Category Archives: Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 17 July – 21 July 2017

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Syria peace talks come to a close with “no breakthrough”
as battle for Raqqa continues
The seventh round of Syria peace talks held in Geneva ended in a stand-still, with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura describing the process as having “no breakthrough, no breakdown.” He added that the Syrian government is still unwilling to discuss political transition, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives continuing their focus on the “fight against terrorism.” Syria’s main opposition group, which believes that the end of “terrorism” would not be possible without stability in Syria, has failed to put the peace talks’ spotlight on political transition in Syria.

At the same time, France has asked major powers involved in the Syrian crisis to join a contact group that would make proposals to warring parties in order to break a deadlock in political negotiations, the French foreign minister said. France’s policy on Syria has changed recently, as President Emmanuel Macron no longer sees Bashar al-Assad’s step down as a precondition for talks, despite other French officials insisting he cannot be involved in the Syrian government long-term. “Mr. Macron knows well that Bashar al-Assad is the enemy of the Syrian people, but he at the same time is also the enemy of humanity. We cannot ignore a criminal like Assad who used chemical weapons on civilians,” said Nasser al-Hariri, the lead opposition negotiator.

Furthermore, in a move suspected to appease the Russian government, President Trump has ended the CIA’s covert program assisting and arming anti-Assad rebels, a program installed under the Obama Administration. The decision was made with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security advisor HR McMaster under an administration whose decision has been interpreted as a concession to the Russian government to some US officials. While the Obama Administration had considered this option, it chose to remain in the region out of strategic positioning. Now that it has been pulled by the Trump administration, experts believe radical groups may be encouraged by this news. Some have argued that this decision also risks other countries meddling in Syria to provide arms to dangerous groups.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting between US-backed forces and the Islamic State (ISIL) has continued in Raqqa this past week, as ISIL has continued defending its stronghold in the city. According to the Syrian Observatory Observatory for Human Rights, an estimated 35 percent of Raqqa is now under the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) control. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman stated that a steady stream of civilians have been fleeing ISIL-held districts, adding that “whenever there is a lull in the fighting, they leave towards areas held by the SDF.” For its part, the SDF said on its social media accounts that its forces “managed to free about 500 civilians who were trapped inside the Al-Daraiya and Al-Tayar neighborhoods, as well as 150 others from the Old City.” The UN estimates that up to 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside the city, down from around 100,000 people estimated at the end of June.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Syria
Yemen


 

Burma/Myanmar:

According to a report from The World Food Program (WFP) released on Monday, 17 July, 80,500 Rohingya children living in Rakhine are “wasting” — a condition of rapid weight loss that can become fatal — and will need treatment for acute malnutrition. Rakhine state has been under a military lockdown since October 2016, while the security forces have allegedly been conducting mass killing, raping, and torture against Rohingya Muslims.

Around 75,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh since the beginning of the military’s operation, according to UN estimates. The United Nations Human Rights Council has planned to send a fact-finding mission to Burma, but the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to issue visas to the UN team. The refusal amounts to “a slap in the face to victims who suffered grave human rights violations by Myanmar’s state security forces,” said John Fisher, an ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch representative in Geneva. Fisher further implied that “it would be a travesty” for Burma to block independent international investigators.


Burundi:

The UN Special Envoy to Burundi, Michael Kafando, has completed his consultations between the government and civil society and is expected to present the results to the Secretary-General on 26 July. The Burundi government has stated that it welcomes these efforts, and hopes that it will represent the “real situation” in Burundi.

Local human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the human rights violations that have rattled the region since President Nkurunziza’s announcement to seek the presidential office for a third term. The Burundi government, however, withdrew from the ICC after it believed the ICC to be threatening to its sovereignty. In addition, Burundi has also suspended its collaborative efforts with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after a report released accused the Burundi government of human rights violations.


Central African Republic:

The Security Council has stated its concern that ongoing clashes between warring factions in CAR, as well as continuing violence against UN peacekeepers there, may violate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Members of the Council have agreed that the violence “continues to destabilize the country [and] cause many civilian casualties and large displacements of the population.” The violence is rooted between the Muslim Seleka and anti-Balaka factions, whose fighting has affected the country since 2012. According to Eric Batanon, County Director for the Norwegian Council, “The number of families displaced from their homes has increased to a level we have not witnessed since the peak of the conflict in 2014.”


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 15 July, Cote D’Ivoire held bilateral meetings with Liberia in order to enhance the effectiveness of their collaboration in sustaining peace and security. Both countries also discussed the continued maintenance of roads, which are imperative for transporting goods between the two countries. The countries agreed to work constructively to assist one another in sustaining growth in both regions.


Iraq:

On Monday, 17 July, the UN envoy for Iraq Jan Kubis expressed concerns about the rise of revenge attacks in Mosul against civilians who are believed to be linked to Islamic State (ISIL) militants. After the liberation of the city, civilians who are seen as having ties to ISIL are increasingly being subjected to “evictions, confiscations of homes, and other retribution and revenge measures,” said Kubis, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should take “urgent steps” to stop the attacks, as actions taken against civilians without sufficient evidence violate Iraq’s constitution and international law. Kubis also warned the Security Council that the future in Mosul is “extremely challenging” and stressed that securing the rule of law and promoting development will be crucial in turning victory into stabilization of the just liberated City. ISIL still controls some territory outside Mosul and some bigger areas in neighboring Syria.


Kenya:

Ahead of the August elections, Kenya has stated that it has begun taking measures aimed at ensuring safe and fair elections. Security officials have imported equipment meant to maintain crowd control, such as guns and teargas, in anticipation of violence. While Kenya is not expected to shut down the internet, social media may be closed off to the public “if necessary” due to concerns of users who may mislead the public about election results. To ensure the security and safety of the election, neighboring countries Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia are expected to shut down internet access. Furthermore, Kenya has installed cyber security systems in case of election fraud, which leading opposition candidate Raila Odinga expressed concern for.


Libya:

The UN called on Tuesday for the Libyan National Army (LNA) to investigate alleged torture and summary executions of prisoners by the Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA. The LNA effectively controls the eastern part of the country and is expanding into central and southern Libya while fighting with forces linked to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. Last March, the LNA announced that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes but has not shared any information since then, according to UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell. “We urge the LNA to ensure there is a full, impartial investigation into these allegations,” Throssell said. Furthermore, Throssell called on the group to suspend Special Forces field commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, as videos have circulated on social media that allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting bound prisoners and overseeing torture and summary executions. In response, the LNA has declined comment on the videos.


Nigeria:

Eight people are dead and 15 others injured after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside of a mosque in northeastern Nigeria on 17 July. This comes after an increased number of attacks committed by women sent by Boko Haram. The Nigerian government declared it had defeated Boko Haram several months ago, but coordinated attacks have persisted. The World Food Programme has estimated that as a result of Boko Haram’s attacks, 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food aid.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed visited Nigeria to urge the government to further invest in advancing women’s rights in addition to promoting peace. Ms. Mohammed met with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and has expressed confidence that the development of women will contribute to peace-sustaining efforts in the region.


South Sudan:

On 16 July, South Sudan’s government acknowledged that its forces had used offensive campaigns to reclaim Pagak, a stronghold of the rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), which aligns with former Vice President Riek Machar. According to the presidential adviser of military affairs, the act was provoked by the rebels’ failure to observe the ceasefire, though some disagree and state that the ceasefire does not include the Pagak region. 5,000 civilians have already been forced out of their homes in the region and have fled to neighboring Ethiopia, exacerbating the refugee crisis.


Sri Lanka:

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, criticized Sri Lanka for its slow progress in bringing perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights abuses to justice. The Sri Lankan military allegedly killed thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, during the last weeks of the civil war with Tamil separatists, which ended in 2009. Sri Lanka has previously promised an impartial investigation into human rights violations in the country, but President Maithripala Sirisena then indicated that he would not allow foreign judges to take part in the investigation. Emmerson said if Sri Lanka failed to meet its previous commitment, it could face a range of measures, such as a referral to the UN Security Council. The Sri Lankan government has responded that it needs more time to tackle the abuse charges cited by Emmerson. Sri Lankan Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa defended the slow process by explaining that, as a democracy, Sri Lanka’s government could not “make laws immediately.”


Syria:

The European Union has continued to support transitional justice initiatives and international justice mechanisms in Syria. Recently, the EU funded €1.5 million to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in Syria.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Lebanese government to conduct an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the deaths of Syrians in military custody and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. On June 30, the Lebanese army raided two unofficial refugee camps in Arsal and encountered suicide bombers, a bomb, and a grenade, resulting in the injury of seven soldiers. The army detained 356 people following the raids and referred 56 for prosecution. On July 4, the Lebanese military said four Syrians who “suffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climate condition” died in its custody, however, the pictures of the bodies showed signs of physical torture, according to HRW. Moreover, former detainees told HRW that army personnel beat and ill-treated them. A military officer told HRW that the army is investigating the deaths and would publish its findings.

Obstacles have mounted for international aid groups to deliver aid to stranded Syrian refugees near the border with Jordan. In 2016, UN agencies agreed to a controversial aid system that critics say gave much of the control over aid distribution to Jordan’s military and armed forces on the Syrian side. The system has failed repeatedly and only sporadic aid shipments have reached the refugee camps, while rival groups accused each other of diverting aid. Critics say the struggle to provide aid reflects the international community’s wider failure in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. Around 5 million Syrians have fled their home since the civil war, but countless others are still trapped in the country after neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey largely closed their borders. “Syria is locked in, and I think this is an issue which is not at all in the public debate or being raised by the aid agencies,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, a former Jordan-based UN refugee agency official. Countering criticism, Jordan defended itself and indicated that it has absorbed far more refugees than wealthier Western countries, and Islamic militants on the border pose a security threat.


Yemen:

A Saudi-led coalition air attack allegedly killed at least 20 civilians in southwest Yemen on 18 July, according to the United Nations and witnesses. Those killed are believed to have been in their homes when the attack took place and the majority of the victims are likely to be from the same family. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked and saddened” at reports of casualties in the aerial attack and added that the civilians had fled fighting in the nearby Mokha district. “This latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict,” a representative for UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday. Yemen’s human rights minister, Mohammed Askar, described the attack as an “unfortunate incident” and called for a government investigation, while Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam condemned the attack as a “monstrous crime.” The coalition has allegedly bombed civilian gatherings, markets, hospitals, and residential areas across Yemen. The allegations assert that the coalition is responsible for over 8,160 civilian deaths since the beginning of its campaign against Houthi rebels in 2015. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has reiterated it does not target civilian neighborhoods, despite the accusations by human rights groups.

Moreover, the Saudi-led coalition prevented a UN flight carrying staff from an international aid agency from flying to Houthi-controlled areas, according to UN officials. Aviation sources said the flight was blocked because there were 3 BBC journalists on board, and the coalition has advised the journalists to travel on commercial planes since they could not guarantee their safety in rebel held areas, according to Ahmed Ben Lassoued, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen. “It’s unfortunate and partially explains why Yemen, which is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, is not getting enough attention in international media,” Lassoued added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 26 June – 30 June 2017

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US-led Coalition Airstrikes Contribute to Civilian Deaths in Syria

SDF forces in Syria
On Monday, 26 June, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly captured al-Qadisia, a western district of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. US-led coalition airstrikes have been assisting SDF throughout the Raqqa campaign against ISIL, but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that coalition airstrikes in and around Raqqa have also purportedly killed nearly 700 civilians this year.

Furthermore, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that US-led coalition airstrikes killed 57 people in a single attack targeting a prison operated by ISIL on Monday. Civilian prisoners are believed to make up the majority of the casualties from the strike. The prison is located in al-Mayadeen, an eastern Syrian town where US intelligence officials believe ISIL has likely moved most of its leaders. Colonel Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs, said that the airstrike mission was “meticulously planned and executed to reduce the risk of collateral damage and potential harm to noncombatants,” adding that the allegations will be assessed by the group’s civilian casualty team.

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials reported they had observed activities that seemed to indicate preparations for a chemical attack were underway in Syria’s Shayrat airfield, the same airfield that Syrian government forces are reported to have used in April to allegedly launch a chemical attack that caused more than 80 deaths in Khan Sheikhoun. White House press Secretary Sean Spicer said late Monday that Syrian forces would “pay a heavy price” if they launched another chemical attack. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported on Wednesday that the Syrian government appears to have heeded the warning for now.

Despite the controversy on how its airstrikes are affecting civilians, the US-led coalition is moving forward with plans to make Raqqa safe once ISIL is effectively removed. On Wednesday, US-led coalition special envoy Brett McGurk met with the Raqqa Civil Council, which is designed to rule Raqqa after the coalition liberates the city. McGurk and other coalition officials said they would “support first removing mines, lifting rubble, maintenance of schools, then electricity stations and water,” according to Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council.

Source of above photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters


Catch up on developments in…

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

 

 


Burma/ Myanmar:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has noted the particular absence of Burma from the United States-affiliated list of governments that use child soldiers. Burma reached an agreement with the UN in 2012 to steadily end its use of child soldiers, but HRW has documented new recruitments of children into the military as of this year. According to Jo Becker, the child’s rights advocacy director at HRW, Burma’s removal from the list reduces the pressure necessary to produce change in the country, and reduces the credibility of the list in pointing out what countries are violating international law.


 Burundi:

Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Michel Kafando is expected to brief Burundi officials on how to bolster cooperation between the UN and Burundi during his first visit to the country. Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Aimé Nyamitwe expressed confidence ahead of the Special Advisor’s visit, stating that the Burundi government believes Kafando understands the challenges facing Africa and how to combat them. His visit comes after the Burundi government accused the previous advisor, Jamal Benomar, of bias against the country’s interests.


Central African Republic:

On 26 June, Red Cross worker Joachim Ali was shot and killed by an armed militia group in the town of Bangassou, part of a region that has seen intense violence for several weeks. He is the second Red Cross worker to have fallen victim to the ongoing conflict, and his death occurred after the failure of the peace accord recently struck between the various armed militias in CAR and the government.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The Bana Mura militia has emerged as a considerable threat in the DRC. Originally arising as a rival to the Kamuina Nsapu anti-government rebel group, Bana Mura is reportedly armed and supported by the DRC government. According to the UN, Bana Mura is largely responsible for the increased level of attacks in the Kasai region over the past few months, renewing both tensions and civilian casualties. Witnesses have told UN officials that DRC soldiers had accompanied Bana Mura fighters in the attacks and had even directed some of the group’s actions.

Rights groups in the DRC have sought to aid rape victims in the country to speak out about their experiences. Most of the 50,000 rape and sexual violence cases reported over the past couple decades are suspected to have been carried out systematically by both DRC soldiers and rebel fighters as part of the conflict plaguing the DRC. The UN has specifically noted the DRC’s alarming levels of sexual violence in the past.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, 27 June, the Israeli army bombed three locations in Gaza, according to Palestinian security sources and witnesses. The bombing caused damage but no casualties were reported. A spokesperson for the Israeli army acknowledged that the bombings were performed as retribution for a “projectile fire” allegedly launched from the Hamas-governed region. However, Hamas has denied performing any such airstrikes. The current tension comes after both Hamas and Israeli officials expressed last month that they had no interest in escalating conflict in the region.


 Iraq:

On Thursday, 29 June, Iraqi forces declared they had successfully defeated the Islamic State’s (ISIL) self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq. The declaration came after Iraqi forces recaptured the ruined Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, a symbolic move as al-Nuri was the place ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had asserted his group’s caliphate in 2014. During the recapturing of the mosque, civilians living nearby were evacuated through corridors by Iraqi and US-led troops. However, despite the Iraqi forces’ success in Mosul, ISIL still controls territory to the west and south of the city, a region that encompasses hundreds of thousands of people. Additionally, the cost of the ongoing battle in Mosul has been enormous, with the violence being responsbile for thousands of civilian deaths. About 900,000 people have fled from the violence, equaling nearly half the city’s population before conflict broke out, according to aid groups. Those trapped in the city, estimated at around 50,000 people by the Iraqi military last week, are used as human shields by ISIL and are in desperate situation with scarce food, water, and medicine.


Mali:

A branch of al Qaeda in Mali has released Swedish hostage Johan Gustafsson after 6 years of captivity. Gustafsson was first kidnapped in a restaurant in Timbuktu along with two others. Sweden maintained its policy of not paying ransoms for hostages but would not release the details of the negotiations that led to Gustafsson’s release.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently spoke to Algerian leader Abelaziz Bouteflika in regards to their agreement in 2015 to assist the peace process in Mali. Part of the accord required Algeria to help identify and “draw a line” for the separatist movement that has riveted Mali. However, Mali has yet to contain the separatists. The peace process is expected to take years, despite the peacekeeping mission’s presence.


Nigeria:

Nine were killed in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in what is suspected to be multiple suicide attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram. A suicide attack near the University of Maiduguri killed one security officer and injured two others. Another attack near the Jere region killed eight others and injured 11.

The United States 2017 Trafficking Report has listed Nigeria as one of several countries that actively employed child soldiers in violent military actions from April 2016 to March 2017. Particularly, in Nigeria, violations include the continued use of children to help support militias and “widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram.”


South Sudan:

The government of South Sudan has begun denying aid workers passage into rebel-held regions, asserting that the move is an effort to protect the workers. However, the restriction is also meant to protect the government’s interests, as a government spokesperson claimed on 29 June that if the workers were attacked while traveling in the conflict regions, the government would be blamed. Since May, aid groups have been prohibited from traveling to the most conflicted areas in South Sudan on at least four occasions, but the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted on Wednesday that aid workers have been allowed to travel to government-held areas during that time. Experts believe the government may be purposely restricting aid delivery to civilians in rebel-held areas.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 29 June, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to drastically reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region of Sudan. The move, which was an effort to reduce the extreme cost of maintaining peacekeeping in the region, will remove about 44 percent of the UN forces in Darfur. Sudan’s government has also been pushing for the removal of the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) by insisting that violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced recently. The same UNSC resolution expressed “serious concern” about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, including increased instances of “extrajudicial killings, the excessive use of force, abduction of civilians, acts of sexual and gender-based violence, violations and abuses against children, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.”


Yemen:

On 24 June, UN-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government claimed that it had begun an investigation into reports that United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces have been holding detainees in secret prisons in southern Yemen, in which prisoners have been tortured and abused. Such claims correspond to previous reports from ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week, that 49 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in liberated areas of southern Yemen within the last year, with at least 38 detainees having been arrested by UAE-backed security forces. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr has said that a six-member committee will investigate “human rights allegations in liberated areas… and sends its report to the prime minister within 15 days.”

 

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#R2PWeekly: 19 June – 23 June 2017

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Peace accord in CAR breaks down hours after its signing with
renewed violence in Bria
Earlier this week, officials from the government of the Central African Republic met with representatives from the major rebel groups in the country in an effort to formalize a path to peace. The discussion culminated in an “immediate ceasefire” accord on Monday, 19 June, which guaranteed the rebel groups political representation in exchange for their ending of violence and blockades against the CAR government and civilians. The effort to secure a formal peace in CAR was prompted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ declaration this month about rapidly deteriorating security and stability in the country. Therefore, the parties to the accord seemed to be committed to transparency when they explicitly called for monitoring by the international community as part of the agreement.

However, mere hours after the agreement was signed, violence broke out yet again in the CAR town of Bria, which rebel group clashes have continuously plagued since 2013. Tuesday’s violence included the looting and burning of residents’ houses, leading to around 100 casualties, although the toll is expected to rise. A spokesman for the Popular Front for the Rebirth of CAR, a group formerly affiliated with the Muslim Seleka coalition, asserted that his group must protect itself from attacks despite signing the accord. It remains unclear which armed group is being blamed for renewing the violence in the city.

However, experts in the country had been pessimistic about the agreement’s chances of success since even before its signing. According to the President of the Central African League of Human Rights, Joseph Bindoumi, the most recent peace deal was just one of many that had also previously fallen through, and therefore he did not believe the armed groups saw the current deal as actually binding. Lewis Mudge, a researcher in the African Division of ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, had questioned if the leaders of the rebel groups even had enough control over their men to force them to stand down from the violence. It is unclear when the two sides will seek to create another deal, if any.

Source of above photo: UN News Centre


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burundi:

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, established last year by the Human Rights Council (HRC), provided on 19 June an oral report to the HRC about the human rights issues that have continued to pervade Burundi. The report detailed various human rights violations including torture, gender-based violence, forced disappearances with ransom demands, and unlawful executions. According to the report, these violations were committed by law enforcement and members of the National Intelligence Service, who targeted anti-government sympathizers, though ethnicity has also allegedly been a driving factor.

The Commission was first created in September 2016 in order to identify and ensure accountability for atrocity crimes committed since April 2015, with the Chairman of the Commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, confirming “the scope and gravity of human rights violations and abuses” in Burundi since that time. The Burundian government, however, has accused the Commission of bias and being influenced by the European Union. The final report will be presented in September, at which time the Commission will decide whether the crimes violate international law.

On 20 June, Assistant Secretary-General Taye-Brook Zerihoun urged the international community to assist peacebuilding efforts to the Security Council during an update on the situation in Burundi. Continued reports of “targeted arrests, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of real or perceived opposition members” have fueled a renewed effort to initiate a cooperative political dialogue in the region. A lack of effective cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Burundian government has resulted in the stagnation of the peacebuilding efforts.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged elections to be conducted in the DRC immediately, while declaring that the political future of the country and Africa as a whole is in “grave danger.” DRC President Joseph Kabila has yet to vacate his office despite agreements to step down in 2016, and efforts to organize elections have deteriorated since then. President Kabila has stated that elections will take place by the end of 2017, but asserted they will not be held if doing so “would result in further chaos.” Meanwhile, the DRC is experiencing an ongoing insurgency as the Kamuina Nsapu forces maintain a prolonged uprising against security forces in the Kasai region.

A report released by the Catholic Church in Congo on 20 June stated that over 3,300 people have been killed as the situation in the Kasai region deteriorates. It is a sharp increase from the previously reported death toll of 400. Additionally, the government-backed coalition Bana Mura has “shot dead, hacked or burnt to death, and mutilated hundreds of villagers” in the region, according to Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 20 June. The High Commissioner further detailed examples of atrocity crimes being committed by both the Kamuina Nsapu and Bana Mura forces, including deliberate attacks and mutilations of children as young as two.

Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, the Justice Minister in the DRC, has rejected calls for an independent investigation in the Kasai region by stating: “Carrying out an investigation that excludes the Congolese authorities would be unacceptable. It would be as if we were not an independent country.” The High Commissioner for Human Rights had previously called for an independent investigation after the DRC failed to agree to a joint investigation.


Iraq:

Iraqi forces have continued their advance into old Mosul, the final district in the city held by the Islamic State (ISIL). The Iraqi army estimates that there are no more than 300 ISIL fighters remaining in the city. However, about 100,000 civilians, including 5,000 children, are still trapped with little food, water or medical treatment, and ISIL fighters continue to use those civilians as human shields and have killed hundreds who tried to escape in the past three weeks. Furthermore, the maze-like and narrow alleys and old buildings continue to slow down the coalition’s offense, as International Rescue Committee reported: “The buildings of the old town are particularly vulnerable to collapse even if they aren’t directly targeted, which could lead to even more civilian deaths.” Sabah al-Numan, spokesman of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), stated: “The operation now is about street fighting. Air and artillery strikes will be limited because the area is heavily populated and the buildings fragile.”

On 21 June, ISIL destroyed the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, a prominent Iraqi landmark that is over 850 years old. The mosque is also the place where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014. Analysts have stated that the destruction of the mosque indicates ISIL is on the edge of collapse and is no longer capable of resisting the Iraqi government forces’ attacks.


Libya:

On 19 June, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) ratified an agreement brokered by the UN that would allow the displaced population of the city of Tawergha to return to their homes, according to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW). Militias had attacked and demolished Tawergha in 2011, leading to a mass evacuation of the residents, and the armed groups have prevented their return since they were forcibly displaced. The attack was believed to be a retaliatory act against the Tawergha residents for supporting then-leader Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 conflict. Currently, around 40,000 former residents of Tawergha are allegedly being prevented from returning to their homes by civil and military authorities. Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, stated: “While the priority is to end the six-year-old collective punishment of people from Tawergha, the victims from both sides should also see justice for the crimes they have suffered.”


Mali:

A deadly terrorist attack killed five people on 18 June at a resort outside Bamako, the capital of Mali. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes after the group formed an alliance with other extremist militant groups in Mali. Authorities killed four of the perpetrators and arrested five others. French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country has stationed troops in Mali to assist the UN peacekeeping mission in combating extremist militant groups, has reaffirmed his full support to Mali’s government and its security efforts.

On 21 June, the Security Council passed a resolution enabling the deployment of a transnational military coalition to counter terrorist forces in the Sahel region. France, a vocal supporter of the resolution, called the resolution a “landmark.” However, the resolution currently remains unfinanced, as the Security Council will not agree to pull funds from the UN peacekeeping budget; France is urging financial cooperation to fulfill the resolution’s objectives.


South Sudan:

A report released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) on 19 June showed that there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced persons around the world at the end of 2016, the highest number ever recorded by the agency. UNHRC High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has urged countries to assist South Sudan by bolstering security and providing aid. Grandi does note, though, that peacebuilding efforts aimed at ending the civil war is the most sustainable solution. Grandi further noted that while South Sudan suffers from a “combination of violence, ethnic strife, lack of development, climatic factors and international neglect,” the country’s refugees are neglected by the international community because they do not reach “places where refugees become visible” and highly publicized, such as Europe, Australia, and the United States.

According to a report released by the UN on 21 June, an increase in humanitarian assistance has effectively pulled South Sudan away from famine. However, the number of people at risk for starvation has risen within the last month, illustrating that the country is still very much at risk. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report (IPC), the number of people at facing imminent starvation has risen to six million, up from 5.5 million just a month ago.


Syria:

On Saturday, 17 June, the Syrian army declared a 48-hour ceasefire to support “reconciliation efforts,” as the UN is starting a fresh round of Syria peace talks on 10 July in Geneva. Russia later said it would also hold a peace talk on the same day in Astana, Kazakhstan. There have been several rounds of talks between government and rebel representatives that have been mediated by both the UN and Russia since last year.

After the ceasefire expired on Monday, Syrian government forces resumed bombardments in rebel held areas of the city of Deraa, according to witnesses and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The government forces’ offensive on Deraa has intensified and more troops have arrived in the city, according to rebels and city residents. If the government troops capture rebel-held parts of Deraa and the few kilometers between it and the border with Jordan, it would divide the rebel areas in southeast Syria.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Wednesday for special consideration to be taken for civilians still trapped in the city of Raqqa, which the US-led coalition is seeking to liberate from ISIL. Guterres asserted there are civilians that have been deprived of food and medical aid for years and that he was “deeply alarmed” by the situation. Furthermore, the UN reports that ISIL fighters continue to use civilians as human shields and to shoot families who try to escape. “It is critical for all parties to facilitate improved humanitarian access to allow aid to reach those in urgent need of life-saving assistance without delay,” Guterres added.


Yemen:

On Saturday, Yemen’s Saudi-backed government agreed to a UN plan to keep the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah out of the civil war and to resume government salary payments. The UN has proposed that Hodeidah, a port that handles around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports, should be turned over to a neutral party. However, a spokesperson for the Houthis said the UN was encouraging the Saudi-led alliance to resume its strikes and that they have the right and legality to respond to any aggression. The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Houthis of using Hodeidah to smuggle in weapons, but the Houthis have denied such allegations.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, 22 June, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the United Arab Emirates of financing, arming, and training Yemeni forces that allegedly tortured detainees during operations against the Yemeni branches of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIL). HRW reported that the UAE maintains the operation of two secret prisons in southern Yemen where officials are allegedly responsible for forced disappearances and where prisoners continue to be detained despite release orders. Prisoners have reported enduring torture such as heavy beating, sexual assault, and death threats to them and their families.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 June – 16 June 2017

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Civilian Deaths in Raqqa Mount as US-led Coalition Forces
Push to Reclaim City from ISIL

b71f049d-7645-4915-85fa-28393b073bf5Since beginning a large-scale offensive campaign on 6 June, the US-led coalition has continued to advance in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a network of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by the US-led coalition, has said they have opened up a second front inside the city. The recent offensive comes after a months-long effort by the SDF to cut off Raqqa, and ISIL within it, from outside support.

However, despite the seeming success at loosening ISIL’s grasp on Raqqa, the number of civilian casualties has continued to increase as the US-led coalition’s attacks have intensified there. Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry, told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that US-led coalition airstrikes are responsible for a “staggering loss of civilian life” in Raqqa, having caused at least 300 civilian casualties and the displacement of 160,000 since March. If the coalition’s offensive on Raqqa succeeds, it could liberate the city’s civilians, including Yazidi women and girls, that “the group has kept sexually enslaved for almost three years as part of an ongoing and unaddressed genocide” according to Pinheiro. However, he added that the fight on terrorism must not be “undertaken at the expense of civilians.” Additionally, Pinheiro reported on efforts coordinated between the Syrian government and armed groups to evacuate civilians from conflict areas, which he asserts can “in some cases amount to war crimes” as forces have forcibly removed civilians. Civilians also continue to face a direct risk from ISIL, as those who have successfully fled from Raqqa have reported that ISIL fighters have begun killing any who try to escape, and fighters have been using civilians as human shields.

The conflict situation has indirect consequences for civilians, as well. On Tuesday, 13 June, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called for better access to Raqqa, claiming that close to half a million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic cited several barriers that have made aid operations “costly and complex,” such as a serious lack of resources and funding, as well as the blockage of land routes by other parties which has forced the aid agency to rely solely on airlifts.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch has urged the US to investigate airstrikes that have allegedly targeted civilians in Syria and Iraq, expressing particular concerns about the alleged use of white phosphorus by coalition forces in airstrikes, saying it “poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm” for civilians in densely populated cities like Raqqa. HRW added that “White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure”. In this vein, HRW has urged the US-led coalition to make protection of civilians a priority.

Source of above photo: The Washington Post


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Libya
Iraq
South Sudan


Burma/ Myanmar:

Burma has rejected the UN fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of mass killings, gang rapes, and torture by security forces against the Rohingya Muslim population. Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that the probe “would have created greater hostility between the different communities,” adding that the Burmese government did not “feel it was in keeping with the needs of the region in which we are trying to establish harmony and understanding, and to remove the fears that have kept the two communities apart for so long.” Aung San Suu Kyi said she would only accept recommendations from an advisory commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan.


Burundi:
A grenade explosion in the primarily opposition-supportive area of Bujumbura left one dead and nine others wounded on 14 June. Bujumbura saw major protests two years ago due to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s seeking of a third term. Anti-government protests have persisted even after Nkurunziza’s success, with the UN having estimated that the unrest has caused between 500 and 2,000 deaths and over 400,000 forced displacements in total.


Central African Republic:

The UN Special Representative for the Secretary General in CAR, Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, has expressed deep concern over increased attacks on civilians and peacekeeping officers throughout the country, while emphasizing “the intensity of the attacks, their premeditated nature and the targeting of ethnic minorities” as particularly alarming. During his meeting with the UN Security Council on 12 June, Onanga-Anyanga discussed how clashes between the Muslim majority Seleka rebels and majority Christian anti-Balaka militia has pivoted the country back into conflict, and further stressed the need to “re-energize” the political process in CAR to stabilize the conflict-torn region. Additionally, he applauded the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for successfully reducing violence in the northwest regions of CAR, despite MINUSCA’s recent criticism by warring factions in the country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has cited daily conflicts in Bria between Christian anti-Balaka and the Muslim Seleka factions. The violence has reportedly prevented the town from sustaining a livelihood, as tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee. Since the Muslim coalition forcibly removed President Francois Bozize from power in 2013, thousands have been killed in the country and up to a million have been displaced.


Cote d’Ivoire:
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to reinforce the partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and France in an effort to mitigate the security threat that extremist terrorist groups pose in the Sahel region. The cooperation on military and intelligence issues was prompted by the March 2016 attack in Cote d’Ivoire by extremist groups, which resulted in 19 deaths, including several civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other entities have requested $65 million in aid to assist the rising number of refugees currently flowing into Angola from the DRC. Clashes between militia forces in the country have displaced 1.3 million people and account for the 30,000 refugees who have now fled to Angola, though the UN estimates the number can easily rise to 50,000. UNHCR has stated that it needs $35 million to fund its planned aid operations for the rest of 2017, though currently only $10 million in aid has been received.


Gaza/West Bank:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday to shut down the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which aids millions of Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu said UNRWA has perpetuated, rather than solved, the Palestinian refugee problem and that it incited anti-Israeli sentiment, asserting that the UNRWA should be “dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s chief spokesman, responded this week by saying that only the General Assembly, by a majority vote, could change the agency’s mandate.

According to a report released on Monday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, both Israel and the Palestinians have failed to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice. The report urges both Israel and Palestine to conduct prompt, impartial, and independent investigations of all alleged violations of international human rights law. The report also mentioned a “general absence of higher-level responsibility” in Israel for violations in Gaza, and said Israeli and Palestinian authorities must ensure that victims of violations during the long-standing conflict have access to justice and reparations.


Iraq:
Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the US-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, the Islamic State’s (ISIL) last stronghold in Iraq. Iraqi forces stated they had captured a district called Zanjili, which sits just north of the city’s historic center. With the loss of Zanjili, ISIL controls only two districts in the city. The battle of Mosul has been longer than expected because ISIL has been using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for Iraqi forces to advance.


Libya:

According to the UN’s Libya Sanctions Committee report released on 9 June, the UAE has allegedly supplied military aircraft to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which violates UN-backed international sanctions against the regime. The LNA has refused to recognize the UN-backed government in Tripoli, and has taken control over a large part of the country during the past year. The report also showed that direct foreign support to Libyan armed groups has been increasing, despite the continuing arms embargo against them. Mohammed al-Dharat, a member of the Libyan Parliament, indicated that the UAE could not have brought equipment into Libya without help from other countries. Sulaiman al-Faqih, a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Committee, said the UAE has violated international law and has called on the country’s Presidential Council to submit an official complaint at the UN Security Council.


South Sudan:
South Sudanese rebels have captured the Kuek region after an intense battle between the government and rebel forces. The rebel movement loyal to the former First Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, SPLM-IO, has officially assumed full control of the region.

Leaders of Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti attended the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in Addis Ababa to discuss the South Sudanese conflict. The current First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai, was also in attendance, though leaders pointed out South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s “noticeable” absence. The IGAD summit agreed that President Kiir should “strictly implement” a previously agreed upon ceasefire and that rebel groups must respect the terms of the ceasefire. The conflict has already led to the displacement of 3.7 million people and forced 5.5 million people to face food shortages.

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#R2PWeekly: 5 June – 9 June 2017

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Number of Civilian Deaths in Mosul on the Rise

As the number of civilian deaths continues to rise in Mosul, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that the latest information suggests that US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have not taken the necessary precautions to prevent civilian casualties during the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIL) in the city. Evidence has shown that Iraqi forces employed large explosive munitions during attacks, which are known to pose an “excessive risk to civilians” when used in densely-populated neighborhoods. Additionally, several attacks caused disproportionate civilian harm in comparison to the military advantage gained, potentially violating international law. One specific example listed was an attack on 17 March, when US airstrikes killed 200 civilians while targeting only two ISIL fighters. Another two documented US-led coalition or Iraqi attacks occurred with no clear presence of ISIL militants in the area, but resulted in the deaths of at least 13 civilians. HRW has asserted that during efforts to secure Mosul, anti-ISIL forces should take “all feasible precautions” to minimize civilian casualties and injuries, including in “choice of weaponry in heavily populated areas.”

Furthermore, Iraqi government forces have allegedly carried out dozens of extrajudicial executions over concerns that the victims were affiliated with ISIL. Experts have suspected that Iraqi forces perpetrated the killings, as at least 26 blindfolded and handcuffed bodies were found in firmly government-controlled areas in Mosul, according to 4 June reports. Reuters has reported previously this year on bodies being seen floating down the Tigris River over several months, having reportedly originated from government-controlled towns in Iraq. This has raised the possibility that extrajudicial killings have been ongoing. Extrajudicial killings in conflict constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity if conducted systematically.

ISIL has also been directly responsible for civilian casualties, with UN Human Rights Chief Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein noting ISIL’s particular brutality during an assault last week when the group left the bodies of 163 civilians lying in the streets. According to the UN on 6 June, the civilians had been directly targeted to prevent them from fleeing Mosul, and many hid among the piles of bodies in an effort to survive. Additionally, as US-led coalition and Iraqi forces move into the final phase of securing the city, ISIL has reportedly resorted to using civilians as human shields. Priyanka Motaparthy, Senior Emergencies Researcher at HRW, stated on 6 June that any future Iraqi or US-led coalition strikes should take the possibility of human shields into account.

other than direct action by armed groups, other aspects of the conflict have created an at-risk scenario for civilians. For example, Iraqi and US officials have stated that the maze-like narrow alleys in the old parts of the city make it extremely difficult to evacuate civilians. Furthermore, the UN estimated on 3 June that nearly 200,000 people face a severe food and water crisis in the city. Iraqi Major General Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri said on 3 June it will take at least another month before the liberation of Mosul is achieved, but his forces have halted attacks temporarily in order to create a safe passage out of the city for civilians fleeing from ISIL and the violence.

Source of above photo: VOA News

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burundi:
On 5 June, the Burundi government accused the EU of seeking to destabilize security in Burundi, citing documents apparently implicating the EU delegation in a failed coup in May 2015 by actively financing entities that sought to destabilize the Burundi Government. The EU has publicly denounced these allegations, stating they are “based on a deliberately wrong interpretation of a program to support human rights defenders.”


 

Central African Republic:

The latest UN Mapping Report released this week documented the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in CAR, discussing evidence of the grave human rights violations in the country occurring from 2003 to 2015. The Report will serve as a key tool in holding perpetrators accountable in country’s Special Criminal Court, as well as in specific cases reserved for the International Criminal Court.

On 7 June, the UN peacekeeping force in CAR, responsible for containing ethnic and resource driven violence, urged the dismissal of the over 100 peacekeeping troops accused of sexual abuse if the situation does not improve. A memo detailing the “deteriorating” situation in CAR was sent to a military official at the UN headquarters, but details of the memo were not disclosed to the public.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
On 7 June, the UN increased pressure on the DRC government to investigate the abduction and murder of UN investigator Zaida Catalan, who had been investigating crimes against international humanitarian law and human rights in the country. Human rights groups have suspected Congolese troops to be responsible, suspicions that have been exacerbated as the DRC has sought to close the investigation.


 

Libya:
On 2 June, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria Ribeiro, called for increased protection and humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country. Ribeiro expressed specific alarm regarding allegations of abuse of IDPs and of humanitarian aid in the Tawargha IDP camp in Tripoli.


 

Nigeria:

The “Northern Youth Groups,” a coalition of activist groups in northern Nigeria, signed a statement on 6 June calling for the forced expulsion of all Igbo Nigerians from the region. The Igbo represent one of the three main ethnic groups in the country. Nigerian leaders have publicly criticized the statement and some have called for the arrest of the signatories.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it will reduce its delivery of emergency aid to 400,000 people in northeast Nigeria due to funding shortfalls, according Peter Lundberg, the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria on Wednesday. The region has struggled with a lack of adequate food due to attacks by Boko Haram.

On 7 June, Boko Haram launched an attack on the city of Maiduguri that resulted in 13 deaths, making it the group’s deadliest attack in Nigeria in several months. This comes after Nigerian authorities claimed last year that Boko Haram had been effectively removed from the country.


 

South Sudan:
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the UN to more fully address the situation in South Sudan, where civil war has forced one million people into displacement. HRW also says more should be done to help those with disabilities, citing the 250,000 with disabilities living in displacement camps. The latest HRW report indicates that both sides to the conflict have allegedly “committed abuses that may qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” including “beatings and torture, enforced disappearances, rape and gang rape, extrajudicial executions and killings.”

The UN has blamed warring factions for exacerbating the country’s hunger crisis. According the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva, donors have found little reason to continue supplying resources to South Sudan due to the inability of the parties to the conflict to secure peace.


 

Syria:

On Tuesday, 6 June, the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) started a major offensive to retake Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters that US-led coalition forces are working side by side with the SDF. According to the US-led coalition, around 3 to 4 thousand ISIL fighters are likely hiding in Raqqa and have built defenses for the upcoming battle.
Humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimated that 200,000 civilians are still trapped inside the city, and ISIL snipers and mines are killing any who try to flee. IRC warned that civilians could be used by the militants as human shields if they remain.

On 26 May, the United States’ Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Act is meant to ensure “accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria against innocent civilians,” regardless of what side of the conflict allegedly committed the crimes.


 

Yemen:
On 2 June, the formally recognized Yemeni government, along with its supporting Saudi-led coalition, announced tight restrictions on the number of journalists and human rights workers that would be allowed into Yemen. The move has been criticized as reducing the ability to deliver desperately needed aid to ailing Yemeni civilians.

According to a Houthi spokesman on 6 June, the group has publicly rejected the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, as a peace negotiator between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition on accusations of bias. Mr. Ahmed has been denied access to Houth-controlled areas as well. The group’s rejection of Mr. Ahmed comes after the UN Special Envoy called for a Houthi withdrawal from the city of Hodeidah, as well as for the Houthis to send revenue from the city’s port to a neutral party in exchange for calling off a Saudi-led coalition military operation on Hodeidah.

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#RtoPWeekly: 29 May – 2 June 2017

Untitled

Increasing violence in the DRC leaves 922,000 displaced

and prompts action by NGOs and EU

24cefa68-ec23-4909-80b8-16b3e42ff5feOn 1 June, 262 Congolese and nine international non-governmental organizations co-signed a statement calling upon the UN Human Rights Council to create a specialized Commission of Inquiry into the ongoing violence in the Central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), an ICRtoP member and signatory of the statement, Congolese forces have allegedly used excessive force against members of the Kamuina Nsapu movement since August 2016, including the alleged killing of apparently unarmed women and children. Additionally, UN investigators have found at least 42 mass graves in the area since conflict broke out in the region. ICRtoP members the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI) were also among the organizations adding their name to the statement.

Similarly, the European Union noted that the ongoing violence and alleged human rights abuses in the Central Kasai and Kasai regions prompted the regional organization to impose sanctions on nine prominent DRC officials this past week. According to the EU’s statement announcing the sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, these particular officials are believed to have “contributed to acts constituting serious human rights violations in the DRC, by planning, directing or committing them.”

The renewed ethnic and politically-motivated conflict in the DRC has continued to increase in intensity, forcing over 922,000 DRC civilians to flee their homes in 2016, according to the annual Global Report on Internal Displacement released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) this past week. IDMC revealed that the DRC had the highest recorded number of displaced civilians of any country last year, a number that seems only likely to grow if President Joseph Kabila neglects to hold the elections mandated by the peace agreement reached last year.

However, experts on the situation hope the EU sanctions will force the DRC government to take action and stabilize the conflict, as the continuation of EU monetary support for the elections is contingent on President Kabila holding to the agreement. Meanwhile, the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council begins on 6 June in Geneva, but it remains to be seen if the body will discuss creating a Commission of Inquiry during that time.

Source of above photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
CAR
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/ Myanmar:

A video newly released this past weekend showed suspected Burmese soldiers beating, interrogating, and threatening to kill captives. Based on the alleged soldiers’ accents, uniforms, and dialogue in the video, experts believe that the incident likely took place in Shan State, where conflict between rebels and government forces has been ongoing. Human rights advocacy groups have urged Burma’s government to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. However, representatives for both the military and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refused to give any information regarding the video when questioned on 30 May.

The UN has designated a three-member team to investigate alleged mass rapes and killings against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. According to a UN statement, the team is also meant to investigate allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, and unlawful destruction of property by security forces. However, the government has strongly expressed its reluctance to facilitate fact-finding missions in the past.


Central African Republic:

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 30 May, at least 68,000 persons have been displaced this month alone due to the upsurge in militia violence, adding that the total numbers of displaced throughout the country have reached levels not seen since August 2014. During his visit to several conflict-prone towns in CAR on 31 May, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour warned that armed groups are committing “atrocious attacks” against peacekeepers, women, and children at ever more frequent levels, and forces deployed to combat the armed groups lack sufficient resources.


Iraq:

On Tuesday, 30 May, two car bomb attacks killed at least 27 and wounded more than 100 people in Baghdad. The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the first attack, which was planned for late at night in order to target families celebrating Ramadan and have a “maximum impact.” The explosion killed at least 16 people, including children. Iraqi analyst Ali Hadi Al-Musawi told Al Jazeera that defeats in open conflict have made ISIL desperate to remain relevant, thus resorting to more targeted attacks against civilians.

As the liberation of Mosul from ISIL forces entered its final phase on Tuesday, the UN urged nearly 200,000 civilians to flee the ISIL-controlled part of the city, where they remain in great danger. The UN’s top humanitarian official in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the evacuation notice was not compulsory and the Iraqi government would seek to protect civilians who remained. Furthermore, the UN has been planning for the liberation of Hawija, the next town that Iraqi government forces may try to liberate from ISIL. The UN has built eight emergency camps near the area and is constructing more.


Nigeria:

On 26 May, six children were abducted from their school in Lagos by Boko Haram militants. The abduction of young children in Nigeria by the group has become a common occurrence since 2009, with the victims often becoming forced laborers, sex slaves, or suicide bombers. The latest incident follows the group’s recent release of 82 Nigerian girls, who have reportedly been transferred to a rehabilitation center in Abuja to receive psychological and medical treatment.


South Sudan:

13 South Sudanese soldiers appeared before a military court on 30 May for charges brought against them regarding a July 2016 attack in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. The soldiers were allegedly responsible for the rape of five foreign aid workers and the death of a civilian in a rebel-controlled area of the city. The trial will likely be watched closely as it will be a test of the South Sudanese government’s ability to try war crimes.


Sudan:

In the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) latest report, The World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises, the NRC has stated that almost four million Sudanese civilians have been forcibly displaced during the past 14 years of violence between the Sudanese government and opposition forces, leading to a humanitarian crisis that is left largely untreated. Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the NRC, said many of the displaced have been forced to flee their homes several times due to intense violence, and that their vulnerability to being targeted becomes greater with each displacement.


Syria:

Airstrikes and rocket attacks, allegedly at the direction of the US-led coalition and an armed Kurdish group, respectively, have been blamed for the deaths of 13 civilians in Raqqa on 28 May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It is likely the attacks were directed at Islamic State (ISIL) forces, as Raqqa has become the de facto stronghold for the organization in Syria and both groups are involved in conflict with ISIL there. The Observatory further reported that  US-led coalition air strikes killed at least 225 civilians between 23 April and 23 May, including numerous children, equaling the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition’s operations in Syria to date.


Yemen:

UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien said on Tuesday that Yemen is now in the throes of the world’s largest food insecurity crisis, with 17 million people in the country struggling to secure food and around 7 million being “one step away from famine.” O’Brien added that the food crisis in Yemen is not a coincidence or a result of natural disaster, but “a result of inaction– whether due to inability or indifference – by the international community.”

The famine has been further exacerbated by the continuing conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. According to a Yemeni government official, the government and the Houthis have been seeking to negotiate a deal that had originally been presented by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The plan notably includes turning the port of Hodeidah over to a neutral party. The Yemeni government has threatened to attack Hodeidah, where a majority of humanitarian supplies and food enter the country, if the Houthis refuse to turn the port over to a neutral observer. Should such an attack occur, it would likely worsen the crisis further.

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#RtoPWeekly: 22 May – 26 May 2017

Displacement in CAR at worst levels since 2013, with almost 100,000 displaced and hundreds killed in May

In what the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) has called the worst level of displacement in the Central African Republic since civil war broke out in 2013, a cumulative 440,000 civilians had been forcibly displaced by the end of April due to renewed conflict in the country. Officials from OCHA have estimated that an additional 100,000 people could be displaced by the end of May, a number that becomes ever more likely as militia violence continues to spread to several prominent cities in the country.

On 18 May, the UN Deputy Special Representative in the Central African Republic, Diane Corner, reported that at least one armed militia group in the country had access to heavy weapons, such as mortars and grenade launchers, as well as “more sophisticated military tactics,” and that the groups were using these weapons during increasingly frequent attacks. The groups have targeted several towns in the past two weeks using enhanced equipment, including Bria, Bangassou, and Alindao, inflicting incredible damage on civilians. In what Social Affairs Minister Virginie Baikoua called a “catastrophe,” the recent militia attacks and looting in the town of Bria resulted in more than 41,400 of the city’s 47,500 residents fleeing to the nearest UN base for shelter, equaling almost 90 percent of the city’s population.

The renewed sectarian and ethnic-based violence in the country has resulted in a reported 300 deaths since only 8 May, including those of at least six UN peacekeeping officials. According to Corner, the majority of those deaths occurred during the recent attack on the UN mission in Bangassou, where anti-Balaka fighters “pinned down” peacekeepers before directly targeting Muslim civilians in the city.

The situation prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to release a statement on 16 May condemning the attack on Bangassou and others, noting with particular alarm that violence was spreading into previously peaceful regions of the CAR.

As such, Ms. Baikoua joined the Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Najat Rochdi, in expressing their mutual unease with the renewed violence, declaring that civilians have been “paying the highest cost” during the recent attacks. Earlier this month, Ms. Baikoua and Ms. Rochdi jointly praised regional humanitarian agencies for stepping in to assist the several thousands of displaced and injured civilians desperately in need of aid due to the attacks, but also acknowledged that it would be difficult to maintain such a tremendous response while the conflict continued. For the foreseeable future, civilians inside and near these violent regions remain at great risk.

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
Burundi
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burma/ Myanmar:

On 23 May, Burma’s military publicly rejected allegations made by the UN regarding atrocity crimes toward the Rohingya Muslim population in the country. The military said that the allegations, which include references to gang-rapes, savage beatings, and the murder of Rohingya civilians by soldiers, are “false and fabricated,” according to its own investigations. The military further claimed that the results of the investigations came from interviews of 3,000 villagers and 184 military officers and troops.


Burundi:

On 19 May, Amnesty International called upon the East African Community (EAC) to prioritize resolving the human rights crisis in Burundi at the EAC’s summit on 20 May. Amnesty International added that the EAC needed to provide the “political leadership and commitment” necessary to ending the ongoing violations, which allegedly include “unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances.” At the event, a representative for the Inter-Burundi Dialogue gave a progress report regarding the security and political situation in Burundi, which was accepted by the EAC despite details of the report not being disclosed to the public.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and the African Union have joined UN officials in condemning the recent violent revolt by Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire (FACI) soldiers. The three organizations jointly stated on 18 May that the uprising threatened the hard-won peace in the country, adding that it is imperative to maintain dialogue and proper legal channels as the means to resolving such disputes. Officials from each of the three organizations have expressed their support Cote d’Ivoire’s president, Alassane Ouattara.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 22 May, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) began a year-long effort to provide basic necessities to the 27,000 displaced civilians in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Boubacar Seybou, head of IOM’s office in Goma, the armed conflict responsible for the displacement has also caused many humanitarian agencies to evacuate the area, citing extensive security and funding concerns, but the resulting vacuum of humanitarian assistance has only left even more people vulnerable. IOM’s efforts have been significantly funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), which contributed an amount equaling $183,000 USD and has pledged additional funding throughout the following year.


Gaza/West Bank:

According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency on 22 May, Israeli forces allegedly fired upon and injured at least 11 Palestinians that were taking part in the protests in West Bank in support of the strikes of Palestinian prisoners seeking an improvement of the conditions in Israeli prisons. Currently, there are ongoing protests of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.


Iraq:

According to the latest report from ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), the government-allied Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) allegedly detained at least 100 men while they were fleeing from the conflict. According to victims, PMF soldiers blindfolded, interrogated, and beat them with thick metal cables while they were detained for up to 15 days. These latest accusations are similar to HRW’s previously reported cases of detention and torture allegedly at the hands of the PMF. The latter has continued to maintain that “PMF hands over captured ISIS suspects to state security forces who have a mandate to screen suspects,” but these statements are contrary to HRW’s findings.

On 22 May, Jan Kubis, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, told the UN Security Council that the Islamic State’s (ISIL) days in Iraq “are numbered” and that the city of Mosul, which is ISIL’s last base in Iraq, is close to liberation.


Libya:

The “Libya Quartet,” which is composed of the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union (EU), and the UN, met in Brussels on 22 May to discuss the migration issue stemming from Libya and other countries, while the number of refugees and asylum seekers kept in Libyan detention centers increases. Libya has opened a dozen detention centers where thousands of migrants are currently being held. In that regard, the United Nations called for the Libyan government to close its refugee detention centers due to the inhumane conditions in which the refugees and migrants are held.


Mali:

Nine days after the abduction of the humanitarian aid workers in Mali, two peacekeepers of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali were killed and a third wounded during an ambush in the Kidal region on 23 May. The attack took place near a town called Aguelhok, where the United Nations troops were patrolling. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the peacekeepers who lost their lives, regretting the violent attacks from extremist groups which halt the peace process. As targeted attacks on humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are on the rise, Mr. Guterres called for states to provide adequate means to cope with the difficulties faced on the ground where terrorist groups and criminal networks operate.


Nigeria:

On 20 May, 82 of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in 2014 by the extremist group Boko Haram were reunited with their families in Abuja. The Nigerian government has acknowledged that mediation efforts by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assisted with the girls’ release. Boko Haram is responsible for the abduction of thousands of people during the last 8 years and for more than 20,000 deaths.


South Sudan:

A 19 May joint report by the Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed evidence of human rights violations and abuses against civilians, acts the organizations believe may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. The report states that parties on both sides of the conflict, including pro-government forces, have committed extensive human rights violations rooted in ethnic tensions, and that the ongoing nature of the abuses indicates a high level of impunity for the perpetrators. According to the report, which had been compiled from a July 2016 to January 2017 investigation into the conflict in the town of Yei, pro-government forces were responsible for at least 114 civilian deaths and the forced displacement of tens of thousands during that period.


Sudan:

On 23 May, rebel group the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) claimed that Sudanese forces in Darfur had arrested an SLM-MM senior commander, Mr. Gomma Mandi Issa. Although the Sudanese army had not confirmed the detention, the SLM-MM stated that Issa was apprehended during a violent clash that had erupted on 19 May between the Sudanese forces and the rebel group. A representative of Sudan’s Armed Forces, Mr. Ahmed Khalifa el Shami, confirmed on 22 May that both sides inflicted losses while the conflict surged over the weekend. The United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has not yet released a statement on the latest developments.


Syria:

On 20 May, around 3,000 people, including 700 rebels, were evacuated from Waer district in Homs under a Russian-supervised operation. Rebel fighters had been granted safe passage by the government to retreat to other rebel-held areas in Syria. The operation started two months ago and has the goal of evacuating more than 12,000 civilians and 3,000 rebels in total, according to the provincial governor Talal Barazi. Furthermore, around one to six hundred Russian soldiers will be deployed in Waer to protect any remaining residents or those who wish to return home.

On 22 May, fighting broke out in Daraa, despite having been previously designated one of the four “de-escalation zones” during ceasefire meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan earlier this month. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian government forces fired 11 missiles, while members of the al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committees attacked government-controlled parts of the city. Conflict has never truly ended in the “de-escalation zones,” and the clash on 22 May has become one of the most severe conflicts since the Astana deal was struck. According to the state news agency SANA, the Syrian government claimed that it “respects the Astana deal but has vowed to retaliate to any violation.”


Yemen:

On 23 May, US Special Forces troops killed seven al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen during an intelligence-gathering raid. In a statement, US Central Command said the al-Qaeda militants were killed “through a combination of small-arms fire and precision air strikes” and that the Yemeni government had supported the operation. There were no immediate reports of civilian casualties according to a US official, yet two sources claimed that the operation killed five members of the main tribe in the area, who are all civilians, and that six others were injured.

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#RtoPWeekly: 24 – 28 April 2017

Untitled

ICRtoP releases new infographic on the situation in Burundi

Burundi Infografic

The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) continues to mark Genocide Awareness Month with a series of infographics and blog posts with updates on current crisis situations from around the world.

This week, the ICRtoP has released a new infographic on the situation in Burundi. This document provides an overview of the country’s past conflicts and the impacts that history, ethnic tensions, and key actors within the country and throughout the international community have on the situation. With this infographic and all of ICRtoP’s educational tools, the ICRtoP seeks to contribute to the goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention.

To view the latest infographic on the situation in Burundi, please click here.

To view all of ICRtoP’s educational tools, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:
On 24 April, the Burmese government and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) sought to agree on a venue for a national-level political dialogue in Shan State. Public political dialogue is a mandatory step of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), which seeks to end the ethnic-based conflict in the state. As of now, the groups have been unable to come to an agreement.

Burundi:

Civil society organizations within Burundi have urged all of the country’s exiled citizens to organize protests from 26 April onward against egregious human rights violations occurring in the country, including an increasing amount of extra-judicial executions and forced disappearances. Organizers of the protests have stated that citizens within Burundi cannot take part for fear of being killed or tortured.


Central African Republic:

On 20 and 21 April, the government of the Central African Republic held talks with representatives of 14 armed groups in an effort to speed up disarmament. The move is unprecedented for the country, as CAR has been plagued by violence for years. According to the head of the disarmament process for the UN peacekeeping mission in Central Africa (MINUSCA), progress has been substantial and the National Plan for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) has been outlined in detail.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released on 21 April, children in the Greater Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being severely impacted by the extreme violence occurring there. More than 1.5 million children are at risk of death or injury, with about 600,000 already displaced from their homes. According to the UNICEF representative in the DRC, hundreds of children have already been targeted, with several reports of the detention, raping, and execution of underage civilians.

The DRC’s government has released a video to reporters that shows members of the Kamuina Nsapu militant group executing the two UN investigators whose bodies were found in Kasai-Central province last month. US citizen Michael Sharp and Swedish national Zaida Catalan were investigating reported mass graves in the DRC and were explicitly told in the video that they would be led to the graves, yet were executed by the militant group instead. The UN has stated that it is “utterly horrified” by the video.


Iraq:

On Sunday 23 April, Islamic State (ISIL) fighters attacked a police base in Hamam al-Ali, 30km from Mosul, killing at least three policemen. Reporters from a local television channel said that at least two suicide attackers entered the facility before detonating their payloads.

Meanwhile, civilians are finally returning home in Mosul, as Iraqi forces retake neighborhoods from ISIL in the western part of the city. However, water shortages continue to plague those portions of the city, and UN humanitarian partners have begun to truck water in during the past few days. Emergency food and hygiene supplies have been distributed to families close to the front lines, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq is currently only 17% funded out of its $958 million goal, and therefore more financial help is needed in order to reach civilians.

On Tuesday 25 April, the Turkish government launched airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in northern Iraq and northeast Syria, killing at least 24 people. The attack was launched in order to prevent the group from sending “terrorists, arms, ammunition, and explosives to Turkey,” according to a government statement. Fighters from the PKK, Rojava Defence Units (YPG), and Peshmerga group were all killed in the attack.


Kenya:

Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party will again seek to formally select candidates for elections in August. Last week’s primaries were plagued by conflict, violent protests, and accusations of ballot rigging, resulting in the party postponing the elections. The government of Kenya has promised to take “decisive action” in order to halt the increased violence over the primaries, but did not specify what that action would entail.


Libya:

Italy has brokered a diplomatic breakthrough in regards to finally putting an end to the political violence in Libya. The meeting, overseen by the Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, has for the first time brought together the presidents of the Libyan House of Representatives, Ageela Saleh, and the Libyan State Council, Abdulrahman Sewehli.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has unsealed an arrest warrant for Libya’s former security chief, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled. The ICC is accusing him of carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity against opposition forces fighting the country’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The Court’s prosecutor said that prisoners across Libya were subjected to beatings, electrocution, and acts of sexual violence and rape, which the prosecutor stated were consistent with a policy designed by the state to quash the political opposition. Khaled, the court stressed, had the authority to implement Gaddafi’s orders.


Mali:

On 24 April, the ICRtoP member International Crisis Group drafted an open letter to the UN Security Council regarding the security situation in Mali and the upcoming renewal of the UN’s mandate there. International Crisis Group includes several recommendations on how the Council can best adapt the current UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to the evolving situation on the ground, including increasing the capacity of the civil and political divisions.


Nigeria:

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has accused Cameroonian authorities of forcefully repatriating Nigerian refugees, an action that violates international refugee laws and potentially puts the group at great physical risk. MSF insisted that Boko Haram insurgents were still active in the southeastern bordering regions of Nigeria to which the refugees had been forcefully relocated.

Meanwhile in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has been blamed for two attacks on 24 April resulting in eight deaths. The suicide bombers comprised most of the casualties.


South Sudan:

Governors from 14 states in South Sudan, along with other government officials, held a peace and security forum aiming to strengthen security, enhance information sharing, and deploy joint security forces along “volatile… hotspot zones.” Andrea Mayar Acho, the governor of South Sudan’s Wau state, announced that the government is now taking drastic measures against the deteriorating security within Wau town.

The World Bank and the African Development Bank agreed to give South Sudan $106 million to pay for food imports in an effort to fight starvation in the country. Additionally, another food assistance package has been dispatched from Sudan to the needy population in South Sudan, including about 807 tons of food.

On 23 April, the human rights director for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stated that no one has been detained in connection to the recent violence in Wau town, where at least 16 civilians were killed and more than 23,000 have been displaced. The UNMISS human rights director also spoke out against the lack of accountability for crimes perpetrated during the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, stating that it remains one of the major challenges the country currently faces.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch expressed its concern about the lack of news on the fate of two South Sudanese activists who disappeared from Nairobi three months ago.

On 25 April, the US urged the Security Council to impose additional sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan. During the proposal, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated, “We must not wait for more deaths, more displacement, and more destruction before we have the courage to act,” suggesting an embargo would pressure South Sudanese authorities to end the civil war. Russia and China have opposed this embargo.


Sudan:

A report released by the Small Arms Survey earlier this month on the role of paramilitaries and militias in Sudan estimated that 46% of conflict incidents involved the targeting of civilians by political militias, with the greatest frequency involving pro-government groups.

New clashes between government militias and the Sudan Liberation Movement headed by Abdelwahid El Nur (SLM-AW) fighters broke out in Jebel Marra over last weekend. SLM-AW claims the fighting was the result of an offensive launched by government forces. Government planes allegedly bombed at least 15 villages, resulting in countless houses catching fire. Civilian casualties are as of yet unknown. A spokesman with the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association called on the UN and associated humanitarian groups to immediately take action and pressure Khartoum to halt its aerial bombardment of villages in Darfur.

A former Janjaweed militia commander, who had been arrested by Sweden’s War Crimes Unit for crimes against humanity in early April, has reportedly provided testimony implicating the government in aiding and abetting the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur carried out by the militias. In a piece released on Friday, Eric Reeves, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, called Darfur the most “successful” genocide in the past century, due in part to the continued problem of impunity for those committing the crime.

This past week, the Governor of South Darfur gave an ultimatum to the displaced persons residing in camps around the town of Gireida: accept annexation into the town or return to their previous home territories. Either option would end the residents entitlement to much needed humanitarian aid. Residents have rejected the ultimatum for legal reasons, arguing the annexation is tantamount to a land-grab by the government and its militias, as well for security reasons, noting that continued insecurity in their places of origin prevent their return.

On 24 April, the joint UN – African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) celebrated the completion of a nine year effort to clear Forobaranga locality in West Darfur of explosive remnants of war (ERW), which remain a significant risk faced by civilian populations, in particular children, even decades after the conflict for which they were used.


Syria:

On 21 April, the first phase of a civilian population transfer deal concluded after a two-day halt, with an added agreement to release hundreds of government detainees also completed, according to government news media and rebel representatives. A total of 8,000 civilians from the villages of Foua and Kefraya and almost 3,000 residents from the rebel-held areas of Zabadani and Madaya have been formally evacuated. The deal aims to transfer about 30,000 people from conflict-prone areas over a period of 60 days.

On Sunday, the Syrian army, boosted by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-backed militias, recaptured territories seized by rebels last year, including the town of Halfaya and other nearby villages. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that government troops began advancing into those areas when rebel groups withdrew following intense battles and airstrikes.

On Monday 24 April, the United States imposed sanctions on 271 employees of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center whom authorities deemed responsible for producing the chemical weapons used during the attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this month. Steven Mnuchin, the United States Secretary of the Treasury, said the sanctions will send a strong message that the US will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor, and that it intends to hold the Assad regime accountable for such “unacceptable behavior.”

On Tuesday, 25 April, a suspected US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) airstrike killed at least 11 people, including seven children, as they were trying to flee Syria’s northern Raqqa province, which was taken by the Islamic State (ISIL) in January 2014. Two days later on 27 April, an alleged Russian and Syrian airstrike was launched on several districts in Idlib province, killing at least 19 people, the Syrian Civil Defense group said.


Yemen:

ICRtoP member Oxfam International has called on donor states to increase the humanitarian funding being provided to Yemen in light of the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in the country. The agency also added its voice to the call against any escalation of conflict by either side, specifically a possible Saudi-led coalition military assault on the critical port city of Hodeidah. On Tuesday, a group of protesters reached the city after completing an over 200-kilometer and several-week march. The protest called for unrestricted aid delivery to Yemen and the protection of the port city as a humanitarian zone.

Numerous organizations have expressed great concern over the potential assault on Hodeidah, which may occur as early as the end of May, as it may very well trigger a famine in the surrounding provinces by cutting off a key point of entry for food and other aid. The Small Arms Survey has also reported that part of the Saudi-led coalition’s ground forces possibly taking part in the operation is comprised of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, which has been implicated in numerous atrocities in Sudan. The group’s rumored involvement has led to concerns that the deployment of these “shock troops” will result in immediate harm and abuses of civilians in the city.

It is not confirmed with certainty when or how the assault on Hodeidah will occur, but anonymous sources inside the military reportedly told media that the assault would most likely begin with a heavy aerial bombardment to clear the way for ground forces. Both the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition have made numerous statements indicating their intent to retake the city through force. The Yemeni government claimed on Wednesday that it had advised the UN to assume monitoring and supervision of the port, which would ensure weapons would not be smuggled into the country through the city, but government authorities reportedly received no clear answer from the UN regarding this tactic. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reportedly told media on 26 April that negotiations are currently underway to shelter the port from attack and that the UN is hopeful to restart talks before the end of May.

Ahead of the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Response in Yemen held in Geneva on Tuesday, the UN Development Plan (UNDP) called for “strong support from international partners to ease the suffering of the people of Yemen.” The UN convened the conference, co-hosted by Switzerland and Sweden, to address the urgent need of millions of Yemenis who are on the imminent brink of famine. In what Secretary-General Guterres called a “very encouraging signal,” the conference managed to solicit roughly half of the $2.1 billion needed from donor states when it drew $1.1 billion in pledges.

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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, ICRtoP Members, Kenya, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Peacekeeping, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly: 17-21 April 2017

ICRtoP releases new educational tool exploring
RtoP’s regional relevance in Africa

The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) serves as a key resource to increase understanding of the Responsibility to Protect amongst civil society, government and regional organization actors, the UN, and the general public. Our vast range of educational tools has been used by diverse audiences throughout the world and has had a direct impact on strengthening the global awareness of RtoP.

To contribute towards this goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention, the ICRtoP has released a new educational tool exploring the regional relevance of the norm: The Responsibility to Protect in Africa.

This document provides an overview of RtoP’s relevance to the region in focus, exploring the efforts made by regional organizations, and discussing relevant country situations. The educational tool also provides examples of the contributions made by civil society to advance the norm.  The ICRtoP has also released additional region specific tools focusing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Asia-Pacific Region. The ICRtoP will release new educational tools on the Americas and Europe soon.

To view the latest infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Africa, please click here.

To view all of ICRtoP’s educational tools, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burundi:

On 18 April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed concern about the recent increase in forced disappearances in Burundi, allegedly conducted by government-affiliated militias such as the Imbonerakure. He also condemned the Imbonerakure militia’s chants calling upon members to impregnate women and kill members of the opposition, which the group had performed at several rallies across the country recently. The High Commissioner noted that calls to violence such as these confirm previous accounts of oppression at the hands of government-affiliated groups.

That same day, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced plans to send a large amount of food aid to Burundi in an attempt to resolve an imminent humanitarian crisis there. The current political instability has negatively affected food production within the country since 2015.


Central African Republic:

On 13 April, Medécins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that its teams had witnessed brutal and systematic acts of violence targeting civilians in the several weeks prior, including summary executions and mutilation. In the same report, MSF stated that recent fracturing and infighting amongst the parties previously involved in the 2014-15 conflict has enhanced the current wave of violence.

A new investigation by an independent Swedish film team revealed that several survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of French UN peacekeepers within the Central African Republic had received no assistance from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), despite being promised support. Many of the victims, including one who was allegedly impregnated at 14 by one of the soldiers, have expressed frustration with the UN for providing them with neither support nor justice since the incidents occurred in 2015.

Ugandan troops have begun officially withdrawing from CAR, claiming their mission to pursue Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been accomplished, although Kony remains active. The LRA and its leader were well-known for their brutality and practice of kidnapping children to become fighters and sex slaves, a punishable war crime.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

In a video report released on 17 April, a BBC team found evidence of mass graves in DRC, where armed forces have been accused of indiscriminate killings against civilians. Additionally, UN investigators have found 17 new mass graves and have called upon DRC’s government to conduct investigations into the civilian deaths, which were allegedly performed by government troops. There have also been reports of government forces raping women and children while going into private homes in search of militia members. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called upon the DRC government to launch a formal investigation, insisting that the International Criminal Court would conduct its own independent investigation should the DRC government fail to do so.


Iraq:

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, stated that the scale of displacement in the country has already stretched relief efforts to their “operational capacity,” as more than 493,000 people have fled the fighting in Mosul. According to estimates, at least 500,000 civilians still remain trapped in ISIL-controlled areas in western Mosul, including about 400,000 in the densely populated Old City.

Iraqi forces have accused the Islamic State (ISIL) of using chemical weapons during the fight for the city this past week. However, Iraqi officials gave no details about the kind of poison gas allegedly used by the terrorist group and affirmed that injuries were minor. So far, the Islamic State has not responded to the charges.

On 20 April, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against ISIL in Mosul declared that Iraqi forces had completed the liberation of the al-Thawra and Nasr neighborhoods, which are located near the western Old City. Additionally, Read Shakir Jawdat, the head of Iraq’s federal police, gave an official statement that Iraqi forces had killed a senior ISIL operative who had apparently been in charge of chemical weapons for the group.


Libya:

On 17 April, UN Secretary-General António Guterres asserted that Libya is at risk of devolving back into conflict and instability due to increasing military escalation and ongoing political stalemate in the country. Fighting has continued to plague the eastern oil crescent and security in the country remains uncertain, only adding to the tension. Guterres noted that the Islamic State (ISIL) no longer controls territory in Libya, but militants with ties to the group have been sighted and are allegedly targeting members of the international community found within Libya.


Mali:

The recently formed alliance of jihadist groups in Mali, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, has continued its spate of attacks on the Malian army, French forces, and UN personnel. On 17 April, a vehicle belonging to the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was struck by an improvised landmine, leaving two peacekeepers and one civilian wounded. The group has claimed responsibility for this attack as well as another on MINUSMA in the Kidal region.

Similarly, from January to March 2017, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded 28 cases of humanitarian access constraints in Mali, primarily occurring in the north of the country. Over two-thirds of the incidents involved attacks on humanitarian personnel, equipment, or infrastructure.

OCHA has predicted that 1 in 5 Malians, or 3.8 million people, will be food insecure and will require assistance in the country’s lean season, which falls between June and August this year. The total includes an additional one million people from last year. The food insecurity threat is reportedly worsened by the continued displacement of civilians, with over 45,000 displaced since 2012.


Nigeria:

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has reported that the northern Nigerian town of Rann is the center of a critical humanitarian crisis. MSF teams in the area noted a critical lack of water, unsanitary conditions, and almost no access to medical care. One MSF staffer remarked that “falling sick in Rann is almost a death sentence.”

14 April marked the third anniversary of the kidnapping of the 276 Chibok Girls. Despite government claims of negotiations and other efforts to return the girls, roughly 200 still remain missing along with numerous other victims of Boko Haram kidnappings.The defence minister has stated that it could take years for the military to locate and free the remaining captives.

Insufficient funding for food relief in Nigeria may lead to the most populous country in Africa becoming the source of another large scale refugee crisis, according to the country’s chief humanitarian coordinator. Nigeria is one of  four countries, along with Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan, that have been noted by the UN as being part of the largest humanitarian crisis in the organization’s history. In total, there are a combined 20 million in need of humanitarian aid in the region. In February, the UN sought a combined $4.4 billion by the end of March to deliver urgently needed aid to the four countries, but has so far received only 15 percent of the necessary funding. The funding gap has left the UN World Food Program’s (WFP) operation in Nigeria facing an impending shut-down of services.

Nigeria was reelected as chair of the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping for the 45th time. Nigeria has held the position since 1972.


South Sudan:

A United Nations official has called for the enhanced protection of civilians in South Sudan after fighting between the government and opposition forces in Raga, Waat, and Wunkur led to an increased level of violence against citizens in those regions. Additionally, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMISS) has reported that the number of displaced citizens arriving at UN compounds has reached a total of 38,746. Finally, a release by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that many humanitarian workers in South Sudan have had to relocate as a result of violent attacks against them. OCHA reported on 18 April that South Sudan has become an extremely dangerous place for aid workers due to violence, disease, and famine. 82 aid workers have been killed there in total – nine in the past month alone.

Moustapha Soumaré, the acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, has called for the cessation of hostilities in South Sudan, stressing the need for a political solution of the conflict. In a joint statement on 17 April, six South Sudanese political opposition groups urged the international community to acknowledge that a genocide is occurring in the country and to hold the government of President Salva Kiir accountable for its alleged war crimes.

Arjan Hehenkamp, the General Director of the Medecins sans Frontieres, stated on 17 April that the UN is not holding to its protection of civilians (POC) mandate when it is aiding only those residing in designated POC sites. Hehenkamp insisted that the UN needs to extend its protection to civilians outside of POC sites, which currently only hold about 200,000 civilians in need of assistance.


Sudan:

The Popular Defense Forces (PDF) militia raided a civilian market in West Kordofan on Tuesday under the pretext of enforcing permit regulations. The government militia allegedly confiscated large amounts of goods, food stuffs, and at least 15,000 US dollars worth of cash from local citizens.

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the government’s primary security apparatus, banned without reason an event that was to be held at El Ahfad University for Women against the oppression of women. The No to Oppression of Women Initiative, the group organizing the event, said this week that over 45,000 women had complaints filed against them under the Public Order Act and that 15,000 were subjected to flogging as a result last year. The activists allege that the laws are “naturally discriminatory against women”  and are used arbitrarily by Sudanese security forces.

The presence of explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Darfur continues to be a major threat to civilians, particularly children. Last Wednesday, two young brothers, ages seven and eleven, were reportedly killed instantly when they came across and unexploded grenade while herding goats. Elsewhere in Darfur, the UNAMID’s Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO) deployed a team to conduct a general explosive hazard assessment near a small town, resulting in the identification and disposal of 33 explosive devices, including a 250kg bomb.

The head of the Darfur Civil Society Platform insisted that government statements asserting that the security situation in Darfur has improved are false, instead alleging that the region is controlled by militias who act with impunity.

The government and security structure of North Darfur implemented new plans to resolve the security problem and rampant banditry in the region on Wednesday. The emergency measures seem to target both criminal elements and abuse by government forces banning, among other things, the presence of armed vehicles inside cities and markets.


Syria:

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that a suicide bomber attacked an evacuation convoy in Syria on 15 April. The convoy was carrying citizens fleeing from the towns of Fua and Kefraya, two pro-government villages, and the attack resulted in 126 deaths, including 68 children. As of now, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. On 18 April, Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the attack could amount to war crime and should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On Wednesday 19 April, the evacuation of civilians from Foua and Kefraya and the two opposition-held towns of Zabadani and Madaya finally resumed after being disrupted by the suicide attack. The evacuations were agreed to by the Syrian government, as President Bashar al-Assad insists that evacuating civilians from the main rebel-held areas is the best way to end the conflict. However, the deal, currently at the first stage, has been repeatedly delayed.

Also on Wednesday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in the chemical attack in the village of Khan Sheikhoun, in northern Syria, which killed 86 civilians.

Russia aims to hold talks with the United States and the United Nations before the Geneva talks resume next week, in an effort to renew the Syrian peace process. Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Monday that the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has agreed to attend, while US officials still have to confirm their participation.


Yemen:

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has joined many other groups and agencies calling on both sides of the conflict to take action to protect food security in Yemen and  to avoid any actions that would affect the ability of Hodeidah to function as a key port of entry. The special briefing, titled “Instruments of Pain: Conflicts and Famine in Yemen,” emphasized that the imminent famine in Yemen is not a result of natural disaster but of man-made catastrophe and conscious action. In an interview given Sunday, a high-ranking spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition’s forces in Yemen claimed that the coalition’s primary concerns are for the protection of civilians.

In a joint report, Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict have called on the UN to place Saudi Arabia back on the list of those responsible for grave violations of children’s rights in conflict. Saudi Arabia, which was originally on the list for a short period in 2016, is accused by the groups of doing immense harm to the civilian population of Yemen, in particularly children, by bombing and  damaging medical facilities and infrastructure. In a separate civil society report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Houthi forces to cease their use of landmines in the conflict. Landmines were broadly banned by the international community two decades ago for their indiscriminate effect on civilian populations and were banned by Yemen in particular in 1998. However, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ (ICBL) “Landmine Monitor” initiative estimated that 988 people were wounded or killed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Yemen in 2015.

In other developments, there are concerns that small communities of Jews who have remained in Yemen, especially in the Houthi held capital of Sa’ana, may have been victims of ethnic cleansing on the part of the Houthi rebels.


What else is new?

In the Spring 2017 edition of Courier, ICRtoP member Stanley Foundation discussed how The Gambia could be taken as an example of multilateral action and of the Responsibility to Protect norm being used to prevent atrocities and avert conflict. According to the article, The Gambia showcases hope for other countries and the prevention of conflict.

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Filed under Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, Justice, RtoP, South Sudan, Sudan, UN, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly: 10-14 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Source of above photo: Reuters via BBC News

 Catch up on developments in…

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

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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


Iraq:

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

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan:

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

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

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


Syria:

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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