Tag Archives: CAR

#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 February 2017

Untitled
UN Special Adviser condemns human rights violations against Rohingya population by state security forces

On 6 February, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the alarming human rights violations committed against the Muslim Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State by Burmese security forces. The statement follows the recent release of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) latest report on the situation, which documents the testimonies of over 220 Rohingya refugees, interviewed between 12 and 21 January in Bangladesh. On Thursday, two senior United Nations officials also stated that more than 1,000 Rohingya civilians were killed during the army crackdown, of which the humanitarian consequences have been greatly underestimated by the country’s presidential spokesman, Zaw Htay.

The latest OHCHR report includes testimonies of grave human rights violations, including mass gang-rape, killings of babies, and forced disappearances, while the UN Special Adviser called on the government to fulfill its responsibility to protect the population against these “atrocious and punishable acts”. Mr. Dieng also expressed his disappointment about the recent investigation conducted by the Government Commission over these crimes, which stated to have found nothing to substantiate the claims.

Defining the Commission as a non-credible option to further undertake new investigations, the Special Adviser also called for a “totally independent and impartial body” staffed with international observers, to be allowed access to report on and document the whole range of “long-standing discriminatory practices and policies against the Rohingya Muslims,” in order to put in place conditions that would “support peaceful coexistence among different communities in Rakhine State.”

On 8 February, Pope Francis also spoke in defense of the right of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims to “live their faith” and condemned the country’s government for its campaign of persecution, which is forcing them to flee. Charu Lata Hogg, an associate fellow with the Asia Programme at Chatham House, has said that “Pope Francis’ comments should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq 
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burundi:

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that conditions in camps for Burundian refugees in countries of asylum are deteriorating and more land is urgently needed to accommodate the growing number of new refugee arrivals. The UNHCR stated that the number of Burundians fleeing political violence is expected to reach 500,000 this year as the UN seeks out more land for refugee camps in neighboring countries. Some UN human rights experts also reported over 60 cases of enforced disappearances in Burundi from November to December 2016.


Central African Republic:

A senior United Nations humanitarian official called for the protection of civilians and unhindered relief access to the town of Bocaranga after an outbreak of violence between two armed groups in the area this week. The violence has killed and injured civilians as well as displaced some 9,000 people.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Opposition groups in the DRC are expecting talks with the government to begin next week despite the death of the group’s leader, Etienne Tshisekedi. Opposition supporters expressed concern that Tshisekedi’s death could endanger the transition agreement recently signed with the government. This agreement would allow President Kabila to lead a transitional government for a year, after which new elections would be held.


Gaza/West Bank:

Al Mezen Center for Human Rights has reported that Israeli forces have launched airstrikes and intensified artillery bombardments on the Gaza strip. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza allegedly killed two civilians and wounded five others after rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula and intercepted mid-flight by Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence system. Attacks have allegedly hit civilian farms and affected other nearby civilian properties and spread panic among the population due to the reminiscent quality of the current intensification to that of the prelude to the last major Israeli offensive on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Israeli ministers have expressed their views of the situation on the border with Gaza in escalatory rhetoric. Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed on Tuesday that open conflict is, in his view, inevitable.

UN Secretary-General Guterres has criticized the bill passed by the Israeli parliament retroactively legalizing 4,000 settlement homes previously erected on Palestinian land as a violation of international law. In addition to the UN, the European Union, League of Arab States, and Israeli allies, notably Germany, have also criticized the bill as a violation of international law.


Iraq:

On Wednesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the Islamic State’s (ISIL) continued occupation of hospitals in Mosul, including the al-Salam hospital, is further endangering civilians’ lives in the battle against Iraqi-led forces trying to retake the city.


Kenya:

Kenya’s High Court has blocked the government from shutting down Dadaab refugee camp and forcibly repatriating 260,000 Somali refugees. The government has claimed that the camp has “lost its humanitarian nature” and is now a hub for terrorism and crime. The government has also stated that the decision to close the camp was made in order to protect Kenyans from such threats.


Libya:

On Sunday, Libya’s coast guard said it has intercepted 1,131 migrants near the city of Sabratha since January 27. Migrants include people from Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Palestinian territories.

The outcomes of the Valletta Summit, held on Friday, show the shortcomings of the European Union’s (EU) attempt to curb the refugee flows coming from Libya, aid groups said, underlining that the EU is completely abandoning humanitarian values and misrepresenting the situation in the African country. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) also said that the summit proved EU leaders were “delusional” about Libya.

On Tuesday, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, called on Libya and on the international community to protect migrants from sexual violence. She reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation, which specifies that sexual violence is a form of persecution that warrants refugee status.


Mali:

Defense intelligence analysts have reported that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated groups may be moving to escalate violence against UN, French, national military and large civilian targets in order to impede the peace process in northern Mali. This perspective takes into account the attack on a shared military base in Gao last month that appeared to target the preparations for a tripartite joint military patrol that is part of the northern Mali peace agreement.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad and Niger have agreed to joint operations to combat terrorism and violent extremist groups in the Sahel region. The group plans to await UN Security Council approval and a UN resolution before establishing the force.


Nigeria:

A confrontation between soldiers and two female suicide bombers on Tuesday resulted in the death of one bomber and the surrender of the other. The incident is a continuation of a disturbing trend of the use of women and young girls as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, raising concerns that the terrorist group is forcing kidnapped civilians to become living weapons. UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs  Jeffrey Feltman has said recently that Boko Haram remains a threat, but has been significantly weakened by internal feuding and a loss of funding.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has released the regional report on Nigeria for January 2017. UNHCR reported over 1.7 million Nigerians have become displaced as a result of the conflict, and an additional 200,000 have fled to neighboring countries. The report also noted that UNHCR operations in Nigeria are currently facing a 99% funding gap in 2017 at the point of publication. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization also predicted in a report that 120,000 of the 11 million Nigerians facing food shortages will suffer catastrophic famine-like conditions as a result of the conflict with Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

South Sudan’s government has announced a plan to stem the violence across the country by 2020 through President Kiir’s call for national dialogue in the country. However, Mr. Kiir has also instructed the country’s defense minister to execute soldiers who commit human right abuses and atrocities, resulting in further violence within the country.

More than 52,000 people fled to Uganda from South Sudan in January amid fighting that the UN special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, warned could amount to mass atrocities as violence continues. Mr. Dieng has also called for action before the impact of the violence in the young country becomes irreversible. Reportings of killings of civilians, destruction of homes, rape, and many other crimes has lead critics to question President Salva Kiir’s promise to end violence and bring back peace. The chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is also dismayed about the continuous violence. In a statement, he stressed the importance of unity amongst the government, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the international community.


Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, said on Tuesday that the country needs more time to properly investigate war crimes allegations from the nation’s previous civil war, which resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people.


Sudan:

The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), the group that has been fighting the government in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions for years, stated that they are still willing to discuss the delivery of US humanitarian aid to the region, but have rejected the role of the government in controlling the distribution. US diplomats have been leading an effort to establish a plan for humanitarian access in the region with consent from both the government and the rebel group.

The Government of South Kordofan has established a committee for the deployment of humanitarian aid within the state as part of the engagement plan between Khartoum and Washington to work towards lifting the sanctions against Sudan. Civil society commentators have criticized the decision by the US to back-off on sanctions against Sudan, arguing that they are still needed in order to bring about meaningful political change to the government structure in the country.


Syria:

Despite US President Trump’s commitment for more safe zones in Syria, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated on Wednesday that he does not see the proper conditions in the country for the implementation of such zones and called instead for investing on peace talks.

On Monday, Syrian government forces from the south and Turkish-backed rebels from the north encircled the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab. This advance is likely to trigger a confrontation between the two factions, the first since Turkey launched its “Euphrates Shield” operation in August 2016.

On the same day, representatives from Russia, Turkey, and Iran began a technical meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire, ahead of the UN-sponsored Geneva peace talks to be held on 20 February. However, deep divisions between Moscow and Tehran about the possible participation of the United States are likely to hamper the talks. Moreover, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said that, as long as Islamic State (ISIL), al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups are present on the ground, a political solution for Syria will be not achievable.
On Thursday, Russian airstrikes accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others during an operation against ISIL in northern Syria. The unintended clash promptly urged the Russian President Vladimir Putin to express its condolences to the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, blaming the misdirected strikes on poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International issued a report revealing torture and mass killings carried out in Syria’s Saydnaya prison. Witness testimonies claim that 13,000 civilians have been secretly tortured and hanged between 2011 and 2015.

Airstrikes in Idlib on Tuesday killed 23 people, including civilians. It is unclear if those airstrikes were carried out by the Russian or Syrian government forces or by the US-led coalition.


Yemen:

This week, the government of Yemen has requested a reassessment of US commando operations in the country, including the botched operation last month that killed numerous civilians, including children, and for closer cooperation with the US government in future operations. Human rights monitor Reprieve has reported the civilian death toll of the aforementioned US operation to be 23,  according to witnesses.

Yemeni forces also announced on Wednesday that they had fully seized the coastal city of Mocha and cleared it of Houthi forces and have shifted priority to landmine clearance and restoring peace and security in the neighborhoods.

The British High Court is expected to make a ruling within the next few weeks on the domestic legality of the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. The London-based Campaign Against the Arm Trade (CAAT) has brought a legal case against the government of the UK to halt the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. British-made armaments are allegedly being used in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen, according to CAAT, that has regularly resulted in civilian casualties with some sources claiming one out of every three airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition have struck civilian targets.

On Wednesday, Oxfam stated that the complicity of foreign governments, including of the United Kingdom, in the conflict in Yemen has accelerated the country’s approach to severe famine. The condemnation came the same day that the UN released a new humanitarian plan for Yemen in Geneva and appealed to world governments for $2.1 billion USD for emergency lifesaving relief in Yemen. The UN has called the situation in Yemen “catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” with 3.3 million people acutely malnourished as a result of the conflict.

The security situation in Yemen has also led to UN fears for the safety of refugees in the country. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a campaign Tuesday to dissuade migrants and refugees, primarily from Somalia and Ethiopia, from travelling to or through Yemen due to the high levels of criminal abuse and violations faced by refugees in the conflict-afflicted country. UNHCR has expressed that, while Yemen is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the ongoing state of war and insecurity in the country does not provide an environment conducive for asylum. UNHCR also stated that the lack of security for both UNHCR and partner personnel, as well as refugees, has made it particularly difficult to fulfill its mandate in Yemen.


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#RtoPWeekly: 30 January – February 3

UntitledSecretary-General and other top UN officials denounce
discriminatory migration policies

Following the announcement of the recent Executive Order in the United States regarding immigration, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement on Tuesday denouncing any policies founded in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or nationality as both “ineffective” and “against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based.” Mr. Guterres also noted that discriminatory migration policies breed fear, anger and the very violence they claim to prevent. Above all, Mr. Guterres expressed his particular concern regarding decisions around the world that have jeopardized the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, preventing refugees from receiving the protections they are in desperate need of and are entitled to under international law.

Secretary-General Guterres, who previously served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has stressed the importance of the pursuit of peace and has repeatedly underscored the primacy of prevention and diplomacy in international peace and security, stating during his first official address as the UN chief that, “peace must be our goal and our guide.”  Speaking with media at UN Headquarters on Wednesday Mr. Guterres specifically addressed the actions of the US prohibiting migration and refugees from specific countries and expressed belief that the measure should be reversed. Recalling the written statement he had made the day prior, Secretary-General Guterres emphasized that the measures put in place by the US administration are not the way to protect the US, or any country, from the threat of terrorism. He went on to firmly state that “these measures should be removed sooner rather than later.”

The Secretary-General’s calls have been also echoed by other officials and experts within the UN. On Wednesday, five independent human rights experts released a joint statement through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteurs on migrant rights, racism, human rights and counter-terrorism, torture and freedom of religion jointly expressed their expert opinion that the US policy is discriminatory, a “significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection,” and risks violating international humanitarian and human rights law. The current UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, also made an impassioned plea for solidarity and compassion for refugees fleeing devastation in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Mr. Grandi said “The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again of these people – not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart.”

Earlier this week the Mr. Grandi also expressed his deep concern over the uncertainty now faced by thousands of refugees in the process of resettlement in the United States due to the ban. The High Commissioner noted that in the first week of the Executive Order alone, 800 of some of the most vulnerable refugees were turned away from the US after already being cleared to restart their lives in the country. In total, the UNHCR (Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees) estimates that 20,000 refugees could have been resettled over the 120 days prohibited by the Executive Order. Recalling the history of the US as a leader in the protection of refugees, the High Commissioner voiced clearly his hopes that the “US will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.”

The UNHCR released a new infographic this week on Refugee Resettlement facts, focusing on the process within the US and globally. To view the UNHCR’s infographic, please click here.

Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen 
Other

Central African Republic:

President Museveni of Uganda called on all regional leaders participating in the fight against the remainders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to better cooperate with regional forces. While noting that the regional forces have reduced the LRA’s capabilities enough that they no longer attack military targets, he also noted that the group’s continued attacks on civilian and soft targets is an embarrassment for the governments unable to protect their citizens. Earlier in the week acting the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR reported that the Ouaka province is at major risk of civilian casualties should conflict spillover from neighboring regions.

Top UN officials have approved an allocation of 6 million USD from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support responses to new violent emergencies in the CAR. Part of this will allow the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to reach 36,800 people facing food insecurity due to the violence in recent months.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN has stated that human rights abuses rose by over 30 percent in the DRC in 2016, with a documented total of 5,190 human rights violations across the country. The increase is allegedly tied to election-related repression and increased activities of several armed groups.

The representatives of the Guarantors of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region (PSC Framework) held a meeting in Ethiopia, on 27 January, in which they considered efforts to address instability in eastern DRC, including support to the neutralization of armed groups. The representatives also discussed dialogue processes in the DRC and Burundi. However, political parties failed to agree on a new peace deal agreement, which has been in progress since the beginning of the year. The representatives reportedly could not agree on the method of appointing a new Prime Minister and experts worry the likelihood of organizing a nationwide poll by the end of the year will be extremely difficult and costly.


Gaza/West Bank:

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), made claims based on an internal report, accusing Israel of “unlawful” and “systematic killings” of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The assembly called on the 324 parliamentarians from 47 countries to support the possibility of launching a formal investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Iraq:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported the disappearance and torture of minors by the regional government of Kurdistan. Over 180 boys under the age of 18 are purportedly being held without being charged according to HRW estimates. Furthermore, the government has not informed the children’s families, increasing the probability of being disappeared.

The UN envoy for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said this week that Iraq’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIL) is soon to come, but fighting and massive challenges will continue. Kubis also stated that Iraq will need substantial and sustainable international support and any scaling-down of engagement will only repeat past mistakes. Kubis also noted his concerns over ISIL’s continued targeting of civilians, adding that they will be at extreme risk when fighting in western sections of Mosul begins. Human Rights Watch also claimed in a report on Thursday that groups within Iraqi military forces known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have been involved in the abuse, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances of men fleeing Mosul, carrying out secret screenings in unidentified detention centers.


Libya:

Over the weekend, German diplomats reported that the private camps used by human traffickers to hold refugees and migrants are rife with cases of rape, torture and execution. The leaked memo detailed evidence compiled by the German Foreign Ministry of, what they called, “concentration-camp-like” conditions. The report comes days before the beginning of a special European Union (EU) summit of heads of state in Malta on Friday where the European migrant situation is to be discussed. On Wednesday Human Rights Watch (HRW)called on the EU and the heads of state meeting in Malta to put human rights and the protection of migrants from future abuses in Libya. The UN-backed Prime Minister of Libya also said on Wednesday that his government would consider allowing NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or EU ships to operate in national waters in cooperation with Libyan coastguard operations.

Elsewhere in Libya, forces loyal to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA), continued combat operations in an effort to retake Benghazi. The LNA reported that their forces had suffered heavy casualties, but the civilian impact from the offensive is currently unknown.


Nigeria:

Nigerian police have reported that clashes between mostly Christian Mumuye farmers and mostly Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed six people and resulted in the razing of 80 houses in Taraba state in central Nigeria. The violence began on Friday and continued through the weekend into Tuesday, when Mumuye youth reportedly attacked a Fulani village. Ethno-religious tensions in Taraba state escalated earlier in January when the state’s governor was quoted by media urging Christian farmers to fight back against those he dubbed terrorists.

The situations faced by civilians in the country’s embattled north has become whollyunacceptable, according to local media outlets and humanitarian agencies on the ground such as Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Food and medicine shortages, caused in no small part by corruption in the government-run humanitarian sector, has left camp residents in dire situations, with MSF reporting that in a camp visited in July 66 percent of children were emaciated and 1,200 graves had recently been dug. Residents in one camp protested conditions and claimed that they were able to eat only once a day and that inadequate shelter and medical care had made disease rampant. Security is also a concern with surveys of internally displaced people in the camps, the majority of whom are women and children, found two thirds of camp residents reported that guards are engaging in sexual abuses against the very civilians they were tasked with defending. Of the 1.8 million internally displaced people in Nigeria, many are children. Over 30,000 of these children have been separated from their parents while fleeing the fighting.


South Sudan:

Renewed violence broke-out in the city of Malakal in the upper Nile region this week as rebels and government forces engaged in heavy fighting causing civilians in the area to flee for safety. The UN mission in South Sudan noted great concern over the intensification of violence and called on both parties to cease hostilities, with observers warning of the potential for the breakdown of the security situation into an all-out war. The clashes are a continuation and escalation of sporadic fighting that occurred in Malakal last week.

The expansion of the fighting in Malakal to Wau Shilluk, a town to the north, forced the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to halt humanitarian operations for thousands of displaced persons and evacuate 14 staff to safer locations.

Fighting reported to have broken out between government and rebel soldiers in a town on the southern border with Uganda also forced many civilians to flee into the neighboring state this week.

Following the joint statement released by the UN and African Union (AU) on 29 January, which expressed deep concern regarding the current violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a leading civil society organization in South Sudan, called on the UN, AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to move from statements to action in South Sudan. CEPO maintains an active and ongoing mapping of violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war on their website. Exiled rebel leader Riek Machar, currently residing in South Africa, supported the joint calls of the UN, African Union and IGAD to end the conflict, but disagreed with the calls for dialogue until a reinstatement of the ceasefire is reached.

The Enough Project has released a report on corruption in the South Sudanese military and the pursuit of profits and powers as fuel for violence and conflict in the country, entitled “Weapons of Mass Corruption: How corruption in South Sudan’s military undermines the world’s newest country.” The report identifies incidents of fraud and other forms of corruption amongst military officials as being a major obstacle to the assurance of peace and the protection of civilians from violence in the country.


Sri Lanka:

Torture and impunity for such heinous acts continues to be a serious concern in Sri Lanka,according to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez. Several organizations have released press statements regarding Mr. Mendez’s report and criticizing the collapse of the system in the country meant to investigate and prosecute torture.


Sudan:

New reports of violence in Darfur have arisen this week, as well as details of an allegedrevenge attack carried out by government forces on the civilians of Nertiti, which resulted in the deaths of nine people at the beginning of January and injured 69 others. UNAMID, the joint UN and African Union mission in Darfur, has been criticized by locals for allegedly failing to intervene in the reported attack despite having a base of operations in the town.

In commemoration of the 12 year anniversary of the “Port Sudan Massacre,” activists from eastern Sudan called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the incident from 29 January 2005 that is alleged to have involved the killing approximately of 20 unarmed protesters by government forces.


Syria:

The UN World Food Programme resumed air drops to besieged Deir al-Zor on Tuesday, where roughly 93,500 citizens are believed to still be trapped. Syrian and Russian forces have increased the intensity of their offensive on rebel and Islamic State (ISIL) held portions of the city, with Russian air force bombers reportedly hammering ISIL positions with unguided bombs. Despite this, the siege lines have yet to significantly change as the humanitarian need for the nearly 100,000 trapped civilians grows more desperate as access to clean water has been eliminated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a midnight airstrike on Wednesday in the city of Idlib hit offices of the Syrian Red Crescent, injuring several staffers, including the director of the local branch. It is still unclear which forces are responsible for the strike.

On Thursday, the US military reported that 11 civilians were killed in four separate airstrikes by the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria between 25 October and 9 December last year. An attack on 7 December near Raqqa, Syria proved the most lethal for civilians as a Coalition airstrike hit a building allegedly containing ISIL combatants, killing seven civilians. The statement claims that the total number of civilians killed since the beginning of the air campaign is 199, but this number drastically conflicts with independent monitoring groups such as Airwars, who have totalled the civilian death toll at 2,358. According to US military data, the Coalition has conducted 17,861 airstrikes since the beginning of the operation, 6,868 of which have struck in Syria.

The UN-orchestrated peace negotiations in Geneva have been delayed until late February according to Russian sources. However, the UN has not yet confirmed this delay. The US and Saudi Arabia are reported to have come to an agreement on cooperating to establish safe zones in Syria, but no further details have yet emerged.


Yemen:

A US raid on alleged al Qaeda allies last Sunday caused an unknown amount of civilian casualties, with conflicting reports. US military officials have said 14 militants were killed and one commando killed with others injured. Medics on scene reported a total of 30 fatalities, including 10 women and three children including, reportedly, the eight-year old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted and killed by US drones in 2011. On Thursday, the USadmitted to the likelihood civilians, including children, had been killed by their raid, but were silent on the number believed killed. US naval bombardment on positions believed to be held by al-Qaeda continued into Thursday according to Yemeni security officials.

UN experts have warned that airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen may amount to war crimes. The expert panel reviewed 10 attacks between March and October 2016 that are believed to have killed at least 292 civilians. The panel found that in all cases the Saudi-led forces did not meet the minimum standards of proportionality and precautions for attack found in international law. The experts said that despite their inability to travel to Yemen that they had achieved the highest achievable standard of proof and were near certain of their findings. The panel also expressed concern over actions of the Houthi rebels that may also amount to war crimes.

On Monday, rockets reportedly fired by Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia on Mondaydamaged a UN building. In condemning the attack the on the De-escalation and Coordination Committee building UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed noted that the building attacked was supposed to host the committee that will oversee the cessation of hostilities and report on violations.

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) released a report on the healthcare situation in Yemen this week. The report, entitled “Yemen: Healthcare Under Siege in Taiz,” focuses on the events occurring in the embattled city, but MSF officials say the situation in Taiz is representative of Yemen as a whole. MSF reported that both sides of the conflict have regularly demonstrated a lack of respect for the protection of civilians and healthcare workers and facilities. The UN also stated that Yemen is exposed to the risk of widespread famine and food shortages once the city’s limited stores of stable foods are depleted, likely within the next 3 months. Torture, murder and abuse of migrants by traffickers and kidnappers in Yemen as also beenreported.


What else is new?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a new report on the implementation of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). In 2016, ICRC surveyed capacity for the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 25 African states and identified how states could best meet their responsibilities towards displaced persons. The findings are summarized in the new report, “Translating the Kampala Convention into Practice: a stocktaking exercise,” which is available here for free PDF download or for hard-copy purchase.

ICRtoP member the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on the relationship between legal accountability and the prevention of atrocity crimes on Thursday 9th February. The event is entitled “Accountability and Prevention of Mass Atrocities: International Criminal Justice as a Tool for Prevention” and will be hosted at the New York City Bar Association. For more information on this event or to register your attendance, please click here.

The Yale MacMillan Center will also be hosting an event from 16-17 February, entitled “Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect.” Both days of programing will be held at Yale University in New Haven, CT. For more information please click here.

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#RtoPWeekly: 23-27 January 2017

Untitled
ICRtoP releases new infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Peacekeeping Operations

infographic

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

To contribute towards this goal of strengthening awareness of and action on atrocity prevention, the ICRtoP regularly releases a variety of educational tools exploring the different aspects of the norm and the relationship between RtoP and other sectors. In this vein, ICRtoP has released a new infographic on the Responsibility to Protect in Peacekeeping Operations.

This document provides an overview of the Responsibility to Protect and the Protection of Civilians mandates in Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) throughout the world. The educational tool also explores major peacekeeping roles that contribute to operationalizing the norm and methods for strengthening RtoP within PKOs.

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, expressed concern about the risk of government reprisals in a speech following the conclusion of her trip to the country on Friday. Lee also noted the many travel restrictions placed on her during her visit that interfered with her investigation.

The Burmese army has claimed to have two missing Kachin church leaders alive in custody. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Burmese authorities to either release or charge two detained church leaders and to allow for proper legal procedures.

The army reportedly seized a camp of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an armed ethnic faction and member of the Northern Alliance coalition, continuing the ongoing clashes with the group. Large military supply convoys were also reportedly deployed to the northern Kachin region, indicating a potential for a renewed offensive against the factions in the contested north.

The Peace Process Steering Committee (PPST) delegation, representing the eight factions that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015, met with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Monday to discuss groundwork for the second round of the Union Peace Conference, including the potential ability to include the Northern Alliance in negotiations. The delegation leader for the PPST also called on both the State Counsellor and the army chief to halt military operations and declare a ceasefire north, where the clashes have resulted in numerous military and civilian casualties.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has suggested that the government, lead by The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, should seek to amend or repeal laws that criminalize nonviolent speech. During the government’s first year there has been an escalation in prosecutions of peaceful political speech and speech monitoring has become significantly more aggressive. The government has reportedly continued the repression of the population through refused bail, months-long detentions pending trial, and the sentencing of citizens to excessive jail time for political speech.

On Wednesday, 22 non-governmental organizations called for immediate cessation of armed conflict, protection and safety of displaced citizens, and a dialogue of peace in Burma. In a press release, these organizations expressed concern for the escalating conflict and mass displacement in the country, particularly in the Kachin and Northern Shan States. Dire living conditions and lack of humanitarian aid plague more than 6,000 already displaced in camps, while an additional 5,600 have recently been displaced.


Burundi:

President Pierre Nkurunziza has pardoned 300 of Burundi’s prisoners as part of the government’s plan to release 25 percent of the Mpimba central prison inmates, totaling a release of 2,500 prisoners. However, human rights groups have voiced concern that this pardon is simply to make room for victims of arbitrary arrests, adding to the repression of Burundi’s citizens.


Central African Republic:

New reports have shown that the Central African Republic has become the most dangerous country for aid workers over the past year, with 365 security incidents in 2016. The International NGO Safety Organization recorded 27 injuries in attacks against aid workers last year and five deaths of humanitarian aid workers. They reports also shows no sign of improvement, with the security situation likely to deteriorate even more. In addition, hospitals and other areas for the provision of humanitarian assistance have repeatedly been attacked.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The UN independent expert on capacity building and operations for Côte d’Ivoire examined the challenges facing the country, looking ahead to the imminent withdrawal of United Nations Operation of Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in a statement on Friday. Mr. Mohammed Ayat called for vigilance to preserve and strengthen the country’s security and stability, political dialogue, transitional justice, and human rights situation. He specifically called upon Ivorian authorities to reform the security sector and strengthen institutions for peace and good governance.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) declared its intent to work on resolving the increasing violence caused by conflict between farmers, the government, armed groups, and nomadic herders in search of pasture for their cattle.

Bishops leading the negotiations between rival leaders in the DRC have said they are confident all stakeholders will ratify the agreement by 28 January. However, they also warned that unless the deal from 31 December is signed by that date, their efforts for peace in the country will have been in vain.


Iraq:

Iraqi forces declared that they have retaken control of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIL) on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has ordered investigations into violations of human rights and other abuses purportedly committed by government troops and paramilitary forces in the battle to retake the city. The order came after a UN demand for a government probe into a video reportedly showing brutal treatment and executions of at least three ISIL suspects taken prisoner in eastern Mosul.

In a report on Tuesday, Amnesty International claimed that the government of Iraq has executed 31 individuals for connections to a 2014 mass killing. The human rights monitor called the execution further proof of the government’s disregard of human rights in security efforts and alleged that the individuals were additionally victims of torture and a flawed judicial process. Mosul trauma care has been increased by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, but current funding levels are not enough to provide full services for the 2.7 million people affected


Libya:

US officials have announced that Libya has been removed from a list of combat zones where the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG) rules to protect to civilians can be disregarded. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria remain on the list.

Officials from neighboring countries met in Cairo this week with the UN envoy for Libya and rejected the use of military force to resolve the Libyan conflict. The leader of the UN-backed Government of National Accord announced on Wednesday that he will meet with the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Cairo. While talks will reportedly be unmediated, they may involve representatives from Russia. The forces of the LNA have reportedly clashed with militias supporting the UN-backed administration, leading some to analysts and diplomats to raise concerns regarding a potential re-escalation of the conflict. LNA forces have been the primary group in Libya combating Islamist groups, including the Islamic State (ISIL) and the LNA announced on Thursday that they had made ground against an al-Qaeda linked group in Benghazi.

Also in Benghazi on Thursday, a car bomb injured six. A bombing last Friday near a mosque also killed one civilian and injured 10 others.


Mali:

Pro-government militias have claimed that an attack by former rebels killed 14 on Saturday. Elements of a Tuareg-led former rebel group who had been part of a joint patrol on Wednesday reportedly carried out the attack on pro-government and other former rebel militias while they were preparing for a joint patrol as part of the terms of the peace deal.
On Tuesday, the UN announced that a mortar attack on a camp of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed one UN peacekeeper and wounded two others. In a press statement, the UN Security Council called on the Malian government to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice, emphasizing that such attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes in international law.  These attacks are reportedly part of an escalating trend in violence in the northern regions of the country driven by an expansion of extremist groups.


Nigeria:

On Saturday, the Indigenous People of Biafra claimed that police killed 20 people after a demonstration organized by a separatist group supporting the new US president and seeking his aid in establishing a breakaway Biafran state turned violent. The group also claimed that 200 people have gone missing. A police spokesperson denied that anyone had been killed, but did inform media that police arrested 65 people.

According to local officials, the total number of people killed in the purportedly accidental airstrike on an aid camp outside of the town Rann could be as high as 236. The regional security situation has only recently allowed humanitarian groups access to the area to help those fleeing the fighting between the government and Boko Haram terror group, however, only two days after the errant airstrike, a group of around 15 Boko Haram fighters attacked the town. Military officials have reported that a local garrison defending Rann killed all those fighters involved in the attack.


South Sudan:

On Monday, the UN Security Council called for the government of South Sudan to cooperate with the United Nations in the immediate deployment of a 4,000 strong regional protection force (RPF). The decision came after the government rescinded on its earlier acceptance of the force on 11 January. UN Secretary General Guterres has accused South Sudan of willfully hindering the deployment of the additional forces. Numerous voices have called on the UN Security Council to take immediate action in South Sudan to prevent the possibility of genocide. Former Deputy Defence Minister of South Sudan, Majak D’Agoot, has stated that the deployment of 4,000 additional troops, called for by UNSC resolution 2304 in August, was necessary given the delicate situation in the country and the warnings signs of a potential genocide. He also accused the political elite in Juba of interfering with the deployment to protect their own interests. The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) responsible for monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement has echoed calls for an accelerated deployment of the delayed RPF, citing similar concerns of the ethnically-fueled conflict collapsing into genocide.

The Director of Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Katherine Almquist Knopf, has also recommended a method of resolving the violence and risk of atrocities in South Sudan in a new report published by the Council of Foreign Relations. The report calls for the UN and African Union to cooperatively assume the responsibility to form an international transitional administration to allow the country to recover and stabilize.

On Tuesday, a UN spokesperson informed the media that the the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had received credible reports of renewed fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the opposition in Central Equatoria over the weekend and of clashes in Eastern Equatoria. UNMISS is pursuing further information of civilians being killed in both instances. However, on Thursday, the South Sudanese government officially denied any clash between their forces and the opposition.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated in the December 2016 humanitarian access situation snapshot that 77 incidents hindering humanitarian access had occurred over the course of the month. 61 percent of such incidents involved violence against humanitarian personnel and assets, with 27 percent involving interference in implementation. The snapshot also reports of multiple situations where violent clashes forced aid workers to relocate, including one incident involving refugees and members of the host community that necessitated the relocation of 85 humanitarian personnel. It was also stated that the country had deported two senior aid workers and the country’s armed forces forcibly occupied two schools.


Sudan:

A breakaway faction of the Sudan Liberation Army rebel group signed a peace deal with the government in Doha on Monday. Officials of Qatar’s government and the head of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) were also in attendance.


Syria:

Peace talks between the Assad regime and rebel factions moderated by Russia and Turkey in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana began on Monday with a difficult start between the two sides of the conflict angrily insulting and challenging one another. It was later determined that the objectives of the meeting would not be full peace agreement, but rather a strengthening of the current ceasefire agreement in order to increase the likelihood of success at the UN-brokered peace conference in Geneva next month. According to a final statement read by the foreign minister of Kazakhstan following the talks, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have agreed on behalf of the Assad regime and rebel factions to establish a trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire agreement. While the representative for the regime hailed the talks as a success, neither side has formally endorsed the agreement and opposition forces have voiced major reservations.

Government forces have continued to besiege East Ghouta using a strategy not dissimilar to the one utilized in the seizure of Aleppo. However, civilians are reportedly refusing to abandon their homes and the city to the government, with medical centers reporting that nearly 20-30 people each day are treated for injuries caused by the continuous bombardment of the area. 300,000 people are still believed to be living in East Ghouta. The city is one of 39 besieged communities which have trapped more than 1.3 million people in combat zones. At least 400,000 civilians have been killed since 2011 when the uprising began according to statements by the UN.

US military officials have claimed that the final airstrike of the outgoing US administration landed in Syria on Thursday, allegedly killing roughly 100 al-Qaeda forces. Officials have also claimed they have a high level of confidence that the airstrike did not harm any civilians.


Yemen:

Government forces fighting their way up the western coast had mostly surrounded the contested Red Sea port city Mocha by Sunday. The city is suspected to be a source of arms for the Al Houthi rebel groups. An army spokesperson stated on Wednesday that the army was in the process of clearing the last of resistance snipers and landmines throughout the town. Retreating Houthi forces have allegedly continued to heavily mine the territories they once occupied. The army has reportedly made concerted efforts to carefully target combatants to avoid civilian casualties. However, Houthi sources have claimed that coalition airstrikes killed one civilian and wounded two others in Mocha as well as killing another elsewhere in the Taiz province and wounding three civilians in Saana over the weekend. On Tuesday, the reported lack of coordination between Yemeni ground forces and coalition air power resulted in a mistaken strike on Yemeni soldiers. Reports claim that the fighting in Yemen over the weekend killed a total of 75 people, including those killed by the first US drone strikes of the new administration.

The British Ministry of Defence is reportedly tracking 252 violations of international humanitarian law by Saudi-led coalition forces, but has declined to state if arms supplied by the United Kingdom were utilized in the alleged violations. The export of arms and munitions to Saudi Arabia by the UK has been criticized for potentially fueling the conflict and thereby worsening the suffering of Yemeni civilians.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in the capital on Sunday to continue to push for a new round of peace talks. Under the new peace plan, current President Hadi will retain presidential powers until the Houthis fully withdraw from all occupied territories and disarm. The government formally expressed objection to the UN Special Envoy meeting with Houthi militia leaders and their allies in the Houthi-occupied capital, Sanaa. Following his visits, the UN Special Envoy briefed the Security Council on the situation in Yemen and provided several recommendations, including an immediate and complete ceasefire, the disarmament and withdrawal of the Houthi faction from Sanaa, and adherence to the roadmap for peaceful settlement, which includes the appointment of a new Vice President.

 

 

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#RtoPWeekly: 16 – 20 January 2017

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West African military force enters the Gambia in support of new president

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On Thursday, Senegalese troops crossed the Gambian border as part of a West African regional initiative to ensure a transition of power from longtime ruler, Yahya Jammeh, to the democratically-elected president, Adama Barrow, who was inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Senegal earlier that day. Following the elections in December 2016, then-President Jammeh, who seized power of the country in a 1994 coup, originally accepted Mr. Barrow’s win, but later reversed his decision and has refused to leave office past the constitutionally-mandated date this week, citing irregularities and errors within the election process.

Thousands of civilians and tourists have already fled  the Gambia to neighboring countries in anticipation of the possible violence that could ensue if Jammeh does not relinquish power. At least 26,000 people have sought refuge in Senegal alone, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

On Tuesday, the political crisis in the country worsened as then-President Jammeh declared a state of emergency and held a parliamentary vote, which extended his time in the presidency by 90 days. He claimed that these steps would allow the country’s Supreme Court to consider the legal challenge he has brought against the election results and prevent a vacuum of power during the proceedings.

After President Barrow’s inauguration, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all parties to accept the December election results and extending full support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the regional initiative to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to Barrow. However, the resolution also underscored that all political methods should be exhausted before using military tools.

By Thursday evening, the West African regional forces had halted operations in the Gambia in order to allow leaders for the region to make a final attempt to use political methods to convince Jammeh to step down. However, operations will reportedly resume on Friday at 12:00pm local time if Jammeh continues to refuse to leave office.

Source for above photo of Senegalese soldiers moving toward the Gambian border on 19 January 2017: Sylvain Cherkaoui/AP via NPR


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Fortify Rights issued a joint report on Monday claiming that there has been state involvements in the disappearances of two Baptist Christian leaders from the Kachin ethnic group from Shan State after the men were called to a military base following their assistance to journalists reporting on damage purportedly done to a church by the Burmese military. HRW and Fortify Rights have called upon the government to provide information on the two missing men and to additionally allow Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, and other human rights monitors access to the region that has thus far been denied.

In a separate report last Friday, Fortify Rights called upon Permanent UN Security Council member China to do more to protect ethnic Kachin refugees fleeing violence in Burma after an alleged incident of Chinese state security forcing approximately 4,000 refugees back across the border on 11 January. China has denied this report and noted their provision of food and medicine as part of humanitarian initiatives.

Following the rise in violence within Burma in recent months, Malaysia urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday to pressure Burma to address the issue and British politicians have urged Secretary of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson to press the issue on his visit to the country on Friday.

Eight other groups who signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government in October 2015 and formed the combined Peace Process Steering Team, requested a meeting with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing last week to seek solutions to ongoing violence in Kachin and Shan states.


Burundi:

The Burundian government has ordered the withdrawal of the over 5,400 troops it contributed to the African Union (AU) stabilization mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This withdrawal is a result of the months-long withholding of payments to Burundi for its AMISOM contributions due to sanctions levied against President Nkurunziza’s current government by the European Union (EU), AMISOM’s largest financial backer.

Last Friday, Burundian national police acknowledged an increase in reports of kidnapping since the beginning of the political crisis in the country in 2015. This supports earlier findings by a UN independent investigation that uncovered multiple disappearances of opposition members, civil society advocates, and demonstrators following arbitrary arrests.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that members of the Burundian ruling party’s youth league have beaten, tortured, and killed scores of individuals across the country in the months since the beginning of the turmoil caused by President Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term. HRW claims that the youth league has mobilized to suppress dissent against the president and his plans for a third term in violation of the Arusha Accords. The report calls on the UN Security Council to use targeted sanctions against individuals in Burundi responsible for human rights violations and urges a full investigation by the UN and, if warranted, the International Criminal Court.


Central African Republic:

The 28,000 residents of a makeshift camp outside the airport of the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, are being moved out by the government citing concerns for aviation safety. However, many of the civilians still fear for their safety if forced to return to their home villages from which they fled during the sectarian violence that began in 2013. President Faustin-Archange Toudéra said last Thursday that over 70,000 civilians are believed to have been displaced since the beginning of renewed fighting in September, many of whom have been displaced several times.

The United Nations announced last weekend that attacks against humanitarian aid workers in the CAR rose to 330 in 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The deal reached on New Year’s Eve to allow for a peaceful solution to the political and constitutional crises in the DRC is being celebrated as a victory for diplomats and civil society. However, the deal has not halted violent ethnic clashes in country. On Monday, a UN official reported that ethnic clashes between Bantu and Pygmy communities the week prior had killed 24. UN reports noted the particularly disturbing trend of targeting women with 19 of the 24 victims being female. These casualties are part of a larger period of violence over the last six months that has included 158 deaths, 205 injuries, and 50 acts of sexual violence against women.


Gaza/West Bank:

During his first address to the UN Security Council in the new year UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mlandenov, stated to the Council that calls for Israel to annex the West Bank, in part or as a whole, is destructive to the two-state long term peace process. A bill put forward in the Knesset to annex a settlement in the West Bank will be debated on Sunday. Mr. Mlandenov called on all actors to avoid unilateral actions that may threaten the two-state solution and also noted with concern increasing tensions in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ treatment of peaceful protestors against the power shortages and restrictions. Last week, one of the largest protests in a decade saw about 10,000 people march through the streets while security forces fired weapons to disperse the crowd.

Clashes this week between civilians and Israeli security forces have left a 17-year-old Palestinian dead after being identified as the “main instigator” and shot by Israeli forces.


Iraq:

The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has shifted favorably for the Iraqi and coalition forces with their successful capture of most of the eastern portion of the city announced on Wednesday. However, the western portion of the city, across the Tigris River,  remains uncaptured and the narrow streets and dense neighborhoods promise intense and violent fighting, posing extreme danger to the 750,000 civilians the UN estimates remain in that area. Evacuation may be hampered by both fighting and the destruction of five bridges by US-led airstrikes as part of Operation Inherent Resolve that has left even the approaching Iraqi forces searching for makeshift alternatives for crossing. The UN has reported that more than 1,500 people have been evacuated from Mosul to hospitals in a neighboring city since the beginning of the operation in October.

The pressure of the advancing Iraqi forces has led to an evolution in the Islamic State’s (ISIL) battle tactics, with local media reporting the terror organization has begun adapting consumer model drones to drop grenades on small ground targets. The Iraqi CTS (Counter-Terrorism Services) have also seized and taken control of several barrels of chemical mixtures from the labs at the University of Mosul that had allegedly been used by ISIL to produce rudimentary chemical weapons.

The brutality of the violence in Mosul is hinted at by a media report released on Wednesday that includes Iraqi forces boasting to journalist on video about the revenge killing of a surrendered ISIL fighter. The soldiers claimed they executed the man to avenge their fallen compatriots.


Libya:

The UN-brokered Libya dialogue, which is intended to bring about successful unity of the country’s two rival governments, was delayed for the second time in a week on Wednesday as political figures in Libya disputed the makeup of the dialogue team. The meeting is now scheduled to begin on Sunday.

The growing body of reports of abuse of seafaring migrants by the Libyan coastguard now includes an incident in August that involved the firing of multiple bullets into a humanitarian aid ship operated by Médecins Sans Frontières. A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has previously found that migrants have been imprisoned, robbed, raped, and subjected to forced labor after life-threatening interceptions by Libyan coastguard vessels. One account from a migrant stated the coast guard opened fire randomly on a boat of migrants killing at least three.


Mali:

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on Wednesday stated that the Malian government is failing to protect civilians in the northern and central parts of the country. The report detailed attacks on villages and peacekeepers with the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), noting that despite the 2015 peace accord, the human rights climate worsened in Mali through 2016 as signatories failed to execute many of the deal’s provisions, including disarmament.

UN Secretary-General Guterres, noting the stagnated adoption of the 2015 accord, urged the UN Security Council on Monday to consider imposing sanctions on those obstructing the deal’s implementation. The UN Secretary-General also called on all parties to resume negotiation.


Nigeria:

On Thursday, Nigeria released details of an airstrike that reportedly accidentally targeted a humanitarian aid camp on Tuesday. The airstrike, which was operating as part of Nigeria’s ongoing counterinsurgency effort against terrorist organizations in the region, reportedly dropped multiple bombs on the camp, killing at least 70 people, including six aid workers. In addition to the deaths and injuries, aid organizations are concerned that the incident may cause a lapse in the humanitarian aid infrastructure in the area. The Nigerian military is set to launch a formal inquiry that will release findings by early February, but top commanders have already called the incident a mistake, directing blame to the “fog of war.”


South Sudan:

On Monday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a human rights report detailing the records of human rights abuses documented by UNMISS during the violence in Juba in July 2016. UNMISS recorded 217 incidents of sexual violence against women and girls by both factions during that period. The report also detailed the targeting of civilians sheltering in UN camps, including multiple acts of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as findings that the South Sudanese military used language tests to identify members of different tribes during house-to-house searches in July, at times executing civilians on the spot.


Syria:

Russia has invited officials from the in incoming US administration to the talks between Syrian government and opposition representatives in Kazakhstan next week. On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told media that he is hopeful the peace talks will lead to local reconciliation with rebel forces. Fighting continues in several areas in the country and has intensified in some, such as in Deir al-Zor, where the UN World Food Program has announced that it will be forced to suspend its airdrop deliveries of food.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday that the Islamic State (ISIL) had beheaded four and shot eight in Palmyra. The monitor added that the victims were made up of captured soldiers, rebels, teachers, and state employees.

The monitoring group has also reported continued infighting amongst rebel factions after the fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front, attacked checkpoints and positions of the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham rebel group. Jabhat Fateh al-Sham claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a car-bombing in Damascus last week that killed seven.


Yemen:

The UN envoy on Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met with President Abrabbuh Mansour Hadi on Monday to attempt to persuade the government to agree to a new cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks. The current halt in negotiations is a result of the President’s rejection of an earlier proposal that would have reduced his power and moved towards a transitional government and new elections. The envoy previously met with senior officials of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar over the past week and is set to travel to Sana’a in the next few days to meet with Houthi leaders to deliver the same message. The envoy is also intended to report to the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Yemen later this month.

On Thursday, the internationally-recognized government spoke well of elements of a new peace plan presented by the UN envoy, which would begin with a cessation of hostilities and lead to the formation of a unity government.

Fighting between Houthi and government forces in Shabwa province on Monday reportedly killed 34 people and wounded 16 others. Six civilians were also killed by a Houthi-fired rocket during fighting around Taiz. On Tuesday it the UN reported that the death toll in the Yemeni conflict has broken 10,000. The report also claimed that local human rights monitors have recorded 11,332 civilian casualties, including 4,125 deaths in Yemen through October 2016. Furthermore, 10 million people in Yemen are in urgent humanitarian need.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 31 October – 04 November 2016

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Independent report finds UN mission in South Sudan failed to protect civilians during July violence in Juba

a5d78a56-d440-477b-b440-55b7e73b78ceOn 1 November, an independent inquiry released its report on the July violence in Juba and the actions the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The inquiry, established by UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon in August, found that UNMISS had failed to uphold its mandate to protect civilians. During the three-day outbreak of violence in the capital, armed government forces killed and assaulted civilians and humanitarian workers, committing sexual assaults and other atrocity crimes. The report found that, at the time, there were about 12,000 UNMISS peacekeepers deployed in the country, but the forces abandoned their posts and failed to respond to pleas for help from people under attack. The clashes resulted in the killing of at least 272 people during the first three days of the conflict.

In response to the report, UN Secretary-General dismissed UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki of Kenya as the findings indicated that a lack of leadership was behind the “chaotic and ineffective” response to the crisis. Ban urged for a prompt replacement of the force commander and pledged to present measures to strengthen UNMISS’ capacity for the protection of civilians, such as greater accountability for both civilian and uniformed personnel. The next step for the UN is to ensure that those responsible for the security failings during the crisis are identified and held accountable. Expressing dismay over the Secretary-General’s decision to dismiss the Kenyan commander, Kenya announced that the country will withdraw its troops from UNMISS..

In discussing the dismissal, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that, “The firing of one commander won’t be a panacea to the mission’s shortcoming” and stressed that UNMISS needs to take steps towards improving their early warning capacities. Furthermore, HRW underscored that if UNMISS is unable to prevent atrocities, the mission must ensure to fulfill the mandate to use lethal force, if necessary, to protect civilians and halt atrocities. HRW has called for the UN to learn from past mistakes and make sure that the protection of civilians is the top priority.

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) renewed its call for a UN-assisted inquiry into violence in Rakhine State. HRW has released new satellite images showing extensive fire-related destruction in three villages and is calling on the Burmese government to allow the UN to investigate the alleged destruction of villages in the area. Since the attacks on border outposts on 9 October, security forces have been accused of a campaign of violence in the area against the Rohingya minority group.

Burmese soldiers are facing fresh allegations of raping and sexually assaulting Rohingya women and girls during the security operation in Rakhine State, ongoing since 9 October. Breaking the story on Friday, Reuters conducted first-hand interviews with three of the several dozen women victimized by the incident.


Burundi:

Human Rights Watch has argued that the Burundian withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a confirmation of Burundi’s disregard for human rights and shows how little the country cares about justice for victims of war crimes and human rights violations. The organization called on other African countries, who are still members of the ICC, to distance themselves from Burundi’s withdrawal.


Central African Republic:

On 28 October, clashes between two rival militia groups in the central town of Bambari killed25 people. This, and further fighting in the north around the town of Kaga Bandero, has forced over 20,000 people to flee to UN bases in the past week. Humanitarian efforts have been suspended in some areas due to growing instability.

Following deadly raids in camps for displaced people in October, Human Rights Watch has called for increased protection by UN peacekeepers. Rebels killed at least 37 civilians and wounded another 57 as they razed a camp in mid-October as peacekeepers surrounding the camp failed to halt the attack. The UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, released a report on Monday documenting the deaths of civilians and assigned the primary responsibility for the attacks to Seleka forces.


Iraq:

Security developments
ISIL executed at least 232 people in Mosul last week, including 190 former Iraqi security forces and 42 civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians are thought to have been forcefully displaced from their homes by the extremist group to be used as human shields against bombardments by US-led coalition and Iraqi armed forces. The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement Tuesday condemning the recent violations of human rights and ongoing violence perpetrated by ISIL throughout the ongoing armed conflict in and around Mosul. Mr. Dieng pointed to the forced displacement of at least 25,000 civilians and the potential use of chemical weapons as crimes that demand accountability while urging Iraqi government forces to conduct their operations with full respect for international law.

The Iraqi army resumed its offensive on Monday to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. The advance was paused last week as some ground units had made gains quicker than forces on other fronts. The operation, undertaken predominantly by special forces units, will now focus on taking back territory on the east bank of the Tigris River. The offensive continues to encounter strong opposition from ISIL, who persistently use suicide bombings and car bombs to drive forces back.

Iraqi government forces, supported by coalition special forces units and Kurdish paramilitaries, officially breached eastern districts of Mosul on Monday. US-led coalition airstrikes and artillery has allowed forces to continue to advance toward the center of the city despite a violent resistance from thousands of ISIL fighters. There are approximately two million civilians still living in Mosul.

US airstrikes last month allegedly killed eight members of one family, including three children, in a village just outside the city of Mosul. The US has confirmed that they conducted aerial strikes in the Fadhiliya village area on 22 October and are further investigating these allegations. The deaths highlight the ongoing concerns voiced by officials and aid agencies about the protection of civilians in Iraq as government and coalition forcess work to oust ISIL from the northern regions of the country.

The humanitarian situation
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has released a Flash Update regarding the current situation in Iraq. The report notes that there are now 15,804 internally displaced persons (IDPs), including 2,634 families, as a result of the enduring offensive taking place in Mosul, bringing the country total to 3.3 million IDPs.


Libya:

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on all parties to allow humanitarian access into Benghazi neighborhoods where civilians are trapped by fighting. Furthermore, HRW also urged the parties to grant safe passage for civilians to leave those areas. However, conditions have been set by both sides regarding the evacuation of residents, including that no males between 15 and 65 will be allowed safe passage out of the area.


Mali:

On Monday, al Qaeda linked Ansar Dine declared a unilateral ceasefire in Mali. Despite having been pushed out of most territory in 2013, the terrorist organization had recently intensified its attacks over the course of the past year, killing dozens of people.


Nigeria:

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Nigerian government officials of sexually exploiting and raping women and girls displaced by Boko Haram. The report is a result of firsthand accounts given in the form of interviews to HRW, as well as a July 2016 assessment of internally displaced persons (IDPs), in which 66% of respondents stated that camp officials had sexually abused displaced women and girls. Responding to the report, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced the start of an investigation into the allegations, which was welcomed by HRW as a positive step “taken in defense of Boko Haram victims”.

UNICEF, on Monday, negotiated the release of 876 children held by the Nigerian military for suspected links to Boko Haram. UNICEF estimates that roughly 20,000 children have been separated from their parents due to the conflict with Boko Haram.

President Muhammadu Buhari met with representatives from the Niger River Delta from both the local communities and several of the prominent rebel groups on Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was to find a political solution to the continuing militancy issues in the region related to the oil industry, as well as to discuss issues of economic and human development and security. However, the region’s most prominent militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, refused to join the talks and threatened attacks to derail the peace process if an ongoing army offensive did not cease.


South Sudan:

Last week, an army rebel group loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar reportedlyattacked two schools in South Sudan and abducted at least 30 children. The children are thought to have been recruited as soldiers in the rebel army.

President Salva Kiir promised that he is fully committed to the implementation of the 2015 peace deal. He called for a united nation to rebuild itself and said that progress has been made since the appointment of Taban Deng Gai as First Vice President.


Sudan/Darfur:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a report for October 2016 regarding the crisis in the Jebel Marra region of Sudan. The report notes that between 160,000 and 195,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 resulting from persistent armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Abdul Wahid branch of the Sudan Liberation Army (AW-SLA).


Syria:

Security developments
At least 15 people were killed and an additional 100 were injured in mortar attacks in residential areas of western Aleppo on Friday. The attacks occurred as part of a new rebel offensive to retake regime-held parts of the city.

At least 41 civilians, including 17 children, were killed over the weekend in continued violent clashes between regime and opposition forces on the western outskirts of Aleppo. Opposition forces have leveraged car bombs, rockets, and mortar shells in an attempt to break the Assad government’s siege on the city. Unverified claims that opposition forces used chemical weapons were reported by Syrian state media  sources on Sunday. At least 35 people allegedly complained of shortness of breath, numbness, and muscle spasms caused by “toxic gases”.

Political developments
The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed on Monday to extend for 18 days the international inquiry into the use of chemical weapons by both the Syrian government and ISIL. The investigation, which was set to expire on Monday, has found that the Assad regime is responsible for at least three chlorine gas attacks while also confirming ISIL’s use of mustard gas.

Russia and the Syrian government have called for both rebel opposition members and civilians to evacuate Aleppo through exit corridors during a ceasefire scheduled for Friday. Two corridors have been specifically set up for rebel fighters while an additional six have been created for sick and wounded civilians. Rebels have rejected the appeal for evacuation stating that the exit corridors do not actually exist.


Yemen:

The security situation
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on a security facility killed several people, including prisoners, on Sunday. According to a security official, there were three strikes on the facilities, which killed 48 people. However, a Houthi-controlled news agency has contested the report, claiming that the death toll was closer to 60 people.

On Monday, armed Houthi rebels forced more than 150 families to flee their homes in areas around Taiz, by threatening them at gunpoint, according to human rights groups and local sources. Most of the displaced people are very poor and this incident will only add to the already gruesome situation for civilians in Yemen.

Developments in the peace process
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Monday, informing them of the details of the proposed peace plan to resolve the dire conflict in Yemen. Amongst other things, the plan included a new vice-president and a national unity government to lead the country during a transitional period until new elections would be possible. An aide to the president reported that the president will not accept the UN proposal before the Houthi rebels go along with the conditions previously stated by the Yemeni government. Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets on Thursday to protest the peace proposal submitted by the UN Special Envoy, claiming that the plan would legitimize the Houthi rebels’ coup to overthrow the Yemeni government.

At the same briefing, the United States called for an end to airstrikes and said that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict. After the statement, critics quickly responded by pointing out that the US is supporting the war by providing Saudi Arabia the weapons which are being used on civilians in the conflict.

The United Kingdom has drafted a UNSC resolution demanding that all parties immediately resume the April ceasefire and proceed with peace negotiations. The draft resolution also calls for transparency, accountability and swiftness when it comes to investigations into alleged crimes against humanity and international humanitarian law.


What else is new?

This week, several non-governmental organizations signed an open letter to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) regarding the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. The letter contains suggestions on how the AUC should move forward with the Court, where the main ideas are the preparation of a draft statute and the establishing of an evidence preservation mechanism.

On Tuesday, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) released a brief, entitle “Challenges and Conditions for Deploying an Effective Regional Protection Force (RPF) to South Sudan”. The brief examines the role of the RPF in enhancing the protection of civilians, and potential concerns. It also presents suggestions to make the RPF as effective as possible in carrying out its mission.

On Wednesday, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) released a new report entitled “A Necessary Good: U.S Leadership on Preventing Mass Atrocities”. The report details what should be done to strengthen existing atrocity prevention initiatives, as well as new measures which should be developed and how to ensure that the issue is institutionalized within the national security bureaucracy in the United States.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) has released a statement in response to the recent decisions of Burundi, South Africa, and Gambia to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). GCR2P expressed regret about the declarations, which “undermine progress made in establishing that any person, regardless of rank or high office, can be held accountable for perpetrating mass atrocity crimes committed anywhere in the world.” Continue reading

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#R2PWeekly: 26 – 30 September 2016

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As Ivan Šimonović begins as Special Adviser on RtoP, ICRtoP releases new infographic about the work of the Joint Office 

 

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On 1 October, Mr. Ivan Šimonović will take up his new role as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, succeeding former Special Adviser on RtoP, Dr. Jennifer Welsh. To mark the occasion, the ICRtoP has created a new informative infographic exploring the Office of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and the work of the Special Advisers in conjunction with one another to advance the operational, political, and institutional development of the norm.

Before assuming this new role, Mr. Šimonović served as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York. Mr. Šimonović, of Croatia, previously served as Minister for Justice and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations in New York. In the latter role, he also served as President of the Economic and Social Council.

To view ICRtoP’s new infographic on the Office of the Special Advisers, please click here.

To read ICRtoP’s statement on Mr. Šimonović’s appointment as Special Adviser on RtoP, please click here.

For more information, see the ICRtoP’s page on the Joint Office.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On 23 September, following weeks of ground clashes, the Burmese army launched an aerial assault on Kachin Independence Army camps.

On Monday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released a study on Burma’s prisons, highlighting gross human rights violations while suggesting appropriate measures for prison reform, including aligning domestic prison legislation with international standards and the signing of the Convention Against Torture.


 Burundi:

Late last week, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that the number of people fleeing Burundi has surpassed 300,000. In Rwanda, children make up half of the Burundian refugees, many of whom are unaccompanied. There has been a constant flow of people fleeing the country since the political crisis started and UNHCR has warned that “reception capacities in host countries are severely overstretched.” However, on Wednesday, the Burundian interior minister rejected the number given by UNHCR and said that the majority of refugees, about 100,000, have returned home willingly.

The report of the UN Independent Investigation in Burundi, released on 20 September, accusing the Burundi government of human rights abuses, was also rejected by the Burundi government as deliberately politicized and falsified. The Minister for External Affairs told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that the report, as well as other rumors and posts on social media have been utilized to depict the country “in a bad light”. In the coming days, the government will have the opportunity to present a counter-report in Geneva. Thousands of people in Burundi, including government officials, lawmakers, and other citizens protested outside UN offices in Bujumbura over the report.

On Wednesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW), released a statement in support of the report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) and urging the UN Human Rights Council to follow the recommendations set out by the experts in the UNIIB report. As serious human rights abuses have continued in Burundi since the last time the Council discussed the situation in the country, HRW argued that it is time for action, including the creation of a Commission of Inquiry or a similar accountability mechanism in order to establish responsibility for the most serious crimes committed in the country.

The East African Community (EAC) has received a donation of $200,000 USD from the Chinese government as part of efforts aimed at facilitating dialogue in the crisis in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) condemned attacks on humanitarian workers in Kaga Bandoro, reminding that, “Violence against aid workers is a serious breach of international Humanitarian Law.” In September alone, there were 15 recorded attacks involving international organizations.

Armed groups are occupying schools hindering children across the country from returning to class, the United Nations said on Wednesday. MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR, on Tuesday demanded the armed groups to leave the schools and said it would use force to remove them if necessary.


 Democratic Republic of Congo:

The African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and the International Organization of La Francophonie released a joint statement on Saturday regarding their concern over the recent deadly clashes between law enforcement and civilians in the DRC. The statement urged both the presidential majority and the political opposition to exercise restraint and uphold their responsibilities of ensuring the protection of human rights.

During the Interactive Dialogue on the UN High Commissioner’s report on the situation in the DRC on Tuesday, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all parties in the conflict in the DRC to seek a peaceful solution. The appeal comes a week after 53 people, including 49 civilians, were killed in protests in the capital city of Kinshasa. The Deputy High Commissioner also requested the Human Rights Council to further investigate the human rights situation in the DRC. On Tuesday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch published a statement made at the Dialogue, highlighting attempts by Congolese officials to curb human rights reporting and detailing how pro-democracy activists have been detained and sequestered for speaking out against President Kabila’s attempts to extend his presidency beyond the two-term limit.

A crisis briefing released on Thursday by the Global Humanitarian Assistance Program details the current financial response by the international community to deal with the South Sudanese refugee crisis in the DRC. The report states that $356.1 million USD has been donated toward the UN-coordinated Human Response Plan, amounting to 52% of the goal for 2016. Additionally, the report notes that the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response plan calls for $14.7 million USD of assistance to DRC, but that amount has not been reached.


Gaza/West Bank:

UN women’s rights expert Dubravka Simonovic has called for renewed peace talks between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), specifically appealing for women of both sides to take a leadership role in the process.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has issued a call for the Attorney General to open an investigation into the death of one person and the wounding of three others by Palestinian Security Forces on Wednesday morning at the Balatah refugee camp in Nablus. According to the Governor of Nablus, the four men, one of which was a minor, were driving in a vehicle and opened fire on the Security Forces. The Security Forces then returned fire at the vehicle resulting in the aforementioned casualty and injuries.

The PCHR also released a weekly report indicating that Israeli forces have continuously committed systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. The report notes that 26 Palestinians, including 14 children were displaced on Tuesday due to Israeli incursion of property and that dozens of temporary checkpoints were created in the West Bank in order to obstruct the movement of Palestinians throughout the area.


Iraq:

An ECHO Daily Flash List indicated on Tuesday that continued military operations in the Mosul corridor of Iraq have caused the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to rise above 90,000. The report also stressed the importance of translating emergency preparedness to timely humanitarian action and protection for civilians of Mosul ahead of the upcoming offensive to retake the city from the Islamic State (ISIL). Humanitarian assistance has not reached many of these areas for about two years. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also released a flash update infographic on the IDP situation in Mosul and surrounding areas. The document notes that military operations continue to create new displacement in the areas of Shirqat and Hawiga. UNHCR’s call for US$584 million to assist IDPs and Iraqi refugees is still only 40% funded. Additional humanitarian challenges surrounding the upcoming offensive were raised in a new reportreleased by IRIN, which brings attention to issues such as the risk of the potential displacement of over one million Iraqi civilians, and cooperation concerns over land for refugee camps with the Kurdish Regional Government.

The Republic of Korea has provided $3 million in aid to UN Development Programme’s initiative, Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS), which supports high-priority projects in territories liberated from ISIL. The funds will be utilized for stabilization and peace projects in both Anbar and Ninewah province as well as towards projects seeking to empower women and girls to participate in community rebuilding.

Two separate suicide bombings carried out by ISIL killed at least 17 civilians in Baghdad on Tuesday. The attacks specifically targeted Shia-dominated neighborhoods. The bombings indicate a return to insurgency-style attacks as ISIL continues to lose territory on the front lines of the war with Iraqi armed forces.


Kenya:

On Tuesday, the Kenyan government announced that they have begun the process of replacing commissioners on the electoral oversight body. The move is part of the agreement struck with the opposition that put an end to a series of protests, which often escalated to violence, earlier in the year. The opposition believes that the oversight body is biased and not fit to oversee elections scheduled for August 2017.


Libya:

During a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday, in response to US accusations against Russia of civilian deaths in Syria, Russia blamed the US for the failed truce in Libya, saying it was incapable of reining in rebel groups who would not commit to it.

This week, Libya Experts Development Cooperation Forum held its fourth meeting in Tunis. The forum is made up of former Libyan ministers and it aims to provide support for post-conflict peacebuilding and statebuilding.

On Tuesday, the UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, called on States to support the Libyan unity government and uphold the ban on arms sales to the country. The French President vowed his country’s support to the unity government and warned that Libya must not turn into another Syria. On Wednesday a Libyan general rejected the UN-backed unity government and suggested that the country would be better served by a leader with “high-level military experience”.

A Russian diplomatic source said on Wednesday that a Libyan general has requested Russia to end its arms embargo on the country and supply the eastern forces with weapons and military equipment. The general addressed the request to both the President and Defense Minister of Russia which joined the arms embargo set up by the UN Security Council back in 2011.

On Wednesday, US military officials told media sources that the country is expected to extend its bombing campaign against the Islamic State (ISIL) in Libya for another month. This is the second such instance that the US extended its air campaign in Libya since the strikes began in the beginning of August.


Mali:

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for the timely and full implementation of the peace deal in Mali. The Secretary-General met with Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita the peace deal and the humanitarian situation in northern Mali, as well as the role neighboring countries can play in bringing about stability.


Nigeria:

On Sunday, a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, released a video denying reports from the Nigerian military that he had been injured in an airstrike, while also threatening the Nigerian president and taunting him over attempts to have the UN help negotiate the release of 200 kidnapped girls. The same day, the Nigerian army claimed to have killed over 25 Boko Harammilitants, repelling an attack by the militant group in northern Borno state. Four Nigerian soldiers died in the assault as well. Separately, an army convoy came under fire, later in the day, near Bama, killing an additional four soldiers.

The Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate has claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday that targeted an oil pipeline. This came days after the Niger Delta Avengers carried out new attacks, which were the first since the group began talks with the government in August.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, UNICEF reported on the malnutrition crisis that is affecting the northeast of the country, with as many as 75,000 children likely to die in the next year as a result of famine-like conditions created by Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

The humanitarian situation
On Saturday the Sudanese government dispatched $2 million USD worth of food aid and non-food items to South Sudan. A Sudanese official said the shipment was a donation from the presidency to strengthen and enhance relations with South Sudan. According to humanitarian organizations, nearly 6 million South Sudanese are in need of aid assistance. The items in this shipment meet the needs of about 400,000 families.

A human rights group released the results of a two-year investigation earlier this month, that found South Sudanese politicians spending international aid on luxury items. On Monday, South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai responded in an interview, saying that the government is investigating, but the accusations in the report might be false.

The World Food Programme released a Situation Report on South Sudan which, among other things, showed that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has reached 1.61 million. The number of South Sudanese refugees has also risen to over one million, with the average number of South Sudanese refugees arriving in Uganda exceeding 3,000 per day, a figure almost double the daily average in July. It was reported on Wednesday that over 15,000 refugees have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo, fleeing the violence in South Sudan.

On Monday, UN agencies and aid organizations evacuated nearly 40 aid workers from a northern area of South Sudan due to the deteriorating security in the region.

Political and military developments
In his first statement since fleeing South Sudan in August, rebel leader and former First Vice President Riek Machar accused current President Salva Kiir of wanting to turn the country into an “ethnic state” for the Dinka group. He also called for armed resistance to the government and said he plans to resume armed struggle as well. The South Sudanese government has condemned the statement from Machar and said it was unacceptable to the people of South Sudan.

Lam Akol, former Minister of Agriculture has formed a new rebel faction, called the National Democratic Movement (NDM). Akol previously chaired the Democratic Change Party (DCP), but resigned last month because the other leaders believed in peaceful dialogue and non-violence as the only means to bring about change in South Sudan. His aim is to use the rebel group to overthrow the government of South Sudan and, according to Akol, the new faction will work closely with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of the former First Vice President Riek Machar.

On Tuesday, rebels from the Cobra faction of South Sudan’s armed forces announced their defection from the government forces and that they have joined the opposition. In 2014 they signed a peace agreement with the government, which has now been broken.

A new confidential report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on South Sudan details a list of how the South Sudanese government has obstructed the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, and shows the growing backlash against the international community. Among other things, the report claims that South Sudanese soldiers forced a UN vehicle to stop last month, and then proceeded to threaten the international staffers inside with death. The Security Council approved a resolution in August demanding that the country allow UN peacekeepers to do their job unfettered, with the possibility of an arms embargo in the event of non-compliance. Although South Sudan’s government has agreed to the regional forces, South Sudanese officials have claimed it is a violation of the country’s sovereignty.


Sudan/Darfur:

A new report released on Thursday by Amnesty International has urgently called for the UN Security Council to investigate the suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians by Sudanese authorities in Darfur. The report also calls on the Security Council to pressure Sudanese government officials to allow peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers access to remote regions of Darfur. The report estimates that 30 chemical attacks have been perpetrated in 2016 and have mostly targeted the Jebel Marra region. The deadly attacks have claimed the lives of about 250 people, many of which were children, and could amount to war crimes, according to Amnesty International.

Sudanese security services disbanded an organized protest outside of the Ministry of Justice in Khartoum on Monday, spearheaded by the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The goal of the demonstration was to deliver a message to the Minister to request an investigation into the violent killings of anti-austerity protesters by government forces in September 2013.

The United Kingdom has contributed $3.9 million USD to the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF). The funds will assist the Sudanese ability to respond to humanitarian challenges such as the arrival of approximately 90,000 South Sudanese refugees and the displacement of civilians in the Darfur region.


Syria:

Political developments
The Foreign Ministers of France, Italy, Germany, the UK, and the US, as well as the High Representative of the European Union issued a joint statement on Sunday urging Russia to assume its responsibility of working toward a cessation of hostilities, condemning the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and reaffirming its commitment to destroying the Islamic State (ISIL).

The UN Security Council convened for an emergency meeting on Sunday regarding the accelerated hostilities in Syria following the breakdown of a ceasefire last week. An estimated 213 people were killed between Thursday, 22 September and Monday, 26 September. The three countries which called for the meeting, the US, UK, and France, walked out when the Syrian representative began speaking.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov dismissed on Thursday a proposal from the United States for a week long cessation of hostilities around Aleppo. However, Ryabkov noted that Moscow is open to a 48-hour ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid to reach civilians caught in the crossfire.

The security situation
On Monday, airstrikes killed at least 26 people in Aleppo. The airstrikes were purportedly committed by the Syrian regime with Russian involvement. Six of the casualties are confirmed to have been children.

Airstrikes killed at least nine civilians in separate attacks on two hospitals and a bakery in Aleppo on Wednesday. Three patients were killed in the hospitals and the intensive care units in both facilities have been destroyed. An additional six casualties were confirmed outside of a bakery where civilians were waiting in line to purchase bread.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the UN Security Council to address the Syrian regime’s recent use of deadly chemical weapons attacks by imposing sanctions and referring the crisis to the International Criminal Court. Separate attacks using barrel bombs containing chlorine perpetrated by the regime in August and September directly led to the deaths of five people, including three children. The HRW investigation also noted that the Islamic State has been using chemical agents in attacks in Syria.

The humanitarian situation
On Sunday, aid convoys successfully delivered humanitarian aid to four besieged towns in Syria. A large convoy of aid vans delivered food, medical, and hygiene kits to about 60,000 people in the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Foah, and Kenfraya. It was the first time in six months that these areas have received any aid.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has released a report detailing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. UNOCHA estimates that between 250,000 and 275,000 civilians are trapped inside eastern Aleppo without access to safe drinking water, under constant threat of violence due to increased hostilities, and unable to evacuate as all routes out of the city are closed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed for the development of safe evacuation routes for the sick and wounded in Aleppo, as only an estimated 35 doctors remain in the city to care for over 250,000 people. WHO has officially submitted a request through the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the creation of humanitarian passages to evacuate patients to surrounding Syrian cities and areas of Turkey.


Yemen:

The humanitarian situation
Mona Relief, a Yemeni aid organization run by volunteers started delivering aid to 200 families in Hudaydah on Sunday, providing urgently needed basic supplies and on Monday, a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrived in the same province. Starvation is widespread among the population in this area and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned that a quarter of the Yemeni population are living under emergency levels of food insecurity.

Save the Children reported on Tuesday that Yemen’s hospital run out of supplies and the health system has collapsed. Children die from direct impact of the conflict or malnutrition and related illness and are not able to get treatment in hospitals unless their parents can afford medicine. As a result of the war people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, with the result that many families can’t afford transportation to the hospitals, much less are able to buy the essential medicine once they get there. Since the conflict started, at least 1,188 children have been killed and more than 1,796 wounded.

After conducting internal investigations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released two reports on Tuesday describing airstrikes on hospitals that resulted in the death of 20 people. A consequence of the bombings was not only loss of life and destruction, but also the suspension of activities as MSF withdrew from six hospitals. The detailed information in the reports cover actions taken before, during, and immediately after the attacks, and it showed that the neutrality and impartiality of the hospitals had not been compromised; therefore, there was no legitimate reason for the attacks. The UN Security Council had a closed session on protection of medical missions, where the reports were presented.

Political and security developments
A Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed a family of nine in their home and wounded several others on Sunday in the rebel-held city of Ibb. The Saudi Royal Air Force carried out further airstrikes on Monday, killing 10 civilians and wounding 8 others. Monday’s strikes were likely conducted in retaliation for the Yemeni Army’s missile strike at the Jizan Region of Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least four civilians, including a child and injured several others, in the Haydan district.

On Sunday, a top Houthi official offered to cease attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for government and other Houthi-opposed Yemeni fighters in exchange for a cessation of Saudi-led airstrikes and a lifting of the blockade-like conditions on the country. The move has not fulfilled all of the demands by the Yemeni government and its supporters in Saudi Arabia, but has offered a rare hope for a cessation of hostilities in the country. On Monday, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition responded, expressing a preference for a broad political settlement over a ceasefire, which, he explained, are usually short and without any control.

Last week, Britain blocked the EU’s efforts to establish an independent international inquiry into war crimes in Yemen, proposed by The Netherlands. However, after human rights organizations accused the country of placing arms sales to Saudi Arabia over investigations into civilian deaths from coalition bombings, the UK shifted policy on Monday, and added its voice to a call at the UN this week to set up an independent mission. Then, on Thursday, the call for the inquiry into the conflict was denied in the Human Rights Council and the Dutch proposal was withdrawn. A weaker Saudi Arabian-led resolution was introduced, where, instead of the international probe, the Human Rights Council will now call on a national inquiry to look into the conflict. The national probe suggestion was criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month since it has only focused on the Houthi rebels and not human rights violations committed by other parties to the conflict. The delegation from the EU called the accepted resolution a “reasonable compromise”.


 What else is new?

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre will hold a course from 14 – 25 November on the Responsibility to Protect in Accra, Ghana. The aim of the course is to train African officials, including lawmakers, government and military officials, police, and civil society members, on the concept of RtoP and its implementation. The course it will discuss the foundations and evolution of RtoP, information on atrocity prevention and early warning, the protection of civilians, and the military/security sector. For more information on the course and how to apply, please click here.

The Syrian Committee, Amnesty International, and PAX held a joint demonstration on Friday, 30 September at 1:00pm in front of the Russian Embassy in The Hague, demanding that the Russian and Syrian governments stop the bombardments on civilian targets in Aleppo.

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#R2P Weekly: 16 – 20 November 2015

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14th Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court

weeklyphoto20        The International Criminal Court, often referred to as “the legal arm” of the Responsibility to Protect, is holding its 14th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague. As stated by the Coalition for the ICC’s Amielle del Rosario, RtoP and the ICC can be viewed as part of a ‘justice continuum’, as both require a spectrum of action, from preventive measures to timely and decisive response to addressing the risks of recurrence. Indeed, accountability for the perpetrators of atrocity crimes serves as a vital element of upholding the Responsibility to Protect, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities.

Amnesty International, in a call that was echoed by the Coalition for the ICC, advocated for states to strengthen the ICC, rather than accept proposals by the governments of Kenya and South Africa that could undermine the Court’s independence. Such proposals, according to Amnesty, would “hit at the heart of the ability of the ICC to tackle breaches of international law.” The Coalition for the ICC further called for States Parties to the Rome Statute to express their commitment to gender justice, including by noting that sexual and gender-based crimes result from pre-existing gender inequalities that target those most vulnerable in society on the basis of their gender. FIDH, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and ICRtoP member African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, meanwhile, encouraged States Parties to, inter alia, support a strong Trust Fund for Victims, ensure the effective participation of victims in ICC proceedings, and to create a strong field presence to supply outreach to victims and affected communities.

Find more civil society recommendations to the ASP here. The Coalition for the ICC is providing daily summaries of proceedings at the ASP. You can also follow #ASP14 on Twitter for live updates.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

 

The Burmese Army has increased their attacks in the Shan State, with reports of ground and air offensives from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N). Last week, the Burmese Army reportedlyattacked a high school housing 1,500 internally displaced civilians (IDPs) in Kesi Township.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and the National League for Democracy (NLD) accused  Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, the current Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Vice President, of rigging votes.

The UN Human Rights Council completed the second Universal Periodic Review for Burma on 10 November, which outlines 281 recommendations from foreign governments, rights groups and civil society organizations. President Thein Sein has agreed to less than half of the recommendations from the review, breaking a commitment to political reform made at the beginning of his term. Civil society urged the newly elected Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party to accept the core UPR recommendations that have been rejected.

A joint statement between Amnesty International and FIDH called on “all UN member states to recognize the continued need for a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.”


Burundi:

Various UN independent experts expressed outrage at the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi after the United Nations Security Council adopted a new resolution condemning the violence. A group of seven Special Rapporteurs urged for the text to be followed by “concrete responses fitting the magnitude of the risks at stake.” Despite additional UN pleas for an end to violence, at least four people have been killed in separate shootings and explosions in Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura on Sunday, including targeted attacks on police and the residence of the mayor of Bujumbura.

UNICEF reported that child rights violations have multiplied since the beginning of the violent crisis in Burundi. UNICEF also raised attention to the lack of essential medicine and supplies for children and mothers.

The International Organization of Migration reported that over half of the thousands of displaced people are children, many of whom suffer from malaria and malnutrition. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy of Burundi to shrink by 7.2% this year, consequently reversing a decade of growth experienced by the country.


Central African Republic:

Suspected former Seleka rebels attacked two camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), killing nine individuals, including a UN peacekeeper. Later this week, raids assumed to be orchestrated by the ex-Seleka killed at least 22 people, with multiple people reported missing from the villages of Ndassima and Mala.

After talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo concerning its future involvement in the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations hasdetermined that the DRC troops have not been adequately vetted and therefore do not pass a pre-deployment assessment.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The director of the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office for the DRC, Jose Maria Aranaz, confirmed that government soldiers raped 14 women over a three-day period in September in South Kivu.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli military forces raided Qalandiya refugee camp in the West Bank before dawn on Monday, killing two Palestinian men and wounding several others. Residents said up to 1,000 soldiers entered the camp to destroy the home of the family of Muhammad Abu Shaheen, a resident who is charged with killing an Israeli civilian in June. The military reported three shootings and attacks from hundreds of Palestinians with fire bombs, improvised explosive devices, and rocks during the raids.
Palestinian attackers killed at least three Israelis in two attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank, according to police forces. In the first attack, a Palestinian man stabbed two Israelis to death at the entrance of a shop that serves as a synagogue in Tel Aviv. Later on Thursday, attackers opened fire and rammed a car into pedestrians near the Gush Etzion settlement; one person was killed and five others wounded, according to the Israeli police.


Iraq:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a report on crimes against humanity committed by ISIL against several minority groups in northern Iraq, as well as on the possible genocide of the Yezidi people.

An ISIL suicide bombing killed 21 and wounded at least 46 when a bomber targeted a Shia memorial service in the Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Amala. An ISIL roadside bomb detonated at a Shia shrine in Sadr City killed at least five people and wounded 15.

Kurdish forces discovered a mass grave believed to contain the remains of 70 Iraqi Yazidis in Sinjar after the Kurdish forces retook the town from ISIL. The mayor of Sinjar, Mahma Xelil, said the grave would be left undisturbed so experts could analyze the remains and collect evidence for a case to recognize the atrocities as genocide.


Libya:

A Joint Report of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was released on 16 November,  stating “all parties in Libya appear to be committing violations of international humanitarian law, including those that may amount to war crimes as well as gross violations or abuses of international human rights law.” The International Criminal Court is investigating the claims.

Martin Kobler, who formally took over from Spaniard Bernardino Leon on Tuesday as the U.N. Libya envoy, announced that he will restart the unity government talks and prioritize security-related issues.


Mali:

Military sources announced that its army had arrested Alaye Bocari, a financial supporter of the Islamist radical group Massina Liberation Front (MLF). The MLF has been responsible for many deadly attacks in Mali.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reported that Berlin planned to increase its military presence in Mali; Northern Ireland also expressed its willingness to send more peacekeepers to Mali.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the progress that has been made at the political level for Mali is not reflected within communities where fighting continues and people are forced from their homes. Aid efforts have also been affected by attacks on aid workers and their facilities.


Nigeria:

According to Nigerian top officials and international security experts, Boko Haram has lost much of its ground in northern Nigeria. Nevertheless, on Thursday an explosion believed to be the work of Boko Haram killed more than 30 people and injured about 80 in Yola.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the arrest of Sambo Dasuki, a key adviser to former President Goodluck in 2011, as well as other former high ranking officials who issued fraudulent arms contracts amounting to $5.4 billion, denying Nigerian forces weapons needed to fight Boko Haram.

The Institute of Economics and Peace released the “Global Terrorism Index” which determined Boko Haram to be responsible for more deaths last year than any other terrorist group. Boko Haram is reported to have killed 6,664 people, while the deaths of 6,073 were attributed to ISIL in 2014.


South Sudan:

The European Union vocalized its support for a continental network of African judiciaries under the African Union to establish a hybrid court. The AU Commission of Inquiry, alongside others, has recommended the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to further investigate rights abuses.

Both the South Sudanese rebels and the government have accused the other of further violating August’s peace deal with increased attacks or raids in Unity State, just ahead of their meeting at a regional peace conference in Juba on Nov. 23.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir stated that his country has struggled to resettle thousands of refugees and IDPs during the last two years of war, emphasizing that low world oil prices have depleted government coffers.


Sri Lanka:

The main Tamil party (TNA) and civil society organizations organized the complete shutdown in Sri Lanka’s North and Eastern provinces of public transportation, schools, offices, and businesses over the government’s failure to uphold its pledge to release all political prisoners by November 7 and repeal the terrorism law.

UN working group experts, Bernard Duhaime, Tae-Ung Baik, and Ariel Dulitzky, said they had “found a secret underground detention center at a Sri Lankan navy base where many post-civil war detainees were believed to have been interrogated and tortured.” However, the Sri Lankan navy denies these allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

OCHA released a statement on Monday that as many as 166,000 people have been forced to flee the country this year, in addition to 286,000 people last year. The head of OCHA’s Sudan office also raised his concerns over the 2.5 million IDPs in the region.

The Sudanese government chief negotiator expressed the readiness of his government to sign a humanitarian agreement with the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) ahead of a new round of dialogue on Thursday.

The UK-based charity Sudan Social Development Organisation (SUDO) released a report by its network of human rights monitors, which verified 71 incidents of human rights abuses throughout four of the five states of Darfur. The Government of Sudan is deemed responsible for 32 of the incidents, with militias such as Janjaweed responsible for 34. Meanwhile, the SPLM-N has reportedly committed two of the abuses, with the remaining four conducted by unknown assailants. The abuses documented include targeted murder of civilians, destruction of villages, rape of women and minors, barrel bombing of civilian targets and situations of torture.


Syria:

Foreign ministers of nearly 20 nations devised an “ambitious yet incomplete plan” on ending the conflict in Syria in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. The plan sets a 1 January deadline to start the negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups. The Syrian government has reportedly already nominated representatives, and UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will begin immediate work to determine who will represent the opposition.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement instructing the United Nations Secretariat to accelerate planning on “modalities” to support the implementation of a political process in Syria and a nationwide ceasefire for further exploration with relevant parties. The statement also expressed the Secretary-General’s hope that this Saturday’s meeting in Vienna will make progress in ensuring humanitarian access throughout Syria, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.

France bombed the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa on Sunday night, following the terrorist attacks in Paris. American forces launched attacks on 116 ISIL trucks carrying oil near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. The group has been selling oil as one of its main revenue sources and the US has increased strikes against infrastructure that allows ISIL to pump oil in Syria. Until Monday’s strikes, the US has refrained from striking the fleet of oil tankers out of concerns for causing civilian casualties. Following Monday’s strikes, an American official reported that there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.


Yemen:

A bomb explosion on Friday during midday prayers at a Houthi-frequented mosque in Shibam killed several worshippers and wounded others.

Yemeni and Saudi-led coalition forces attacked Houthi rebels in Taez province on Monday in an attempt to retake the territory.

The UNHCR reported that thousands of Yemenis are fleeing to Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden.

Following the US state department’s announcement on Monday to sell $1.3bn worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International reported that three types of bombs that the US proposes selling have previously been used in unlawful strikes in Yemen, which violated international humanitarian law. The US Congress now has 30 days in which to block the sale.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released evidence of the use of banned antipersonnel landmines by Houthis in Yemen, which have caused multiple new civilian casualties. HRW advocated for the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law by all warring parties in Yemen.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van der Klaauw announced that the ongoing war has caused over 32,000 casualties and 5,700 deaths, including 830 women and children. He also reported a dramatic rise in human rights violations, with an average of 43 violations occurring every day.


What else is new?

Jennifer Trahan, an Associate Clinical Professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, published an op/ed on the proposed “Code of Conduct” for Security Council action in the face of mass atrocities, calling on the United States to join.

During Geneva Peace Week, the Permanent Missions of Australia, Ghana, Hungary, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uruguay, with the support of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Graduate Institute, held an event entitled “10th anniversary of Responsibility to Protect: A Focus on Prevention.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights delivered a statement on the implementation of RtoP, concluding with the notion that no discussion in the world today is more important than “our common responsibility, as human beings, to protect other people” – a strong affirmation of the core values behind RtoP.


Above photo: Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 18 November 2015, ASP 2015

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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.

Resolution 2149

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.

Press TV File photo

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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Kony 2012 and the Responsibility to Protect

On 5 March, Invisible Children (IC) released their viral sensation, “Kony 2012“, which called for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the commander-in-chief of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his role in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilian populations in Uganda.

IC’s Kony 2012 sought to raise awareness about the past atrocities of the LRA and their continued crimes against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. It was also a call for action, with a particular emphasis on increasing pressure on policymakers in the United States government, which deployed 100 soldiers in October 2011 to assist Uganda, the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan in their military efforts against the LRA.

Spreading like wildfire on Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, the video also attracted much criticism. IC was charged with oversimplifying the LRA conflict and omitting the voices of northern Ugandans by Mark Kersten and Patrick Wegner, two bloggers at Justice in Conflict with experience working in LRA-affected areas in Uganda. Mahmoud Mamdani, a professor at Makere University in Kampala, Uganda, deplored IC’s focus on a military solution to the LRA. Alex De Waal, director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, targeted the video for “peddling dangerous and patronizing falsehoods that it is up to the United States to help solve the problem of the LRA.

In response, IC issued a Q&A rebuttal to these critiques on their website, and have since released a second video, entitled “Kony 2012: Part II: Beyond Famous”, which the organization states, “offers a closer look at the LRA and explores the solutions put forward by leaders of the currently-affected areas of CAR, DRC, and South Sudan, where local communities continue to live under the constant threat of LRA violence.”

The idea behind Kony 2012 is not new,” the narrator of the video states as the video opens. “In 2005, world leaders unanimously agreed at the United Nations to uphold the Responsibility to Protect. This states that every single person on the planet has inherent rights that should be defended against the worst crimes against humanity, first by our own countries, and then by the global community, no matter where we live.”

Flashing pictures of Syria and Sudan, and transitioning to the focus on the atrocities committed by the LRA in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan, the film states, “Although most of the world has agreed to this in theory, in far too many cases, we have failed to live up to our promise…This is why we made this film.”

RtoP, Kony 2012, and Beyond

IC has situated the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) at the heart of their film, and premised their recommendations – continued and/or increased military participation by the United States in LRA-affected regions to assist the regional forces of Uganda, the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan, and sustained political support for the initiatives of these countries and regional organizations, like the African Union (AU), to remove Joseph Kony from the battlefield by either arresting him or killing him – on the norm as well.

This post will thus expand on the discussion of RtoP, and examine this new, international norm in the context of the LRA conflict and its application in response to threatened and actual atrocities against civilians in the region.

RtoP’s scope is narrow, but deep, meaning that it applies only to the threat or occurrence of four specific crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleanings – but provides for a wide range of measures that extend beyond military intervention, including preventive diplomacy, economic sanctions, monitoring missions, and the involvement of regional and international justice mechanisms. The primary responsibility to protect populations from these crimes lies first at the national level, but regional and international actors also have a responsibility to provide assistance and capacity-building to individual governments in upholding this responsibility. In the event of a failure by a state to uphold its protection obligations, these actors have a responsibility to use political, economic, humanitarian, and if necessary, military tools available within the RtoP framework  to prevent and respond to threats of mass atrocities.

The LRA Conflict and RtoP

Kony and the senior commanders of the LRA stand accused of committing widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, mutilation, intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations, pillaging, and the abduction and forced enlistment of children. As unanimously endorsed by UN Member States in  2005, paragraphs 138-139 of the World Summit Outcome Document articulate that war crimes and crimes against humanity are two of the four crimes under the RtoP framework.

As Coalition Steering Committee member Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents in their Q&A on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the impact of the operations of the LRA in northern Uganda, where their insurgency began in 1987, was disastrous for civilians, and has induced long-term implications:

“The human toll has been most severe in northern Uganda. Between 1987 and 2006, at least 20,000 Ugandan children were abducted. More than 1.9 million people were displaced from their homes into camps and tens of thousands of Ugandan civilians died…Addressing the aftermath of the war and displacement, however, remains a massive challenge.”

But since being pushed out of Uganda by the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in 2006, the LRA has moved into the neighbouring countries of the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan. According to HRW, the LRA “remains an immediate menace” to those populations:

“Since September 2008 the LRA has killed more than 2,600 civilians and abducted more than 4,000 other people, many of them children. More than 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes; very few have any access to humanitarian assistance.”

A particular episode in late 2008 and early 2009, the December to January “Christmas Massacres”, highlights the terror and criminality of the LRA. After refusing to sign on to the Juba peace process in 2008, in response to the December 2008 “Operation Lightning Thunder” – a joint offensive by Uganda, the DRC and South Sudan, and supported by the United States – the LRA retaliated with vicious attacks in northern DRC between 24 December 2008 and 13 January 2009. The group also allegedly carried out a massacre of 321 people in the same region of DRC a year later in December of 2009, and abducted 250 others.

Joseph Kony, leader of Lord's Resistance Army, and target of IC's Kony 2012 advocacy campaign. (Photo: Stuart Price/Associated Press)

The LRA is thus allegedly responsible for the widespread commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in at least two countries, Uganda and the DRC. And while their numbers have supposedly dwindled in light of increased regional military pressure, civilians remain at risk. As a 28 July 2011 report from Coalition Steering Committee member Oxfam International, We are entirely exploitable’: The lack of protection for civilians in Eastern DRC’, states, the majority of people polled in an LRA-affected region felt less safe in 2011 than in 2010.

The report details that in the communities surveyed in Eastern DRC, the LRA was described as the main perpetrator of killings, torture, and abductions as well as of looting, destruction of crops and rape.

In light of the litany of past abuses by the LRA, and the continued threat of mass atrocities posed by the organization in its current areas of operation, the Responsibility to Protect remains an important framework through which national, regional, and international actors can focus their efforts of protecting populations.

However, as critics of Kony 2012 have noted, while the atrocities committed by the LRA are egregious, the group is just one part of the conflict that has spanned over 25 years and across four countries in Central Africa.

In a recent op-ed published in the Washington Times entitled The Other Half of the Kony Equation, Maria Burnett and Elizabeth Evenson, both HRW employees, also highlight the problematic record of the Uganda government’s involvement during the fight against the LRA. Noting that the LRA emerged in large part due to the marginalizing policies of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni towards the people of northern Uganda, Burnett and Evenson state, “On a lesser scale than those of the LRA, crimes by government forces nevertheless included deliberate killings, routine beatings, rapes, and prolonged arbitrary detention of civilians.”

They assert that there has been no justice for victims of these abuses by the UPDF, with the government stating that those responsible have been investigated and prosecuted, but not publicly releasing any information on the trials. And nearly seven years after releasing the indictments for the top LRA leadership, Burnett and Evenson also state that the ICC has not examined abuses by the UPDF or the Museveni government, which has, “eased pressure on Ugandan authorities to hold their forces to account.”

This remains a crucial issue for Adam Branch, a senior research fellow at the Makere Institute of Social Research in Uganda and professor at San Diego State University, in his op-ed for Al-Jazeera, Kony Part II: Accountability, not awareness. Reflecting on IC’s focus on the efforts of Ugandan and regional forces, Branch states:

“[…] The new strategy ignores the Ugandan military’s abysmal human rights record in neighbouring countries, of great concern if Uganda is to take the lead role in the campaign…Kony Part II aligns itself closely with the ICC’s Moreno-Ocampo, who has shown himself nothing if not unaccountable to the victims to whom he claims to bring justice. Moreno-Ocampo has been perfectly willing to offer impunity to the Ugandan government in order to secure the government’s co-operation in the ICC investigation of the LRA, ignoring the demands from Ugandan human rights activists that the ICC indict both sides, instead of taking sides.”

These concerns over the alleged abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government strike at the core of RtoP: All states made a commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in their endorsement of the norm at the 1005 World Summit. As such, in the context of the LRA conflict, the individual governments bear the primary responsibility for the prevention of these most egregious crimes. Regional and international actors, in recalling their responsibility to protect, must also be available to assist these nations in ensuring the safety of civilian populations.

Responding to the LRA Conflict

Kony 2012 Part II details IC’s four-point “Comprehensive Approach” to stopping Kony and the LRA in 2012, which highlights IC’s civilian protection initiatives in the region, including establishing radio stations that can broadcast and warn civilians against potential attacks, efforts to ensure the peaceful surrender of LRA soldiers, the importance of engaging in post-conflicting reconstruction and rehabilitation in LRA-affected areas, and finally, the arrest of top LRA leadership.

The video states, “Unless Kony and his top commanders surrender, or are arrested, their atrocities will not stop.” This stems from their assertion that negotiations between governments opposed to the LRA have failed to bring about an end to violence, and that the group has consistently used peace negotiations as a means to resupply and rebuild, often through carrying out mass abductions.

Joseph Kony (centre, in white) surrounded by leadership officials of the LRA, including the now-deceased Vincent Otti. (Photo: Reuters)

As such, Kony 2012 Part II calls for the international community to strengthen the ongoing military efforts of the African Union (AU) and regional governments (Uganda, the DRC, South Sudan, and the CAR), which IC states is, “the best way to apprehend top LRA leadership.”

Since 2008, these governments have coordinated militarily against the LRA, conducting joint operations in an attempt to apprehend or kill Joseph Kony and cease atrocities against civilians. Aside from the concerns raised over alleged abuses of human rights committed by the UPDF and other national armies in the region, these troops also suffer from a lack of necessary equipment, including heavy-lift and transport helicopters, and effective training, which has hampered their individual and coordinated military responses to the LRA. Such gaps in capabilities have thus made it difficult for these countries to effectively uphold their primary responsibility to protect civilians from LRA attacks.

Recognizing this, international actors have moved to bolster these efforts. The United States, dispatched 100 military advisers to the region in October 2011 to provide “information, advice, and assistance” to the national armies of Uganda, the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan. And in March 2012, the African Union announced that it would move to form a 5,000-troop strong brigade, drawing from troops from Uganda, the DRC, the CAR, and South Sudan, to synergize their efforts in seeking to stop Kony through coordinated military action.

But Wegner at Justice in Conflict notes that despite these actions, and the potential for greater coordination by regional governments, the African Union, and the United States, the use of force has yet to be successful in the fight against the LRA:

“Military operations have so far failed to stop the LRA….Rather, they provoked retaliations and civilian casualties. During the UPDF led offensives to stop the LRA in northern Uganda and southern Sudan (now South Sudan), the LRA managed to outmanoeuvre the UPDF and spread the conflict consecutively to previously peaceful parts of the north and eventually even to eastern Uganda where civilians bore the brunt of the fury of the LRA.”

The United Nations also has various peacekeeping missions present in the region, including a UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), which has the authorization by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to use force to protect civilians, and is deployed in LRA-affected areas in the DRC.  But HRW notes that:

“The UN’s various initiatives regarding the LRA have lacked coordination and impact. While the UN missions have attempted to respond to LRA threats to civilians, it has rarely been a top priority for any of the missions and resources are often directed elsewhere.”

Civil society organizations, particularly those working on the ground in LRA-affected areas, have an all-too important role to play in the effort to protect civilians. Groups that monitor the movements of the LRA and provide early warning of attacks may ensure better civilian protection on the ground, and can alert the actors involved of the risk of imminent atrocities.  Civil society is also integral to the ongoing assessment of coordinated efforts against the LRA, and raising awareness regarding the progress of civilian protection in the region. Their work with victims and affected communities is also crucial to facilitating rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction, which are necessary to build a sustainable peace in LRA-affected areas.

As the international community works to protect populations from these massive human rights violations, it is crucial to reiterate the narrow, but deep scope of the RtoP. All states agreed to the responsibility to protect their populations from the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, the norm provides for a broad range of political, economic, humanitarian, and if necessary, military measures that actors at all levels, including civil society, individual states, regional and sub-regional organizations, and the United Nations can implement to assist individual governments in upholding their responsibility to protect. If civilians remain at risk in spite of such measures being employed, actors at all levels must assess the tools available to them under the RtoP framework to ensure atrocities are prevented and effective civilian protection is provided.

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Filed under African Union, CivSoc, DRC, Human Rights, International Criminal Court, Joseph Kony, Kony 2012, Lord's Resistance Army, Post-Conflict, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Third Pillar, Uganda, UN