election environment has been “marked by political parties and alliances’ mobilization of the population along ethnic lines, the re-activation or creation of illegal gangs and militia groups (…), cases of civilians arming themselves as a preventive measures, the use of hate speech or inflammatory coded language by politicians, vernacular radio stations as well as through social media: in other words, all the ingredients that led to the 2007/2008 violence.”  But 2013 does not need to be a repeat of the cycle of violence that has plagued the country.  As put by ICG, “the people deserve better.  (…) they deserve the change to vote without fear and elect leaders committed to reform and ready to serve society as a whole rather than the narrow interests of elites.”

While the Kenyan government should be commended for the steps taken, more can certainly be done at the domestic and international levels to ensure free and fair elections and uphold the state’s responsibility to protect from mass atrocity crimes.  This can include publicly committing to respect election rules and, as KHRC’s research found, providing civic education about the electoral process.  As HRW recommends, the government can take direct measures through the deployment of police “in adequate numbers to areas of potential conflict and ensure that they perform their duties impartially and with full respect of the law”.  This point was echoed by the GCR2P, who also noted that state authorities should “warn all Kenyans (…) that they will be held responsible for inciting, aiding or perpetrating mass atrocity crimes.”  For actors at the regional and international levels, ICG has called on leaders to send messages urging against “political interference with the elections and especially against the use of or incitement to violence”.  These are just some of the many steps the government of Kenya and the international community can take to prevent the spread of post-election violence.  These preventive efforts drive at the very heart of RtoP, which not only calls for states to halt mass atrocities, but to protect from genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing happening again.  The people of Kenya deserve the opportunity to elect a new president without the fear of mass atrocities; the time for preventive action is now.

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Filed under African Union, International Criminal Court, Kenya, Post-Conflict, Prevention, RtoP

Kony 2012 and the Responsibility to Protect

On 5 March, Invisible Children (IC) released their viral sensation, “Kony 2012“, which called for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the commander-in-chief of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilian populations in Uganda.

IC’s Kony 2012 sought to raise awareness about the past atrocities of the LRA and their continued crimes against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. It was also a call for action, with a particular emphasis on increasing pressure on policymakers in the United States government, which deployed 100 soldiers in October 2011 to assist Uganda, the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan in their military efforts against the LRA.

Spreading like wildfire on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, the video also attracted much criticism. IC was charged with oversimplifying the LRA conflict and omitting the voices of northern Ugandans by Mark Kersten and Patrick Wegner, two bloggers at Justice in Conflict with experience working in LRA-affected areas in Uganda. Mahmoud Mamdani, a professor at Makere University in Kampala, Uganda, deplored IC’s focus on a military solution to the LRA. Alex De Waal, director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, targeted the video for “peddling dangerous and patronizing falsehoods that it is up to the United States to help solve the problem of the LRA.

In response, IC issued a Q&A rebuttal to these critiques on their website, and have since released a second video, entitled “Kony 2012: Part II: Beyond Famous”, which the organization states, “offers a closer look at the LRA and explores the solutions put forward by leaders of the currently-affected areas of CAR, DRC, and South Sudan, where local communities continue to live under the constant threat of LRA violence.”

The idea behind Kony 2012 is not new,” the narrator of the video states as the video opens. “In 2005, world leaders unanimously agreed at the United Nations to uphold the Responsibility to Protect. This states that every single person on the planet has inherent rights that should be defended against the worst crimes against humanity, first by our own countries, and then by the global community, no matter where we live.”

Flashing pictures of Syria and Sudan, and transitioning to the focus on the atrocities committed by the LRA in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan, the film states, “Although most of the world has agreed to this in theory, in far too many cases, we have failed to live up to our promise…This is why we made this film.”

RtoP, Kony 2012, and Beyond

IC has situated the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) at the heart of their film, and premised their recommendations – continued and/or increased military participation by the United States in LRA-affected regions to assist the regional forces of Uganda, the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan, and sustained political support for the initiatives of these countries and regional organizations, like the African Union (AU), to remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield by either arresting him or killing him – on the norm as well.

This post will thus expand on the discussion of RtoP, and examine this new, international norm in the context of the LRA conflict and its application in response to threatened and actual atrocities against civilians in the region.

RtoP’s scope is narrow, but deep, meaning that it applies only to the threat or occurrence of four specific crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleanings – but provides for a wide range of measures that extend beyond military intervention, including preventive diplomacy, economic sanctions, monitoring missions, and the involvement of regional and international justice mechanisms. The primary responsibility to protect populations from these crimes lies first at the national level, but regional and international actors also have a responsibility to provide assistance and capacity-building to individual governments in upholding this responsibility. In the event of a failure by a state to uphold its protection obligations, these actors have a responsibility to use political, economic, humanitarian, and if necessary, military tools available within the RtoP framework  to prevent and respond to threats of mass atrocities.

The LRA Conflict and RtoP

Kony and the senior commanders of the LRA stand accused of committing widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, mutilation, intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations, pillaging, and the abduction and forced enlistment of children. As unanimously endorsed by UN Member States in  2005, paragraphs 138-139 of the World Summit Outcome Document articulate that war crimes and crimes against humanity are two of the four crimes under the RtoP framework.

As Coalition Steering Committee member Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents in their Q&A on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the impact of the operations of the LRA in northern Uganda, where their insurgency began in 1987, was disastrous for civilians, and has induced long-term implications:

“The human toll has been most severe in northern Uganda. Between 1987 and 2006, at least 20,000 Ugandan children were abducted. More than 1.9 million people were displaced from their homes into camps and tens of thousands of Ugandan civilians died…Addressing the aftermath of the war and displacement, however, remains a massive challenge.”

But since being pushed out of Uganda by the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in 2006, the LRA has moved into the neighbouring countries of the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan. According to HRW, the LRA “remains an immediate menace” to those populations:

“Since September 2008 the LRA has killed more than 2,600 civilians and abducted more than 4,000 other people, many of them children. More than 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes; very few have any access to humanitarian assistance.”

A particular episode in late 2008 and early 2009, the December to January “Christmas Massacres”, highlights the terror and criminality of the LRA. After refusing to sign on to the Juba peace process in 2008, in response to the December 2008 “Operation Lightning Thunder” – a joint offensive by Uganda, the DRC and South Sudan, and supported by the United States – the LRA retaliated with vicious attacks in northern DRC between 24 December 2008 and 13 January 2009. The group also allegedly carried out a massacre of 321 people in the same region of DRC a year later in December of 2009, and abducted 250 others.

Joseph Kony, leader of Lord's Resistance Army, and target of IC's Kony 2012 advocacy campaign. (Photo: Stuart Price/Associated Press)

The LRA is thus allegedly responsible for the widespread commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in at least two countries, Uganda and the DRC. And while their numbers have supposedly dwindled in light of increased regional military pressure, civilians remain at risk. As a 28 July 2011 report from Coalition Steering Committee member Oxfam International, We are entirely exploitable’: The lack of protection for civilians in Eastern DRC’, states, the majority of people polled in an LRA-affected region felt less safe in 2011 than in 2010.

The report details that in the communities surveyed in Eastern DRC, the LRA was described as the main perpetrator of killings, torture, and abductions as well as of looting, destruction of crops and rape.

In light of the litany of past abuses by the LRA, and the continued threat of mass atrocities posed by the organization in its current areas of operation, the Responsibility to Protect remains an important framework through which national, regional, and international actors can focus their efforts of protecting populations.

However, as critics of Kony 2012 have noted, while the atrocities committed by the LRA are egregious, the group is just one part of the conflict that has spanned over 25 years and across four countries in Central Africa.

In a recent op-ed published in the Washington Times entitled The Other Half of the Kony Equation, Maria Burnett and Elizabeth Evenson, both HRW employees, also highlight the problematic record of the Uganda government’s involvement during the fight against the LRA. Noting that the LRA emerged in large part due to the marginalizing policies of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni towards the people of northern Uganda, Burnett and Evenson state, “On a lesser scale than those of the LRA, crimes by government forces nevertheless included deliberate killings, routine beatings, rapes, and prolonged arbitrary detention of civilians.”

They assert that there has been no justice for victims of these abuses by the UPDF, with the government stating that those responsible have been investigated and prosecuted, but not publicly releasing any information on the trials. And nearly seven years after releasing the indictments for the top LRA leadership, Burnett and Evenson also state that the ICC has not examined abuses by the UPDF or the Museveni government, which has, “eased pressure on Ugandan authorities to hold their forces to account.”

This remains a crucial issue for Adam Branch, a senior research fellow at the Makere Institute of Social Research in Uganda and professor at San Diego State University, in his op-ed for Al-Jazeera, Kony Part II: Accountability, not awareness. Reflecting on IC’s focus on the efforts of Ugandan and regional forces, Branch states:

“[…] The new strategy ignores the Ugandan military’s abysmal human rights record in neighbouring countries, of great concern if Uganda is to take the lead role in the campaign…Kony Part II aligns itself closely with the ICC’s Moreno-Ocampo, who has shown himself nothing if not unaccountable to the victims to whom he claims to bring justice. Moreno-Ocampo has been perfectly willing to offer impunity to the Ugandan government in order to secure the government’s co-operation in the ICC investigation of the LRA, ignoring the demands from Ugandan human rights activists that the ICC indict both sides, instead of taking sides.”

These concerns over the alleged abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government strike at the core of RtoP: All states made a commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in their endorsement of the norm at the 1005 World Summit. As such, in the context of the LRA conflict, the individual governments bear the primary responsibility for the prevention of these most egregious crimes. Regional and international actors, in recalling their responsibility to protect, must also be available to assist these nations in ensuring the safety of civilian populations.

Responding to the LRA Conflict

Kony 2012 Part II details IC’s four-point “Comprehensive Approach” to stopping Kony and the LRA in 2012, which highlights IC’s civilian protection initiatives in the region, including establishing radio stations that can broadcast and warn civilians against potential attacks, efforts to ensure the peaceful surrender of LRA soldiers, the importance of engaging in post-conflicting reconstruction and rehabilitation in LRA-affected areas, and finally, the arrest of top LRA leadership.

The video states, “Unless Kony and his top commanders surrender, or are arrested, their atrocities will not stop.” This stems from their assertion that negotiations between governments opposed to the LRA have failed to bring about an end to violence, and that the group has consistently used peace negotiations as a means to resupply and rebuild, often through carrying out mass abductions.

Joseph Kony (centre, in white) surrounded by leadership officials of the LRA, including the now-deceased Vincent Otti. (Photo: Reuters)

As such, Kony 2012 Part II calls for the international community to strengthen the ongoing military efforts of the African Union (AU) and regional governments (Uganda, the DRC, South Sudan, and the CAR), which IC states is, “the best way to apprehend top LRA leadership.”

Since 2008, these governments have coordinated militarily against the LRA, conducting joint operations in an attempt to apprehend or kill Joseph Kony and cease atrocities against civilians. Aside from the concerns raised over alleged abuses of human rights committed by the UPDF and other national armies in the region, these troops also suffer from a lack of necessary equipment, including heavy-lift and transport helicopters, and effective training, which has hampered their individual and coordinated military responses to the LRA. Such gaps in capabilities have thus made it difficult for these countries to effectively uphold their primary responsibility to protect civilians from LRA attacks.

Recognizing this, international actors have moved to bolster these efforts. The United States, dispatched 100 military advisers to the region in October 2011 to provide “information, advice, and assistance” to the national armies of Uganda, the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan. And in March 2012, the African Union announced that it would move to form a 5,000-troop strong brigade, drawing from troops from Uganda, the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan, to synergize their efforts in seeking to stop Kony through coordinated military action.

But Wegner at Justice in Conflict notes that despite these actions, and the potential for greater coordination by regional governments, the African Union, and the United States, the use of force has yet to be successful in the fight against the LRA:

“Military operations have so far failed to stop the LRA….Rather, they provoked retaliations and civilian casualties. During the UPDF led offensives to stop the LRA in northern Uganda and southern Sudan (now South Sudan), the LRA managed to outmanoeuvre the UPDF and spread the conflict consecutively to previously peaceful parts of the north and eventually even to eastern Uganda where civilians bore the brunt of the fury of the LRA.”

The United Nations also has various peacekeeping missions present in the region, including a UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has the authorization by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to use force to protect civilians, and is deployed in LRA-affected areas in the DRC.  But HRW notes that:

“The UN’s various initiatives regarding the LRA have lacked coordination and impact. While the UN missions have attempted to respond to LRA threats to civilians, it has rarely been a top priority for any of the missions and resources are often directed elsewhere.”

Civil society organizations, particularly those working on the ground in LRA-affected areas, have an all-too important role to play in the effort to protect civilians. Groups that monitor the movements of the LRA and provide early warning of attacks may ensure better civilian protection on the ground, and can alert the actors involved of the risk of imminent atrocities.  Civil society is also integral to the ongoing assessment of coordinated efforts against the LRA, and raising awareness regarding the progress of civilian protection in the region. Their work with victims and affected communities is also crucial to facilitating rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction, which are necessary to build a sustainable peace in LRA-affected areas.

As the international community works to protect populations from these massive human rights violations, it is crucial to reiterate the narrow, but deep scope of the RtoP. All states agreed to the responsibility to protect their populations from the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, the norm provides for a broad range of political, economic, humanitarian, and if necessary, military measures that actors at all levels, including civil society, individual states, regional and sub-regional organizations, and the United Nations can implement to assist individual governments in upholding their responsibility to protect. If civilians remain at risk in spite of such measures being employed, actors at all levels must assess the tools available to them under the RtoP framework to ensure atrocities are prevented and effective civilian protection is provided.

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Filed under African Union, CivSoc, DRC, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, Joseph Kony, Kony 2012, Lord's Resistance Army, Post-Conflict, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Third Pillar, Uganda, UN

al-Senussi Arrest: Conflicting Extradition Requests, Concerns About Libya’s Justice System

 Abdullah al-Senussi, a former Libyan Colonel and Chief of Military Intelligence under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, and wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was arrested in Mauritania on 18 March by Mauritanian and French officials.

Abdullah al-Senussi was arrested by in Mauritania on 18 March 2012. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on two counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the Libyan government's crackdown against protesters last February. (Photo: Paul Hackett/Reuters)

The arrest has led to conflicting calls for al-Senussi’s extradition from the ICC, France, and Libya. The Court has called for Mauritania’s cooperation, based on UN Security Council Resolution 1970 (in which the situation in Libya was referred to the ICC), in surrendering al-Senussi to the Hague for investigation into his role in the commission of crimes against humanity in the country last year,.

press statement from the Office of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, indicated that the government was pressing for al-Senussi’s extradition to France to serve the life sentence that was handed down to him in abstentia for his role in the bombing of flight UTA 772, which claimed the lives of 170 people on 18 September 1989.

Meanwhile, Libya’s provisionally-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has urged Mauritania to extradite al-Senussi to face justice in Libya, and dispatched its Deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, and a delegation of senior officials on 20 March to press for a decision. Libyan officials have expressed that their Courts are ready to hold a trial for al-Senussi.

According to an Al Jazeera report on 21 March, Shagour acknowledged that he had reached an agreement with Mauritanian officials that would see al-Senussi transferred to Libya, despite continued pressure from Paris. Mauritania has not yet confirmed this decision.

These developments come as as civil society expresses the urgent need to transfer al-Senussi to the ICC, rather than to face justice in Libya. ICRtoP member organization Human Rights Watch, and others including Amnesty International, members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called for such action without delay.

Regarding Mauritania’s responsibilities, the CICC reminded on 19 March that Security Council Resolution 1970 encouraged states to cooperate with the Court’s investigation into Libya, including the arrest and surrender of suspects:

“Although Mauritania is not a State party to the Rome Statute – ICC’s founding treaty – United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1970 – which referred the situation in Libya to the ICC – while recognizing that “States not party to the Rome Statute had no obligation under the Statute”, urged “all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor.”

The CICC’s release goes on to state:

“While the Libyan authorities retain pri­mary jurisdiction over crimes committed in their territory, they are legally bound to facilitate the transfer of the suspects to the ICC, unless Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC) decides that the case is no longer admissible before the Court because the Libyan authorities are investigating or prosecuting the same individuals for the same crimes at national level.”

But, as Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor, Donatella Rovera, stated in a press release on 19 March 2012, concerns remain over Libya’s ability to ensure a fair trial for al-Senussi:

“The news of al-Senussi’s arrest is an important moment for the victims of his alleged crimes in Libya. But Libya’s court system does not function and its justice system remains weak and unable to conduct effective investigations into alleged crimes against humanity, none of which are crimes under Libyan law. The ICC remains the best-placed mechanism for accountability in Libya.”

This has been echoed by Human Rights Watch and FIDH, who have also raised concerns over Libya’s troubled transition into the post-Gaddafi era, which includes the fact that thousands remain in detention under the control of militias, with widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Both organizations have thus impressed upon the need for al-Senussi to be sent to the ICC instead of being tried in Libya.

Protesters demonstrate against the ongoing militia violence and pervasive lawlessness in Tripoli, Libya. (UN Photo/Iason Foounten)

However, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), an Italian non-governmental organization that runs a transitional justice program in Libya, has called specifically for al-Senussi to be tried in Libya. In a 17 March press release, the organization stated:

We take this opportunity to recall the wishes of the victims, and of the people of Libya, that both Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Mr Senussi be tried in Libya, to face justice in the same place in which they allegedly waged their brutal attacks. According to the principle of complementarity, the ICC has jurisdiction only if the Libyan authorities are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute the crimes of which they have been accused. Libya is certainly willing, as they have proved by requesting Mauritania to transfer Mr Senussi to face charges before the Libyan courts.”

NPWJ followed this call by encouraging the international community to provide assistance to Libya as it seeks to be able to try both Abdullah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who, also wanted by the ICC, was arrested by militias from Zintan on 19 November 2011, and remains in custody in Libya. If, however, Libyan authorities were found unable to try al-Senussi, NPWJ said it would join other civil society organizations in calling for Mauritania to transfer the former Gaddafi-era official to the ICC.

The debate over where to extradite al-Senussi has thus reinforced the necessity of a holistic approach to international assistance in Libya’s post-conflict transition.

As Libya’s new authorities push for al-Senussi to be tried in their courts, concerns over the state of the judiciary and reported conditions in detention centers are a striking reminder of the potential risks of al-Senussi’s extradition to the country. Overall, the present situation raises serious questions about the ability of the post-Gaddafi system to deliver a fair trial that bestows justice to the victims of government-perpetrated crimes during the revolt.

At the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference of the ICC, the Court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) adopted a resolution which premised that states willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities in investigating and prosecuting individuals accused of Rome Statute crimes should be provided with the necessary tools needed to do so. If Mauritania does proceed with al-Senussi’s extradition to Libya, international assistance by the Court, members of the ASP, and civil society will be crucial to ensuring that the trial meets international standards.

The state of the judicial system and its capacity to hold fair, domestic trials reflect the broader challenge confronted by the new Libya as it struggles to consolidate security, build the rule of law, and promote respect for human rights – all integral in upholding its primary responsibility to protect its populations. Consistent with the second pillar of the RtoP, the international community must be prepared to provide assistance and capacity-building to the new Libyan authorities as the transition continues.

Click here for our post on the relationship between RtoP and the ICC.

Click here for our look at the anniversary of the Libyan protests and the challenges faced by the NTC in the post-Gaddafi transition.

Click here for our feature on the Responsibility to Protect in the aftermath of Libya, with voices from our civil society member organizations.

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Filed under CivSoc, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, Libya, National Transitional Council, Post-Conflict, RtoP, Security Council, UN