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RtoP Weekly: 15 – 19 October 2018

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

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

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

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

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What to Watch:

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

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

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

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

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


But Also Don’t Miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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RtoP Weekly: 8 – 12 October 2018

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This week in focus: the RtoP and Indigenous Peoples

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

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

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

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

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

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


What to Watch:

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

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

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


But Also Don’t Miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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RtoP Weekly: 1 – 5 October 2018

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This week in focus: ACT Code of Conduct

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

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

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

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


What to Watch:

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

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

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

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


But Also Don’t Miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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RtoP Weekly: 24 – 28 September 2018

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

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

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

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


What We’ve Been Watching:

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

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

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

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

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

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


But Also Don’t Miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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RtoP Weekly: 17 – 21 September 2018

untitledGoing in Depth On: Burma

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

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

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

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

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

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


What We’ve Been Watching:

RtoP and UNGA73:

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

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

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

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

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


But Also Don’t Miss:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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RtoP Weekly: 10 – 14 September 2018

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This week in focus: The RtoP Weekly Reboot

Over the past few weeks, the ICRtoP team has been working hard to develop a new approach to the RtoP Weekly. We want the Weekly to be useful and informative to you, as readers, on RtoP-related news around the world, but also to be a tool for engagement, both intellectually and with other actors in the field. We will continue to feature important updates, but hope to present a wider variety of content as well, featuring members of the Coalition, work they are doing, but also grow and deepen how we understand and engage with the RtoP doctrine.

We’re excited about the changes, and look forward to refining them over the coming weeks. In this vein, we are also asking for your help through submitting your feedback on these updates in a two-minute survey by clicking here.


What to Watch:

Burma: Q&A: Justice for International Crimes in Myanmar (Human Rights Watch)

In August 2018, the United Nations (UN) Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar published a 20-page report denouncing grave breaches of international law in the country, including alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes against Rohingya. In addition, the report also put forward a series of suggestions to bring perpetrators to justice, such as a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the establishment of ad hoc tribunals. Burmese authorities have denied mission’s findings, which will be presented along with the full report to the UN Human Rights Council on 18 September.

Burma: New UN rights chief wants criminal charges in Myanmar’s Rohingya genocide (AFP)

In her first discourse as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has called for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to prepare criminal proceedings for human rights violations perpetrated against the Rohingya population in Burma similar to the one created for Syria. She requested the UN Human Rights Council to consider a resolution and bring the issue to the UN General Assembly in order to successfully create this mechanism, which will, “expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts” and improve accountability.

United Kingdom: A comprehensive atrocity prevention strategy more vital than ever, say MPs(Global Britain)

On 10 September 2018, Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and humanitarian intervention. In the document, the Committee analyzes the potential dire consequences of inaction in Syria and the ways in which the UK could improve its role regarding the prevention of mass atrocities. The report requests that the government develop a plan to prevent mass atrocity crimes by next April; reduce the use of veto in situations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes; update its protection strategies in contexts of armed conflict; and clarify the circumstances in which a humanitarian intervention can be conducted so that such campaigns are well founded. Finally, the report also calls on the government to abide by the 2013 French proposal of limiting the exercise of the UK’s use of the veto in the UN Security Council in situations at risk or involving ongoing atrocity crimes.

UNSC and RtoP: The UN Security Council’s Implementation of the Responsibility to Protect: A Review of Past Interventions and Recommendations for Improvement (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

ICRtoP Member, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) published a policy brief this week by Jared Genser, Managing Director of Perseus Strategies. The brief explores factors that impact successful UN Security Council responses to an atrocity situation and found that freedom from government obstruction, regional cooperation, and rapid response capacities are vital for successful RtoP implementation by the Council.

UNHRC and 70th Anniversary of Genocide Convention: Human Rights Council holds high-level panel on the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (OHCHR)

On 13 September, a High Level Panel Discussion was convened at the UN Human Rights Council to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. During the event, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made a statement noting that genocide is still “a threat and a reality” and emphasizing the need for States to concentrate their efforts on the “warning signs” for the sake of prevention. Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, added that,  throughout history, “Genocide was not an accident, nor was it inevitable. It was the inaction of the international community in addressing the warning signs that allowed it to become a reality.” Moreover, High Commissioner Bachelet and other panelists highlighted the importance of accountability and transitional justice in order to end impunity and prevent recurrence. pointing to the International Criminal Court as an important body and pillar for ending impunity and contributing to prevention efforts.


But Also Don’t Miss:

Burma: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on the decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on the jurisdiction over the crime of deportation of the Rohingya population from Myanmar (United Nations)
UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng issued a statement welcoming the ICC’s decision that it does indeed have jurisdiction over the alleged forced deportation of Rohingya from Burma.

Burma: UN granted access to Myanmar villages to investigate Rohingya abuses (CNN)
The Burmese government has granted four UN agencies access to the Rakhine State, as outlined in the the Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh.

Burundi: Burundi under fire at the UN for expelling UN human rights team (Reuters)
Burundi continues to face criticism at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva for the government’s failure to cooperate with Council-mandated investigative teams intended to collect information on alleged human rights violations in the country.

Cameroon: Cameroon Women Rally to Demand End to Violence (Voice of America)
Women marched this week to demand an end to the violence and atrocities that have been affecting their communities, calling on the government and armed groups to engage in peaceful dialogues.

Nigeria: Nigeria: Release presidential panel report to ensure transparency and accountability (Amnesty International)
Amnesty International has called on the Nigerian government to release the findings of the presidential panel investigation into alleged human rights violations committed by national forces.

South Sudan: ICRC: Cease-fire in South Sudan Appears to be Holding (Voice of America)
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported that there has been a decrease in violence in South Sudan since warring parties signed a peace agreement earlier this month.

Yemen: Fighting resumes in Yemen’s Hodeidah as peace talks stall (Reuters)
Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Hodeidah have resumed to regain control of the city, as the Houthi delegation failed to appear at the UN peace talks in Geneva.


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Let us know what you think!
We would appreciate it if you could take two minutes of your time to answer a few questions on our reboot. Please follow the link and complete the survey by 30 September.

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

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