Tag Archives: African Union

#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: 15-19 February 2016

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“Outdated Interpretations of the Charter Should Not Be Used to Excuse Inaction”
States Express Support for RtoP at Security Council Open Debate on UN Charter

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On Monday 15 February, the UN Security Council held an open debate on “Respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as a key element for the maintenance of international peace and security.” As predicted by Security Council Report, states presented diverging views on the Charter’s emphasis on both human rights and sovereignty. While certain states, notably Venezuela (President of the Security Council in February) argued that the principle of non-interference should not be violated, others—including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—noted that it is “violence and conflict—and not our attempt to help Member States prevent it—that threatened State sovereignty.”

Though Ban acknowledged that states bear the primary responsibility to prevent conflict and protect human rights, he noted that some Member states either lack the capacity to do so or are themselves violating these human rights. When this is the case, Ban reiterated that the UN can help Member States meet these challenges and uphold their Responsibility to Protect (RtoP)—and in doing so, will “seek to reinforce sovereignty, not challenge or undermine it.”

Other interventions, including those of Spain, Uruguay, Panama, Costa Rica, Hungary, and the EU, agreed with Ban that upholding RtoP is in line with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Both Spain and Costa Rica underscored that sovereignty infers responsibility, with Uruguay adding that the principle of non-interference does not exempt states from complying with their moral and legal duty to protect populations from atrocity crimes. These states also argued that it was time to build consensus on the practical implementation of RtoP, including through assisting states, under Pillar II, to fulfill their primary RtoP.  Indeed, as the UK noted, “we should not let outdated interpretations of the Charter be used to excuse inaction” in the face of new international threats, as the situation in Syria demonstrates.

An important step in upholding both RtoP and the principles and purposes of the Charter would be limiting the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes. A high number of states, including Spain, Egypt, France, UK, Peru, India, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Turkey, and Hungary, expressed their dissatisfaction with the misuse of the veto. Many of these same states underscored their commitment to the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity” and/or the French/Mexican political declaration on the use of the veto.

The ICRtoP will be collecting relevant statements from the meeting hereTo learn more about initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, 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 U.N. announced that 3,000 civilians were forced to leave their homes due to current tension between two ethnic rebel groups, theRestoration Council for Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Burma’s northern state of Shan.


 

Burundi:

The Rwandan government announced Friday morning that it would immediately begin the relocation process for some 70,000 Burundian refugees to other host countries. The decision (which strongly contradicts the government’s stance as of two weeks ago) follows a UN Report from last week that suggested the Rwandan government had provided two months of military training to Burundian refugees seeking to overthrow the regime in their homeland.

On 11 February, two grenade attacks took place in the capital of Burundi, Bujumbara. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), 55 people have been treated. A few days later, on 15 February, a series of grenade blasts also occurred in the city. MSF reported that more than 60 people have been treated since those blasts.


 

Central African Republic:

fire on Wednesday, February 10 in a Batangafo camp for displaced persons consumed the homes of 560 families and injured five.

The UN has begun to investigate new allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeeping forces in CAR, confirming four new allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in 2014 and 2015 against minors in the Ngakobo displaced persons camp. Farhan Haq, the UN spokesperson, announced the planned repatriation of Congolese peacekeepers after the previous allegations of sexual abuse against some of their troops. The government of the DRCannounced on 18 February that they would be undertaking an investigation into the abuses. Meanwhile, the UN announced that it is working to ensure that the victims involved in these sexual abuse and exploitation allegations have access to the assistance they need. They further declared that the UN would begin to post details of allegations of abuse–and countries’ responses to the claims–online.

On 14 February, the second round of the presidential election was held in CAR. As citizens went to the polls, about 2,000 UN peacekeepers were deployed in the capital, with another 8,000 deployed in the more anarchic outer provinces. Unlike the first round, there was no gunfire in the streets and UN peacekeepers have reported little trouble. Two former prime ministers, both Christian, are contesting the presidential run-off. Vote-counting has officiallybegun in Bangui and this election is seen as a crucial step to restoring peace in the country after two years of sectarian violence. Preliminary results from Sunday’s presidential run-off indicate that Faustin-Archange Touadera is leading in the polls.


 

DPRK:

In a new report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, stated that virtually no improvement has been seen in the DPRK’s human rights abuses since the 2014 Commission of Inquiry Report. In this regard, Darusman underscored the urgency of finding the best way to hold perpetrators accountable. Though he reiterates the need for the Security Council to refer the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, he also urged for creativity in the “mechanisms of accountability.” These could include the General Assembly creating a tribunal “to prosecute crimes for which international law does not permit amnesty”; and a special Security Council-appointed committee of experts to determine the best approach under international law.

Human Rights Watch exhorted the international community to not allow the DPRK’s nuclear activities to overshadow its series of human rights abuses and stressed the importance of holding the Kim dynasty accountable for “the grave violations and crimes against humanity” committed in the DPRK.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

ADF-Uganda reportedly killed six and kidnapped 14 others near Eringeti. The rebel group has killed over 500 in eastern DRC since October 2014.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

Mahmoud Daher, director at the World Health Organization’s Palestinian office, was preventedfrom leaving Gaza on Thursday due to a mandate by Hamas. The group, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, announced two weeks ago that international organizations would be required to obtain an “exit-permit” issued by Hamas in order to enter Israel. While the WHO had previously been exempt from the permit, this recent development indicates an attempt by Hamas to control the UN’s movements and activities.

Amidst reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi opened the Rafah crossing from Palestine into Egypt on Saturday, allowing 2,800 Palestinians to enter. The border was again closed on Monday.


 

Iraq:

The U.S. State Department announced that it believes that ISIL used mustard gas in both Syria and Iraq last year.

The Government of Iraq is eliminating 30% of fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary umbrella group composed mostly of Shiite militias. The government claims that the cuts, enacted because of the fall in Iraq’s oil revenue, would not affect the fight against ISIL.


 

Kenya:

Human Rights Watch has released a 104-page report entitled, “‘I Just Sit and Wait to Die’: Reparations for Survivors of Kenya’s 2007-2008 Post-Election Sexual Violence,”  which claims that the Kenyan government has failed in its responsibility to provide basic assistance to rape survivors of the country’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. The report is based on interviews with 163 female and nine male survivors and witnesses of rape or other sexual violence during that time.


 

Libya:

On 15 February, the UN-backed Libyan Presidency Council of rival factions proposed a revised formation of the government of national unity line-up to be approved by the country’s House of Representatives. Approval of the cabinet under the current prime-minister-designate, Fayez al-Sarraj, would be an important step forward in the peace process to resolve Libya’s current political disarray. The UN special envoy called on the Representatives “to do what is right for Libya and and its people” and endorse the recent nomination. On 16 February, Libya’s internationally recognized parliament decided to postpone a vote on the proposed national unity government for seven days. The original vote had been due on Monday evening, but many MPs expressed that they were not happy with having to decide so quickly without knowing much about the proposed ministers. Furthermore, the parliament has asked Sarraj to appear before them for a vote of confidence on his cabinet.


 

Mali:

UN officials have condemned the recent attack against a MINUSMA camp in Kidal on 12 February, which killed at least seven Guinean peacekeepers and wounded 30 others. A spokesperson for the Secretary-General released a statement stressing that attacks targeting UN peacekeeping personnel constitute war crimes under international law and also called for the perpetrators to be held accountable. Ansar Dine, an extremist group with links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

German President Joachim Gauck visited Mali soon after the attacks on 13 February and announced that Germany would send 650 soldiers to Mali where 200 German soldiers are already working with the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) to train local troops to combat extremist militants.


 

Nigeria:

After a series of attacks by Boko Haram, UN experts have urged the Nigerian government to ensure that the areas which the government has already claimed are freed from Boko Haram are actually safe for the return of the displaced.

Cameroon special forces retook the town of Goshi in northeastern Nigeria from Boko Haram and freed about 100 Cameroonians and Nigerians held hostage by the extremist group. The operation also seized weapons, vehicles, and ammunition, and destroyed several bomb factories and Boko Haram training centers in the town.

A new report from International Alert and UNICEF shows that women and girls who have returned to their communities after being freed from Boko Haram by Nigerian military efforts are being ostracized and rejected upon their return. Some community members fear that those returning may have been radicalized by Boko Haram and could try to recruit others. Furthermore, some of the women returning are pregnant or have given birth to children of Boko Haram fighters. The community and even some of the mothers themselves are uncertain of these children with “bad blood”. The rejection of these women and girls is an example of an unintended consequence of the military’s push to liberate territory held by the group and demonstrate the ways in which atrocity crimes affect women and girls differently.

At the commencement of the US training assistance program for 750 soldiers from selected units of the Nigerian army on 17 January, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, stated that Nigeria cannot win the war against terrorist insurgencies without assistance from other countries and emphasized the need for other nations to support Nigeria.


 

South Sudan:

A conflict in South Sudan’s Wau state between the army and armed opposition factions caused hundreds of people to flee their homes early this week. According to residents, both sides of the conflict were involved in the destruction, which consisted of burning down huts and engaging in armed confrontation.

Violence broke out at a UNMISS protection base in Malakal between Dinka and Shilluk youths, and involved small arms, machetes, and other weapons. The UN reiterated that attacks against civilians and UN premises could constitute war crimes.

President Salva Kiir is planning to announce a transitional government of national unity on Friday, although opposition leader Riek Machar, refuses to attend the event. Reports indicate that the new government will comprise of 16 ministers and will result in the settlement of many territorial disputes, which has been a critical barrier in achieving peace. President Kiir also issued a decree reappointing Machar as first vice president. The decree fulfils an important condition of the August peace agreement, as it restores Machar to the position he held in 2013, before the breakout of the civil war.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

According to the United Nations, conflict between the Sudanese government and rebels in a mountainous area in Darfur has caused 73,000 people to flee their homes over the course of a month. This number has risen from 38,000, due to the additional 30,000 people who have fled to a base managed by UNAMID in Sortony. Civilians have been leaving their homes in Jebel Marra since mid-January, when the armed conflict between the government and the SLA escalated and they face “dire” humanitarian circumstances. Another primary camp for the displaced is located in Tawilla, which has received 18,000 IDPs since mid-January.

On 16 February, the Darfur Regional Authority and the UN signed an agreement totalling $88.5 million in development projects. These projects, which are to be funded by the State of Qatar, will help to start off the longer term objectives of the Darfur Development Strategy (DDS) to provide viable development solutions and peace dividends in Darfur.


 

Syria:

After a meeting in Munich late last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the major powers of the international community had agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” and to the immediate delivery of aid in Syria. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia would not stop its airstrikes due to ISIL and Al Qaeda group Al Nusra not being a part of the truce.

Indeed, reports emerging from Syria indicate that the ceasefire, set to begin at the end of this week, will be difficult to implement. 50 civilians were killed earlier this week when missiles hit five medical centers and two schools in rebel-held Syrian territory. Fourteen people were killedwhen missiles struck a town near the Turkish border, hitting a school sheltering families fleeing the conflict as well as a children’s hospital. In a separate attack, missiles hit another hospital in the province of Idlib, killing at least seven staff members and patients and possibly eight Doctors Without Borders personnel. The attacks occurred as Syrian troops backed by Russian forces continued their move towards the rebel stronghold of Aleppo. A UN spokesman called the strikes a “blatant violation of international laws,” while France and Turkey have labeled them war crimes. Britain, for its part, stated that they could amount to war crimes and must be investigated.

President Bashar al-Assad has declared that “no one” has the ability to create the circumstances for a successful truce, as “a cease-fire must mean stopping terrorists from strengthening their positions.” UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura arrived in Damascus on Monday to discuss further plans concerning the ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks to take place late next week.

The Munich meeting did, however, have an effect on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as aid has reached five besieged towns in Syria. Approximately 100 trucks began delivering emergency food and medical aid to tens of thousands of people across the country on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR) published a report declaring that the five-year-long civil war has claimed 470,000 lives, as opposed to the widely known 250,000 UN figure. Out of the total number of fatalities, 400,000 were a result of direct conflict, with the remaining 70,000 caused by inadequate health services, lack of access to food, clean water, housing and sanitation.

Additionally, in a statement released on 12 February 2016, the UN Special Advisors on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, Adama Dieng and Jennifer Welsh, expressed their unease concerning the lack of civilian protection during the deepening crisis in Syria. The Special Advisors stated that the Syrian population is in desperate need of protection, as they are subjected to indiscriminate air strikes on a daily basis. Moreover, Dieng and Welsh have welcomed the commitment made by members of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) to immediately apply UNSC Resolution 2254 at the fullest capacity and use their influence to ensure sustained humanitarian access amid the goal of a cessation of hostilities by the end of this week.


 

Yemen:

In the last two weeks, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has gained control of five more towns throughout Yemen. The chaos introduced by the civil war has created an effective platform for AQAP to regain the control it had lost back in 2012.

The UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Adama Dieng and Jennifer Welsh respectively, have released a joint statement on the situation in Yemen calling on the international community, and especially the UN Security Council, to take action in order to protect civilians and civilian infrastructures, which have continued to be targeted by all parties since the escalation of conflict over a year ago. Evidence indicates that some of the many violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by all sides may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, and the Special Advisers called for the parties to be held accountable for their actions. Furthermore, the Special Advisers asked for the control of arms flow to actors who may use them in ways which would breach international humanitarian law and warned of the consequences that the spillover of the conflict across borders could have on fuelling religious and sectarian divides in the region.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) declared that Houthi militias and forces are implicated in grave violations which could amount to war crimes, including the systematic killings of civilians, systematic destruction of health and education stations, and continuous blocking of humanitarian aid.


 

What else is new?

The Washington Post’s “In Theory” blog hosted a series of articles this week on the Responsibility to Protect, which can all be found here.

You can now enjoy free access to a selection of articles on “The Responsibility to Protect and the Arab World: An Emerging International Norm?”


 

Above photo: Security Council Debates Respect for Principles and Purposes of UN Charter (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas).

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#R2P Weekly: 1-5 February 2016

Rtop weekly

 Recommendations from ICRtoP Regional Initiatives

At the 2nd meeting of the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC), in Manila, Philippines, ICRtoP’s Megan Schmidt delivered a speech during the workshop “Sub-regional initiatives as a support to national architectures.” Schmidt’s speech focused on the ICRtoP’s regional work in Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, and pulled the main themes that have emerged from such workshops and trainings. She also discussed three common gaps and challenges that civil society organizations have raised when discussing efforts to move RtoP forward at the national level. Finally, Schmidt shared recommendations for national capacity building that have been articulated by ICRtoP members and partners throughout the world.

Click here to read the speech in full.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Burma’s new democratic majority parliament sat for the first time on Monday 1 February. The elected members of the NLD party are comprised of teachers, poets, writer, doctors, and more than 100 former political prisoners.


Burundi:

At a summit of AU heads of state, the regional body abandoned its plan to send peacekeeping troops to Burundi after failing to garner enough support to overcome Burundi’s lack of consent. Instead, the AU will send a high-level delegation to continue dialogue and consultations about a possible deployment. Opposition groups are additionally requesting the African Union to impose economic sanctions in order to obligate President Pierre Nkurunziza to engage in political dialogue.

According to Amnesty International, emerging satellite images display mass graves near the capital city of Bujumbura, believed to be holding the bodies of 50 people killed during the political turmoil in December. Witnesses claimed that the violence was perpetrated primarily by government forces, supporting other evidence of mass atrocities and human rights violations. Ivan Simonovic, U.N. assistant secretary general for human rights, stressed the necessity to increase the number of human rights monitors in Burundi.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also responded to the situation in Burundi by stating: “The longer this situation continues, the more people will be killed and affected.” According to Radio France Internationale, U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon is considering a visit to Burundi before the end of February.

On Monday 1 February, three grenade explosions occurred in the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura. According to BBC news, at least four people were wounded.

In a leaked confidential report to the UN Security Council, the UN Panel of Experts on sanctions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accused Rwanda of recruiting and training Burundian rebels to overthrow President Nkurunziza. The U.N. experts, who interrogated Burundian combatants that had strayed into the DRC, stated that the rebels claimed to have received training from Rwanda in military tactics and the use of assault rifles and machine guns, grenades, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Rwanda denies the accusations.


Central African Republic:

Another sexual allegation against foreign peace officers has emerged from CAR. The claim involved five girls and a boy, all between the ages of seven and 16 when the abuse took place. The abusers are suspected to be from Georgia, France, and the EU.

Additionally, investigators from Human Rights Watch have also accused more UN peacekeepers of raping or sexually exploiting at least eight women and girls between October and December 2015 in CAR. The abuses uncovered, which includes gang rape, allegedly involved MINUSCA peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo which currently has around 800 soldiers in the CAR. The victims were living in camps for internally displaced peoples in Bambari. Some also claimed they had engaged in sexual relations with peacekeepers out of desperation, in exchange for food or money.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated on Sunday that France will withdraw its troops from the Central African Republic over the course of this year. France had initially deployed 1,600 troops in December 2013 to help establish peace between the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, but now has less than 900 remaining in the country. However, Mr. Le Drian stated that some troops will remain in the CAR even after the French mission formally concludes.

The Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) in the CAR has released $9 million for lifesaving aid for 2.3 million people currently in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This will include aid benefiting refugees and displaced persons, as well as the communities that host them, by improving their access to basic human necessities and services and through programs aimed at reducing violence in communities.

The ICC stated that it would deliver its verdict on 21 March in the trial of the former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who stands accused of three counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity committed over 14 years ago by around 1,500 members of his private army in the CAR. Bemba sent his troops into the CAR in order to suppress a coup against the then-president, Ange-Felix Patasse, and whilst there, his troops allegedly murdered, raped, and pillaged. ICC prosecutors claim Bemba had authority and control over his troops when they committed these atrocities, an allegation denied by Bemba’s defense team.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

In a press briefing on Thursday 29 January 2016, UNHCR spokesman Leo Dobbs explained how violence in eastern regions of the DRC has driven tens of thousands out of their homes. At least 15,000 civilians have sought refuge in UNHCR and IOM establishments since November. Following the killing of 14 people by suspected FDLR militants on 7 January, 21,000 civilians, primarily women and children, fled their homes in and around Miriki village. Meanwhile, OCHA reports 1.5 million civilians have been displaced in the DRC, and that 7.5 million (approximately 9% of the entire population), suffer from hunger.

A new brief from Small Arms Survey on the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) concludes that the FDLR has been severely weakened and no longer poses a threat to Rwanda. Nevertheless, the brief warns that the FDLR still poses an ideological threat, if not a military one, and that given the rebels’ past resilience, actors should avoid postponing or downgrading efforts to combat the group.

The Government of the DRC and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reached an agreement on resuming cooperation against illegal armed groups.


Gaza/West Bank:

After receiving intelligence of a possible Palestinian attack in Israel, the Israeli military imposed restrictions on access to Ramallah. The measures, which bar residents from leaving Ramallah and non-residents from entering the city, came after a Palestinian police officer shot three Israeli soldiers near an Israeli settlement.

Israeli forces demolished 24 Palestinian buildings, including ten constructed with funding from the European Union, in a village in the West Bank. Israel claimed the buildings were illegal, as it had declared the area a military zone in the 1970s. However, human rights groups have challenged Israel’s claim, countering that it is “illegal to establish a military zone in occupied territory.”

In the latest in a string of stabbings and shootings, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who had been attempting to stab the soldiers in the West Bank.


Iraq:

While the US-led coalition against ISIL seems to be weakening the group militarily, civilians are still suffering the consequences of war. The Iraqi government was forced to end salaries to workers in ISIL-controlled areas because the radical group was taxing the workers’ income and using the proceeds to subsidize its activities, leaving hundreds left without an income. Many of ISIL’s supply routes have been compromised by US forces, which has taken a toll on the group, but has also left scarce resources for civilians. Police and other officials report that 20,000 civilians have fled over the Hamrin mountain ranges in the last few months, battling through cold weather and hunger.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIL is planning to recapture Mosul this year with the help of the Iraqi government. Should they be successful, their next goal would be to then drive the extremists out of their stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. Re-taking Mosul would be a massive strategic gain in the battle against ISIL occupation in Iraq and Syria.

In a resolution, the European Parliament recognized that ISIL’s crimes against the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities constitute genocide. The EU Parliament called on the Security Council to make a similar recognition.


Kenya:

African Union members expressed their support for a Kenyan proposal pushing for withdrawal from the ICC at the Addis Ababa summit, citing the Court’s alleged unfair targeting of African leaders. Since its founding in 2002, out of the 9 countries the ICC has opened inquiries on, all but one have been African. Kenya’s president was tried in a failed case at the ICC and the case against his deputy, William Ruto, has been faltering. This comes amid the beginning of the latest ICC trial against the former Cote d’Ivoire president, Laurent Gbagbo, for alleged war crimes.


Libya:

The joining of the UK with France, the US, and Italy to participate in potential direct military intervention in Libya is likely dependent upon whether efforts to establish a viable national unity government in Libya will succeed in the coming weeks. This comes amid recent statements from French and US officials about the possible need for intervention in the country. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that ISIL fighters in Libya pose a “major risk to Europe” as they could possibly hide among refugees traveling from Libya to Italy. On 2 February, the coalition of nations fighting ISIS met in Rome to discuss the group’s growing stronghold in Libya. US Secretary of State John Kerry called for the US and its European allies to help Libya’s military and increase security training for Libyan forces to help create a secure environment for the new unity government to operate in.

ISIL recently released images of the alleged execution of three people in the group’s stronghold, Sirte, Libya. They were accused of being spies and at least one of them was executed by a man in a wheelchair. Other photos also show a man being prepared for crucifixion and another tied up and crucified.

The African Union closed its summit in Addis Ababa by stating that, while it was concerned over ISIL gaining ground in Libya, the time was not right for a military solution in the country. The AU also set up a new Libya Task Force composed of fives heads of state to assist in the process of forming a new unity government. The AU also appointed a new special envoy to Libya and met with the UNSMIL chief, Martin Kobler, who urged them to play a bigger role in Libya. After talks in Algiers with the Algerian minister in charge of Maghreb affairs, Kobler again urged for a quick formation of a Libyan national unity government and reportedly said that such a government should be installed in Tripoli.

A $166 million UN-backed humanitarian appeal to aid 1.3 million people in Libya is barely one percent funded almost two months after its launch,  according to the UN. Only two donors have contributed 2.1 million in humanitarian funding as the international community has focused its efforts on mobilizing support for the Government of National Accord (GNA). While such efforts should be applauded, the UN stressed that the humanitarian needs of the people must also be addressed and cannot wait for the resolution of the political situation.


Mali:

Humanitarian workers in Mali have appealed for $354 million in order to help 1 million conflict affected people from mostly northern and central Mali. The funds will be used to help the international humanitarian community with assistance from the Malian government to increase access to food, water, education, shelter, protection, and more to support the work of 40 humanitarian organizations already working on over 127 projects throughout the country.


Nigeria:

A Boko Haram raid in Dalori, a village in northeastern Nigeria, has killed up to as many as 65 to 100 people. The raid included suicide bombers which attacked those trying to flee, the abduction of children, and the burning to the ground of up to 300 homes, including the burning alive of those inside. The government claims the death toll was 65 with around 130 injured, but residents claim that the real number of dead is closer to 100. Furthermore, some residents have complained that Nigerian authorities did not arrive to the scene fast enough to be able to assist in fighting the attackers off.

Though the Nigerian government still maintains that it has achieved a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, in January 2016alone, Boko Haram attackers firebombed Dalori and suicide bombers killed 25 in Chibok and 10 in Gombi. Human Rights Watch argues that Boko Haram’s loss of control over key towns does not mean that the government should use this ‘technical defeat’ as an excuse to press people back to their homes, which could remain unsafe. HRW also provided satellite imagery showing that over 40% of Dalori had suffered burn scars and building damages after the the latest attack.

Days after the Dalori attack, the Nigerian military claimed it had used a drone to bomb a logistics base belonging to Boko Haram which could have possibly hit an ammunition and fuel depot and dealt a “major setback” to the group. The military said that 286 such operations were carried out by the air force last month in a “sustained aerial bombardment.”

In a press statement, the Security Council condemned the attacks committed by Boko Haram as “horrific terrorist attacks” and “called on all States to cooperate in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”


South Sudan:

Russia rejected the recommendations made by a UN panel last week to place an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions on President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, stating that such measures would not be conducive to the peace process.

A report submitted to the AU by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) reports that the South Sudanese government had killed approximately 50 people in October. Government forces had stuffed the individuals into a shipping container in blistering heat. Despite the ceasefire negotiated in the August peace deal, the report documents at least five violations of the agreement similar to this one.

Furthermore, as the government and rebels delay forming a transitional government to end the ongoing civil war, people in the Western Equatoria region are experiencing widespread starvation.


Sri Lanka:
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will visit Sri Lanka from 6-10 February in the midst of uncertainty on the country’s permittance of an international judicial mechanism to investigate and try the alleged atrocity crimes committed during the country’s civil war with the separatist group, the Tamil Tigers.


Sudan/Darfur:

The UN now estimates that renewed clashes between the government and rebels in Jebel Marra, a mountainous region of Darfur, have caused approximately 44,700 people to flee their homes over the past two weeks alone. The UN cautioned that the numbers are likely to change as better data becomes available.
Sudan’s national dialogue conference in Khartoum earlier this week recommended that the Darfur administrative referendumbe postponed. The idea for the referendum initially spawned from the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), which entails that the permanent status of Darfur be determined via a nationwide referendum. It was originally scheduled to occur from 11-13 April 2016, but the chairman of the dialogue’s Freedoms and Rights Committee says they will be submitting a document for postponement to the general secretariat of the dialogue conference.


Syria:

The initial preparatory meeting for the UN-led Syrian peace talks in Geneva was finally held on Friday 29 January 2016. Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, announced that he had met with a “substantial” delegation from the Syrian government. De Mistura then declared the official launch of the peace talks on Monday, amid significant advances by the Assad government near Aleppo, helped by 320 Russian airstrikes.

A branch of the Syrian opposition, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HRC), also met with de Mistura, but underscored that it was only in Geneva to assess the government’s intentions, not for negotiations, at least until the government ended its sieges and airstrikes on rebel-occupied territory. As a so-called gesture of goodwill, the governmentallowed aid to enter into rebel-held sections of Damascus on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, de Mistura announced a temporary suspension of the talks on Wednesday, a short two days after their official launch. The UN envoy cited the government’s unwillingness to allow humanitarian aid into rebel-held towns as an obstruction to serious talks, but hoped that negotiations would resume no later than 25 February. However, it is unclear whether Russia and the Assad government will be more willing to negotiate in three weeks than they are now, given their recent gains on the battlefield. Indeed, the pause came on the same day that the Syrian army recaptured Nubul and Zahra, two Shiite towns in Northern Aleppo held by rebels for three years.

Meanwhile, at least 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in bombings attributed to ISIL on Sunday, and King Abdullah of Jordan announced that his country was at a “boiling point” after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.


Yemen:

Human Rights Watch revealed that Houthi forces have been preventing food and medical aid to civilians in Taizz for months. Houthi guards seized the food, water, and cooking gas at checkpoints. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director, stated: “Seizing property from civilians is already unlawful, but taking their food and medical supplies is simply cruel.” Médecins Sans Frontières noted that its 17 January entry into Taizz was the first time it was able to bring medical aid into the city in months.

In response to a recent UN report, the Saudi-led Arab coalition formed an independent team of experts to investigate military operations that have led to civilians casualtie. Nevertheless, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, expressed concerns about the reliability of the Saudi-led Arab coalition team of experts and called for the establishment of an international and impartial commission to investigate the possible war crimes.  The UK’s International Development Select Committee requested David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, to suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia due to the likelihood that the arms were being used to commit violations of international humanitarian law. Moreover, the Committee echoed the call to form an independent commission to investigate Saudi-led military operations.

Al-Qaeda militants reportedly re-claimed the town of Azzan, in the Shabwa region of Yemen on Monday morning.


What else is new?

This week, the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) held its second meeting in Manila, Philippines. Read the agenda of the conference here.

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#R2P Weekly: 19 – 23 October 2015

Untitled

Curbing Security Council Vetoes

(Ahead of the launch of the ‘Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes’ at the United Nations today, Fadel Abdul Ghany, Founder and Chairman of ICRtoP member Syrian Network for Human Rights, and William Pace, Executive Director of WFM-Institute for Global Policy, a founding Steering Committee member of the ICRtoP,wrote the following piece on the ICRtoP blog.) 

Since the founding of the United Nations seventy years ago, five states—China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, often referred to as the P5—have wielded a so-called “veto power”. Veto power means that whenever the UN Security Council votes on a resolution—to apply an arms embargo on North Korea, to create a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, or authorize sanctions on South Sudan, etc.—these five countries individually have the power to stop the resolution from going forward. A veto scuttles the chances for any collective and legal international action to address situations which concern all of humanity—whether they be a potential future genocide in Myanmar, Kim Jong-un’s terrorization of his population, and recurrent war crimes in Gaza. (…)

Read the rest of the piece here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Guinea
Iraq
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

According to local civil society groups, clashes between the military and Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) that resumed over the weekend have displaced over 2,700 people. Eighteen human rights organizations urged the Government to halt its army attacks in the Shan State, claiming that they undermine the possibility of a lasting peace agreement.

The government has determined an estimated four million people, out of the 33.5 million population, to be ineligible to vote in the upcoming election. These include the Rohingya, internally displaced persons, and Burmese citizens who do not live in the country.

Amnesty International released a report, “Deadly Journeys- The Refugee and Trafficking Crisis in Southeast Asia”, which reveals the shocking conditions and human rights abuses suffered by the 1,800 mostly Rohingya people that arrived in three boats in Aceh, Indonesia in May 2015.


Burundi:

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) expressed grave concern over the spiraling violence, as at least 140 people have been killed in Burundi since post-election violence broke out in April. Almost two dozen deaths occurred in the past two weeks.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council recommended that the AU urgently send troops to Burundi and open investigations into rights abuses as violence worsens. Most recently, the body of a treasurer for the opposition MSD party, Charlotte Umugwaneza, was found near a river outside the capital.

The European Union requested that the Burundi government partake in talks in Brussels to find a solution to the political crisis that has killed more than 120 people and displaced 190,000. The EU, who provides about half of Burundi’s annual budget, has said that further sanctions would be a last resort should talks fail. The EU has already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on four officials close to President Nkurunziza who are accused of excessive force during clashes.


Central African Republic:

Seven United Nations police were ambushed and illegally detained by alleged anti-Balaka armed groups this weekend near the capital. They were released without their equipment or weapons, while another separate incident involved a MINUSCA member being fired upon by unknown armed men.

ICRtoP Member Human Rights Watch reported that after five days of increased sectarian violence in Bangui, at least 31 targeted killings of civilians including on the elderly and a pregnant woman have occurred.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Attacks, suspected to be perpetrated by the ADF, killed six in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Local activists say that more than 500 people have been murdered in overnight massacres sweeping the Beni area in the past twelve months.


Gaza:

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun briefed the UN Security Council at an emergency session last Friday against the backdrop of escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, including the violent incident in which a large group of Palestinians set fire to the compound containing the holy site of Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus. Mr Zerihoun said that the UN welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the arson attack and his announcement that a committee has been established to conduct a full investigation into the crime. Also on Friday, Israel deployed more troops to the border with Gaza.

In Gaza, the ruling Palestinian group Hamas has called for Day of Rage demonstrations. In the West Bank, the ‘Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade’, an armed group with affiliations to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah’s party, announced it was breaking a yearlong truce with Israel. Additionally, a Palestinian man wearing a press vest stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron, before being shot dead by Israeli forces. During the demonstrations in Gaza, two Palestinians were killed and at least 100 others injured when Israeli forces opened fire at demonstrators.

UNSG Ban Ki-moon spoke directly to the people of Palestine and Israel in a video message urging leaders on both sides to end the “posturing and brinkmanship” and get serious about pursuing the two-state solution. Ban also travelled to the region to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, as well as Israeli and Palestinian victims of these recent hostilities. Upon his return, Ban briefed the council on Wednesday.


Guinea:

Mr. Alpha Conde won the election in the first round with 58% of the vote, taking on his second term as president. His main opposition leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, who denounced the vote as fraudulent last week, received 31% and has called for peaceful protests. Figures released on Friday showed a turnout of 66% of Guinea’s six million registered voters.

Amnesty International reported that Guinean Security forces shot two unarmed people and beat another person to death in the lead up to elections.


Iraq:

Human Rights Watch reported that security forces of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) opened fire on protestors who had gathered to demand jobs, wage payment, and the resignation of Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and head of the KDP, in which five people were killed.

Approximately 70 hostages were freed from ISIL captivity in a joint operation between US and Kurdish military forces in which one US soldier was wounded and later died.


Libya:

The UN Security Council threatened to impose sanctions on those who blocked the peace deal for Libya. The Council also “urged all Libyan parties to endorse and sign” the political deal and work swiftly to create a unity government. Nevertheless, Libya’s internationally recognized government (HoR) announced that they would not sign the UN proposal for a unity government because of the UN’s refusal to exclude amendments that were added by the rival GNC government without HoR consent. UN Special Representative for Libya Bernardino León declared that the effort towards forming a unity government in Libya would continue despite that some parties had not voted for the UN-backed political agreement.


Mali:

The United Nations independent expert on human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, noted that positive developments were being made in Mali but that the “precarious security situation” remains, which creates an environment where violations of the most fundamental human rights can occur.


Nigeria:

Multiple attacks occurred in northeastern Nigeria last Friday including 4 suicide attacks by women who set off explosives, killing at least 18 people, and two bombs that were detonated near a mosque in Maiduguri, killing at least 30 people and wounding 20. On Saturday, two female suicide bombers attacked Dar village, killing at least 11 people. This week, suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on four cars just outside Jingalta village, killing all 20 passengers inside.

With President Muhammadu Buhari’s deadline to rid Nigeria of insurgents approaching in December, the Nigerian Military issued a “Final Warning” to Boko Haram insurgents to desist from acts of terror and turn themselves in.


South Sudan:

Riek Machar, the armed opposition leader of the SPLM – IO, condemned a number of unilateral decisions by South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, stating that his decisions were undermining the implementation of the most recent peace agreement that was signed in August. Machar particularly objected to Kiir unilaterally creating 28 states in the region and dissolving structures of the ruling party.

South Sudanese rival parties, led by President Kiir and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, are scheduled to resume negotiations shortly in order to finalize security arrangements of the previously brokered peace deal and discuss its implementation.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) declared that South Sudan is facing serious risk of famine by the end of this year with 30,000 people classified as being in a food security catastrophe.


Sri Lanka:

Sri Lankan Judge Maxwell Paranagama, in the first government inquiry into the atrocities during the civil war, found the allegations that the army committed war crimes during the conflict with the Tamil Tigers to be credible.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) declared a six-month cessation of hostilities and declared itself ready to negotiate with the government ahead of scheduled peace talks. The group also encouraged the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to hold an immediate meeting with the Sudanese government to arrange the implementation of the cessation.

The UN announced that the Sudanese government started releasing food rations and other necessary supplies for peacekeepers in the Darfur region, though more than 200 shipping containers have yet to be cleared by Khartoum. Last week, the Sudanese government was accused of withholding essential supplies from UNAMID.

South Africa’s government has asked Khartoum to send a substitute for President Al-Bashir for the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled for next December in Johannesburg.


Syria:

Last Friday, Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, launched new attacks against rebels south of Aleppo, reportedly involving hundreds of troops from Hezbollah and Iran. Tens of thousands of Syrians fled the government offensive within a span of three days.

Over the weekend, an airstrike by unidentified warplanes killed at least 40 ISIL fighters.

OCHA announced that a joint UN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent operation delivered essential medical and humanitarian supplies to 30,000 people in besieged areas.

Activists in Syria reported that ISIL ordered all boys and men aged 14 and above located in Raqqa to register their names and addresses with local police. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Russian airstrikes have killed dozens of people in the rebel-held Jabal al-Akrad region in Latakia province, including a rebel commander who formerly served in President Bashar Assad’s army. At least 45 people were killed in total, making it one of the deadliest incidents since Russia began its aerial attacks nearly three weeks ago.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, which was his first overseas trip since the civil war broke out in his country in 2011.


Yemen:

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced that the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels have agreed to peace talks in Geneva at the end of October. A Yemeni government spokesman confirmed the talks, but did not confirm whether the Houthis had provided assurances to withdraw from cities or hand over weapons.

An Al Qaeda suicide attack killed 10 Yemeni soldiers in the western city Hodaida on Friday. Al Qaeda, ISIL and other Islamist militant groups have gained ground in Yemen in recent months.

Medical sources reported that fourteen civilians were killed and 70 injured by Houthi shelling on neighbourhoods in Taiz. The next day, Yemeni government forces killed at least 20 Houthi fighters. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen stated separately that air strikes on civilian areas of Taiz on Wednesday killed 22 people and wounded 140 others. Elsewhere, coalition planes bombed a small island in the Red Sea close to the port of Midi, reportedly killing 10 civilians.

Afshan Khan, director of UNICEF emergency programs, said more than half a million children in Yemen face life-threatening malnutrition – a three-fold increase since the conflict began in March. Dr. Ahmed Shadoul of the World Health Organization in Yemen appealed to warring parties to guarantee unrestricted humanitarian access to Taiz, where masses of civilians are in critical need of health assistance, water, food and fuel. Dr. Shadoul also declared that $60 million is needed for life-saving response operations in Yemen until the end of 2015.


What else is new?

At least four people were killed when security forces in Congo-Brazzaville opened fire on protesters demonstrating against constitutional change aimed at retaining President Nguesso in power. The next day, security forces in Congo capital fired warning shots and teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters and later arrested and detained 18 opposition activists who had attempted to hold a press conference in the capital.

On Thursday November 19th, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation will host an event to mark the launch of a new publication by Ms. Andrea Gualde, the Auschwitz Institute’s Senior Adviser for Latin America Programs. The publication is entitled “Reparations for Crimes Against Humanity as Public Policy – Argentina’s Relationship with the Past: From the Individual to the Collective as a Tool for Prevention.” The event will take place at 4:00pm-5:30pm – RSVP to info@auschwitzinstitute.org by November 6th


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#R2P Weekly: 5-9 October 2015

Untitled

Women, Peace, and Security and the Responsibility to Protect

 

In light of the upcoming 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, the ICRtoP’s latest publication examines how WPS and the Responsibility to Protect can be mainstreamed together in order to achieve a better, more holistic protection of populations.
WPS 

 

 

Click here to read the document. For more education tools from the ICRtoP, visit our publications page.

 

 

 

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Guinea
Iraq
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

In New York, a coalition of Muslim groups filed a suit against Burmese president, Thein Sein, along with other government officials, for alleged crimes against the Rohingya minority, which they say constitutes genocide. The groups filed the suit under the “US Alien Tort Statute”, which has been used in the past by foreign citizens seeking damages from human rights violations committed outside the United States.
Physicians for Human Rights reported evidence that the government had forcibly displaced over 8,000 people to make room for new dam projects in Shan State. Amnesty International, meanwhile, reported that nearly100 prisoners of conscience following increased repression.


Burundi:

A series of attacks killed at least eight in Bujumbura over the weekend. Local residents stated that police were behind the killings and had been accompanied by unarmed members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s youth wing, Imbonerakure, who stole items from houses.

Burundi has expelled a Rwandan diplomat, accused of destabilizing the country, in another sign of increased tension between the two neighboring states.


Central African Republic:

Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza requested a “tougher” mandate for MINUSCA, while also calling for the disarmament of militias and rebels after more than 40 were killed in Bangui. The recent uptick in violence has increased the flow of refugees to the DRC. UNHCR and the World Food Programme have both voiced concern at their ability to support the new wave of refugees due to a funding shortfall.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Human Rights Watch reported that senior security force and ruling party officials in DRC have allegedly hired thugs to assault peaceful political demonstrators in Kinshasa, where more than a dozen were injured. The assailants include members of the “youth league” of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), intelligence agents from the National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, ANR), police officers, and soldiers, all wearing plain clothes.


Gaza:

Israeli fighter jets launched airstrikes on targets in Gaza overnight on Sunday, in response to alleged rocket fire emanating from the Gaza strip, amid intensified violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where two Israelis were stabbed to death and a Palestinian man was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers.


Guinea:

Ahead of the presidential election on 10 October, fighting between rival political groups injured dozens. The fighters belonged to the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) and the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). In a statement, the EU called the situation “extremely tense” and urged actors to refrain from violence.


Iraq:

Two suicide bombings killed at least 18 in Shiite-dominated areas of Baghdad on Saturday. Meanwhile, a series of car bombings killed at least 63 in Khalis, al-Zubair, and Baghdad. The UN reported that terrorist and other violent acts had killed 717 and injured 1,216 in September alone. The Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL, also known as Islamic State or ISIS), executed 70 members of a Sunni tribe in Khanizir.


Libya:

In a new report, OCHA reported that “armed conflict and political instability has impacted over 3 million people across Libya”, who need protection and humanitarian aid. Over the weekend, the Arab League called on the parties in Libya to commit to a ceasefire and cease all military operations in order to agree on a national unity government. Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament voted to extend its own mandate beyond the end of its mandated term on 20 October. The parliament is still undecided over whether to accept the UN-backed draft agreement.


Mali:

In a step that parties hope will restore confidence in the peace accord, Mali’s government released 20 separatist rebels in exchange for 16 soldiers. During a briefing to the Security Council, Mongi Hamdi, Head of MINUSMA, noted that the peace accord was indeed back on track, but that full implementation remained impeded by obstacles. Indeed, the day after his briefing, Tuareg separatists allegedly kidnapped four near Gao whose family members were believed to be Tuaregs aligned with the government.


Nigeria:

Five children carried out suicide bombings at a mosque and the house of a vigilante leader in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, killing fifteen people and injuring 35. Militants claiming loyalty to ISIL claimed responsibility for suicide bombings last week in Abuja that killed at least 15. The Nigerian Union of Teachers announced that Boko Haram has killed 600 Nigerian teachers and displaced another 19,000. Suicide bombings, which included explosions in two mosques, killed a minimum of 40 people. Boko Haram attacked a military camp in Yobe state on Wednesday, but were eventually restrained by the military.


South Sudan:

The head of the Red Cross in South Sudan announced that women have suffered “unprecendented levels of sexual violence” over the last two years, including “abduction, rape, forced marriage, and murder.” OCHA and other aid agencies, including MSF, reported an increase in conflict since spring in South Sudan, particularly in Koch and Leer countries, which has caused aid agencies after the looting of their premises.

The SPLM-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) stated its wish for UNMISS’s mandate to be extended another three years until free and fair elections and the safety of civilians are assured.

Bypassing the parliament, President Kiir announced a decentralization plan which would increase the number of states from the current 10 to 28, in a move immediately denounced by the SPLM-IO as a violation of the peace agreement. The “troika” (the U.S., the U.K., and Norway) released a joint statement detailing their concern over the impact of the plan on the security situation. South Sudan responded that it would not change the plan, despite international pressure.

The opposition accused government forces of carrying out fresh aerial and ground attacks on civilians believed to be aligned with Machar. IGAD reported that the warring sides have committed 53 violations of ceasefire agreements in 19 months.


Sudan/Darfur:

During his meetings during the General Assembly, Sudan’s foreign minister reiterated his government’s commitment to the departure of UNAMID. South Africa asked the ICC for more time to explain why it failed to arrest Sudanese President Bashir, wanted by the ICC, during Bashir’s visit to South Africa this summer. As a ratifier of the Rome Statute of the ICC, South Sudan is obliged to implement ICC arrest warrants.


Syria:

ISIL militants in northern Syria destroyed the almost 2,000-year old ‘Arch of Triumph’ in the ancient city of Palmyra, according to officials and local sources. It is the latest in a series of destructions of monuments at the UNESCO heritage site by the Islamist militant group.

NATO called on Russia to halt air strikes on Syrian opposition forces and civilians. Despite evidence that it has targeted Assad opponents, Russia maintains that its air strikes are only targeting ISIL militants. On Wednesday, Russia and Syria embarked on a joint campaign by land, sea, and air against rebel groups in an attempt to reverse opposition gains along Syria’s coast. In total, Russia has already launched over 100 airstrikes.


Yemen:

Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Baha escaped an attack on his hotel in Aden, though 15 soldiers from the United Arab Emirates were killed. The UAE blamed Houthi rebels for the attack, although ISIL has claimed responsibility.

An airstrike in Dhamar province killed 23 people attending a wedding. The Saudi-led coalition denied responsibility for the attack.

In a new report, Amnesty International highlighted new evidence of war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition, which underscores both the need for an independent investigation and the suspension of some arms transfers.

Houthi rebels, together with former President Saleh’s political party, announced their willingness to join talks on a seven-point peace plan proposed by the UN. The so-called “Muscat principles” include a ceasefire, the return of the government to the capital, Sana’a, and the removal of armed militias from Yemeni cities. The Houthis criticized President Hadi’s failure to reciprocate such a step. Hadi, meanwhile, insists that Houthis pull out of territory gained during the conflict before an agreement is possible.


What else is new?

The ICRtoP has released a new map detailing which states, as of 6 October, have endorsed the French/Mexico political declaration on the use of the veto and/or the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.” (The map will be updated each week.)

ICRtoP Member the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released a new issue of “R2P Ideas in Brief” entitled “Strengthening State Resilience for the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes.”

ICRtoP Member the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect held their annual Gareth Evans lecture on “Preventing Conflicts, Mediating the End of Wars, Building Durable Peace”, featuring H.E. Dr. Jose Ramos Horta.

The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, also an ICRtoP member, is holding an event on the “ISIS Crisis: Simulating Mass Atrocity Prevention in Syria” on 26 October. For details, click here.


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#R2P Weekly: 28 September- 2 October 2015

Untitled

ICRtoP Statement on the Occasion of the  Ministerial Meetings
on “Framing the Veto in the Event of Mass Atrocities” and
“Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”

Over the past few years, the United Nations Security Council, due to the veto power wielded irresponsibly by some of its members, has been unable to respond adequately to the greatest humanitarian disaster of our generation—the crisis in Syria. Despite the international community’s repeated vows to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes, the UN organ primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security has failed to take consistent action to help staunch the ongoing crimes against humanity and war crimes. The 210,000 dead, 3.9 million refugee count, and 6.5 million internally displaced show the high price that Syrians—and the region at large—have paid for such inaction.

Four vetoes used over the span of three years on one crisis cannot be dismissed as an unfortunate but ultimately unsolvable difference of political opinion between Council members. Furthermore, the threat of the use of the veto has been equally as obstructive in responding to atrocity crimes, as it curtails even discussing taking action to protect populations. (…)

Read the full statement here.


Event Announcement:
Latin America and the Responsibility to Protect:
Diverging Views from the South?

The ICRtoP, together with Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales, is holding this event on Monday, 6 October 2015. The event is open to the public. For details and to RSVP, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Guinea
Iraq
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The Burmese government’s chief peace negotiator stressed that the Mon minority will be limited to observer status during political discussions if it does not agree to a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Union Minister Aung Min met with influential monks and urged them to sign the peace deal before the November elections.

However, the ceasefire talks between the Myanmar government and ethnic rebel groups collapsed after only seven out of eighteen armed groups agreed to sign the peace accord and the government refused to extend a ceasefire to three rebel groups located in Kokang province. The rebel groups who did not sign the agreement did not rule out their participation in the future, but maintained their position to only accede to a ceasefire when every armed group is included in the deal.

With just over a month until Burma’s national election, Human Rights Watch reported on the ongoing electoral intimidation in the ethnic-minority borderlands by the The Pyithu Sit (People’s Militias) and Neh San Tat (Border Guard Forces). The UNSG Ban Ki-Moon alsoraised concerns over Myanmar’s polls procedures thus far for the upcoming election and expressed his disappointment in the “effective disenfranchisement of the Rohingya and other minority communities.”


Burundi:

The EU announced that it will impose sanctions, in the form of travel bands and asset freezes, on four Burundi officials close to President Nkurunziza.

Impunity Watch released a report detailing possible methods for addressing impunity and preventing future grievances in Burundi. Impunity Watch recommends to the UN Human Rights Council the following: a new resolution on the crisis; disarmament processes for all youth paramilitary and militia; security for independent media to be re-opened; an open-ended citizen dialogue process; and for the Burundian government to conduct independent and impartial investigations into human rights abuses and international crimes committed by all parties to the conflict.


Central African Republic:

Violence erupted in CAR after a Muslim man was murdered on Saturday, which ignited retaliations by Muslims on a Christian neighborhood and attacks by armed groups on civilians. Over 30 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in the inter-communal violence. Additionally, hundreds of prisoners escaped from the primary jail in Bangui, resulting in U.N. peacekeepers firing warning shots to disperse thousands of protesters in favor of rearming the military. Bangui has since been placed under a strict night-time curfew.

Central African Republic Foreign Minister Samuel Rangba called on the United Nations to step up its support for the country by strengthening MINUSCA and lifting sanctions impacting the training of military forces.

ICRtoP member Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released a new report entitled, “Too little, too late: Failing to prevent atrocities in the Central African Republic,” which noted the ‘woefully inadequate’ international response on all levels concerning the crisis in CAR.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

A German court imprisoned Ignace Murwanashyaka, the former political leader of the FDLR, for 13 years for abetting war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch issued a new report entitled “Justice on Trial: Lessons from the Minova Rape Case in the Democratic Republic of Congo”, which states the DRC government should urgently reform the country’s justice system in order to better prosecute atrocities.


Gaza:

On Wednesday, as the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accusedIsrael of not following through with the Oslo Accords peace agreement and announced that Palestinians “cannot continue to be bound by these agreements.” Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council, stated that all security coordination between Israel and Palestine has now been canceled and that Palestinians will begin using nonviolent resistance while calling for sanctions against Israel.


Guinea:

September 28th marked the 6th anniversary of the massacre of protesters in a Conakry stadium. A group of civil society organizations called for the massacre trial to be a priority following the 11 October presidential elections.


Iraq:

A suicide bomber in the town of Tarmiyah killed 7 people and wounded 16 others.


Libya:

Ageila Saleh, the leader of Libya’s Parliament, declared that, if needed, the House of Representatives will continue peace talks past the end of the Parliament’s current mandate on 20 October. Delegates from the House of Representatives and the General National Congress reportedly began meetings on the UN-brokered peace plan in New York yesterday.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly Libya’s Acting Head of State, Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider warned of the “overwhelming threat” posed by ISIL which is hindering Libya’s transition to becoming a transparent democracy. Mr. Gwaider also stated that external powers, including the UN Security Council, have hampered Libya’s attempts at fighting terrorists, due to their delay in approving requests by the Libyan government to exempt it from an arms embargo.


Mali:

Alleged Islamist militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has become the first person to appear at the International Criminal Court on charges of damaging humanity’s cultural heritage. Mr. al-Mahdi is accused of belonging to Ansar Dine, an ally of al-Qaida in the Maghreb, and jointly ordering or carrying out the destruction of nine mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque in the Malian city Timbuktu. A hearing to confirm the charges will take place on 18 January.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian Army claimed that around 200 members of Boko Haram have surrendered. Boko Haram raided a village in neighboring Niger and massacred at least 15 civilians.

At a UN General Assembly side event, the UN, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon appealed for help for millions of people displaced in the Lake Chad Basin region after fleeing violence incited by Boko Haram coupled with repeated droughts and floods leading to malnutrition and disease. Several UN diplomats warned that the aid emergency in the region risks being forgotten among other humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and others.


South Sudan:

More than 100 advocacy groups petitioned the African Union to establish a hybrid court for South Sudan and to release a report commissioned by the continental body to investigate atrocity crimes committed during the 21-month long ongoing conflict. The African Union laterannounced that it would release the report, and that a special court would be set up to try atrocity crime suspects in South Sudan after an inquiry has found that both government and rebel forces have committed war crimes.

UNHCR started relocating 2,143 vulnerable Sudanese refugees from South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state town of Yei River to a nearby Lasu settlement site.

The United Nations called on President Kiir’s government and the armed opposition to allow UN agencies to reach all areas of the country affected by the 21 month long conflict. Additionally, the UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, urged that the perpetrated serious human rights violations occurring in South Sudan must be monitored.

Agence France- Presse reported on the suspected thousands of women and girls used as sex slaves throughout South Sudan’s. Dozens of interviews with victims revealed a systematic pattern of abduction and rape perpetrated by government soldiers and their allied militias during recent offensives.


Sri Lanka:

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Sri Lanka to investigate the reports of secret jails, where allegedly former Tamil rebels are being tortured.

Amnesty International stated that the adoption of a resolution on human rights violations by all sides in Sri Lanka’s conflict by the UN Human Rights Council marked a crucial turning point for providing justice for victims and that the international component of the hybrid court is crucial for its credibility.


Sudan/Darfur:

The opposition Reform Now Movement (RNM) and Union of the Nation’s Forces (UNF) party have called for a joint ceasefire monitoring force from the government and rebel groups to be formed.

UNSG Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned an attack on Sunday against UNAMID mission in Mellit, North Darfur in which one South African peacekeeper died and four others were wounded.

A Sudanese delegation arrived in Chad on Wednesday to discuss with Chadian President Idris Deby the participation of the armed opposition in the Sudanese National Dialogue. The dialogue is scheduled to start on 10 October.


Syria:

In their speeches at the UN General Assembly on Monday Barack Obama and Vladimir Putinagreed on the need to counter the threat to peace posed by ISIL; however, they were at odds on how to end the Syrian conflict. President Obama insisted that Syria’s President Assad must be removed from power and President Putin stated that it would be an “enormous mistake” not to work with Assad in the fight against ISIL.

A study by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium found that while men make up the overall majority of civilians killed in the Syrian war, nearly 25 percent of all civilians killed by explosive weapons were women and children.

On Wednesday, Russia began carrying out airstrikes in Syria against the opponents of President Assad. Syrian opposition activist network ‘Local Coordination Committees’ reported that Russian warplanes hit five towns, not controlled by ISIL, resulting in the deaths of 36 people, five of them children. Russian jets continued airstrikes in Syria into Thursday, with reports again claiming that targets being hit are not a part of ISIL but are areas held by groups that are opposed to ISIL and the Syrian government.

French authorities launched a criminal probe of Syrian President Assad’s regime for war crimes committed between 2011 and 2013 focusing on evidence provided by a former Syrian army photographer known by codename “Caesar,” who holds 55,000 graphic photographs of scenes of brutality from the conflict.

On 5 October, Concordia University in Montreal will host an event on The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Seeking Protection in Dangerous Times.


Yemen:

Amnesty International called for an establishment of a UN HRC Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides in the ongoing civil war in Yemen.
Accounts from residents and medics reported that air strikes from helicopters from the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels in Yemen killed at least 25 civilians in the Hajja province, but Saudi authorities dismissed the reports. A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a Houthi wedding party in Wahijah on Monday killing 131 people, making it the deadliest single incident in the country’s civil war. Yemeni officials reported that the Saudi-led coalition had hit the wedding by mistake.

A Dutch draft resolution at the Human Rights Council, previously supported by other Western countries, for an international inquiry into human rights violations by all parties to the Yemeni conflict was dropped on Wednesday. The HRC accepted a revised resolution which omits an international inquiry and supports a decree, issued by the exiled Yemeni government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, for a national commission of inquiry. Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch in Geneva stated that this is “a lost opportunity for the council and a huge victory for Saudi Arabia, protecting it from scrutiny over laws of war violations which will probably continue to be committed in Yemen.”


What else is new?

ICRtoP’s Communication and Advocacy Officer, Angela Patnode, wrote a guest blog post for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, about the need for UN Security Council reform, a proposed Security Council Code of Conduct, and the necessity of putting justice before international politics.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released an report entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities in West Africa,” detailing the case studies of preventative efforts undertaken by Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. The Centre, together with the Elders, also released a Press Release on the high-level panel event on “Preventing Mass Atrocities: How Can the UN Security Council Do Better?”

At a Ministerial-level meeting on Wednesday of the Security Council on the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region, UNSG Ban Ki-moon underscored the shared responsibility to resolve the Mid-east conflicts and urged Member States to use all tools available.


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RtoP Weekly 8-12 June 2015

Untitled

AU Summit a Chance to Increase Regional
Political Will to Act to Protect Populations

As African Union members gather for the AU summit in South Africa, which began Wednesday and will run until 14 June, leaders should be thinking, in line with their Responsibility to Protect, of creative and timely actions to protect an array of at-risk populations from atrocity crimes.

The African Union’s predecessor, the Organizationfor African Unity (OAU), played a key role in the mediation process that led to the signing of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, a crucial step in bringing peace and stability  to Burundi. It is therefore crucial that the AU work to safeguard this legacy, including through assisting Burundi and regional/international actors in establishing the environment necessary for holding free and fair elections. The AU should further consider issuing a statement that underscores the need to respect the will of the people and warns that any actor that commits or calls for the commission of gross human rights violations will be held accountable.

Additionally, the AU could highlight the need for any dispute about the electoral process/results to be raised through the relevant judicial bodies, with support provided to assist in this process if needed. Such actions will serve to ensure that any challenges to the process are raised through the relevant legal channels, and not through calls for action that could lead to adversely impacting the political and human rights of civilians.  As Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, the former OAU secretary-general, stated recently, “No one should underestimate what is at stake…Without coordinated international action to de-escalate the situation, I am fearful for the consequences.”

However, Burundi is just one of several African countries in which populations are either experiencing or are at risk of atrocity crimes. Atrocities throughout the African region, including in Mali, Darfur (Sudan), South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Libya again prove the critical need for committed and steady regional prevention and response in order to fulfill this organization’s’ Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).

Finally, though pressing country situations may dominate discussions, the AU should ensure that it gives its theme “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development” due consideration. As is all too often documented in various crises, women remain disproportionately impacted by the commission of atrocity crimes, and such atrocities bear long-term economic, social, political, and psychological consequences for women and the society affected as a whole. Thus, through taking concerted effort to enhance the promotion and protection of women’s rights, the African Union will directly contribute to the empowerment of women throughout the continent and assist governments in upholding their protection obligations articulated in the Responsibility to Protect. Furthermore, women and women’s rights organizations play a crucial role in the advancement of atrocities prevention; however, despite their inherent right to directly contribute to the prevention and response to atrocities, women overall are drastically underrepresented in such processes. By enacting measures to acknowledge the role women are already directly playing in atrocities prevention as well as taking action to ensure barriers to equal participation are broken down, the African Union will serve to ensure its membership upholds the equal rights of all citizens. This will in turn strengthen initiatives undertaken by states to protect populations from atrocities through having diverse and holistic input into such processes.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

Burma/Myanmar:

150 of 208 migrants that were found adrift in a boat off of Myanmar’s coast were set to transfer back to Bangladesh. Myanmar has yet to state what will happen to the remaining migrants as the countries work to determine the origins of those stranded.  Myanmar police have arrested more than 90 people for human trafficking offences this year, but no cases have been reported in the Rakhine state, where persecuted Rohingya have fled.


Burundi:

The electoral commission proposed a postponement of elections for the second time, pushing back voting from June 26 until July 15, which sparked renewed tension and violence across the country. However, Burundi’s political opposition rejected the proposal put forth by the electoral commission as well as called for UN mediator Said Djinnit to step down following allegations of bias in favor of the government. On 11 June, Said Djinnit ultimately steppeddown as mediator in the Burundi crisis, but he noted that he remains committed to peace in the country and will serve as the UN’s envoy to the Great Lakes region.


Central African Republic:
The Head of State of the Transition, Catherine Samba Panza, officially created the Special Criminal Court, giving it investigative and judicial powers over war crimes committed since 2003 to begin the process to end impunity in the country.While major security and political progress has been made since President Panza’s appointment, women at the grassroots level remain left out of peace and reconciliation efforts and are calling for more inclusive participation.

Foreign policy specialists have also called for the United States to renew its waning commitment and become more vocal and active in providing support for a truly democratic and stable CAR


Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The families of 34 victims filed a public complaint requesting the exhumation of the mass grave in Maluku which, although found over two months ago, has yet to be responded to by the government. Human Rights Watch suspects that officials are trying to hide evidence of government abuses that could be found at the site.


Gaza:

The International Criminal Court is sending a delegation to Israel for a preliminary examination into whether or not crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Palestinian territories. If the delegation determines that there is reasonable basis for an investigation and that the ICC has the authority to do so, it will investigate the activities in both Israeli and the Palestinian territories.


Iraq:

The new UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Stephen O’Brien, met senior Iraqi Government officials in Baghdad and discussed that more must be done for the Iraqi people. However, Lisa Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq stated, “If funding is not urgently secured, more than half of all humanitarian programmess are likely to close or be curtailed in the coming weeks and months.”  Meanwhile, the United States government is sending 450 more US military personnel to train and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province, as they try to take back the city of Ramadi from ISIS. Britain is also sending 125 more troops to Iraq to assist in training of the state forces.


Libya:
Russia and China opposed the request from the United States, Britain, France and Spain to impose sanctions on two Libyans for obstructing UN talks. The UN facilitated Libyan political dialogue on forming a national unity government began on Monday in Germany.  There is now a draft  agreement said to address most of the challenges facing Libya, but the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the North African nation said that “time has come to make an agreement” and he urges the draft to be finalized before the beginning of Ramadan on 17 June. Meanwhile, a coalition of Islamist militias in Libya vowed to take down a local unit of ISIS situated in Darnah.


Mali:

The Malian government and the Tuareg rebels agreed on a ceasefire calling for the retreat of all rebel forces to 20 kilometers outside Menaka, a strategic town East of Gao. Suspected Islamist militants attacked a Malian police base near the southern border with the Ivory Coast.


Nigeria:

Recently elected President Buhari attended the G7 Summit asking for assistance in the fight against Boko Haram as well as support in improving Nigeria’s infrastructure and economy. Heannounced that he will move the military’s base to the Maiduguri, the largest city in the Northeast and an area heavily impacted by Boko Haram. Opponents of Buhari were elected to the Senate presidency and other leadership positions on 9 June, which demonstrates the ongoing political tensions and the difficulties that Buhari will face as he tries to reform his government.


South Sudan:

South Sudan’s latest talks began in Ethiopia on Monday to try to solve the 18 month old conflict. The warring factions only have one month to form an internationally-mandated power-sharing government. The government of South Sudan also formed a Parliamentary committee to investigate the recent fighting in Maridi County between Dinka pastoralists and local youth. In addition the government released statements assuring that its forces are in control of the oil fields in Unity and Upper Nile states, negating rebel claims that they captured the fields.


Sudan/Darfur:

Dr. El Tijani Sese, chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority, expressed his hope that the new Sudanese government will consider dialogue as a priority to reach peace in Darfur at the Darfur-Darfur conference being held at the Research Centre for Peace and Development of the University of El Geneina. President Omar al-Bashir formed a new government, a month after winning the very poorly attended election, and says that he wants to bring peace to his country. At a Security Council briefing, Edmond Mulet, UN peacekeeping deputy chief,stressed to the council that insignificant progress in peace efforts has been made in Darfur. He also pointed to the increasing and indiscriminate attacks against civilians taking place. Dozens of women and girls report being gang-raped by Sudanese government forces in Golo.


Syria:

In addition to ISIS, al-Qaeda is becoming a prominent part of the rebellion in Syria. Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra shot at least 20 members of the Druze minority and has also forced hundreds to convert to Sunni Islam.  A public square in Al-Janudiyah, controlled by opposition forces, was raided by air strikes from the Syrian government killing at least 49 civilians. Kurdish forces and moderate rebels fought ISIS in the town of Tel Abyad and thousands of Syrians fled into Turkey.


Yemen:

Saudi-led air strikes on the rebel forces headquarters killed twenty civilians and hit residential buildings.  As violence continues to escalate, those trapped in the conflict in Yemen continue to share their experiences living in constant fear with little access to food, water and aid. Meanwhile, the families of American drone strike victims, Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber, filed a lawsuit in Washington, asking the court to deem the strike unlawful and publicize the truth.


 

What else is new?

The UN commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea  released a report on June 4th, which details the human rights abuses committed by the regime of President Isaias Afwerki.  Mike Smith, the chair of the commission of inquiry stated that, “the commission also finds that the violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.”

A new app, eyeWitness, developed by the International Bar Association, provides a quick way for anyone to capture photos/video that can be used to investigate and prosecute individuals who commit atrocity crimes. The app is currently only available for Android devices but will be adapted to others soon. The app uploads the photos to a database in the US and includes a timestamp and GPA location and can be deleted from the phone itself. A team of IBA lawyers will review the photos and determine if they need to be submitted to an international war crimes tribunal.

 

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#R2P10: Reflections on the Responsibility to Protect at 10, Part 2: Unfinished Institutional Work

The following is the second part of Dr. Alex Bellamy’s introduction to the new RtoP at 10 blog series. Part 1 provided a general overview of RtoP 10 years since its adoption at the World Summit, as well as an in -depth analysis of the conceptual issues still facing the norm. Part 2 takes a look at  RtoP’s institutionalization at the UN , regional organizations, and the state level. Continue reading for more information on this important aspect of RtoP’s normative journey.

 

Unfinished Institutional Work at the United Nations

After a somewhat laconic start, the institutional development of RtoP gathered pace after the UN Secretary-General’s first report on the subject, outlining his plan for implementation in 2009. Within the UN, there is now a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on RtoP and a “joint office” covering RtoP and genocide prevention. The Secretary-General has issued six thematic reports on different aspects of the principle’s implementation and these have been debated by the General Assembly through a series of “informal and interactive dialogues”, in which around 150 states have participated (see all thematic reports here). The mainstreaming of RtoP through the UN system is being gradually achieved through initiatives such as the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” Action Plan, which aims to place human rights protection at the center of the organization’s work, the proliferation of peacekeeping missions mandated to protect civilians in regions afflicted by atrocities, and the instigation of “due diligence” policies, which aim to limit cooperation between the UN and those accused of atrocity crimes or other violations.

General Assembly: Informal interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers his remarks at the Informal Interactive Dialogue on RtoP in September, 2014. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Much of this institutional progress was achieved by the personal commitment of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the astute work of his Special Advisers, Edward Luck and Jennifer Welsh. An important priority for the next decade is to create a more secure institutional home for RtoP within the UN system. This is especially important now because the senior leadership of both the UN and the US will change in the next 18 months.

In the immediate term, the UN General Assembly could place RtoP on a surer institutional footing by placing the principle’s implementation onto its formal agenda, recognizing the Secretary-General’s work on advancing a strategy for RtoP, and supporting the UN’s joint office on genocide prevention and RtoP.  Coming 10 years after the Assembly’s commitment to RtoP, these relatively modest steps, which could be achieved in a General Assembly resolution, would reaffirm its commitment, help the Assembly “catch-up” with the UN Security Council (which has proceeded apace with implementing RtoP), send a strong signal of intent to candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General, and afford the General Assembly a more direct role in reviewing and overseeing the principle’s implementation. In the longer term, a General Assembly resolution would be catalytic for further implementation by deepening the engagement of Member States, raising the stakes of their annual consideration of the principle, and opening opportunities for deliberation about the practical measures needed to make the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity a “lived reality” and agreement on tangible policies and steps.

There is also more work to be done to “mainstream” RtoP across the UN system. Although the Secretary-General specifically called for “mainstreaming” in his 2009 report, thus far the organization has stopped short of developing explicit policies or strategies to achieve this goal, preferring instead the gradual dissemination of RtoP principles through allied projects such as “Human Rights Up Front”, partnerships between the joint office and other UN departments and organizations, and the provision of advice by the special advisers to the UN’s senior leadership. All this has helped improve the UN Secretariat’s capacity to detect the early signs of atrocity crime risk and develop appropriate responses, utilizing its capacities for fact-finding, public messaging, diplomacy, human rights promotion, and humanitarian assistance that do not require case-by-case approval by its political organs.

The Secretariat’s response to the unfolding crisis in the CAR provides a case in point inasmuch as the risk of atrocity crimes was identified and communicated early, though there were still concerns that appropriate humanitarian, political and military responses were slow to materialize. Other times, atrocity prevention concerns have struggled to find the prominence they deserve when atrocities are imminent. It is still not uncommon for these concerns to be overridden by political imperatives or other priorities such as humanitarian access.

An additional problem is that, whilst its links to human rights, preventive diplomacy, and refugee protection, are quite well understood within the UN system, the institutional relationship between RtoP and other key UN agendas such as peacebuilding, women, peace and security, the protection of civilians, the rule of law, and economic development, remains underdeveloped. For example, whilst widespread and systematic sexual and gender based violence constitutes a crime against humanity, functional cooperation between the UN’s Special Adviser on RtoP and Special Representative on the Prevention of Sexual Violence remains limited and ad hoc. Likewise, although there is a clear empirical connection between the risk of future atrocities and a recent history of past atrocities, there is only a modest degree of functional cooperation between the UN’s RtoP officials and those that work on peacebuilding. As such, whilst significant improvements have been made, the UN system is still not doing all that it could to use its

Moroccan peacekeepers patrol Bambari, CAR. UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina.

Moroccan peacekeepers patrol Bambari, CAR. UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina.

existing capital to advance the goals of RtoP.

One way of addressing these challenges would be to augment the organic processes already under way within the UN system with clear guidance from the Secretary-General detailing a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and instructing the UN system on how to mainstream RtoP. The Secretary-General could also usefully set benchmarks for implementation and review progress.

 

Unfinished Institutional Work at the Regional Level

Although it is natural to focus on the UN, since it provided the context for the international community’s commitment to RtoP in 2005, it is important that we avoid an entirely UN-centric view of how the principle should be implemented. Practically speaking, the international community is at its most effective when different actors, such as the UN, regional organizations, neighboring states, and prominent individuals, support each other. The UN cannot solve all the world’s problems by itself, and was not established to do so.

Outside the UN, the institutionalization of RtoP has been patchier, perhaps befitting the significant differences between regions. The African Union has developed an impressive range of institutions and mechanisms designed to facilitate decisive responses to emerging protection crises. Guided by Article 4(h) of its Constitutive Act, which affords the Union a right to interfere in its members’ affairs in the event of a genocide or other mass atrocities, the African Union has developed a Peace and Security Council, a Continental Early Warning System, a capacity for peacemaking and mediation, and capacities for peacekeeping with the aspiration of establishing a standing peacekeeping force in the future.  Africa’s challenge is not one of building the institutions needed to deliver on RtoP, but of ensuring that the institutions it has are capable of fulfilling their promise.

Elsewhere, Latin America has developed a strong track record when it comes to the regional promotion of human rights and has also established a network of governments committed to strengthening their capacity to prevent genocide. Things are more nascent in East Asia, but there are signs here too that governments and regional organizations are beginning to think about how to achieve RtoP’s goals in their own neighborhood. The challenge in Europe is somewhat different: whilst individual states are keen advocates of RtoP, the region’s highly developed institutions have not as yet advanced their own strategies for implementing the principle, preferring instead to support protection goals and atrocity prevention through existing programming.

With so much variation, there can be no “one size fits all” way of thinking about the role played by regional arrangements in institutionalizing RtoP. Indeed, it is the very fact that they are grounded in the values, norms and interests of the regions they inhabit that make regional organizations so significant. In the coming decade, we should pay more attention to the ways in which regional organizations can support the goals of RtoP, mindful of the different entry-points they provide. We should also pay attention to deepening the partnership between regions and the UN, by building the “anticipatory relationships” and habits of cooperation that are so often needed to prevent, or respond effectively to, genocide and mass atrocities.

 

Unfinished Institutional Work at the State Level

Ultimately, of course, the basic building block for institutionalization is the individual state. There are a number of measures that

The third annual global focal points meeting in Accra, Ghana, convened by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which acts as the network Secretariat. Photo courtesy of GCR2P.

The third annual global focal points meeting in Accra, Ghana, convened by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P). The Global Centre acts as a Secretariat for the network. Photo courtesy of GCR2P.

states can take to better deliver on the commitment they made in 2005.  These include the designation of a responsibility to protect focal point. These focal points can help to coordinate national efforts to mainstream and operationalize the responsibility to protect concept, which can spur the establishment of national atrocity prevention action plans tailored to the national context. Some 43 states from every region of the world have already taken this step, with several states such as Ghana and Tanzania establishing their own “National Peace Councils” to support atrocity prevention at home.

As with any national initiative, each state has approached this function from its own perspective and many different models have been developed in different countries. Focal points participate in a global network, which advances dialogue and cooperation on the full range of issues relating RtoP. The principal tasks of the national focal point are to coordinate national efforts to protect populations from genocide and mass atrocities and lead national engagement in regional and global dialogue. One key task for the next decade of RtoP is to broaden the membership of the Focal Points network and deepen their involvement in the practical work of atrocities prevention and response.

But focal points are only one manifestation of a state’s commitment to implementing RtoP. Equally important is the need to forge national constituencies of governments, officials, parliamentarians, civil society groups and individuals who work together, using their own unique skills, to develop authentic national approaches to fulfilling RtoP. Many counties, including Ghana and Kenya in Africa and Indonesia and The Philippines in Southeast Asia have already begun to build their own national constituencies for RtoP.

This brings us to the most glaring piece of unfinished work – the challenge of delivering on the ground.

Check back tomorrow for ‘Part 3: Unfinished Operational Work’ to get Dr. Bellamy’s take on pressing issues regarding the operationalization of the norm for the prevention, and if necessary, halting of ongoing atrocity crimes. If you missed Part 1 of the introduction, be sure to read it here.

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Crisis in Nigeria: A Case for RtoP’s Second Pillar

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Protesters take to the streets of Abuja to demand the release of the abducted girls. AFP/Getty Images.

In recent days, there has been unprecedented international attention on the Boko Haram threat in Nigeria. Largely spurred by the appalling kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok and the ensuing social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, popular pressure has forced western governments to take notice and answer the Nigerian government’s request for assistance in their efforts to combat Boko Haram and rescue the kidnapped girls.

Such action is consistent with pillar II of the responsibility to protect (RtoP), which calls on the international community to provide assistance and capacity-building to states that are under stress and unable to protect their civilian population from mass atrocity crimes. Nigeria is a strong case for RtoP’s second pillar, as numerous sources have warned the despicable acts occurring in the country can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a United Nations Security Council (UNSC)press statement, the Council condemned the Boko Haram attacks and stressed that “all perpetrators of such acts must be held accountable at national or international levels, and that some of those acts may amount to crimes against humanity under international law.”

Amnesty International echoed these concerns, based on interviews with residents, lawyers, human rights campaigners, and hospital staff, as well as satellite imagery. Netsanet Belay, Research and Advocacy Director for Africa stated that:

The escalation of violence in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014 has developed into a situation of non-international armed conflict in which all parties are violating international humanitarian law.  We urge the international community to ensure prompt, independent investigations into acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

 

International Action

The 2009 Secretary-General’s Report “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” suggests that pillar II assistance can take any of the following forms: (a) encouraging States to meet their responsibilities under pillar one; (b) helping them to exercise this responsibility;  (c) helping them to build their capacity to protect ; and (d) assisting states “under stress before crises and conflicts break out.” The report lays out a variety of tools for delivery that range from education and training, diplomacy, and development assistance, to military support and consent-based peacekeeping.

The type of assistance that has been forthcoming so far is mostly in line with the military option. This includes intelligence, surveillance, and technical support for hostage negotiations and counter-terrorism efforts offered by the UK, US, France, and China. On April 17, France hosted a security summit gathering regional African heads of state from Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Cameroon and Niger. Here, regional cooperation and information and intelligence sharing were emphasized as crucial mechanisms in the fight against Boko Haram.

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The Paris Summit for Security in Nigeria. Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images.

While these developments are welcomed, it would be wise to heed warnings about the limitations of such action. This type of technical military assistance – while a good short-term measure for rescuing the kidnapped girls – does not address the structural weaknesses of the Nigerian state, or the dubious human rights record of their security forces.

 

The Limitations of Military Assistance in Nigeria

Sarah Margon of Human Rights Watch offered a searing indictment of the government’s military response that reveals a stark conundrum:

The tactics of the government security forces are barely more palatable than those of the militants themselves. Nigerian security forces are known for raiding local communities, executing men in front of their families, arbitrarily arresting and beating people, burning residential property and stealing money while searching homes.

Meanwhile, in writing for UN Dispatch, Mark Leone Goldberg stressed the multi-dimensional nature of the crisis:

“#StrengthenInstitutionsofGovernance doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as #BringBackOurGirls but the fact is, the inability to deliver healthcare, security, education, and other basic services fuels the instability that gives rise to militant groups like Boko Haram

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A Nigerian soldier patrolling the streets of Baga in Borno State, April 30, 2013. Pius Utomi Ekpei AFP/Getty Images.

This demonstrates the complex challenge that faces efforts to assist the Nigerian state in combating Boko Haram and bringing stability to the country. In this sense, what is required is what is referred to in the 2009 Secretary-General’s report as “conflict-sensitive” development analysis to alleviate, and not exacerbate, conditions that may lead to mass atrocity crimes. Approaching the crisis through this lens reveals a need for what the Secretary-General describes as “…assistance programmes that are carefully targeted to build specific capacities within societies that would make them less likely to travel the path to crimes relating to the responsibility to protect.

In the case of Nigeria, provision of technical military assistance without sufficient attention to the egregious conduct of the state security forces, or underlying societal issues that  create the breeding ground for radicalism, risks becoming a mere “band-aid” solution. Worse, it may intensify conditions leading to mass human rights violations.

 

Conflict-Sensitive Pillar II Assistance: Recommendations from Civil Society

For truly effective pillar II assistance that will strengthen the Nigerian state’s ability to uphold its RtoP while simultaneously addressing root causes, several ICRtoP members and civil society groups have provided useful recommendations.

In the article mentioned above, Coalition member HRW recommends that in assisting the Nigerian government, the United States should follow their own federal due diligence laws to ensure that no military personnel accused of human rights violations are involved in operational planning or initiatives, while encouraging the Nigerian government to conduct impartial investigations of any personnel that have been involved in such crimes. According to Magnon, “To do any less might make the situation worse — and make the U.S. complicit in Nigeria’s abuses.” The same can be said for other states offering assistance.

International Crisis Group has called on Nigeria’s international partners to support domestic initiatives such as a Far North Development Commission, anti-corruption campaigns, small business investment and other programs that address poverty, youth unemployment and women’s lack of empowerment. Doing so will “switch from a mainly military approach to the challenge from Boko Haram, and radicalism in general, to one more attuned to root causes.” This is essential, as it has been noted that corruption and underdevelopment motivate Boko Haram’s youth recruits more than an extreme Islamist agenda.

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A UNDP-supported Nigerian school. Bridget Ejegwa/UNDP

From a regional standpoint, African civil society group African Women’s Development and Communication’s Network called on regional organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS to provide “…substantive support to the Nigerian Government to address the underlying systemic issues, including the climate of violence and insecurity in which groups like Boko Haram thrive,” highlighting the importance of ensuring safe spaces for education and justice for crimes committed in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

A local Nigerian organization, The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria also stressed a multi-disciplinary approach to combating Boko Haram, while making specific recommendations to “engage the communities with a view to restoring/building public confidence and cooperation with the police/security forces,” emphasizing the crucial role of civil society in cultivating positive relationships.

Such recommendations are representative of a range of options that are more long-term and deep-rooted than military assistance alone.  They satisfy the different forms of second pillar assistance identified in the 2009 Secretary-General’s report, with a focus on such interconnected  issues  as socio-economic development, improving access to justice and the rule of law, and reform of the security sector. The latter was recently reaffirmed as a critical tool for conflict prevention in a UNSC resolution and linked directly to the state’s ability to uphold RtoP by Ban Ki-moon. This is particularly relevant in the Nigerian context, and in delivering appropriate second pillar assistance, context is everything.

For a detailed overview of the conflict in Nigeria within the context of the Responsibility to Protect, visit our recently updated crisis page.

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In the Central African Republic, Urgent Challenges Mean UN Peacekeeping no ‘Silver Bullet’ Solution

On April 10, 2014 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 2149 authorizing a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the violence-stricken country of the Central African Republic (CAR). The negotiations in the lead-up represented months of calls to strengthen the African Union and France’s existing forces – known respectively as the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) and Operation Sangaris – from UN officials, civil society organizations and the Transitional Authorities of the CAR.

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The Security Council unanimously adopts resolution 2149 (2014), establishing  MINUSCA.UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The resolution authorized the transfer of authority from MISCA to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) effective as of September 15, 2014, while also reminding CAR’s transitional government of their primary responsibility to protect civilian populations. This has been hailed as a critical step in ending the chaos that has plagued the country since the Seleka military coup of March, 2013. The remarks of U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power immediately after its adoption were reflective of many:

“Today the Security Council took an important step toward bringing an end to the atrocities, inter-religious fighting, and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic by authorizing the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation… Having just returned from CAR this morning, I can personally attest to the critical urgency of bringing more security to the Central African Republic.”

The resolution is also notable as the third reference of 2014 to the Responsibility to Protect in a Security Council mandate. However, this is no cause for premature celebration and certainly no ‘silver bullet’ solution.

At present, MISCA and French troops face a complex series of challenges that have prevented the proactive pursuit of their protection mandate and an end to the violence primarily being carried out by the Christian anti-Balaka against the Muslim population. These challenges will not vanish with the announcement of a UN peacekeeping operation, especially as its full mobilization is estimated to take several months. A close examination of parts of the new UNSC resolution reveals its robust and ambitious nature, but must also be considered through the lens of current efforts, noting that many of the same challenges facing MISCA and Sangaris will also await MINUSCA.

 

Miguel Medina, AFP

Chadian MISCA soldiers on patrol in Bangui. Miguel Medina/AFP

Protection of Civilians

Importantly, resolution 2149 commits MINUSCA to the protection of civilians, “without prejudice to the primary responsibility of the Central African Republic authorities… from threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and areas of deployment…”

The additional 10,000 troops and 1,800 police and gendarmes authorized for MINUSCA certainly have the potential to improve protection capacities. However, joint patrols and disarmament efforts by MISCA and Operation Sangaris have so far failed to protect vulnerable civilians and prevent the further breakdown of law and order.

An Amnesty International report  released in February warned that the ethnic cleansing of Muslims was underway and highlighted the failure of international and regional peacekeepers to prevent it.  MISCA and French troops have reportedly been reluctant to engage anti-Balaka forces and have also been largely limited to Bangui in their operational reach. As of April 3, the situation was largely unchanged. Human Rights Watch observed several attacks on small village communities, prompting a researcher to state:

“Peacekeepers are providing security in the main towns, but smaller communities in the southwest are left exposed…International peacekeeping forces should redouble efforts to prevent attacks and protect people from these horrific assaults.”

The latest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report estimates that about 632,700 remain internally displaced while another 316,918 have fled to neighbouring countries. Insecurity and the threat to the Muslim population remain so urgent that France and the United Nations have recently agreed to help facilitate their transfer to safer areas in the North and into Chad.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has attributed many of these shortcomings to the fact that international peacekeepers are “under-resourced and overwhelmed”. A larger troop presence could encourage a more proactive pursuit of the civilian protection mandate, and the recent deployment of an 800-strong European Union ‘bridging force’ is welcome in this regard. However, in his six-point plan the Secretary-General has rightly called for more funding and logistical support to assist MISCA in the meantime. Likewise, Refugees International stated in a press release following the adoption of the resolution that:

“There are tens of thousands of vulnerable Central Africans who need protection and assistance…Clearly, a UN peacekeeping operation, once fully deployed, can contribute to peace and stability over the long term. But this mission will not address the atrocities, displacement, and dire humanitarian needs on the ground today.”

Accordingly, they have highlighted some priorities for assistance, including the deployment of additional police personnel to urban areas, increased logistical support in the form of air and ground mobility, the fast-tracking of civilian human rights and civil affairs officers, and increased funding for humanitarian aid.

 

Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Support for National and International Justice and the Rule of Law

Two other important and related aspects of resolution 2149 are geared towards improving the human rights situation and ensuring justice and the rule of law. The mission seeks to do this by providing human rights monitors and support to the International Commission of Inquiry. It will also support and assist the Transitional Authorities in prosecuting those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court. The mandate prioritizes strengthening judicial capacities and human rights institutions, as well as building an accountable, impartial and rights-respecting criminal justice system.

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Bernard Acho Muna, Chairperson of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

These measures are necessary for ending the current environment of “total impunity” described by Ban Ki-moon. However, this has proven difficult for MISCA and Sangaris. Part of this is due to the fact that they have no reliable national partner on the ground.  There is currently no functioning justice system, and limited police and court proceedings. In a recent article for the Global Observatory, Marina Caparini outlined ways in which UN police peacekeepers can make a difference in ensuring justice and upholding the rule of law:

“International police contribute to the reform, restructuring, and rebuilding of host state police and law enforcement agencies, through the provision of material support and infrastructure such as the refurbishment of police stations, and through the transfer of knowledge via training, monitoring, mentoring, and advising…”

In the long-term, efforts such as this will be essential for developing the Central African state’s ability to carry out rule of law duties and protect the human rights of its citizens. However, Thierry Vircoulon, writing for Coalition member International Crisis Group, has identified the immediate deployment of police resources as an urgent priority, given the escalation in mob violence in Bangui and elsewhere.

 

Transfer from MISCA to MINUSCA

Lastly, it is worth highlighting issues surrounding the transfer of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA. Several obstacles regarding political frictions, the issue of vetting and due diligence, as well as funding and troop contributions have been flagged.

On the political front, Arthur Boutellis and Paul D. Williams point to past difficulties transitioning from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Tensions were identified surrounding insufficient UN consultations with the AU, unclear sequencing, a lack of Security Council funding commitments, disagreement over the mission leadership, and negative AU perceptions of UN operations, which they perceived as too risk averse.

Such problems led Boutellis and Williams to conclude that, in the case of the AFISMA-MINUSMA transition, it revealed “considerable mistrust between the two organizations.” Currently, there is some indication that political tensions may also be arising in CAR, both between the AU and the UN, and MISCA and Sangaris. This could hamper efforts to get the mission off of the ground in a timely manner.

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African Union troops dawn blue berets after transfer of authority from AFISMA to MINUSMA in Mali. Press TV/ File Photo.

Another noteworthy challenge will be the vetting and due diligence process to ensure that troops being folded into MINUSCA from the existing MISCA operation have not been involved in human rights abuses. Here, there is a dilemma, as the largest AU troop contributor – Chad – was recently involved in an incident in which Chadian peacekeepers opened fire indiscriminately on unarmed civilians. Chad has since withdrawn their troops, but regardless of whether Chad is part of the future UN force, ensuring that troops adhere to the highest standard of international humanitarian and human rights law according to the criteria outlined in the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, is essential for the proper protection of civilians.

Lastly are the challenges of garnering sufficient funding and troop contributions. Commenting on both of these issues, Mark Leone Goldberg wrote for UN Dispatch that:

“Despite these high profile demonstrations of support, traditional donor countries have been relatively stingy when it comes to helping pay for these operations. A pledging conference for the African Union peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA, fell about $100 million short of its $420 million goal”

He goes on to note that the new UN mission will have a price tag of roughly $800 million – $1 billion.

On the issue of troop contributions, Goldberg also added that – without a standing army – gathering enough troops and police personnel could be a lengthy and uncertain process. On this he pointedly states, “If key UN member states make this mission a priority, it will get off the ground quickly. If they do not, it will languish.”

Many challenges to peace and stability remain in the Central African Republic; spite the news of a UN peacekeeping operation. However, if the international community is to successfully meet its potential “R2P moment of truth”, calls to immediately improve protection capacities must be heeded, political will must remain in abundant supply, and political, financial, and logistical challenges need to be overcome.

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