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

By Francesca Cocomero

Syria

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.

However, the 4 April attack is not the first time in which chemical attacks committed in the country have been accredited to the Syrian government as a blatant act of aggression against its own population. In August 2013, the government was has also been blamed for two chemical attacks launched on the opposition-controlled Damascus suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta. At least 1,400 people died, including many women and children. Victims of the attacks reported marked symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve gas.

Syria 1

The establishment of the JIM on 7 August 2015 has been an essential investigative and accountability tool for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The JIM’s third report, released on 24 August 2016, has asserted that the Syrian regime is responsible for the chemical attacks carried out in the villages of Talmenes and Sarmin in the Idlib Governorate, in April 2014 and March 2015 respectively. Similarly, the report also found the Islamic State (ISIL) responsible for a chemical attack carried out in the city of Marea, 50 miles from Aleppo, which reportedly included the use of mustard gas.

In light of this well-documented evidence, 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. In the words of the British Prime Minister Theresa May, the Assad regime’s “destructive folly” has met an appropriate response. Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande stated that “President Assad alone bears responsibility for this development,” adding that that US President  Donald Trump had responded to a war crime. President Trump received support also from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who firmly stated that the use of chemical weapons will never be tolerated, and from the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who “highly appreciated” the Trump administration’s commitment to maintaining global order at a time in which the threat posed by weapons of such destruction is “growing more serious in East Asia”.

On the other hand, the Russian representatives have claimed that interest in the attack has been entwined with the “anti-Damascus campaign” some members of the Security Council have been harboring and ultimately rejected the draft resolution presented by the United Kingdom, United States and France, which condemned the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. In the same vein, Syrian government representatives have argued that Syria is a victim of aggression perpetrated by both Security Council Member States and the terrorist groups operating under their instructions, 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. Indeed, the latest US response is the very first such attack in the country on the internationally-recognized government by a foreign military since the beginning of the conflict. As the International Peace Institute’s (IPI) Ameya Naik has pointed out, in Syria the UN is confronted with an uncooperative head of state, who is strongly supported by veto-wielding members of the Security Council, namely Russia and China. In more than six years, the UN has struggled to negotiate a stable and long-lasting political solution aimed at protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance to besieged areas and, now, even to ensure accountability for the atrocities caused by the use of chemical weapons. According to Naik, while the veto may explain why no robust action has been taken in Syria, it does not provide exhaustive explanation on why so many states continue to accord the Assad regime a “presumption of legitimacy”, notwithstanding its extensively documented history of repression.

The answer to this question probably lies in that, being the UN an organization of sovereign states, there is a general and understandable hesitation to ensure any dilution in their right to independence from outside interference. Based on this assumption, Naik further affirms that “the only remaining basis on which international action in Syria could even be contemplated is if sovereignty was deemed to be compromised by non-compliance with international norms”, as in the case of a chemical attack. Attempts to suggest such a link have been made by the internationally-recognized norm of the “Responsibility to Protect” (RtoP), which calls on the international community to intervene, including by means of military force, among other peaceful tools, in order to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes.

Paul Williams, Co-Founder of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), has suggested that the RtoP norm could serve as a legal basis to justify the US attack on the Syrian airbase. Although it must be noted that the United Nations Charter does not contain any provision authorizing the unilateral use of force of one state against another, unless this use of force has been conducted in accordance to the right of self-defense, or specifically authorized by a Security Council resolution, Williams emphasizes that the failure of the Security Council to officially grant this authorization “does not obliterate the principle of the Responsibility to Protect”. According to Williams, given the nature of the Syrian crisis, the already verified extent of Syrian President Assad’s atrocity crimes, and the fact that the parties have failed to negotiate a political solution to the conflict since 2012, the international community should be allowed to use military force to prevent the Assad regime from continuing to carry out such henous crimes against the Syrian population.

Additionally, in light of the current legal constraints enshrined in the UN Charter, it has also been questioned whether the US strike could be likely to change international law in the long term. While codification of a new norm can take decades, the widespread international consensus about the US’ unilateral intervention and the general agreement against the use of chemical weapons could allow a new principle to be accepted into practice becoming part of customary law, according to Jan Lemnitzer, Assistant Professor at the Center for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. However, Lemnitzer also points out that the development of a norm justifying a country’s wishes to unilaterally punish another for its use of weapons of mass destruction could have adverse effects on the credibility and authority of the UN Security Council.

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.

Source for above photos: Reuters via BBC News

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ICRtoP marks Genocide Awareness Month, continuing infographic series with updates on crisis situations from around the world

By Josh Morency

April is Genocide Awareness Month, a time for reflection and memorial and when the often repeated phrase of “never again” must be seriously assessed and recommitted to. Through the last century, April has continued to be a month of tragedy and atrocity, with many of the worst genocides having begun, occurred, or marked significant moments during this period. For example, on 24 April 1915, the Ottoman Empire began the process of the Armenian Genocide through mass arrests of notable Armenian intellectuals and community leaders on Red Sunday. To this day, 24 April is commemorated as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. It was also in April, decades later, that the Nazi regime began its systemic campaign of discrimination and oppression of European Jews in the form of business boycotts and exclusionary civil service laws. The date of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, also most often falls within April in the Gregorian calendar. Finally, on 17 April, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime seized control of Cambodia and began its systemic and brutal campaign of genocide that killed millions between 1975 and 1979. It is these tragedies, and others, that we remember, their millions of victims we commemorate, and the pledge of “never again” that we reflect upon during Genocide Awareness Month.

Unfortunately, it is upon reflection that we remember the countless times “never again” has failed to be anything more than a pleasant turn of phrase, devoid of any meaningful action or obligation. Most powerfully, we recall that in the final decade of the 20th century the world saw further genocides that occurred without significant action or timely response by the international community. In both Rwanda and Srebrenica, the warning signs and risk indicators were present in the countries well before the massacres began, as were UN peacekeeping missions. Yet in both these tragedies, failure to pay attention to the indicators of risk and a lack of political will on the part of the international community resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

Prior to the outbreak of the genocide in April 1994, Rwanda was in a period of temporary and exceptionally fragile stability brought about by the signing of the Arusha Accords in August 1993, which were meant to bring an end to the country’s civil war. However, animosity between the belligerents, the primarily Hutu central government and the primarily Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), raged just below the surface. The UN Security Council saw fit to deploy the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993 to support the implementation of the Accords. Despite its presence, UNAMIR was constrained by a tight and unyielding mandate, as well as by a lack of support from UN member states and the offices of the UN in New York, and it was either incapable or disallowed from acting to prevent the violence within its UN-mandated capabilities. Even when an informant from the Hutu Interahamwe militia provided the UN force commander, Maj-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, with actionable intelligence that the government and military were providing the Interahamwe group with training and arms, as well as the location of the arms stockpiles in Kigali, the UN Secretary-General and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations prevented UNAMIR from taking action. When President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in the air over Kigali by unknown actors on 6 April 1994, killing him and the Burundian President, the perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide were already mobilized and their campaign of violence was instantaneous. By the end of the next day, hundreds of Tutsis, moderate Hutus, members of the political opposition, and ten Belgian peacekeepers escorting the Prime Minister were all killed by rampaging genocidaires. Over the next several days, tens of thousands of Rwandans were murdered while the UN and foreign states focused their own forces toward evacuating foreign nationals. UNAMIR command struggled to do what it could to protect civilian lives with its limited resources, such as numerous requests for additional troops and a clear mandate to end the bloodshed, but these calls remained unfulfilled. Instead, Belgium withdrew its contingent a week into the violence, and several days later the total force of UNIMAR was reduced to 270. In little over a month, half a million had been killed in a wave of genocidal violence that would continue until the RPF’s military victory in July.

A year later in 1995, a similar scenario occurred with the genocide in Srebrenica, during which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males aged 12 to 77 were slaughtered by the Serbian forces under Ratko Mladic in less than a week. Again, like the situation in Rwanda, international actors remained inactive in the face of overwhelming evidence and warning signs of an impending massacre. When the Bosnian civil war began in 1992, Bosnian Serb forces quickly and brutally launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the east. The Bosnian Muslims that survived this first wave flooded into Srebrenica and two other towns. The advance of the Bosnian Serb army of paramilitaries on Srebrenica in 1993 prompted the commander of the UN forces in Bosnia to formally place Srebrenica, and the now tens of thousands of civilians being sheltered in the town, under the protection of the UN force. On 16 April of that year, Srebrenica was declared the first of six safe-zones in Bosnia. Yet despite these initial assurances, the enthusiasm of Member States to meaningfully commit to protecting Bosnian Muslims proved lukewarm at best. The number of troops requested to protect the safe areas was reduced from 34,000 to 7,600 as the Member States balked at the heavy commitment under the initial proposal. As a result of this decision, only a small and lightly armed UN force, the approximately 400 soldiers of the DUTCHBAT battalion, was present to protect Srebrenica when the forces of Ratko Mladic bore down on the small town in June 1995, which at that point was providing shelter to over 40,000 men, women and children. Despite significant warnings of the impending massacre, such as a public statement by Mladic and other leaders of the Bosnian Serbs declaring their intention to destroy the Bosnian Muslim population, as well as promises made by Mladic’s political counterpart, Radovan Karadzic, to the Bosnian Serb assembly a year prior that there would be “blood up to the knees” if his army marched on Srebrenica, the international community’s response was either far too late, wholly inadequate, or both.

Mladic’s forces began shelling the town on 6 July. The bombardment lasted for two days while requests from DUTCHBAT for air support were denied. On 9 June, the Bosnian Serb forces began to move towards the town, taking 30 Dutch soldiers hostage and prompting DUTCHBAT forces to retreat. By the morning of 12 July, Srebrenica had been surrendered to the Serb paramilitary forces. Over the next 30 hours, buses arrived to deport 23,000 women and children while the Serb forces separated out all males between the ages of 12 and 77. About 15,000 men escaped into the mountains during this period but were subsequently shelled by Mladic’s forces. The next day, the massacre of the captured men and boys began at sites around Srebrenica, and Dutch forces exchanged 5,000 refugees sheltering at their base for 14 of their soldiers held hostage by the Bosnian Serbs. By 16 June, over 7,000 men and boys had been murdered, and more would be hunted down and killed in the surrounding countryside during in the following weeks.

If any positivity can be found in the inability of the international community to prevent these mass murders, it is that such failure inspired the commissioning of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2000 and its subsequent report, The Responsibility to Protect, in 2001. The Responsibility to Protect is just as important and relevant to the world today as it was during those crises. Today, there are numerous concerning situations around the world from an atrocity prevention perspective and that urgently require action. In Burma, the current crisis faced by the Rohingya population in Rakhine State is marked by numerous risk indicators of genocide and crimes against humanity. Political and cultural conflict has locked both Sudan and South Sudan in a state of continued civil war, producing environments highly conducive for the development of atrocity crimes. Globally, the rise of large-scale radical extremism has mired many countries in similar states of unrest, conflict, and war crimes.

Many of these country-specific situations, including those previously mentioned, are monitored by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) due to their nature as potential atrocity crime scenarios and consequently their relevance to the responsibility to protect. As part of its monitoring effort, ICRtoP has produced updated crises summaries for each of the 15 country-specific situations in infographic format. In observance of Genocide Awareness Month, ICRtoP will be releasing several of these new summaries, beginning with South Sudan on 7 April, alongside ICRtoP’s regular weekly news update, the R2PWeekly. By drawing attention to and spreading knowledge of these crises before they devolve into occurrences of atrocity crimes, and by enabling civil society to effectively advocate for RtoP normalization and adherence, ICRtoP hopes to ensure that political actors will never again fail to protect populations from genocide or other atrocity crimes due to a lack of political will.

Recalling the first address of Secretary-General Guterres to the Security Council in January 2017 in which he called upon Member States to “commit to a surge in diplomacy for peace,” it is important that during this Genocide Awareness Month we remember that “prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority” (emphasis added). As Secretary-General Guterres rightly indicated in his address, the international community, the UN and, most importantly, states must work to prevent conflicts and crises. When recalling the failures of prevention, intervention, and protection in Rwanda and Srebrenica, we are reminded of the importance of the Secretary-General’s call on the Security Council to be more active in its duty to assure world peace and to make better use of the options under Chapter VI and other resources at its disposal. ICRtoP is glad that the new Secretary-General is committed to prevention and recognizes its own importance in preventing atrocities. Moreover, ICRtoP hopes that when Member States, civil society, and other actors consider the Secretary-General’s statement that “if we live up to our responsibilities, we will save lives, reduce suffering, and give hope to millions,” they are reminded of the responsibility of all states to protect all populations from all forms of atrocity crimes. Let us hope that in observance of this Genocide Awareness Month and in memory of the millions of victims of genocide in the past century, all states will accept their responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes, and that the vow of never again may finally be realized.

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#RtoP Weekly: 20 – 24 March

Rtop weekly
ICRtoP makes joint statement at 61st session of the
Commission on the Status of Women
 
On 16 March 2017, Ms. Sharon Bhagwan Rolls delivered a joint statement on behalf of the ICRtoP and our partners, the World Federalist Movement (WFM), femLINKpacific, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), at the general discussion of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which was held at the United Nations in New York.
To read the full statement, please click here.

Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burma/Myanmar:

During a statement to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council on 13 March, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, emphasized the degree to which the continuous state of killings and serious human rights violations taking place in Burma are impacting civilians there. She particularly noted the escalation of conflict in the Kachin and Shan states, where several thousands of people have been forced to flee, and where Ms. Lee herself had been barred from visiting by the government. Additionally, she described others’ personal accounts of human rights abuses on the Rohingya population, allegedly at the hands of government forces. Ms. Lee stressed the necessity for new, “prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial” investigations into the serious human rights violations occurring in the country.


Burundi:

The chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights violations in Burundi, Dr. Fatsah Ouguergouz, says the commission is alarmed about the increasing level of human rights abuses in Burundi that have been brought to their attention. Such abuses include violations of the right to life and physical integrity, forced disappearances, and torture, with thousands of abuses being reported from all areas of the country. Human rights experts in Burundi are worried about the judicial immunity that the perpetrators of these crimes seem to be enjoying. Furthermore, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that at least 27,000 Burundians fled the country between 1 January and 9 March 2017. The total number of refugees who have fled Burundi since April 2015, mainly to neighboring countries, stands at 391,700.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations humanitarian office has stated that only 5% of the nearly $400 million request for humanitarian aid for the Central African Republic has been funded this year, leaving half of the CAR’s population in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Many civilians are only given half of their food rations. Violence has continued in the CAR since 2013, despite the successful democratic elections held in the country last year. Many remote areas remain outside of government control, and thus the sectarian-based conflict continues. The UN has asserted that international political support and increased resources to the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) are essential to the sustainable resolution of the conflict.


DPRK:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) organized two panel discussions on 9 and 10 March in Geneva alongside the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. These discussions focused primarily on promoting accountability for human rights violations within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and included a group of human rights experts, UN officials, and three escapees from North Korea, among others. Human Rights Watch and the experts suggested that the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Seoul, which documents abuses in the neighboring DPRK, should be given greater authority when strategizing on how to prosecute DPRK leaders responsible for serious human rights violations. Part of the increased autonomy would be the inclusion of international criminal justice experts at the Seoul office. John Fisher, the Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, reiterated the importance of bringing to justice to the North Korean leaders responsible for the alleged crimes.

On 13 March, the DPRK rejected a UN review of its human rights record, as hostilities between North and South Korea have increased and further closed off opportunities for dialogue. During the UN Human Rights Council session on abuses in DPRK, human rights experts called for action against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

According to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 15 March, two UN officials have disappeared in Kasai-Central, one of the most conflict-prone regions of the DRC. The two UN officials were investigating allegations of soldiers murdering dozens of unarmed civilians in the region, including children, when they were kidnapped. Calls to investigate the army came after videos surfaced recently in which it appeared Congolese soldiers were walking down a rural road and shooting passing civilians. Meanwhile, on 18 March, seven Congolese Army officers were arrested and charged with war crimes in association with the highly controversial video.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expressed grave concern over reports of high numbers of deaths, including of women and children, in Kananga between 14 and 17 March. MONUSCO is concerned by the Kamwina Nsapu militiamen’s attacks against DRC state institutions and symbols, but also the disproportionate use of force by the security and defense forces and the targeting of civilians.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on 21 March, the number of refugees fleeing from the DRC is increasing, with the latest refugee count at 460,923. A report from the UN Secretary-General says violence in previously stable areas, such as Tanganyika and the Kasai and Lomami provinces, has also increased. The UN is calling on the DRC to implement the political agreement signed in December 2016, which has continued to stall.
Amnesty International released a report this week in which they urge the DRC to: promptly investigate human rights violations conducted by security forces during protests; lift all unlawful bans on protests and demonstrations; engage in a reform of the National Intelligence Service and establish an oversight mechanism; step up efforts – in collaboration with UN forces – to protect civilians in the area of armed conflict; and address inter-ethnic conflicts.

On 22 March, former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to a year in jail and fined 300,000 Euros for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial in an unprecedented case before the International Criminal Court.


Gaza/West Bank:

During his report last week at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Michael Lynk, underscored the continuous human rights violations that take place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The human rights abuses, among other violations of international law, include the “excessive use of force, collective punishment, forced displacement, and restrictions on the freedom of movement.” Mr. Lynk also drew attention to Israeli human rights organizations focused on alleviating human rights abuses stemming from the occupation, and that these activists “are enduring an increasingly hostile public atmosphere in Israel and from the settlement movement, stoked by the Israeli political leadership and the media, as well as obstructive legislation enacted or being considered.” The Special Rapporteur made specific recommendations for action to the Government of Israel for the resolution of the human rights violations, including ending the Gaza blockade and allowing the free movement of people in the area.


Iraq:

As the Mosul battle continues, Major-General Maan al-Saadi of Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said Iraqi security forces have succeeded in seizing control of about 17 of 40 western districts of Iraq’s second largest city from the Islamic State (ISIL). However, Iraqi forces faced strong resistance from snipers and mortar rounds as they advanced to conquer Mosul’s Old City and Iron Bridge, a strategic passage through the River Tigris, on Monday. During the operation, the Iraqi federal police stated government forces had killed ISIL’s military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary.

On Saturday, Iraqi forces asserted they had captured the al-Kur and al-Tawafa neighborhoods, which has allowed for the creation of a corridor for civilians to safely leave the city.
As aid agencies are bracing for the possibility that about 320,000 civilians may flee the western part of Mosul in coming weeks, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the crisis is pushing “all of us to our limits.” Iraqis fleeing Mosul are already struggling to find shelter in poorly-equipped and overcrowded refugee camps, and have begun to head to the east side of the city where most of their relatives are settled.

Similarly, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, said that the worst is yet to come, as about 400,000 Iraqi civilians are still trapped in the ISIL-held Old City of Western Mosul and are running short on food and other basic provisions as the battle continues. Geddo also reported that the number of civilians streaming out of the city is increasing at an average of 8,000 to 12,000 people per day.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that a mass grave in Khafsa, a village near Mosul, could include the bodies of up to 25,000 civilians executed by ISIL since spring 2014, according to witnesses.


Libya:

Forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to regain control of the country’s eastern oil terminals, which had been seized earlier this month by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a rival group. Around nine people were killed during the attack, as Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) retreated from the oil ports.

Meanwhile, as tensions continued to escalate across the country, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), called on all parties to put Libya’s future ahead of their “own narrow interests”, refraining from violence and extremism. He also urged for democratic bodies and ideals to be respected, condemning serious human rights and humanitarian law violations committed during the fighting.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch accused the Libyan National Army (LNA) of having committed war crimes, including killing civilians and desecrating the bodies of fighters of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), a group opposing the LNA. Civilians have been fleeing the Ganfouda neighborhood in Benghazi since the attacks began, heading al-Sabri and Souq Elhout neighborhoods in downtown Benghazi.


Mali:

On 19 March, the head of the UN mission in Mali reported that the situation in the country remains precarious, particularly in the north, as UN and other forces on the side of the peace process are continually attacked by non-signatory terror groups. Over 70 security forces members of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have died in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region. The concern over the uncertain security situation in the north was also noted by the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Mr. Baldo reported that the continued state of insecurity in the north has contributed to: children’s lack of access to an education; dangers to civilians due to uncontrolled armed actors and military actions that “strayed from international standards”; mass displacement; and further radicalization of youth. Mr. Baldo noted that progress in transitional justice had been made with the opening of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, but that the justice system was still unable to truly tackle the problem of impunity.


Nigeria:

An amnesty and reintegration program for former militants in Nigeria is currently facing major shortfalls in funding, which is affecting the ability of the program to uphold the promises made to ex-combatants.

On 18 March, one of the Chibok schoolgirls appealed to the international community to take action to rescue the 195 remaining captives of Boko Haram since their abduction nearly two years ago.

Thousands fled a Nigerian fishing community on 19 March after police reportedly enforced evictions in violation of a court order issued in January. The surprise action, which culminated in the destruction of the homes of roughly 47,000 people, reportedly included the use of tear gas and live ammunition by the police to disperse the crowds that had gathered to block the path of the bulldozers.

An organization of Nigerians, who were reportedly upset with Amnesty International’s efforts to reach justice for human rights violations conducted by the military and security forces, besieged and occupied Amnesty’s office on 21 March in a protest calling for the rights monitor to cease operations in the country. Local rights groups and attorneys have come to the organization’s defence, with some condemning the protest and others calling for the government to deploy security teams to dislodge the illegal occupiers and protect Amnesty International’s office.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees has expressed concern over Cameroon’s continued forced return of Nigerian asylum seekers, despite the recent tripartite agreement between the UNHCR, Cameroon, and Nigeria that includes a provision mandating voluntary return. The forced return of asylum seekers is refoulement and therefore a major violation of the international refugee law agreements that Cameroon has ratified.

Multiple blasts occurred on 22 March in a migrant camp for internally displaced persons in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, which has been at the center of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency. The explosions killed between three and four people and wounded up to 20.


South Sudan:

On 16 March, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), a new South Sudanese rebel group, urged for South Sudan’s peace process to be restarted.

The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) urged the international community to unite and put pressure on the rival South Sudanese leaders to exert the political will for the parties to cease hostilities and build peace. According to the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, during an address delivered in Juba, South Sudan, additional Regional Protection Forces (RPF) will be deployed in the next few weeks. The Security Council approved the deployment of 4,000 troops last year after violence again erupted in Juba, including mass occurrences of rape and assaults on civilians, but the force has been delayed due to resistance from domestic political actors. Mr. Ladsous said during his Tuesday speech in Juba that the UN would “spare no effort to speed up the [deployment] process.” Mr. Ladsous also urged all parties to work towards a nonviolent resolution to the conflict, emphasizing that the political option is the only possibility for lasting and stable peace.

On 19 March, the UNHRC named the crisis in South Sudan the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, as 1.6 million people have been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries in the past eight months. The ongoing famine in South Sudan is “man-made” and a result of conflict between armed groups, with more deaths being caused by violence than starvation alone.

Dozens of South Sudan army (SPLA) soldiers abandoned their positions on 20 March and joined the armed opposition Brigadier Gen. Meanwhile, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, President of Caritas South Sudan and Bishop of Yei, has warned the country is in a state of collapse with millions of people facing mass starvation.


Sudan:

The UN African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) supported the launch of the Community Peace Initiative in West Darfur, which is designed to foster local dispute settlement and build better relations between tribal groups. UNAMID Sector West, Acting Head of Office, Ms. Takako Ugaya, commended the move, saying it showed the government’s commitment towards ensuring lasting peace in West Darfur.


Syria:

On Thursday, alleged U.S. jets struck a mosque full of worshippers near Damascus, killing at least 42 civilians and wounding dozens. The U.S. confirmed it carried out an airstrike but denied killing civilians, claiming the attack was intended to target an al-Qaeda meeting. The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Colonel John Thomas, said that the building they targeted was 15 meters from a mosque that is still standing. Moreover, Eric Pahon, the Pentagon spokesman, underlining that it was the building where al-Qaeda fighters had been educated and indoctrinated, said the Pentagon will investigate any credible allegation it receives in relation to civilian fatalities.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army’s High Command said on Friday that Israeli jets attacked a military target near Palmira, eventually breaching Syrian air space and aiding the Islamic State (ISIL). The attack prompted Syrian forces to retaliate with ground-to-air missiles, in one of the most serious incidents between the two countries since the civil war broke out in March 2011. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the airstrikes were intended for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group which is fighting alongside the Syrian government.

The fighting in Damascus continues, as the rebels launched their second attack in three days. The offensive began on Wednesday at 0300 GMT, and targeted a government-held area in northeastern Damascus. The spokesman of the rebel group Failaq al-Rahman, Wael Alwan, said that rebel forces finally restored all the points they withdrew from on Monday, and have started to storm the Abassiyin garages.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that an alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in the ISIL-held city of Raqqa, killing more than 30 civilians. The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) said at least 50 families found shelter in that building.

Furthermore, as negotiations resume in the Swiss city of Geneva, civil society groups claim their voices are “not being heard” and push for greater representation in the ongoing Syrian peace talks. They have already participated in the Civil Society Support Rooms (CSSR) in Geneva, a mechanism set up by the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and aimed at implementing civil society demands. Whilst civil society activists are constantly sidelined and targeted on the ground in Syria, they tirelessly provide relief aid and medical assistance to civilians, as well as press for justice and democracy in the country.


Yemen:

A civilian boat carrying refugees from Yemen to Sudan was attacked  by an Apache helicopter late last Thursday. Thus far, 42 dead have been confirmed. Rebels have accused a Saudi-led coalition of being responsible, whereas the Saudi coalition has previously suggested the rebels use small boats to smuggle arms. For its part, the Saudi-led coalition has claimed it was not operating in the area at the time.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, formally condemned the attack on Monday and called on all parties to the conflict to conduct inquiries and ensure accountability for the attack.

After the attack, the Saudi-led coalition requested the UN assume supervision of the port city of Hodeidah, which is roughly 48 kilometres from the location of the boat when it was attacked. Hodeidah has been the center of fierce fighting between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government with Saudi-led coalition backing. The UN responded to the request earlier this week through spokesman Farhan Haq by noting it is the very clear legal obligation of all parties to the conflict that they protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and that this responsibility cannot be shifted onto other entities. Hodeidah is noteworthy for being a major port city that services nearly 70% of Yemen’s population; however, it has been almost entirely shut down due to the insecurity and infrastructure damage caused by the fighting and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. The port city is a potentially life saving corridor for millions of Yemenis who are almost entirely reliant on imported food and supplies, and thus Mr. Haq stated it was “essential that all parties to the conflict facilitate unhindered access” to the port.

The current food crisis in Yemen leaves over 14 million people facing the threat of starvation and famine according to the UN, making it the largest of the top four humanitarian crises, which also includes Somalia, Sudan, and Nigeria. Last week, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released an infographic marking the second year of the escalation of violence. Among other statistics, the OCHA reported that in the last two years the import of medicine has dropped 70%, food prices have increased 26%, and nearly 11,000 cases of gender-based violence and 1,275 uses of children by parties to the conflict have occurred.

An arms monitor has reportedly uncovered evidence indicating Iran has been providing the Yemeni Houthi rebels with advanced military weaponry. The monitor has supposedly been able to link Iranian manufacturers to the serial numbers of drones used by the Houthi rebels in “kamikaze” attacks on missile defence sites. Iran has consistently denied accusations from Saudi Arabia that it has provided support to the Houthi rebels, despite reports from regional and western sources indicating Iranian involvement with the Houthi faction has increased in the last several months.

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#RtoPWeekly 27 February – 3 March

UntitledSyria: Latest round of peace talks between government and opposition begin in Geneva

On 23 February, the Syrian government and opposition delegations gathered in Geneva to launch the fourth round of UN-sponsored intra-Syrian peace talks, led by the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. The discussions are aimed at finding a stable and viable political solution to a conflict which has already claimed the lives of more than 450,000people within the last six years.

The Geneva peace process, which takes place on the heels of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian co-sponsored multilateralmeetings held in the Kazakh capital of Astana, resumes after three unsuccessful diplomatic attempts that failed to end the Syrian crisis in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Moreover, renewed disputes over the agenda and long-standing disagreements between the warring parties have pushed de Mistura to downplay expectations for any major progress.

Difficulties in reaching a comprehensive solution also stem from the differences in political weight that the parties bear in the current diplomatic process. While sitting at the same table for the first time in six years, the opposition delegations could not be more distant from one another across a broad range of topics. The Assad delegation, headed by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Bashar Al-Jaafari, has gained a considerable military and political advantage following significant victories on the ground in 2016, namely the recapture of rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo. On the other hand, the opposition, bitterly divided by infighting, has continuously failed in presenting a united front in Geneva. However, both parties purportedly decided to add two fundamental issues to the agenda: the Syrian political transition, proposed by the opposition, and the fight against terrorism, proposed by President Bashar al-Assad’s negotiators.

In the meantime, on Tuesday, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution aimed at imposing sanctions on the Syrian government over the alleged use of chemical weapons, claiming that it contradicted “the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence before the investigation is over”. It is the seventh veto Russia has put up against UNSC resolutions in the past five years in an effort to save its Syrian ally. China has also joined Moscow in vetoing six resolutions on Syria since the war began.

The following day, a UN Commission of Inquiry released a report accusing the Syrian government and its Russian ally of systematic destruction of healthcare facilities in east Aleppo, between July and December 2016. Moreover, the report held both the regime and opposition accountable for “war crimes of forced displacement,” due to the imposed the evacuation of the city for “strategic reasons” and “not for the security of civilians”. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, approximately 876 civilians were killed in Syria in February alone.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has urged the Burmese government to take action to stop human rights violations against the Rohingya population in the country. Lee met with members of the Rohingya community during a four-day visit to parts of Bangladesh, including the capital Dhaka and the town of Cox’s Bazar, after which she recounted allegations of terrible attacks against the Rohingya people, including indiscriminate shooting, gang rapes, and other sexual violence. Ms. Lee is set to release her full report to the UN Human Rights Council on 13 March.

Burundi:

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called upon all political stakeholders in Burundi to fully commit to peace negotiations led by the East African Community (EAC). Mr. Guterres also warned President Nkurunziza against seeking a fourth term in office, as doing so risks escalating the current political conflict and sabotaging all current efforts to find a durable solution.

The UN has removed Burundi army officer Major Nicolas Budigi from MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic, following allegations that he committed human rights violations in Burundi in 2015.

On Tuesday, the Burundi government rejected a new report recently submitted to the UN Security Council on the political and security crisis in the country, arguing that it states unproven facts.

On 24 February, women from the East African Community (EAC) established the East African women’s solidarity movement for peace and security in the region. Their objective in the setting up of this movement is advancing African women’s solidarity and seeking peace for Burundi.

Central African Republic:

MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic, has successfully forced Ali Darrass, a warlord from the Muslim-majority Seleka region, to withdraw from Bambari. However, clashes among armed groups in the country has continued to hinder the delivery of aid to thousands of displaced civilians, especially in the Ouaka province.

Democratic Republic of Congo:

The Democratic Republic of Congo has said it will investigate a video that apparently shows government troops massacring civilians in the Kasai region, but only “as a precautionary measure”. On Thursday, another UN report stated that the DRC has used excessive force against people protesting President Joseph Kabila’s stay in office. The report also claimed that 40 people were killed during this protest.

Gaza/West Bank:

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) alleged in their weekly report that Israel launched a total of eight airstrikes, involving roughly 23 separate missile strikes, throughout their reporting period, damaging six houses, one mosque, and injuring one civilian along with three Palestinian officers. PCHR also reported a total of 47 civilians arrested in military operations and raids, including four children and  six individuals at a student-organized protest. Other incidents involving civilians alleged in the report include the wounding of an eleven-year old child by a rubber-coated bullet to the neck, the wounding of a child by the detonation of a bomb remnant, and the bulldozing of civilian properties. The Israeli Defense  Forces (IDF) reportedly conducted several raids into the occupied West Bank areas around Hebron and East Jerusalem overnight and early morning on Monday and detained 21 Palestinians, including one woman and at least one minor under the age of 18. IDF spokespeople did confirm Tuesday that operations were taking place in the area when they announced the wounding of a soldier in a the settlement of Efrat.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report strongly criticizing Israel’s Unlawful Enemy Combatants law that was first introduced by the Knesset in 2002 and amended in 2008 as a violation of international humanitarian law and general legal norms of due process and rule of law. The law gives the IDF the ability to incarcerate any individual, based on the “reasonable cause” that they pose a threat to Israeli security, or if he or she is a member of “a force perpetrating hostile acts against the State of Israel.” The law provides little practical ability for judicial review and reverses the traditional burden of proof and presumption of innocence, obligating the accused to prove they are not a threat. HRW cited the case of Munir Hamada, the only one of the 16 Palestinian residents of Gaza incarcerated by Israel after its 2005 disengagement with Gaza under the law, as evidence of the weakness of judicial review available to interned civilians under the law. In the last review of his detention in December, which resulted in the court ruling in favor of another six month continuation of his indefinite incarceration, the decision was allegedly reached based on confidential intelligence reports that were not made available to Mr. Hamada’s legal counsel. In June of last year, the UN Committee Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment referenced Mr. Hamada’s case while urging Israel to repeal the law.

Iraq:

On Sunday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces have detained over 900 displaced men and boys fleeing ISIS since 2014. When interviewed, the detainees’ families said that KRG and Iraqi forces did not inform them of the detainees’ whereabouts nor facilitate any communication with them. Depriving detainees of any contact with the outside world and refusing to give their families useful information is a key indicator of the occurrence of enforced disappearances, which are violations of international human rights law, and can be international crimes.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) agency said that more than 750,000 civilians living in the western sections of Mosul are facing an extremely dire humanitarian situation. The WFP’s Iraq Representative and Country Director, Sally Haydock, said families complain of skyrocketing food prices and the lack of access to food at all. So far, WFP has provided ready-to-eat food for more than 6,000 people, but has called on all parties involved in the conflict to “facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Iraqis in need of assistance”.

The Iraq Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Thomas Lothar Weiss, said on Tuesday that thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are arriving at Iraqi sites after fleeing Mosul, where government forces are fighting the Islamic State (SIL). Over 28,000 people have been displaced in the zone since the battle began on 19 February, the UN stated. According to Iraq’s Ministry of Migrations and Displacement (MoMD), the number should be put at 31,000.

Libya:

The Director of the European Union (EU) border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, accused NGOs of encouraging smugglers who profit from dangerous Mediterranean crossings. By rescuing migrants “ever closer to the Libyan coast”, Leggeri asserted that those groups allow traffickers to force more migrants onto “unseaworthy boats with less sufficient water and fuel than in previous years”. Aurélie Ponthieu, the humanitarian adviser on displacement at Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), said that as a humanitarian agency, they could not wait “20 miles out to sea for boats that may pass by chance” because, she states, “there will be many more deaths”.

Earlier this month, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) published a report calling on Libya to protect children who are suffering from violence and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers during their journeys towards Europe. The UN agency says that almost 26,000 children, most of them unaccompanied, have crossed the Mediterranean last year. In its report, UNICEF says violence is “widespread and systemic” at crossings and checkpoints.

Mali:

In a positive sign for the peace process in Mali, armed groups in the north of the country have reportedly agreed to allow interim authorities to be installed in three key towns in the north, including the town of Gao, which has been the center of the joint patrols.

UN forces have adopted a strategy of local cooperation in order to address the threat of extremist forces linked to al-Qaeda in the still-volatile north. Fighters linked to al-Qaeda are using suicide bombs, landmines, and car bombs to attack the peacekeepers and the Malians living in the town of Kidal. A commanding officer with the UN force has said cooperation between UN troops and local people has significantly improved the security situation and has already been helpful in preventing an attack which could have killed many.

Nigeria:

A military spokesperson claimed Wednesday that nearly 8,000 people had been rescued or arrested from Boko Haram strongholds through the month of February during the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign. As civilians have fled or been extracted from areas formerly controlled by Boko Haram, allegations of abuses and atrocities committed by the military have begun to proliferate. Survivors have reported arbitrary executions and the destruction of entire villages by soldiers ostensibly searching for Boko Haram fighters hiding among unarmed civilians. The reports have added to the growing record allegations against the Nigerian military for human rights abuses.

South Sudan:

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), roughly 32,000 South Sudanese have entered Sudan since the start of 2017, with tens of thousands more expected to arrive due to fleeing the famine. Eugene Owusu, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, urged all parties in the conflict to ensure immediate, safe, and unhindered access across the country, a week after famine was declared in parts of the country.

Rebecca Garang, former Presidential Adviser of South Sudan, urged President Salva Kiir to step down, saying he is responsible for the famine that hit the country and war crimes. According to a prominent member of the Jieng Council of Elders, South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity could remain in power until 2021, as it still requires the restoration of national security and a permanent constitution (among many other things) before any elections can take place. South Sudan’s opposition People’s Liberal Party expressed its full support of the national dialogue plan that was set forth by President Kiir in December of last year.

Sudan:

The reported whipping and deportation of refugees in Sudan has reinforced calls on the European Union (EU) to halt its cooperation with the Sudanese government under President Omar al-Bashir. Members of the European Parliament, including the Vice-Chair of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, have raised concern over the incident and called for a formal inquiry, noting the EU’s responsibility to not be complicit in state crimes and violations of human rights.

Hassan Saleh, First Vice President of Sudan and longtime ally of President Omar al Bashir, was appointed to the newly created position of Prime Minister by the President on Wednesday. The position of Prime Minister was created as part of the constitutional amendments negotiated by some of the opposition groups in December in an effort to dilute the presidency’s near complete political powers. It is the first time Sudan has had a Prime Minister since Bahir’s 1989 coup. Saleh is the last of the original group of officers who aided Bashir’s coup to remain by his side and is thought to be the most likely successor to Bashir if he keeps his promise to step down in 2020. Saleh will be retaining his post as First Vice President.

The joint African Union-UN assistance mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has launched a new campaign in a camp in West Darfur for displaced persons, entitled “No Child Soldiers – Protect Darfur”, in order to prevent the exploitation of children as combatants by the armed forces fighting for control of Darfur.

Yemen:

The inaccessibility for humanitarian aid groups in Yemen has continued to harm civilians. IRIN News visited a makeshift camp of displaced persons driven from Taiz city by the recent fighting; two elderly adults and three children have already perished in the camp from the cold, dehydration, and starvation. Stephen O’Brien, the UN emergency relief coordinator for Yemen, met with both sides of the ongoing war during a tour of the country, and proceeded to call upon both to allow more access to the country’s ports for humanitarian aid. Mr. O’Brien’s convoy was denied access to the contested city of Taiz on Tuesday due to security reasons, despite previous assurances of safety from all parties.

On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it has had to halt deliveries of aid to the contested Red Sea port city of al Hudaydah due to a lack of security assurances and the increased bombing of the city by Saudi-led coalition warplanes. Yemeni government and coalition forces have been pushing the frontline towards al Hudaydah after taking the port city of Mokha to the south several weeks ago. Yemen is almost entirely dependent on foreign supplies, as it imports 90% of its food, and the lack of security for aid agencies and importers in the ports as well as significant infrastructure damage has almost completely cut the country off from receiving food. This shortage is occurring while some 19 million are already in need of humanitarian assistance. Numerous voices have called on both sides of the conflict to allow access for food supplies, including the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen and now the ICRC.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged all parties in the conflict in Yemen to immediately release child soldiers. The UN has asserted that between 26 March 2015 and 31 January 2016, 1,476 children have been recruited into the armed conflict. The spokesperson for OHCHR, Ramina Shamdasani, said that, according to new reports, children are recruited without the knowledge of their families and that they join the fighting after “either being misled or attracted by promises of financial rewards or social status.” Amnesty International also reported on the recruitment of young boys as soldiers by the Houthi faction, citing several eyewitness accounts of recruitment.

According to the Pentagon, the US hit supposed al-Qaeda positions with over 20 airstrikes early morning Thursday. The Pentagon spokesperson did not comment on the expected death toll, but sources on the ground estimated roughly four to nine men, whom are believed to have been members of the al-Qaeda group in Yemen. The strikes come a month after the US raid on 29 January that killed multiple civilians, including several young children.The conditions created by the ongoing war in Yemen, including sectarian tensions, unrest, criminal enterprises, and a major security vacuum, have led some to suggest it may be the ideal haven for Islamic State (ISIL) elements pushed out of Syria and Iraq.

What else is new?

The ICRtoP is one of 26 organizations urging Ambassador Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a joint letter by the Prevention and Protection Working Group. To read the letter, please click here.

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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, Myanmar, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, UN, Uncategorized, UNMISS, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

EVENT SUMMARY: Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing R2P

EVENT SUMMARY: Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing R2P

event

On 6 September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held its eighth annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. As a follow-up to the dialogue, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Stanley Foundation, and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) hosted a panel discussion on 8 September, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing R2P”.

Bridget Moix, US senior representative of Peace Direct, moderated the discussion between panelists as they reflected on the ways that civil society enhances efforts to protect populations from atrocity crimes. The panelists included Dismas Nkunda, Co-Founder and CEO of Atrocities Watch-Africa; Gus Miclat, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and a Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP; and Evan Cinq-Mars, UN Advocate and Policy Adviser for the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

The panelists focused on how RtoP is implemented on the ground, including sharing their experiences with local communities in their efforts to protect populations from atrocities and how actions taken by local stakeholders can actively strengthen and reinforce national and international efforts to uphold RtoP. The conversation also sought to identify and reflect on recommendations for the international community to implement to improve preventive measures and enhance civilian protection.

To read the full summary of the event, please click here.

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Filed under RtoP, Uncategorized

#R2PWeekly: 29 August – 02 September 2016

altICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation  to hold event: Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP

The UN General Assembly will hold the 2016 informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect on 6 September. This platform will gather Member States, regional organizations, and civil society to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest and final report on RtoP, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: the next decade of the responsibility to protect”. The report focuses on the achievements of RtoP and the challenges facing collective action and the norm’s implementation. However, it also suggests ways in which these obstacles might be overcome. To read ICRtoP’s summary of the latest Secretary-General report click here.

On 8 September, the ICRtoP, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and the Stanley Foundation will be holding a follow-up event to the UNGA dialogue, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing RtoP”. This event will include prominent panelists such as Gus Miclat, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Initiatives for International Dialogue and founding Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP; Dismas Nkunda, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Atrocities Watch – Africa; and Evan Cinq-Mars, the UN Advocate and Policy Advisor for the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Esteemed peacebuilding activist, Bridget Moix, US Senior Representative for Peace Direct, will moderate the event.

The panelists will focus on how the implementation of RtoP is translated into action at the grassroots level and will exhibit the vital ways in which local communities and civil society members work together to protect populations from atrocities. Although discussions will focus on civil society’s role in RtoP implementation and atrocity prevention, participants will also be welcome to reflect on the dialogue and raise questions and recommendations for Member States and the international community to advance the implementation of the norm and the prevention of atrocities to better protect populations.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 5 – 9 September, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 12 – 16 September.

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Catch up on developments in...

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Wednesday, historic 5-day peace talks began in Myanmar between the central government and hundreds of representatives of the country’s non-Burmese ethnic minorities, who constitute 40% of the country’s population. The Panglong Peace Conference is being attended by 17 out of the 20 principal rebel groups operating in the country. Many of the ethnic groups have been in a constant state of rebellion since the founding of the country. Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar, but seen as the de-facto leader of the country, stated the talks present a way forward as well as a way to make right on the 1947 Panglong Conference, which promised Myanmar’s ethnic minorities either autonomy or independence if they helped overthrow the British with the Burmese. Notably, there are no representatives from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority, despite numbering over 1.1 million. Three other rebel groups have been barred from attending the peace talks for not signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, with the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) pulling out at the last minute as well due to their exclusion.

On Thursday, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which has 20,000 troops and controls a portion of northern Burma on the Chinese border, dropped out of the Panglong Peace Conference on its second day after discovering they would not be allowed to address the Conference.


Burundi:

UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng expressed his concern late last week over the inflammatory statements made by Pascal Nyabenda, the then President of the ruling CNDD-FDD party and President of the National Assembly, about the genocide in Rwanda. Mr. Nyabenda called the genocide a “fabrication of the international community” used to remove the Hutu government in Rwanda at the time. The Special Adviser warned that such an “irresponsible statement could be interpreted as genocide denial” and “has the potential to inflame ethnic tensions, both within Burundi and outside its borders.”

The country’s parliament is scheduled to begin reviewing the findings from the report by the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, which claim that the Burundian people are in favor of removing presidential term limits. However, the opposition has called for a referendum on the issue and accused the Commission of working to serve the interests of the president to remain in office.


Central African Republic:

The head of the Ugandan army, General Katumba Wamal, has announced that the Ugandan will shortly stop its operations in the Central African Republic against the Lord’s Resistance Army. There are currently 500 members of Uganda’s Special Forces in CAR.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the South Korean National Assembly, after eleven years, passed the North Korean Human Rights Act. The new law dictates that a special advisory group will be created to come up with new policies for the South Korean government to engage in to improve human rights in North Korea.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Thursday, police clashed with protesters in Kinshasa, DRC’s capital, ahead of the National Dialogue, which seeks to avoid political chaos and tensions when President Joseph Kabila’s current term expires in November.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch released a statement claiming that both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been mistreating journalists. HRW stated that both organizations are engaging in arrests, detentions, and physical violence against journalists whose stories they disagree with or who place their governance in a negative light.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article highlighting the legalisation of pirate settlements by the state of Israel. The illegal outposts in the West Bank have been established over the span of two decades without authorization from the government, and are now being retroactively legalized or will be retroactively legalized. The following day, Israeli authorities approved the construction of an additional 284 housing units in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has warned that the continued presence and construction of these housing units poses the largest threat and detriment to the peace process and undermines the likelihood of a two-state solution.

Israeli investigators have completed an internal investigation into the Israeli bombing of a UN school in Gaza in 2014, which left 10 dead and dozens injured. The investigators concluded that Israeli soldiers who fired the missile followed appropriate protocol and that the soldiers had sought to fire at a military target.

Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers came into conflict late Wednesday in the occupied West Bank at a religious shrine. One Israeli soldier suffered gunshot wounds.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 18 people died at a wedding in the town of Ain al-Tamer, southwest of Baghdad, when five members of ISIL wearing suicide vests, assaulted the wedding venue.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned in a new report that the recruitment of child soldiers is taking place in camps for displaced persons in northern Iraq by government-sponsored militias.

On 31 August, Kurdish forces, preparing for the assault on Mosul, warned of the likelihood of chemical attacks by ISIL as they attempt to keep a foothold in Iraq. While chemical attacks in Iraq have been sparse, Kurdish forces have documented at least 16 separate chemical attacks by ISIL since the start of 2016, a dramatic uptick over the previous two years.

The UN released the casualty numbers for Iraq for the month of August 2016 this week. 691 Iraqis died in the month of August due to acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict, while another 1,016 sustained injuries. Of the 691 deaths, 473 were civilians.


Libya:

On Monday, Libyan forces fighting ISIL in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte stated they had seized a residential neighborhood from ISIL in the center of the city, leaving ISIL in control of only one district of the city.

US President Obama has agreed to extend the US’s military mission in Libya against ISIL for another month.

On Tuesday, a UN-backed plan for Libya to ship the last of its chemical weapons stock out of the country successfully concluded, with the last shipment leaving for Germany on Saturday.

A second, previously boycotting member of the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed unity government, has agreed to rejoin the Tripoli-based GNA this week. GNA supporters are hoping this will help to strengthen the unity government’s position in the country.


Mali:

Canada has announced that it will send a “reconnaissance mission” to Mali in order to study the UN peacekeeping mission there. Although Canadian officials have insisted that this does not mean they will send Canadian peacekeepers to Mali, Canada recently promised that it would contribute up to 600 more troops to UN peace operations and has not yet announced which countries it is considering, which has left room for speculation.


Nigeria:

On Monday, the Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group responsible for most of the attacks on pipelines in the country’s Niger Delta region, announced that it had ceased hostilities against the government and oil companies in order to enter into negotiations. However, on Tuesday, the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, another militant group in the region who are also calling for a greater share of Nigeria’s oil profits to be granted to the population of the impoverished region, claimed responsibility for an attack on a pipeline owned by a subsidiary of the state oil company. The militant group, who were previously unknown until an 11 August attack, said “The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate remains underailed on its mission to getting justice for the people.”

Refugees in northeastern Nigeria have staged almost daily protests this week against the poor distribution of food rations in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The children are most affected, with between 10 to 25 percent of children in one feeding center near death, according to a spokesperson for Medecins Sans Frontieres. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has said it will open an investigation into the alleged diversion of food.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, has called on Nigerian authorities and the international community for urgent action to protect the hundreds of thousands of IDPs in northeastern Nigeria who are displaced due to Boko Haram violence. It is estimated that 2.2 million people in the Lake Chad region are trapped in areas controlled by Boko Haram and in need of humanitarian assistance, but are currently unreachable.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the past weekend, 160 members of a local armed group allied with the SPLM-IO surrendered themselves to state authorities in Western Equatoria state, taking advantage of a pledge of general amnesty and pardon from the President.

On 29 August, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) issued a statement denying reports that it had either targeted or massacred civilians in Yei river county for hoarding food and/or being possible sympathizers of the SPLM-IO. The statement comes after several days of intermittent clashes between the two sides in the area.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional body for East Africa that helped to negotiate South Sudan’s peace agreement last year, has signalled that it will soon recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s First Vice President, despite continuing controversy over his appointment.

On Monday, 14 paramount chiefs of the Nuer tribe issued a joint-statement disavowing and refusing to recognize Taban Deng Gai as South Sudan’s new First Vice President.

The South Sudanese government has issued a statement claiming that 60 soldiers have been tried and court martialed for their conduct in Juba in early July during the violence that swept the city. The stated crimes for which some of them have been found guilty include looting, murder and shooting and loitering.

On 30 August, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta met in Juba with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, where they discussed last year’s peace deal and how to best stabilize the country. Mr. Kenyatta is the first foreign head of state to travel to South Sudan since the outbreak of violence in early July, using the opportunity to stress that the full-implementation of the peace deal is the only way forward.

On Wednesday, a South Sudanese foreign affairs official announced that UNSC officials will be visiting South Sudan at an undisclosed time this week, while US officials spoke of the possibility of sanctions over the continued use of child soldiers in South Sudan.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 28 August, fighting broke out between herdsmen and rebel fighters in North Darfur, leaving three people dead.

The same day, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Sudan’s internal opposition umbrella organization, gave its full support for peace talks aimed at ending the war in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions of Sudan and allowing humanitarian access entry. However, the NCF still remains divided on signing the AU Roadmap for Peace in Sudan itself, claiming it will only legitimize and lead to a continuation of the current regime.

On Tuesday, the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth. met with Sudanese Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, who heads the government delegation to peace talks.  They discussed how to push the currently stalled peace talks forward, with Mr. Booth promising to attempt to bring the rebels to agreement over a peace deal.

A group of UN human rights experts released a statement this week condemning the Sudanese government’s arrests of and filing of charges against six human rights activists. The statement denounced the charges, which carry a sentence of execution, and called for the detainee’s immediate release. The six people belong to an organization called Training and Human Development (TRACKS) and have been detained for the past three months and have yet to face trial.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Sunday, Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish-held villages near the Turkish border left anywhere between 25 and 35 people dead, as conflicting reports from Turkish authorities claim they successfully targeted members of the Kurdish YPG, while other sources claim all casualties have been civilian. US authorities have tried to calm and de-escalate tensions between Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as the Turkish-backed FSA seized 10 more villages to the south of Jarabalus and reports of fighting between the FSA and SDF emerged. For now, a tentative ceasefire has allegedly been established between the two by the US, yet Turkish officials have continued to deny there is any ceasefire in place.

On Monday, ISIL launched an assault on the al-Talela district, near the ancient city of Palmyra, killing several Syrian government soldiers before being forced to retreat under airstrikes.

Syrian rebels, including hardline islamists and FSA groups, captured the critical town of Halfaya this week from the Syrian government in northern Hama province. Since then, the rebels have captured several more towns in the largest rebel offensive in the area since 2014.

On Tuesday, airstrikes in the suburbs of rebel-held Idlib City left seven civilians dead and multitudes wounded. The strikes, blamed by locals on the Syrian and Russian air forces, struck a vegetable market and come on the heels of the deaths of six civilians in airstrikes just the day before.

On Tuesday, ISIL announced the death of their number two man, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, near Aleppo. Adnani had served as ISIL’s spokesperson and had been considered their top strategist, serving as the group’s top recruiter, and chief of propaganda. He is also considered to have been the mastermind behind several ISIL terrorist attacks in Europe. Both Russia and the US are claiming responsibility for his death, which many experts consider to be a huge blow to the organization.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
The 4-year Syrian government siege of the rebel-held city of Daraya ended over the weekend in the suburbs of Damascus. After having reached an accord with the government, hundreds of rebel fighters and their families left for rebel-held Idlib province, while roughly 4,000 civilians left for government-run reception centers closer to Damascus.

On Thursday, residents of the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh stated that they have reached a ‘Daraya’ style deal to end the government’s siege and will begin evacuations in the next 48 hours.  A separate deal has also been reached in the government besieged neighborhood of al- Waer in the central city of Homs. An estimated 75,000 people still live in the neighborhood, which the government has agreed to stop bombing in return for the rebels being transported elsewhere.

On 29 August, The Guardian released the findings of an in-depth investigation that shows that the UN has awarded a multitude of contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars, to dozens of people personally associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as part of the UN’s aid program in the country. The report further cements long-standing fears of Damascus having overt influence over what should be an impartial aid delivery program. The UN is now underintense pressure to set up an independent inquiry over the in the information revealed by the report.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press released a comprehensive assessment of the 72 known mass graves in Iraq and Syria, stating they contain a minimum of 5,200 and up to 15,000 bodies, giving the clearest picture to date of the scale of atrocities committed by ISIL.

In the aftermath of the completion of last week’s joint UN- OPCW investigation into chemical weapon attacks in Syria, which determined that the Syrian government was responsibility for two attacks, while also implicating them in several more, there is now growing pressure for a response from the UNSC. However, on Tuesday, the UNSC failed to come to terms on any course of action, despite previous UNSC resolutions giving them the authority and responsibility to do so.

On 1 September, UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that he is preparing a new political initiative to help jumpstart the stalled peace talks on Syria. He went on to announce he will present his plan prior to the UNGA ministerial meeting on 21 September. Current US-Russian talks on a ceasefire are likely to continue through the weekend, while separate negotiations pertaining strictly to Aleppo continue as well.

The High Negotiations Committee, Syria’s main opposition group, has announced that it will make public next week its plans for a political transition in Syria, including the length of the transitional period and the forming of a transitional governing body with full executive powers.


Yemen:

Beginning on Sunday, a Houthi delegation landed in Iraq and began a string of visits, meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister as well as leaders and politicians of the ruling political coalition. The delegation also held several meetings with al-Hashd al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shia militias, later in the week.

Two girls in Saudi Arabia died and five others were left injured on Sunday as a result of a cross-border rocket attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

ISIL has claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 72 people in Aden earlier this week. The attack, which is the largest in Aden this year, targeted military recruits signing up for a new unit sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, a presumed US drone-fired missile struck a vehicle in Ataq, the capital of the Shabwa province in southern Yemen, killing a suspected al Qaeda member and wounding two others.

In a news conference in Sana’a on Tuesday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrickestimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the 18-month long civil war in Yemen.

On Wednesday, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 16 people in northern Yemen, including a local Imam and four children.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed spoke before the UNSC this week, where he warned that the continuation of conflict in Yemen between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels is allowing the spread of al Qaeda and ISIL in Yemen.


What else is new?:

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) published a new report on atrocity prevention this week, entitled “Atrocity Prevention through Dialogue: Challenges in Dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations”. The report focuses on the use of dialogue with violent extremist groups as a means of preventing widespread violence or atrocities, detailing the practice’s controversial nature and potential applications to prevent atrocities, rare as the may be due to the conditions necessary for successful prevention through dialogue with such groups.

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#R2PWeekly: 22 – 26 August 2016

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UNGA to hold interactive dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet for its 8th annual UNGA Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. The informal, interactive dialogue was first convened in 2009, following the Secretary-General’s first report on RtoP. Member States have met each year since that date to discuss the latest annual report and reflect on the advancement of the norm. This year, Member States, regional organizations, and civil society groups will meet to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest report, focusing on a vision for collective action in the future implementation of the norm.

General Assembly Discusses Responsibility to ProtectThis year’s report, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect,” is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s eighth and final report on RtoP. In it, Mr. Ban highlights the accomplishments made in the advancement of the norm and takes note of the international community’s failures in preventing and responding to atrocity crimes. He also points out that the world is facing an increasingly challenging context, where both State and non-State actors pose threats to populations. However, the Secretary-General also suggests a range of recommendations for actors at all levels with which these obstacles might be overcome, so that the international community can work together to better protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanityinto the next decade of RtoP.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

Read ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.

View ICRtoP’s page on key developments on RtoP at the UN here.


Source for above photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


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:

On Thursday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing women’s participation in peace efforts in Burma and the harmful impact war has had and continues to have on women. HRW encourages the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to ensure that women actively participate in efforts to end the country’s recurrent armed conflicts.


Burundi:

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman has announced that the views they collected from across Burundi have shown public favor for removing the two-term limit attached to the country’s presidency. The Commission is made up of 15 members, including religious and political leaders and civil society representatives, and they are set to submit their findings in a report to Parliament for approval. However, President Nkurunziza will make the final decision.


Central African Republic:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)imposed sanctions against Salim and Ali Kony, the sons of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. These sanctions seek to restrain the notoriously violent rebel groupaccused of abducting 498 civilians in the Central African Republic between January and June 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The trials of 215 alleged members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) accused of massacring civilians began in the DRC over the weekend. 80 alleged ADF members were present in court on Saturday and the rest of the suspects are to be brought in at a later date. Six of the accused allegedly participated in the machete attack which killed scores of civilians near Beni last week.

Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday in order to protest fears that President Kabila will delay elections and remain in power past the constitutionally allowed date at the end of this year. The resulting strike crippled the capital city of Kinshasa where shops were mostly empty. Police also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered in Kinshasa to protest.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Sunday, Israeli forces bombarded the northern Gaza strip in the worst assault in the area since 2014. The attack was in retaliation to a rocket fired from the enclave into southern Israel. The Arab League and Turkey have both condemned the attacks, which have widely been labelled as disproportionate.

On Wednesday, Israel absolved its army of any wrongdoing for an airstrike during the 2014 Gaza War that struck a UN school. The incident resulted in 10 civilian deaths outside the school, causing international outrage.


Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the weekend, the Iraqi military and local militia successfully liberated the last ISIL-held portion of the island of Khalidya in western Iraq.

On Monday, six Iraqi civilians died fleeing the town of Hawijah when they hit a roadside bomb planted by ISIL. The past several weeks have seen several thousand people fleeing the area for government lines 140 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq announced the complete capture from ISIL of the city of Qayyarah on Thursday after Iraqi troops stormed into the city center on Tuesday and secured the outskirts of the city the following day. Located to the south of Mosul, the city and its airbase will serve as the staging ground for the inevitable assault to retake Mosul from ISIL.

The Humanitarian and Political Solution
On 21 August, Iraq executed 36 men for their alleged roles in the deaths of over 1,700 Shia Iraqi air force recruits during the massacre at the Speicher military base near Tikrit in June 2014. Several of the accused had claimed that they had been forced to confess under torture or had not even been in Tikrit at the time of the massacre, with these claims echoed by Amnesty International. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has publicly expressed his disappointment with the executions, highlighting concerns over due process and fair trials.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR warned that it expects hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced by the oncoming Iraqi and Kurdish assault to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The total number of people expected to be displaced could reach as high as 1.2 million.

A new Special Report from Reuters, has determined that Shia militias in Iraq, operating under the Iraqi government-sanctioned and supported banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), detained, tortured and killed significantly more Sunni civilians in the assault on Fallujah in June than US authorities have publicly admitted. In total, with over 700 Sunni men and boys still missing, the report uncovered that over 1,500 faced abuse at the hands of the PMU, while at least 66 Sunni males died by torture or execution.


Libya:

On 22 August, the eastern-based parliament of Libya voted to reject the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed attempt at a unity government for Libya, dealing the GNA a major setback in its attempt to reunify Libya. One of the main points of concern is that of military appointments, with many in the east backing renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, currently engulfed in his own campaign against Islamists and his other opponents, and fearing that the GNA leans too heavily on the support of extremist-oriented militias. The GNA has stated it will continue to seek approval of the eastern-based parliament  and will be changing cabinet proposals for the unity government in order to gain their support.

On Sunday, Libyan fighters continued their push to complete the capture of the center of ISIL’s operations in Libya, Sirte, capturing the city’s main mosque as well as a jail run by the terrorist organization. ISIL’s area of control has now been restricted to a small residential area in the center of the city.

Over the weekend, the US military, for the first time, acknowledged the use of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, flown by US marines, in the fight against ISIL in Sirte.


Mali:

The trial of Ahmad al-Fadi al-Mahdi began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week. He is charged with the destruction of cultural heritage sites – a first for the ICC – for his alleged participation in the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu. On Monday, al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to ordering the destruction of the sites – another first for the ICC. Many have lauded the landmark case, while others have criticized the ICC for not also holding al-Mahdi accountable for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder, and torture of civilians in Timbuktu during the same time period.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have reported that airstrikes carried out by the country’s military are believed to have killed senior Boko Haram fighters and fatally wounded Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the violent extremist group.

Later in the week, Boko Haram militants attacked Nigerian troops near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, but the soldiers repelled the attack and killed two senior Boko Haram commanders and several other militants.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech in the Nigerian city of Sokoto, stating that the overall success of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram depends on if the country can overcome the reasons people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and military are able to build the public’s trust.

As Nigeria’s military has advanced its campaign against Boko Haram in the northeastern region of the country, it has exposed the “catastrophic” suffering of the people who have previously been out of reach from humanitarian aid organizations for months or even years. Estimates suggestthat at least 65,000 people are facing “famine-like” conditions in the recently liberated and yet inaccessible regions of Yobe and Borno states. Furthermore, at 4.5 million, the number of those facing a need for food aid in the northeastern regions of the country has almost doubled since March of this year. There have also been reports of human rights violations, including forced disappearances and recruitment, murders, sexual violence, and others, in the region. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 49,000 children will die in Borno State this year if they do not receive aid.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
This past weekend saw intense fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, leaving over 250 dead. Later, on 20 August, fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in the northern Unity State left seven SPLA soldiers and three members of the SPLM-IO dead. As the fighting continued sporadically through the week, thousands have become displaced.

On 21 August, several regional commanders of the SPLM-IO defected to the SPLA in Unity State. They are believed to have taken with them 11,000 soldiers stationed in the Guit area of Unity State to the SPLA and South Sudanese government. However, officials with the SPLM-IO claim only 80 soldiers joined the commanders in defecting.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
On 21 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir gave the governor of Wau State permissionto establish peace deals with any members of the armed opposition in the area who are willing.

The newly appointed South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this week and met with Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir. They discussed both the continuing security disputes between the two nations as well as Sudan providing immediate humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Mr. Gai publicly called on the SPLM-N, who are currently fighting the Sudanese government, “to obey the call for peace”.

Speaking on Monday during an official trip to Kenya, US Sec. of State John Kerry warned both the South Sudanese government (SPLA) and the opposition (SPLM-IO) to fully implement the peace deal agreed to last year or be prepared to suffer sanctions and an arms embargo.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese government confirmed that former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar is currently in the country, days after Mr. Machar had emerged from several weeks of hiding in the neighboring DRC.  The Sudanese government further announced that Mr. Machar is in the country for urgent medical attention, but is currently in stable condition. The South Sudanese government has issued a warning to Mr. Machar, urging him to denounce violence and agree to censor himself from politics.

On 23 August, the UN announced that retired Dutch military officer Major General Patrick Cammeart will take the lead in an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the fighting in Juba in early July.

A peace conference has been announced between the rival communities of the Dinka Bor and Murle in Jonglei state in an attempt to put an end to rampant child abduction and cattle raiding between the two peoples in hopes of stabilizing the region. The peace conference is currently planned to start on 30 August.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has announced that peace talks with the armed groups who recently signed the African Union-brokered Roadmap Agreement for Peace for Sudan will resume in September. The talks originally collapsed soon after they began due to distrust and discord over the particulars of humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has announced that it will not join the umbrella opposition organization, the Sudan Appeals forces, and thus, will not join the two-track peace negotiations taking place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Tuesday, after several days of increasingly intense clashes and after having seized most of the city, Kurdish forces agreed to a truce with the Syrian government in the north-western city of Hasakah. Government control in the city has now shrunk to a small cluster of buildings in the city center. The truce outlines a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city.

On Wednesday, following the several days of shelling and the gathering of rebels on the Turkish side of the border, Turkish armed forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly entered Syria to launch an assault on ISIL-held Jarabulus. Titled Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that its aim is both at ISIL and the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. The combined-offensive marks the largest military effort by Turkey in the Syrian civil war and Turkey’s first offensive ground incursion into Syrian territory. Syria has condemned the incursion but offered no resistance.

Later that same day, ISIL launched an unsuccessful attempt to storm a US-backed FSA camp near the Jordanian border. The attack on the Forces of Martyrs Ahmad al-Abdo rebel group base is believed to have left at least 33 dead, including a majority of ISIL fighters.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
In a softening of its position on Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated over the weekend that while still holding firm to the belief that Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future, Turkey would be willing to see him stay on in a transition period if it helped to facilitate an overall end to the conflict. The Prime Minister went on to urge all powers involved in the conflict to “turn a new page on Syria”  and unite to stop the violence and form a country that maintained its territorial boundaries and represented all Syrians, highlighting Turkish concerns over growing Kurdish aims in Syria.

On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one way or another” US-Russian discussions over cooperation in Syia are coming to an end. Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Geneva where their meeting will heavily focus on Syria.

On 24 August, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the Syrian government is responsible for two of the gas attacks it investigated under its mandate, while ISIL is responsible for another one. A further three attacks hinted at the Syrian government being responsible but could not be definitively proven. The joint investigation was established by the UN Security Council to look into chemical weapons use in Syria.

On Wednesday, on a visit to Turkey, US Vice President clarified the US’s position on the YPG and the current Turkish offensive into Syria, stating that Turkey had the US’s full support and that the YPG must retreat to positions east of the Euphrates to keep receiving US support.

On Thursday, Russia agreed to the UN’s plan for weekly 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo to allow humanitarian access to the city. UN officials, however, are waiting for guarantees of security and agreement from the all belligerents present on the ground before they begin humanitarian operations.


Yemen:

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a near where an earlier pro-Houthi demonstration of thousands had taken place in the capital’s central square.

The Control Arms Coalition has condemned the United States, United Kingdom, and France for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales were deemed “illicit” due to the high number of civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

On Monday, a joint report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) detailed the displacement of over 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

The UN’s human rights office has requested an inquiry into the civilian deaths in Yemen, stating that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the killings.

On Thursday, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a new initiative to reignite peace talks between Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels. Additionally, Kerry pledged $189 million in U.S. aid towards the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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#R2PWeekly: 15 – 19 August 2016

untitledUN Secretary-General Releases Annual Report on the Responsibility to Protect

ef283cc8-01e9-4fa0-9516-276b23f5207c.pngWith the UN’s annual informal dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect set to take place this September, UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon released his final annual report on the Responsibility to Protect on 16 August, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect”.  In the document, the UNSG takes note of the accomplishments surrounding the advancement of RtoP, as well as identifies the failures of the international community to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes. He brings attention to the increasingly challenging context facing the world, where both State and non-State actors constitute threats to populations, and to international peace and security. The report provides a range of recommendations for actors at all levels, and notes that coordinated action is needed now more than ever to produce tangible results to prevent and halt atrocity crimes. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon therefore urges Member States to renew their commitment to RtoP and “to take the principled and practical steps necessary” to protect populations.

As the ICRtoP seeks to raise awareness and understanding of RtoP amongst actors at all levels, we have created an informative infographic on the latest UNSG report, which summarizes the major themes and key issues raised in the document. The ICRtoP will also be releasing a summary of the report ahead of the dialogue.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

See the ICRtoP’s infographic on the report here.

For more information on past UNSG reports and General Assembly dialogues, please visit our UN and RtoP page here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Libya

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar:

On Tuesday, authorities in Myanmar closed 457 cases against activists due to requests from President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Hundreds of activists have been freed from prison this year as part of the president’s amnesty.


Burundi:

The UN Committee on Torture found an alarming increase in torture cases in Burundi since last April and voiced concern over “genocidal rhetoric” used by the country’s senior officials. “The spike in torture cases we have seen in Burundi since the onset of the crisis is extremely alarming and must be urgently addressed by the Burundian government,” said an Amnesty International Director. The Committee made strong recommendations and issued a “wake-up call” to the Burundian government.


Central African Republic:

MINUSCA peacekeepers arrested and detained 10 men from the ex-Seleka armed group on 14 August. The peacekeepers stopped seven armed vehicles carrying 35 men, 25 of which managed to flee arrest. Two of the arrested men, Abdoulaye Hissene and Haroun Gaye, are former warlords from the radical 2013 Seleka rebellion. UN forces also reported that they recovered a “significant quantity of weapons and munitions” following the standoff.

On Thursday, ex-Seleka militias issued a threat to the CAR government, that if the group’s imprisoned members were not released within two days, they would “face robust action”.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Rebel groups killed at least 64 people in a massacre in the town of Beni on the night of 13 August. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed Islamist Ugandan group, is believed to have carried out the machete attack in revenge for military operations in the area.

Three days of mourning were declared on Monday, and protests erupted in response to the failure of President Joseph Kabila’s government to ensure safety in North Kivu just three days after Kabila visited the region. Clashes during the protests later resulted in the death of one protester and one police officer on Wednesday.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday,  Israeli security forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes that erupted in the Fawwar security camp near the city of Hebron. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there were dozens of other Palestinian casualties as a result of Israeli gunfire.


Iraq:

On Sunday, Iraqi President Fuad Masum certified the death sentences handed down last week to 36 people for the massacre of 2,398 security personnel at the Speicher military base in June 2014.

On Monday, after two days of battle, Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting an offensive against ISIL south of Mosul managed to seize roughly 58 square miles and a dozen villages and have reached Kanhash, the western side of the Gwer bridge. The bridge, once repaired, will help the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces to open a new front against ISIL in the overall offensive to retake Mosul. Iraqi forces also seized four more villages around the Qayyara airbase, which is being transformed into the command-center for the assault on Mosul.

The Iraqi Parliament has decided to allow a massive restructuring of Prime Minister Abadi’s cabinet to move forward, approving five of his six nominations for vacant spots. The structure of the PM’s cabinet has been the source of a political crisis since this past February as he attempted to dismiss most of them on allegations of corruption in favor of technocrats. The approval has alleviated much of this pressure in the face of the upcoming assault on Mosul. The move is also being welcomed by the US envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition.

A series of bomb and sniper attacks in Baghdad and the surrounding area killed six and injured 20 others this week.

ISIL allegedly executed 25 civilians in the town of Hawijah on Monday, claiming they had engaged in collaboration with the Iraqi government.

On Tuesday, ISIL assaulted an Iraqi border post on the country’s border with Jordan, killing nine.


Libya:

On Tuesday, Libyan forces claimed to have taken one of the last districts in Sirte captured by ISIL  militants. Progress of Libya’s Tripoli-based, U.N.-backed government has been aided by U.S. airstrikes.

On Thursday, two car bombs were detonated by ISIL militants in a suicide attack in western Sirte. The explosions killed 10 people and left many more wounded. After the attack, a raid was launched by pro-government forces, killing three ISIL militants.


Mali:

Hundreds of refugees, including Fulani nomads, have fled the conflict in Mali and arrived across the border in Mauritania. Many of the refugees, including women and children, have claimed that Malian soldiers beat and abused them. There is also evidence indicating that many of the refugees may have faced gender-based violence while they were still in Mali.

Police opened fire on a group of protesters in the capital city of Bamako on Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring several others. The group of people was protesting against the arrest on Monday of Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, also known as Ras Bath, a talk show host who has criticized the government.


Nigeria:

Boko Haram has released a new video featuring a lone gunman with around 50 of the Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted in April 2014. The extremist group is thought to still hold over 200 of the 276 girls taken from the school, and many of them are feared to have been sexually abused and forced to marry or convert to Islam. In the video, the gunman calls for the release of captured fighters in exchange for the girls’ release. He also claims that some of the girls have died in airstrikes. The Nigerian government says it is in touch with the militants responsible for the video and is seeking to question Ahmed Salkida, the journalist who posted the video.

On Monday, Boko Haram killed five civilian traders who were travelling with a Nigerian immigration staff convoy on Monday when the militants ambushed the convoy on the road to Maiduguri.

Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) troops have reportedly killed 27 Boko Haram militants and apprehended 11 others in a town near the Cameroon-Nigeria border.


South Sudan:

Developments in the fighting

45 people died in Unity State over the weekend as armed youth attacked government forces in the area. Due to this and other recent clashes, the area is seeing gross amounts of displacement.

Over the weekend, several newly appointed members of the recently created Yei State died in an ambush believed to have been carried out by the SPLM-IO.

The SPLM-IO has leveled accusations against the SPLA of painting its vehicles in the colors of the UN so as to attack SPLM-IO positions in the vicinity of the capital, Juba.

Investigations into abuses and misconduct

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its latest report on the violence that swept Juba in July 2016, detailing soldiers killing and raping civilians as well as looting and destroying property.  In response, HRW is calling for an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions against individuals accountable for the crimes. The report is collaborated by the work of the Associated Press, who through several interviews, learned of how marauding SPLA troops in Juba raped both foreign and local aid workers and executed locals. The report also claims that the UN peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile from the incident refused to send help. In response, the UN has begun an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers did not respond to calls for help to prevent sexual violence against both foreigners and locals.

South Sudan has gone on to  announce it has launched its own investigations over allegations made against SPLA soldiers that they engaged in acts of rape and looting during violence in the capital of Juba in July. 19 soldiers have already been arrested, though South Sudan has refused to state if they are in the SPLA or SPLM-IO. They face charges of murder, random shooting, and looting.

Political developments

On Monday, the South Sudanese government announced it would genuinely look over the UN’s plan to have an additional 4,000 troops in the country and then followed with the announcement that the final decision would rest with the South Sudanese Parliament on whether or not to accept the additional troops. The 4,000 troops would be in addition to the already 12,000 troops there with UNMISS. The parliament has previously rejected such a move.

However, late last week, the UNSC passed a resolution which will send the 4,000 additional troops to specifically secure the capital of Juba. South Sudan is still hoping to be able to negotiate over the exact size, weapons, mandate and troop contributing countries, including barring neighboring countries from committing troops.

Two years ahead of schedule and, despite not yet having seen through the full implementation of the peace deal which ended the civil war, South Sudanese Presindent Kiir has called for early elections in South Sudan to take place. In justifying the position, Mr. Kiir stated “I believe we need a new mandate and trust from the people” and that he fears others will and are attempting to become President through undemocratic means.

On the one year anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement to end the civil war in South Sudan, Amnesty International released a statement urging South Sudan and the African Union to fulfill the terms of the peace agreement and bring those accountable to justice by establishing a hybrid court for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As of yet, little to no progress has been made.

Officials of the SPLM-IO have confirmed that former Vice President and leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, has fled South Sudan for another country for fear of his life. While no confirmation has been given to his exact whereabouts, a spokesperson has stated that he remains in the region. Mr. Machar has not been seen since he fled Juba amid the fighting in early July.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Saturday, the Sudanese government bombed the outskirts of the capital of South Kordofan State, Kadugli, in violation of a declared six-month ceasefire.

The following day, the peace talks set out in the AU-Roadmap for Peace in Sudan between the Sudanese government and the opposition and several rebel groups broke down. Both sides accused one another of causing the sudden collapse in the still nascent peace talks, which were set to establish a permanent ceasefire and national reconciliation process. The point of contention that led to the breakdown of the peace talks appearsto be the delivery of humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas and who would control it.

The United States is calling for the immediate release of fifteen individuals detained after they met with the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, in late July. Sudan’s Foreign Minister has denied that any such detentions have taken place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting

180 civilians were killed over the weekend, with an overwhelming majority of the deaths taking place in or around Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has stated that in the past fifteen days of fighting, 327 civilians have been killed within Aleppo Province. The rapid increase in civilian deaths over the weekend coincided with a fresh rebel offensive in the southwest of Aleppo over the weekend, which ended in all positions seized being lost by Monday.

On Sunday, an ISIL suicide bomber killed at least 35 rebels on a bus close to the Atmeh border crossing with Turkey.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its new report, is warning that the joint Russian and Syrian air campaign in Syria has been using incendiary weapons in its aerial campaign. HRW has documented multiple attacks since June which have included the use of incendiary weapons, which are banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, of which Russia is a signatory.

This week, Russia, for the first time in the conflict, began using Iranian airbases to launch bombers for airstrikes in Syria. While long range bombers have been used by Russia throughout the government’s involvement in Syria, their positioning in Iran cuts travel time to Idlib and Aleppo provinces by 60% and represents a deepening of Russia’s ties and role in the region. As the strikes have continued throughout the week, the US is attempting to determine if the move is in violation of a UNSC Resolution restricting military interactions between Iran and the rest of the world.

On Tuesday, fighting broke out between Kurdish Security Forces and a pro-government Syrian militia in northeastern Syria in the city of Hasakah. The fighting, which continued through Wednesday, included the Syrian government’s use of aircraft to bomb Kurdish positions for the first time.

The deadly airstrike campaigns from the weekend continued on Tuesday, killing 19 civilians in eastern Aleppo. 12 rebels also died in an airstrike on their convoy as they attempted to enter eastern Aleppo.

On Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, airstrikes in Idlib city killed 25 people, including 15 civilians. There has been a recent intensification of air and artillery strikes against rebel positions, both in Aleppo and Idlib provinces, as the government attempts to halt rebel reinforcements to the assault in south-west Aleppo City by the rebels.

Political Developments

On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that the United States and Russia are closing in on an agreement to jointly target militant groups in Aleppo. The US has made no comment over the remarks.

China has reached a “consensus” on delivering humanitarian aid to Syria after Guan Youfei, director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, met with senior Syrian and Russian military officials in Damascus on Tuesday.

The Humanitarian Situation

The complete capture of Manbij by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over the weekend has led to the freeing of 2,000 civilians previously used by ISIL as human shields. ISIL’s remaining forces had used them as human shields while retreating from the city.

In a new report, Amnesty International has released its latest figures on how many political prisoners have died in Syrian government prisons since the start of the conflict in 2011. The report, which through interviews with sixty-five former prisoners detailing a system of rape and physical abuse, puts the total number of dead at 17,723, or a rate of ten people a day or three-hundred a month.

On Thursday, amid growing frustration with the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura ended his weekly meeting after only eight minutes. The past month has seen a massive drop in humanitarian access, with not a single humanitarian convoy reaching a besieged area in the past month.


Yemen:

Over the weekend, at least 10 children were killed in an airstrike on a school in Yemen’s northwestern province. The Saudi-led coalition is suspected for the bombardment.

Yemeni pro-government troops have reportedly recaptured the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar in the southern province of Abyan. The two cities were seized by al-Qaida last year amongst the chaos of Yemen’s civil war.

On Monday, at least seven people died as the result of an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a Médecins Sans Frontières-supported hospital in northern Yemen.

The following day, an airstrike on a residential area northeast of Sana’a killed 17 civilians, mostly women and children. The warplanes reportedly belonged to the Saudi-led coalition forces.

Houthi shelling killed seven people in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, according to Saudi state television.

 

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#R2P Weekly: 8 – 12 August

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“Catastrophe” Looming in Aleppo as Humanitarian Situation Continues to Deteriorate 

 Aleppo, known as Syria’s second city, continues to suffer dire humanitarian consequences as a result of the ongoing civil war in Syria. On 7 July, after an intense military campaign, the Syrian government managed to encircle rebel-held eastern Aleppo and begin a siege of the city, effectively leaving the roughly 300,000 citizens with two choices: catastrophe or surrender. Since the beginning of the siege, the residents have been victim to brutal conditions that have left food and supplies running low, while hospitals crumble under repeated airstrikes from Russia and Syria. Speaking to the situation, Cameron Hudson, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of genocide at the United States Holocaust Museum, stated quite bluntly: “The world is facing another Srebrenica moment.”

However, on Saturday, the rebel coalition of Jaysh al-Fatah, which includes the newly rebranded al-Nusra, managed to break the siege of eastern Aleppo. Afteraleppo several days of fighting, they overran government positions and bases in the southwest of the city. Though the siege has technically been broken, the forces have failed to open up a safe corridor for civilians to escape or for use in delivering humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the fighting has now left the government-controlled western portion of Aleppo, home to 1.5 million people, cut off from the outside world. The UN has warned that the fighting has only led to the possibility of replicating the humanitarian crisis unfolding in eastern Aleppo, effectively stretching to encompass the entire city.

On Monday, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held an informal meeting on the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, hearing first-hand accounts of the suffering and situation of civilians in the city. The US Ambassador called on the Council to send a clear signal that all sieges in Syria need to end, calling on Russia to end its part in their facilitation. Russia, in response, has stated that the resumption of peace talks on Syria should not be hinged on the possibility of a ceasefire in Aleppo, stating peace talks must resume immediately with no preconditions.

Aleppo’s rapid plunge into battle has killed dozens of civilians over the past several weeks, displaced thousands, and cut off clean water and electricity to 2 million people. Both the original siege of eastern Aleppo and this week’s rapid uptick in fighting have taken place against a backdrop of international and domestic condemnation and humanitarian concern. Several human rights organizations have detailed how civilians under siege have suffered under the worst conditions seen in the war. Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO that tracks abuses against medical workers, has called last week the worst for medical facilities in Aleppo since the start of the war. They continued, noting that “destroying hospitals is tantamount to signing thousands of death warrants for people now stranded in eastern Aleppo.”

In the wake of these unprecedented assaults on medical facilities, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the UN Security Council to ask the Secretary-General to conduct an independent inquiry, citing that deliberate attacks against medical facilities are undeniably violations of the laws of war and should be prosecuted as war crimes. Furthermore, of the 35 remaining doctors within eastern Aleppo, 15 have attached their names to a letter written to US President Obama asking for an intervention to stop the bombing of hospitals, attacks which the doctors call deliberate in nature.

As the doctors’ letter was made public, Russia announced a daily three-hour ceasefire, which went into effect on Thursday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. local time to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, despite the announcement, fighting has continued in the city. Furthermore, most observers consider the window of movement presented by the ceasefire as inadequate or impossible to deliver the needed humanitarian aid to the city. UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien has continued his call for a weekly 48-hour ceasefire for Aleppo. Meanwhile, the fighting persists, including with the possible use of chlorine gas dropped by government forces on rebel-held positions in Aleppo this week, which reportedly killed four and injured many others. Such an act – if confirmed – would constitute a war crime, according to the UN special envoy for Syria. However, on both sides, Aleppo continues to suffer, with both portions of the divided city yet to receive humanitarian aid or have secure access to the outside world.

Source for the above photo: The Guardian via Ahrar al Sham, ISW, Archicivilians, Al Jazeera


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other

 


Burma/Myanmar:                           

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has set the date for the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference to begin on 31 August. The five-day conference will host multiple armed ethnic groups in efforts to hold peace talks to end the ongoing violence in Myanmar. However, three ethnic armies have rejected the national military’s call to disarm and have refused to lay down their arms to participate in the Peace Conference. The three groups, the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Palaung State Liberation Front/ Ta’ang National Liberation Army (PSLF/TNLA), did not sign last year’s ceasefire agreement.


Burundi:

The UN Committee on Torture has expressed grave concern after four Burundian lawyers were threatened with disbarment for contributing to a report by the Committee on Burundi, which is set to be released on Friday. A Burundi prosecutor has alleged multiple offenses against the lawyers, including being involved in an attempted coup. The same day, the Burundi government stated it would not participate in any further dialogue with the UN Committee.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 7 August, armed groups killed at least 14 people in separate attacks in the troubled eastern region of Kivu. In the deadliest attack, members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) torched 60 houses in the village of Kibirizi, killing seven people. Mai-Mai tribal militants were also implicated in attacks that left seven more dead and scorched a total of 150 homes in villages throughout northern Kivu.

A senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, Ida Sawyer, has been blocked by the DRC government from continuing work in the country. Sawyer’s work permit was revoked in “the government’s latest attempt to curtail human rights reporting during a period of increased government repression,” according to HRW.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, Israel announced that a Palestinian official working for the UN Development Program is charged with assisting Hamas. Waheed Al Borsh allegedly confessed to using the international aid organisation in order to build a jetty for Hamas naval forces. This is the second incident of this nature. Last week, Israeli security officials discovered evidence suggesting that the head of World Vision was diverting money from the charity to Hamas. These allegations have prompted increased scrutiny of Gaza aid groups.


Iraq:

August 9th marked the two-year anniversary of the first US airstrikes against ISIL. Since that time, the US-led international coalition against ISIL has made 14,000 airstrikes against the terrorist organization, with the overwhelming majority undertaken by the US in Iraq.

Mercy Corps has released a statement warning that in addition to the estimated 70,000 people who have been displaced in recent fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIL in central Iraq, the group expects a further 200,000 people to become displaced over the next two weeks as they flee their homes for safety prior to the government assault on Mosul.

Over the weekend, ISIL allegedly executed 61 civilians in the town of Hawijah, in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province, for attempting to flee from ISIL captivity. The dead are believed to belong to the estimated 1,900-3,000 civilians that ISIL is believed to be forcibly holding for use as human shields in the area after their capture last week.

On Sunday, a triple-suicide-bombing carried out by ISIL near Qayyara, 50 km north of Mosul, killed 10 Iraqi security members.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry has stated that Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi survived an attempted assassination, by mortar attack, while surveying troops preparing for the liberation of Mosul.

On Wednesday, unidentified militants blew up an oil well in the province of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The same day, several separate attacks on the outskirts of Baghdad left ten people dead and scores wounded. The majority of the deaths took place in the town of Latifiyah, where four soldiers and three civilians died when a suicide-bomber struck an army checkpoint.

On Thursday, a car-bomb in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah killed two policemen.


Libya:

On Tuesday, Libyan and US officials confirmed the presence of US special operations troops on the ground helping Libya’s unity government fight ISIL.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, Western countries expressed concern about tensions around the Zueitina oil port. The states, which include the U.S., France and Britain, urged for a return of oil and gas infrastructure control to the government.

This week, Libyan pro-government forces liberated most of the city of Sirte, which has been under the control of ISIL since 2015. Libyan forces were able to seize the Ouagadougou complex – the jihadist group’s headquarters – with the help of airstrikes from U.S. drones and fighter jets. Moktar Khalifa, mayor of Sirte, reportedly stated that “Sirte is 70 percent free, it will soon be completely free.”

On Thursday, it was reported that French special forces have withdrawn from Benghazi.


Mali:

A string of attacks that began over the weekend in Mali and lasted into Monday, have left several people dead, including one UN peacekeeper. Several other peacekeepers sustained injuries on Sunday when their vehicle struck a mine buried in the road.

In a separate event, an Ansar Dine member died in an attack on the Malian army that also left five soldiers missing and possibly drowned as five bodies have been recovered from a nearby river, but whose identities have yet to be confirmed.

On Tuesday, clashes erupted between ex-rebels from the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and members of the pro-government group, GATIA. The fighting continued through Wednesday.

In a recent interview, Mali’s ex-foreign minister, Tiebile Drame, called for a national dialogue to take place. Mr. Drame is currently the president of the main opposition party in Mali, the Party for National Renaissance (PARENA). While welcoming the peace agreement signed in 2015, he has cited the recent uptick in violence in urging the government to convene a national dialogue.


Nigeria:

On 9 August, gunmen dressed as priests killed three Nigerian Army soldiers in Nigeria’s southern oil state of Bayelsa.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the EU’s recent 50 million Euro contribution to the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), led by the Lake Chad Basin countries. Ban also commended the work of the MNJTF countries “for the significant progress achieved in combating the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram.”


South Sudan:

Political Developments

After the announcement that South Sudan had agreed to the deployment of a regional force by the  Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), on Sunday, the US began circulating a draft resolution to the UNSC that would provide a mandate for a 4,000 member deployment to secure the capital of Juba. However, South Sudan has both rejected the US’s proposal, which also includes an arms embargo, and has denied that South Sudan had been consulted on or agreed to such a regional force. Over the past week, South Sudan has noticeably decreased its cooperation with the UN, seizing the passports of 86 UN workers and denying the UN access to any part of the country south of the capital, which is in clear violation of the UN’s operating arrangement in the country.

Developments in the Fighting

On 7 August, the governor of Gbudue, Patrick Zamoi, survived an assassination attempt in which gunmen opened fire on his convoy.

On 9 August, the SPLA and SPLM-IO forces loyal to ex-First Vice President Machar engaged in fighting in the town of Yei, near South Sudan’s border with Uganda. The fighting erupted after SPLM-IO forces allegedly seized control of Lasu county, located to the southwest of Yei.

The Humanitarian Situation

On 8 August, Amnesty International publicly released its submission, entitled “South Sudan: Conflict and Impunity”, for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of South Sudan, which will take place in November. In the submission, Amnesty International attempts to highlight the failings of the human rights regime in South Sudan as well as the overall state of impunity that exists for any who commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the country.

On 10 August, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released its latest report on the outflows of refugees from South Sudan. The NRC warns that the number of South Sudanese fleeing to Uganda has reached the pace of 2,000 per day, with 70,000 already having fled in the past 20 days.The NRC expects that at least another 80,000 will flee by the end of the year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 8 August, Sudanese President Bashir announced that he will free all political prisoners prior to the start of the General Conference of the National Dialogue on 10 October in the lead up to the official signing of the AU-Roadmap for Peace by the opposition. Sudan Call, an umbrella group representing several Sudanese rebel movements, signed the AU-Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan the same day. The signing has been heralded by the Troika, the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, as “a laudable commitment to ending the conflicts in Sudan and moving towards a process of dialogue as a basis for lasting peace in their country.” Immediately after the signing, negotiations began over an initial and eventual permanent ceasefire between the government and the signatories as well as for the delivery of humanitarian aid to rebel-held regions.

On Monday, five people died in a Sudanese government airstrike on the town of Kabe in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region. Another child died in renewed bombings the following day.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting

As the battle for Aleppo continues, the city is seeing the influx of hundreds of foreign fighters. On Monday, Iranian media announced that more Shi’ite militia fighters from from both Lebanon and Iraq are soon set to arrive in the area, with 1,000 Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon alleged to have already arrived on Sunday.

Over the weekend, several airstrikes on hospitals in Idlib province left 10 people dead, while incendiary bombs, believed to be dropped by Russia, struck Idlib city.

On Sunday, ISIL launched an attack involving multiple suicide bombers on the US-backed rebel group, New Syrian Army (NSA), at the al Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

After 69 days,the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have managed to completely free the city of Manbij in northern Syria from ISIL. As Manbij begins to look towards a post-ISIL future, more than 60 local Arab tribes have begun meetings to discuss the future of the city.

On 10 August, Russian air strikes targeting the capital of ISIL’s supposed caliphate, Raqqa, allegedly killed at least 30 people and left close to 100 wounded. Seperately, 11 people died in airstrikes by the Syrian government on the town of Ariha in Idlib province.

The Humanitarian Situation

On 8 August, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released the latest tally of the dead in Syria’s 5-year civil war. The Observatory stated that from March 2011 – 1 August 2016, 292,817 people had died in the conflict.

Political Developments

Turkey will shortly be sending a negotiating team to Russia to discuss the ongoing war in Syria, including the possibility of a ceasefire, increased delivery of humanitarian aid, and a reigniting of the political process to end the war. Despite appearing to be on opposite sides in the conflict, Turkey and Russia are attempting a normalization of relations after a steady deterioration over the past year.

Having reached an agreement last August to assist the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a plan to the Russian legislature that would approve the indefinite residence of the Russian air force in Syria.


Yemen:

On Sunday, four children were reportedly killed and three more were injured in Yemen’s Nihm district, which lies east of the capital. UNICEF has deplored the killing of these children and has urged all belligerent parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and avoid civilian infrastructure.

On Tuesday, UNICEF released a statement claiming that 1,121 children have perished since March 2015, as a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a killed at least 14 civilians early this week. Jets targeted a potato factory in the Nahda district, situated inside an army maintenance camp. On Thursday, in the third day of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, warplanes reportedly struck the Al-Dailami airbase and a military school, both in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

Yemen’s prime minister has praised the support of the United Arab Emirates throughout recent conflict and fledgling peace talks.

This week, the U.S. stated its intention to rearm Saudi Arabia with $1.5 billion in military equipment, including with technical and intelligence support, in order to support the war against shiite militias in Yemen.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 1 – 5 August 2016

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ICRtoP Releases two new educational tools exploring RtoP’s regional relevance in MENA and the Asia-Pacific

cf97b15f-acba-4cd8-a968-1d09266bf798.pngThe ICRtoP serves as a key resource to increase understanding of the Responsibility to Protect amongst civil society, government and regional organization actors, the UN, and the general public. Our vast range of educational tools has been used by diverse audiences throughout the world and has had a direct impact on strengthening the global awareness of RtoP.

To contribute towards this goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention, the ICRtoP has released two new educational tools exploring the regional relevance of the norm: The Responsibility to Protect in the Middle East and North Africa; and The Responsibility to Protect in the Asia-Pacific.108d9501-b557-4eb0-9a6d-905c9efbe3d7.png

These documents provide an overview ofRtoP’s relevance to the region in focus, explorin

g the efforts made by regional organizations, anddiscussing relevant country situations. The educational tools also provide examples of the contributions made by civil society to advance the norm.

The ICRtoP will release additional region specific tools focusing on Africa, the Americas, and Europe soon.

View the tools here:

The Responsibility to Protect in the Middle East and North Africa

The Responsibility to Protect in the Asia-Pacific


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) stated it would not sign an upcoming ceasefire agreement unless all of its nine ethnic member groups were included. The Burmese military has previously stated it will not allow three specific member groups to sign the agreement until they officially disarm, but retracted their statement later this week, noting their desire for peace.


Burundi:

On 28 July, three people were killed in an attack by unidentified armed men on a pub in central Burundi. Two men in the pub were killed as well as one of the attackers after the men, dressed in military uniform, stole telephones and money before opening fire.

The Security Council adopted Resolution 2302 on 29 July to send a police contingent of 228 forces to Burundi for an initial period of one year. The resolution established a police component to monitor human rights violations and the security situation while supporting the OHCHR office.

The next day, protests erupted in the capital of Bujumbura against the UN decision. Around 1,000 protesters marched peacefully towards the French embassy, critical of France’s role in drafting the adopted resolution. The government of Burundi has previously stated that it will only accept up to 50 unarmed UN police. However, on 2 August, the Burundi government rejected any UN police force presence, saying it is unnecessary and violates Burundi’s sovereignty.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters organized a rally in Kinshasa on Sunday following the return of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi last week after spending two years in Belgium for medical reasons. Supporters of the opposition are demanding that elections be held on schedule in November and President Joseph Kabila step down at the end of the year. Amnesty International called on DRC security forces to show restraint in handling the Kinshasa protests in light of recent violence used against protesters.

Six years after the mass rape of over 300 civilians in the Walikale region of the DRC, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, called for accountability and justice for the victims of one of the worst mass rapes in recent history. “To all the victims in Walikale and beyond, we say: justice may have been delayed, but it should not be denied,” stated Bangura.

On Tuesday, an opposition supporter wearing a tshirt with an image of political leader Etienne Tshisekedi was shot dead by a DRC soldier. The incident sparked clashes between police forces and the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) supporters.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Thursday, AFP revealed that Mohammed Halabi, the head of World Vision, had been diverting millions of dollars worth of foreign aid to Hamas. This was discovered by Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security organ, Israel is therefore charging the director of the U.S.-based Christian NGO for diverting an estimated 60% of World Vision’s annual budget since 2010.


Iraq:

On Sunday, two separate attacks by ISIL in Iraq’s oil-rich region of Kirkuk killed five people and damaged oil facilities.

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein publicly stressed his and the UN’s concern over the fact that Iraq has created a special committee to fast-track the carrying out of death sentences.  Underlying his concern, Mr. Hussein noted both the relative fragility of the Iraqi system as well as the role executions could play in deepening sectarian tensions and disillusionment with the government.

On 1 August, the UN released its figures on violence in Iraq for the month of July, stating that at least 760 people died in the month of July from acts of terrorism and violence. Civilians accounted for 629 of the dead.

After Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi testified in front of the Iraqi Parliament on Monday, where he accused several members of Parliament, including the Speaker, of corruption and attempting to bribe him,  Prime Minister Abadi issued travel bans for several of the lawmakers implicated. Meanwhile, the head of Iraq’s public prosecution has filed complaints against all those members of parliament accused by the Defense Minister.

The US-led international anti-ISIL coalition, on Wednesday, launched airstrikes destroying a former palace of Saddam Hussein’s which had been the headquarters and training centre for foreign ISIL recruits in Mosul since 2014.

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights has reported that ISIL has kidnapped 1,900 Iraqi civilians as they attempted to flee the Hawija district in Kirkuk province.

On the second anniversary of the start of ISIL’s genocide against the Yazidi minority, the UN has warned the world that the genocide in still ongoing, with 3,200 women and children still being held as captives by the group. ICRtoP member, the Global Centre for R2P, released a statement marking the second anniversary, in which the organization called for accountability for the commission of atrocity crimes.


Kenya:

On Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta requested that France support Kenya in securing stability and peace in the region, particularly in South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi. The President voiced his concern surrounding the withdrawal of the EU’s support to AMISOM and the security of Somalia, which shares a border with Kenya. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault responded by expressing his support and concern for security in the region.


Libya:

On 31 July, it was reported that over 120 bodies washed up on Sabratha shores in western Libya. The victims were predominantly identified as sub-Saharan Africans and some Tunisians who perished whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the US had conducted a series of airstrikes in Sirte, on Libya’s mediterranean coast. According to an administration official, the airstrikes were approved by President Obama last week and belong to a coordinated military campaign against ISIL.

Tuesday was the second day of U.S. airstrikes against ISIL in Libya. President Obama has called the military action critical to protecting U.S. security interests.

On Wednesday, Col. Miloud Zwai, a Libyan army spokesman reported that at least 18 Libyan soldiers had been killed and 20 more injured in a car bomb in Benghazi. The attack was claimed by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda.

On Thursday, the EU announced its decision to extend its civilian mission in Libya by a year, approving a $18.92 million budget to the assignment that is set to last until August 2017.


Mali:

Over the weekend six people died in clashes between a coalition of Tuareg rebels, the Coordination of Azawad Movements, and a Tuareg group, GATIA, allied with the government of Mali. Seperately, two Malian soldiers died when their vehicle ran over an IED, suspected to be planted by al- Qaeda.

On 31 July, the Malian government extended the state of emergency in the country for an additional eight months. The extension, until 29 March, 2017, is in response to renewed violence in the country’s northeast which recently saw Tuareg fighters storming an army base, killing seventeen. On the same day, a Malian army Captain died after being being ambushed by four gunmen outside of his home. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has taken responsibility for the attack.

The Follow-up Committee for the Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement has announced that joint patrols will begin on 15 August 2016 in Gao, to be followed up by further joint patrols planned for Timbuktu and Kidal. The first battalion will consist of 600 officers and will consist of members of the Malian army and the ex-rebels of the Coordination of Azawad Movements group. Furthermore, the Committee said they had reached consensus on eight possible cantonment sites  ready to begin receiving fighters on the same day.


Nigeria:

A public inquiry found the Nigerian Army killed 347 Shia Muslims in an attack last December known as the Zaria massacre. A mass grave of the hundreds of bodies was found, prompting calls by groups such as Amnesty International for the Nigerian government to take immediate action. The Army is also accused of shooting prominent Shia leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, who has been held in custody since December.

On Wednesday, Boko Haram announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its new leader in an Islamic State magazine. However, former leader Abubakar Shekau denounced the claim and accused al-Barnawi of staging a coup against him.

The UN has temporarily suspended aid delivery in Nigeria after an attack on a multi-agency aid convoy on 28 July. The attack by unknown assailants left one aid worker injured. Despite the temporary halt, UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian assistance efforts to reach the 244,000 malnourished children in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
The past weekend saw renewed fighting between the SPLA and members of the SPLM-IO still loyal to former First Vice President Machar in Nasir town, Upper Nile state, leaving nine dead.

After a week of clashes with members of the SPLM-IO, the SPLA has withdrawn from the county of Ngo-Bagari in Western Bahr el Ghazal state. The SPLM-IO in the region remains loyal to the recently deposed First Vice President Riek Machar.

On Tuesday, both the SPLA and SPLM-IO laid blame on the other for renewed fighting between the two in the Leer County of Unity State.  The same day, the SPLM-IO announced that they had forced the SPLA, loyal to Pres. Kiir, from all of their positions outside of Juba, only waiting on orders to enter the capital. The SPLA has denied the claims, instead stating that there have only been minor skirmishes over the past several days.

Political Developments
On 31 July, over thirty soldiers as well as three generals of the SPLM-IO defected to the South Sudanese government, recognizing Taban Deng Gai as both the country’s First Vice President as well as the leader of the SPLM-IO.

South Sudan has announced that it will be sending a high-level delegation to the UN to garner new support for the country, with the delegation being led by newly appointed First Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

South Sudan’s Agriculture Minister, Lam Akol, resigned from his position this week, calling on President Kiir to step aside and the current government to leave power. Mr. Akol, a powerful opposition figure and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), in his resignation stated “”There is no more peace agreement to implement in Juba. The only sensible way to oppose this regime, so as to restore genuine peace to our war-torn country, is to organise outside Juba.” Mr, Akol went on to announce he has begun working with other opposition leaders to begin “consolidating” anti-government resistance.

On Tuesday, President Kiir fired six ministers from his government who remain allied to his rival former First Vice President Machar. The positions have been immediately filled by members of a dissenting faction of the SPLM-IO who have rejected Mr. Machar as the continued leader of the group.

Humanitarian Situation
On his recent visit to South Sudan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien warned that the already dire humanitarian situation could deteriorate further in lieu of renewed peace talks and/or continued violence. Mr. O’brien went onto state that close to five million South Sudanese are going hungry on a daily basis.

On 2 August, the UNHCR updated its figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan, raising the total to 60,000.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has stated that preliminary findings from the UN’s investigation into the recent fighting in South Sudan have concluded that the SPLA engaged in widespread human rights violations during the violence. These violations include the killing of hundreds of civilians, including targeted executions, the rape of at least 100 women, widespread looting, and destruction of property. Mr. Hussein is calling on the UNSC to take action in light of these findings.


Sudan/Darfur:

This week, the European Union Mission in Khartoum, the UNDP, the UN, the African Union and the UNAMID began their joint Peace and Reconciliation Project. The Project aims to support the Comprehensive Partnerships for building Peace and Reconciliation in Darfur by funding and structurally supporting increased dialogues between tribes and local communities in Darfur in hopes of establishing pacific settlement of disputes.

On 2 August, the African Union stated that peace talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), the rebel groups in Darfur and the opposition alliance will start on the 8th of August. On that same date, the opposition will sign the Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan.

On 3 August, 200 fighters from the Democratic Justice and Equality Movement (DJEM) arrived in the North Darfur capital  of El-Fasher to begin the security arrangement procedure set out in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
Al-Nusra, one of the most potent fighting forces against the Assad regime, has officially severed its ties with al-Qaeda after originally starting off as the terrorist organization’s branch in Syria. Al- Nusra will now operate under the moniker of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (“the Levant Conquest Front). The move is believed to be in response to American and Russian plans to begin jointly targeting the group due to their association with al- Qaeda.

An alliance of Syrian rebel groups, including Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly al-Nusra) and Ahrar al Sham, have launched an offensive in an attempt to break the siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. The rebels have launched their offensive in the south and west of Aleppo in hopes of both opening a new supply line for rebels in the city as well as cutting off the government’s supply route. The focus has been on the Ramouseh district in south-west Aleppo, which if taken would cut-off government controlled western Aleppo from the outside world.  Meanwhile, the UN is pushing for a humanitarian pause to the fighting and hopes to announce a comprehensive plan in the coming days.

Over thirty people died from rebel shelling of government held Western Aleppo over the course of Monday and early Tuesday.

On 1 August, Syrian rebels shot down a Russian helicopter in Idlib province, killing all five on board. The following day, a Syrian rescue service operating in the area claimed that a helicopter dropped containers filled with gas, believed to be chlorine, on the nearby town of Saraqeb, with thirty three people suffering from its effects, while unrelated Russian airstrikes in Idlib allegedly killed 15 people and injured a further thirty.

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) are now in control of over 70% of the city of Manbij, after having pushed ISIL out of most of the western, eastern and southern portions of the city.

Political Developments
Over the weekend, the U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy E. Ramzy flew into Damascus to meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moulem to discuss how to budge the stalled peace process in Geneva. The UN is attempting to have the talks restarted by the end of August.

The Chief of the US Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, has admitted he is not sure whether or not Syria can or will remain one country. US Sec. of State John Kerry has previously mentioned a possible “Plan B” for Syria, which would see Syria be partitioned if a ceasefire could not take hold.

Humanitarian Situation
On 1 August, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) released its death toll report for the month of July. The SNHR  tallied the deaths of 1,557 civilians in the month of July at the hands of the main combatants in the conflict. 769 of the civilians died due to the government, with Russian forces allegedly being responsible for the deaths of 239 civilians. The report also noted that for the month of July, nine children died a day on average in the conflict.

On Wednesday, the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) stated that in the past week alone that the Syrian government has launched airstrikes against six different hospitals in Aleppo, calling it the single worst week for attacks on medical facilities in Syria’s civil war.


Yemen:

On Sunday, seven Saudi border guards were killed in clashes with Yemeni militants at the border with the war-torn country. The guards were fighting to stop attempts by the militants to cross the border into Najran, Saudi Arabia. Coalition aircrafts also helped to repel the attack.

On Sunday, Houthi rebels attacked government forces in Shabwa, a southern province, killing 42. The conflict continued until Tuesday as government forces tried to repel the fighters with air support provided by the Saudi-led coalition.

On Monday, the Yemeni delegation walked out of peace talks being held in Kuwait. This occurred after the Houthi’s rejected the peace plan, labelling it ‘incomplete.’ The return of the Yemeni delegation is contingent on whether the rebels will agree to a UN deal. Before leaving Kuwait, Minister Mikhlafi told reporters that they would ‘return any minute…if the other side agrees to sign’ and has given the Houthis an August 8 deadline to approve the deal.

On 1 August, Saudi Arabia’s civil Defence spokesman in Jizan has stated that four members of a family were killed by a missile from Yemen.

The next day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concern for the children of Yemen at a Security Council debate on children and armed conflict. He restated his support for the claim that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60% of child deaths and casualties in 2016, with the Houthi rebel group responsible for the remainder.

In addition to this, at least six soldiers were killed in a double car bombing at an army base of troops loyal to President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, in Habilayn, Lahj province.


What else is new?

Former leader of Chad, Hissene Habre, has been ordered to pay millions of dollars to victims in compensation. Convicted in May of this year of crimes against humanity, the decision of the special African Union court will likely impact 4,700 victims and relatives of those affected by Habre’s crimes.

 

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