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RtoP and the Protection of the Internally Displaced

Dr. Phil Orchard

Diapositiva1Today, there are 68.5 million forced migrants globally. Yet, while much focus has been put on the expansion of refugee numbers – now up to     25.4 million – the dramatic growth of numbers of conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) -which now number 40 million – has    been virtually ignored.

This in spite of the fact that forced migration and atrocity crimes are inexorably tied together. Thus, in Syria today we see 6.2 million IDPs, many of whom have been displaced due to “indiscriminate and deliberate attacks” which the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry has argued constitute war crimes. Thus, IDPs can be a product of atrocity crimes and an early warning sign as they seek to flee from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Or they can in themselves be a form of atrocity crime, deliberately displaced through ethnic cleansing and forcible transfers, with the latter qualifying as both a war crime and crime against humanity under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute.

But, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that asylum could provide one form of protection from atrocity crimes, and that the protection of both refugees and IDPs was a direct goal of the RtoP, there has otherwise been only limited engagement with specific mechanisms to do so.

In part this is because – unlike refugees – IDPs lack a binding convention at the international level. Instead they are protected only through the soft law Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. But these Principles reflect established international human rights and humanitarian law as well as analogous refugee law. And, in Principle 6, they establish a clear explicit duty to prevent arbitrary displacement, including through ethnic cleansing or other practices aimed at altered the composition of the affected population as well as in situations of armed conflict.

The Principles have also played an important role in developing regional law, including the African Great Lakes Protocoland the African Union’s 2009 Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africawhich entered into force in 2012. The Kampala Convention adopts the Principles’ conception of arbitrary displacement. It also specifies that all state parties have a duty to refrain and prevent atrocity crimes against IDPs and, following Article 4(h) of the African Union’s Constitutive Act, that the AU has the right to intervene in such cases.

Beyond regional law, the Principles have also led to a range of laws and policies at the domestic level to protect and assist IDPs, with some forty countries now having adopted such instruments. Supporting the development of these instruments has been recognized by the UN General Assembly and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But this is also an important Pillar 2 mechanism to ensure that IDPs fleeing atrocity crimes have their rights respected as much as possible during displacement, but also to ensure that they have access to durable solutions, including return to their homes, integration into a host area of the state, or resettlement elsewhere within the state.

However, the implementation record of these instruments is mixed. Less than half explicitly mention the Guiding Principles, and they frequently adopt more narrow definitions of IDPs than incorporated within the Principles. They have a tendency to prioritize returns over other forms of solutions, which frequently leave IDPs who cannot return (frequently a case with victims who have directly experienced traumatic events) with little assistance and support. In addition, less than a third of these instruments have been implemented without significant issues.

So what does work well? Successful laws and policies tend to be introduced early on in the displacement process, reflecting credible government commitments, or as part of wider peace agreements. And they tend to be supported by independent domestic institutions that can support the process and serve as accountability checks by engaging in monitoring, providing independent information and, where possible, seeking to ensure the government follows the outlined process. These institutions include the courts and national human rights institutions, but also national and local NGOs and other civil society organizations.

Therefore, while there is growing international recognition of the linkages between atrocity crimes and internal displacement, there are two distinct remaining problems. The first is that the explicit standards reflecting this are either in soft or regional law, rather clear international standards. The second is that while this has led to the creation of a number of domestic instruments, their record remains mixed. Both problems point to the need for further support by both the United Nations and its agencies and by civil society organizations at the international and domestic levels.

Phil Orchard is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Wollongong and a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. His research focuses on international efforts to provide legal and institutional protections to forced migrants and war-affected civilians. He is the author of A Right to Flee: Refugees, States, and the Construction of International Cooperation (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which won the 2016 International Studies Association Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Studies Section Distinguished Book Award, and the co-editor, with Alexander Betts, of Implementation in World Politics: How Norms Change Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014).His new book, Protecting the Internally Displaced: Rhetoric and Reality, is now available from Routledge.

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RtoP Weekly: 26 October – 1 November 2018

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This week in focus: Concerns in Post-Election Cameroon

Human rights violations and other indicators of atrocities continue to persist in Cameroon following the announcement of President Biya’s reelection. Over the past several months, complaints of state and societal discrimination against the English-speaking population has grown, as has violence against them, particularly in the Anglophone regions of the country. The presidential election was of particular concern, as state forces began to clamp down on political dissidents and members of the Anglophone community leading up to Election Day.

Since the election, that concern has not abated. Opposition groups tried, and failed, to petition electoral results on the basis of voter suppression and ballot manipulation. This past week, Cameroonians who fled prior to the election returned to find their homes and villages razed by government forces instructed to target separatist strongholds.

The government also issued a statement in which they cautioned that attempts to “disrupt public order will be handled with all firmness.” Such firmness, manifested itself in reported arrests and beatings of singing protesters, who have taken to schools and churches in order to find safe spaces of dissent. The Cameroonian government stated that the election was conducted according to international standards, and encouraged its people to refrain from “giving ear” to dissidents and their calls to “destabilize” the country.

With protests likely to continue, as well as Biya’s intent to continue his tenure, the situation in Cameroon remains of concern. The ICRtoP continues to monitor the developments on the ground and engage with members of our coalition, international actors, and other stakeholders with the aims of preventing an atrocity situation.


What to Watch:

Burma: Bangladesh, Myanmar to Start Returning Rohingya in November (Al Jazeera)
Last Tuesday, Burma and Bangladesh agreed to start the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in mid-November after developing a “concrete plan.” Many, however, fear that the Burmese government will not guarantee minimum rights to the returnees, including “citizenship, access to healthcare, and freedom of movement.” The United Nations continues to warn about the “ongoing genocide,” and urges the return of refugees to be “voluntary, and conducted with dignity and security.”

Burundi: Burundi Talks Leave Many Questions (The Citizen)
The inter-Burundi dialogs scheduled to take place in Arusha, Tanzania this past week encountered an obstacle when government officials to decide to boycott the discussions. The government delegation failed to appear on the basis of the mediating body not ensuring or meeting their demands that the failed 2015 coup and its actors not be on the agenda or represented in the talks. Opposition groups, however, viewed the discussions positively, though Former Tanzanian President and Moderator, Benjamin Mkapa, stressed that government participation was needed to end the crisis. The goal of the dialogs was to establish a pathway to free and fair elections in 2020.

Liberia: Liberians against Amnesty for War, New Survey on Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Shows (Front Page Africa)
A new study on social cohesion and reconciliation shows that most Liberians are opposed to giving amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with 69% believing that it would be “unfair to the victims of the civil war.” This adds to the mounting pressure for the government to address reconciliation, ensure truth, and provide compensations. Moreover, the survey offers a new push for the Liberian government to implement the TRC (Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission) recommendations, which included the establishment of a war crimes court, and have not been considered a priority for the government so far.


But Also Don’t Miss:

DRC: DR Congo opposition parties agree to name unity candidate by mid-November
Opposition parties in the DRC agreed to select a single candidate with the hope of strengthening their chances for victory in December’s election.

DRC: Hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee Angola in need of aid
Oxfam warned of the growing humanitarian crisis due to continued expulsions from Angola, saying that returnees reported suffering for multiple forms of abuse and risk malnutrition and disease.

Gaza/West Bank: Palestine demands ICC investigate occupation’s killing of three children The Palestine Liberation Organization appealed to the International Criminal Court to conduct an investigation of the killing of three children on the border of the Gaza Strip, calling the Israeli attacks “intentional and deliberate.”

Nigeria: Clashes in Nigeria Between Security Forces and Shia Protesters
Clashes between security forces and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) erupted in the capital amidst allegations by rights groups that Nigeria’s military has murdered over 300 IMN members, burying them in mass graves.

Syria: Syrian Government’s ‘different understanding’ of UN role, a ‘very serious challenge’ – Special Envoy 
Staffan de Mistura, UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, stated in a UN Security Council briefing that different understandings of the UN’s role pose a “serious challenge” to the peace process in Syria.

Syria: Syria – Jordan: relief convoy fails to reach “desperate” border camp 
A relief convoy with aid supplies for the 45,000 Syrians trapped on the Jordanian border failed to reach the Rukban refugee camp; according to activists the blockade is orchestrated by the Syrian government.

Yemen: US defence chief demands Yemen ceasefire; peace talks in 30 days
The United States Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, asked for a ceasefire in Yemen following the Saudi-led coalition’s deployment of more than 10,000 new troops toward Hodeidah.

Yemen: Yemen death toll five times higher than previous estimate, researchers say 
New data shows that the number of combatant and civilian casualties as the result of armed violence in Yemen is five times higher than previously estimated.


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R2P: From Promise to Practice

Alex J. Bellamy & Edward C. Luck

Following more than a decade of decline, the incidence of atrocity crimes is again rising. The tide of forcibly displaced populations is at the highest level since the end of the Second World War.  We need to do far better at preventing such horrific crimes and at protecting vulnerable populations.  That is the purpose of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a set of rules and principles that has advanced far more rapidly in debating halls than in national and international policies and actions. This book is about how to turn the promise of R2P into practice.

As scholars and practitioners, however, we felt that something was missing, that the literature has been incomplete. While the scholarly and analytical work on R2P as a normative innovation and political enterprise has been truly impressive, there has been far less attention to what R2P looks like in practice. Following a decade of normative development and maturation, R2P principles have now been tested in practice for a decade as well.  The principles have reached a settled state, but their practice is still far down the learning curve. We believe, nevertheless, that there is now enough of a track record to begin to offer some rough assessments of what is or is not working. Here are some of our key points.

One. The development of R2P needs to be understood in its historical context.  In these trying times, all human rights and human protection norms are under siege from a volatile mix of cultural and geopolitical forces.  This is a compelling reason to dig deeper and do better, not to retreat into despair or defeatism in the face of adversity.

Two.  As norms are challenged and the ranks of the vulnerable grow, there is a renewed urgency to make R2P principles a living reality.

Three.  This transition to implementation demands a broader understanding of the core concept of responsibility, so that it encompasses individual and group responsibility as well as institutional, national, and international responsibility.  None of the latter will assume their responsibilities unless individuals—inside and outside—make them.

Four.  A decade of applying R2P to crisis situations has underscored that the key to curbing atrocities is making it a policy priority.  When it comes to atrocity prevention and response, trying to make a difference usually does make a difference.

Five.  Practice has also made it abundantly clear that R2P is not—and should not be—the only priority.  It must find its place at the table and in the mix of other legitimate concerns of public policy.

Six.  Though the toughest normative battles have been fought and won, R2P’s development as an international standard has not reached a fully mature stage.  Its acceptance could be both broader and deeper.

Seven.  The strategic and doctrinal development of R2P has been asymmetrical, with conceptual advances made within the United Nations unevenly reflected in national capitals and regional and sub-regional organizations.

Eight.  Experience has demonstrated that the most persistent obstacle to R2P implementation has come from concerns about decision-making sovereignty, not territorial sovereignty. Future debates should be more concerned with competing conceptions of national interest and international responsibilities both within countries under stress and within other countries with the capacity to do more to make a difference when it comes to prevention and protection.

History tells us that the journey from principle to practice is never quick or sure.  It demands persistence as much as intellect, learning from mistakes as well as from successes, and never forgetting where we are going or why we undertook the journey in the first place.   Stepping aside, giving up, looking for easier paths is not an option.  Curbing atrocities is as difficult as it is compelling.  But experience also shows that it can be done.  Those are the core lessons from R2P’s early years.  They offer the promise of stronger institutions, deeper commitments, and better policy in the years ahead.  R2P is just getting started.

For full book details please see here.

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RtoP Weekly: 15 – 19 October 2018

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This week in focus: Fostering inclusion to build resilient societies: How women peacebuilders prevent conflicts and atrocities on the ground 

On 25 October 2018, the UN Security Council (UNSC) will mark the 18th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda. UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions and reviews have taken note that violent conflict and atrocities not only disproportionately affect women and girls, but that women also play a vital role in the implementation and advancement of sustainable peace processes and the strengthening of societal resilience. Despite such significance, more work remains to be done in order to fully realise and effectively make use of the diverse ways in which women’s important contributions can be leveraged at all levels, as women are uniquely positioned to identify otherwise overlooked conflict drivers. Additionally, their inclusion leads to the formulation of more effective prevention mechanisms and their meaningful participation in peace processes has been proven to increase the likelihood of establishing sustainable peace and building more resilient societies.

In this vein, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), working in partnership within the Prevention Up Front (PuF) Alliance, will host a side event to this year’s UNSC open debate on WPS entitled, “Fostering inclusion to build resilient societies: How women peacebuilders prevent conflicts and atrocities on the ground”on 24 October. The event will feature a panel of gender experts working in the fields of conflict and atrocity prevention from around the globe. We look forward to an exciting discussion aimed at addressing the gaps in existing policies and implementation of these agendas, as well as actionable recommendations for ensuring such policies translate into meaningful participation of women in conflict and atrocity prevention.

For more information, please see the event concept note here.

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What to Watch:

Cameroon: Election Body Reviewing Petitions to Cancel Presidential Poll (Voice of America)
Cameroon’s Constitutional Council received 25 petitions calling for the Presidential Election results to be annulled. Opposition candidates, their parties, as well as voters alleged fraud and voter suppression. Conducting their review on 17 October, the Constitutional Council ruled and rejected 16 petitions to void the outcome of the election, stating a failure on behalf of the applicants to lodge their complaints within the 72-hour time frame.

Gaza/Israel: ICC issues harsh warning to Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza (The Jerusalem Post; The Times of Israel)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a severe warning to Israel over a possible investigation of alleged war crimes in Gaza by Israel and Hamas. Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has released a statement which expressing concern over the continuation of violence, perpetrated by both sides, stressing that if necessary she will take appropriate action within her mandate under the Rome Statute. Bensouda also commented on the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, noting that considerable destruction of property without military necessity constitutes a war crime. In response, Israel criticized and raised doubt over the Prosecutor’s impartiality, after she failed to acknowledge a rocket from Gaza that critically damaged a house and nearly killed civilians in Beersheba. In response, Israeli officials instructed the army to intensify its response to violence from Gaza.

Philippines: Philippines Wins New Term on UN Rights Council, Drawing Outrage (The New York Times)
Last Friday, the Philippines was elected for another three year term in the UN Human Rights Council. The outcome was strongly condemned by civil society groups given the human rights violations in the country, calling this move is “unconscionable.” Human Rights Watch said “the Philippines has be undergoing a human rights crisis that could amount to crimes against humanity,” and re-electing the country to the Council undermines  “the body’s credibility and effectiveness.” The Philippines was not the only controversial country elected to the Council: Bahrain, Eritrea, and Somalia were also voted in as members of the council, sparking outrage in the international community.

UN Human Rights Council: 2019-2021 UN Human Rights Council Elections and the Responsibility to Protect (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)
After last Friday’s election, 20 out of the 47 Human Rights Council members are also part of the Group of Friends of RtoP. This creates an opportunity for the norm to be further enhanced and upheld by the body over the course of the next two years. ICRtoP Coalition member, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), created profiles of the newly elected countries to the Council in order to determine their level of commitment to RtoP. 

Yemen: Imminent famine in Yemen (Norwegian Refugee Council; The Guardian)
The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, called for a solution to the conflict in Yemen, noting civilians are suffering from the actions of warring parties including alleged state orchestrated starvation due to the restriction of aid access during the country’s famine. Furthermore, sources state that the intensity of the famine is higher than initially estimated, with up to 14 million civilians estimated to be at risk. The UN is calling the situation the most lethal famine in 100 years.


But Also Don’t Miss:

CAR: Central African Republic: Rebels Executing Civilians
Rebels continue to execute civilians with impunity, constituting war crimes. UN Peacekeeping forces have been urged to protect and prevent attacks against civilians.

Gambia: “Dark Days” Over: Gambia Launches Truth, Reconciliation Body
Gambia created a Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriations Commission to investigate the crimes committed by Yahya Jammeh and facilitates a potential prosecution. The ICC welcomed this decision saying it will help move the country forward.

Liberia: Government Hints At Eluding TRC Recommendations – An Attempt To Thwart War Crimes Court?
Local and international groups continue to call for the creation of a war crimes court, but Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Gbehzohngar Findley, said that the decision should be held to referendum, sparking doubt on whether the government will implement the United Nations TRC recommendations by 2020.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Killing of Aid Worker Hauwa Liman is a War Crime
Boko Haram’s murder of aid worker Hauwa Liman constitutes a war crime under international law, according to Amnesty International. The group urged all perpetrators of these and other crimes in the country to be brought to justice.

Syria: Deadline passes for Syria’s Idlib buffer without fighters leaving
Militants failed to meet deadline and withdraw from the buffer zone as agreed between Russia and Turkey, increasing the risk for continued violence and further civilian casualties.

Syria: Syria: Residents Blocked From Returning
Human Rights Watch found that the Syrian government is demolishing homes, preventing displaced persons from returning, possibly amounting to forced displacement and war crimes.


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RtoP Weekly: 8 – 12 October 2018

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This week in focus: the RtoP and Indigenous Peoples

Each year, on or around 12 October, many countries around the world mark the day in which Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas. Spain celebrates the Día de la Hispanidad or Hispanic Day; many Latin American countries celebrate El Día de la Raza or the Day of Race; and the United States celebrates Columbus Day. In recent years, there has been a movement gaining traction in many countries to instead change the name of this day in order to honor the indigenous populations of the Americas, including their cultures, peoples, and histories in light of the grim fate many of the populations faced under centuries of colonial and non-indigenous rule. For example, in Costa Rica, 12 October now marks El Encuentro de Culturas, or the Encounter of Cultures, while some US states now mark Indigenous Peoples Day.

For centuries, many indigenous groups in these areas suffered from what some have argued could be considered ethnic cleansing and/or other atrocities. In this vein, the intersection of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm and the role of the international community in protecting populations, including indigenous peoples today, is an interesting topic. This week, as many people around the world mark this day, under any name, we present one author’s view for your consideration.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed reflect those of the author, and not the ICRtoP, nor its members.

In Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace (2017), Shayna Halliwell examines the RtoP norm in the protection of indigenous peoples, in particular those living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. Within the text, she outlines the ongoing struggles of indigenous groups in CHT, taking note of both the historical context and the current global political situation. She asserts that despite violent actions alleged against the Bangladeshi military, which violate the government-supported 1991 CHT Peace Accord, a lack of political will and the portrayal of resistance efforts as rebellion has prevented timely and decisive action from being taken by Bangladesh or the international community in order to protect these populations from atrocities.

Halliwell goes on to argue that a paradigm shift in the understanding and recognition of indigenous rights would require the international community to acknowledge and better protect these populations. Part of this, she claims, is appropriately ascribing and recognizing the agency and right to self-determination of indigenous peoples and groups more widely among the international community. This paradigm shift is “an alternative understanding,” Halliwell argues, and “has the opportunity to take hold while the [RtoP] principle is still young” and rooted in the will of victims and civil society to resist persecution and atrocity crimes. The author sees the RtoP principle as being young, malleable, and with a transformation, a viable tool towards addressing human rights, humanitarian, and security situations within the UN’s atrocity prevention approach.

To read Shayna Halliwell’s full chapter, entitled, “The Responsibility to Protect Indigenous Peoples? An Analysis of R2P’s Potential Application in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh,” please click here.


What to Watch:

Cameroon: Cameroon polls close, vote counting begins in key election (The Washington Post)
Cameroonians went to the polls on Sunday, 7 October to cast their ballots for what many anticipate will be another re-election of Paul Biya. Although official election results cannot not be released until a constitutionally mandated two week period has passed, opposition candidate Maurice Kamto claimed an early victory. Violence and instability in the Anglophone regions caused concern prior to the election, and the outcome will inevitably impact the country’s peace and security as well, as evidenced by the demonstrations by young Cameroonians already occurring.

Syria: Syria buffer zone free of heavy arms as militants  face deadline (Arab News)
The deal reached last month between Turkey and Russia to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria is now cleared of heavy arms, ahead of deadline. However, even though the National Liberation Front (NLF) successfully removed all heavy weapons as agreed, the next step, withdrawing of all militants from the area, will present a more difficult task, according to observers. The agreement states all militants must be removed from the area by next week, including the region’s leading force, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), many of whom are determined to continue exerting influence in the war.

Yemen: Calls for accountability as Yemen suffers genocide by starvation (Business Day)
Famine in armed conflict has the potential to be prosecuted as a war crime, or a crime against humanity, if it is state orchestrated and used as a weapon of war. The famine in Yemen is referred to as “genocide by starvation,” one of the reasons being Saudi Arabia’s block of the Port of Hodeidah that intentionally disrupted humanitarian aid being delivered to millions of Yemenis. Despite the ongoing conflict, calls are being made for accountability under international humanitarian law.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar “Unwilling” to Probe Rohingya Abuse, UN Must Act: Rights Envoy
UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar stated that the government “is unable to discharge its obligation to conduct credible, thorough, and independent investigations and prosecutions,” urging the UN to refer the situation to the ICC.

China: China legalizes Xinjiang internment camps
China legalized its “re-education camps” for Uighur Muslims after it long denied their existence. Concerns over the alleged human rights violations against the group and calls for the government to halt its campaign continue to intensify.

DRC: In DR Congo, UN Security Council says December polls are ‘historic opportunity’ for country
The UN Security Council’s mission to the DRC focused electoral transparency, but failed to address the issue of creating space for civil society and freedom of political expression prior to December’s elections.

Mali: “Real Climate of Fear and Insecurity in Country’s North And Centre,” Says Expert
The UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Mali says, “Mali has not fulfilled its sovereign role in protecting property and people and bringing perpetrators of criminal acts to justice,” urging the international community to support Mali to “fulfill its obligation to the protection of people.”

Nigeria: Probe of Rights Abuses in Nigeria Ends Soon, Says ICC
ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced that the Court’s preliminary investigation in Nigeria over alleged grave human rights violations is progressing and the investigative team will hopefully come to a determination soon.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Hope in Guinea, Disappointment in Togo, Impunity in Burundi
RtoP in parts of Africa is seemingly stalled with Guinean 2009 massacre victims dissatisfied with the lack of accountability in the country, Togolese disappointed with the failure of transitional justice mechanisms, and Burundians seeing impunity for rights violations.

Sudan: Sudan Call launch campaign against Al Bashir re-election
Opposition parties and armed movements launched “The Sudan Call,” a political campaign with the goal “to topple the regime [of Al-Bashir] and not to arrange any kind of soft landing.”


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RtoP Weekly: 1 – 5 October 2018

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This week in focus: ACT Code of Conduct

The prevention of atrocity crimes is at the core of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Although States hold the primary responsibility to protect populations, the international community also has a responsibility to take timely and decisive action, including through the various preventive tools available in order to assist or protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing (“atrocity crimes”). Sadly, due in part to gridlock in the UN Security Council, the international community has failed to uphold its RtoP obligations in many conflicts throughout the world, including most recently in Syria and Myanmar.

In response, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group of UN Member States created an initiative in 2015, a Code of Conduct (CoC), to encourage members and potential members of the UN Security Council to refrain from the use of the veto or voting against resolutions in situations in which atrocities may occur or are ongoing. To date, 117 UN Member States and Permanent Observers have signed on in support of the CoC, including nine Member States currently serving on the Security Council. However, despite this high number of supporters, UNSC inaction remains an obstacle for the international community to fulfill its RtoP.

In this vein, the ICRtoP has released a new backgrounder on the CoC. Please view it here.

To view additional information on the ACT CoC and other veto restraint initiatives, please click here and here.


What to Watch:

Artificial Intelligence, Social Media, and the RtoP: Mapping the Artificial Intelligence, Networked Hate, and Human Rights Landscape (Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies)
ICRtoP Member MIGS has published a report on the use of artificial intelligence in social media regulation, focusing on the role these. As more states look towards imposing regulations on social media companies and platforms, the debate over content removal straddles that of using it to prevent hate speech, but also as a tool for documenting evidence and justice in cases of rights abuses. The report calls on the tech industry and policy makers to narrow the gap between policy, research, and using artificial intelligence as a tool for the protection and promotion of human rights and social good.

Côte d’Ivoire: ICC Prosecutors Urge Judges to Continue Ivory Coast Trial (International Criminal Court)
Former Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo requested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) “acquit him of crimes against humanity and to release him after seven years in prison.” His lawyers argued that prosecutors have not been able to prove any of the four charges of crimes against humanity and urged for his immediate release. However, despite his efforts, ICC prosecutors say that “there is evidence upon which any trial chamber acting reasonably could find the accused guilty of the charges” and is strong enough to continue.

Philippines: At least three more communications vs. Duterte filed at ICC – CHR (CNN)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he authorized extrajudicial killings during his administration’s war on drugs, something he had long denied. As a result, many organizations, including ICRtoP Coalition Member Human Rights Watch, claim “should encourage the ICC to review the complaints against the President,” in addition to receiving three new complaints on Duterte’s war on drugs this week. Even though the President withdrew the country from the ICC last March, its withdrawal will not be effective until March 2019, allowing the Court jurisdiction.

Syria: Continued updates on human rights violations in Syria (September) (Syrian Network for Human Rights)
ICRtoP member SNHR has released a report finding that 41 individuals died in September after being tortured by Syrian regime forces. The report notes that the regime is practicing torture systematically, “to extremely brutal degrees.” The Chairman of the SNHR calls for the implementation of the RtoP, as the government continues to fail in protecting its population. In addition to these findings, a second September report found that 687 arbitrary arrests occurred in September, with the Syrian accountable for 87% of them. The report urges the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to implement its resolutions on enforced disappearances and monitor arbitrary arrests, respectively.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar’s Neighbors Urge Accountability For Rohingya Violence
ASEAN foreign ministers called on Burma “to give full mandate to an independent commission of inquiry” for investigating and holding all responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya accountable.

Burundi: Aid Groups Denounce Burundi’s 3-Month Ban on NGOs
Burundi suspended the work of NGOs for 90 days, imposing new regulations that many call potentially politically and ethnically motivated, but also preventing humanitarian aid deliverance.

DRC: OpEd: UN Security Council visit to DRC opportunity to open up the civic space ahead of December polls
Ahead of the UN Security Council’s visit to the DRC, Amnesty International called on the Council to urge Congolese officials to allow political expression ahead of December’s elections.

DRC: Upsurge in Killings in ‘Ebola Zone’ International Criminal Court Should Investigate Beni Massacres
Human Rights Watch urges the ICC to include the massacres and attacks by armed groups in Beni territory in its investigation, as well as calling on MONUSCO, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC, to increase its protection of civilians.

Libya:  Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there?
The EU continues to send refugees to centers in Tripoli, Libya, despite it being a war zone. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is unable to provide services having no access to its centers.

Mali: More Than 20 Tuaregs Killed In Mali: sources
Armed groups allegedly killed more than 20 Tuareg civilians in Mali as violence continues in the country, in what officials say was a targeted and “well-planned attack.”

Venezuela: Landmark UN Rights Council Resolution
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Venezuela, expressing “deep concern about human rights violations” and called for the government to open up to humanitarian assistance.

Venezuela: Statement of the Prosecutor of the ICC, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by a group of six States Parties regarding the situation in Venezuela
ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the referral of the situation in Venezuela by Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru, saying the Court will continue its preliminary examination to determine if there are grounds for a formal investigation.


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RtoP Weekly: 24 – 28 September 2018

untitledGoing in Depth On: RtoP included once again on the UN General Assembly Agenda

24633289-ecc0-499f-855b-05238fbaff59.pngOn Friday, 21 September 2018, UN Member States voted to adopt the agenda for 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. This included a supplementary item entitled “the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” with a vote of 93 States in favor, 16 against, and 17 abstentions.

With this move forward, the UN General Assembly will once again hold a formal debate on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), ensuring States have the opportunity to further consider the norm and the work of the UN Special Advisers on Genocide Prevention and RtoP, as compared to the informal, interactive dialogue format of previous years. As the 2018 formal debate on RtoP on 25 June and 2 July clearly showed, formal debates allow more time for interventions, increasing the opportunities for increased discussion and a more involved dialogue on the topic, and also provide an opportunity for formal, on-the-record statements and an exchange of ideas and knowledge on preventing atrocities.

The ICRtoP and the Global Centre on the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) have worked in close coordination in the last weeks to advocate for the inclusion of RtoP on the formal agenda of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. We welcome this great step forward in the continuation of discussion on RtoP at the United Nations.


What We’ve Been Watching:

Asia Pacific: Youth Summit on Atrocity Prevention (Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

ICRtoP Steering Group and Coalition member, the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) recently held a conference to train the next generation of leaders in atrocity prevention and RtoP principles. As a result participants “committed to establishing a ‘regional network of youth leaders for atrocity prevention,’ and called for the appointment of a youth focal point in each country within the region to advocate for atrocity prevention and R2P at the local level.” The Youth Summit combines two top priorities of UNSG Guterres: conflict and atrocity prevention and youth involvement.

Gender and Crimes Against Humanity: Will the new crimes against humanity treaty protect women and LGBTI persons? (Open Democracy)

An Op-Ed from Open Democracy argues that the use of an outdated definition of “gender” may not protect all individuals in the new UN draft treaty on Crimes Against Humanity. The treaty language currently matches that in the Rome Statute, which refers to gender in a binary aspect, that individuals are either “male or female.” While scholars, lawyers, and human rights officials at the UN and ICC prosecutors office understand “gender” to be inclusive, there are concerns that some may take advantage of the outdated language, creating a gap in the protection of sexual and gender identity minorities.

Yemen: Human Rights Council Should Stand Firm on Yemen (Human Rights Watch)

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urges the UN Human Rights Council to renew the Group of Experts’ mandate to investigate war crimes in the country. HRW documented numerous abuses committed by Houthi rebel forces including arbitrary detention, taking hostages, enforced disappearances, and torture. HRW also found evidence of detainees being refused medical service. The findings, severity, and extent of the crimes no doubt inform the organization’s platform in continuing to advocate for accountability of all parties in Yemen.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: UK and France Host High-Level Event on the Rohingya Crisis
On Monday, the UK and France conducted a meeting on the Rohingya crisis in Burma, calling for urgent action of the international community, access of the UNDP and the UNHCR in the most severely affected regions, and the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

Burma: UN Human Rights Council Backs Atrocity Victims
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution for the creation of a mechanism to prepare cases for prosecution in Burma.

Cameroon: Can Elections Be Held in the Restive Anglophone Regions?
Thousands continue to flee their homes in the Anglophone regions causing concern over the legitimacy of the upcoming Presidential election, with Presidential Candidate Joshua Osih acknowledging, “the problem is the marginalization and injustices thatlead to that secession. The secession will not necessarily solve that problem.”

DRC: Human rights situation and the activities of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Human Rights Council was briefed on the situation in the DRC, with the importance of OHCHR and MONUSCO working together on early warning and early response with UN Peacekeeping.

The Gambia: A Conversation on Truth and Reconciliation in The Gambia
Decades after atrocity crimes were committed, seeking accountability is still important to Gambians looking to build an inclusive and resilient society.

Libya: Libya ceasefire halts month-long battle in Tripoli
The government announced another ceasefire agreement with armed groups, halting the latest bout of violence that displaced an estimated 25,000 from their homes over the past month.

South Sudan: A new report estimates that more than 380,000 people have died in South Sudan’s civil war
A US Department of State and US Institute for Peace jointly-commissioned study estimates the death toll in South Sudan’s conflict to be upwards of 382,000, placing the scale of the conflict on par with that of Syria.

Venezuela: An Alternative for Venezuela: the International Criminal Court
Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, and Canada have asked the ICC to open an investigation into Crimes Against Humanity in Venezuela. This is the first time that States are collectively referring a situation in another country for an ICC investigation.

Yemen: Civilian deaths in Yemen up by 164% as United States recertifies support for the war
The International Rescue Committee reported that civilians continue to suffer in the Yemeni conflict, with death rates increasing 164% over the summer months.


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RtoP Weekly: 17 – 21 September 2018

untitledGoing in Depth On: Burma

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Burma released its full report this week, in which it detailed the human rights violations, including atrocity crimes, that took place over the course of the past several years. The report, which was presented to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September, focused mainly on the abuses against the Rohingya population, but also detailed and examined the United Nations’ own response to the human rights situation. Grave breaches of international human rights, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, were detailed, and the Mission concluded that there was evidence enough for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In response to the Mission’s presentation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet asked for the establishment of an independent and impartial international mechanism to prepare criminal proceedings over the violations against the Rohingya, and for the Human Rights Council (HRC) to make a resolution to bring the issue before the General Assembly to “expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts.” NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, welcomed her announcement and urged the HRC to establish this accountability mechanism and prepare cases for prosecution.

Investigators also critiqued the organization’s own failure to protect the Rohingya. The report noted the failure of UN agencies and actors in implanting its Human Rights Up-Front Approach, finding that personnel trying to take action for implementing a human rights agenda in the country were silenced or criticized for trying to do so. Some UN bodies and staff showed no willingness to cooperate and work together to address the human rights challenges in Burma, which might have prevented the mass atrocity situation faced by the Rohingya. As such, the report asks for a “comprehensive, independent inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement.”

Other international bodies have taken steps to address the atrocity crimes in Burma. With the ICC ruling it has jurisdiction over the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya into Bangladesh, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the ICC, issued a statement announcing the Court would begin a preliminary examination on the matter. This preliminary examination will assess the evidence and information in order to determine whether or not a formal investigation can be opened. As Burma is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the Court only has jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in Bangladesh.

With the Burmese government and UN agencies beginning to implement their MOU for the repatriation of Rohingya, further attention is also being paid to the current state of affairs in the Rakhine. Returnees allegedly face  harassment if caught by the Border Guard Force. Refugees attempting to visit their homes reported torture and being forced to lie to the press that they were well-treated. Human Rights Watch and the Arakan Project interviewed several men who reported beatings, burning, electric shocks, and cutting, as well as being held in detention in deplorable conditions.

Amidst all the developments and news out of Burma the past few weeks, the discussions and debates over human rights, preventing atrocity crimes, and how to address them are likely to solicit a fair amount of attention at UNGA and side events over the course of the next few weeks.


What We’ve Been Watching:

RtoP and UNGA73:

On 17 August a cross-regional group of nine member states (Afghanistan, Denmark, Guatemala, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Rwanda, Ukraine and Uruguay) submitted a request for the inclusion of a supplementary item entitled “the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (A/73/192) on the UNGA Agenda for the 73rd session. On Wednesday, 19 September, the UN General Committee adopted this suggestion by a vote of 17 to 4, with 5 abstentions. As of the time of writing, no member states called for a vote on the issue. The General Assembly with adopt its new session agenda on 21 September.

Protection of Civilians and International Law: Grey Zones: Is International Law Fit for Purpose to Protect Civilians? (Justice in Conflict)

Mark Lattimer, the Executive Director of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, recently published The Grey Zone: Civilian Protection Between Human Rights and the Laws of War examined the question of if international law was adequate in protecting civilians as armed conflicts continue to arise across the globe. As conflicts continue to include non-state actors, “international armed groups,” and often involve civilians, situations arise that international law, such as the Geneva Convention, its Protocols, and human rights treaties “couldn’t have envisioned.” Owing to this grey area, the book argues that we must reframe the question, “rather than identifying gaps in the law, the challenge is to determine which set of laws or legal regimes apply.”

Liberia: At UN, President Should Back Justice (Human Rights Watch)

80 NGOs, including ICRtoP coalition members World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy and Human Rights Watch, released a letter calling on Liberian President George Weah to support justice for mass atrocity crimes committed during the country’s civil war, which ended in 2003. Despite the conflict ending 15 years ago, Liberia has yet to take steps to initiate the prosecution for the widespread crimes against civilians. The timing of this letter is also apt, as a Liberian District Representative and Presidential Candidate, Jeremiah K. Koung, rejected a report calling for the creation of a War and Economic Crimes Court earlier in the week.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burundi: Burundi threatens to quit UN Human Rights Council, sue critics
After facing growing criticism in the Human Rights Council over its cooperation with the OHCHR Commission of Inquiry, including by High Commissioner Bachelet, the country says it reserves its right to withdraw from the Council.

Cameroon: Violence Continues to Disrupt Life in Many Parts of Cameroon
Clashes between separatists and military forces in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon continue to threaten civilians, causing many to flee their homes.

China: China holds one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps 
The UN reported that in China, one million Uighur Muslims have been displaced to concentration-like camps “for indoctrination”, exposing the risk of a potential ethnic cleansing in the country.

Iraq: Turkey/Iraq: Strikes May Break Laws of War
Turkish military operations against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Iraq should be investigated,  according to Human Rights Watch, as their research found that four operations killed at least seven civilians.

Nicaragua: The ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua is putting populations at risk of potential crimes against humanity (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect warns that the crisis in Nicaragua could result in crimes against humanity, and urges the OAS, the UN, and the national government to work together to ensure accountability.

Nigeria: Flawed Trials of Boko Haram Suspects (Human Rights Watch)
Human Rights Watch said that the process of prosecuting Boko Haram members in Nigeria is showing many “legal shortcomings,” and that authorities are failing to prioritize those who have committed atrocities.

South Sudan: South Sudanese government must bring soldiers under control, urges UN mission chief, as peacekeeper is shot and injured
Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, spoke critically of the South Sudanese government and military officials after the fatal shooting of a UN Peacekeeper, and blamed a lack of command and control following the peace deal.

South Sudan: South Sudan war crimes: UN calling for forming hybrid court
The UN Human Rights Council called on the government of South Sudan to establish a hybrid-tribunal to try for crimes of ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, and use of child soldiers.

Syria: Agreement over buffer zone to spare civilians in Syria’s Idlib welcomed by top UN officials
Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria, in order to protect civilians in the area. UNSG Guterres commended the agreement and urged warring parties to allow for safe humanitarian access throughout the country.

Venezuela: Joint statement by UNHCR and IOM on the appointment of Mr. Eduardo Stein, as a Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the region
UNHCR and IOM announced the appointment of Mr. Stein, as a Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, who will promote coordination among all stakeholders and a regional approach to the migration crisis among governments.

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition cuts off crucial supply route in blow to Houthi rebels
Following the resumption of airstrikes, the Saudi-led coalition cut access along the main road between the port of Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa, threatening the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.


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#RtoP Weekly: 5 – 10 August 2018

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Impunity for Rights Violators in Cote d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara granted amnesty to over 800 people implicated in serious human rights violations in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, a decision many feel denied justice to victims and their families. President Ouattara excluded members of the military and armed groups that committed “blood crimes” from amnesty, around 60 people, in spite of Ivorian judges indicting far more than that over the past seven years of proceedings. This has left many confused and concerned about who will indeed face justice for the crimes committed.

After the 2010-2011 post-election crises, Côte d’Ivoire took steps to rebuild and reconcile its fractured country, establishing a National Commission of Inquiry and prosecuting actors on both sides of the conflict. As it is party to multiple international and regional treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and Rome Statute, Côte d’Ivoire has a legally binding obligation to investigate and prosecute the atrocity crimes, but the amnesty measures granted by President Ouattara directly contradict the spirit of truth, justice, and reparations that the treaties represent.

Many major international human rights and humanitarian organizations have denounced the decision, with 11 organizations releasing a joint statement saying, “there should be no amnesty for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations committed in Côte d’Ivoire’s 2010-11 post-election crisis.” The statement also noted that Côte d’Ivoire’s own history shows that impunity for atrocity crimes can enable further violations and test the resilience of already-fragile states of stability.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly this month, but we will resume publication with an update on these events and crisis situations around the world in September. 

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi 
CAR
DRC

Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Nigeria
South Sudan

Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Kingdom assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on 1 August and established the Rohingya refugee crisis as a priority for the Council this month. The UK Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Karen Pierce, also mentioned the importance of following up on the events occurring in Burma and continuing to make progress on the implementation of the MoU, allowing UN agencies to start talks with the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments to “make a credible plan to bring refugees back home in security, dignity, and safety.”

Japanese and Burmese representatives held a meeting on 6 August to discuss possible solutions for the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis. The Japanese Foreign Minister suggested establishing a new commission to conduct a free and transparent examination into the alleged human rights abuses in Rakhine State.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, asked governments from the Asia-Pacific region to show solidarity regarding the Rohingya and offer more support and protection “until solutions are found for refugees.” He also of the importance of working towards a comprehensive solution in order to allow people from the Rakhine State to stay in Burma and not be forced to leave their homes to begin with.


Burundi:

Prior to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), civil society organizations (CSOs) released a letter on 8 August, calling on the body to return the Commission of Inquiry for Burundi. The letter, which Coalition member Human Rights Watch released, outlines the ongoing necessity of the Council’s work to monitor, document, and report on the human rights situation ahead of the 2020 elections and encourage the government’s cooperation and adherence to relevant UN special mechanisms, treaties, and presence in the country.


Central African Republic:

Three UN Peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo were found guilty of the murder of 11 civilians while they were on mission in the Central African Republic. In spite of the gravity of their crimes, the perpetrators only received three-year sentences, leaving human rights organizations dismayed at the lost opportunity to promote justice, accountability, and end impunity for atrocity crimes. Human Rights Watch called it a “slap on the wrist,” and noted that the case not only sets a dangerous precedent for how these cases are handled, but also that the many of the family and community members felt justice was not served.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Moise Katumbi, former Governor of Katanga and one of President Kabila’s biggest opponents, announced his intention to return to the DRC on 3 August, despite the likelihood of his arrest. Katumbi, who went into self-imposed exile in 2016, planned on submitting his presidential candidacy. The discrepancy in treatment between Jean-Pierre Bemba and Katumbi’s returns by President Kabila continues to raise suspicion about the credibility of the elections, as Katumbi was ultimately refused entry into the DRC on 7 August and unable to submit his candidacy.

President Joseph Kabila did not file for an unconstitutional and term-defying re-election. Registration closed on 8 August ending years of speculation about the strength of its democracy. The ruling coalition instead nominated former Minister of the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Ramazani, a close ally of Kabila, was sanctioned by the EU in 2017 for alleged human rights violations. Other candidates officially include Jean-Pierre Bemba, Felix Tshisekedi, and Vital Kamerhe.


Gaza / West Bank:

Gaza peace talks continue to progress between Israel and Hamas. The potential deal would allow Palestinians more access to goods, airports, and crossings in exchange for Hamas ceasing to use incendiary kites. Airstrikes launched by Israel on 9 August “struck dozens of targets” in the Gaza strip, killing at least three Palestinians, risking derailment of the ongoing peace negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post reported on 5 August that “three people were wounded when the Israeli Defence Forces opened fire at Palestinians” protesting at the border with Israel on Sunday.

Israeli cabinet member, Zeev Elkin, stated on 6 August that “Egypt is no less responsible” for the dire humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza. As UN mediation over Gaza continues, some Egyptian officials have stated that they “would resist any attempt” by Israel to push the responsibility for the situation on to Cairo.


Iraq:

On 3 August, The Guardian reported on the “collective trauma, grief, and loss” plaguing the children of Mosul due to living through constant war throughout their childhoods. Save the children affirms the need for psycho-social assessments and support for all children impacted.

According to an Al Jazeera report produced on 8 August, many wives of ISIL fighters in Iraq whose husbands have been killed or imprisoned now fear attacks if they return  to Mosul. One commented that “if you’ve been branded as an ISIL family, it’s too dangerous to return.”


Libya:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)  estimates that over “100 bodies of Europe-bound migrants” escaping violence in Libya have been found by Libya’s coast guard since the beginning of 2018, with around 12,600 “intercepted or rescued” within that same time frame, according to a report released on 6 August.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) launchedtheir “reconciliation is good” media campaign on 6 August to raise citizen awareness about peaceful conflict resolution and the importance of rejecting violence in Libya. The initiative seeks to educate civilians about the need for “a culture of tolerance, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, solidarity and the rejection of violence.”


Nigeria:

On 2 August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) denounced the forced returns of Nigerian asylum seekers and refugees from Cameroon. Over 800 Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers have suffered from forced returns from Cameroon since the beginning of 2018. UNHCR asked the Cameroonian government to stop forced returns and respect its obligations under international law.


South Sudan:

On Friday, 3 August, President Salva Kiir announced his intention to sign the latest peace agreement, which features a power sharing deal reinstating Dr. Riek Machar as First Vice President. He added that he willingly made compromises in order to ensure all parties involved would respect the agreement, and is optimistic about its implementation since it was negotiated without pressure from the international community. Opposition forces in South Sudan also voiced their intentions to continue debates over the future of South Sudan, saying they were not keen on signing the peace agreement, but did so with the assurance that future debate and negotiations for power-sharing and political reform. Parties signed the peace deal on Sunday, 5 August.

South Sudan expert, Douglas Johnson, has commented on the likelihood of the agreement’s implementation and success, providing an analysis of the agreement’s contents. The UN Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Chief, David Shearer, also commended the deal, and urged all sides to continue negotiations for integrating and developing comprehensive security plans to ensure its success.


Syria:

Since 2011, the Syrian government has reportedly conducted attacks on over 450 hospitals, which would be a severe breach of international law. Emergency medicine has been “driven underground,” to the point that “cave hospitals” are being built to avoid air strikes destroying crucial infrastructure.

The US-led coalition in Eastern Syria is preparing training and security projects in efforts to initiate a “stabilization” process in the area. This includes training locals to look for improvised explosive devices and training police to deal with prisons for “former ISIS members” is being instituted.

A map produced by Al Jazeera on 7 August provides a useful demonstration as to which parties control the various territories in Syria after the most recent government offensive in the South-Western region.


Venezuela:

On 1 August, Peru’s Foreign Minister acknowledged the possibility of asking the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a preliminary investigation into Venezuela regarding reported human rights violations.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on 7 August that approximately 117,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum in 2018, surpassing the total number of Venezuelan asylum seekers last year. The Agency also welcomed Brazil’s decision to reopen its borders to arrivals.

Ecuador declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 8 August as new arrivals from Venezuela have climbed to 4,200 a day. The measure aims to expedite medical, social, and immigration assistance to new arrivals.


Yemen:

On 5 August, ongoing fighting between pro-government and rebel forces in Hodeidah resulted in over 80 deaths and 100 injuries. Parties hope the city’s port will not close, cutting off aid supplies to Yemen.

On 9 August a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus in the Saada province, killing 43 people and injuring 77. The Red Cross (ICRC) noted that most victims were “under the age of 10.” The bus was travelling through a market at the time it was hit.


Other:

Women offer and occupy a unique role in peacekeeping, and their meaningful participation has been proven as beneficial to the process, yet their deployment numbers in UN Peacekeeping missions remain low. PassBlue released a status update and insight into the situation, analyzing recruitment methods, and barriers to entry including gender-bias in the countries from which they come.

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#RtoP Weekly: 15-20 July 2018

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The Rome Statute at 20 and International Justice Day 

Each year on 17 July, the world celebrates International Justice Day (IJ Day) and the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on this day in 1998. This year, IJ Day takes on particular significance, as the world marks the treaty’s 20th anniversary. In celebration of this historic day, actors from all levels came together this week to commemorate the progress made over the past two decades within the international justice system and the fight for accountability for victims of atrocities across the world.

ICRtoP partner, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), the world’s largest civil society partnership working for the advancement of international justice, has compiled remarks commemorating this important anniversary from some of the leading international justice voices throughout the world, including: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; Mr. William Pace, Convener of the CICC; and Mr. Donald Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)and Chair of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, among others. Mr. Deya stated:

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, the international community is provided with a timely opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, but also how far we still must go to end impunity and better protect populations from atrocity crimes, particularly in ensuring the transition from commitments to action. Experience has shown that seeking justice for victims is not easy, but it is vital to the prevention of their recurrence. With this in mind, we all must take advantage of this historic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards international justice by working together to strengthen national, regional, and international atrocity prevention tools to reinforce accountability for perpetrators and uphold our obligations under the Responsibility to Protect.”

To view the full list of remarks, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 17 July, Burma’s 2018 Peace Conference in Panglong concluded with 14 more basic principles adopted as the second part of a peace accord. The new principles, which address politics, economy, society, environment, and land, were signed by leaders of the government, military, and armed groups. On that same day, William Lacy Swing, Director of the International Organization on Migration (IOM), urged the global community to remain focused on the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh with roughly one million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar “in danger of becoming the wretched of the earth, homeless, and without a future.”


Central African Republic:

Tensions continue in CAR with a Christian militant group promoting violence between religious and ethnic groups. A brief lapse occurred when Muslim communities disassociated with these acts of violence, but MINUSCA identified nearly 70 cases of abuse and rights violations over the second week of July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Friday, 13 July, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Spokesperson, Charley Yaxley, told reporters that the UN Refugee Agency had obtained access to the Ituri province. Many displaced Congolese report returning only to find their homes, villages, and public building burned to the ground. Returnees also report armed groups killing people indiscriminately. Due to the lack of functioning infrastructure and dire humanitarian aid and protection funding situation, there are many concerns over public health and food security. The document, released later in the week can be viewed here.


Gaza / West Bank:

Two young boys are among those confirmed killed by Israel’s latest round of air raids, which hit a rooftop in Gaza where they were playing on 14 July, according to Al Jazeera. While the targeting of civilians is illegal under international law, international groups are concerned that civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military attacks are in fact not “mistakes,” but are deliberate. The Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, confirmed on 17 July, that the killing of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian medical worker providing treatment to peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Israeli border, was deliberate. This finding correlates with al-Najjar’s previous accounts of being targeted by Israeli security forces at the border before her death.

The ceasefire agreement that began on 15 July between Israel and Palestinian combatants remains in effect.


Iraq:

Demonstrations which began last week, fueled by “dissatisfaction with corruption and services,” and calls for a more balanced spread of oil wealth, continued across the south of Iraq with injuries recorded of both civilian protesters and government forces. According to Al Jazeera, protest violence led to at least seven deaths and dozens wounded.

The partial recount of the May election, plagued by allegations of corruption and fraud, is still ongoing despite beginning on 9 July, over a week ago.


Libya:

Ghassan Salame, the UN Envoy to Libya, notes that the “status quo in Libya cannot be sustained” and efforts to prevent “frequent and intense outbreaks of violence” must be pursued, following the sharp increase of conflict-related civilian deaths in May/June from March/April.


Mali:

On 16 July, Tuareg militia informed that 14 people were killed in an attack the day before, allegedly committed by Islamist militants in eastern Mali. Their intention is to generate terror amongst civilians prior to the upcoming presidential election. In an interview with Jamal Mrrouch, coordinator of Doctors Without Borders in Mali, published the same day, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in recent years was explained. Several factors ranging from the lack of rain and the inability to harvest to the insecurity and instability of the country contribute to the deterioration. “Insecurity pushes the population to a limit situation”, he states Mrrouch.

During the press briefing on Nicaragua, Mali, and Kashmir on 17 July, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) indicated an alarming upward trend in the number of civilians being driven out of their homes “either after being directly targeted themselves, because of the community they belong to, or after deadly attacks on members of their community in neighbouring villages.” As a result, there has been a widespread displacement of vulnerable civilians. The UNHCHR welcomed the Government of Mali’s efforts in intervening in this precarious situation and calls on it to continue on this same path to prevent future grave abuses of human rights.


South Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted on 13 July to renew sanctions against South Sudan in addition to  imposing a new arms embargo through 31 May 2019. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke on behalf of the Council and Resolution stating, “if we’re going to help the people of South Sudan, we need the violence to stop. And to stop the violence, we need to stop the flow of weapons to armed groups, that they are using to fight each other and to terrorize the people.” The Foreign Affairs Minister stated the sanctions will not solve the crisis, nor are officials pleased about the sanctions. Peace talks are scheduled to continue next week amidst reports of violations that may amount to atrocity crimes.


Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted to extend the UNAMID mandate in the Sudan, but reduced it’s personnel numbers by roughly half, keeping the police force stable. This vote follows the previous announcement of scaling back the mission in the Sudan over the course of the next two years, providing there are no significant changes to the on-the-ground security situation.

SLM leader, Minni Minawi, stated on 15 July that the peace process in Darfur is contradictory to what UNAMID and Qatari officials announced. He claims that Sudanese officials fabricated the ceasefire agreement’s success in order to mislead international public opinion and that the violence is ongoing.


Syria:

According to Al Jazeera, a large number of displaced Syrians were refused entry into the Israel-occupied Golan Heights by Israeli military on 17 July. Many people are attempting to flee the violence that has recently intensified in the Deraa and Quneitra provinces in south-western Syria. The Israeli and Jordanian borders remain firmly closed to the Syrian people, who are at continued risk of death from violence or persecution by Assad’s forces if they remain in the country.

On 17 July, airstrikes conducted by Syrian military hit a small town just four kilometres away from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights frontier. The attack killed 10 people as it hit a school that civilians were using as shelter.

Similarly, on 18 July, the Syrian government conducted another “intense overnight bombing campaign” against the densely populated town, Nawa, which is also near the frontier. At least 12 people are reported dead and hundreds wounded. A spokesman from the White Helmets reported that the only hospital in the town faced bombing on Tuesday and is rendered non-operational, according to US News.

Rebel commanders in the Dera’a province say that Russian military forces are in breach of the current ceasefire deal by not permitting some civilians – specifically those who do not support the current regime – a safe right of passage into northern rebel-held areas in Syria.

Amnesty International (AI) alleges that the US-led coalition, which conducted a four-month assault in Raqqa against ISIL fighters last year, is “deeply in denial” regarding the number of civilian deaths it caused throughout the assault, admitting to only 23 deaths. AI claims that the number is in fact in the hundreds.


Yemen:

Gulf News reported on 15 July of the “onslaught against Iran-aligned Al Houthis” in the Haradh district of north-west Yemen. According to Al Jazeera, the Hodeidah offensive conducted by the Saudi-led coalition has re-intensified following unsuccessful, UN-led peace talks between opposing parties. While it is alleged that military analysts note that the “coalition is not making much progress,” the lack of aid reaching civilians in the area and the ongoing air-strikes attacking crucial infrastructure are continuing to diminish the already dire standard of living for civilians in the Hodeidah region.

The Times Live reported that, while the Houthi-rebel chief is willing to cede control of Hodeidah to a UN-supervised committee on the basis that the Saudi-led coalition would stop its offensive and destruction of the port city,  the coalition is opposed as it would allow Houthis to remain in the city.

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