Burundi: The Genocide at a Glance

The next addition to our series of infographics honoring  Genocide Awareness Month gives you a quick glance at a past genocide: Burundi

burundi

To read the full infographic, click here.

 

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Q and A on the United States’ Atrocity Prevention Board

Today’s infographic to honor Genocide Awareness Month is a Q and A on the U.S.’s Atrocity Prevention Board. Read the full infographic to find out how the APB works, who’s involved, and how to make it better.

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Learn about National Mechanisms to prevent atrocity crimes

In our second infographic to honor Genocide Awareness Month, learn about what countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa are doing at the national level to prevent atrocity crimes.

 

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Read the full infographic here.

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A quick guide to the UN’s Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes

To honor Genocide Awareness Month, we are releasing a set of infographics designed to be used as educational tools on atrocity crimes and their prevention/response. Click here for a quick guide to the UN’s Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes.

 

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Read the full infographic here.

 

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#R2P 4 – 8 April 2016

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Report: Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia 

21250c4e-4ffe-4ddc-b51e-1e4e28664d22On 4-6 November, 9-11 November 2015, and 7-9 December 2015, the ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) held three installments of their workshop series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, respectively. The organizers gathered civil society representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Myanmar in order to a) deepen support of and commitment to the prevention of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in Southeast Asia; and b) strengthen early warning and response capacities at the domestic and regional levels to prevent and respond to atrocities. The overarching goal of the workshops was to develop civil society action plans for their countries on atrocities prevention.

Read the full report here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

The first bill proposed by the incoming government of Myanmar’s new Parliament, led by the National League for Democracy, created a new position in the government for Aung San Suu Kyi, that of state counsellor. This position, one that has been compared to that of a Prime Minister, would skirt the constitutional ban that prevented her from becoming president and allows her to have influence on the executive and legislative branches of government.

In her first act as State Counsellor, Suu Kyi announced a plan to release all political prisoners in the near future.


Burundi:

The Burundian Attorney General has asked the families of victims who had appealed to the International Criminal Court and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate their cases to come to him with their evidence instead of the international community. He further warned the international community that the evidence submitted could be “manipulated”.

The UNSC, in a unanimous resolution, requested the Secretary-General to present it with options for deploying a police force in Burundi. Such a force would monitor the security situation on the ground, promote human rights, and advance the rule of law.

The Burundian government stated that it accepts the UNSC’s resolution. However, the main opposition coalition, CNARED, expressed its objections to the UNSC’s resolution, stating that “the resolution gives President Nkurunziza the power to continue killing” and that only a peacekeeping force could help end the crisis.

ICRtoP Member International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) released a new briefing paper entitled “Burundi: A country on the edge.” Drawing on a mission to the country in February, in-depth interviews with refugees who have fled to Uganda, and IRRI’s previous experience in the country, the briefing offers insights on some crucial aspects of the current crisis.


Central African Republic:

The first trials against Congolese peacekeepers who allegedly sexually abused women and girls in CAR started in DRC. Meanwhile, in France, a prosecutor opened preliminary investigations into allegations of sexual abuse committed by French troops of MINUSCA. France also began withdrawing its troops from CAR on Wednesday.

The newly sworn-in president of CAR, Faustin Archange Touadera, announced that he had appointed Simplice Sarandji as the new prime minister.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Ambassador Robert King, US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is in South Korea in order to assess how to address the gross human rights violations being carried out by North Korea.

Lee So-yeon, a former soldier in the North Korean army, has spoken out about the mass rape of female soldiers within the North Korean army.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

A UN Response Team, charged with probing into allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the DRC, have found through their investigations allegations that point to sex with minors as well as paternity claims by victims.

Tanzania announced that it has already formed an investigation team that would travel to the DRC to investigate accusations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel is charging the soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank with manslaughter.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) condemnedthe destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, stated that over 700 people have been displaced since the start of 2016, an alarmingly high number compared to the same period last year.


Iraq:

ISIL militants killed at least 29 people in a series of suicide attacks carried out on Monday. Most deadly was an attack in a Dhi Qar restaurant popular amongst Shiite fighters that killed an approximated 14 people. Meanwhile, a car bomb set off in Basra killed at least five and wounded an additional 10. Another militant reportedly drove his car into a security checkpoint at Sadr al-Qanat; the wreck killed six troops and wounded 13. Finally another car bomber killed four troops and wounded 10 more at a paramilitary headquarters in Mishahda.


Kenya:

Judges at the ICC decided to throw out a case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang for crimes against humanity due to a lack of evidence. Mr. Ruto denies his involvement in the charges of murder, deportation, and persecution in the period after Kenya’s 2007 elections and many of the prosecution’s key witnesses have changed their statements. The prosecution claims this is due to bribery and intimidation, but in February ICC judges still denied the prosecution the use of previously recorded witness testimonies that have been recanted. The charges will be vacated and the accused are to be released, but the decision is still subject to appeal and does not preclude new prosecution in the future.


Libya:

The UNSC welcomed the arrival of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, citing its hope that the government would “tackle Libya’s political, security, humanitarian, economic and institutional challenges and to confront the rising threat of terrorism.” The EU also demonstrated its support for the UN-backed government when it  imposed travel bans and asset freezes on three individuals who oppose its establishment.

Ali Al-Za’tari, senior UN humanitarian affairs official in Libya, called for an independent investigation into the deaths of four migrants who had been detained by the authorities, citing the widespread “abuse and exploitation” of migrants in the country and calling for their protection.


Mali:

On Tuesday, UN Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, the top UN peacekeeping official,told the Security Council that, “every day lost during the implementation of the peace agreement is a day won for extremist and terrorist groups who have been gambling on the failure of the Mali peace process.” He also warned that these delays would impact intercommunal conflicts and have unfortunate consequences for civilians. Mr. Ladsous did, however, also report positive developments towards the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, but warned that “progress on defence and security issues is too slow.” Furthermore, he announced that a strategic review of MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, will be completed before the Secretary-General’s next report in May, roughly one month ahead of the date MINUSMA’s current mandate is set to expire.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has declared a 10-day State of Emergency over the entire country due to “terrorist threats” following a meeting of ministers on Monday. The previous State of Emergency ended less than a week before on 31 March.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have arrested Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru, a Boko Haram breakaway group. Ansaru is aligned ideologically with al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Like AQIM, Ansaru is infamous for kidnapping foreigners and is accused of killing several Westerners. Since 2012, the US has had a $5 million USD bounty on al-Barnawi and branded him one of Nigeria’s three “specially designated global terrorists.”

According to a Nigerian Defense Ministry spokesman, the country’s military has opened a camp to rehabilitate repentant ex-Boko Haram fighters who have surrendered. The camp provides the ex-fighters with vocational training to help them meaningfully contribute to economic growth in the country. He further claimed that around 800 members of Boko Haram have surrendered within the last three weeks.

The military has also released a statement urging other fighters to surrender, warning that it would not relent in the fight against Boko Haram until the group is “completely neutralized”. Since 26 February, the military claims to have rescued almost 11,600 civilian hostages from Boko Haram camps and villages in northeastern Nigeria. Another army spokesman haspromised troops that the military will address “logistics deficiencies which have hindered the optimal conduct of the Nigerian Army’s counter insurgency operations.”


South Sudan:

The leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, announced on Thursday that he would return to the state capital of Juba on 18 April, in order to form a transitional government alongside President Salva Kiir.

The conflict has led to a record 5.8 million people in South Sudan facing extreme poverty and starvation. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program (WFP) stated that hunger in the nation has increased significantly since the start of fighting two years ago.


Sudan/Darfur:

Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous has reported the continuation of a series of clashes and serial bombings in rebel occupied Jebel Marra. As a result, 103,000 Sudanese have sought refuge at the four Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps facilitated by the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID. Ladsous also stated that 138,000 people have been displaced since January 2016.  However, restrictions imposed by the Sudanese government on aid organizations and UNAMID has made it difficult to determine the exact number of persons displaced by recent fighting.

Amid the recent increases in conflict occurring in and around Jebel Marra, Darfuris have grown wary about the referendum set to take place next week from 11-13 April. The referendum will give residents the choice to either keep the five existing states of Darfur or to unite the region into a single, semi-autonomous zone. President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court for committing mass atrocities, intends to move forward with the vote despite it being rejected by many. The referendum was part of the 2011 peace agreement between Khartoum and numerous rebel groups.


Syria:

Islamist rebels shot down a government warplane on Tuesday and captured its pilot. The event happened in an area south of Aleppo where al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, along with its allies, launched a new military initiative last week to take back territory from Assad. However, a prominent member of the al-Nusra Front, Abu Firas al-Suri, was killed on Sunday by an airstrike in the rebel-occupied province of Idlib along with 20 other extremists part of the al-Nusra faction. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed Abu Firas’ death andsuspects that either Syrian or Russian forces are responsible.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government reclaimed yet another town from ISIL, one week after capturing the historic city of Palmyra. Syrian forces gained control of Qaryatain,a crucial oil and gas-rich area. The territorial gain will also help Assad block militant supply routes between Damascus and Homs. The town will now act as a foothold for attacking ISIL alongside the Iraqi border.

Leaders of the religious Alawite sect, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, released a lengthy report distancing their community from the Assad regime. In the document, titled “Declaration of Identity Reform,” the group said that they represented a third model of Islam that wishes to support “the values of equality, liberty and citizenship” and called for the secularization of the future government of Syria. Furthermore, the community stressed that the legitimacy of the Assad regime in years to come lies only on the basis of democracy and human rights.

In the lead up to the resumption of the Geneva peace talks next Monday, Assad has stated that he believes the talks could lead to a new Syrian government made up of an opposition, independents and loyalists. Nevertheless, he completely rejected the idea of establishing a transitional authority. For its part, the Syrian opposition, as represented by the High Negotiations Committee, has continuously called for a halt on civilian attacks and for the Geneva talks to result in the formation of a transitional government that excludes Assad altogether. The second round of peace talks is expected to address the issue of a political transition in Syria as well as the future of the Assad regime.


Yemen:

The US and the UK received criticism for continuing to deliver arms to Saudi Arabia, which is reported to be violating international humanitarian law in its fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

A delegation of Houthi rebels is holding talks in Saudi Arabia ahead of peace negotiations scheduled on 18 April, a move welcomed by the Saudi government.


 What else is new?

The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The United Nations Development Program and International Interfaith Peace Corps is holding a Roundtable on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington DC on 18 April.   RSVP here.

Also in DC, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum is holding an event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities and Deadly Conflict” on 12 April. RSVP here.

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#R2P Weekly: 28 March – 1 April 2016

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On the Way to Ending Impunity:The Cases of Karadzic, Bemba, and Ongwen

Last week was an important one for the advancement of international criminal justice and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). On 24 March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgment (summary) in the Karadžić case, three days earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba; and on 23 March, the ICC also decided that there was enough evidence in the Ongwen case for it to proceed to trial. Both RtoP and international criminal law, as exemplified here through the ICTY and the ICC, aim at bettering the world’s prevention of and reaction to atrocity crimes. Accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes serves as a vital element of upholding RtoP, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities. As such, any improvements in accountability for atrocities can also be considered an improvement in the implementation of RtoP.

(…)

To read the full blog, click here.
To read the statement by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the conviction of Radovan Karadzic, click here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

The outgoing government of Myanmar lifted a curfew in Rakhine State this week, imposed in June 2012 after clashes that displaced over 140,000, mostly Rohingya.

U Htin Kyaw of the National League for Democracy was sworn in on Wednesday as the new president of Myanmar. In his speech, Mr. Htin Kyaw urged “patience in the pursuit of democracy”, while noting that his government would strive for national reconciliation and a resolution of military clashes with ethnic groups.

 


Burundi:

Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, warned the UN Human Rights Council that the human rights violations occurring in Burundi posed a threat to the country and the wider Great Lakes region. He urged the Burundian government to release political prisoners and to ensure the respect of its citizens’ human rights, be they civil and political or economic and social.

The EU has threatened to stop funding Burundi’s 5,400 strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia with the aim of forcing the Burundian government to the negotiations table.

FOREBU, a rebel group in Burundi, has claimed responsibility for the killing of an army colonel in Bujumbura.

Burundi’s ruling party accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of attempting to “export genocide”. Burundi’s government and the UN have both accused Rwanda of recruiting refugees to help remove President Nkurunziza from power.

 


Central African Republic:

New reports of sexual abuses by Moroccan and Burundian peacekeepers in CAR have emerged, prompting a UN investigation. Additionally, AIDS-Free World released a report that peacekeepers had abused 98 girls from 2013-present.

The French minister of defence confirmed that the French intervention in CAR, Operation Sangaris, will end in the course of the year, stating that French troops had achieved their mission of restoring security there. The withdrawal shall happen parallel to the build-up of the MINUSCA and the EU Training Mission.

Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Central African Republic’s new president, took office on Wednesday, vowing to restore peace and security to the country.
 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Three days of clashes between the DRC’s army and the FDLR and Mai Mai militia have killedsixteen in Mpati.

The UN Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of MONUSCO, refusing to cut down on the 20,000-strong force, despite recommendations from Ban Ki-moon and request from the DRC government.

Several opposition parties endorsed the former governor of Lubumbashi, Moise Katumbi, for president. Katumbi was a member of President Kabila’s party, but quit while accusing Kabila of plotting to stay in power last September.

The DRC began the trials of twenty soldiers accused of rape and other crimes while serving as UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic.
 


Gaza/West Bank:

The HRC passed a resolution creating a blacklist of companies involved in settlement activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The resolution wasdenounced by Israel and the US.

The OHCHR has stated that it is extremely concerned by the extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank, fearing that it might not have been a lone incident. The Office has called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigation”.

 


Iraq:

An ISIL attack near a gathering of workers in Tayaran Square in Baghdad killed 7 and wounded 27.

 


Libya:

Martin Kobler, Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya,condemned executions by armed groups in Warshafana against civilians in the north of the country, citing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The UAE Red Crescent is airlifting 300 tons of aid resources to Libya.

The Libyan ambassador to the UN has asked the UNSC to exempt its blacklisted sovereign wealth fund from sanctions imposed by the Council in 2011, claiming that mismanagement of funds is causing the loss of billions of dollars at the Libyan Investment Authority. However, the resolution adopted by the UNSC only reaffirms the Council’s intention to make frozen assets available to Libyans at a later date.

The heads of Libya’s UN-backed unity government, known as the Government of National Accord, have made their way to Tripoli, the capital, in order to broker a ceasefire between the rival factions and better confront ISIL.
 


Mali:

According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has agreed to plead guilty to destroying religious and cultural sites in Timbuktu. He faces war crimes charges for his involvement in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque during the city’s occupation in 2012.

Special forces have arrested Souleymane Keita, the top jihadist leader in southern Mali, and one of his allies near the border with Mauritania. Originally part of the jihadist forces which took control of large swathes of territory in northern Mali in 2012 and ousted by the French in 2013, when French troops ousted the jihadists in 2013, Keita went south to start his own jihadist group called the “Ansar Dine of the South”. He has been accused of running a jihadist training camp outside of Bamako and for carrying out attacks in the capital and in cities near the border with Côte d’Ivoire.

Authorities in Mali also arrested two citizens accused of “actively participating” in a deadly attack on a beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March that killed 19 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, the third such strike in West Africa in recent months after the attacks on a hotel in the capital city of Mali and another on a hotel in Burkina Faso, demonstrating the mobility and access of the growing jihadist threat these countries face.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns about the number of challenges facing UN peacekeepers in Mali and the spreading insecurity throughout the country. In his latest report, Ban noted “The northern and central parts of Mali remain under the threat of criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions.” Although a peace agreement was reached last year between the government and the rebels, jihadist violence still presents a real threat and the national government has not been able to maintain the country’s security with its domestic forces alone.
 


Nigeria:

In their latest report on Nigeria, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the Nigerian government’s response to the Damasak attacks last year “woefully inadequate”. The attacks resulted in the abduction of 400 women and children, including 300 schoolchildren, by Boko Haram.

In the days after the HRW report, a local Damasak resident, government administrator, elder, and chief reported that Boko Haram had abducted an additional 500 girls, boys, and women from Damask on 24 November 2014. The government of former president Goodluck Jonathan denied reports of the abduction last year, while other officials expressed doubts over the claims. One of the people that came forward, whose child had been among those abducted, claimed that the people of the city had “kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government.”

Although Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram, it has drawn less international attention than the group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, of which 57 are confirmed to have escaped, although 219 girls remain captive. Two girlsarrested by authorities during an attempt to carry out a suicide bombing on a village in Cameroon could be part of this group, and two parents of the Chibok abductees have been sent to Cameroon to meet with the girls.

Although US cooperation with Nigeria had effectively stalled during Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency due to his refusal to investigate accusations of corruption and human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military, on Wednesday, the United States and the current Nigerian government agreed to set up working groups to strengthen security cooperation and the economy and tackle corruption.
 


South Sudan:

The United Nations has reported that over 48,000 South Sudanese have escaped to Sudan since the end of January, due to food shortages and ongoing conflict. Since the conflict started in December 2013, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the amount of South Sudanese seeking asylum in Sudan, with an average of 500 refugees, equivalent to 100 households, arriving daily in East Darfur. The 2016 South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), which covers all refugee programmes in the area, is only funded at 3 per cent, which leaves many emergent and necessary efforts, such as providing clean water, sanitation, medical assistance, food and shelter, incredibly underfunded.

In response to a report published by Radio Tamazuj, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has stated its commitment to protecting populations in the country. The report by the popular local media outlet accused UNMISS of declining to protect displaced persons in a camp called Sector 5 in Malakal. UNMISS had said in a previous statement that Sector 5 is not a priority for them, as they are still focusing on Sectors 1-4, which have been recently damaged by fires. However, UNMISS also stated that its peacekeepers are protecting 200,000 people seeking refuge within their bases all over the country and are working to protect people outside of their bases. The UN body hopes that the upcoming peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar will result in displaced persons returning home.
 


Sudan/Darfur:

The Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused rebel groups of abducting children and forcing them to participate in military activities. Tayfor stated that the recruitment of child soldiers by armed movements violate all international conventions and international humanitarian law, as well as the 2010 Child Act. The leaders of Sudan’s primary rebel groups, such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) have agreed to take increased measures to protect children in conflict areas.

Continuous attacks and air raids on East Jebel Marra in Darfur have resulted in most of the population of the area fleeing to camps for the internally displaced. Others have sought shelter in caves and valleys in the Jebel Marra area. Moreover, there is reportedly not a single healthcare facility throughout southern Darfur. As of 20 March, conflict had displaced approximately 129,200 people in Jebel Marra conflict since 15 January.
 


Syria:

The Syrian government recaptured the historic city of Palmyra on Sunday, marking an important milestone in the fight against Islamic State fighters, who had conducted a 10-month reign of terror in the area. The city is locally known as the “Bride of the Desert” and is popular for its 2000-year-old ruins that used to draw in visitors from all over the world, before ISIL destroyed many of the monuments. The recapture was supported by Russian military forces. The loss of Palmyra is seen as one of the biggest setbacks for the Islamic State since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across much of Syria and Iraq. This victory by the Syrian government has also opened up a vast, strategic space of desert leading to IS occupied territory in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in the east.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 363 civilians were killed during the first month of the ceasefire.This is the lowest number of monthly civilian deaths since November 2011. The 363 civilians that died last month is in stark contrast to the 1,100 who were killed the previous month, including 234 children. Nevertheless, while the ceasefire has brought some calm to Syria, fighting has continued between rival groups and jihadist factions.

The United Nations is considering appointing a specialist to facilitate negotiations with the goal of a possible prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition. This effort has been identified as a priority for the Geneva peace talks, as the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has demanded that the government release prisoners countless times. The responsibility of the new specialist will also be to ensure that named-detainees are not harmed after their release.

President Bashar al-Assad told an interviewer on Wednesday that he rejects the idea of a “transitional body with full executive powers” proposed by the opposition, which requires him to step down. Assad continued to state that Syria needs a national unity government consisting of various political parties that will secure the transition to a new constitution. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last December that called for a road map to be created in order to establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months, as well as a schedule for the drafting of a new constitution which should be followed by an election.

In the meantime, three days after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration to pull military forces out of Syria, Russia’s naval ship nicknamed “the Syrian Express” left the Russian Black Sea port for Tartous, Russia’s naval base in Syria. The exact contents of the ship are unknown, but according to an analysis by Reuters, the movements of the ship suggest that Russia is attempting to maintain its military presence in Syria as well as supply the Syrian army. However, over half of Russia’s fixed-wing strike force flew out of Syria following the declaration for the partial withdrawal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community on Wednesday to aid in the resettlement of about a half a million Syrian refugees over the next three years. The United Nations Refugee Agency has aimed to resettle 480,000 by the end of 2018 but has admitted that it may be a struggle due to widespread fear, as well as a lack of political will. Ban urged states to pledge towards creating new legal pathways for humanitarian admission through family reunions, as well as labor and study opportunities.
 


Yemen:

A previously agreed upon prisoner swap was carried out between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels ahead of the planned cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations, freeing 109 Yemenis in exchange for 9 Saudis.

UNICEF has warned of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, especially in relation to children, reporting that more than 6 children are killed every day in the conflict. The United Nations Population Fund, meanwhile,reported that the Yemeni conflict has left 3.4 million women between the ages of 15-49 needing humanitarian assistance. Reproductive health and other services are severely lacking, putting the lives of thousands women and (unborn) children at risk

In attacks claimed by ISIL, three suicide bombers killed 26 people near security checkpoints in Aden. The attacks, which took place last Friday, coincided with the first anniversary of the start of the civil war.

An airstrike by unidentified planes has left at least four suspected al Qaeda members dead.
 


What else is new?

The ICRtoP is pleased to welcome two new members to its coalition:

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Kurdistan, Iraq)

Founded in 2005, the Jiyan Foundation originally began in Kirkuk, Iraq as a rehabilitation center for victims of violence and torture in the region. Since then, the Jiyan Foundation has opened offices throughout several cities in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as an office in Berlin, Germany. Their main purpose is to promote and protect human rights through their assistance to victims and survivors of torture, terrorism, and atrocity crimes, with the organization working with over 2,000 victims over the years. The Foundation provides free medical treatment and psychotherapeutic support as well as social and legal counseling to assist in physical and mental and reintegration into society. Additionally, the Jiyan Foundation conducts programmatic initiatives focusing on human rights education, political advocacy, and the promotion of public awareness for atrocity crime prevention.

Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights
Founded in 2011 following the rise of the “Arab Spring”, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documents violations of human rights committed throughout the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of informing public opinion and advocacy for action in the region. There are a range of issues in focus for the organization including, but not limited to, women’s and children’s rights, detention of prisoners of conscience, commission of torture, and refugee and migrant rights. Through a series of press releases, publications, infographics, and videos, as well as direct advocacy, the organization strives to galvanize political will to hold perpetrators to account and stimulate action for prevention and protection.

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On the Way to Ending Impunity: The Cases of Karadzic, Bemba, and Ongwen

By Werner Hofs

Last week was an important one for the advancement of international criminal justice and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). On 24 March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgment (summary) in the Karadžić case, three days earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba; and on 23 March, the ICC also decided that there was enough evidence in the Ongwen case for it to proceed to trial. Both RtoP and international criminal law, as exemplified here through the ICTY and the ICC, aim at bettering the world’s prevention of and reaction to atrocity crimes. Accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes serves as a vital element of upholding RtoP, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities. As such, any improvements in accountability for atrocities can also be considered an improvement in the implementation of RtoP.

Karadžić case

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Radovan Karadzic at his appeals judgment at the ICTY in The Hague on 11 July 2013. REUTERS/MICHAEL KOOREN

Last Thursday, 24 March 2016, the highest-ranked defendant in relation to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Radovan Karadžić, was convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He was found guilty on 10 out of the 11 charges brought against him and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, minus the 7 years and 8 months he had already served. Despite the fact that the conviction did not come as a surprise and that the Trial Chamber was unanimous on a large majority of the issues, certain elements of the verdict, such as the decision on Karadžić’s “genocidal intent” in Srebrenica—and the way in which this was proven—remain of interest for furthering accountability for mass atrocity crimes.

Most notable amongst these elements is the acquittal on one of the two charges of genocide brought by the prosecution. This charge concerned whether or not Karadžić was responsible for genocide in seven Bosnian communities in 1992. The Court declared that Karadžić’s actions, in relation to those seven communities, did not demonstrate genocidal intent, something that will have an impact on other cases at the ICC, such as the Mladic case, in which the defense will now surely point to the Karadžić judgement as proof that genocide was not committed in those municipalities.

Karadžić was, however, found guilty in relation to the genocide at Srebrenica, with conversations between him and Miroslav Deronjic, the civilian administrator of Srebrenica, proving quintessential to obtaining this result. Karadžić’s conviction thus joins other ICTY and International Court of Justice judgments in stating that the massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys by the Bosnian Serb Army, committed under the eyes of the international community and the United Nations in 1995, amounted to genocide. The events at Srebrenica indeed forced the international community to reevaluate the manner in which it prevented and responded to crises, directly contributing to the creation of RtoP. Therefore, while the international community at the time remained paralyzed and failed to fulfil its obligation to protect the victims, Karadžić’s conviction marks another (small) step in the community’s willingness to end impunity and finally live up to its responsibility in this regard.

Srebrenica 2

Gravestones at the Strebenica-Potocari Memorial Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Michael Buker

Concerning sentencing, the Chamber stipulated that the positive impact on the conflict of Karadžić’s decision to step down as president was a mitigating factor. His decision thus played in his favor, despite the question of whether or not he only did so based on a promise that he would not be prosecuted before the ICTY.

As for what is to come, the decision can be appealed by both parties and, indeed, Karadžić has already indicated that he will do so. He will most likely focus his appeal on certain elements of his conviction for genocide and on trying to argue that his trial was not fair in order to reduce his sentence. The prosecution, for its part, will most likely try to obtain from the Appeals Chamber a conviction on the charge for which Karadžić was acquitted (genocide in the other Bosnian municipalities.)

The decision was met by varied responses by the region, with Bosniaks welcoming the convictions and lamenting the acquittal. Meanwhile, Milorad Dodik, the current Bosnian Serb president, declared that the Tribunal was biased and praised Karadžić and his actions.

Bemba case 

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Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa on 27 July 2006. REUTERS

Meanwhile, the ICC rendered its fourth-ever judgement on 21 March 2016. In a unanimous judgment, the Court convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and leader of a rebel group known as Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and crimes against humanity (murder and rape). The case is a landmark case in so far as that it marks a number of “firsts”. It is the first case in which the ICC has convicted someone based on “command responsibility”; the first case in which the Court has convicted someone for rape as war crime; and the first international war crimes case in which all the judges were women. The ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said that the case “affirms […] that commanders are responsible for the acts of the forces under their control” and that it “highlighted the critical need to eradicate sexual and gender-based crimes as weapons of war in conflict by holding accountable those who fail to exercise their duties and responsibilities that their status as commanders and leaders entail.”

 

In relation to his command responsibility, Bemba was convicted for the crimes carried out by the rebel group MLC in the Central African Republic from 2002 to 2003, including the murder and rape of innocent men, women, and children. The Court concluded that Bemba had primary authority over the group, had effective control of their actions, knew about these actions, and failed to stop or punish them. The punishment of these mass crimes joins the list of responses of the international community to the crisis and underlines the world’s collective responsibility in protecting populations from atrocity crimes.

The fact that Bemba’s conviction was the first time the ICC found someone guilty of using rape as a weapon of war demonstrates the Court’s willingness to prosecute sexual and gender-based crimes, which continue to occur in conflicts around the world and which disproportionately affect women and girls. Even though these crimes have been prosecuted before the ICC in previous cases, this conviction marks a clear advancement in the fight against impunity when it comes to sexual and gender-based crimes. Discrimination against women and girls is directly opposed to good governance, the rule of law and the rebuilding of societies in the wake of mass atrocities. This clear signal, sent by the Court, that such discrimination is a war crime, further underscores the international community’s responsibility to fight against it.

Bemba is still likely to appeal. Additionally, the Trial Chamber must now make a decision on Bemba’s sentence as well as on the reparations to which the record number of participating victims (5,229) are entitled. Finally, the ICC has yet to adjudicate on the charges brought by the Prosecutor against Bemba and four others for suspected witness tampering.

Ongwen case

In between both of these judgements, on 23 March 2016, the ICC confirmed all 70 charges brought by the Prosecutor against Dominic Ongwen, the alleged commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) Sinia Brigade. This confirmation means that the Pre-Trial Chamber found that the evidence brought before it was sufficient enough to consider that that Ongwen had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ongwen

Dominic Ongwen during the Juba Peace Talks in 2008. BBC

Ongwen, who gave himself up last year, will thus face trial at the ICC. The charges brought concern attacks  on multiple camps of internally displaced persons in northern Uganda in 2003 and 2004. The decision confirming the charges can only be appealed if the Pre-Trial Chamber authorizes the request. An element that is expected to play an important role, at least in the defense’s argument, is the fact that Ongwen was abducted by the LRA as a child when he was nine years old. In the eyes of many, Ongwen is thus not only a perpetrator of atrocity crimes, but also a victim.

Being the only former child soldier on trial at the ICC, the case raises numerous complex questions. It does, however, make clear the important role States have to play when it comes to protecting children during and from conflict.

Conclusion

Of course, convictions and confirmations of charges, per definition, only happen after mass atrocities have already occurred, meaning that States and the international community have already failed in their responsibility to prevent such crimes, the most important aspect of RtoP. Nevertheless, we can celebrate these advancements of international law. Accountability is necessary for a society to heal. Without it, resentment will fester, hindering societies from rebuilding and planting the seeds for further atrocities. These two convictions and the confirmation of charges also send a clear signal to perpetrators of mass atrocities, as well as States and the international community at large. We can hope that, because yesterday’s criminals have been or will be punished, tomorrow’s potential criminal will not become one. And finally, States and the international community cannot deny their responsibility in having failed to prevent these crimes, something that will hopefully reinforce their future commitment to RtoP.

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#R2P Weekly: 14-18 March 2016

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

From 22-23 March 2016 in Kampala, Uganda, USAID and DANIDA, with the support of the ICRtoP, are jointly organizing a workshop on how to implement atrocity prevention in development cooperation. The main focus of the workshop will be on how to translate atrocity prevention and the Responsibility to Protect as policy concepts into concrete, operational inputs for development work in Eastern African countries.

The workshop will bring together embassy staff, government officials and representatives from civil society, with a particular focus on practitioners and experts in both development cooperation and atrocity prevention. The workshop is designed to be highly interactive, drawing heavily on the participants’ experience in specific country cases through a mixture of panel discussions, presentations and group work.

The co-sponsors will be producing a report on outcomes shortly after the conference. For more information, please contact Schmidt@responsibilitytoprotect.org.

To find out how RtoP relates to other thematic areas, please see the following:


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya

Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Myanmar’s Parliament chose Htin Kyaw of the newly powerful National League for Democracy party to be  Myanmar’s new president, formally ending nearly a half-decade of military rule. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Htin Kyaw, expressing the UN’s willingness to enhance cooperation with Myanmar’s government in promoting “peace, development, human rights and the rule of law for the benefit of all the peoples of Myanmar.”

Fighting continued between the army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, forcing nearly 500 individuals to flee Shan state.


Burundi:

The Burundian Attorney General denied the existence of any additional mass graves other than the one discovered less than two weeks ago, despite assertions from Iteka Human Rights League and Amnesty International to the contrary. However, the government did acknowledge that it had burried 58 suspected rebels who died after attacks on military bases without informing their families.

After consultations with the Burundian government, the EU decided to stop financial aid to the country, arguing that the government hasn’t put enough effort into finding a political solution to the crisis. The Burundian government expressed its disappointment in the decision but also stated that the government wouldn’t stop functioning due to this setback.

The US is increasing humanitarian aid to Burundian refugees by more than $31 million, bringing the total aid given since the start of the crisis to $86 million.

Police in Burundi have arrested Hugo Haramategeko, leader of the New Alliance for the Development of Burundi party and one of the last opposition leaders still in the country.

During a visit by an AU delegation to the country, representatives of Burundi’s opposition stated that it was disappointed that the AU hadn’t done enough to defend the Burundian democracy under Article 23 of the AU Charter.

Burundian police have arrested a Rwandan soldier about 250 km from the capital of Bujumbura. Burundi officials alleged that an arrested Rwandan soldier came to the country with a mission to “destabilize” Burundi. Another unidentified gunmen also killed three party officials from different villages.


 

Central African Republic:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for more accountability for peacekeeping troops accused of having sexually exploited locals, half of the reported cases having come from troops stationed in the CAR. Suggestions mentioned by Ban included forcing the peacekeepers to give up their salaries or court-marshalling soldiers. These claims come after the US introduced a draft Resolution in the UNSC to tackle the issue of sexual exploitation by peacekeepers, a resolution adopted with 14 votes in favour and no votes against. Egypt abstained from voting after a proposed amendment aimed at weakening the resolution didn’t pass.

Morocco has threatened to withdraw its peacekeepers from CAR and other countries due to differences of opinion surrounding the situation in the Western Sahara.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Marzuki Darusman, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea, expressed his regret that the situation in North Korea has yet to improve and called for the Human Rights Council to create an independent panel of experts to address the situation.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

ICRtoP member, Human Rights Watch (HRW), released a report calling for the unconditional release of two youth activists, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, who were arrested last year in the DRC during a pro-democracy workshop for youth. HRW claims the men’s arrests were politically motivated in an attempt to silence dissenters as part of the government’s recent crackdown to help President Kabila in a potential bid to extend his presidency beyond the constitutional limit of two-terms, set to end on 19 December of this year.

On Tuesday, Congo police arrested 18 peaceful protesters in Goma. Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher for HRW, highlighted that the protest was “entirely peaceful.”

Despite the fact that the UN lauded the DRC government for acquiring non-lethal crowd control weapons, skeptics remain concerned that these weapons were only acquired in order to warn the public not to oppose President Joseph Kabila if he were to seek another term against the constitutional limit.

The European Parliament’s 10 March resolution expressed concern for the deteriorating human rights and security situation in the DRC. A Congolese government official denied claims that DRC citizens’ rights were being violated.

A South-African mobile court will travel to the DRC to try 32 South African soldiers participating in the UN peacekeeping force in the country, contributing to the fight against impunity.

Mai-Mai militiamen and fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnically Hutu militant group based in the eastern DRC, carried out an attack in the DRC’s Virunga National Park, killing two park rangers and five militiamen. The DRC armed forces launched a counter-attack in the Park, the country’s oldest wildlife reserve, in which they killed the five militiamen. According to the military, the militia groups had attacked with the intent of carrying out “illegal fishing in Lake Edward.”


Gaza/West Bank:

Violence escalated this weekend between Israeli forces and Islamist militants, with both sides launching attacks against the other. A retaliatory airstrike executed by Israel hit a Palestinian home, killing two children. Hamas, for its part, hacked Israeli television networks and interrupted a program with a propaganda video featuring dead bodies, threatening Israelis not to leave their homes. The hostility began when four rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel. While no injuries occurred in the initial strike, it was one of the largest attacks since the end of the war in summer 2014.

Israel has confiscated large portions of land in the West Bank allegedly in order to construct Jewish settlements and tourism infrastructure. The US, Germany and France have all criticized Israel’s actions. Such a confiscation is viewed by many as illegal and an obstruction to peace negotiations.

A tunnel collapsed in Gaza on Thursday trapping six people. A local official said that the tunnel was used for trade purposes. Twelve people have been killed in Gaza this year in similar instances.


Iraq:

On 13 March, a car bomb explosion near Ankara, Turkey killed at least 24 and injured 125. In response, Turkey executed a series of airstrikes against the PKK in northern Iraq.


Libya:

The Libyan Presidential Council has demanded that the international community stop dealing with other factions in the country and said that the UN-supported unity government is ready to start work after having obtained the necessary signatures from the House of Representatives. The UNSC has reiterated its support for the national unity government and the Presidency Council in its appeal to the international community. Furthermore, the UNSC extended the mandate of the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to last until 15 June in order for to help the unity government establish itself. In the same resolution, the UNSC requested a report from the Secretary-General within 60 days after consultations with Libyan authorities with recommendations for how UNSMIL can support the next phase of the political transition. In a press statement preceding the resolution, they also called for the unity government to respond to the threat posed by the ISIL presence in the country.

Libya’s unrecognized authorities currently in control of Tripoli warned the UN-supported unity government that it was unwelcome in the country’s capital. The so-called Tripoli government has claimed that the unity government “has been imposed from abroad without the consensus of Libyans”. The Tripoli government has said that any new Libyan government must be as a result of “an inter-Libyan accord” with its members selected “inside Libya with a transparent agenda and programme and a consensual strategy.” Since December, the UN has been pushing the country’s rival politicians to accept the unity government.. The EU has started preparing sanctions for individuals hindering the political process in Libya and obstructing the unity government from taking office.

Meanwhile, since 15 March Italian authorities recovered over 2,400 migrants and three corpses from the boats of people smugglers from Libya.


Mali:

A Chadian peacekeeper killed two of his colleagues and injured a third in a shooting in northern Mali, according to the UN. This is the second attack this year by a Chadian peacekeeper within MINUSMA, but the motives for the attack are still unknown.

After being scattered by French troops in 2013, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has recently regrouped and has now extended its reach in Mali and moved into Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. The group’s terror tactics have also evolved and now consist of bigger attacks on hotels and places frequented by African elites and Westerners.


Nigeria:

Two female suicide bombers killed 24 people and injured 18 others in an attack on a mosque in a town near the city of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. Maiduguri has long been a target of Boko Haram, which is suspected of carrying out the attack, according to a spokesman for the Nigerian Army.

Human rights activists and people around the world have condemned the Nigerian Senate’s rejection on 15 March of the proposed Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, which sought to eliminate “all forms of discrimination” against women in the country. Proponents of the Bill said that it would have promoted women’s equality in education, marriage, and inheritance. Its opponents claim that it is incompatible with the religious beliefs and culture of Nigerian people, with both Muslim and Christian lawmakers speaking out against the Bill. In response, some activists are circulating a petition in the hopes they can sway the Nigerian Senators to reconsider.


South Sudan:

A recent report by the United Nations on the human rights situation in South Sudan details countless horrendous violations. While all sides have committed atrocities, the report claims that “the government appears to be responsible for the gross and systematic human rights violations.” The report has outlined a series of recommendations, including that the Human Rights Council establish a specific mechanism to ensure accountability and that a Transitional Government of National Unity be established to stop present violations and move towards peace.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also emphasized the escalation and magnitude of sexual violence in South Sudan in a news release. The UN has recorded more than 1,300 accounts of rape in just five months within the northern state of Unity. The High Commissioner also pointed out that the quantity of rapes and gang-rapes reported must only be a glimpse into the real total, as girls and women are increasingly being considered a “commodity” by government SPLA forces and militia. He continued that these gross violations of human rights have highly been off the radar of the international community.


Sudan/Darfur:

This week Sudan threatened to close its border with South Sudan and deport over 300,000 South Sudanese students. The Sudanese government claims that the students have been supporting rebels at war with President Bashir’s government.


Syria:

President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday that he has ordered Russian forces to withdraw from Syria, as he believes Russia has completed its mandate in the country. Putin further called on Russian diplomats to strengthen their negotiation efforts towards reaching a political settlement. Nearly half of Russia’s air force had left Syria by Thursday, with a Russian general telling reporters that the withdrawal would be completed by the end of the week.

The Syrian peace talks resumed on 14 March and both the government and the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the representative group of the opposition, submitted documents to the United Nations the following day, outlining their ideas for a political solution in the country. UN envoy Staffan De Mistura said that he would analyze the differing positions in order to find common ground between the two. While the HNC was present at the meeting on Tuesday, they continued to demand the release of detainees illegally held by the Syrian government, stating that the issue “was not up to negotiation”. De Mistura conceded that no progress had been made concerning the request from the opposition.

The peace talks hit another obstacle over a Kurdish proposal. Several Kurdish representatives in Syria have announced that they plan to declare a federal region, formalizing the zone that they have established throughout the war. The idea has been dismissed by the Syrian government at the peace talks and by the government of Turkey, with both governments stressing the importance of maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity.

UNICEF published a report on Monday announcing that 8.4 million children, or around 80 percent of the Syrian population under 18, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid within and outside of Syrian borders. Furthermore, the report stated that more than 2.1 million children were out of school last year and that child recruitment by militant groups has increased exponentially.


Yemen:

prisoner swap between Saudi Arabia and rebel groups in Yemen has led to hope for a political solution to the crisis, as it indicates that the two sides are willing to communicate and negotiate with each other. Hopes for peace were further strengthened  by a declaration from a high-level Houthi leader calling for Iran not to interfere in Yemen. Indeed, Saleh al-Sammad, the head of the Houthis’ political wing, has stipulated that the Houthis are prepared to enter into peace negotiations with the Saudi-led coalition.

Even with a lull in the fighting, the death toll still continues to rise. Clashes between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed local resistance fighters in the city of Taiz killed 45 people, while fighting in the city of Aden killed 14, including 12 Al-Qaeda members. On 15 March, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 119 civilians and wounded 35 in a busy market in the country’s Hajjah province. Many of those killed were children who worked in the market, according to witnesses.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Houthi officials in Yemen regularly confiscate the passports of human rights activists, thereby heavily undermining their right to freely travel. Moreover, Houthi forces have arbitrarily closed down human rights and other non-governmental organizations and forcefully detained their members.

HRW has also claimed that the United States should be held responsible for war crimes in Yemen and called on the U.S. to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. The Dutch Parliament imposed an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, the first EU country to do so, after reports emerged detailing Saudi-led bombings on civilians. The European Parliament has also called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, prompting the UK Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls to review the country’s arms sales to the Gulf States in light of the possible use of UK weapons in the conflict in Yemen.

The U.N. humanitarian chief in Yemen announced that none of the warring parties are committed to protecting civilians or helping with humanitarian assistance. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his strong disapproval of Saudi attacks on Yemeni civilians and urged all parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws, which prohibit attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects.
 


What else is new?

The ICRtoP has written a short summary of the Clustered Interactive dialogue with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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#R2P Weekly: 7-11 March 2016

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Syrian Peace Talks Set to Resume in Geneva on Monday

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The UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, announced that the Geneva peace talks, meant to end the five-year Syrian civil war and which collapsed in February, would resume on Monday, 14 March. De Mistura hopes that Monday’s talks between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition will be more substantive than those in February. Topics on the agenda will include the formation of a transitional administration, the creation of a new constitution, and elections (both presidential and parliamentary). It appears that humanitarian access and violations of the two-week ceasefire will not be discussed, in line with the UN’s wishes that the parties focus on a political settlement. The Syrian government has already confirmed its attendance, while the High Negotiations Committee, the main rebel coalition, has only said that it would “likely” join after it completed an internal assessment of the two-week old ceasefire. The talks are set to recess on 24 March.

All parties to the conflict in Syria have a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. As the most recent UN Commission of Inquiry report of February 2016 states, there has been an “exponential” rise in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria. The civilian population has borne the “brunt of the pain and suffering”, while the perpetrators have been “shielded from accountability”—facts underscoring both the inadequacy of the international community’s response and the urgency of the Geneva peace talks.

For more information on Syria and the Responsibility to Protect, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


 

Burma/Myanmar:

The Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group in Myanmar, attacked Myanmar government troops twice last week. The Arakan Army is not included in the nationwide ceasefire deal between the government and eight ethnic armed groups.

The UNHCR has produced a video with the intention of encouraging Thais to help Myanmar refugees. There are over 106,000 Myanmar refugees living in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.


Burundi:

The Burundi government has mandated that all foreigners in the country register themselves in order to be able to issue biometric ID cards. This move has been met with suspicion, especially by Rwandans, who fear that this will be used to track and victimize foreigners.

The UNHCR noted that the number of refugees in Burundi has surpassed 250,000 as people continue to flee violence. Neighbouring countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have received the largest amount of individuals.

Last Friday marked the launch of a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Burundi. Relatively little is known about the future work and mandate of the Commission, only that it shall look at the period between Burundi’s independence and 2008 and exclude the current crisis taking place in the country.

The United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) completed its first country visit. The experts concluded that the Burundian government should make further efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country. One expert, Christof Heyns, noted that “the future of Burundi – internally and as part of the international community – will depend on its performance in the field of human rights.”  A second visit is planned in June and a final report is due in September.


Central African Republic:

On 6 March, armed men killed 12 people in different villages near the central town of Bambari. Though the UN had declared Bambari a “weapons-free zone” last year, the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka still maintain a presence in the town.

The UN and other multilateral organizations expressed their support for the newly elected president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra. They further welcomed the president’s intention to promote dialogue and national reconciliation.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The HRC is expected to adopt a resolution condemning the DPRK’s human rights abuses. The draft, co-sponsored by the EU and Japan, will be discussed at the 31st session of the Council and address issues such as summary executions and the rape and torture of political prisoners, claims vigorously contested by the DPRK government.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The DRC has agreed to extradite to Rwanda Ladislas Ntaganzwa, a former mayor indicted on suspicions of his alleged involvement in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Mr. Ntaganzwa was one of nine high-profile fugitives still at large after the Rwandan genocide. He has been accused of murder, rape, extermination, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and genocide.

On Tuesday, Denis Mukwege, the DRC’s famous rape-care doctor, presented a petition signed by almost 200 organizations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The petition makes several demands, including for the UN to publish a secret list of 617 suspected perpetrators of rape and other human rights abuses in the DRC from 1993-2003. It further asks the UN’s support for the creation of a special court to try individuals for crimes against humanity and war crimes.


Gaza/West Bank:

Violence erupted in several separate incidents across Israel/Palestine this week. On Monday, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man near the Gaza/Israeli border. On Tuesday, a Palestinian terrorist went on a stabbing spree and killed 11 people. Violence continued on Wednesday, as two Palestinians opened fire on a bus in Jerusalem. Finally, the Israeli military shot and killed a Palestinian man at a checkpoint near Qaqilya after he attempted to stab security forces.

The UN raised concerns over the alarming number of demolitions of Palestinian homes and other buildings by Israel. The demolished sites had been built for reconstruction purposes with funding from international donors. A UN official noted that, in just the first ten weeks of 2016, “we have already surpassed the total number of humanitarian aid items destroyed or confiscated in all of 2015.”


Iraq:

On Sunday, an ISIL militant drove a fuel truck packed with explosives into a security checkpoint near Baghdad, killing at least 47 people and wounding many others. ISIL claimed responsibility shortly after through social media and their news outlet Amaq. Of the 47 people killed, 39 were civilians. The UN has reported that 670 Iraqis were killed in February, two-thirds of them being civilians.

The U.S. and Iraq are conducting operations in preparation for the largest confrontation to date with ISIL, with the goal of re-taking Mosul by the end of the year. While the fight is scheduled to be months away, U.S.-backed Iraqi ground forces and airstrikes have already began to isolate the insurgents by cutting off supply routes to weaken the militants. U.S. Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, announced that the preparations for battle are currently underway but cautioned that the fight would be “complicated.”


Kenya:

Kenyan police have arrested four men on suspicion of trying to leave Kenya to join Islamic State in Libya. The country’s authorities are concerned that the increase in citizens joining ISIL could indicate that the extremist group may be trying to establish a presence in Kenya. So far, at least 20 Kenyans have joined ISIL in Libya and the Middle East. Kenya is simultaneously battling to stop the recruitment of youths to Somalia’s al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda linked extremist group, which already includes hundreds of Kenyans.


Libya:

Tunisian officials report that militants attacked a military installation near the Libyan border, killing at least 27 people early Monday morning. Many believe militants associated with ISIL were behind the attack, raising fears that the terrorist group aims to extend its presence to neighboring Tunisia. Following the attacks, Tunisian security forces seized a large supply of weapons.

Libyan officials reported that ISIL militants had killed 3 security guards at a checkpoint between Sirte and Misrata on Wednesday. A Sirte local also reported that an airstrike had killed three children and wounded their mother.

Abdul Qadr al-Najdi, who identified himself in an interview with the SITE monitoring group as the “new leader of Islamic State in Libya”, claimed that the jihadist militant group there is getting “stronger every day.” He further warned that although the faction in Libya is “still young”, it is already making ground in imposing religious laws in line with those enforced in ISIL-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq.


Mali:

The African Union has announced that it would send a mission to Mali within the coming weeks to investigate whether it should set up a counter-terrorism force to aid the Malian, French, and UN troops already in the country. The Malian government and some MINUSMA officials have called for more support in the fight against jihadist militant groups in the northern part of the country. Although the UN force has 10,000 troops, some critics claim its capabilities to bring peace are hindered by the mission’s lack of an aggressive counter-terrorism mandate, leaving it vulnerable to attacks and unable to hunt down militants. The UN Security Council discussed an expansion of the UN mandate during their visit to Mali earlier in the week, but the possible AU mission could be an alternative to such an option. Some Security Council members, such as France, believe MINUSMA’s mandate is already extensive enough.

The UN Security Council traveled to Mali over the weekend to push for the swift implementation of the peace agreement by all parties. The Security Council met with representatives of the armed groups in Bamako as well as with local government officials, civil society, and religious leaders in Mopti and Timbuktu.

200 Malian jihadists between the ages of 16 and 30 have agreed to disarm as part of a government and civil society de-radicalization program. Some of these young men had participated in attacks in the Mopti region as recently as last year as members of the Macina Liberation Front. The program does not pay the young men to leave armed groups but does provide them with free meals.


Nigeria:

Initiatives by the Nigerian military to clear a series of Boko Haram camps have reportedlykilled dozens.

Nigeria’s former defense chief has been charged with siphoning off around $20 million earmarked for the fight against Boko Haram in order to buy a mansion and build a shopping mall.


South Sudan:

Fighting broke out between the government of South Sudan and rebels in Nasser, a town in the Upper Nile state, on Tuesday morning. Rebel spokesperson Willian Gatjiath Deng accused government forces of attacking Ketbek early in the morning while simultaneously shelling other areas on the east bank. The government acknowledged that fighting occurred but blamed the rebel group for instigating the violence.

According to Oxfam, conditions in South Sudan are the worst they have ever been. With over 40,000 people starving, aid groups and the UN have announced that the country is on the brink of a catastrophic food crisis. While the peace accord signed in August 2015 was supposed to end the war between President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Reik Machar, progress has been slow and the conflict continues.


Sudan/Darfur:

Darfur is in the process of conducting the region’s administrative status referendum, scheduled to be held this April. Officials in Darfur believe that the registration of about 76% of eligible voters is evidence that the referendum will be successful, despite the objections it has faced.


Syria:

A Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) accused Islamist rebel groups of attacking a predominantly Kurdish residential area in Aleppo with chemical weapons. The YPG released a statement on Tuesday claiming that rebels within the opposition-held territory of Aleppo had used a yellow-colored phosphorous agent on the area of Sheikh Maqsoud. YPGfighters have reportedly been in confrontation with extremists for weeks in northern Syria, as the area continues to be the center of violence within the nation’s five-year civil war.

Warplanes bombed a fuel depot in rebel-held Aleppo at the start of the week, killing at least 13 and wounding 40. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that there were more than 70 rockets and mortar shells targeted at the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, which has already been exposed to insurgent shelling for days. The Observatoryclaimed that the al-Nusra Front and other insurgents are responsible for the attack.

In the meantime, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has offered to give access to its Syrian bases for the purposes of aid delivery. Spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated that packages could be stored in its naval base in Tartus and planes carrying supplies could land at Russia’s air base in Latakia.


Yemen:

On 9 March, Yemen’s Houthi rebel groups began peace talks with Saudi Arabia for the first time since the outset of the Yemen war. The talks focus on a de-escalation of the conflict and ways to exchange prisoners. Saudi Arabia has already released seven Yemenis in return for one of its soldiers. Yemen’s deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has reiterated his government’s desire to achieve peace, despite its recent territorial gains and continued drone attacks.

Egypt, Japan, Spain, New Zealand and Uruguay, all non-permanent members of the UNSC, are drafting a resolution demanding that attacks on hospitals cease in war zones such as Yemen. Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has accused all parties involved in the conflict of attacking hospitals and schools. The Saudi Ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, expressed doubts concerning the need for the UNSC resolution on Yemen. Mr. Al- Mouallimi noted that while “he is concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen,” he does not “see the need for a Security Council resolution addressing it.”

The U.N. human rights office reported that the number of civilian casualties in Yemen is constantly increasing. Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that “during February, a total of at least 168 civilians were killed and 193 injured, around two-thirds of them by Coalition airstrikes.” He added that this number is “the highest since September.” Mr. Colville requested an international investigation into the mass killing of civilians. Furthermore, the Task Force on Population Movement, led jointly by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), released a report estimating the number of internally displaced people in Yemen to be around 2,430,178.


What else is new?

The Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities is conducting a questionnaire for those in the international community who are committed to atrocity crimes prevention and the implementation of RtoP. Fill out the survey here.

Rachel Davis, the Managing Director of Shift, has written a paper for the Global Centre on the Responsibility to Protect entitled “Preventing corporate involvement in mass atrocity crimes: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” Read the paper here.


Above collage: Compilation of photos from The Guardian, credit AFP/Getty/Reuters/EPA/AP. For descriptions and credits of each photo, please click here.

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#R2P Weekly: 29 February – 4 March 2016

Untitled

ICRtoP Summary of
Thematic Panel Discussion on RtoP within UN General Assembly

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.55.29

On Friday, 25 February 2016, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a high-level thematic panel discussion entitled From commitment to implementation: Ten years of the Responsibility to Protect to mark the 10th anniversary of adoption of the norm.

Find the ICRtoP’s summary of the dialogue here. To read any of the statements made, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


 Burma/Myanmar:

A Burmese human right organization, Network For Human Rights Documentation- Burma (ND-Burma), released a report identifying 84 human rights violations between January and December 2015. The violations occurred both in areas of active armed conflict and those covered by ceasefires.

John Ging, director of operations at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), called for an end to discrimination against displaced Muslims, particularly the Rohingya.


 

Burundi:

The African Union plans to deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military observers toBurundi. Members of the opposition have complained that 200 observers is insufficient to cover Burundi’s territory.

The East African Community named former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the new mediator for talks on ending Burundi’s crisis, a move welcomed by the opposition group National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord (CNARED).

A UN team of experts began investigating human rights violations in Burundi. The experts will remain for one week and present their findings in late March. Meanwhile, authorities in Bujumbura unveiled a mass grave, which they claim contains the remains of government supporters.


 

Central African Republic:

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped over 200 people in eastern CAR this year, already nearly twice the amount that had been abducted last year.

In a press release, the ICRC noted that hundreds of thousands of displaced people in CAR are waiting to return home from displaced camps. Armed men number among the camp’s residents, while accidental fires have wreaked havoc in three separate sites.

CAR’s constitutional court confirmed Faustin-Archange Touadera’s election as president.


 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The DPRK’s foreign minister denied any claims of human rights violations by his State, warning that his country would no longer work with the Human Rights Council. He also pointed towards gun violence in the United States of America and the handling of the refugee crisis by European States as “proof of partiality and double standards.” During this session of the Council, Japan and the EU will likely present a resolution condemning the violations in North Korea.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 29 February, attacks killed at least 12 in Mamabio, in eastern DRC. The Center of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which monitors violence in the region, stated that attacks have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group from Uganda.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces arrested 38 Palestinians on Monday for various reasons, including violent acts, ties to Hamas, border infiltration, and alleged arms smuggling through the Gaza sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the Attorney General’s approval to deport relatives of West Bank terrorists to Gaza. In his letter to AG Avichai Mandelblit, Netanyahu stated, “I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents.” A few days prior, Mandelblit rejected a similar query from the political party Likud, arguing that such an explosion is a violation of both Israeli and international law.


 

Iraq:

At least 27 people were killed on Monday at the funeral of a Shi’ite military commander’s relative in Diyala, when a suicide bomber detonated his vest. 55 more people were wounded. This follows twin-set of market place bombings which took place in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 53 and injuring 117. These events are the deadliest of the year thus far in Iraq.

The U.S. military is planning for the next phase of the battle against ISIL, which is re-taking Mosul. The U.S. claims to have isolated the city and says that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria last week had cut the last significant lines of communication between Mosul and ISIL’s Syrian capital of Raqqa.


 

Libya:

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, the head of UNSMIL, noted that Libya risks division and collapse if it does not move ahead now. After a minority of parliamentarians opposed a vote on a new list of candidates for a cabinet on 22 February, Kobler vowed to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue. He further noted that the “overwhelming majority” of the Libyan people are in favor of the Libyan Political Agreement.

A new UNSMIL report stated that shelling, gun shots, explosive remnants of war, and aerial bombardments had killed 28 and injured 38 others since January.

The U.S. announced that it was prepared to expand military operations against ISIL in Libya, but only after Libyans agree on a national unity government.


 

Mali:

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a former member of Ansar-Dine, stands accused of causing irreparable damage to Africa’s cultural heritage by destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu during the conflict in 2012 in Mali. According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the former trainee teacher and Islamic militant had “led and personally taken part in the attacks on nine mausoleums and mosques in the city with pick-axes and crowbars.” Although trying cultural destruction as a crime is established in past jurisprudence in international law, this case is the first to be tried addressing it as a heinous crime, but the prosecutor, Ms. Bensouda, does not think this will be the last.


 

Nigeria:

On 2 March, 76 emaciated-looking people associated with the Boko Haram group, including women and children, surrendered in Gwoza, a town near Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. The food shortages are likely a result of the successful choking of Boko Haram supply chains by the Nigerian military in their fight to suppress the insurgency under President Muhammadu Buhari.


South Sudan:

A UN source anonymously claimed that approximately 50,000 may have been killed since the start of the civil war. The source further estimated that around 2.2 million had been displaced.

South Sudan missed another deadline in implementing the August peace deal, as rebel troops under former vice-president Machar signaled that they would not arrive in Juba on Tuesday as planned. The rebels announced that the government had not designated cantonment areas or food and medical care facilities for their troops. The government, meanwhile, claims that the delay is due to the rebels’ failure to submit their names to the troika, who are responsible for their transportation to Juba.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

Over 10,000 people living in the Kalma camp for the displaced protested on Tuesday, demanding an end to the six-month-long pause in food aid delivery to the camp. The displaced persons arriving at Kalma from 2013 to 2014 were not registered by the camp and therefore never added to the permanent food subsidy lists of the humanitarian organizations operating in the area. The Secretary General of the camp appealed to relief organizations, asking them “to act immediately to save people.”

In the meantime, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN concerning the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes since 15 January, when the conflict in Jebel Marra escalated. UN OCHA has stated that 90,000 have been displaced since 21 February due to the continued conflict between the Sudanese army and the rebel opposition, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA). The Ministry described that figure as inaccurate and claimed that government authorities have provided aid to the displaced, who have since returned to their villages.

The Sudanese military has meanwhile claimed control over all areas north of Jebel Marra.


Syria:

Hours prior to the start of the ceasefire in Syria last Saturday, reports surfaced claiming that over 100 airstrikes had been conducted in Northern Aleppo. Amnesty International, for its part,accused the Russian and Syrian government of deliberately and systematically targeting health facilities in Aleppo over the past 12 weeks. The human rights organization claimed to have evidence that these attacks were an attempt by government forces to gain ground before the cessation of hostilities took effect.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that there has been 31 violations of the ceasefire in 3 days. Zakharova said the exact number was provided by the U.S. and did not specify which parties have contributed to the offences. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that all alleged violations of the ceasefire would be investigated and added that both the U.S. and Russia are working on a mechanism to ensure airstrikes only target UN-designated terrorist organizations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his government would “do its part” to ensure the success of the ceasefire. He has also offered amnesty to the opposition if they agree to disarm. Meanwhile, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a group representing the opposition, cautioned that ceasefire violations would further threaten the possibility of finding a peaceful, political solution to the five-year war.

UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that the U.S.-Russia cessation of hostilities plan is reportedly holding up despite the many setbacks. Mistura noted that the ceasefire has greatly reduced violence in Syria and created hope for the resumption of the peace talks in Geneva next week. The truce is further expected to assist in making progress with the delivery of aid to remote and besieged areas.

In the meantime, Israel accused the Syrian government on Tuesday of using chemical weapons against civilians during the ceasefire.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike on 27 February on Khaleq market killed 32 civilians and injured at least 41, making the death toll the highest from a single bombing since September 2015.

President Hadi declared that Yemen’s army and popular resistance forces have liberated more than 85% of Yemeni territories from control of the Houthis. The president was confident that his forces would soon regain control of Sanaa as well.

Amnesty International urged all states to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Yemen.


 

What else is new?

The ICRtoP co-signed a statement along with around 60 other domestic and international groups asking ‪US lawmakers to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act in support of mass atrocity prevention. The passing of the legislation would authorize “critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives” such as the Atrocity Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund, require training for Foreign Service Officers in prevention, and more. Read the full statement with signatories here.

ICRtoP Member Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is launching the 2015 Annual Report of the Technical Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention on 8 March. RSVP to diana.mantilla@auschwitzinstitute.org by March 4.


 

Above photo: General Assembly Holds Panel Discussion on Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias.)

 

 

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