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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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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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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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#RtoP Weekly 8 – 13 July 2018

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UNGA holds Formal Debate on the RtoP

On 25 June and 2 July 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened its first formal debate on “The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” since 2009 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The debate followed the release of the tenth annual UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) report on RtoP, and the second by Secretary-General António Guterres’, entitled “Responsibility to Protect: From Early Warning to Early Action.”

Following the opening remarks by the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, 79 Member States and two regional organizations (the EU and the Pacific Island Group) delivered statements on behalf of 113 States. Over the course of the debate, many countries expressed their gratitude regarding the inclusion of the RtoP as a stand-alone item on the General Assembly’s agenda to be able to discuss it formally. Member States also reaffirmed their commitments to the RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and narrowing the gap between early warning and early action. In fact, 107 Member States acknowledged that the costs to “pick up the pieces after crisis” are far greater than those that go into prevention efforts. Member States additionally supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers of effective implementation of the RtoP norm. For example, support for veto restraint by members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resounded throughout the debate, with 69 Member States presenting arguments for the benefits and necessity of exercising restraint in the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes by Security Council Members. This concern also manifested itself through expressed support for the France-Mexico Initiative and/or the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT Group) Code of Conduct.

Throughout the debate, 83 Member States also mentioned the importance of accountability mechanisms as a way to prevent recurrence of mass atrocity crimes, and subsequently acknowledged the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to counter impunity. Emphasizing findings in the report, many Member States gave support to the idea of including civil society in atrocity prevention measures and for denouncing violations and giving specific expertise at local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, 74 Member States expressed support for including the RtoP as a standing agenda item in the General Assembly to continue such discussions on these important topics.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary and infographic for both the 2018 report and dialogue and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues. To view these material and all of the ICRtoP’s UNGA coverage, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Nigeria 
South Sudan 
Sudan 
Syria
Venezuela 
Yemen 
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

During the week of 2 July, the UNSG visited Bangladesh and called on all countries to step up, help, and give support to the Rohingya refugees with real action. He also described the Rohingya situation as a clear case of ethnic cleansing.

The UNHCR announced on 6 July that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will start receiving credit card-sized plastic IDs in the refugee camps. This will enable the consolidation of “a unified database for the purposes of protection” and recognition amongst other things. The IDs will play a crucial role in formalizing refugees’ identities and will preserve their right to voluntarily return home when the appropriate safety conditions are in place. However, on 8 July, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee reported that the Government of Burma made no progress in eliminating systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in its domestic law to make the Rakhine safe for their return, preventing such action in the near future.

On 11 July, the third peace conference between the Burmese government, military, and ethnic minorities began. The government allowed members of the Northern Alliance to attend as well. During the opening remarks of the conference, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called for an agreement amongst stakeholders prioritizing peace over political demands.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock highlighted the lack of funding available to solve the humanitarian situation in the DPRK on 11 July, and is trying to raise $111 million to meet the needs of approximately 6 million people for health, water, sanitation, and food security.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 9 July, Israel announced the closing of the Karam Abu Salem commercial border, a key passageway for goods entering the Gaza Strip. The existing blockade by Israel already imposes a significant impact on the Gazan economy, and the additional closure will prevent citizens from receiving crucial resources such as clothing and construction materials. Only limited humanitarian necessities such as wheat, flour and cooking gas will be allowed. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressedconcern over this decision citing that it will likely escalate the conflict and cause more suffering of civilians in the area.


Iraq:

Save the Children released a report on 5 July entitled “Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the Lives of Mosul’s Children After Years of Conflict and Violence,” exploring the “constant fear and intense sorrow” that children who have lived through the conflict have to come to terms with. Save the Children Iraq Country Director, Ana Locsin, noted that the successful rebuilding of the country and its future success will depend on “the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”

Iraq began the recount of ballot votes from the 12 May election on 9 July, following accusations that vote-rigging and fraud occurred. UN representatives as well as members of political parties, embassies, and media outlets are allowed to attend the recount, which is taking place at the Baghdad International Fair.

Concerns over the high rates of prosecutions for suspected IS fighters and their suspected affiliates, including ISIS wives, remain in what are deemed to be unfair trials by many international observers. The Sun Herald reported on 9 July that over 3,000 punishments have been given in the last few weeks, with cases going through the courts at an concerningly fast rates. Unease is particularly prominent over the court’s “reliance on informants” who potentially have “personal grudges” against those on trial being considered in sentencing, and secondly the duration of some trials, which last only 10-15 minutes. One third of cases result in the death penalty.


Libya:

While General Haftar announced a couple of weeks ago that his LNA’s forces have fully captured the city of Derna, as of the beginning of July, nine women have reportedly been kidnapped in a further bid by the government military to assert its dominance in the area. Rebels deny that the LNA have control of the area. Aid groups and the UN Support Mission in Libya are concerned over the lack of acknowledgement by government forces regarding their ability to deliver basic supplies and “deliver life-saving assistance” to civilians.


Nigeria:

On 8 July, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the importance of having women in leadership positions and their participation in peace processes in order to prevent conflicts and violent extremism. Mohammed describes women’s roles as “critical” for the future of Nigeria and the pursuit of improvement of the country’s current instability.

On 9 July, the Nigerian Army released 183 children, from the ages of 7 to 18, suspected of belonging to Boko Haram into UNICEF care. The children were arrested in several northeastern states affected by terrorist violence. They will now receive medical attention and psycho-social support from UNICEF specialists before reuniting with their families.


South Sudan:

After several rounds of discussions and cease-fire violations, South Sudanese leaders came to a power-sharing peace agreement on 7 July. The new agreement establishes four Vice Presidents, one being exiled opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar. There are hopes that the agreement brings about an end to the four year conflict. However, days later, rebels announced that they rejected the peace deal on the basis of no formal, written agreement ever being presented to or consented by Dr. Machar. They went further stating that they also believed the agreement maintained the status quo and didn’t do enough to address the reforms they saw as necessary for the country’s success.

On 10 July, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) released a statement accusing South Sudanese government forces of pursuing a “scorched earth” policy, deliberately targeting civilians and vulnerable populations. Attacks were carried out against elderly, people with disabilities, and young children, in addition to widespread sexual violence against women and girls. UN monitors allege that the actions may amount to war crimes.


Sudan:

Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in the Jebel Marra region continue to displace hundreds of families. IDP camps saw over 450 new family arrivals since the end of Ramadan last month, with hundreds more allegedly seeking refuge in caves in the mountainous region.

The Foreign Minister voiced some criticism over actions that would delay the timeline for UNAMID troop withdrawal. The joint AU-UN peacekeeping operational timeline garnered concern from several organizations due to the ongoing instability and security situation, who called on UNAMID not to downsize, after their announcement at the end of last month. The FM sees these concerns as creating tension and doubt about the stability in the Sudan.

Peace talks have no timeline for their resumption, as of 8 July, according to the presidential Envoy. Al Bashir’s envoy said that a timeline would be discussed after consulting with the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), but each side blames the other for the deadlock in the stalled negotiations.


Syria:

The UN estimates that around 320,000 civilians have been displaced in Southern Syria since 19 June due to ongoing fighting and air strikes. The Assad Government continues to try to take hold of the parts of the Dera’a Province that are currently held by rebels, firing deadly barrel bombs and missiles on a daily basis.  Al Jazeera reports that the area has been “completely burnt to the ground” with over 20 civilian casualties recorded.

Since mid-June around 60,000 Syrians moved towards the Jordanian border in a plea for refuge from the violence. Jordanian activists continue their campaign which began on 1 July to have the border reopened, citing that they have not abandoned the Syrian people and wish to help protect them. However, the border still remains closed to Syrians, forcing them to return to conflict-stricken areas deeper within the country.

On 11 July, Al Jazeera reported that rebels in Dera’a have agreed to hold negotiations with Russian military officials regarding a potential evacuation of fighters to northwestern, rebel-held areas in Syria. Fighters and their families are currently surrounded by government troops with few other prospects of safe survival.


Venezuela:

On 5 July, 50 countries asked Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid and assistance, and to cooperate with the Council’s human rights mechanisms to combat the increase in shortages of medicine and malnutrition in the country. Following this request, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN condemned the “foreign interference”, singling out the United States’ role in this “aggression”.


Yemen:

Fighting continues in the port city of Hodeidah between Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels. The UN Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, continues to work towards a peace deal between the parties, proposing the Houthis turning over control of the region to the UN. He hopes that parties will show commitment to the peace negotiation process, particularly as the situation is untenable and citizens nation-wide face total famine if the port’s infrastructure, which receives the majority (80%) of food and medicinal imports for the Yemeni people, is damaged by the violence.

The UNICEF Chief, Henrietta Fore, described on 3 July that over 2,200 children have been killed and a further 3,400 injured as a result of the ongoing conflict. There is also concern over mines scattered across the city, putting civilians lives at risk.

UN News reported on 10 July that the World Health Organization (WHO) described the health situation in Hodeidah as the “most dire in the country,” which has been made even worse by the “intensification of fighting” in the area. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) continues to urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians, including migrants.


Other:

On 10 July the AU and UN held its Annual Conference on the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. The Conference focused on regional peace and security issues and the need to achieve cohesion with national development frameworks.

Ahead of its annual meeting in August, the SADC  released a framework to mainstream women and gender into national peace and security agendas. The region continues to take steps to better increase women’s presence in decision making processes, and the Secretariat acknowledged that incorporating the WPS Agenda into its policies is beneficial to creating more peaceful and equitable societies.

Reports out of Harare, Zimbabwe seem promising, as the country is witnessing a “pre-election calm” that was not seen during former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure. The coercion, harassment, and violence against ZANU-PF opposition members and supporters, largely fueled by Mugabe himself, remains absent as political opponents agreed to an electoral Code of Conduct last month. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) meeting saw political leaders committing to prevent pre-election practices that were present in prior elections.

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#R2P Weekly 19 – 23 February 2018

UN rails against Syria’s “monstrous campaign of annihilation” in Eastern Ghouta
The United Nations is pleading for a halt to one of the deadliest air assault campaigns of the Syrian conflict, as Syrian government forces have reportedly continued to attack Eastern Ghouta for over five straight days, killing more than 335 civilians, in what the UN has called a “massacre”. On 19 February, Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of the last remaining rebel-held enclave near the capital, allegedly indiscriminately killing more than 100 civilians that day alone, and marking one of the deadliest attacks in three years. Moreover, in just the past few days, Syrian government forces and its allies have reportedly conducted 420 airstrikes and dropped 140 barrel bombs in Eastern Ghouta. While the Syrian government claims that there are few civilians left in Eastern Ghouta, according to the UN, almost 400,000 people remain trapped in the area.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres maintains that the Syrian government’s bombing campaign has turned Eastern Ghouta into “hell on earth” and has called for an immediate halt to the fighting. Similarly, both Panos Moumtzis, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, as well as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, have urged all parties to strictly adhere to their international humanitarian obligations and to take all feasible measures to protect civilians. They have further underscored that “International humanitarian law was developed precisely to stop this type of situation, where civilians are slaughtered in droves in order to fulfill political or military objectives”. The High Commissioner railed at the “monstrous campaign of annihilation”.

Earlier this month, Sweden and Kuwait introduced a draft resolution, requesting that the UN Security Council (UNSC) vote “as soon as possible” on the proposed 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which would allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuation. During intense negotiations and in a concession to Russia, the draft resolution was later amended to specify that the proposed ceasefire would not apply to the Islamic State (ISIL) or Al-Qaeda. The UNSC vote, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was later delayed and set to take place on Friday, 23 February.


Catch up on developments in…

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

 

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria 
Venezuela
Yemen

 

Burma/Myanmar:

On 23 February, a bomb killed two people and injured 22 others at a bank in the northern city of Lashio. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but violent incidents carried out by armed ethnic groups are not uncommon in the northern part of the country. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee warned in a statement this month of the need to focus not only on the Rohingya crisis, but to also focus on the general ethnic strife of the country.

The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on Burmese General Maung Maung Soe, citing his alleged complicity in the violations of rights of the Rohingya population. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also stated that the acts committed against the Rohingya constitute ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The European Union (EU) is also preparing sanctions against Burmese generals involved in the systematic abuse of human rights against the Rohingya, Reuters has reported. European diplomats also announced the EU’s desire to strengthen the arms-embargo currently in place on Burma.

Burma has agreed to resettle the 6,000 Rohingya stranded in no man’s land, an unclaimed piece of land near the Tombru border between Burma and Bangladesh. While most of the Rohingya refugees have fled to the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, some are stranded in this area as a result of the Bangladeshi government denying their entrance to the country. The decision comes after Bangladeshi and Burmese authorities visited the impromptu camps to encourage Rohingya refugees to return to Burma.


 

Burundi:

UN Development Programme Representative to Burundi Garry Coville reported that one in three Burundian people will require humanitarian assistance in 2018, a 20 percent increase from last year’s needs. Coville stated that the socio-economic situation in the country, as well as the increase of natural disasters, will exacerbate the need for humanitarian aid.

Opposition groups in Burundi are accusing the government of allegedly intimidating and forcing citizens to register to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum. The government has allegedly set up checkpoints, mostly run by the party’s youth militia wing, the Imbonerakure, to verify registration papers. Other residents stated that local authorities have allegedly threatened to withhold fertilizers and not provide health insurance validation if citizens are not registered. Burundi’s First Vice President acknowledged that some members of the Imbonerakure might have abused their power, but denied any other allegations.


 

Central African Republic:

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called on the international community to increase its support to the humanitarian response in the Central African Republic (CAR) after her visit to the country. While the funding for humanitarian programs has decreased in the last three years, the number of internally displaced persons in the country has doubled to 694,000 in the last year. Mueller emphasized the need to strengthen the protection of civilians during her meetings with national authorities and key stakeholders. Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the CAR Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum also urged for an open dialogue between factions, the need to establish judicial mechanisms, and for an increase in humanitarian assistance in the country, citing the 2.2 million people in need of aid.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) of the DRC has revealed new electronic voting machines for the upcoming referendum later this year. The machines will allow the voter to touch the photo of a candidate, which then prints a marked ballot paper that the voter must place inside a ballot box. Additionally, the machines are only available in French, the official language of the country, but not in the four other recognized national languages. Opposition groups, however, have rejected the machines, citing concerns over easy manipulation of votes. The Catholic Church has called on the government to allow international experts to certify the machines, while the US firmly opposes an electronic vote.

Switzerland has imposed sanctions on 14 individuals allied with the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila. These sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, largely replicate the sanctions already imposed by the European Union.

On 20 February, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned of a looming humanitarian disaster of colossal proportions in the southeastern area of the DRC. The province of Tanganyika has been the stage of conflict and violence between different ethnic groups as well as between government and militia forces, with UNHCR partners reporting 800 protection incidents in just the first two weeks of February. The atrocities include attacks against villages, abductions, and gender-based violence, including rape. Head of Operations for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) Jean-Philippe Chauzy has also raised concerns over the dire humanitarian situation in the DRC, stating that the international community cannot stay dormant to the country’s situation. Chauzy reported that malnutrition levels in the Kasai province have risen by 750 percent as a result of the constant displacement due to violence. In response, the European Commission, alongside the UN and the Dutch government, will co-host a donor conference on 13 April focusing on funding for humanitarian relief in the DRC.

Over the weekend, unidentified armed men killed two aid workers and kidnapped another one in the eastern province of North Kivu in the DRC, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The workers were part of the NGO Hydraulique sans Frontières, which provides technical support in water-related projects in developing countries. OCHA warned of the security situation in the region, citing the 2017 December attack when a rebel group killed 15 UN Peacekeepers and injured 53 others.


 

Gaza / West Bank:

During a briefing to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that no Plan B exists for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, affirming the UN’s support to a two-state solution. In the same meeting, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Nikolay Mladenov called on the international community to continue to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while also urging for the return of control over Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, who was also present at the meeting, proposed an international peace conference later this year to solve the situation. However, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon stated that the only way to solve the problem is through direct negotiations between the two parties.

On 21 February, Egypt re-opened the Rafah crossing point along its border with Gaza for four days only. While thousands of Gaza residents are on the authorized travel list, mainly composed of medical patients and students, it is likely that only a few thousand will make it out in the allotted time.

After a rocket fired from Gaza hit the southern part of Israel over the weekend, Israeli warplanes struck 18 Hamas facilities on Monday, 19 February. No casualties were reported, but the exchange is seen as the most serious escalation since 2014. Hamas officials, however, have stated they do not wish for a further escalation of the situation.


 

Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against Iraq’s Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units on 19 February, killing at least 27 people southwest of Kirkuk.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that on 19 February, a court in Baghdad convicted 11 women from Turkey and one woman from Azerbaijan for non-violent crimes under Iraq’s counter-terrorism law, sentencing ten to life in prison and one to to death. Six months ago, approximately 1,400 foreign women and children, along with ISIL fighters, surrendered to Iraqi security forces. Charges leveled against these women include: entering Iraq illegally; aiding or abetting ISIL; and membership in ISIL. Despite these defendants having access to lawyers during interrogations, unlike earlier cases, HRW maintains that their trials were unfair. Additionally, HRW claims that in these cases, the women received the harshest possible sentences for what appears to be either marriage to an ISIL member or a coerced border crossing. Accordingly, HRW asserts that Iraqi authorities ought to develop a national prosecutorial strategy and prioritize prosecuting those accused of being most responsible for the most serious crimes. To that end, HRW is of the view that authorities should consider alternatives to criminal prosecution for those suspected only of membership in ISIL, without any evidence of other serious crime.


 

Libya:

Seven years after Libya’s revolution, the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to persist and the forecast for 2018 is bleak. Current events, including the elections tentatively scheduled for late 2018, have the potential to reignite an armed conflict rather than lead to a unified Libya, especially in the absence of a constitution and the fact that no single faction appears strong enough to stabilize the country. Indeed, it seems that election-related violence has already begun. Moreover, this power vacuum and the looming possibility of returning to civil war, creates fertile ground for the Islamic State (ISIL) and Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recover from their 2016 and 2017 setbacks and return time and again. According to reports, ISIL is already rising again, and currently disrupting oil production and expanding its reach southward. Additionally, ISIL is allegedly using Libya as its primary base in Africa, where it receives foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle east, and from where it plans and coordinates attacks against the West. Disarray in the country could also make the humanitarian situation even worse, by preserving a slavery economy, destabilizing neighboring states, and intensifying migration to Europe.


Mali:

Infighting between the government of Mali and ethnic Tuaregs in the north over which side is responsible for the failure to produce security or economic benefits for the northern tribe could lead to civil war. This could in turn create an opening for terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to further entrench their operations in northern Mali.

In central Mali, nearly 400 schools have already closed since Islamist militants expanded their operations and attacks toward the more densely populated Segou and Mopti regions. It also appears that the jihadists are targeting French schools, claiming they “want Koranic schools” instead. Worse still, it seems as though the campaign of violence is gaining support from local communities who feel that they have been marginalized by the government, which they also view as ineffective. Fatou Dieng Thiam, who heads the UN mission’s office in Mopti claims that in addition to militants organizing prayer sessions and telling people to stop paying government taxes, the militants are also “threaten[ing] every symbol of the state: teachers, administrative officers, mayors.” ICRtoP partner Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also documented several cases of rights violations where Malian forces have been involved in their own violations which is creating its own unique cycle of violence.


 

Nigeria:

Four years after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Boko Haram militants attacked a school in Dapchi, Yobe State on 19 February. While it was originally thought that the students and teachers fled before Boko Haram arrived, three days after the attack at least 13 girls are still missing and two were found dead. However, officials have been reluctant to call this a kidnapping, as about 76 of the girls who had fled were later found hiding in surrounding villages, so officials say it may still be possible to find those who are still missing. Still, one parent told the BBC they had seen a truck full of students being taken away. Security services continue to search the area to locate the missing girls.

On 19 February, Nigeria’s justice ministry said that 205 Boko Haram suspects had been convicted on charges related to their involvement with the militant Islamist group. The mass trial marks the end of the second stage of the country’s largest legal challenge against Boko Haram. Jail terms range from three to 60 years. Rights groups have criticized how the Nigerian authorities have handled some of these cases, claiming that some detainees had been held without trial since 2010. Still, the justice ministry also noted that 526 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram were released for rehabilitation and said that 73 cases were adjourned.


 

South Sudan:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that approximately 200,000 refugees from South Sudan will arrive in Sudan during 2018. As the five-year conflict continues, OCHA warns of the need for a long-term strategy, rather than just an emergency response. The organization emphasized plans to provide more durable infrastructure to refugee camps and assistance to host communities.

Two clans in the eastern state of Jonglei in South Sudan have reached a peace agreement, ending a violent conflict over land that has killed 37 people in the past two months. The parties agreed to create a buffer zone, where government security forces will keep the two clans apart.

The South Sudan Peace talks failed to reach an agreement by 16 February as was previously hoped. Hirut Zemene, deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers reported that arranging security and sharing responsibility were the two major items under consideration. While no specific date for continuing the peace talks has been set, Zemene hoped that the break would be short and that talks would resume soon, so as to maintain the momentum and finalize pending issues. However, the government delegation, after its return to Juba, reiterated its rejection to the proposals presented by the opposition forces and blamed them for stalling the talks. The government particularly opposed the plan to dissolve the security sector and transfer power to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to the Regional Protection Force. On the other hand, the opposition forces blamed the government for the failure of the peace talks, citing the government’s strict demands such as refusing to demilitarize Juba and rejecting to reconstruct the army.  On 21 February, more than 200 civil society groups issued a statement urging the IGAD, the African Union, and the international community to increase pressure on all parties to reach an agreement in the next phase of negotiations in March.

A new UN report exposed the “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in South Sudan, citing 60 confirmed incidents where journalists had either been killed, beaten, or arrested. The report also described the restrictions placed upon media outlets, including blocked websites and denying entry to 20 foreign reporters. The head of UNMISS, David Shearer, further reported that the journalists and entities who were targeted were deemed to be critical of the government.


 

Sudan:

The Governor of Central Darfur Ja’afar Abdel-Hakam announced that a security forum would take place in Nertiti next month, bringing together the security committees of North, South and Central Darfur. The purpose of the forum will be to discuss security issues and the impact of the disarmament campaign in the region. Sudan’s Vice President Abdel-Rahman also reported that large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have returned to Darfur, following an improved security situation in the country. He urged the committee in charge of overseeing the return to provide more assistance to all five states in Darfur. Additionally, during Pramila Patten’s visit to Darfur, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict commended the efforts of the government to end sexual violence in the area. However while meeting with Ms. Patten, Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) of allegedly hiding Mission staff involved in sexual offenses.

On 18 February, the Sudanese government released over 80 political opponents and activists who partook in the protests over the rising prices of bread last month. The opposition party, the National Umma Party (NUP), welcomed the release but called on the government to release the remaining detainees, and also called for the repeal of laws that restrict the freedom of expression and assembly. The NUP also accused the government of holding the remaining detainees as hostages, citing the Sudanese government’s press statement announcing that the remaining prisoners would be released as long as the demonstrations and vandalism stopped in the country. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged the government to release the remaining detainees, and noted that Sudanese groups monitoring the release reported that only 50 people were released, not 80 as the government claimed.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North led by al Hilu (SPLM-N al-Hilu) allegedly attacked SPLM-N forces led by Agar (SPLM-N Agar) in the Blue Nile state on Saturday 17 February. The two factions used to be part of a united opposition force against the Sudanese government until they clashed last year over the right to self-determination and other organizational issues.

The Enough Project in Sudan distributed an open letter to UN commissioners citing issues with the Sudanese government’s suppression of peaceful protests, arbitrary arrests, and detentions. The letter asked the UN commissioners to request the Sudanese government to respect their citizens’ right to protest and to refrain from using force against protesters. In addition, the letter also asked that the Sudanese government allow detainees legal counsel and family visitation rights. The Enough Project and the other signatories to the letter have also requested that the government conduct an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and into the ill-treatment and torture of the detainees.


Syria:
Seven years of conflict in Syria has left more than 465,000 dead, over 1,000,000 injured, and at least 12,000,000 displaced.

On 16 February, the US and Turkey agreed to hold talks in order to de-escalate the situation in Syria, particularly to avoid clashes in the northern city of Manbij. Previously, Turkey had said it would attack US-backed Kurdish forces in the city, while the US had threatened of an aggressive response.

On 20 February, Syria’s “Popular Forces” entered Afrin to counter Turkey’s attack against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), raising the possibility of clashes between Syria and Turkey. While Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Bekir Bozdağ has apparently warned Syria of “disastrous consequences” should the Syrian government send forces to support the YPG, Syria’s government has called Turkey’s offensive on Afrin a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.


 

Venezuela:

On 20 February, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) called on Member States to impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela, including sanctions “against the regime itself”. Until now, sanctions had focused only on individual members of the Venezuelan government.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable, a coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties, announced on 21 February that they would not participate in the presidential election scheduled for 22 April. The opposition stated that the election lacked the necessary conditions for a free and fair result, and further claimed that the election was premature and that it was intended to provide a mirage of legitimacy to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. President Maduro responded by announcing his intentions to also hold municipal and state legislative council elections the same day. The opposition stated that it would reconsider its decision if certain conditions were met.

According to a closely-watched university study, Venezuelans lost on average 11 kilograms in body weight during 2017 as compared to only 8 kilograms during 2016. The study, which was conducted by three Venezuelan universities, provides one of the few statistical analyses of the economic crisis and food shortage in the country, amid a government information void. The report also stated that over 69 percent of Venezuelans have said they have woken up hungry in the previous three months because of lack of funds to buy food.


 

Yemen:

On 16 February, United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres announced the appointment of Martin Griffiths of the United Kingdom as his Special Envoy for Yemen.

A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is occuring in Yemen. On 20 February, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley asserted that a United Nations report had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo”, demanding that the Security Council act. Apparently, Reuters has seen a draft UN resolution, which urges the Security Council to take action against Iran over sanctions violations and which also urges the Security Council to condemn Iran for failing to stop is ballistic missiles from falling into the hands Yemen’s Houthi rebel group. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the accusations against Iran, and Russia appears to have opposed a bid to condemn Iran.

Battlefield losses have pushed Houthis to public conscription, annulling voluntary recruitment. Houthi militia leaders are set to review and possibly simplify conditions for recruitment. According to observers, the “simplification” of terms could include abolishing age limits and allowing children to join.

On 21 February, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called on the United Kingdom, as the penholder on Yemen at the Security Council, to either demonstrate that it can lead the Council to take meaningful action on Yemen, or hand over the responsibility to another Council member. Suze van Meegen, NRC’s Protection and Advocacy Adviser on Yemen, further asserted that “Another weak presidential statement will have little effect on the ground, if any at all” and went on to say that “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world deserves more than just an ‘expression of concern’.” In that regard, the NRC maintains that the Security Council should break its eight-month silence on Yemen by adopting a binding resolution in which it demands a complete lifting of the blockade and a cessation of hostilities.

 

 

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