#R2PWeekly: 4 July – 8 July 2016

8fa56621-d238-4766-bfa1-74e81cb6811e.png

UN Warns of Increased Likelihood of  “Full-Throttle Sectarian Violence” in Iraq

In the backdrop of the devastating ISIL bombing on Sunday that killed 250 people, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned of the possibility of a new chapter of sectarian violence in Iraq. Speaking on 5 July, Mr. Zeid stated, “ISIL needs to be defeated, and defeated soon.” However, Zeid continued, “The way we react, in Iraq and elsewhere, will in many ways decide whether ISIL benefits from its indiscriminate acts of mass murder, or is ultimately destroyed by them.”

Mr. Zeid’s concerns for a return of sectarian violence do not solely lie in the rubble of the Karada market but in the graves of the dozens of Sunni Iraqis believed to have been killed recently by Shia militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). On 1 June, over 8,000 villagers escaping the village of Saqlawiyah reached government lines held by the Kataaib Hezbollah militia of the PMF. Among those who fled, 900 have gone missing and 49 are believed to have been immediately executed or died under torture by Kataaib Hezbollah. 

 
Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/dd613ade-4cf7-474a-b20c-b6248dab0589.png

Reports of abuse by the elements of the PMF have been rampant. Their tactics allegedly include kidnappings, torture, executions, massacres, and forced evictions. In January, Human Rights Watch accused the PMF of committing war crimes in the fight against ISIL and noted that “again civilians  are paying the price for Iraq’s failure to rein in the out-of-control militias”.

As the Iraqi government formally incorporated the PMF into the state security apparatus on 7 April 2015, it shares responsibility for its behavior. The Prime Minister of Iraq has set up a special human rights committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the PMF, although Mr. Zeid has urged for more serious measures to end impunity and hold those who are responsible for the abuses accountable. Such a step — as well as others intended to curb sectarian violence, such as building the capacity of the Popular Mobilization Commission tasked with overseeing the PMF — could help Iraq to fulfill its primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

For more information on the reported abuses of Shia militias, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

A mob burned down a Mosque in Rangoon on Sunday. This is the second such attack in under a week in predominantly Buddhist Burma. Authorities have reportedly made no arrests.

Nineteen NGOs demanded increased action to combat hate speech and religiously motivated violence in Burma.


Burundi:

On Tuesday, the government of Burundi rejected a claim made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein as “negative” and “false”. Zeid had reported that the violence in Burundi was ethnically motivated and could escalate into a conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi populations.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Burundi’s intelligence services have tortured dissidents, including beating prisoners with hammers. HRW urged the Security Council to deploy international police to the country and set up an international commission of inquiry.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’as Al Hussein warned that the situation in CAR was worsening, notably due to recent unrest in Bangui and other parts of the country.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions on leading North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-un, for human rights violations. The designations follow a report from the US State Department naming individuals most responsible for the abuses, which include forced labor, extrajudicial killings, and torture. The US Treasury Department blacklisted the officials, freezing their assets and blocking them from any transactions with American citizens.

The UN has named Argentine lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana to succeed Marzuki Darusman as its new Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC has selected the digital security firm, Gemalto, to supply the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) with 22,000 mobile biometric voter enrollment kits in order to support an update of the national registry of voters.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 250 people died in an ISIL suicide-bombing in the Karada market district of Baghdad. The attack is the single deadliest in Iraq since 2003, with hundreds more injured. In the wake of the attack, the outburst of public anger has brought Iraq’s security measures into question, causing Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban to resign and new security measures to be ordered. Also on Sunday, ISIL reportedly killed 8 of its own fighters as well as 7 residents of the city of Hawijah in southwestern Kirkuk. Later, an attack on the al-Salam camp for internally displaced persons, located south of Baghdad, killed 3 and left fifteen wounded.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced the capture of several villages from ISIL in its push to the airbase at Qayara, 40 miles south of Mosul. However, in the wake of seizing Fallujah from ISIL, the Iraqi government’s capture and occupation of the city has reportedly begun to take on sectarian undertones. Despite orders and pledges to the contrary, Shia militia members who aided in the siege of Fallujah, have been seen freely moving in the city center, while Shiite banners, graffiti, and posters have been plastered on the main highway overpass in Fallujah. Some Iraqi commanders in Fallujah have come forward with accusations that the militia members burned houses to the ground in the city, bringing to fruition the fears of the Iraqi government.

On 4 July, Minority Rights Group (MRG) warned in a new report that Iraq may be facing the disappearance of its minorities. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled after thirteen years of civil war and sectarian conflict. The report pays particular attention to the Iraqi Christian population, which has declined from 1.4 million in 2003 to 250,000 today, while also highlighting the plight of the Yezidi, Kaka’i, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak peoples.


Kenya:

In Nairobi on Monday, around 300 people protested the killings of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered once more in Nairobi and set a police station on fire, where Kimani and the others were originally held after their abduction and where they were later killed. Four police officers based at the police station are currently in custody and the site is being treated as a crime scene.


Libya:

In a new report this week, Amnesty International detailed the horrors experienced by migrants and refugees at the hands of Libyan traffickers. Victims were predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, and their testimonies include stories of death, sexual violence, religious persecution, torture and starvation.

On Friday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released its monthly report for June 2016, stating that 49 civilian casualties occurred last month, including 18 deaths and 31 injuries.


Mali:

According to Malian authorities, two gunmen killed two gendarmes and wounded a soldier late Friday night in Menaka, a town in northeastern Mali.

850 peacekeepers from Burkina Faso, including 21 women, are set to join the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), according to the country’s defense ministry.

An accident during a MINUSMA training exercise killed two Dutch soldiers and wounded another on Wednesday in Mali. This brings the total deaths of peacekeepers in Mali to at least 103 since the deployment of the mission in April 2013.


Nigeria:

Late last week, the UN warned that tens of thousands of children would die of malnutrition this year in northeastern Nigeria if they do not receive aid soon.

On Monday, suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers oil militant group blew up two pipelines in southern Nigeria belonging to the US-based Chevron and the Nigerian state oil company. President Buhari pleaded with the oil militants and others in a statement on Wednesday to “give Nigeria a chance”, promising to keep the country together regardless of the divisions across the country.

The Nigerian military shot and killed two female suicide bombers on Tuesday in the town of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria as they attempted to detonate their explosives in the vicinity of people displaced from the fighting in the country. Although the soldiers killed the women, some of the women’s explosives did detonate, injuring two civilians. A third bomber in another area was successful in exploding her bomb, but the blast resulted in no other casualties. The military also killed four suspected Boko Haram fighters in an unrelated ambush the same day around Kukawa, also in the northeast of the country.


South Sudan:

On 5 July, South Sudan’s armed opposition (the SPLA-IO) warned that recent killings of its members could derail the peace agreement signed in August 2015. The SPLA-IO listed and detailed five cases in which its officers allegedly died at the hands of government agents.

The government’s official narrative on the source of recent fighting in Wau state is being challenged, with reports now surfacing, which place the blame on the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA). Eyewitnesses to the violence have begun reporting that members of the SPLA and youth from an ethnically Dinka neighborhood began attacking neighborhoods belonging to the Fartit ethnic group. The official narrative states that the violence was due to a new rebel group attempting to seize the town. The UN estimates that 70,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that left at least 43 dead, including 39 civilians and 4 police officers.

On 2 July, the newly appointed Governor of Wau state, Andrea Mayar Achor, made public his plans for how to restore stability to the area, which saw massive levels of fighting on 25 June that forced tens of thousands to flee. The plan calls for three stages: 1) stabilizing the security situation in order for the displaced to return, which includes free movement for humanitarian organizations; 2) the holding of public dialogues on what happened during the civil war and how the community can move forward; and 3) the start of a reconciliation process.


Sri Lanka:

Following the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ comments last week expressing his concerns about Sri Lanka’s slow progress in the investigation of war crimes and human rights abuses during the country’s civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced on Wednesday that it would set up a special court to hear allegations of wartime abuses by next year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 5 July, the EU released a draft proposal of how it will divert 100 million Euros of development aid into military border control measures in migrant transit countries such as Sudan. The money would likely go to the Sudanese government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), who currently serve as border guards. Part of the Sudanese national and intelligence security services, the RSF largely consists of former members of the Janjaweed, a Sudanese Arab militia responsible for taking part in the genocide in Darfur.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has announced it has serious concerns over the four month ceasefire in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. The SPLM-N views the ceasefire, announced on 17 June,  as the result of US pressure and as only “a declaration of intent”, as a true ceasefire would require monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

On 4 July, a subset of the Sudan Liberation Movement proposed a new ceasefire in Darfur to be monitored by the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The rebels have put forward the ceasefire proposal in hopes of having humanitarian aid delivered to the region of Jebel Marra, which has experienced several months of intense fighting.

Also this week, in a reversal from earlier statements, the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, stated that the opposition groups comprising the umbrella group Sudan Call forces will likely sign the African Union High Implementation Panel’s Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan in several days

On 4 July, fighting broke out between the Sudanese military and Rizeigat Savannah militiamen in east Darfur. The fighting left several casualties.


Syria:

On 5 July, the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies declared the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli to be the capital of the new federal system they are establishing in northern Syria. Elections are currently planned for three months after the approval of the social contract, which is already leading to increased tensions with the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad put forward the composition of the new Syrian government, to be headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. Despite changes in personnel in over half of the positions, there has been no trace of inclusion of any opposition figures or groups in the composition of the new government.

Amnesty International released a brief accusing five rebel groups in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo of committing war crimes and multiple other violations of international humanitarian law.

On 2 July, a two year old local truce between rebels and the Syrian government collapsed in the town of Jayrud with airstrikes that killed 43 people. The truce had led to the area becoming a safe haven, with thousands of internally displaced Syrians living there. Meanwhile, on 6 July, the Syrian government announced a 72 hour ceasefire would go into effect at 1:00 AM on Wednesday to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Nevertheless, the government cut off the sole rebel supply road into Aleppo the next day.

The SDF has opened up a trade corridor in northern Aleppo province between those territories it controls and those under the rule of ISIL. Territories held by the parties are separated by a 2 km long neutral area. The SDF claims that the decision, reached on 25 May, is one that will allow civilians under ISIL-rule to move freely out of their territories and ensure that they receive enough food and supplies.

On 2 July, al-Nusra took the leader of a Western-backed rebel group, the Jaish al-Tahrir brigade, hostage along with 40 of his troops in northern Syria. The brigade had formed in February as a coalition of Free Syrian Army groups in order to stop the push of ISIL near the Turkish border. al-Nusra has targeted the leaders of Western-backed groups in the past, in the hopes that the groups would then dissolve.

On 4 July, the estimate of civilians who have fled the ISIL-held northern Syrian city of Manjib reached 13,000. Moreover, on Monday ISIL repelled an attack by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij and managed to retake previously lost territory in the counter-attack.


Yemen:

On Monday, the Saudi government intercepted a ballistic missile, believed to be fired by the Houthi rebels at the southern Saudi city of Abha. This marks the fourth attempt to fire a ballistic missile into Saudi territory since the ceasefire agreement in April.

A suspected drone strike in the south Yemen province of Shabwa killed three al-Qaeda fighters on Saturday. Meanwhile, rocket fire, believed to be from Houthi rebels, allegedly killed seven children in the central Yemeni city of Marib on Monday. The city is currently held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, while the Houthi rebels continue to control the hinterland to the west and north of the city.

At least 26 people died in an al-Qaeda attack on a Yemeni military base attached to the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday. Six Yemeni soldiers and 20 militants died.


What else is new?

21 African civil society groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa released a short but compelling activist video today entitled “AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC.” Some African leaders have repeatedly charged the ICC with targeting Africa and, in the past year, the African Union has been discussing possibly calling for African ICC States Parties to withdraw from the Court. As Ibrahim Tommy, a Sierra Leone activist, says in the video: “The big clash [these days] is over African leaders, the powerful few, who really want impunity for themselves, versus the vast majority, in fact all of the victims of Africa’s continent who want justice every day.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 27 June – 1 July 2016

8fa56621-d238-4766-bfa1-74e81cb6811e.png

EU’s New Global Strategy Highlights RtoP and Support for Limiting Use of the Veto in Situations of Atrocity Crimes

This week, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, presented the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. She outlines five main priorities for the Union, namely 1) security; 2) state and societal resilience to the EU’s East and South; 3) an integrated approach to conflicts and crises; 4) cooperative regional orders; and 5) global governance for the 21st century.Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/79b62621-5c88-4ede-86d4-c8b56ebf00c8.png

Of particular interest are two declarations included under priority 5, in which the EU promises to “promote the responsibility to protect, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law” and to encourage wide acceptance of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the strategy asserts that it will continue to call upon members of the UN Security Council to not vote against “credible draft resolutions on timely and decisive action to prevent or end mass atrocities.”

The EU has recently taken a number of steps in support of the RtoP norm and initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, of which the Global Strategy is the latest. Last year, the EU appointed a Focal Point on RtoP, while all 28 current members of the EU support the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes”, with 25 also supporting the French/Mexican political declaration on the use of the veto.
To see which countries support these initiatives, check out our map here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other 

 


Burma/Myanmar:

As part of her visit to Myanmar, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, met with Muslim community leaders in Sittwe, the capital of the Arakan state, on 23 June. Yanghee Lee inquired about the community leaders’ views on the government’s ban of the term “Rohingya,” as well as the government’s recent citizenship verification drive.

Over 200 villagers in central Myanmar destroyed a local mosque following an argument between Muslim and Buddhist neighbors on the construction of a new Muslim school on 23 June. The attack forced 70 people to take refuge in a small local police station.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 29 June on the criminalization of peaceful expression in Burma titled “They Can Arrest You at Any Time.”


Burundi:

On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein, issued areport on the “tragic and comprehensive deterioration of human rights of the people in Burundi.” Since President Nkurunziza’s re-election in April 2015, 348 people have died in extrajudicial killings, according to the report. Perpetrators of the killings and arrests includedsecurity and intelligence forces as well as members of the armed group Imbonerakure.


Central African Republic:

On 24 June, a UN peacekeeper from Senegal was shot dead in Bangui in an attackcondemned by the UN Secretary-General. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported that 18 peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were killed by a Central African Republic police unit between April 2015 and March 2016. The head of the police unit has been removed, but human rights groups are calling for his prosecution related to 13 of the 18 cases.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

DRC authorities have arrested 74 militiamen and their alleged leader, Frederic Batumike, a provincial deputy, on charges of murder and the repeated rapes of around 30 young girls in the South Kivu province.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, the police chief in Kinshasa, accusing him and the police force under his command of creating a “climate of fear” ahead of the country’s upcoming presidential elections in December. The US has accused the police force under Kanyama’s control of having used violence to quell protests against current Congolese President Kabila, which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people. Furthermore, at least 50 men and boys died and 30 others disappeared after the police raided the homes of suspected opposition members in Kinshasa without a warrant.

The UN Security Council has urged President Kabila to stay in line with constitutional requirements to hold elections by the end of this year as the Council expressed concerns over the arrests of members of the opposition weeks earlier. The government has said that it is unlikely that the DRC will be able to hold these elections within the allotted timeframe due to logistical reasons, but the opposition has claimed that this is a way for President Kabila to try to remain in office past his constitutional limit. The European Union Parliament also votedon a resolution which calls for an end to the violence and human rights violations in the DRC, which has escalated in the run-up to the elections.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed a female Palestinian after she ran her car into another car outside an Israeli settlement, injuring two people.

Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian fisherman on 27 June off the coast of Gaza. The shots fired prevented fishermen from fishing farther than the designated range of five nautical miles. No injuries were reported, but the fishing boats were damaged, forcing the fishermen to retreat.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza following a one-day trip to Palestine and Israel on 27 June. He called the “suffocating” blockade “collective punishment for which there must be accountability.” Ban Ki-Moon stressed a two-state solution “remains the only viable option to prevent perpetual conflict and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

A Palestinian teenager stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her sleep in a West Bank settlement on Thursday. Israeli forces later shot and killed the Palestinian.


Iraq:

The Head of High Committee of Recognizing Shingal Genocide warned of the need to undertake measures to protect the mass graves of the Yezidi massacred by ISIL. So far, thirty mass graves have been identified, with an estimate that it might take three years to properly identify everyone in the graves.

On Sunday, Iraqi forces successfully captured the last district of Fallujah still held by ISIL, after having declared victory in the offensive to retake the city on 17 June. The following day, Iraqi forces launched a new offensive to clear the farmland to the west of Fallujah of ISIL fighters who have been hiding there since they fled the city.

Iraqi forces continued to successfully press an offensive against ISIL, started two weeks ago, to the south of Mosul, capturing the village of Telol al-Baj. Iraqi troops are now 45 km from the strategic airbase at Qayara, currently held by ISIL, which is expected to be the base of operations for the government offensive on Mosul. The Iraqi Defense Minister, Halit el-Ubeydi, put the estimate at the number of ISIL fighters killed in a recent Iraqi government offensive to the south of Mosul at 1,300.

A suicide bombing in a mosque in Abu Ghraib killed 12 people and wounded at least 32 on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a bomb attack in western Baghdad killed one and injured several others. On the eastern side of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen stormed into a house killing three women and a 6 year old girl.

On Thursday, the British government announced it will send a further 250 troops to Iraq in order to help the Iraqi government fight ISIL. They are expected to be teaching basic infantry skills, first aid, and how to dismantle homemade bombs as well as helping the Iraqis to build military infrastructure.


Kenya:

According to at least 10 local and international human rights organizations, evidence hasshown that Kenyan police are responsible for the disappearances of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men, Kimani’s client, Josphat Mwenda, and a taxi driver. The evidence suggests that they were abducted last week as they were leaving a court where Mwenda was facing drug-related charges.


Libya:

A car bomb outside a Benghazi area hospital killed four and injured 14 on 24 June. The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the attacks, which had damaged already crippling infrastructure, estimating that “nearly 60% of public hospitals in conflict areas in Libya have shut down or are inaccessible.”


Mali:

Infighting over land between residents of the Mopti region killed at least 14 people on Saturday, according to Malian police.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which will increase the number of peacekeeping troops in the UN’s mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the aim of countering the recent increase in Islamic extremist attacks on both peacekeeping forces and civilians. The increase in troops and a decrease in extremist attacks will also provide a more stable and conducive environment for the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and other signatory groups. The resolution also extends the mandate of MINUSMA for another year, lasting until 30 June 2017.


 Nigeria:

The Niger Delta Avengers have called for a referendum on dividing up the Nigerian federation. The group also included a map via social media, with a suggestion on how the country could be divided into five separate countries. Experts had already predicted that the oil militant group could be encouraged by the surprising results of the recent British referendum to leave the European Union.

The Nigerian military has rescued over 5,000 people held hostage by Boko Haram after the army completed an operation to clear four remote villages in Borno state. The operation reportedly killed one civilian and at least six Boko Haram militants.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $13 million to provide life-saving assistance to 250,000 people in northeastern Nigeria who have recently become accessible.

Two suicide bombers in Abuja reportedly exploded their devices prematurely, killing themselves and not harming anyone else. City residents suspect that Boko Haram is behind the blasts, which occurred around midnight on Sunday, as people gathered for special Ramadan prayers. However, this has not yet been verified.


South Sudan:

On 25 June, clashes between the South Sudanese government and rebels in Wau uprooted thousands and left 50 dead. The South Sudanese government has stated that the gunmen are part of the militia of Ali Tamin Fatan, a militia leader trying to seize control of territory on the South Sudanese border with the Central African Republic. This new rebel group is said tohave a radical Islamist position.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir refused to sign resolutions to establish designated cantonment areas for the forces of his first deputy, Riek Machar. The decision comes in spite of a consensus being reached on the matter three weeks ago and is being heavily criticized for fear of destabilizing the peace process. The President also refused to agree to terms to establish a committee to review how many states South Sudan should be comprised of, a further point of contention between the President and the opposition.


Sri Lanka:

Journalist and human rights defender Nirmanusan Balasundaram released an opinion piece this week detailing the ways in which the Sri Lankan government has been backsliding in the post-war reconciliation, accountability, and human rights commitments it made in the October 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the United States.

On Wednesday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about the current reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, statingthat the government must speed up the judicial process assessing war crimes allegations from the country’s civil war, accelerate the processing of those detained during and after the conflict, and help those still displaced to return to their homes. The Commissioner also acknowledged that the government has made some progress, but stressed that Sri Lanka must come through on its promise to involve foreign judges and other international experts in the judicial process.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government announced that it had withdrawn all of its armed forces from its shared border with South Sudan for the first time since South Sudan’s independence in 2011. On 4 June, the two nations had agreed to pull their troops from the area in order to begin construction on a road which would eventually lead to the creation of a firmly established and permanent demilitarized area between the two nations in hopes of ending mutual accusations of supporting rebels in either country.

On 24 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to postpone ascheduled prisoner transfer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) to the Sudanese government. Despite having been invited by the Sudanese government to act as the intermediary, the ICRC was denied permission to fly the prisoners out at the last moment.

The Governor of South Kordofan State, one of the two regions where fighting between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N has persisted, announced that the Sudanese army was on the outskirts of Kauda, despite a recent ceasefire. The Governor went on to claim that 90 percent of the State’s territory is now in the hands of the government.

On 27 June, gunmen attacked several villages in Northern Darfur, leading to one woman being killed and another raped.

The Sudanese government informed the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan that it would reject any proposal to amend the AU’s Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. The opposition has proposed a supplemental agreement to the Roadmap, which they have yet to sign out of fears that it will legitimize the Sudanese government.


Syria:

On Wednesday, the besieged towns of Zamalka and Erbin received their first aid shipments since 2012. The two towns, home to 20,000 people, had been the only besieged areas, out of the UN’s list of 18 to not yet receive aid shipments.

Syrian and Russian airstrikes allegedly killed at least 25 people and injured dozens more in the town of al-Quria in Deir al-Zor province on Saturday. The majority of the province is under the control of ISIL, with the strikes having been said to have hit both a crowded marketplace as well as a mosque. On 27 June, 5 people died and a further 15 were wounded in a series of suicide-bomber attacks in the predominantly Christian Lebanese village of Qaa. ISIL fighters forced the New Syria Army, a rebel group directly funded and created by the US to fight ISIL, alongside with several other rebel factions, from several positions they had captured in their assault on the city of Al-Bukamal the day before.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Ambassador to Syria, Alexander Kinshchak, told reporters that he does not see assaults on either Aleppo or Raqqa by the Syrian government happening in the near future. Last week, Syrian government forces were expelled from Raqqa province by an ISIL counter-assault, losing in three days what had taken them over three weeks to capture. However, Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy in the fight against Islamic State, stated to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate, would be the next target of the international coalition after the Syria Democratic Forces seize Manjib from ISIL in northern Syria.

On 27 June, the Syrian opposition negotiating at Geneva, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), stated that the European Union should enact a sanctions regime against thoseRussian companies which are supporting the Assad regime’s war effort in Syria.

24 NGOs asked by the UN to help facilitate and support the Syrian peace talks in Geneva threatened to quit the peace process all together. The NGOS wrote that the threat is due to the inability to halt the fighting on the ground and the continued attacks on civilians and NGOs operating within Syria. The letter calls for an actual ceasefire to be implemented, one that has the ability to be enforced and includes specific measures to protect civilians, airdrops of aid for besieged areas, and the creation of a war crimes tribunal for Syria.

On 27 June, the US sent Russia a proposal for the establishment of a new military partnership for the two countries in Syria. The new partnership would see the two nations cooperating at an as of yet unseen level, with the US pledging to cooperate in the planning and targeting of al-Nusra with Russia while the Russians would in turn pressure the Assad regime into halting attacks on certain US-backed rebels in Syria. Recent sources within the Russian government have reported that Russia would agree to Assad stepping down as President of Syria, but only in the event of a suitable replacement being found that would not cause the Syrian government, as well as its alliance with Russia, to collapse.


Yemen:

The UN Secretary General lambasted both sides in the Yemeni civil war, citing a number of gross violations of the ceasefire in place by both the government and the Houthi rebel alliance. The Secretary General has personally intervened into the peace negotiations this past week in hopes of stemming the continuing violence. Despite Ban Ki-moon’s efforts, negotiators in Kuwait from both the Yemeni government and the Houthi alliance released that they are preparing to release a joint statement announcing the suspension of peace talks until mid-July. The suspension of peace talks has been called a move from both sides to save face in light of having reached an impasse.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has announced that this break would herald a new phase of the negotiations after the submission of his Roadmap for Peace, which includes steps for the formation of a unity government as well as ideas on how to  break past the disagreements once the suspension of talks is over.

Highlighting the continued tension, former President Saleh, who has allied himself and troops loyal to him with the Houthis, announced he would refuse to accept the currently internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Hadi and would attempt to move forward with his own peace plan.

On 26 June, 41 people died in fighting between the Houthi rebel alliance and the Yemeni government across the country. The fighting comes in the wake of the deaths of a further 31 people on 24 June in what has become a steady intensifying of the conflict. ISIL killed 43 people in a series of attacks across the southern city of Mukalla. Additional clashes between the Houthis and Yemeni government killed 80, including 37 civilians.

On 30 June, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International demanded that Saudi Arabia be removed from the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) in response to both their domestic human rights record as well as their military campaign in Yemen.


What else is new?

On 27 June, the Fund for Peace released  its annual Fragile States Index for 2016. 178 countries are ranked annually in the Index, based off of their perceived stability and the current and future dangers that they face.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect held their sixth annual Global Meeting of R2P Focal Points.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 20 – 24 June 2016

8fa56621-d238-4766-bfa1-74e81cb6811e.png

Secretary General Appoints New
UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect

On 23 June 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Ivan Šimonović has been appointed as the new UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. Mr. Šimonović will be the third individual to assume the post, following Dr. Edward Luck and Dr. Jennifer Welsh. He will take up the post on 1 October 2016.

Mr. Šimonović is currently the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, a post through which he has shown his dedication to preventing gross and systematic abuses of human rights. In his six-year tenure at the United Nations, Mr. Šimonović has underscored that RtoP is a “human rights friendly” concept, including as a panelist at the 2012 General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP, at which he stated that RtoP is “the idea that people are entitled to be protected from the worst forms of human rights violations, from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.”

As UN Special Adviser on RtoP, Mr. Šimonović will be responsible for the conceptual, political, and institutional development of RtoP, as well as for building consensus to assist the General Assembly to continue considering the norm. Such a mandate entails, among other duties, engaging with UN actors, Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations, and civil society to implement and mainstream the norm; as well as conceptualizing the UN Secretary-General’s annual reports on RtoP.

The ICRtoP looks forward to working with Mr. Šimonović, as well as the entire Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, to continue consolidating support for RtoP and advocating for early action to prevent and respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. In this regard, the ICRtoP will continue efforts with the Office to enhance the relationship between civil society and the UN system to strengthen collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing on atrocities prevention and response.

See statement here.

See the UN News announcement here.

Read more about the mandate of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and the work of the Joint Office.  For more information, see the ICRtoP’s page on the Joint Office.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will make an official visit to the country from 20 June until 1 July. Ms. Lee will monitor the situation of human rights and assess the work of the new government during its first 100-days in office. A report on the visit will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October. On 20 June, following the Special Rapporteur’s meeting with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the government of Myanmar decided to no longer use the term “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to describe the Muslim community of the Rakhine state. The ethnic term has been a point of contention in the conflict between nationalist Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. The terms were also avoided in the Special Rapporteur’s meeting on 22 June with the Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a report urging the Burmese government to take concrete action against the systematic violations of human rights of the minority groups in Myanmar. The report, released on 20 June, documented widespread human rights abuses, including denial of healthcare and education, forced labor, restrictions on freedom of movement, and more, that could possibly amount to crimes against humanity. The Rohingya Muslim community was noted to receive the worst treatment. High Commissioner Hussein acknowledged the work of the new democratic government in signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year as well as establishing a Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability, and Development of Rakhine State. However, the Commissioner’s report urged for more concrete steps to be taken by the government to facilitate the transition to peace. The government has criticized the report, stating it is biased.

report by the UN Refugee Agency stated Burmese citizens made up the eighth-largest population of refugees in 2015. More than 451,000 people fled Myanmar last year as a result of ethnic violence between multiple armed groups.

Nearly 1,000 people in the Kachin State protested against the killing of a teen by a Burmese Army soldier on 21 June. The unarmed 19-year-old student was “mistakenly shot” by the soldier during a fight between two soldiers and a group of Kachin University students on the night of 20 June. The events leading up to the shooting are unclear, but they are said involve the soldiers escorting female university students claiming to be harassed by their male peers.


Burundi:

Following their second visit to Burundi last week, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) called for concrete action to be taken to end the violence in the country. While the number of executions has decreased since last year, the UNIIB noted that mass arrests are still occurring, including the recent detainment of 11 children for defacing pictures of the President. “For Burundi to move away from violence and conflict, it needs a truly inclusive political dialogue that will address the roots of the political crises,” said one expert from the UNIIB.

Burundi is reconsidering its membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming the ICC did not take into account the principle of complementarity, which provides that the court can only investigate crimes if national courts cannot do so, when conducting preliminary investigations into post-electoral killings in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, has urged the Central African Republic’s government to take robust measures to stop violence and ensure the protection for civilians. Ms. Keita Bocoum met with several government representatives and civil society members on her seventh visit to the country and she stressed the need for enhanced security and justice reform, particularly with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court. She also expressed concern over the allegations of sexual abuse within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and will address the Human Rights Council about the issue on 28 June. Her final report on the Central African Republic will be submitted in September.

A new wave of violence in the northwest has left 10 people dead and forced thousands to flee. Armed attackers entered the city of Ngaoundaye on 16 June, shooting at residents and torching homes. The attack, carried out by Fulani herdsmen and ex-Seleka militiamen, is the worst bout of violence in the country since the political election in February. MINUSCA has strengthened security measures in response to the attacks and reaffirmed its mission to promote peace and security in the CAR.

A driver for Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) was shot and killed while driving to transport medicine and fuel from Bangui to Bangassou on 17 June. The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Dr. Michel Yao, strongly condemned the attack and reminded all parties that “ violence against humanitarian workers and humanitarian assets is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and must stop.” Dr. Yao also called for the attack to be investigated and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

On 19 June, ex-Seleka rebels abducted six policeman in the capital city of Bangui. Security Minister Jean Serge Bokassa stated, “We demand the liberation of the officers who were taken hostage. The government will do everything possible to free them.”


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The field-based office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, located in Seoul, has begun stepping up its investigation into the country’s human rights violations ahead of the one year anniversary of the office’s establishment on 23 June. The UN opened the office in line with recommendations from the UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights record and has been conducting interviews with defectors.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between former rebels in a camp for demobilized militia groups and government soldiers preventing them from leaving the camp resulted in nine deaths, including six of the former rebels and three soldiers. A government official admitted the clashes took place, but denied that soldiers had killed anyone. A former rebel claimed that soldiers had killed 10 of his fellow ex-fighters and claimed that their protests demanding to be returned home were peaceful. The former rebels held in the camp are ex-M23 fighters belonging to the minority Tutsi group in Rwanda.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli troops shot two Palestinians on 21 June, leaving a 15-year-old Palestinian boy dead when the car he was in came under gunfire by the Israeli army after several Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli cars on a highway in the West Bank.

The West Bank is in “full crisis mode” due to Israel’s water cuts reducing the water supply to Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Residents have been receiving 30 to 40 percent of their normal water allowance. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians in the West Bank have access to just 73 litres of water a day, compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum of 100 litres. The water crisis has left some Palestinians without water for almost a week.


Iraq:

On 17 June, Iraqi forces surged into the ISIL-held city of Fallujah. Several hours later, Prime Minister Al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL in Fallujah. This comes after several months of tightening the knot on the city, which has led to tens of thousands of civilians being trapped in an ever growing humanitarian crisis. However, declarations of complete victory have been premature, as a week later Iraqi forces still have only gained control of roughly 80% of the city. When Iraqi forces began their assault, ISIL forces retreated to the edges of the city, forming “a defensive belt” which the Iraqi armed forces continued to pick apart throughout the week.

ISIL fighters have killed fifteen members of the local security forces in an assault on several villages east of the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The town is 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and, while technically falling under the purview of the central government, has recently been under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who claim it as part of Kurdistan. The following day, a car bomb, planted by ISIL, killed four people in Tuz Khurmatu.

On 20 June, attacks across Iraq left nine people dead. Three soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Ramadi, while six civilians died in several separate attacks in Baghdad.The next day, a suicide-bombing killed five Shia militia members and wounded over 35 in the northern town of Al-Dor.

An Iraqi tribal leader has accused a Shia militia of recently executing fifty Sunni prisoners in northern Iraq. The massacre allegedly took place at the Amerlin prison in Saladin province as revenge for the killing of a senior police officer in the fighting with ISIL near Amerli the previous week.

In order to provide aid to the thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Fallujah, the UN had to withdraw $15 million from its emergency fund this week. In one month, more than 85,000 people have been driven out of the city by fighting. The UN has warned that its supplies are nearly empty, as the emergency fund to provide aid to vulnerable Iraqis has not received two-thirds of its needed funding and projects have been shuttered. In light of this, the US State Department has released $20 million in aid to the Iraqi government. The UNHCR released a statement detailing the needs of the UN in aiding those Iraqis displaced from Fallujah.

Senior Pentagon officials are preparing to give approval to submit a request for a larger US military presence in Iraq to President Obama. Currently, the US has 4,100 troops in Iraq, including 217 that were recently deployed in April. At that time, it was stated that the military would request more if the current number of troops failed to aid the Iraqis in retaking Mosul.


Kenya:

Early this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a brief reporting that police gunfire killed at least five people and wounded 60 others as Kenyan police used live ammunition and excessive force to attempt to break up two recent protests on 23 May and 6 June. The brief includes allegations that police used unnecessary lethal force and even shot or seriously injured uninvolved bystanders and passersby, including students. According to HRW, one witness also claimed to have seen police shoot a man leaving a bank and then take his money. HRW has called for Kenyan authorities to investigate these actions, which appear to violate both Kenyan law and international protocols for law enforcement officers’ use of force.

One person died on Monday after an ambulance hit a landmine while en route to pick up a patient in northeastern Kenya. The incident, which also seriously injured two others, took place in Garissa county, which has recently been the target of attacks by suspected al-Shabaab militants. The same day in nearby Mandera county, suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a convoy, killing five Kenyan police officers escorting a passenger bus.


Libya:

blast at an ammunition depot in the Libyan city of Garabulli left 30 people dead and 30 more wounded on 21 June. It is not clear what triggered the explosion, but a dispute between locals and protestors from an armed group occurred beforehand. Meanwhile, east of Garabulli in the former ISIL-stronghold of Sirte, fighting between ISIL and government-backed Libyan fighters also left 30 people dead, resulting in a total of 60 people killed in just one day. The fighting also wounded around 140 militants.


Mali:

At a UN Security Council meeting discussing the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Malian Prime Minister Modibo Keita, called on the Council to strengthen the peacekeeping mission in the country and to impose sanctions against those impeding the peace deal. The head of MINUSMA and UN envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, presenting the UN Secretary-General’s report on the developments in the country since March, also called for better training and better equipment for peacekeepers and said “losses could have been avoided” if these had been provided earlier. He also added that, despite the slow process and the skepticism surrounding the Agreement, the situation has improved since 2012 and noted that the successful establishment of eight cantonment sites allowed for the disarmament process to begin.

On the one year anniversary of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement commending Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta and the government for their commitment to peace. Mr. Ban also welcomed the signing of the new Protocole d’Entente on the interim authorities and other arrangements by the government and other signatory parties. He called this and the government’s appointment of Mr. Mahamadou Diagouraga as the High Representative tasked with following up on the Agreement “important steps forward”.


Nigeria:

Late last week Boko Haram fighters shot and killed at least 18 women and may have captured others who were attending a funeral in the village of Kuda in Nigeria’s restive northeast. According to witnesses, the militants rampaged through the village shooting randomly at will and setting houses on fire. Witnesses counted 18 women’s bodies after the attack, but some women are currently still missing.

The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) recently launched “Operation Gama-Aiki”, under which the NAF completed its first major air campaign, killing 15 Boko Haram militants in Borno state.

On 21 June, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) visited the town of Bama in Borno state for the first time since its liberation from Boko Haram’s control by the army in March 2015. MSF found 24,000 people living in a camp on a hospital compound in the town, including 15,000 children (of which 4,500 are under five years old). According to MSF, over 1,200 people have starved to death or died of illness at the camp and of the 800 children examined, around one in five were acutely malnourished. The group also reported that they had found around 1,233 graves dug in the last year near the camp and at least 188 people have died in the camp since 23 May – amounting to almost six people each day.

In the southeastern Niger Delta Region, Nigerian officials reported late last week that the government has reached a 30-day truce with militants, including the Niger Delta Avengers, who have carried out devastating attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region in recent months. Another official added that although a truce had been reached, talks working towards a final resolution are still on-going. However, the Niger Delta Avengers issued a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that they had never agreed to a ceasefire with the government. A security expert based in Nigeria has said that he believes that the government may have been holding talks with the wrong people.


South Sudan:

On Tuesday, the UN completed an investigation into violence that occurred at a UN compound housing 50,000 civilians in Malakal. Over the course of 16-18 February, fighting between ethnic groups killed 30 civilians and 130 others. On 18 February, armed men, including members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), burst into the camp and began shooting civilians and burning down housing complexes. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers, mandated to use force to protect civilians, stood by, taking over 16 hours to react to the incursion into the compound. The report, obtained by several news agencies, but unlikely to be made public, details how the UN responsewas one beset by confusion, with peacekeepers fleeing their posts. Some, like Human Rights Watch, have pressured the UN to release the findings to the public, follow the investigation’s recommendations, and hold those responsible to account. In response, the UN has announced that it will be sending home peacekeepers that were found to have not appropriately responded during the situation. Meanwhile, a report by Doctors without Borders noted that, in addition to the UN failing in its duty to protect civilians, UN security rules interfered with efforts by humanitarian actors to respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis.

UNICEF has released a report highlighting the continuing use of child soldiers in South Sudan. The report, aided by the work of the UN mission in South Sudan, states that there are still over 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan. This figure is in spite of the government’s 2008 South Sudan Child Act, which sets a minimum age of 18 for any conscription or voluntary recruitment into armed forces or groups. Furthermore, the release of all child soldiers is a stipulation of the peace agreement in South Sudan.

On 20 June, fighting erupted once again in the South Sudanese town of Raja, which saw clashes last week when armed men stormed and temporarily seized the town. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting,with the International Committee of the Red Cross sending in two planes to evacuate the wounded.


Sri Lanka:

Newly uncovered evidence seems to confirm reports that the Sri Lankan armed forces may have used cluster munitions against civilians in the end stages of the country’s 26-year civil war. Testimonies from de-mining groups working in Sri Lanka have also claimed that they have discovered munitions in government-declared “no fire zones”, where authorities had told around 300,000 people during the war to gather for safety until the war’s resolution.

According to a former asylum seeker now living permanently in Australia, the group of 44 stranded Tamil asylum seekers in Indonesia, who arrived by boat on the island of Aceh on their way to Australia, were previously tortured in Sri Lanka and would certainly be persecuted once again if they return. Their compatriot in Australia identified several of the asylum seekers in Indonesia from photos as those who were allegedly tortured alongside him during his time in prison in Sri Lanka.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 17 June, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a 4-month ceasefire in the Blue Nile and South Kordufan areas, which went into effect over the weekend. Rebel fighters with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and government forces have been engaged in fighting that has left both sides in a perpetual stalemate since 2011. The SPLM-N is the northern counterpart of the movement that brought South Sudan forward into independence and they have been fighting against their region’s continued inclusion in Sudan. Fighting has recently intensified in the area as a truce, negotiated at the end of 2015, has broken down. The SPLM-N has conditionally agreed to the ceasefire and is calling for negotiations to immediately start in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is the third ceasefire declaration by the Sudanese government in the past year.

After a three-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Sudan Call (the umbrella representation of the Sudanese opposition) stated on Sunday that they will propose a supplemental document to the Roadmap Agreement for peace in Sudan. As of yet, only the Sudanese government has signed the Roadmap crafted by the African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The opposition has declined, stating the document only deals with a ceasefire and humanitarian access. The supplemental document, they allege, would ensure the Roadmap leads to fruitful political dialogue. The opposition currently recognizes the government-controlled dialogue process as a basis for the national constitutional dialogue and claims it lacks trust-building measures.

On 19 June, Sudan requested a meeting with Martin Uhomoibh, the head of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), after the UN recommended a one-year extension of the mission’s mandate in the region. The joint AU-UN mission currently has 20,000 troops and policemen in the region. The report, presented to the UNSC last week, stated their presence is still needed due to an overall lack of progress in the peace process and continued violence, which the Sudanese government has publicly contended and disagreed with.

On 20-21 June, attacks in central Darfur killed and injured 18 people. Eyewitness reports allege that the attacks were carried out by members of the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia, which has already made several attacks looting the area’s major market and torching a multitude of shops and homes.

The following day, six student activists were released by the Sudanese security forces after being detained for a month without charges. The arrest and detention of the students, who were arrested for leading protests against government policy, sparked a wave of demonstrations and clashes with security forces.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, Turkish border guards allegedly killed 11 Syrian refugees as they fled across the border into Turkey. The incident is alleged to have taken place near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in Idlib province. This is not the first time accusations of Turkish soldiers shooting fleeing Syrians have appeared, with HRW releasing a scathing report earlier this year.

On 20 June, an ISIL suicide-bomber killed three people in Qamishli. The bomber was attempting to sneak into a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide.

Despite earlier gains against ISIL this week, the extremist group has managed to force Syrian government troops into retreat from Raqqa, ISIL’s de-facto capital. The Syrian government had advanced as close as six miles to the town of al-Tabqa, which lies to the west of Raqqa, but has now been pushed back over 40 kilometers from Tabqa.

On 21 June, the SDF entered the ISIL-held city of Manjib in northern Aleppo after having successfully repelled an attempt by ISIL to break the siege earlier in the week. This has allowed the first humanitarian corridor into the city to be opened, allowing hundreds to flee.

Later the same day, a car-bomb killed six Jordanian soldiers near a Syrian refugee camp on the northeastern Syrian-Jordanian border. The attack is the first of its kind since the start of the Syrian civil war. More than 50,000 Syrians are living in the refugee camp there in deplorable conditions, with Jordan citing security concerns for not allowing them out the camps. Jordan has responded by announcing that there will be no new refugee camps built in the country.

On 22 June, 25 civilians are reported to have been killed in air raids in Raqqa. The strikes also injured dozens more, with the death toll expected to rise. As of yet, no party has claimed responsibility.

Delivering Aid

The UN was able to deliver deliver aid into the besieged areas of Ein Tarma, Hamouria, Hazeh, Beit Sawa and Eftreis in rural Damascus on Monday for the first time since April. This brings the total number of besieged areas reached up to 16 out of the 18 the UN has requested. However, the UN is still facing difficulties as the Syrian government continues to deny unfettered access and, in many cases, the amount of aid delivered has been restricted.

International Developments

On 16 June, the New York Times received a draft version of an internal dissent memo from the US State Department, signed by fifty-one individuals, that called for US airstrikes against the Assad regime. The memo is exceptionally critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Syria, particularly detailing the continued use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime in a campaign that is both in violation of the ceasefire and mainly targeting civilians. According to the memo, continued military pressure by the United States is the only way to stop the gross injustices being committed in Syria and force Assad to the negotiating table.

Late last week, Russia’s state-run RT network accidentally ran a segment on the Russian campaign in Syria that showed Russian planes in Syria armed with cluster bombs. While Russia has not signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, they have consistently denied using such indiscriminate bombs in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied accusations that it bombed the US-backed New Syrian Army rebel group in southern Syria. US and Russian officials held a video-conference over the weekend to discuss the airstrikes, which are believed to include cluster munitions and which killed several rebels near Jordanian border.

On 21 June, several countries debated the issue of prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria as a UN panel, called First Cracks in the Syria Impunity Wall. The panel discussed whether or not third party countries should prosecute persons accused of committing atrocities in Syria. The push for prosecution is being made by several European countries, particularly Germany, France, Sweden and Finland. The panel follows the vetoing, by Russia and China, of a UNSC resolution that would have referred Syria to the ICC.

Norway’s parliament gave approval for the deployment of Norwegian troops to Syria on Wednesday, including the nation’s special forces. The troops will join the forces from the US and other members of the anti-ISIL coalition on the ground in training the Syrian Democratic Forces.


Yemen:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, reversing reports of the United Arab Emirates pulling out of the war in Yemen, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated that remarks to that end have been taken out of context and that the UAE will continue to take part in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. military has announced that it is planning on continuing its ongoing mission in Yemen against al-Qaeda.  The U.S. now plans on keeping a small, twelve-man, Special-Operations team in Yemen to assist Gulf State forces on the ground. The team was originally sent in April for a limited operation. The U.S. had previously established such a team in Yemen but withdrew it in 2014 in light of the deteriorating situation.

On 21 June, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen claimed to have intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the city of Marib, which is controlled by the coalition. Seperately, a coalition airstrike in the mountainous area of Lahj province is said to have killed eight civilians. The airstrike is alleged to have taken place during a three-day battle for the mountain range that overlooks Yemen’s largest airbase, which has apparently left 45 dead and the Houthi rebels in control and overlooking the base.

On 22 June, 13 people died in renewed clashes, in the central city of Taiz, between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces. Both civilians and fighters have been counted amongst the dead in the fighting, which has continued despite an agreed upon by ceasefire by both sides. The next day Houthi rebels allegedly killed seven civilians while in pursuit of a pro-government militia leader. The Houthi’s have claimed that the raid, which took place in central Yemen, was in pursuit of a “terrorist cell” and that they had killed eight members of al- Qaeda. While reports have been increasing of al- Qaeda militants fighting alongside the Yemeni government in central Yemen, the Houthis commonly characterize all the militias that oppose them as al-Qaeda. On the same day, local residents in the south of the country reportedthe return of  al-Qaeda to their towns after an absence of a month. Al-Qaeda had previously retreated from many major population centers in the area following tribal negotiations.

Developments in the peace process

On 18-19 June, the largest prisoner swap yet in the conflict in Yemen took place, with 224 prisoners being exchanged by the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government in the city of Taez.

Highlighting
 the contention at the peace talks in Kuwait, the Houthi delegation announced on 22 June that they would refuse to sign onto any peace agreement which did not include an agreement on a consensus President to lead Yemen through its transition period. Concurrently, the Yemeni delegation has demanded that the Houthis withdraw from all  territory captured since 2014 and give over control of political institutions to the Yemeni government before negotiations. The demands are in light of the submission of a Roadmap for Peace for Yemen by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


What else is new?

Responding to worrying developments such as the revocation of citizenship for over 250 individuals since July 2014, including most recently Sheikh Issa Qassem, among other human rights violations, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 22 June expressing concern for the situation and calling in the government to recommit to national dialogue. See full statement here.

Monday, 20 June marked World Refugee Day, with a report released by the UN Refugee Agency entitled Global Trends showing that a record high of 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence in 2015. The Global Trends report shared staggering findings, including that 1 in every 113 people in the world is an asylum-seeker, internally displaced person, or refugee, with 24 people displaced per minute in 2015. To put the vast numbers of displaced persons in perspective, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has produced a new infographic showing what displacement in countries experiencing atrocity crimes means in other terms.View the infographic here.

On Sunday 19 June, the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the time of impunity for the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is over. He cited several landmark court rulings convicting and sentencing former political and military leaders for their involvement in conflict-related sexual violence, including in the convictions of two former Guatemalan military officers in a national court in Guatemala, the International Criminal Court’s first sexual and gender-based crimes conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the conviction of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in the Senegalese judicial system for rape and sexual slavery earlier this year. The latter is the first time in history that a former Head of State has been convicted and held personally accountable for the commission of rape as an international crime. The ICC also sentenced Bemba on 21 June to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape. A summary of the ICC’s decision in the Bemba case can be read here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 13 – 17 June 2016

UntitledUN Commission of Inquiry Releases Report Stating ISIS Has Committed Genocide Against Yazidis

“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing,” according to Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. This is the conclusion reached by the Commission in the landmark report released this week, titled “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”. The Commission determined that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been engaged in a systematic policy of genocide against the Yazidi people, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq and Syria, which ISIL considers to be infidels. This marks the first time in history that a non-state actor has been accused of the crime of genocide. The report details, at length, the myriad of specific ways in which ISIL has systematically and continuously attempted to destroy the Yazidis in line with the understanding given in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The report was conducted in line with the CoI’s mandate, and thus the document focuses on violations committed against the community within Syria, while also examining how ISIL “forcibly transferred Yazidis into Syria after its attacks on northern Iraq’s Sinjar region” in 2014. The report relied on 45 interviews given by survivors, religious leaders, smugglers, medical personnel, and journalists to give detail to the murders, mass executions, rapes, cultural destruction, and forced conversions that continue to take place. Corroborating documentary material to substantiate these interviews was also used, including hundreds of photographs, satellite images, reports, and the factual findings of the OHCHR Fact-Finding Mission on the human rights situation in Iraq, as well as information gathered from ISIL.

The Yazidi community of Sinjar, compromising 400,000 people, has been the victim of a systematic policy of genocide since ISIL launched their offensive on the group’s home region of Sinjar in Iraq on 2 August 2014. ISIL’s actions against the Yazidis have also included crimes against humanity and war crimes, while the genocidal measures against Yazidis have taken many forms. The report demonstrates that ISIL has conducted not only a deliberate policy of mass killings and executions, but also sexual slavery, chattel slavery, the destruction of Yazidi homes and shrines, among other crimes.  Women have been sold into slavery and forced into a daily program of rapes and physical abuse. Currently 3,200 Yazidi women and girls are held in sexual slavery across Syria, while Yazidi boys, some as young as 7, are taken from their mothers and indoctrinated into ISIL’s radical interpretation of Sunni Islam to be used as child soldiers. The whereabouts of thousands of Yazidi men and boys are still unaccounted for and 30 mass graves been found in Iraq thus far.

The report also includes a number of recommendations for the relevant parties to the current conflict as well as the broader international community. For contracting parties to the Genocide Convention, the CoI strongly reminds all parties of their obligations as outlined within the Convention and urges them to call on UN bodies to act within the mandate of the UN Charter to halt the ongoing genocide. The Commission also specifically encouraged Iraq and Syria to urgently ratify the Rome Statute and called for the UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to remain seized of the situation, bringing attention to and alerting relevant actors, and advocating on behalf of the Yazidi people. The recommendations also pressured the UN Security Council (UNSC) to do more on the issue, including ensuring that it is continuously on the Council’s docket, considering use of its Chapter VII powers, and referring its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the event that these recommendations are not followed, the report urged the international community to recognize the ongoing situation as the crime of genocide, put pressure on the UNSC to take the necessary actions to halt the genocide, and support the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable. Furthermore, the report also called upon the international community to increase its support for the victims of these crimes through an increased and expedited asylum process as well as supporting them through increased funding for psychological programs.

The full report can be read here.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
I
raq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
S
outh Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other

Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) stated they would like to hold talks with the new government peace negotiator, Dr. Tin Myo Win, before meeting with state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. The pre-negotiations are aimed at smoothing things over before the 21st Century Panglong Conference. The Burmese army also has demands prior to the peace conference, including insisting that three armed groups, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Arakan Army (AA), disarm before negotiations take place. These armed groups have stated they will not comply, further complicating relations prior to the talks.

The Burmese government has resumed construction of a fence along the country’s border with Bangladesh. The porous border previously allowed easy access into Bangladesh for Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

The Kachin National Organization (KNO) has asked Pakistan to stop the sale of fighter jets to the government of Myanmar. The KNO President stated these fighter jets are used by the government to eliminate certain ethnic groups in conflict zones.


Burundi:

A rural secondary school in Burundi sent home 230 students for defacing a picture of President Nkurunziza in their textbooks on 14 June. Last week, 11 high schoolers were arrested for the same crime, facing up to five years in jail as a punishment. Nine schools in eastern Burundi are currently under investigation for defaced pictures of the President in school textbooks.

The United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) will conduct its second visit to Burundi from 13 to 17 June. The human rights situation in Burundi prompts a follow-up visit, where three human rights experts of the UNIIB will meet with civil society, regional partners, victims of human rights violations, and others. The final report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.

A grenade explosion in President Pierre Nkurunziza’s hometown of Ngozi killed two civilians and injured four more on 14 June. The grenade exploded in the hands of the soldier before he threw it into a crowd, killing the soldier.


Central African Republic:

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapped 29 people from two villages in the Central African Republic this week. The kidnappings come as Uganda decided it will withdraw its troops from the African Union (AU) mission in the CAR before the end of the year. 2,500 Ugandan troops currently operate in the CAR, working to hunt down members of the LRA rebel group. According to a recent report by the UN Security Council, LRA rebels have abducted 252 civilians in the first quarter of 2016 alone. The U.N. envoy for Central Africa, Abdoulaye Bathily, said “the withdrawal of the Ugandan troops may create a vacuum which may be used not only by the LRA but also the other armed groups which are in the region.” The leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity for recruiting children as soldiers and sex slaves.

Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians claimed three lives in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui on 12 June. The fighting started as a result of Muslims avenging the death of a Muslim taxi driverbelieved to be killed by Christians on 11 June.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The main opposition parties in the DRC have decided to unite under one umbrella group in order to force President Kabila to leave office. The group calls itself “Rassemblement” or “Rally” and formed itself formally in Belgium last week. Various opposition groups have been holding regular nationwide demonstrations against a potential third term for the current president.


Gaza/West Bank:

The recent cancellation of 83,000 Palestinian travel permits by Israel may be considered “collective punishment,” which is banned under international law. The policy was criticized by the UN as possibly stoking tensions in an already frustrated conflict. The Israeli military also blocked off the West Bank for three days from 10 – 12 June due to security concerns following the attack on a market in Tel Aviv on 8 June that killed four Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he will never accept the Arab Peace Initiative as it is currently on 13 June. The plan, proposed in 2002, promised full diplomatic relations with Arab states in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the 1967 boundary lines. While Arab states have consistently supported the peace initiative, the Israeli government has demanded changes to the conditions several times over the years.

Israeli water company, Mekorot, has cut off water valves supplying Palestinians in the northern West Bank since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli citizens get priority over the Palestinians in receiving water, placing a heavy burden on fasting Palestinians. Meanwhile, 95% of water in Gaza has been deemed “unfit for human use,” according to the European Union (EU). Unsanitary water, caused in large part by cut-offs from Israel, places the 1.8 million people living in Gaza without water, with many already living in poverty. The EU has supported the construction of a desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, which will serve 150,000 residents in its final stage.

Israel’s Defense Ministry announced plans on 16 June to build a wall around the Gaza Strip both above and underground. The plan, estimated to cost $568 million, is to build barriers to counter attacks through underground tunnels running between Gaza and Israel.

Hamas fired dozens of short-range rockets in Gaza on 10 June as part of a test launch. The rockets were not aimed at Israeli territory and did not bring anyone to harm.

Israeli jets launched an airstrike on the southern Gaza Strip on 14 June, causing no damage or casualties. The army stated the attack was part of an air force exercise, however refused to give more details.


Iraq:

On 12 June, Iraqi armed forces launched a new offensive in the Mosul region, pushing towards the village of Hal Aji, situated across the river from the Islamic State hub of Qayara. Qayara contains an airfield which Iraqi forces plan on using as a major-staging ground for the future operation to retake Mosul, only 40 miles to the north.

The same day, Iraqi armed forces around Fallujah managed to create and secure their first safe-exit route for civilians trapped in the ISIL-held city, currently under siege. Within 48 hours, 7,000 people had already managed to escape the city through this route. Iraqi forces announced that they had arrested over 500 suspected members of ISIL, in that figure of 7,000, attempting to flee through the safe-exit route using fake IDs. Since that time, the flow of people escaping from ISIL diminished, dropping from roughly 3,500/day over the weekend to less than 1,000 on Tuesday. ISIL has been conducting a policy of either shooting at civilians as they attempt to flee or demanding a $100 exit tax.

On Monday, the Iraqi government announced that authorities had made the first arrests in regard to reports of the execution of dozens of Sunni men fleeing Fallujah by Shiite militiamen aiding the army in retaking the city. Reports claimed that 643 men had gone missing and been subjected to torture by the militia, with 49 killed. The U.N. reported last week that it “knew of ‘extremely distressing, credible reports’ of men and boys being abused by armed groups working with security forces after fleeing Falluja.” However, not wanting to put such a label on the entirety of Shia militias that Baghdad has come to depend on for its offensives, the Iraqi President, Fuad Massoum, stressed that individuals had committed these acts and that they were not the deliberate actions or orders of a specific group.

Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Security Council and son of KRG President Massoud Barzani, told reporters this week that he believes that after the defeat of ISIL, Iraq should be partitioned into three separate states, including separate states for the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds because the level of mistrust between the different groups comprising Iraq is too high. The Kurds have already taken steps of their own towards independence, heightening tensions with Baghdad.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric who helped rally an insurgency against American forces in Iraq, has asked his supporters to stop attacking the office of rival, Iranian-backed Shiite political parties. Al-Sadr has previously accused these parties of corruption and his followers stormed and assaulted multiple offices at the end of last week. The tension between al-Sadr and the rival political parties began to turn violent in late May, when his supporters stormed Baghdad’s heavily fortified government district, known as the Green Zone, for a second time leading to the deaths of four protesters.

On Wednesday, two separate bomb blasts in Baghdad killed 9 civilians and left multitudes wounded. The attacks targeted a military checkpoint, killing 7 soldiers, and a fruit and vegetable warehouse, killing two civilians.

The United States and Norway have announced a joint initiative to help defuse and destroy mines put in place by ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The $30 million dollar initiative will begin this year and continue through 2017, as the US and Norway prepare to hold a ministerial-level de-mining conference in the autumn at the UN.


Kenya:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited Kenya this week and met with President Uhuru Kenyatta to talk about the future of Somali refugees in refugee camps in Kenya. President Kenyatta assured the High Commissioner that Kenya would uphold its international obligations and respect the rights of the refugees while returning them to Somalia.

Kenyan authorities have taken eight politicians into custody and detained them on allegations of hate speech as tensions grow between government and opposition supporters ahead of the 2017 presidential election. The detainees are made up of members of both the governing Jubilee coalition and the main opposition group, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), and stand accused of making statements that are “laced with ethnic hatred, vilification and border on incitement.” A judge authorized their detention for four days and the politicians are to appear before court again on 17 June.


Libya:

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 15 December to further efforts towards a political solution to the conflict. The current mandate was set to expire on 15 June. The Council also reaffirmed its support for the Libyan Political Agreement as well as the Government of National Accord in stabilizing Libya.

On 14 June, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2292, authorizing inspections of vessels off the coast of Libya suspected of trafficking arms and weapons. The Security Council stated its concern of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups within Libya, most notably ISIL.

Clashes between the government-back military forces and ISIL in Libya left five Libyan soldiers dead and 37 wounded. Libyan forces are preparing for the final battle to regain complete control over Sirte from ISIL. The offensive against ISIL in Libya has left 145 pro-government fighters dead and over 500 injured.


Mali:

The European Council has increased the budget of the European Union’s civilian mission supporting Malian security forces, EUCAP Sahel Mali, by almost 5 million Euros after the recent security incidents in Bamako, the capital.

Clashes between pro-government militias and the Macina Liberation Front, a group of Islamic fighters, killed eight Islamist militants in the Timbuktu region of Mali.


Nigeria:

According to a new report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), women living in displacement sites in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria face a high risk of abuse. The conflict in the region has destroyed the traditional hierarchy system and has caused many families and households to now be run by women. Because of the region’s traditional community and household frameworks, and a strict Islamic doctrine preventing women to leave home to seek a form of livelihood, these female-led households are left without traditional support systems and are often forced to resort to riskier endeavours to meet the basic needs of their households.

On 12 June, only a few days after originally rejecting the government’s proposal for dialogue, the Niger Delta Avengers blew up a second crude oil pipeline in the region. The Avengers have since said that they will consider peace talks, but have also stated that they are now considering overturning another previous decision to avoid taking lives. The Avengers also reiterated a warning to oil companies not to try to repair previously blown-up facilities or pipelines.

Amnesty International has released a new report claiming that the Nigerian military has killed at least 17 Biafra secessionist protesters, including some who were shot in the back, indicating that they may have been fleeing. The Nigerian military has denied these claims, but Amnesty International is calling for the government to investigate the incident, which occurred last month in the city of Onitsha.


South Sudan:

Fighting broke out on 11 June in Central Equatoria state just south of the capital, Juba, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar. The clashes left 21 people dead and dozens injured, making this outburst of fighting the deadliest in the area since the formation of the transitional government of national unity. The forces of both sides in the area have yet to be cantoned to specific areas in the state.

On 13 June, members of South Sudan’s national security forces opened fire on students at Juba University during an election of the guild president of the university. The incident was allegedly preceded by arguments between students supporting the opposition leader, First Vice President Machar, and those supporting President Kiir. As the arguments escalated, the security forces are alleged to have broken in and intimidated the students, resulting in shots being fired and students being pushed off campus.

On Wednesday, a group of armed men overtook the town of Raja, the administrative headquarters of the newly created Lol state. The governor and his cabinet fled under heavy gunfire, with the location of the deputy governor unknown. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack on the border town. However, the assault included a direct attempt on the governor’s life and left several injured. South Sudanese government forces managed to retake the town the next day, noting that several tribes in the area have been frustrated with the creation of the new state.

The UN has released its latest figures on those fleeing from violence in South Sudan, stating that 47,000 South Sudanese have fled into Sudan since the beginning of the year, citing the continued outbreaks of violence in South Sudan coupled with growing food insecurity. UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, also noted that “spoilers” are still operating in South Sudan in hopes of derailing the peace process. Since the formation of the unity government, the UN has seen three of its aid workers killed while working to support the over 150,000 civilians remaining in UN-guarded camps.

The President of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), Ambassador Choi Kyonglim, has appointed the members of the Commission of Human Rights in South Sudan. The Commission has a one-year mandate to investigate the human rights situation in South Sudan and make recommendations for its improvement. The Commissioner will also advise the South Sudanese government on matters of transitional justice, accountability, and reconciliation issues and work with international and regional mechanisms.

On 15 June, Governor Patrick Zamoi of the newly created South Sudan state of Gbudue, helped launch the start of a three-year reintegration program targeting conflict-affected communities in the town of Yambio. The program seeks to teach peacebuilding techniques and increase peacebuilding capacities amongst communities. The program, supported financially by UNICEF, will particularly target women, children, and youth who were formally fighting in the civil war and need to be reintegrated into society.


Sudan/Darfur:

Over the weekend members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services raided the home of the director of the El Khatim Adlan Centre for Enlightenment (KACE), El Bagir El Afif. KACE is among several civil society organizations that have been forcefully closed by the Sudanese government in recent years. This comes in the wake of the detention of several members of a separate civil society organization for the past several weeks by security services.

Clashes broke out on Monday when pro-government militia members attacked police and government troops in the central Darfur town of Zalingei after police arrested a high-ranking militia leader accused of stealing vehicles. The fighting was an attempt to secure his release.

On 13 June, the Sudanese government officially announced the dissolution of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) and the Darfur Peace Office in July. This is one of the final steps in the implementation of the peace agreement in Darfur.  The DRA was an outcome of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), implemented in July 2011. The original 4-year mandate of the DRA to implement the peace document was extended for an additional year last summer.

Sudanese Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf has announced that the Border Guard Forces (BGF) will take part in the collection of illegal weapons in Darfur. The first phase of the operation will be on a voluntary basis, while the second will involve heavy disarmament operations and legal action. However, the BGF is mainly composed of the infamous Arab militias that the central government used when Darfur first rose up in rebellion in 2003, raising concerns over potential abuses and previous tensions rising.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, noted this week that minimal progress has been made in creating a political solution for the crisis in Darfur and, as such, the mandate of the joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) should be extended for another year. Contained in the Special Report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission on UNAMID, Mr. Ladsous’ assessment of the situation highlights that sectarian violence continues to fester in Darfur due to disputes over access to land, water, and grazing areas, creating an atmosphere of insecurity. Currently 2.6 Million people remain internally displaced in Darfur.

On 15 June, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) requested the participation of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the current peace process in Sudan. The two rebel groups, which have been in conflict in Darfur with the central government since 2003, have not signed onto the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and, although they hope to sign the Document, they would like to see it opened up for re-negotiation on certain issues. As of now, the two groups also refuse to sign the Roadmap Agreement facilitated by the African Union requesting the creation of a positive environment for the constitutional conference. In the past, the Sudanese government has accused Uganda of supporting rebellion in Darfur. This tension has led the US Special Envoy for Sudan to meet with the two rebel groups later this week in hopes of overcoming the current halt in the peace process.


Syria:

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) pushed further against ISIL this week in their offensive to capture Manbij. The SDF cut off the last supply route from the nearby town of al-Bab, which has allowed the SDF to lay siege to the town from all sides. However, the forces are still holding back from an all-out assault on Manbi out of fear of harming the civilians trapped in the city.

ISIL kidnapped dozens of Kurdish villagers this week in the northwest of Aleppo, after storming several villages. The estimated number of those kidnapped is 210. The event has raised fears that those taken may be used as human-shields by ISIL, as is currently being done in Manbij. Others fear that they may become the victims of revenge killings for the actions of the SDF.

On Saturday, 12 people died from a triple-suicide bombing in the Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab. Has has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out in a predominantly Shia area, home to the holiest Shia shrine in Syria.

Airstrikes in the city of Idlib killed 34 people on Sunday, while other airstrikes in Maarat al-Numan killed seven people. Although neither the Syrian nor Russian governments have claimed responsibility, the Syrian government began an intensified aerial campaign in Idlib province last month.

On 15 June, fighting in Aleppo province killed over 70 people, as the Syrian government, rebels, and jihadists all engaged in intense fighting. The majority of this fighting took place in the villages of Zaytan and Khalasa to the southwest of Aleppo. The government also greatly increased the intensity of airstrikes and shelling on rebel-held supply lines to the north of the city. The combination of these circumstances has recently left Aleppo cut off from aid deliveries. In light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation there, the parties declared a 48-hour ceasefire, which went into effect at midnight on Wednesday. However, humanitarian officials have stressed that the ceasefire does not provide nearly enough time to deliver the required humanitarian assistance to the city.

Syrian armed forces attempted to advance on the ISIL-held town of Tabqa on 15 June. The city lies in eastern Syria on the Euphrates river, home to an important dam. The advance halted as ISIL mounted a counterattack, which has left 28 dead. Earlier in the month, buoyed by Russian air support, government troops had started their advance on Tabqa. However, ISIL has been reinforcing the town in anticipation of an intense government assault.

An aid convoy of 31 trucks entered the besieged city of al-Houla, home to 14,200 families on 11 June. This is the first out of a multitude of planned convoys to reach Syria’s 19 besieged areas, allowed after the Syrian government finally acquiesced to UN and international pressure. The delivery comes in the wake of a food aid convoy entering the city of Daraya for the first time since 2012, this past Friday. However, hours after they convoy left, airstrikes by the Syrian government were reported in the area, casting doubt on the Syrian government’s overall commitment.

In the days following the start of the planned aid convoys, the Syria Campaign released a report accusing the UN of losing its impartiality in Syria due to the overwhelming majority of aid being delivered to government held areas. The report based its findings off of interviews with both former and current aid workers in Syria, claiming that the UN’s fear of having its visas revoked or being kicked out of the country have led it to comply with the Syrian government of directing aid only to government held areas. The report further calls for the UN to set conditions for how it interacts with the Syrian government that will insure impartiality in aid delivery and that if they are not met that the U.N. should withdraw any and all cooperation with the Syrian government. The UN Spokesperson responded to the report by stating that calling such work impartial “discredits the amazing work of our colleagues, mostly Syrians, are doing every day to try to deliver aid to the Syrian people.”

After United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura stated that a large number of prisoners had been released from the Adra Central Prison near Damascus, the Syrian National Council (SNC) has come forward claiming that the former prisoners had been released after they agreed to join the Syrian armed forces. They are being sent to the frontlines near Aleppo and Qamishli to fight ISIL in order to decrease defections, according to the SNC.

In a report, released on Monday, the UN confirmed that it is making progress in its investigation of nine chemical weapons attacks in Syria. However, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), set up by the UNSC last year, has not yet determined who is responsible for the attacks and is asking the member states to be more forthcoming with information. The 24-member team will give its final report in August, when its one-year mandate ends into their investigation into what have mostly been described as attacks using chlorine gas in barrel bombs.

On Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lambasted international donors for their lack of commitment to pledges made to help those countries dealing with greatest pressure from the Syrian refugee crisis. In February, several countries, including some of the world’s most well off, pledged $11 billion to help Syria’s regional neighbors manage their growing refugee populations. However, only $2.5 million has actually been given so far.


Yemen:

On 13 June, a suspected overnight drone-strike, most likely carried out by the United States, killed three alleged al-Qaida militants in the central Shabwa province. At the same time, the Saudi-led coalition began a series of raids in the former south-Yemen al-Qaida stronghold of Mukalla, detaining some 150 men.

On 14 June, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, reneged on his plans to submit a roadmap for peace for Yemen. In doing so, an anonymous source cited that fault in the delay lies primarily with ““the [Houthi] rebels’ intransigent stance which their last statement has revealed and which took negotiations back.” The first portion of the proposed, and currently in limbo, peace plan will allegedly involve preliminary procedures. In light of this, on 15 June, the two sides began discussions over forming military and security committees to oversee a transition period. However, sticking points remain over the Houthi refusal to turn over their heavy weapons and the government having no desire to include the Houthis in a unity government. This contention over the Houthis refusal to budge on this position has led the Yemeni government to threaten to pull out of the talks.

On 14 June, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report tallying the continued human devastation since the beginning of the ceasefire in Yemen two months ago. Despite the ceasefire, MSF treated 1,624 people with injuries in the city of Taiz due to continued intense fighting in the city. The report highlights that none of the parties to the conflict appear to be making an effort to halt the civilian casualties in the area.

On 15 June, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it will end its military operation in Yemen, stating “war is over for our troops.” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated the UAE was “monitoring political engagement and empowering Yemenis in liberated areas.” While the UAE has announced its withdrawal, fighting has continued in several areas of the country leaving 48 dead over Wednesday and Thursday, with the besieged city of Taiz seeing renewed heavy clashes.


What else is new?

The ICRtoP released an infographic designed as an educational tool on the Geneva III peace process and Syria. The infographic explores the actors involved, those left out of the process, the issues at stake, and the current situation in Syria since the talks stalled.Please view the infographic here.

The Group of Friends of RtoP based in Geneva delivered a joint statement commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council.

The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 7 June in response to the inflammatory rhetoric by President Jammeh of the Gambia. The Special Advisor condemned language that was used at a political rally on 3 June, in which he referred to the Mandinka ethnic group as “enemies, foreigners,” and threatened to kill members of the group. The Special Adviser reminded that such “incitement to violence can be both a warning sign and a powerful trigger for atrocity crimes,” and urged President Jammeh to fulfill Gambia’s responsibility to protect.

On 6 June, the Friends Committee on National Legislation released a sign on letter with support from 44 NGOs, including the ICRtoP, urging Congressional Action on Executive Order S.2551 of 18 March.

Last week the United States Institute of Peace released a PeaceBrief entitled, China and the Responsibility to Protect: From Opposition to Advocacy. Written by Courtney J. Fung, the PeaceBrief explores China’s position on RtoP by providing a historical trajectory of the country’s engagement with the principle.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

Untitled

Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

On 8 June, The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released a report stating that widespread crimes against humanity have been committed in the country over the past 25 years since its independence in 1991. The report’s findings are based on testimonies from 833 Eritreans. 45,000 written submissions were received during the second investigation this past year, revealing common themes of an orchestrated government campaign to refute the Inquiry’s claims. The crimes found to have been committed include enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder, and other acts aimed at maintaining an authoritarian rule in Eritrea. The Commission found the Eritrean government, military commanders, and members of the National Security Office to be directly responsible for the crimes and the enslavement of almost 400,000 Eritreans. Notably, since the Commission of Inquiry’s last report published in June 2015, the authors underscored that “no improvement was found in the human rights situation in Eritrea.”

328537eb-532b-4e93-a6ee-530d23f81c36

400,000 people, nearly five percent of the population, have fled Eritrea due to the country’s indefinite military and national service programs. Under Eritrean law, each citizen must serve 18 months in national service, yet many serve for an indefinite period, with the report noting the use of conscription as a means of forced labor.  5,000 Eritreans per month attempt to flee the country, despite the danger of facing border guards with orders to shoot to kill people leaving the country. There were 47,025 Eritreans  seeking asylum in Europe in 2015, making the group the second-largest group of asylum seekers. As one expert journalist noted, ““Denied a chance to express themselves at home, Eritreans continue to vote with their feet, which is as strong a confirmation of the commission’s findings as any.”

All governments, including the Eritrean government, have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. When a state is unable or, as the CoI determined in its report, is itself the perpetrator of such crimes, the international community has a key role to play and must take timely and decisive action to ensure that populations are protected from mass atrocity crimes. The CoI report articulates a range of recommendations for the government, various UN bodies, Member States, and the African Union to implement to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, ensure justice for victims, and establish the policies and mechanisms needed to prevent future atrocities. As Eritrea is an authoritarian state with no democratic institutions, the resulting power vacuum creates “a climate of impunity for crimes against humanity to be perpetrated,” says Mike Smith, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry. As such, the Commission of Inquiry recommended that the African Union establish a mechanism for accountability, as well as for the Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. It further suggests the Council impose travel bans and asset freezes; for the Human Rights Council to support a structure within OHCHR with a protection and promotion mandate; and for member states to assist Eritrea to strengthen its judiciary and reform its security sector.
Read the Commission’s report and full recommendations here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The Arakan state government has said it will begin taking count of the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in camps within three of the state’s townships. The government had not previously accounted for Muslims in the state during the 2014 census due to their refusal to identify as Bengali. However, some Muslim villagers are still refusing to participate in the census because neither their nationality nor religion will be displayed on the identification card.

The Buddhist extremist group Ma Ba Tha held their annual summit on 4 June in Yangon. Known as The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, the anti-Muslim group consistently urges the government to protect Buddhism and strictly implement the citizenship law of 1982 denying Rohingya Muslims citizenship.


Burundi:

Burundi police opened fire on a protest by schoolchildren on 3 June, who were rallying against the detainment of 11 high schoolers arrested for defacing a photo of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Though authorities released six students on Tuesday, five remain to face prosecution. UNICEF has expressed its concern over the arbitrary arrests and called on Burundi to ensure the right of children’s education.

A Burundian journalist was arrested while visiting friends on 5 June. Egide Ndayisenga worked at Bonesha FM, a radio station shut down in May 2015 for conspiring with generals who opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza.


Central African Republic:

The remains of 18 people killed by peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo in the Central African Republic were found in a mass grave near a peacekeeping camp in Boali. Found in February 2016, the bodies have been identified as anti-Balaka members arrested by peacekeepers in March 2014. Human Rights Watch is calling on the Congolese government to take action against the guilty soldiers serving in the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA.

In a note from the Secretary-General on 8 June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the investigations launched by the UN in response to the allegations against peacekeepers. The Secretary-General’s note assures the peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were investigated promptly and 20 implicated Congolese peacekeepers were disciplined and banned from future service in UN peacekeeping operations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expects full disciplinary and judicial action to be taken by the Republic of Congo to hold the perpetrators accountable.

France suspended five of its peacekeepers due to violence against civilians during their mission in the Central African Republic. The violence, which occurred in early 2014, was not linked to the widespread allegations of sexual abuse. Four other peacekeepers not complicit but aware of the attacks were given disciplinary action as well.

UN officials announced on 3 June that Burundi police units stationed in the Central African Republic will not be replaced. The decision to terminate the police mission was made “given the current allegations of serious and ongoing human rights violations in Burundi,” said peacekeeping advisor Stefan Feller. 840 military troops will continue serving in the Central African Republic mission.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Thousands flocked to Kinshasa on Saturday to celebrate President Joseph Kabila’s birthday and show their support for him. At the rally, another high party official made a suggestion to hold a referendum on the extension of the president’s rule, a pronouncement which is likely to fuel suspicions that Kabila may be attempting to stay in power beyond the constitutional two-term limit.

The UN, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) have reaffirmed their support, in a joint statement, for the political dialogue in the DRC and have urged all stakeholders to work together for its sustained success. They also encouraged the government to uphold its commitment to protecting the human rights and freedoms enshrined in the DRC’s Constitution, including the release of political prisoners.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel is holding discussions with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the investigation into possible war crimes during the 2014 50-day war with Gaza. While no details have been given, the dialogue indicates a shift from Israel’s former refusal to cooperate with the ICC on the basis that Palestine can not be considered a sovereign state under an international court.

Israeli minister Uri Ariel has plans to fully annex Area C of the West Bank, currently under total Israeli military control. Numbers on the Arab population of Area C remain a mystery, with the UN estimating as many as 297,500 and Israel estimating as low as 50,000.

Israel has approved the construction of 82 new settlement homes in a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the new permits raise tensions following the Arab-Israeli peace talks held in Paris last week.

Palestine will hold talks with French Special Envoy Pierre Vimont to discuss the suggestions made during last week’s peace talks in Paris.

Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire in a popular food and retail center in Tel Aviv across from Israel’s Defense Ministry on 8 June, killing 4 and wounding a dozen others. Hamas has welcomed the attack, but no Palestinian group has yet taken responsibility for the killings. In response to the attack, Israel strongly increased its military presence in the West Bank and revoked the travel permits of 83,000 West Bank Palestinians, cancelling the recent policy to ease travel for Palestinians in the month of Ramadan.


Iraq:

On 5 June, Iraqi forces and allied militia took control of several suburbs of Fallujah to the south, with the only side of Fallujah that remained to be secured being the western bank of the Euphrates. On Wednesday, Iraqi forces officially entered into Fallujah for the first time in two years. While met with initial success, the offensive to retake Fallujah temporarily had been halted over humanitarian concerns and is expected to be slowed as the Iraqi army meets more resistance from ISIL and deals with the 50,000 civilians being used as human shields.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has released information corroborating witness reports that ISIL fighters are shooting civilians attempting to flee the ISIL-held city of Fallujah prior to the start of a government offensive to retake the city. As of the start of the week, 6 June, 18,000 people have managed to flee from Fallujah and the surrounding area, while another 50,000 remain trapped in the city.

Allegations have arisen that hundreds of civilians may have recently been tortured by Shia militias on their push to retake Fallujah. Local officials have confirmed that militias took roughly 600 people as prisoners in fighting over the previous weekend. The Iraqi government has recently attempted to assure the public against abuses by these militias, announcing the formation of a human rights committee to investigate all allegations.

Iraqi forces uncovered a mass grave containing 400 bodies found to the northwest of Fallujah. The bodies are believed to be those of Iraqi troops captured by ISIL.

On 6 June, bomb blasts across Baghdad killed 23 people. Three separate attacks took place in the north, south, and west of Baghdad, and come in the wake of a separate bombing on Sunday that killed 9 people. On 7 June, 10  people died from a car bomb in the Iraqi city of Karbala. The attack injured a further 25 people in the city, which is one of the holiest to Shi’ite Muslims due to its famed Imam Hussein Shrine. ISIL has claimed responsibility. On Thursday, two suicide-bombings in Baghdad claimedthe lives of 30 people.


Kenya:

On Monday, protests against Kenya’s election body left at least one person dead and others wounded in the city of Kisumu, while others also demonstrated in Nairobi. The next day, Kenya’s government banned all protests against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), calling them “unlawful demonstrations.”

On Wednesday, President Kenyatta proposed establishing a bipartisan committee within parliament to consider the issue. At first, opposition leaders rejected the idea, but after talking to church leaders, who have been acting as mediators, the opposition softened its position saying, “We are now saying at least he has recognized the need to discuss IEBC but that alone is not enough.” They also added that if they feel their concerns are not being considered, then protests would recommence.


Libya:

On 9 June, Libyan forces captured the ISIL stronghold city of Sirte. ISIL fighters reportedly shaved off their beards to avoid persecution before retreating from the city. Libyan forces faced little resistance as they pushed into the city of about 5,000 ISIL soldiers. Soldiers celebrated as army tanks pulled into the town’s central Zafarana square, used by ISIL as a podium for public beheadings and killings. Sirte’s capture caps the end of a month-long battle between Libyan military and Islamic State fighters.

In a six point plan, the Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, underlined the need for a unified government in Libya against a common enemy of terrorist groups, such as ISIL.

The EU urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing EU naval forces to intercept ships smuggling arms into Libya. EU ships have seized migrant-smuggling ships in the Mediterranean successfully in the past.

In a new interview, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj welcomed help from the international community in Libya’s fight against terrorism but rejected foreign military intervention. Sarraj stated that foreign intervention would “offend national pride and run contrary to Libya’s principles.”


Nigeria:

The court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) fined Nigeria $3.25 million on Wednesday for the “barbaric, illegal, and unconstitutional” extrajudicial killings of eight civilians and wounding of 11 other individuals, who were shot by government forces in the capital in 2013. The fine is to be paid to the victims and families in compensation for their losses.

Nigerian authorities have suspended military attacks in the Niger Delta region to allow for talks with oil militants, the Niger Avengers. Thousands have fled the conflict between the military and oil militants in the region. On Wednesday, the Niger Delta Avengers announced via Twitter that it would not negotiate with any committee from the government. The group has also claimed to have blown up a Chevron pipeline near the Dibbi flow station in the Niger Delta, which a local community leader confirmed.


 South Sudan:

On 7 June, the leaders of the two previously warring parties in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and the newly re-appointed Vice President Riek Machar, released an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the creation of a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission. They further stated that “In contrast to reconciliation, disciplinary justice — even if delivered under international law — would destabilize efforts to unite our nation by keeping alive anger and hatred among the people of South Sudan.” In this regard, they called on the international community to reconsider the establishment of an international tribunal, a key component of the August peace deal. The proposal was rejected by many, with Human Rights Watch calling it a “self-serving attempt to evade justice”.

On 3 June, South Sudanese military intelligence personnel working with the national security service abducted two students at Juba University. The University has served as a hub for those who are critical of the current South Sudanese leadership, with this only being the latest in a series of abductions by security services. Those who are taken tend to be held for at least a month with no access to their families or legal representation. As of yet, the location or charges against the two students are unknown.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 3 June, UNHCR highlighted the plight of people still fleeing from fighting and indiscriminate government attacks in the South Kordofan State of Sudan. This past weekend marked five years since the fighting started in that region. Since that time, over 250,000 refugees have fled to South Sudan from the epicenter of the fighting, the Nuba mountains. 2016 has seen 7,500 new refugees so far.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N)  acknowledged that the Sudanese government had captured several strategic points in the Jebel Kigu region of the Blue Nile State. However, the SPLM-N also claims to have successfully repelledseveral more recent government assaults last Friday, leading to the death of 25 government soldiers.

Continuing discussions which began last week in Doha, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) rebel groups held a series of indirect discussion in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, on how they can join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), finally coming to terms of peace with the Sudanese government.

On 5 June, an attack by militiamen on the Sudanese military, in Kutum in North Darfur, killed three Sudanese soldiers.


Syria:

On 4 June, in what is being dubbed the “race for Raqqa”, Syrian government forces crossed into Raqqa province thanks to heavy gains made in an offensive backed by Russian air support. Earlier last week, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expanded their offensive in the north of Raqqa province to also strike west towards another strategic airbase while simultaneously launching a new offensive on the ISIL-controlled Manbij pocket in northern Aleppo, which if taken would cut off the terrorist group’s main artery for the ebb and flow of foreign fighters. As of Thursday, the SDF had reached the militants last main route in and out of the area. ISIL forces also began retreating from their frontline positions north of Aleppo as rebel groups staged a counter-offensive against the terrorist group.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) asked the Turkish government to open their borders to the steadily growing number of Syrians displaced by the increased fighting in northern Aleppo, on 2 June. Roughly 100,000 Syrians have already been taking shelter from the conflict on the Syrian side of the border in the area and are now trapped due to the uptick in fighting between rebel-forces and ISIL. In the wake of this request, the UN fears that an additional 200,000 Syrians could be displaced by the SDF offensive against the ISIL-held city of Manbij.

On 3 June, in the wake of the US and others beginning to plan airdrops on besieged areas of Syria, the Syrian government has announced they will allow the UN and the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid overland into at least 11 of 19 previously-designated besieged areas in the month of June. Eight other areas received separate approval for medical and school supplies as well as milk for young children. However, the UN is still calling the current Syrian government’s approved access, to 23 of the 34 areas on the UN’s deliveries list, inadequate.

In a televised speech on Tuesday made before the new Syrian parliament, President Assad promised that the Syrian government would “liberate” every part of Syria and publicly hardened the bargaining stance of his government at the Geneva peace talks, stressing that Syria would be under the leadership of a “unity government” and not a “transitional governing body”.

Sihanouk Dibo, the presidential advisor to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), on 5 June, made public that they had been invited by UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura to Geneva and will subsequently take part in the next round of peace talks. The talks, colloquially referred to as Geneva III, have so far excluded the PYD due to Turkish security concerns, despite the large amounts of territory the group controls in northern Syria as well as their success against ISIL.

On 5 June, barrel bombs- oil drums or cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel- killed 53 people in the city of Aleppo. An additional eight people died from rebel shelling of government held areas of the city. These airstrikes come in the wake of others that killed 29 people, some with barrel bombs, at the end of last week as well as an overall tripling of Russian air strikes in Syria that took place over the past several days. Meanwhile, on Monday airstrikes carried out in the ISIL-held town of Al-Asharah, in Deir Ezzor province killed 17 people as they were shopping in a public market on the opening day of Ramadan. Still more airstrikes on Wednesday struck three hospitals in Aleppo, killing 20 people as the government offensive on the city intensifies. This brings the total number of medical facilities targeted in the last two months up to 17, with only 7 hospitals still operating in Aleppo.


Yemen:

Saudi Arabia has refused to accept the findings of a report issued by the UN last week that heavily criticized the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. On 2 June, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put the Saudi-led coalition on the annual blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights during conflicts, stating that coalition airstrikes were behind 60% (510 in total) of children’s deaths in 2015. The report also blacklisted the Houthi group and forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Nevertheless, after complaints from Saudi officials, the UN took Saudi Arabia off the child blacklist, announcing it would conduct a joint review with the Saudi-led coalition to examine all instances that originally led to Saudi Arabia being placed on the list. Civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch, denounced the removal, with HRW’s children’s rights advocacy director, Jo Becker, stating that “the secretary-general’s decision flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that violations by the Saudi-led coalition have killed and maimed hundreds of children in Yemen.”

On 6 June, the UN envoy to the Yemen peace talks in Kuwait, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced that the Houthi-rebels and Saudi-backed government have both agreed to release all child prisoners. While it is not known how many child prisoner either side is holding, recent reports by Human Rights Watch and UNICEF have condemned both sides for using child soldiers and for the 900 children killed and 1,500 wounded in 2015 alone.

On 4 June, the UN condemned the recent attacks in Taiz which killed 11 people, with the UN Secretary-General Bai Ki-moon reminding all parties to the conflict that that targeting civilian areas is a violation of international humanitarian law.

In accordance with the agreement reached earlier this week, Saudi Arabia has transferred 54 child prisoners, captured in offensives against the Houthi rebels, over to the Yemeni government. The government went on to announce that the children would be quickly freed.


What else is new?

On 3 June, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his annual report on children and armed conflict for the year of 2015. The report noted in detail what the Secretary-General called the shocking scale of violations in conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The report noted that an ever-increasing number of children are finding themselves in situations of conflict and are suffering abuses and violations of their rights. The report further calls upon Member States to make, “as a matter of priority, changes in policies, military procedures and legislation, where necessary, to prevent violations and protect children.” The full report can be found here.

On 24 June, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds will co-host the final workshop in their three year Economic and Social Research Council funded series on the Responsibility to Protect & Prosecute. This workshop will focus on United Nations Reform and RtoP. To find out more about the event and how to attend, please click here.

On 9 June, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) released their annual Peoples Under Threat and Index Map for 2016. The map’s stated purpose it to help identify those populations which are at the greatest risk of genocide, mass political killings or systematic violent repression. The report highlights in particular the relationship between the current refugee crisis and persecution, demonstrating the connection between the two and how it is likely to increase. The Index can be viewed here.


Above photo: Human Rights Watch.”EU: Migrants Seeking Opportunity or Refugees Seeking Protection?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 30 May – 3 June 2016

 Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/8fa56621-d238-4766-bfa1-74e81cb6811e.png

Habre Conviction Provides Hope for Victims
and Historic Precedent for Ending Impunity
 

 

On 30 May, in a landmark case, the Extraordinary African Chambers (CAE) in Dakar, Senegal found Chad’s former dictator, Hissène Habré, guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, rape, and sexual slavery during his rule, sentencing him to life in prison for these crimes. This marks the first time that a judicial system of a foreign country has tried a former ruler of a different country for human rights crimes and it has had a monumental impact for both the victims of Mr. Habré’s crimes and for international justice. Highlighting the impact of the verdict, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that “in a world scarred by a constant stream of atrocities, the ramifications of this verdict are global.”

Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990 when he was ousted by current president, Idriss Déby Itno, and fled to Senegal. Estimates suggest that during his time in power, the country’s security services under his command killed 40,000 people and arrested over 200,000. For the past 25 years since his overthrowing, victims groups and civil society organizations have fought ardently, first in Senegal and then in Belgium, for the prosecution of Mr. Habré for these crimes, but Senegal repeatedly refused to either prosecute or extradite him. Victims and human rights groups continued their campaign until finally in late 2012, the African Union (AU) put pressure on the country and supported measures to create the CAE. Six months later, Mr. Habré was arrested in Dakar and in July 2015, he made his first appearance before the court. A second series of hearings to determine damages for the civil parties and other victims are set to begin in June or July of this year.

Bringing Mr. Habré to justice for his crimes has undoubtedly emphasized the importance of universal jurisdiction in ending impunity for international crimes, but it has also represented a notable breakthrough in the international prosecution of sexual crimes. Mr. Habré was convicted of the rape and sexual slavery of women forced to serve his troops and of having personally raped a woman, marking another historic international first for the proceedings; it is the first time a former dictator has been convicted personally for rape.

Overall, Mr. Habré’s case has provided an international precedent to inspire hope for victims and to present a daunting promise to past and future perpetrators that, as Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said, “Safe havens are no longer safe for those suspected of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes under international law.”

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote d’Ivoire
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On May 30, the government of Myanmar announced  State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will chair a new high-level committee on the Arakan State, home to the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority group. Violence in 2013 and 2014 left nearly 140,000 Rohingya displaced, with only a small amount resettling since then. The new committee will be called the Central Committee for Arakan State Peace, Stability and Development. The committee has not been given a clear structure and purpose yet, but early indicators state it will have two thematic areas: resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) and “social development”; and coordinating the activities of UN agencies and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). The Burmese government plans to spend $5.9 million to help develop the impoverished state.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a growing population of Burmese refugees in Thailand are seeking assistance to return home. Of the 120,000 refugees on the Thai-Burmese border, a large number are expected to return during the dry season next year. The UNHCR will facilitate large-scale returns as long as refugees’ repatriation is voluntary.


Burundi:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed last week’s meetings of the political dialogue for Burundi in Arusha. He has also commended former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the East African Community (EAC) facilitator of the talks, for his decision to also meet with those stakeholders not in attendance in Arusha. In his statement, he emphasized a solution could only be found through an inclusive dialogue process which upholds the Burundian Constitution and the principles of the UN-backed Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi.

The UN food relief agency estimates around 4.6 million Burundians are facing food insecurity, with over 500,00 people requiring urgent emergency food assistance. A report from the World Food Programme (WFP) stated that 265,000 Burundians have fled the country since 31 May into neighboring countries, with as many as 1,000 leaving per week. Refugee camps in surrounding states are currently only 28% funded and still require $127 million more in order to just meet basic needs, according to the UNHCR.

The EU has pledged an additional 10 million Euros in humanitarian aid to Burundian refugees in neighboring countries such as Tanzania, which houses the highest population of Burundian refugees with 139,000. The supplementary aid is purposed for supporting basic necessities for refugees in resource-strained camps in Tanzania. The EU has terminated its direct support to the Burundian government due to its human rights violations.


Central African Republic:

Rwandan peacekeepers conducted a medical outreach camp in Bria City in eastern Central African Republic on Sunday in partnership with the CAR Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in honor of International UN Peacekeepers Day, celebrated annually on May 29. The Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) medical personnel are part of the UN mission in CAR. Free medical services were offered to the population, including vaccinations against measles, medical consultation services, and support to the regional and university hospital in the city with specialists.

joint effort between the UN Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Burundi, and Gabon is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. With allegations dating back to 2014, teams are conducting interviews of more than 60 of the 106 complaints of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers. The majority of complaints have been made against French soldiers from Operation Sangaris.

The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Central Africa, released 1 June, stated the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR “documented incidents involving 915 victims, including 53 women, 48 boys and 30 girls.” It noted that 269 of the documented human rights violations were perpetrated by members from the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka fighting groups, among others.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its latest brief on the trial in Côte d’Ivoire of the former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in the country when Mrs. Gbagbo’s husband, then-president Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede power, resulting in violence and the deaths of at least 3,000 civilians. HRW has warned that the trial must be “credible, fair, and followed by other trials that target high-level rights abusers from both sides” of the crisis. Other human rights groups have refused to participate in the trial on behalf of the victims, citing an incomplete investigation looking into Mrs. Gbagbo’s role in the abuses committed and the breaches of the country’s criminal procedures during trial preparation.

The UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, at the end of her three day visit in Côte d’Ivoire, has welcomed the progress the country’s authorities have made, especially the national armed forces, in taking steps to combat and respond to sexual crimes and conflict-related sexual violence.


Gaza/West Bank:

On 1 June, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated he is ready to commence in dialogue with the newly-appointed Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman should Israel accept the two-state solution. Members of the Palestinian executive committee stated the peace initiative should be “attached with practical steps of action,” including pulling out of settlements. With hopes of moving towards a peaceful two-state solution, the multilateral peace meeting with Israel will begin June 3. While Palestine will not be present, Arab States have noted they will represent the Palestinian authority during the meeting.

The European Union (EU) has warned against Israel’s continued demolition of Palestinian homes, whose construction the EU has funded. At least 900 people have been displaced due to the recent demolitions in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba. Home demolitions, along with increasing Israeli settlements, make Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution questionable, according to the EU.

The World Bank recently reported that 90% of water reservoirs in the West Bank are contaminated, making the water there undrinkable. In addition to the 60% youth unemployment rate, about 40% of Gaza’s residents live in poverty, making a humanitarian crisis in the area imminent.

On 2 June, the Israeli military infiltrated the Gaza border into Palestinian-owned farmland near al-Bureij Refugee Camp. Four Israeli army tanks and three bulldozers razed the land, firing indiscriminately in all directions. No injuries were reported.


Iraq:

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) announced on Wednesday that a recent Peshmerga offensive, backed by international coalition airstrikes, has liberated nine villages north and east of Mosul in an operation that took place over the past two days.

On 30 May, Iraqi forces began the so-called ‘final assault’ to recapture Fallujah from ISIL. The announcement of the offensive comes in the wake of Iraqi forces completing their ensnaring of Fallujah on Sunday, surrounding the city on all sides and seizing control of all entrances. ISIL is believed to have 1,200 fighters in Fallujah and retaliated with three bomb attacks in Baghdad and the surrounding area.

The top Shi’ite Cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has requested caution from the Iraqi government and its allied Shia militias in the fight to retake Fallujah. The Grand Ayatollah expressed concern over the plight of the 50,000 civilians estimated to be trapped in the city, noting the potential for a large civilian death toll to play into ISIL’s narrative and create further sectarian conflict.

On 1 June, UNICEF issued a warning about the estimated 20,000 children still trapped in Fallujah, stressing that children may be forced to fight for ISIL, now that Fallujah has been surrounded by Iraqi armed forces. The statement also called for Iraqi armed forces to ensure the creation of a safe-corridor for both children and all trapped civilians to escape through.

Heeding these calls from domestic and international quarters, Iraq has temporarily postponed its assault on Fallujah over concern of the fate of civilians. However, while Iraqi forces remain outside the city, shelling, airstrikes, and gunfire could still be heard on Wednesday in the city.

The UN has put the number of Iraqis who have fled from ISIL-controlled Mosul to Syria at 4,000 since May. Furthermore, the UN is anticipating this number to increase to over 50,000 as the Iraqi government plans an offensive against the city and as reports have surfaced from Fallujah that ISIL has increased executions of boys and men in the wake of the recent government offensive.

The U.N. World Food Progamme (WFP) director of Iraq, Jane Pearce, announced the WFP is working on contingency plans for expectations that up to 700,000 people could become internally displaced by a planned Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul. The WFP is already aiding 1.5 million people in Iraq and the most recent contingency plan is being drawn up to meet a further 900,000.

A monthly report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated 867 people were killed and 1,456 injured in Iraq in the month of May. The report does not include casualties in the northern Anbar province, the site of the increasing battle between the Iraqi army and ISIS around Fallujah.


Kenya:

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called the government’s recent claims that the opposition has committed “acts of treason” and is supported by foreign governments to foster instability in the country “reckless and irresponsible.” The KNCHR went on to add that the government should have conducted investigations into the allegations before making such claims.

Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaisserry has announced that Kenya will close the Dadaab refugee camp, home to 300,000 Somalis, in November. He also said that Kenya will work in close cooperation with the UN and Somali authorities to repatriate the Somalis living in the camp, which he insisted would be conducted in a humane way.


Libya:

Arab ministers met on 29 May, urging the international community not to intervene in Libya and instead to assist the Libyan army in fighting terrorist threats, such as ISIL and Ansar al-Shari’a. They emphasized the need to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in its efforts to combat the spread of terrorism and in lifting the arms embargo in place since 2011. The UN Special Envoy to Libya called on Libya to unite in the fight against all armed militant groups.

Italy has announced that it stands by its “transitional” decision not to send troops into Libya, but is prepared to train and provide weapons to Libyan forces to protect their interests in Libyan oil fields in danger from terrorist group attacks. Russia also stated it would be ready to supply the Libyan government with weapons as soon as the UN arms embargo is lifted.

An armed force with the responsibility of protecting Libya’s oil ports captured the coastal-town of Ben Jawad from ISIL on Monday as it moved west to secure more of the coastline. The forces’ efforts have pushed ISIL’s control to only around 60 miles of Libya’s coastline. As they continued their offensive, the Petroleum Facilities Guard forces also captured a second town, Nawfiliyah, located east of the ISIL stronghold of Sirte. Five people were killed and 18 wounded in the attacks.

On Wednesday, forces backed by the UN unity government in Libya seized control of Sirte’s power plant 20 miles west of the ISIL stronghold, as forces continue to advance towards ISIL’s recruitment and training camp in the city.

The latest report from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on ISIL, which has not been publicly released yet, stated that the group is raising money from capturing oilfields in Libya and then distributes the funds to groups around the world. While ISIL is losing offensives in Iraq and Syria, the group’s threat in Libya remains high. The UN report also noted that ISIL has been utilizing Libya as a base to spread and diversify its presence in the African region.


Mali:

An ambush on a the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed five Togolese peacekeepers and injured another on Sunday outside a town in the Mopti region. The head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, released a statement condemning the “heinous act of terrorism”.

On Tuesday, two other separate attacks targeting UN or UN-contracted personnel in the Gao area killed four people, including one Chinese peacekeeper, two Malian security guards, and one French expert working for a local service provider with the UN’s mine-defusing agency. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The UN Secretary-General has expressed his concern and outrage over the latest attacks as well as his condolences to the victims and their families. He also called on Malian authorities to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. Mr. Ban stressed the UN’s strong support for the peace agreement and stabilization of Mali and announced that he intends to make a proposal to the UN Security Council to strengthen MINUSMA’s capabilities and make sure that peacekeepers in Mali are adequately equipped to handle the dangerous environment there. He has recommended that a deployment of 2,500 more peacekeepers should be sent to Mali. The UN Security Council, in a separate statement, also condemned the attacks and expressed their support for the implementation of the peace process and MINUSMA.


Nigeria:

On Monday, separate clashes in Nigeria’s southern oil-rich Niger Delta region between the country’s security forces and both oil militants and Biafran secessionists killed at least 20 civilians and 2 police officers. Community leaders from the town of Oporoza, an area reachable only by water or air, have accused soldiers of firing on a speedboat evacuating civilians from a military siege on the city and of wounding and beating civilians in their search for Niger Delta Avengers, a new group that has claimed attacks on key oil pipelines in the country. The Avengers’ recent attackshave cut the country’s oil production in half and they have issued a 31 May deadline for the oil companies to leave the region before “something big” will happen.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari canceled a trip planned to the restive Niger Delta region at the last minute on Thursday and gave no reason for the cancellation. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo made the visit in his stead. The Avengers have accused the president of overlooking local problems.


South Sudan:

On 27 May, South Sudan’s Transitional Government on National Unity (TGoNU) passed a resolution establishing areas where the armed-forces of the opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal will be cantoned. The cantonment will be carried out by the Joint Monitoring Ceasefire Committee  (JMCC), with the move being considered a breakthrough in the peace process.

Later that same day, South Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management admitted that South Sudan does not have a plan in place for resettlement and repatriation of the country’s internally displaced and its refugees. The Minister stated further consultation is needed with the UN to assess the needs of the displaced, while the UN urged international donors not to leave South Sudan in the dark.

On 31 May, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) renewed the sanctions regime in place against a number of individuals who have been implicated in attempting to sabotage the peace process. Furthermore, the UNSC resolution congratulated the South Sudanese parties on the forming of the Transitional Unity Government several weeks ago, but also recognized the continued lack of political will to move further on several sticking points, including continued non-cooperation with the in-country UN mission and the continuing danger facing humanitarian workers.

The South Sudanese opposition forces, under the leadership of the Vice President Riek Machar, have accused Uganda of redeploying troops inside the country. If true, this deployment would be in breach of the August 2015 peace agreement, in which the withdrawal of all Ugandan troops from South Sudanese soil was stipulated, apart from those Ugandan troops in Western Equatoria State under the African Union (AU) mandate to keep searching  for members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The South Sudanese Army has denied claims that it had engaged in a policy of detention wherein detainees, including civilians, were placed in shipping containers. Claims of this method of detention were made in a recent report released last week by Amnesty International.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 30 May, talks began in Doha on how several groups, including the JEM and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) rebel groups, can join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). Signed in 2011 and 2013, the DDPD serves as a blueprint for eventual peace in the Darfur region between the government and various rebel groups operating there.

Amnesty International has reported that eight human rights activists have been held in detention by the Sudanese security services for the past week. Those being held include six staffers, a volunteer with TRACKS, an organization providing training in human rights, and a representative from Al-Zarqa, an organisation engaged in human development.

Human Rights Watch has released a report highlighting that Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, this past May. Prior to this deportation, the UNHCR was consistently denied access to these peoples.

The Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Abdel Wahid El Nur (SLM-AW), claims to have killed dozens of government troops and their allied militia in recent clashes in the western Jebel Marra region of Darfur.


Syria:

On 26 May, the U.N. special envoy for Syria announced that no new peace talks will take place for at least two to three weeks. The lack of significant humanitarian access and the breaking down of the ceasefire were noted as sticking points, with progress needed on both fronts before talks resume. Four days later, the chief-peace negotiator for the Syrian Opposition in Geneva resigned, stating that his decision to quit was over the failure of the international community to stop the government-led atrocities.

Preparations to begin airdrops into the besieged areas of Syria began on 1 June as the first aid in nearly four years reached the besieged Damascus suburb of Darayya on Wednesday. A local 48-hour truce came into effect, allowing vaccines, baby milk and medical goods to be brought into the beleaguered city. The plan calls for the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) to begin airdrops to 13 designated areas in the event that the Syrian government still refuses to allow over-land deliveries. While the air drops are “not imminent,” as Ramzi Essedine Ramzi, UN deputy special envoy for Syria warned, the overall process that will lead to drops has begun.

Airstrikes killed 23 people in the rebel-controlled city of Idlib, on Monday. The strikes are said to have hit areas in several residential neighborhoods as well as near a hospital, closing it down. The following day, further airstrikes took place against Ahrar al Sham’s main camp in Idlib province, leaving many dead. By 1 June, the airstrikes had killed at least 58 people and wounded almost 300. Russia has denied any and all implications in the airstrikes.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced, on 30 May, the extension of the scope of its offensive against ISIL, with the assault now including ISIL positions to the west of Raqqa, in particular an airbase used by ISIL. The airbase links Raqqa with other pockets of ISIL territory around Aleppo. Coinciding with this announcement, the SDF began a new, major offensive on a portion of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket. The aim of the offensive is to push ISIL out of a strip of territory which it controls along the Turkish border and has been noted by US officials as the terrorist group’s “last remaining funnel into Europe.”

Fighting in Northern Aleppo between ISIL and various rebel factions has left roughly 8,000 people trapped, and is risking to spill over into nearby IDP camps, the UN stated on Tuesday.The town of Marea saw scores killed over the previous weekend as ISIL tried to wrest control of the town from rebel forces, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noting this ISIL offensive to be the single largest gain of territory in two years of fighting in Aleppo. The rebels, for their part, have been clashing with fighters of the SDF as well as issuing directives ordering their fighters not to allow any more people fleeing the ISIL advance into the territory they control. The UN stated that the SDF forces in the area have been engaging in the same policy in retaliation for rebel shelling of a Kurdish controlled neighborhood in Aleppo.

Two UN experts have urged the international community to take action to provide immediate protection for the thousands of civilians in the Aleppo region who have been affected by this recent upsurge in fighting. The experts warned that a massive new displacement of people could take place and that trapped civilians may be at risk of becoming targets. UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani stated that around 165,000 IDPs are still stranded at the Turkish border, where their settlements continue to be bombarded by airstrikes and shelling, killing and injuring dozens of civilians this year.

On 2 June, a bomb blast killed several people near a mosque in the coastal city of Latakia, killing and wounding several people, with official numbers not yet released.


Yemen:

On 27 May, the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting in Yemen pushed back against accusations that it was disregarding humanitarian law in its campaign in the country. The coalition command released a statement that it “respects the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights in all its military operations” in its campaign, despite a report by Human Rights Watch recently implicating the coalition in mass humanitarian abuses.

On 30 May, observers of the Yemeni peace-process in Kuwait noted great forward progress, with the UN envoy receiving a list of 6,930 detainees, prisoners and missing persons to be reviewed for their validity and a hopeful mass prisoner release. This led to Yemen’s warring parties swapping prisoners on Wednesday, moving forward on their agreement to free half of the prisoners within 20 days.  The exchange encompassed 16 troops from the Popular Resistance Fighters, a pro-government militant group, and 19 Houthi militants. This deal has been seen as the first major breakthrough in the peace talks.

Clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces from Tuesday to Thursday resulted in the deaths of at least 85 fighters across both sides and a loss of ground for the pro-government forces in the Marib and Shabwa provinces, due to a lack of air support from the Saudi-led coalition. On Thursday, the coalition carried out airstrikes on a group of Houthis in Sanaa, which killed five people.

Despite having lost a majority of its territory in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to hold on in several pockets and gain financing from the exporting of Yemeni oil. A month after being forced out of their de facto capital of Makalla, a major Yemeni seaport, AQAP has taken to creating checkpoints and demanding ‘taxes’ on oil deliveries to the seaport from the neighboring province.


What else is new?

The German Parliament adopted a symbolic resolution on Thursday declaring the 1915 killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide, a move that was immediately rejected by the government of Turkey. The adoption of the resolution has put further strain between the two nations as they work with the European Union to manage the refugee crisis, with Turkey recalling its ambassador to Germany for “consultations.”

On 29 May, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, ICRtoP member, The Global Centre for R2P, released a statement highlighting the role of peacekeepers in upholding RtoP. The statement recognized the HIPPO report recommendations and the Kigali Principles as “practical ways to address current challenges”, as well as noted the need to use the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes as a tool to enhance atrocity prevention capacities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 23 – 27 May 2016

UntitledThe Role of Atrocity Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect in Development Cooperation

On 22-23 March 2016, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and USAID, assisted by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, convened a workshop entitled “The Role of Atrocity Prevention and Responsibility to Protect in Development Cooperation”. The event, held in Kampala, Uganda, brought together development practitioners, government representatives and civil society actors from throughout East Africa working in a range of sectors including human rights, development, and atrocity prevention.The workshop was the first of its kind to focus on the operational relationship between development cooperation and atrocity prevention.

It was convened to, inter alia, identify links between development cooperation and atrocity prevention; introduce RtoP-relevant early warning tools and highlight their relevance for development cooperation; and strategize on practical examples of how development cooperation policies and projects can help to address risk factors relevant for atrocity crimes.

Read the full workshop report here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

According to Kachin and Shan community leaders, the Burmese Army killed and subsequently burned the bodies of several people in northern Shan State. Villagers stated that three people from Noung Kwan village were taken by the  Army  to a small mountain and then killed. An additional five bodies were discovered in the area. The Burma Army accused the dead villagers of being SSA-N members.

The Burmese Army admitted it was struggling to repatriate more than 100,000 Myanmar refugees along the border. The UNHCR has stated that repatriation must be conducted in line with its benchmarks of safety and the willingness of the refugees. However, complicating the repatriation process is the prevalent unwillingness of the refugees to return to Myanmar.


Burundi:

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights presented a report earlier this month to the African Union (AU), which was released publicly late last week. In the report, the AU human rights group called for more military and rights observers and an international police force to be sent to Burundi in order to improve security in the country and guarantee the “protection of people in those areas most affected by violence and which continue to witness it”.

On Saturday, peace talks facilitated by the East African Community (EAC) began in Arusha under former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. Things started off shakily with the absence of several key opposition politicians, including some politicians and civil society representatives in exile. Some have accused President Nkurunziza of only inviting those groups not opposed to his regime. Indeed, after four days of peace talks meant to be an “inter-Burundi dialogue”, the opposition labeled the talks a “monologue” as the government still refused to speak with key members of the umbrella opposition group, CNARED, which has been recognized by the AU and EAC as the “legitimate voice of the opposition”.

The UN Independent Investigation in Burundi  announced that it has completed a deployment of a team of human rights monitors on the ground in Burundi and neighboring countries where Burundian refugees have fled. The team plans to present their final report in September 2016 to the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed three people, including retired army Col. Ruyifiyi Lucien, the chief of judicial police, and a guard at the ruling party’s offices. Since January, at least 130 assassination cases have been investigated in Burundi in continuing violence associated with the extension of President Nkurunziza’s time in office.


Central African Republic:

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced that it would suspend its operations in part of the Central African Republic after an attack by armed men on its employees in Kouki left one person dead.

Leaders of the ex-Seleka militant group have said that the armed rebel group would only hand over their weapons if some of its members are appointed to positions in the government.

The head of MINUSCA has promised to do everything possible to reach a goal of “zero occurrence” of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by MINUSCA troops through a “rebirth” of peacekeeping. In order to achieve this, he said UN member states must train and equip their troops properly to handle the brutal conditions in the country.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Thursday, thousands took to the streets nationwide to protest against current President Kabila in defiance of a government ban on the demonstrations in some places. Although demonstrations were authorized in Kinshasa, they were banned in places such as in the North Kivu province and Lubumbashi City. Human Rights Watch has claimed that the government has “sought to silence dissent with threats, violence, and arbitrary arrests” and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has demanded that government authorities allow the demonstrations.

Maman Sidikou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, has released a statement expressing great concern regarding the increasing political tensions in some areas of the DRC and has urged both the majority and opposition parties to “reawaken” their patriotism “to place the interests of the country above any other consideration.” On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also strongly expressed his concerns over the uncertainty surrounding the electoral process. He further urged all parties to express their views in a peaceful manner and to exercise restraint ahead of demonstrations planned for 26 May and encouraged all political stakeholders to fully cooperate with the AU Facilitator for the National Dialogue in the DRC.

A high-level delegation consisting of representatives from the UN, AU, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), is currently in the DRC in an effort to neutralize the active rebel groups in the country.


Gaza/West Bank:

On 20 May, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon announced his resignation, stating the governing party had been seized by “extremist and dangerous elements”.

On 23 May, Israel  resumed deliveries to the Gaza Strip of cement for home reconstruction by private persons, ending a 45-day-old ban it imposed after accusing Hamas of seizing the majority of the shipments.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has renewed  his rejection of a French peace plan, telling the visiting French prime minister that peace cannot be made at international conferences but only through direct negotiations. The French are planning to hold ministerial-level talks on June 3 as a first step in reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which ceased in April 2014. At first, the talks would not include Israel and Palestine but only the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, and other Arab and European nations. The Palestinians, meanwhile, have welcomed the French effort.

On 25 May, the United Nations envoy for the peace process in the Middle East warned the Security Council that, as the scenario on the ground worsens, simply regretting the failure of a two-state solution has become the status-quo. Noting that the will for peace clearly exists, Mr. Mladenov stated that it is the lack of political will and bold leadership that is holding back the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Mr. Mladenov said that the beginning of May saw the largest increase of violence between Israel and Hamas in two years.

On 26 May, Israel launched airstrikes against several targets in the Gaza strip in retaliation for rockets fired hours earlier into Israel. Arabic media reported that Ajnad Beit Al-Maqdis, a Salafist group operating in the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for firing the rockets. However, Israel holds Hamas responsible for any acts of perceived aggression that originate in Gaza.

On 23 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for an investigation into alleged abuses by Israel of mental, physical and environmental health rights. Israel was the only country singled out during the WHO’s yearly assembly. The reports are to focus on “the impact of prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental, physical and environmental health.”


Iraq:

On 23 May, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced the start of a major government offensive to retake Fallujah from ISIL.  The initiative is expected to serve as a precursor to a long awaited offensive on the northern ISIL-held city of Mosul. Speaking on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says there is “a great risk” to roughly 50,000 civilians in Fallujah, particularly those heading towards the frontlines. The UN has stated its desire to see the creation of a “safe-corridor” for civilians.

In the first signs of progress in the offensive, the Iraqi government and supporting militias have taken the town of Karma from ISIL; roughly 16 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Fallujah. The capture means that Iraqi forces essentially control the entire area east of the city.

On 23 May, at least 2 people were killed and 4 injured in a bomb attack that hit a market south of Baghdad. On 24 May, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces repelled an attack near the northern city of Kirkuk. On 25 May, several bombings in Baghdad killed 12. The worst bombing took place in Tarmiya, 30 miles north of Baghdad, where a house exploded as troops entered, killing five troops and wounding three others. Seperately, a bomb went off in a commercial area of Baghdad’s southern Abu Disher neighborhood, killing three  and wounding 10. Two other bombs went off in the northern district of Saba al-Bor and the town of Mishahda, killing four people and wounding 16.

According to a senior official in the Kurdish Directorate of Displacement and Migration (DDM), the number of internally displaced Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Kurdistan has reached 1.67 million. There are 40 camps in the region for the displaced but the majority have been renting living quarters privately.


Kenya:

At least one person has died in the city of Kisumu in western Kenya during opposition protests calling for the current electoral commission members to resign ahead of the upcoming 2017 presidential election due to their alleged bias in favor of the ruling Jubilee coalition.

On Tuesday, a Kenyan court charged nine men for their roles in an earlier protest. The country’s main opposition group, called the Coalition of Reform and Democracy (CORD), has claimed that police shot and killed two others in self defense during protests in the city of Siaya. President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that if the opposition wants reform of the electoral commission, they should use constitutional measures to achieve it.

On Wednesday, CORD announced that it would suspend the weekly protests against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in order to give a chance to recent calls for talks to resolve the issue. The suspension of the protests is set to expire on 5 June if the government does not agree to talks.


Libya:

On 22 May, Libyan diplomats began urging restraint over a US plan to arm and train the country’s militias again to battle the growing Islamic State threat, fearing a repeat of the  Pentagon-led program that ended with only a few hundred trained fighters and U.S. weapons in the hands of Islamist militias in Libya.

Europe’s intentions to support Libya’s new UN-backed government have stumbled as France and Germany resist a leading role in the reconstruction of Libya. Both the EU and NATO have pledged their support and stated that they stand at the ready to help the unity government, if requested. However, both Germany and France are advocating that the UN must be the first ones to move, expressing caution over another NATO-led mission into Libya.


Nigeria:

The UN has warned that security and humanitarian conditions are worsening in southeast Niger where hundreds of thousands are now hosted, including many who have fled Boko Haram and the violence in Nigeria. Around 157,000 refugees from Nigeria are living in 135 makeshift camps around a 200 kilometer stretch of a highway in Niger that runs parallel to the Nigerian border and Komadougou River. Of $112 million needed for 2016 by the 22 aid agencies serving the Diffa region in southeast Niger, only around $20 million has been raised.


South Sudan:

On 20 May, South Sudan’s Council of Ministers in the Transitional Government of National Unity announced that all prisoners of war would be released.

On 23 May, the EU released a report criticizing “all parties” in South Sudan for human rights abuses and killings of civilians. The EU has been working with the UN as well as engaging in an arms embargo and visa bans. This criticism comes in light of the international communitywithholding the transfer of funds to South Sudan for reconstruction due to the lack of progress in forming a unity government and the ongoing abuses.

On 22 May, South Sudan’s deputy head of diplomatic mission to Khartoum,  Kau Nak Maper, said the governments of the two countries have agreed to resume the meetings of the Joint Political and Security Committee (JPSC) on 6 June in Khartoum.  The UNSC had recently emphasized this as a requirement to move forward on formalizing security at the shared border.

In a recently released report, Human Rights Watch has highlighted how South Sudanese government soldiers have carried out a wide range of often-deadly attacks on civilians in and around the western town of Wau. The report details how soldiers have killed, tortured, raped, and detained civilians and looted and burned down homes.The abuses in the Western Bahr el Ghazal region took place during government counterinsurgency operations that intensified after an August 2015 peace deal.

On 24 May, the Enough Project released its latest policy brief detailing how the government’s “violent kleptocracy” became a root cause for the atrocities and instability.


Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has announced that it will set up an office to investigate the disappearance of over 20,000 people who are still missing seven years after the end of decades of fighting in the country in 2009. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) will be tasked with making recommendations for compensation and legal processes for families of the deceased.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 22 May, the UN announced that Sudan has “de facto expelled” a senior United Nations humanitarian affairs official after refusing to renew his “stay permit” for another year. Mr Freijse has become the fourth senior UN official to be expelled from Sudan over the past two years.

On 22 May, eight people were killed in an attack on a mosque near El Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur State.


Syria:

On 26 May, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released a new report calculating the number of deaths in the Syrian civil war. The total of 282,283 includes: 81,436 civilians, comprised of 14,040 children and 9,106 women. Deaths within the Free Syrian Army  accounted for 48,568 ,while jihadists deaths totaled 47,095. The Observatory documented the deaths of 101,662 pro-regime fighters, including 56,609 government soldiers. Another 3,522 of the deaths have gone unidentified. Another recent report, released by the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, stated that 60,000 people have died in government detention facilities since the start of the war. At least 20,000 of the deaths are said to have happened at one location, the government’s notorious Sednaya prison near Damascus.

In February, the “Supporting Syria and the Region” conference in London was hailed as raising the largest amount for a humanitarian crisis in a single day. But a new report from Concern shows that only a fraction of those funds have since materialized. The report highlights how 94% of donors have not turned their pledges into actual commitments, with only three nations having actually fully committed their funding pledges.

On 24 May, Syrian aid workers at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul askedthe international community for more protection from deadly attacks, Nearly 10,000 doctors have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict and only 1,000 are left in rebel areas.

On 22 May, the Free Syrian Army gave the regime a 48-hour deadline on Saturday to halt violence against the group’s strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus or they would abandon the “cessation of hostilities” agreement. The next day, however, Russia called for a truce in the suburbs of Damascus to begin on Tuesday and last for 72 hours. On 25 May, Russia further announced that it has agreed to temporarily restrain itself from airstrikes against al-Nusra in an attempt to give other rebel groups time to distance themselves from the al-Qaeda backed group’s positions.

On 23 May, bombs rocked the Syrian coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous, killing more than 100. Scores of others were wounded in the at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs, for which ISIL has claimed responsibility. The Syrian coastal areas have long been government strongholds and have remained relatively untouched by the civil war.

Qatar helped negotiate a ceasefire on Tuesday between two warring rebel groups outside of Damascus. Around 500 people have been killed since April, when fighting broke out between rival Eastern Ghouta-based rebel groups, Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman. The division was taken advantage of by the government to retake several strategic areas. Jaish al-Islam is part of the HNC alliance of rebel groups, while Failaq al-Rahman is believed to receive support from al-Nusra.

On 24 May, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), to which the Kurdish YPG belong, launchedan operation to recapture land between the SDF stronghold in Tel Abyad near the Turkish border and ISIl’s de facto capital in Syria in Raqqa. However, despite earlier claims that this was part of a large scale operation against Raqqa, a SDF spokesperson stated, “The current battle is only to liberate the area north of Raqqa. Currently there is no preparation … to liberate Raqqa, unless as part of a campaign which will come after this campaign has finished.” Syrian Kurdish officials have stated that  Arabs should be the ones to lead an assault on the predominantly Arab city.


Yemen:

The U.N. envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmedn stated that peace talks aimed at ending fighting in Yemen are making progress. Though the Yemeni government had pulled out of the peace negotiations in Kuwait with the Shia Houthi rebels last week, on Saturday authorities agreed to return to Kuwait. However, as the negotiators went back to Kuwait, airstrikes struck  the capital, Sanaa.

After meetings on Wednesday, Ahmed expressed hope that the warring factions in Yemen’s civil war were moving closer to agreement, with discussions moving forward on various military and security concerns including troop withdrawals and movements. The main sticking point in the talks remain the formation of a government to oversee a transition. However, a report published by  Chatham House stated that the UN-led peace process is modeled on solving a conflict between two distinct coalitions, and is not structured to reflect Yemen’s underlying nexus of local history, tribal grievances and internecine rivalries.

A new report from Amnesty International has highlighted the growing danger of internally displaced people in Yemen returning home to de facto ‘minefields’. On its most recent mission to northern Yemen, Amnesty International found evidence of US, UK and Brazilian cluster munitions used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces. The use of cluster bombs is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to which the UK is a State Party. After the report’s release, the UK has sought assurance from its Saudi allies that this is not the case. UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs there was currently no evidence Saudi Arabia had used cluster bombs.

On 22 May, Yemeni troops killed 13 al-Qaeda fighters in a raid outside the southern city of Mukalla, which was ruled by al-Qaeda until last month. However, Yemeni forces were themselves a target when a twin bombing by ISIL killed 45 army recruits in Aden the next day. A suspected Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 11 people when it struck a family’s home in the southern Yemen town of el-Mahala. Also on Wednesday, a suspected Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a mineral water factory in Lahij.


What else is new?

A special event highlighting the plight of Syrian civilians will be held at the Parliament of Canada, Ottawa from 5:30-7:00 pm in Room 362, East Block. This event is organized by MIGS, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. On display will be “Caesar’s Photos: Inside Syria’s Secret Prisons,” an exhibit made up of photos of detainees from Syrian Regime prisons. The photos will be shown earlier in the day at Ottawa University’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre beginning at 11:00 am. An evening reception will take place from 7:30-9:00 pm as well.

In advance of the World Humanitarian Summit, The Elders, Amnesty International, and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect created a video message urging the UN Security Council to voluntarily restrain from using their veto and adopting a Code of Conduct on resolutions pertaining to preventing or responding to atrocity crimes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, RtoP, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, United Kingdom, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#R2PWeekly: 16 – 20 May 2016

Untitled

RtoP: Looking Back and Moving Forward 
Civil Society Perspectives on the First Decade of the Responsibility to Protect

With the belief that civil society organizations are central to the advancement and implementation of RtoP, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect used the 10-year anniversary as a timely opportunity to engage its global membership and partners to garner civil society perspectives on RtoP’s advancement thus far, and the measures that need to be prioritized in the next decade. Soliciting input from over 100 organizations working across sectors and in all regions, this report articulates the views of civil society as they reflected on the successes and challenges of the past ten years, shared their views on new factors facing atrocities prevention, and provided recommendations for policy and institutional change going forward.

Read the full publication here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Burma’s newly elected democratic government is facing criticism after submitting a draft bill that would punish protesters spreading any “wrong” information, allow only pre-registered chants at gatherings, and refuse the right of non-citizens to protest. In practice, such a bill would have the largest impact on the rights of the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority.

The Burmese government has announced charges against student leaders, who led an interfaith “peace walk” of almost 100 people in Rangoon last Saturday.. The peace walk, avowing interreligious tolerance, was held against an environment of increasing Buddhist ultra-nationalism.

The US declared that it would be renewing the majority of its current sanctions against Burma when they expire at the end of the week. However, some modifications will be made in order to boost investment and trade. The US has stated that the continuation of sanctions against Burma is a reflection of serious concern over “human rights issues, including ongoing attacks against ethnic minorities, as well as the military’s extraordinary grip on key institutions of power.”

China has announced it would begin deporting Kokang refugees back to Burma if they did not leave of their own volition immediately. In 2015, over 100,000 Kokang fled to China after months of violence between the Burmese government and  the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang ethnic armed group. It is estimated that there are still 20,000 refugees living in makeshift camps on the Chinese side of the border.

Fighting broke out last week in the northern Shan State between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and the Burmese army, reportedly killing 28 government soldiers. The SSA-N is one of a dozen rebel groups that refused to sign last year’s national ceasefire agreement. Meanwhile, on May 11, the Burmese Army and Border Guard fought with a Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) splinter group in Karen State. Unlike the SSA-N, the DKBA had signed the ceasefire agreement.

More violence erupted on Wednesday, when bombing raids by the Burmese government were reported in Kachin and Shan states. The bombing raids in Shan state were complemented by attacks by the Burmese army and militia on SSA-N outpost outside Pein Hsai.


Burundi:

A confidential report to the UNSC has accused Rwanda of training, financing and providing logistical support for Burundian rebels fighting against the government through 2016. These claims, made by a panel of six independent experts, counter claims from western officials that such aid had already ceased  and have also been denied by the Rwandan government.

Burundi officials said that Rwanda has expelled more than 1,300 Burundian refugees after they refused to move to refugee camps.

After the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights released a report on continuing human rights violations in Burundi, the AU stated that it would conduct in-depth investigations into the ongoing violations.

Around a hundred people were arrested in the Burundian capital, adding to a series of crackdowns on opposition strongholds. The authorities have stated that the arrests were necessary in order to control the movement of people. Dozens of arrests were also made in Mugamba, a town to the south of the capital.

On 19 May, Burundi’s government announced that it would attend regional peace talks in Tanzania. Burundi’s leading opposition party, the CNDD, will also participate the talks, but other opposition representatives have yet to confirm their presence.


Central African Republic:

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, asked the court for a 25 year sentence for Jean-Pierre Bemba for crimes his troops committed in CAR, citing deterrence as one of the main factors behind the long sentence. Bemba was already found guilty of war crimes and  crimes against humanity in March. However, the Court has yet to determine the length of his sentence.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UNSG, said the UN has received 44 allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and that 41 investigations were underway.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN experts reported that North Korea has been delivering arms to the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the being an arms embargo on North Korea forbidding it from exporting weapons.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea would be held accountable and that the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the country is continuing to gather evidence of these violations.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

UN experts have further accused a Congolese General, Muhindo Akili Mundos, of aiding attacks that resulted in the deaths of more than 500 people. According to a confidential report for the UNSC, a Congolese general recruited, financed and armed elements of a Ugandan Islamist group aiming at killing civilians. The report also revealed that other Congolese army officers are involved in the killing of civilians.

Police fired teargas and threw rocks at of protesters in Lubumbashi. Thousands of people had gathered outside the prosecutor’s office, where authorities were questioning Moise Katumbi, a presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the UN reported that Congolese police arrested four protesters and injured three others at a peaceful protest in Goma.

Opposition leaders in the DRC have urged the United States to impose sanctions on President Joseph Kabila. Olivier Kamitatu, a leader of the G7 opposition coalition, said:“We believe that the imposition of sanctions will force Joseph Kabila to reconsider his position and to leave power on the 19th of December.” Civil society groups, in a letter to the President Joseph Kabila, urged to take the needed steps to stop the massacre of civilians, underscoring their concern over the deteriorating situation.

Islamic militants killed about 50 Christians including women and children in the DRC, causing thousands to flee the area.


Gaza/West Bank:

Human Rights Watch called for Jordan to ease travel restrictions it is currently imposing on Palestinians from Gaza that wish to travel to third countries, stating that such restrictions hinder access to education and professional opportunities for Palestinian youths who are already in a precarious situation.

Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, condemned Israel’s demolition and confiscation of humanitarian aid intended for the West Bank, the Israeli authorities having demolished seven homes and confiscated the materials for three others.


Iraq:

The UN Security Council expressed condemnation about the three terrorist attacks that occurred last week in Baghdad, which resulted in at least 93 deaths and a large number of injuries. The Security Council urged all States to actively cooperate with the Iraqi authorities in order to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice, highlighting that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation and wherever, whenever and by whomsoever it is committed, and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

In a continuation of the violence, ISIL carried out three bomb attacks and one suicide bombing in Baghdad killing 69 people and injuring over 100 others on Tuesday.

The Pentagon released a statement outlining how much territory ISIL has lost in Iraq, which estimated that ISIL had lost slightly upwards of 45% of the territory that it once controlled. ISIL still controls important Iraqi cities, including Mosul and Fallujah.

On Thursday, Iraq announced that it has recaptured the western town of Rutba, which had been seized by ISIL in 2014. The town is situated in western-Anbar province and serves as a linkage between ISIL controlled areas on the Syrian and Jordanian border and the rest of Anbar province.

The US military stated that an airstrike on 13 May had resulted the deaths of two senior ISIL commanders, one of which was responsible for launching chemical weapons against Iraqi and allied forces.


Kenya:

Kenyan police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters who gathered outside the offices of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the resignation of the electoral body. The protest was the third of this kind in less than a month and opposition leaders said more would follow. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, a leading rights group, has accused the police of beating protesters with clubs and using “gruesome violence” to break up the protest even after the protesters were “subdued”. On Tuesday, 15 opposition supporters pleaded guilty to charges of participating in the illegal protest in the capital, but they denied charges that they were armed and had breached the peace. Kenya’s police chief said that they will hold an internal inquiry into the allegations against the police, but he maintained that officers intervened in order to rein in “lawlessness”.


Libya:

On 16 May, the United States and more than 15 other nations announced that they were willing to supply Libya’s internationally recognized government with weapons and training to fight ISIL. In this regard, these states plan to ask the UN to lift the arms embargo on Libya.

In a recent report, the International Migration Organisation (IOM) has said that the number of displaced people in Libya has reached 417,123, a total which is a result of three waves of displacement: the first taking place in 2011; the second from 2012 to mid-2014, and the third and largest, which began in mid-2014.

HRW released a report detailing the horrors occurring for Libyans living under ISIL control, citing kidnappings, crucifixions, executions, food shortages and forced prayer as examples of what they are forced to endure.


Mali:

Gunmen killed five Chadian peacekeepers with MINUSMA in a shootout following an ambush on their convoy on Wednesday. After the attack, MINUSMA captured three suspects and reported that they would be transported to the “relevant authorities”.

China has announced that it would deploy 395 peacekeeping troops to MINUSMA by the end of this month. The force will include medical workers, security officers, and military engineers.


Nigeria:

Amina Ali Nkeki has become the first of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls found in two years. She and other abducted girls were reportedly forced to convert to Islam and made to marry some of their captors and have their children. Other abducted women have reportedly been “brainwashed” by Boko Haram and forced to fight for the group.

The U.S. announced that it is prepared to sell at most 12 light attack aircraft to Nigeria in an attempt to aid Nigeria’s efforts against Boko Haram. This comes after the blocking of a sale of American-made attack helicopters from Israel less than two years ago due to human rights concerns. Human rights groups have criticized the proposed sale, claiming that President Buhari has not done enough to end the abuses and corruption in the military which were rampant during his predecessor, former President Goodluck.

Nigerian military forces have arrested several suspected Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) militants, who are thought to be behind the recent violence against oil pipelines in the country’s oil producing southern region.


South Sudan:

Two weeks after having formed the Transitional Government of National Unity with the rebels, ceasefire monitors say President Salva Kiir’s forces are still not cooperating with security monitors in implementing the security arrangements set forth in the peace agreement. Government forces have both refused to declare their numbers both in and outside of Juba.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa landed in Juba on Monday to learn firsthand about the progress being made in the implementation of the August peace agreement.

On Monday, Ethiopian officials confirmed that dozens of children previously kidnapped by a South Sudanese militia group have been returned home after negotiations with the armed group. The children has been abducted several weeks ago in a cross-border raid into Ethiopia wherein 200 people were killed and 125 children were abducted. A further 32 children had been rescued by the South Sudanese government several days earlier. The Gambella region of Ethiopia, where the raid took place, is currently home to 280,000 South Sudanese refugees since 2013.

The UNHCR has released a statement noting the continued flow of Sudanese refugees into South Sudan. In the first two weeks of May, 2,114 refugees arrived in South Sudan from South Kordofan State, Sudan. This represents a 124% increase over the previous two weeks, with the UNHCR highlighting hunger, aerial bombardments, and ground attacks as the main reason given by those who fled.


Sudan/Darfur:

The UN and African Union officials urged Sudanese authorities to investigate recent attacks on an IDP camp that resulted in the killing of five people, including two children. The UN also stressed the importance of maintaining UNAMID’s mandate, which prioritizes the security and protection of civilians across Darfur, including the displaced.

Burkina Faso has announced that it plans to withdraw its troops deployed with UNAMID in Darfur in light of concerns over growing security threats in the Sahel-Saharan region. Currently, Burkina Faso has one battalion of 850 soldiers in Darfur.

The implementation of a security arrangement with 145 ex-rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement has begun in North Darfur. The rebels reported to a military training base in North Darfur, where they will will hand in their weapons and be compensated.

On Monday, the Sudanese government publicly welcomed a proposal put forward by two rebel groups to include Qatar in mediations currently being led by the African Union between the two opposing sides. Both the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) believe the inclusion of Qatar will allow for dialogue on certain topics relating to Darfur that the Sudanese Government has yet refused to discuss. However, later in the week, President Bashir publicly rejected the call to merge the African and Doha forums. He claimed it was an attempt by the rebel groups to circumvent the African Union peace plan, to which the two groups (JEM and SLM) are not party.

On Thursday, a Sudanese government official announced that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, has applied for a US visa to attend the next United Nations General Assembly. It would be his first visit since his indictment by the ICC in 2009, having previously applied for a visa in 2014.


Syria:

On Tuesday, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which comprises the United States, the Russian Federation, the UN, the Arab League, the European Union, along with 16 countries, failed to come to agreement on a new date to resume the Syrian peace talks. Despite this, the ISSG remained firm on meeting the objective of meeting the target date of August 1, set by the UNSC, for the warring parties to reach an agreement on a framework for political transition. At the same time, the ISSG called on the World Food Program (WFP) to carry out a programme for air bridges and air drops for all areas in need, starting 1 June, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of the designated besieged areas.

Despite claiming to have begun a withdrawal of its forces from Syria in March, the Pentagon has stated that the Russian military remains firmly entrenched in the country and is even expanding in some areas. The Pentagon further noted that Russia is currently building a forward operating base in the ancient city of Palmyra.

On Wednesday, an aid convoy reached the besieged town of Harasta, where 10,000 people awaited the first aid delivery in four years under siege. This comes in light of the Syrian government previously denying an aid convoy to the besieged town of Daraya earlier in the week.

Violence escalated over the past weekend, as the fragile truce in Syria was strained in several locations. The Syrian government shelled several residential neighborhoods of the Daraya suburb of Damascus over the past weekend. Additional shelling and sniper fire took place in the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Eshieh, where 12,000 are currently trapped. Further fighting broke out in both Idlib province and around Aleppo.

Syrian government forces retook a hospital in Deir al-Zor after it was taken the day before by ISIL. ISIL controls the over-whelming majority of the eastern province and has been laying siege to the government controlled portions of the city since last March. ISIL has so far made several significant gains in the offensive, which if successful would end the presence of the Syrian government in eastern Syria. There are currently 200,000 civilians trapped in the besieged government controlled portion of the city.

On Wednesday, a Syrian regime air strike killed 13 civilians in Rastan, one of the last rebel strongholds in the central province of Homs.  Rastan has been under siege from government forces since 2012.

On Thursday, the Syrian government, in collaboration with Hezbollah as well as other allies, seized a large area southeast of Damascus in Eastern Ghouta. The seizure included the rebel-held town of Deir al-Asafir, which could serve as a bridgehead for further government advances into the province.

According to a senior Israeli official, Syria’s regime has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, dropping bombs laden with sarin on ISIL fighters outside Damascus. The use of the nerve gas is claimed to have happened roughly three weeks ago in order to halt an ISIL offensive set on seizing two air-bases located north-east of Damascus. If demonstratively proven, this use of sarin would show that  the Assad regime has retained the ability to gas its enemies, despite an agreement that supposedly disarmed Syria of its chemical arsenal.


Yemen:

Ten Yemeni journalists who are being detained by Houthi forces started a hunger strike to protest their maltreatment and torture.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, stated that the two parties had reached consensus on certain issues during the continuing peace talks in Kuwait. The parties have thus far discussed security arrangements and the political process needed to reach an agreement. However, on 17 May, Yemeni Foreign Minister, Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi, announced the suspension of peace talks, highlighting the Houthis refusal to abide by a UNSC resolution and stating “the talks are a waste of time and only used to amass forces of the militias.” Mr. Al-Mekhlafi called on the international community to step in to resume peace talks.

ISIL killed 31 police recruits in a suicide attack in the port of Mukalla, which was reclaimed by the Saudi-led Coalition last month.

John Ging, Director of Operations in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has reported that more than 13 million people are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance in Yemen.

Amnesty International has reported that Houthi rebels carried out arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of their opponents, including political opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and others between December 2014 and March 2016.


What else is new?

The U.S. government released a new Executive Order on the Atrocity Prevention Board, which “continues in place the Board established in 2012 as I [President Obama] directed in PSD-10, sets out the support to be afforded by executive departments, agencies, and offices, and updates and memorializes the terms on which the Board will continue to operate in the service of its important mission.”

To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 2001 birth of the RtoP principle, the Canadian Centre for R2P is releasing a journal entitled “R2P Dispatch” in autumn 2016. For more information on the guidelines to submit your RtoP-related piece for consideration in the inaugural journal, please click here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up

#R2P Weekly: 9 – 13 May 2016

Untitled
The Challenges of Engaging National Governments with RtoP and Atrocity Prevention: Confessions of a British RtoP Advocate

 

By Alexandra Buskie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, United Nations Association – UK. UNA-UK is a Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP.

Over the past 4 years, the United Nations Association – UKalt(UNA-UK) has been working on a dedicated policy and advocacy programme “to strengthen understanding, support and leadership for the Responsibility to Protect principle in the UK’s policy, parliamentary and public arenas”. This has been no small ambition. Engaging the UK Government on RtoP and atrocity prevention has represented huge challenges and success has been difficult to measure. What follows is a reflection on these challenges, how we have sought to respond to them and what we have counted as incremental steps towards a stronger national engagement with the principle in practice. (…)

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has exhorted President Htin Kyaw to urgently revamp the nation’s “repressive and rights-abusing laws,” particularly those pertaining to race and religion protection.

Aung San Suu Kyi announced that her government is determined to help Thailand solve its long-standing refugee problems. The Thai Foreign Minister, Don Pramudwinai, has estimated that there are 1.6 million Burmese migrant workers residing in Thailand.

Two human rights organizations, Fortify Rights and United to End Genocide, have released areport entitled “Supporting Human Rights in Myanmar: Why the US Should Maintain Existing Sanctions Authority,” urging President Obama to renew the sanctions authority on Burma for at least another year. According to the report, more than 140,000 Rohingya, Kaman and other Muslims remain confined to over 40 squalid internment camps.


Burundi:

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) called on the African Union to step up its efforts to resolvethe Burundi crisis. The PAP Rapporteur, Victor Hlatshwayo, stressed the need to put the lives of the Burundi people at the forefront.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, stated that concrete steps must be taken in order to improve the situation of IDPs in Burundi, highlighting the importance of establishing a legal framework for their assistance and protection. According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), the number of IDPs in March 2016 has reached over 25,000 in the three provinces of Rutana, Makamba and Kirundo. In addition, some 78,000 persons remain internally displaced from the 1993 crisis.

On 9 May, Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced 21 army officers to life in prison, including Burundi’s former Defence Minister, General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, in connection with a coup plot in May 2015.

On 9 May, unidentified gunmen wearing police uniforms killed three people and injured one in a bar in Maramvya.

Jean Minani, the newly elected leader of opposition group Cnared, urged rebels to “lay down their weapons” should President Nkurunziza agree to participate in peace talks later this month.
 


Central African Republic:

OCHA has reported that the government service delivery capacity for healthcare in the Central African Republic is extremely poor everywhere except in Bangui. This has left the population vulnerable to diseases and with very little access to health services. Over 1 million are currently being served by non-governmental organizations and UN agencies through mobile services in areas not covered by the government’s basic health facilities.

Doctors Without Borders stated that 4,000 South Sudanese refugees living in CAR are doing so in deplorable conditions after having fled conflict and violence. The organisation underlined the “lack of food, water and medicines”.


Côte d’Ivoire

The trial of former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, opened in Côte d’Ivoire on 9 May. She is charged with crimes against humanity during the post-election violence that took place in the country in 2010-2011, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people after her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down and relinquish power after losing the election. Mrs. Gbagbo has also been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity during the same period. Côte d’Ivoire has not applied to the ICC to challenge the admissibility of the case and Amnesty International has called for Côte d’Ivoire to comply with their obligation pursuant to her arrest warrant and surrender Mrs. Gbagbo to the ICC. Côte d’Ivoire contends that Mrs. Gbagbo’s trial is fair and transparent, but her defense has claimed that the jury is biased.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Suspected Islamist militants reportedly killed approximately 20 to 40 villagers in the eastern region of the DRC. Meanwhile, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), another active rebel militia in the area, killed at least nine civilians in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

Authorities in the DRC have arrested Brigadier-General Leopold Mujyambere, the chief of staff for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel militia group linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A DRC government spokesman said that authorities have taken Mujyambere to the capital to await a decision from the military system on whether he will be tried in Congo or extradited to Rwanda.

On Wednesday, the DRC’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Joseph Kabila may remain in office beyond his constitutional mandate should the election be delayed, as a clause in the constitution mandates that the sitting president must remain in his post until a new president is elected and installed. Opposition parties, who have accused Kanila of attempting to hold onto power by delaying the elections later this year, have denounced the decision.

Since late April, authorities have arrested at least 27 associates of Moise Katumbi, an opposition presidential candidate, as well as other opposition party members. The Justice Ministry opened an investigation into Katumbi on 4 May, the same day he announced his candidacy for president.


Iraq:

Iraq’s government failed again to vote on a cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Hadi, prolonging the month-long political crisis.

Amnesty International urged the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to carry out an “impartial and independent” investigation into abuses committed by their respective militias and security forces.

According to the Pentagon, on 6 May, an airstrike killed Abu Wahib, a top ISIL commander, and three others outside of Rutba in Iraq. Wahib was reportedly a former al-Qaida member in Iraq and made appearances in several ISIL execution videos.

On Tuesday, a suicide bombing in Baqouba, a city northeast of Baghdad, killed at least 13 people and wounded 60 others in a commercial area of a Shiite neighborhood. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack and reported that a Shiite mosque was the intended target.

On 11 May, a car bomb killed 62 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 86 others in a crowded market in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, specifying that they were targeting Shiite fighters.


Kenya:

Kenya has announced that the government has closed the country’s Department of Refugee Affairs and is currently working towards closing Kenya’s refugee camps. Amnesty International expressed concern over the closure of Kenya’s two large refugee camps, including the Dadaab camp, the largest in the world. Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, stated, “This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk.” The closure could displace over 600,000 people.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have also called on the Kenyan government to revoke its decision on closing the refugee camps. In a joint statement, several non-governmental organizations, which are already providing assistance to refugees in the country, have pledged to provide full support to the Kenyan government in handling refugee problems.


Libya

Next week, regional foreign ministers will meet for talks in Vienna on providing support for Libya’s new unity government and bringing stability to the country, according to Italy’s foreign minister.

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has announced the establishment of a “Presidential Guard”, a new military force in charge of protecting government buildings, border posts, and other important public facilities and notable visitors. It is the new unity government’s first move to reorganize military forces in Libya.

Western Libyan forces have announced that they are preparing an advance to retake the the city of Sirte, which has been ISIL’s Libyan stronghold. The forces have called for international logistical support in retaking the city but stated that they would not wait for the international assistance to lunch the operation.


Mali:

Malian security services have arrested Yacouba Toure, an alleged weapons trafficker and senior member of the Islamist militant group, Ansar Dine. Toure is suspected of trafficking weapons across the border from Mali that were used in a deadly attack near Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso in October.

Oumar Aldjana, representative for Mali’s Union of Fulani, has reported that 33 Fulani civilians have been killed in a conflict between the Fulani and Bambara communities in Mali’s central Mopti region.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian military spokesman announced that the army had launched a new military offensive to rescue unarmed civilians kidnapped by Boko Haram. The U.S. is also considering selling light attack aircraft to Nigeria to help it counter Boko Haram, a deal previously put on hold due to U.S. concerns over human rights abuses perpetrated by the military.

French President Francois Hollande will attend this week’s summit in Abuja to search for a regional response to the militant threat in Nigeria. Leaders from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger will also attend. During the summit, France and Nigeria are set to sign a defense cooperation agreement, according to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Gunmen killed two policemen and three soldiers in raids on Monday in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil-producing region. A rise in recent violence in the region has raised concerns that a previously quelled insurgency could resume. The military has vowed to use “all available means and measures” to stop militants from attacking oil facilities in the region, but a labor union has called for oil companies to evacuate all staff in the region.

In a recent report, Amnesty International said that at least 149 detainees, including seven young children and four babies, have died at the Giwa barracks detention center in Maiduguri. The report called this center “a place of death” and called for its immediate close and the release of all 1,200 believed detainees or their transfer to civilian authorities. Amnesty International also said that over 8,000 young men and boys have been shot, tortured, suffocated, or starved to death since 2011 while in Nigerian military custody, with no one held responsible.

On Thursday, a suicide bombing in Maiduguri killed at least five people and wounded 19 others at a government compound. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the act.


South Sudan:

The World Food Programme warned that up to 5.3 million people in South Sudan may face severe food shortages during this year’s lean season.

An independent report by the International Organization for Migration revealed that the “protection of civilians” camps at UNMISS bases around the country, to which over 200,000 individuals have fled, will likely be necessary for years to come, despite the August peace agreement.

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict urged the South Sudanese government to actively address sexual violence crimes in the country, stating that sexual violence crimes have continued to be systematically committed during the conflict.


Sudan/Darfur:

Dr. Amin Hassan Omar, the head of the Darfur Peace Implementation Office, has announcedthat the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) have expressed interest in signing the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Gunman from local tribes killed six people, including two children, near a Darfuri camp for displaced civilians. The incident occurred after a rise in tensions between the tribesman and the displaced caused by recent cattle raiding.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has stated that Sudan would open its borders to South Sudanese people when the South Sudanese government stops providing support to Sudanese rebel groups.

Many called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to Uganda, a signatory to the Rome Statute. The sitting president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for having allegedly committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Syria:

Assad’s forces have failed to regain control of a prison in Hama, where opposition leaders have been warning of possible mass executions of the 800 prisoners by the government. Most of the prisoners are political detainees.

In retaliation for ISIL attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis. Turkish shelling killed 55 ISIL militants. Kilis now hosts nearly 110,000 Syrian refugees. On Thursday, Turkish artillery and US-led coalition airstrikes killed another 28 militants in ISIL-held territory near Kilis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish military is currently preparing to “clear” ISIL from the Syrian side of the border.

Recent reports show that around 700 Iranian soldiers and militiamen have died fighting in the Syrian civil war, although Iran maintains officially that only “military advisers” have been deployed there. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), around 2,000 troops from the special forces wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are currently in Syria as well as at least 13 Shia militias.

On Monday, the US and Russia announced that they would work together towards reaffirming the ceasefire agreement from February. US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Russia’s major role in achieving the initial ceasefire, but also called Russia’s political solution to the conflict “not necessarily a workable equation.” The 17-nation International Syria Support Group will meet next week in Vienna.

On Tuesday, airstrikes on Binnish, a town in Syria’s Idlib province, killed at least 10 people and injured others. Clashes also erupted in and around Aleppo, regardless of the ceasefire in effect. However, on Thursday, the truce in Aleppo expired with no extension announced.

After the two deadliest weeks since the ceasefire began in the country, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the “ongoing indiscriminate and seemingly calculated attacks against civilians and civilian objects in Syria.” He also reminded States of their responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes and urged the international community to end impunity for perpetrators of the worst crimes in Syria. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, a UN-mandated human rights inquiry, also condemned the attacks and called on all parties to immediately stop the unlawful attacks on civilians, medical facilities, and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

ISIL has tried to mount a comeback outside of Palmyra, with militants cutting a crucial supply route connecting Homs, which is controlled by the government, and Palmyra.

On Wednesday, France, the UK, the US, and Ukraine blocked a Russian proposal in the UN Security Council to blacklist Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham for their alleged links to ISIL and al-Qaida militants. Jaish al-Islam is part of the High Negotiating Committee, which has been representing the opposition at the UN-brokered peace talks with the government. The US said that blacklisting them would undermine the negotiation attempts to attain a full cessation of hostilities in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham, meanwhile, is an ultraconservative Sunni militant group, which has fought as part of a military alliance with the Nusra Front, a group that is not part of the previously-brokered ceasefire. Russia has long maintained that Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham should have no involvement in the peace talks.


Yemen:

UN reports indicated that the cessation of hostilities agreement has substantially facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was able to restore water facilities in Kitaf district, serving an estimated 10,000 people. At the same time, the UN has announced that over half of Yemen’s population, 14.4 million people, are in dire need of food, which the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is struggling to provide. The FAO has reported that Yemen is suffering the worst food shortage, “the volume of food required in Yemen is far greater than humanitarian actors can provide.”

On 10 May, Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels reached an agreement on prisoner swap, releasing half of the prisoners and detainees held by both sides. The agreement was seen as the first major result of peace talks that began in Kuwait on 21 April.

Despite this cautious progress, on 6 May, a bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 15 others in Marib. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 10 rebels in Yemen on Monday. On 11 May, a suicide bomber rammeda car packed with explosives into a government military convoy killing at least eight people and wounding 17 others in eastern Yemen. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Yet another suicide bomber attacked the convoy of General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli, killing four of his guards. General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli escaped unharmed from the attack. On 12 May, ISIL claimed a suicide attack that killed ten soldiers and wounded 15 others in the provincial capital Mukalla. The attack was carried out hours before Prime Minister, Ahmed Obeid bin Dagh’s, visit to the city.

The Pentagon has reported that a small number of US military personnel are on the ground in Yemen in order to aid Emirati forces and Saudi-led coalition efforts to root out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on 11 May, the Yemeni people took to the streets of Mastaba, a city in Hajja province, demanding the withdrawal of the US soldiers from Lahij province. Meanwhile, the Council for the Unity of Yemeni Tribes, expressed condemnation over the US military presence, calling it as “a provocative move and violation of all international laws and charters.”

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has released a report entitled, “2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement,” indicating that Syria, Yemen, and Iraq have the highest number of IDPs, amounting to more than half the global total of displaced people.


What else is new?

Next Thursday, May 19, The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be livestreaming “Partners in Prevention: A Global Forum on Ending Genocide” hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at the Simons Center in Washington DC. Register here.

The Global Centre for R2P released a report “Ten Years of the Responsibility to Protect: Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Prevent Mass Atrocities.

Leave a comment

Filed under RtoP, Weekly Round-Up

The challenges of engaging national governments with RtoP and atrocity prevention: confessions of a British RtoP advocate

By Alexandra Buskie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, United Nations Association – UK. UNA-UK is a Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP.

 

Untitled

Over the past 4 years, the United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK) has been working on a dedicated policy and advocacy programme “to strengthen understanding, support and leadership for the Responsibility to Protect principle in the UK’s policy, parliamentary and public arenas”. This has been no small ambition. Engaging the UK Government on RtoP and atrocity prevention has represented huge challenges and success has been difficult to measure. What follows is a reflection on these challenges, how we have sought to respond to them and what we have counted as incremental steps towards a stronger national engagement with the principle in practice.

Challenges

First is the challenge of outreach and understanding; RtoP is written in the UN’s vocabulary.  If you are trying to explain it to someone who does not have the basic level of knowledge of what you mean by “an international principle”, then you are in for a long ride. Learning about RtoP means memorising a sea of acronyms, jargon and historical development, when really; the end goal of the principle is pretty obvious: to stop the organised massacre of people before it begins and respond appropriately if you are too late. RtoP is also still misunderstood as referring solely to military intervention. No matter how many times RtoP advocates say it is not, this is still the prevailing belief. “Military intervention” provokes more interest than “capacity building” and people find it simpler to debate. This is a huge obstacle to getting real discussion on how to implement RtoP properly, particularly in the public realm, but also in the UK parliament and in some major humanitarian NGOs.

Second is the substantive challenge of getting RtoP and atrocity prevention into the national policy vocabulary. Being an RtoP advocate in a Western national context can sometimes feel a bit like being a violinist turning up for a brass band rehearsal;  you can be good at playing but no one quite understands why you are there. Haven’t we already supported the RtoP principle? Isn’t this a UN thing? Aren’t we already doing conflict prevention and stabilisation? Making the argument that the UK should seek to uphold RtoP in its national and foreign policies and be a visible leader on this issue has been a slog. The UK’s focus has been on fostering and encouraging international support for the principle amongst UN member states; i.e. keeping up the momentum. There is nothing wrong with that. But at some point, encouraging others isn’t  enough. How are you setting an example? Are you walking the talk? Can you share lessons from your experience to help others? This mind-set has been difficult to cultivate for RtoP at the national level due to the persistent lack of clear case studies and evidence of what has worked for others.

Third, and building on the last, is the policy challenge of demonstrating RtoP’s value added. What proof do you, as an RtoP advocate, have that the government is not doing enough to support the norm? This is not really a challenge unique to RtoP but to policy and advocacy more generally. The UK is supportive of RtoP at the UN (in both the Security Council and the General Assembly) it has an RtoP Focal Point, and the Government is a major funder of the Joint Office of the Special Advisers for Genocide Prevention and RtoP, as well as the Global Centre for RtoP. What more should it be doing? How should it be doing it? What evidence do you have that it is not doing it, under a different name, like the protection of civilians or preventing sexual violence in conflict? This has been the most significant challenge for UNA-UK in its work on RtoP. It’s all fine and well to say the UK should mention RtoP and atrocity prevention in its national policy, but what difference does that, or should that, really make to how the government implements policy?

Response

These challenges have developed over time in the same order as they are described above. As a result, the content of UNA-UK’s programme has shifted, first focusing mostly on outreach and improving knowledge and understanding, then moving to the more substantial policy questions.

UK parliament

A view of the Elizabeth Tower. Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament.

Our first response was to try to educate and raise awareness. We produced features and guides on RtoP that unpacked the three pillars and gave examples of what they meant in practice. I toured the UK, speaking at universities and local UNA groups from Exeter to Aberdeen. We monitored parliamentary debates online in order to gauge the level of understanding in parliament (low), then published a parliamentary briefing and held meetings in parliament with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the UN that sought to give parliamentarians more detail.

We also led small-scale campaigns asking our supporters to sign onto advocacy letters to the Government, requesting information on the work of the RtoP Focal Point or on the UK’s approach to protecting the Rohingya in Burma. We lead a longer-term campaign on UK foreign policy in the lead up to the elections and encouraged our supporters to input to a public consultation the new Government’s National Security Strategy. All of this included a call to implement RtoP at the national level, citing this as a way for the UK to strengthen its global role.

In order to respond to the second challenge and demonstrate that RtoP and atrocity prevention should be part of our national policy discussions, we commissioned reports, convened expert roundtables and looked to the example of other states. Some felt that RtoP had turned into a “toxic brand” at the UN after Libya, so we went to New York to hear from the horses’ mouths. We took a cross-party parliamentary delegation to Washington, talked with those involved in the establishment and day-to-day working of the US Atrocities Prevention Board and tried to learn from their experience.  All this has been an attempt to provide the evidence that the UK should be a leader and an example internationally, matching best practice by identifying atrocity prevention as a core national interest.

But as a civil society organisation, we can only go so far, which is why the third challenge is so tricky. Only the Government can properly assess how its policies are taking the need to prevent atrocities into account. We are calling for a cross-Government review that would evaluate the UK’s capacity to identify and respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. However, I can understand why the government is hesitant on this request. The UK is working hard to integrate its foreign, development and defence policies through the creation of a National Security Council, it has a strong track-record on supporting human rights and has been a key architect in identifying peace and justice as a core part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Is this not already a successful approach to atrocity prevention? What evidence is there that the UK would have acted any differently towards a country at risk of atrocity crimes in the past, had it mentioned the words “atrocity crimes” or “RtoP” in its policy documents? These are counterfactuals that are difficult to prove without more in-depth studies.

Measuring success

…is probably the biggest challenge faced by policy advocates in any field. For the RtoP programme, we set ourselves some clear policy goals, arguing that the Government should:

  • acknowledge publicly and in relevant strategies that preventing atrocities is in the national interest, ensuring that policy is geared to support RtoP and atrocity prevention goals;
  • ensure that indicators on genocide and atrocity crimes are incorporated into early warning systems, country analysis and policy formation;
  • improve cross-departmental action on RtoP by reviewing capacity to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes, including by implementing best practice for the RtoP Focal Point.

NSSSo far, we can claim small steps towards these goals. The UK’s 2015 National Security Strategy (NSS) referred to using “UN mechanisms, such as the Responsibility to Protect” to drive global change and uphold International Humanitarian Law. This was a big improvement on the last NSS, which did not include a reference to RtoP at all. We believe the Government is actively thinking about how to continue to strengthen its early warning systems. Parliamentary interest in RtoP has also increased. The House of Lords held its first-ever debate on RtoP last year and there has been an rise in the number of parliamentary questions in both Houses relating to the Government’s approach to atrocity crimes prevention. The work of NGOs on atrocity and genocide prevention, such as Protection Approaches and Waging Peace, has also picked up, proliferating and building on the message that the UK should be a leader on this issue.

As one of the few NGOs working on RtoP in the UK over the past few years, I feel that we can claim some impact on this shifting attitude towards RtoP from something solely in the purview of the UN, to a principle that should be considered nationally too. There is still much work to be done. Disagreements remain, particularly around the extent to which an atrocity prevention policy lens has an impact or adds value. As advocates for building international and national capacities to prevent the worst crimes imaginable, we need to focus on impact over nomenclature and on value-added over name-checks. National efforts will be a lot more robust if we build a publicly-available pool of case studies that demonstrates, from the strategic level in capital to the field, that thinking seriously about atrocity prevention makes a real difference to the protection of human rights and to people’s lives.

 

1 Comment

Filed under First Pillar, ICRtoP Members, Prevention, RtoP, UN, United Kingdom