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#RtoP Weekly: 18 – 22 March


This week in focus:
The Burmese Military, Peace, Reconciliation, and Reform

The Burmese military’s role in the ongoing discussions around peace, accountability, and its role in the country’s politics pose an interesting challenge in the way forward. On Monday, 18 March, military officials announced the establishment of an internal court to investigate and prosecute its members for actions against the Rohingya. The stated goal of the court is to “scrutinize and confirm” rights violations committed against the Rohingya, in addition to responding to the various accounts of mass killings, rape, and forced displacement organizations and international bodies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations reported. Many experts, however, still see the measure as one of “bad faith,” and is an attempt to distract and ward off additional international pressure and involvement in internal affairs, with Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin alleging that the idea of the Tatmadaw investigating itself and enacting accountability measures is “dangerous and delusional.”

The military’s involvement in the country’s government in finding a way forward is another piece of the puzzle, proving to be a challenge in peace negotiations and government reform. Composed of various minority and ethnic groups, the peace and reconciliation discussions in Burma must accommodate multiple perspectives and points of view, extending the process. One particular sticking point is the stronghold the military holds in politics and government with a set proportion of representation that allows it to impose its power by being able to reject measures it opposes, as seen this past week in discussions over constitutional reform.

By being able to leverage its power and influence over politics and government, and see impunity for the mass atrocities committed, the Burmese military’s lack of cooperation threatens peace and stability in the country without the UN, its member states, and other influential actors working to address the root causes of conflict and find pathways forward to prevent the recurrence of rights violations against the country’s populations.

(Photo via Burma Link)

Weekly Burma

What to Watch:

Central African Republic:  Just one month in, optimism around CAR’s peace deal is fading (Mail & Guardian)
The latest Central African Republic (CAR) peace agreement is in peril, with fighting between armed groups increasing over the past month. Leaders of the various armed groups see impunity for their actions due to a lack of judicial mechanisms in the country, but also fail to recognize their own roles and responsibilities in the conflict, with many attesting that “if civilians suffered, then we should talk about reconciliation, not justice. Justice will only lead to more problems,” wanting amnesty for those involved. The lack of accountability measures risks the continuance of violence in the conflict. This past week, several signatories withdrew their participation in the peace agreement, resulting in additional dialogues in Addis Ababa this week to save the peace deal.

Philippines: Philippines quits International Criminal Court over inquiry into Duterte’s drug war (France24)
In 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched a preliminary examination of President Duterte’s drug crackdown and accusations of extrajudicial killings. As of 17 March, the Philippines officially withdrew as a State party to the ICC. In spite of the country’s withdrawal, the Court announced its intention to continue its examination, as it retains jurisdiction on matters already under consideration. Duterte’s spokesperson argued the Philippines never became a State Party to the Rome Statute, and issued a statement attesting that “the tribunal is non-existent and its actions [are] a futile exercise.”

But Also Don’t Miss:

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Radovan Karadžić war crimes sentence increased to life in prison
The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals upheld the charges of genocide against Radovan Karadzic, sentencing him to life in prison for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.

Cameroon: North West, South West: Women Ready to Contribute to Peace Initiatives
Women from the North-West, South-West Women’s Task Force met with state officials to lobby for inclusive peace dialogues.

Nigeria: ‘Impunity remains widespread at all levels of government in Nigeria’…US human rights report
The US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights accused the Nigerian government of failing to investigate human rights violations appropriately, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and forced disappearances.

South America: As Venezuela crisis deepens, U.S. sharpens focus on Colombia rebel threat
ELN and FARC rebels from Colombia are exploiting the instability in Venezuela to expand their drug trade and operate with impunity, causing concern over peace and security situation in the region.

Sub-Saharan Africa: The Great Lakes can’t afford more instability
ISS Africa explores the need for a new regional approach to peace and stability in the Great Lakes region in order to prevent any escalation in conflict.

United States: US Threatens International Criminal Court: Visa Bans on ICC Staff
In its latest rebuke of the International Criminal Court, the US announced a travel ban on members of the Court involved in investigations against its citizens.

United States/Somalia: USA/Somalia: Shroud of secrecy around civilian deaths masks possible war crimes
Amnesty International reports increasing drone strikes and resulting civilian deaths possibly amounting to war crimes in Somalia, calling for an impartial investigation into the attacks.

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Call for Internship Applications
The ICRtoP Secretariat in New York City is now accepting internship applications for Summer 2019. Interested parties can find more information by following the link.

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#RtoP Weekly: 4 – 8 March


This week in focus:
ICRtoP and Partners Celebrate International Women’s Day with Release of Policy Memo and CSW63 Side-event

Integrating a conflict prevention and human security approach to the development agenda, including  strategically within national budgeting and security sector governance processes by tackling root causes of conflict through enhanced early warning and early response measures, can ensure that social infrastructure responds to the goals of sustainable development, equality and peace. As research and women’s lived experiences show, gender equality is linked to inclusive human security and safer, more peaceful communities when women and girls are empowered.

Along with the theme for International Women’s Day 2019, #BalanceforBetter, the priority theme for CSW63, focusing on access to sustainable infrastructure for gender equality, presents an opportunity to highlight ways in which the peace, development, and humanitarian intersect and reinforce their mutual goals. This includes: removing barriers and accelerating progress for gender equality; encouraging investment in gender-responsive social systems; and building services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.

In this vein, the ICRtoP, in partnership with Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), working within the Prevention Up Front (PuF) Alliance, will co-host a side event to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to explore the priority theme of the CSW63 through a conflict prevention lens. The panel discussion will unite gender experts from multiple agendas, including human security, governance, development, and humanitarian fields to discuss innovative peacebuilding practices.

Further information on our event can be found here.

Weekly 08-03Policy Memo: In Honor of International Women’s Day: Fostering Inclusion Builds Resilient Societies

In October 2018, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York Office (FES New York), the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), and Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), working in partnership within the Prevention Up Front (PuF) Alliance, convened a side event to the annual UN Security Council (UNSC) Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) highlighting the benefits of and best practices for integrating and including women peacebuilders into prevention work. The panel brought together a diverse group of gender experts to discuss ways to advance women’s roles in conflict and atrocity prevention. Panelists reflected on their personal experiences, developing a set of recommendations focused on supporting collaboration, cooperation, and integration of women across communities of practice and contribute to their meaningful participation in peace processes, emphasizing the need to establish stronger linkages between the WPS, Sustainable Development, and conflict prevention and resolution agendas.

The full policy memo is available here.

What to Watch:

Burma: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/40/68) (Advance Unedited Version) (UN Human Rights Council)
The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar has issued an advanced copy of the latest report on the human rights situation in the country, focusing on hate speech, the shrinking space for political opposition and democracy, as well as the continuance of armed conflict. As Ms. Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur, did not receive permission to enter the country, the report’s findings are the result of visits and interviews conducted in Bangladesh and Thailand. The Burmese government attests that the report is counterproductive to the people of their country, but Ms. Lee continues to attempt to engage state officials in dialogues.

In another move to seek justice and accountability for the crimes committed in Burma, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation unanimously approved a measure establishing the legal rights of the Rohingya people before the International Court of Justice. The measure paves the way for individuals to bring cases against the State for crimes committed against them by Burmese state forces in Rakhine State.

DRC: DR Congo: Tshisekedi pledges to free political prisoners (BBC)
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi announced a series of changes and guarantees as part of his “emergency program for the first 100 days.” These changes aim to “cement the democratic achievement” of the country’s peaceful transition of power and include freeing political opinion prisoners and dissidents as well as a recently announced coalition government uniting his party with Former President Kabila’s allies.

Sudan: Al-Bashir appoints Ahmed Haroun acting chairman of Sudan’s ruling party (Sudan Tribune)
In light of the protests against his regime, Sudanese President al-Bashir appointed Ahmed Haroun as the acting chairman of the National Congress Party. Similar to al-Bashir, Haroun is also subject to indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The changes in party and government leadership strengthened the voice of the political opposition, looking for an unconditional step-down the regime and its main actors as well as ending acts of oppression, torture, and violence against peaceful civilians, and releasing all political prisoners.

But Also Don’t Miss:

Iraq: Some Child Soldiers Get Rehabilitation, Others Get Prison
The Iraqi national government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are detaining and prosecuting child soldiers for alleged ISIS involvement.

South Sudan: South Sudan: President Calls for No Revenge Attacks
President Salva Kiir urged the South Sudanese people to refrain from engaging in revenge attacks as the country continues to implement its latest peace agreement.

Syria: Hundreds of Isis prisoners with ‘no blood on their hands’ released in Syria
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have released suspected ISIS members, creating concern some may return to the group in the future.

Yemen: “DAY OF JUDGMENT” The Role of the US and Europe in Civilian Death, Destruction, and Trauma in Yemen
A report on the impact of US and European weapons in the Yemeni conflict urges for an immediate halt of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in order to prevent further harm to civilians.

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#R2PWeekly: 18 – 22 February 2019


This week in focus:
Human Rights Violations Met with Impunity in South Sudan

The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, an investigative mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, issued a report detailing the ongoing human rights violations in the country, including attacks on civilians, widespread rape, and forced displacement. Their survey, which took place after the most recent peace agreement, caused “outrage” among the experts as their findings demonstrated a lack of progress in the agreement’s implementation.

The report noted that sexual violence remains an issue in the country as the number of cases increased at the end of 2018, with roughly one in four cases being committed against girls. Other areas of note include forced recruitment of men and boys, links between good governance and natural resource distribution, as well as general instability impacting internal displacement and vulnerable populations.

Yasmin Sooka, the Commission’s Chairperson, noted that the lack of accountability for perpetrators has been a persistent problem. The establishment of inclusive transitional justice mechanisms, such as a Hybrid Court, a Commission for Truth Reconciliation and Healing, and a Compensation and Reparation Authority, are necessary in order to build sustainable peace and end impunity. Moreover, provisions for such mechanisms were adopted in the most recent accord as well as the 2015 Peace Agreement. 

The Commission called upon State actors, armed groups, and all parties to cease all violence and respect the peace agreement that stakeholders signed just five months ago.

What to Watch:

Burma: The Rohingya Crisis: What to Watch for in 2019 (Refugees International)
Refugee Affairs experts noted several particular areas of concern for Rohingya refugees in the coming year. The question of repatriation to Myanmar remains in focus, as the international community agrees the conditions of safe return do not exist as the Rohingya population continues to face persecution and a lack of equal protection under the law. This is compounded by a lack of established accountability mechanisms, resulting in systematic discrimination. Impunity for the crimes committed by the Burmese military at the national and international levels continues in spite of ICC and US State Department investigations for crimes against humanity and genocide.

European Union: Human rights: Council adopts conclusions on EU priorities in UN human rights fora in 2019 (Council of the European Union)
In its conclusions on EU Priorities in UN Human Rights Fora for 2019, the Council of the European Union stated its commitment to the promotion of the Responsibility to Protect principle in its external actions, including missions and actions on the ground. The Council also reasserted its support for the documentation of widespread and gross violations of international human rights law, which may amount to genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

Nigeria: 48 Hrs to Polls, PMB, Atiku Sign Final Peace Accord (Leadership)
In spite of the agreement signed between President Buhari and his opponent, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to respect the outcome of the election, tensions continue to escalate, which has raised the concerns of many in the international community. On Wednesday, 20 February, Buhari ordered State forces “to be ruthless” in addressing ballot box interference, while the opposition accused the President of attempting to rig the vote, and called his decision to delay the election “anti-democratic.”

But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Myanmar Army Chief Denies Systematic Persecution of Rohingya 
Burma’s army chief denied accusations of genocide, calling them an insult to the country’s honor.

Iraq: Is the Future of Isis Female?
Women are playing an increasingly important role within ISIS since its shift from a strict gender hierarchy to allowing female participation in military roles, creating new security concerns and complicating Iraqi security forces’ responses.

Venezuela: Venezuela Closes Key Maritime, Air Borders with Neighbors Amid Growing Aid Crisis
The Venezuelan government shut down its northern maritime border and grounded flights in an attempt to block humanitarian aid from entering the country.

Yemen: Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Yemen country team released its 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview, reiterating the severe needs of the Yemeni population as a result of the conflict, economic decline, and famine-like conditions.

Children in Armed Conflict: Stop the War on Children: Protecting Children in 21st Century Conflict
Save the Children has found that almost one in five children live in areas affected by armed conflict. Its new report shows that grave human rights violations and war crimes against children have almost tripled since 2010. The report also offers recommendations for child protection in conflict.

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#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 February 2019


This week in focus:
Accountability for Syria: Germany arrests two Syrians accused of torture under Assad regime

This week Germany arrested two former Syrian intelligence officers, who are suspected of carrying out acts of torture on detainees under the Assad regime. The men allegedly worked at the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) prison, where up to 2,000 detainees are claimed to have been tortured between 2011 and 2012. These acts may amount to crimes against humanity and would be the first case to examine the accountability of senior members of the regime, their authority, involvement, and compliance in the commission of atrocity crimes.

Germany, as well as several other European countries, are investigating dozens of other former officials under “universal jurisdiction,” a legal principle that allows foreign courts to try individuals regardless of where the alleged crimes were committed, their nationality, or relationship to the State or prosecuting entity if they are suspected of committing atrocity crimes. This is a significant step in ending impunity for actions in the Syrian Civil War and would likely spur cases in countries throughout the globe to examine the accountability of Syrian officials for their actions that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as torture, forced disappearances, and targeting of civilians and humanitarian actors.

What to Watch:

 Cameroon: Hospital Attack; Medical Staff, Patients Flee (Voice of America)
A hospital in Kumba, Cameroon, was burned down by an armed group, causing patients and staff to flee. The government blamed the attack on Anglophone separatists. Local papers claim the separatists attacked due to the hospital’s treatment of government soldiers and disclosure of militia members’ identities, though separatists describe it as a ploy by the government to discredit them. The Cameroon Medical Council released a statement denying the accusations and reaffirmed its commitment to neutrality in the conflict.

Cameroon: Cameroon’s main opposition leader charged with rebellion – lawyer (Reuters)
Maurice Kamto, a prominent opposition member, has been charged in military court with rebellion and seven other charges including, “hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offence against the president of the republic,” among others. In October, Kamto lost the Presidential Election, which he described as fraudulent, and held a demonstration with supporters in protest, which ended with violence by state forces. Along with the return of instability in the Anglophone regions, there are fears Kamto’s trial and its outcome may spark further violence.

But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: The Rohingya Diaspora Is Crucial to Achieving Justice in Myanmar 
In this Op-Ed, it is argued that the Rohingya diaspora has a vital role to play in pushing the international community to achieve justice and accountability in Burma.

Guatemala: Opinion: Guatemala Must Not Grant Amnesty To War Criminals
A bill before the country’s Congress would free military officials convicted and waiting trial for crimes against humanity, in addition to prohibiting further investigations.

Mali: How international court may give Mali’s women a second chance at justice
An International Criminal Court case on forced marriages in Mali may allow women to seek justice for gender-based crimes and violence through the Court.

South Sudan: South Sudan: The Human Rights Council should fully renew the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
In a joint-statement, several prominent NGOs, including coalition member Human Rights Watch, called upon the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan to renew its mandate during the 40th session of the UN Human Right Council.

Turkey: Turkey calls on China to end mass detention of Uighur Muslims
Turkey joined others in the international community in condemning China for its mass repression and detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

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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


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.

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RtoP Weekly: 15 – 19 October 2018


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.


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


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


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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Tag or mention us! Use #ICRtoP or @ICRtoP to share your RtoP news and updates, or for a chance to be featured by ICRtoP.



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