Tag Archives: CARcrisis

#R2PWeekly: 14 August – 18 August 2017

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Thousands of refugees forced back to uncertain security situation in Syria
The militant group Hezebollah escorted 3,000 Syrian refugees and rebels from Lebanon to Syria’s Qalamoun region on Monday, 14 August. The escort followed an evacuation operation also directed by Hezbollah about a month ago, which sent approximately 7,000 Syrians to the Idlib province in Syria. The UN has warned of the uncertain security situation facing the returnees and has indicated that many of them have been forced to move to satisfy political demands.

More than 1 million Syrian refugees have been registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut, and approximately 500,000 others are believed to be in other parts of the country. There are increasing concerns among Syrian refugees in Beirut that the Lebanese government is trying to push them back to Syria. “The pressure to leave is mounting, they want us to pretend that everything is OK [in Syria], that we are more vulnerable here than we would be there. The Lebanese don’t want us. It’s an uncomfortable time,” said Nabil al-Homsi, a long-term refugee in Lebanon. Bassam Khawaja, a Lebanon researcher for ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, said: “We’re very concerned about the lack of safeguards or any process in place to ensure that these returns are completely voluntary. Any forced or coerced returns would be a violation of Lebanon’s obligations under international law.”

Furthermore, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq stated on Monday that over 50,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, are stranded at the border of Syria and Jordan, an area where airstrikes are common these days. Haq added that there are scarce supply of food and healthcare, and around 4,000 people are living solely on water and flour. “The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to take the necessary steps to prevent further harm to the frightened and highly vulnerable individuals stranded at the border,” said Haq.


 

Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Central African Republic:

30 civilians, including six Red Cross personnel, were killed in Gambo last week after clashes between state militia and a rebel group. The clashes took place just 47 miles from Bangassou, a town witness to heavy bloodshed. President of the Central African Red Cross Antoine Mbao-Bogo condemned the attacks and urged peace, calling “on all parties to take steps to spare the civilian population, and to respect all humanitarian workers.” The dramatic increase in violence has made the Central African Republic one of the worst places to be a child, according the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF). During a press briefing in Geneva, UNICEF spokesperson Donaig Le Du noted that the number of internally displaced people has increased from 444,000 to 600,000. Le Du added that the ongoing violence is the prime factor for such a huge number of displaced civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Numerous reports released by UN agencies has underscored the severe food depravity currently engulfing the region. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), the number of those suffering from pre-famine level food shortages and in need of immediate humanitarian assistance has risen from 5.9 million in June 2016 to 7.7 million in June 2017. Furthermore, the UNFAO report underlined that persistent conflict in the Kasai region has deterred possibility for harvesting. In addition, the conflict has reportedly displaced approximately 3.7 million people nationwide.


Iraq:

Thousands of civilians have fled Tal Afar after airstrikes launched by Iraqi warplanes struck the Islamic State (ISIL) controlled town in preparation for an upcoming ground assault. The Iraqi army, federal police, and special forces units are expected to participate in the operation to recapture Tal Afar. The Shia armed group known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces is also expected to join the operation. Shia militants did not participate to a large extent during the fight in Mosul, a Sunni majority city, but they have vowed to take on a bigger role in the operation to recapture Tal Afar, a mostly Shia town prior to the conflict. Turkish officials have raised concerns of further sectarian conflict, as once the territories are liberated, Shia or Kurdish forces might push out Sunni Arabs from the area.

Civilians who have escaped Tal Afar have described severed shortages of food and water inside the town. “Most people drink water that’s not clean. The majority are surviving on that and a bit of bread,” said Alia Imad, a mother of three that paid $300 to a smuggler to help them escape. Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, said that humanitarian conditions in the town are “very tough” and added “thousands of people are leaving, seeking safety and assistance. Families escaping northeast are trekking 10 and up to 20 hours to reach mustering points. They are exhausted and many are dehydrated when they finally arrive.”


Kenya:

Violence broke out almost immediately after incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was named victor of the general elections by election authorities last week, claiming at least 24 lives. In response to the violence following Kenya’s elections, the UN urged calm, calling on opposition leader Raila Odinga to send a message of peace to his followers. Odinga, however, has challenged the results of the election, alleging the results have been distorted by the technology used to count votes, and has pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.


Libya:

On Wednesday, 16 August, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that recently obtained video footage allegedly shows forces linked to the Libyan National Army (LNA) in eastern Libya performing summary executions of seven captives and desecrating their bodies. The executioners in the videos are likely to be members of forces led by Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is now wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for murder as a war crime. Al-Werfalli is wanted for allegedly killing 33 people in and around Benghazi from June 2016 to July 2017. “The ICC warrant for al-Werfalli is a wake-up call to other abusive commanders in Libya that one day their serious crimes could land them in a prison cell in The Hague,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW.

Meanwhile, three international aid groups, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans Frontieres), Save the Children, and Germany’s Sea Eye, have suspended migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean, due to constant threats from Libyan coastguards. Boats of Libyan coastguards have continuously clashed with aid NGO vessels and sometimes even opened fire. The coast guard claims that the open fire was to assure control over the rescue operation. “In general, we do not reject [NGO] presence, but we demand from them more cooperation with the state of Libya … they should show more respect to the Libyan sovereignty,” said coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem on Sunday. NGO ships have played an increasing role in migrant rescues, saving more than a third of migrants in 2017 compared to less than one percent in 2014.


Mali:

Two separate attacks on the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have killed at least eight this week. The first attack took place in Timbuktu, where five MINUSMA personnel, one civilian and one police officer were killed. The second attack occurred 130 miles south of Timbuktu in Douenza, where a police guard and peacekeeper were killed. No one has claimed responsibility. The UN Secretary General’s office released a statement noting “attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.”


Nigeria:

Early Friday morning, the Nigerian military raided a UN camp in Maiduguri, a region that is often the site of violence due to the presence of Boko Haram. According to a military statement, it had raided the area because of its violent inclinations and did not have a particular target. The raid at the UN camp lasted three hours as the military searched the premise. The raid comes after the military accidentally killed 90 civilians during an offensive on Boko Haram in January.

Boko Haram’s offensive continues to wage on, with another attack on two villages reported on Tuesday. This is the fifth attack in the past two weeks. To date, there is no official statement on how many have been killed in the most recent attack. In addition, at least 30 were killed and another 80 injured in a suicide attack in the Konduga district, a region that often witnesses suicide attacks by Boko Haram. Three women are suspected to have been the perpetrators of the attack.

President Muhammadu Buharu’s extended absence from the country has frustrated Nigerians, who have now called on him through protests to either return to the country or resign as President. Protestors were met with tear gas and bullets, and while there has been no report of injury, authorities say they are still investigating the incident. The now called “Resume or Resign” movement has been in place since 7 August, and crowds will gather on Wednesday to mark the President’s 100 day absence.


South Sudan:

In an attempt to appease the raging civil war, President Salva Kiir has released 30 political prisoners after he first declared their amnesty in May. Most of the former political prisoners were detained for their support of the opposition leader Riek Machar. President Kiir hopes that the release will alleviate the opposition in a civil war that has displaced nearly 25 percent of the 12 million residents.

Just a week after the government captured the rebel stronghold of Pagak, opposition forces have taken the town back. Civilians of Pagak describe the government’s “terrorizing” of the region, despite the government’s claims that it is liberating the region from rebel rule. The government’s offensive on Pagak had received criticism because of its violation of the ceasefire that had been in place since May. Opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel says that the taking back of Pagak from the government is a sign of strength.


Syria:

On 12 August, a group of armed people killed seven members of The Syrian Civil Defence group, also known as the White Helmets, in Idlib, which is mostly controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front. The victims were all shot in the head with pistols equipped with silencers, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an anonymous activist. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the attack might be “aimed to harm the image of the Nusra Front and to show that Idlib is not safe.” The activist speculated that Islamic State (ISIL) fighters carried out the attack as ISIL sleeper cells have been discovered in the area recently. Members of the White Helmets, mostly civilian volunteers, are well known for rescuing civilians in dangerous rebel-held areas since 2013, and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. The US said in a statement that it was “saddened and horrified” by the attack. “These cowardly acts of masked men took the lives of civilian volunteers who work tirelessly as first responders in order to save lives in incredibly dangerous environments,” said the US state department. The French Foreign Ministry and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also condemned the attack.

Regarding accountability for war crimes in Syria, Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said on Sunday that the Commission has gathered enough evidence to convict President Bashar al-Assad of war crimes. Last week, del Ponte resignedfrom her role as she believes the Commission “is not backed by any political will.” When asked if there was enough evidence for Assad to be convicted of war crimes, she replied that there was, but added that blockage in the Security Council through the use of vetoes has rendered special prosecutors unable to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Yemen:

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of suspected cases of cholera in Yemen has exceeded 500,000, with at least 1,975 deaths since late April. WHO said that although the overall caseload has declined since July, there are still approximately 5,000 people infected per day. Yemen’s health system is struggling to cope with the currently largest cholera crisis in the world, with over half of the medical facilities closed due to the two-year civil war between government forces and the rebel Houthi movement.

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#R2PWeekly: 7 August – 11 August 2017

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Kenya: Protests over election hacking claims turn deadly

43d34139-bcd3-45a2-ba91-76dbe147c960After results began streaming in this week, Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga, who has repeatedly warned of the likelihood for election hacking, has urged his supporters not to accept the election results, claiming that the polls were hacked to support the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which tabulates the voting in Kenya’s presidential election, has not yet declared official results, but initial IEBC reports have shown President Uhuru Kenyatta to have the lead with an alleged 54 percent of the vote with 94 percent of the votes accounted for. Odinga has called these numbers “fictitious”. However, his allegations have not been confirmed by local election officials and the IEBC is set to investigate the claims made by Odinga.

Such accusations have brought on renewed fears of post-election violence similar to that of 2007, when protests in the street over an alleged “stolen election” turned deadly between the two largest ethnic groups in Kenya — the Kikuyu and Luo peoples. The following ethnic violence resulted in as many as 1,400 deaths in 2007 and 2008. The previous crisis finally came to an end on 28 February 2008, when both sides of the conflict signed a deal brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. During the 2007 crisis, Uhuru Kenyatta was accused of ordering an armed gang called the Mungiki to target Luo communities, and his case was referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). His charges was later withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.

While Odinga has urged for peace and calm, he has also emphasized “I don’t control the people”. Violence has since spread out across the country. In Kisumu, a stronghold for Odinga and his supporters, authorities have reportedly used tear gas on protestors demonstrating in the streets and in Nairobi, police killed two “looters” on Wednesday, claiming that they are taking advantage of the protesting to steal. According to a regional police commander, security forces also killed at least one protester on Wednesday during clashes in Kisii County, around 300 kilometers west of Nairobi. In the southeastern Tana River region, police said five men with knives attacked a vote tallying station and killed one person inside. The police later killed two of the suspects and have continued to search for the other suspects involved.

Source of above photo: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters via Council on Foreign Relations


 

Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West bank
Iraq

Libya

Mali
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

Burundi:

The UN Security Council has noted with “deep concern” the recent political deterioration in Burundi, which has led to an increase in the number of refugees, reports of torture, and forced disappearances. The Security Council, in response to the allegations, has urged the Burundian government and all relevant parties to actively seek to put an end to the violence, meanwhile applauding the efforts of neighboring countries for their attempts to alleviate the violence currently engulfing the region. In addition, the Council also emphasized the importance of the Arusha Agreement signed in 2002, the credibility of which is being weakened by the current violence.

The President of the Security Council has threatened sanctions against all parties impeding Burundi’s peace process. Members of the Council have expressed concern “over the lack of progress in this dialogue” and have urged the government and all other parties to take effective measures.


Central African Republic:

UN Chief Stephen O’Brien has warned that the Central African Republic has shown signs of genocide. “We must act now, not pare down the UN’s effort, and pray we don’t live in regret,” O’Brien stated regarding the escalating violence in CAR primarily between Christian armed groups and the majority Muslim rebel group Seleka. UN peacekeeping chief Jean Pierre Lacroix is currently considering whether to deploy more troops at the request of the UN Security Council following the renewed tensions.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The UN has urged the DRC government to renew its effort in holding all parties accountable for the series of massacres in the past three months that have left 250 dead, including 62 children. According to a report by ICRtoP memeber Human Rights Watch, about 100 survivors escaped the violence in the Kasai region into neighboring Angola. The violence is suspected to be a retaliatory offense after the leader of the Kamuina Nsapu was killed last August.

Fourteen members of the Bundu dia Kongo rebel group, which opposes President Kabila’s unconstitutional extension of his presidency, have been killed in clashes with security forces in Kinshasa. During the exchange, a police officer was also killed. The clash followed the BDK’s attack on the central prison, from where the group freed its leader, Ne Muanda Nsemi among 4,000 others in May. The recent violence at the hands of BDK, as well as other opposition groups, has provoked the government to block images from being shared on social media.


Gaza/West Bank:

On 8 August, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned Israel for stripping Palestinians’ residency throughout the years, an act that violates international law and could amount to a war crime. Since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, authorities have revoked residency status of at least 14,595 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to the Interior Ministry. Most of the revocations are due to  the inability to prove a “center of life” in Jerusalem; however, in recent years, revocation has allegedly been used as punishment for Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis. Moreover, revocations have also allegedly also been used as collective punishment on suspect’s relatives. People whose residency status has been canceled described being unable to work legally, obtain birth certificates for their children, or visit ill relatives abroad, as they are concerned of being refused to return to the area once they left.

Deportation or forced transfers of any part of the population of an occupied territory could amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, said HRW in the same report. Although Palestinian permanent residents in Jerusalem could apply for citizenship, most of them have reportedly refused to do so as it would mean pledging allegiance to Israel in their view. HRW emphasized that international humanitarian law expressly forbids an occupying power from compelling people under occupation to pledge loyalty or allegiance to it.


Iraq:

On 8 August, UN humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande reported that aid providers are preparing for the evacuation of thousands of civilians and are moving to areas where the next operations against the Islamic State (ISIL) are expected to take place, such as Tal Afar, near Mosul, Hawija in Kirkuk province to the southeast, and the western Anbar province. Grande also added that although the battle of Mosul is over, “the humanitarian crisis in Mosul is not,” adding that around 3.3 million people remain displaced in Iraq, with 700,000 people from Mosul alone.

As Residents of Mosul return to the ruined city, hidden ISIL fighters are reportedly emerging from tunnels and ruins, threatening the safety of the returnees. “West Mosul is still a military zone as the search operations are ongoing for suspects, mines and explosive devices,” a military spokesman said, indicating that the area is still not safe for civilians. Furthermore, bodies of ISIL fighters still lie on the streets of West Mosul, as civilians would rather bury their neighbors’ bodies first, while the police and the military also refuse to remove those bodies. “Let them rot in the streets of Mosul after what they did here,” one soldier said.


Libya:

Residents of Derna in eastern Libya have faced severe shortages of basic necessities, including medical supplies, as Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has tightened their siege of the city. LNA is currently fighting the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) that controls Derna, which is a coalition of Islamist militants and ex-rebels. “Supplies are depleted and nothing is getting into the city,” said one resident, adding, “There is a total blockade with no entry or exit. They only allow you to leave as a displaced person.”


Mali:

The United Nations has expressed concern following reports of numerous human rights violations that have taken place since June in the Northern Mali region. The human rights division of the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has noted a total of 34 violations, ranging from torture and kidnapping to mass graves.

The violence has been followed by an escalation in attacks on aid workers; these attacks have caused the deaths of at least 100 peacekeepers in recent months and have interrupted the mission’s duties 70 times just this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have temporarily ended their operations in the region due to the escalation of violence.


South Sudan:

The South Sudanese army has taken over a rebel-controlled area in Pagak, according the spokesman for the rebel group, Lam Paul Gabriel. The capturing of the rebel stronghold has forced thousands to flee, including civilians. However, the rebels remain confident despite the setback, emphasizing that “taking the headquarters is not the end of the war.” The civil war was first ignited after President Kiir fired Riek Machar, then Vice President, in 2013, causing uproar amongst those loyal to Machar, who now represents the opposition. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has reinforced its presence in the region, installing 4,000 additional troops primarily to provide protection in Juba, the nation’s capital, as well as other UN operations and civilian locations. The need for additional personnel is in large part due to the persistent conflict in the region, between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which aligns with President Kiir against the opposition loyal to Machar.


Syria:

 
On Sunday, Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, have resigned from her role since she believes the commission “is not backed by any political will.” Del Ponte added she has no power “as long as the Security Council does nothing.” The UN Commission of Inquiry said the investigation would continue after the resignation of del Ponte, stating: “It is our obligation to persist in its work on behalf of the countless number of Syrian victims of the worst human rights violations and international crimes known to humanity.” However, there is still no sign of any court being established to try war crimes in Syria. The Security Council has also showed no signs of referring the case to the International Criminal Court.

Regarding the battle to against the Islamic State (ISIL) forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that the Syrian government and allied forces have successfully recaptured the last major town in Homs province from ISIL and are preparing to advance into the group’s stronghold in east Syria. Both the Russian-backed Syrian government forces and US-backed Kurdish forces are fighting ISIL in Syria, and the group is losing its territories rapidly.

On 9 August, US-led coalition airstrikes allegedly killed at least 29 civilians, including 14 children, in Raqqa within 24 hours, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Despite saying that it is making extraordinary efforts to avoid killing civilians, coalition airstrikes have allegedly killed at least 600 civilians in Iraq and Syria since 2014, with human rights groups saying the real total is much higher.

Meanwhile, after increasing bombardments on Tuesday, Syrian rebels are bracing for the government forces’ assault on their last enclave in Damascus, an insurgent spokesman said. According to residents, many civilians have already left the area due to continuous bombardments, but there are still pathways out of the city for any civilians remaining.


Yemen:

According to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, Houthi rebels have fired artillery into crowded areas in Taizz, a city controlled by government-affiliated forces; these attacks have reportedly killed at least 30 civilians in 10 days. Yemeni government forces are also accused of firing artillery into populated areas outside the city. HRW urged both sides to immediately halt these indiscriminate attacks, adding that the laws of war prohibit indiscriminate attacks that strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

Furthermore, at least 10,000 people have died due to the Saudi-led coalition’s closure of Sanaa airport since 2016, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said on Wednesday. Thousands of patients, who could have been saved, were unable to fly abroad for medical treatment and consequently lost their lives, said Mutasim Hamdan, the NRC’s director in Yemen. The NRC estimated that before the war, approximately 7,000 patients went abroad for medical treatment every year, and now 20,000 people are in need for life-saving treatment.

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#R2PWeekly: 24 July – 28 July 2017

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Preventing and addressing armed conflict:
The role of women in the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect

The international community continues not only to be challenged by its failure to prevent armed conflicts before they occur, but also in addressing them in a timely and effective manner. The ongoing crises in Burundi, Syria and Yemen, to highlight a few, emphasize the need for renewed leadership and engagement in putting prevention up front.

A wide range of treaties and norms are available to address the root causes of armed conflict and prevent its recurrence. In 2015 the United Nations carried out high-level reviews of its Peacebuilding Architecture, UN Peace Operations and the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The subsequent synthesis of these three reports provides a basis for renewed efforts in preventing armed conflicts, including the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.

The reviews drew linkages between the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect norm, the inclusion of women in peacebuilding and peacekeeping, and the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court as tools and mechanisms for the prevention of armed conflict and ensuring lasting peace. They also underscored that systematic violations of human rights, in particular of women’s rights, and prevailing impunity for mass atrocity crimes, are among the root causes of armed conflicts and their recurrence. Further, they reminded us that participation of women constitutes a crucial dimension of broadening inclusion for sustaining peace and that peace negotiations and accords that are truly locally owned and inclusive of civil society and women have at least a 50% greater chance to succeed than those that do not.

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm offers a range of measures to reinforce national sovereignty and prevent the commission of mass atrocity crimes. RtoP is now widely understood to include three pillars of responsibility: (1) the responsibility of states to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing); (2) the wider international community’s responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that objective; and (3) If a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter.

Implementing RtoP is needed now more than ever if the international community is determined to prevent mass atrocities once and for all. Ensuring that the scope of the Responsibility to Protect norm includes a gender and accountability lens will further address the root causes of mass atrocity crimes, hence enhancing the RtoP preventive efforts. Through preventing discrimination and the violation of women’s rights, national stakeholders support the long-term prevention of atrocity crimes and their recurrence.

Furthermore, linking RtoP with the UN’s Women, Peace and Security agenda reinforces the international community’s ability to assist states to fulfill their responsibility to protect, under pillar two of the norm. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325, which gave rise to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, was a landmark decision in addressing the gender gap in the peace and security arena. It recognized not only that women and girls are disproportionally affected by armed conflicts, but also that women are poorly represented in formal peacebuilding and peacemaking processes.

This excerpt is from an article written by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, featured in the latest edition of the Liberal International Human Rights Bulletin. 

Please click here to read the full article.


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen


 

Burundi:

Last week, in an effort to prove that Burundi is now peaceful and safe, President Pierre Nkuruniza urged the more than 250,000 Burundi refugees currently in Tanzania to return to Burundi. The message came during a meeting with Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who also stated that he desires for Burundian refugees “to voluntarily return home.” The UN and local human rights groups have said the violence has continued, despite the joint statement of the leaders.

Michael Kafando, the UN Special Envoy to Burundi, urged inclusive dialogue during a meeting on 26 July in light of the political conflict that continues to pervade Burundi. As a “prerequisite” to any peaceful solution, Kafando emphasized the need for inclusive dialogue at the request of both domestic actors and neighboring countries that share concern for exiled opposition parties. Mr. Kafando noted with urgency the Burundi government’s need to comply with the needs of opposition factions.


Central African Republic:

A Moroccan peacekeeper from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) was killed in an attack allegedly carried out by the Christian-majority anti-Balaka militia. The attack occurred in the city of Bangassou, which has been notorious for its rising levels of violence in the past several months, and may be retaliatory in nature. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack and called for an investigation.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Recent military uprisings have ignited concern in local authorities regarding the security and stability levels in Cote d’Ivoire. The government effectively disabled the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire on 30 June, and the mission itself expressed confidence that the country would be able to capitalize on the stability. Despite this confidence, military uprisings have reportedly been regular occurrences, with troops formerly associated with the rebel group Forces Nouvelles allegedly being responsible. Human rights groups are watching the potentially deteriorating situation with caution.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed met with President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday in a coordinated effort to “support and encourage” inclusive elections and development. The meeting occurred amid a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO) accusing the DRC government of creating mass graves in the Kasai region, which has been beset with violence. The report detailed: “As of June 30, 2017, UNJHRO had identified a total of 42 mass graves in these three provinces [of Kasai], most of which would have been dug by [Congolese army] elements following clashes with proposed militia members.” Additionally, UNJHRO announced in early July that it had discovered what appears to be more mass graves, bringing the total found to around 80.

The DRC government has maintained that it has no connection to the mass graves, instead insisting that the rebel militias are responsible. Despite this, fears of a widespread ethnic conflict reminiscent of the country’s civil war have begun to resurface. The UN Human Rights Council will be forming a team in the coming weeks to probe the region’s human rights record.


Gaza/West Bank:

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, warnedon Tuesday that ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem is at “grave risk” of escalating into a religious conflict that would ultimately engulf the rest of the region. Mladenov urged Israel to fulfill its responsibility of upholding international human rights law and humanitarian law, reiterating that settlements in Jerusalem run against international law and norms, while also urging Palestinian leaders to avoid provocative statements that would aggravate the situation. Additionally, power struggles between the two Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas have further deteriorated the human rights situation in Gaza, with Mladenov insisting that, “Whatever the political differences between the Palestinian factions, it is not the people of Gaza who should pay the price.”


Iraq:

Geert Cappelaere, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, called on 22 July for the “immediate care and protection” of children in-war torn Mosul, which has been recently liberated from the Islamic State (ISIL). Cappelaere stated that while the worst of the violence may be over, many children in the city and surrounding region continue to suffer, as children in shock continue to be found in debris or hidden tunnels in Mosul and many have lost their families while fleeing. “Many children have been forced to fight and some to carry out acts of extreme violence,” Cappelaere stated.

Meanwhile, the 16th Division, a US-trained Iraqi army division, has allegedly executed dozens of men during the final phase of its battle with ISIL in Mosul, according to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 27 July. HRW has called the executions a war crime and urged the US government to suspend all support for the 16th division. “Given the widespread abuses by Iraqi forces and the government’s abysmal record on accountability, the US should take a hard look at its involvement with Iraqi forces,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.


Kenya:

According to polls conducted this week, neither candidate in Kenya’s upcoming presidential election has enough voter support to secure a first-round win. The vote will decide whether incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term and has previously been accused of crimes against humanity after the 2007-2008 election crisis, will remain in power, or whether Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition and a former prime minister, will become the new Kenyan president. According to experts, the increased likelihood of a second round of votes has decreased voter confidence in the election’s stability.


Libya:

Libya’s UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the rival opposition leader, military commander General Khalifa Haftar, committed to a ceasefire and agreed to hold elections after a French-led peace negotiation on 25 July. The agreement included a commitment to “refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counter-terrorism,” according to a joint statement by the two parties. Also included in the statement was a commitment to “building the rule of law” in the country, as numerous armed groups have risen and taken advantage of Libya’s political chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi stepped down in 2011. The Islamic State (ISIL) has been among one of the armed groups taking advantage of Libya’s power vacuum when the group occupied the city of Sirte in 2015, but ISIL was then defeated by forces allied with the UN-backed Libyan government. Recently, forces from the nearby city of Misrata have increased patrol levels as troops have observed movements by ISIL in the south of Sirte, namely regrouping efforts and threats of attacks.


Nigeria:

Nigeria’s military has blamed an unexpected gathering of homeless civilians for a botched airstrike that killed 112 people. According to one military official, Major General John Enenche, the military forces responsible for the airstrike did not expect to group to congregate in the area, which is being used as a camp for internally displaced persons fleeing from Boko Haram. Enenche claimed that the military believed the mass of people to be Boko Haram insurgents; however, according to Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the camp was registered and run by the military and therefore it is unclear why forces would have mistaken the people to be insurgents, rather than displaced persons.

Two internally displaced people (IDP) camps in Maiduguri were attacked on 24 July 2017 by suicide bombers working with Boko Haram. At least eight civilians were killed in the attacks, with another 15 being injured. In its increasing use of female suicide bombers, the terrorist group has been successful in its attack campaign in the region. These specific attacks occurred only a few days after Nigeria’s army Chief of Staff issued a 40-day deadline for Nigerian troops to locate Boko Haram’s leader and effectively eliminate the group.


South Sudan:

Riek Machar, exiled leader of the opposition group in South Sudan, has refused to agree to a ceasefire and instead called for new peace negotiations to take place outside of the country’s borders. The ceasefire was an effort to alleviate South Sudan’s current civil war, which first erupted in 2013 after President Kiir relieved Machar of his duties and armed factions began forming around ethnic lines. Machar is currently being held in South Africa to avoid further exacerbating tensions in South Sudan, which has been looked at closely during the ongoing war by the UN and other rights groups for a possible genocide. The South Sudanese government has also been blamed for using money to bolster troops rather than alleviate the famine affecting the country.


Syria:

After the US announced its decision to halt support to rebel groups, the Syrian government said Monday that this could be a start towards ending the six-year civil war. Syria’s national reconciliation minister Ali Haidar said the government planned to reach more “reconciliation agreements” with rebels in the de-escalation zones established by Russia. Haidar further indicated that the Syrian government sees the US move to halt support as more an admission of failure than a policy shift.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have successfully suppressed insurgents in western Syria, and rebels and civilians were given choices to either evacuate or comply with government ruling. The Syrian government describes such deals as a “workable model” to bring the country closer to peace. However, the opposition said the deal is simply a tactic of forcibly displacing people who oppose Assad. In response to critics, Haidar said many people have returned to their homes after local deals ended the fighting.
Furthermore, the defence ministry of Russia said military police forces have been sent to de-escalation zones in Eastern Ghouta, on the edge of the Syrian capital Damascus, and to an area in the southwest of the country. This is the first time foreign police forces have been despatched to help establish the de-escalation zones.

In the fight with the Islamic State (ISIL), on Saturday, 22 July, Syrian government forces and their allies have recaptured territory from ISIL southeast of the group’s stronghold Raqqa, which is a rare advance for Syrian government forces in that area since it is close to the area controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF has continued to advance into Raqqa, and the US-led coalition is increasing assistance to the Raqqa Civilian Council, which was formed by SDF in order to govern Raqqa after its liberation from ISIL. After meeting with members of the council on 23 July, the US-led coalition said it is prepared to work with the council to secure gains made in Raqqa and that the council is doing “great work” in assisting displaced residents. Still, the council said it needed more assistance to address the challenges in the city.


Yemen:

On 24 July, the executive directors of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) visited cities held by both the government and Houthi rebels in Yemen, where war, cholera, and famine have claimed thousands of people’s lives and displaced millions. The war between the Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed rebels has resulted in the blockading of ports along Yemen’s coastline, so that millions have been cut off from access to food and medicine, and less than half of Yemen’s medical facilities are functional. With the cholera outbreak being solely responsible for 1,800 deaths and 370,000 infected, the need for these medical facilities is stronger than ever. The UN organizations estimated that 10 million civilians are in acute need of life-saving aid due to the outbreak and looming famine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 17 July – 21 July 2017

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Syria peace talks come to a close with “no breakthrough”
as battle for Raqqa continues
The seventh round of Syria peace talks held in Geneva ended in a stand-still, with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura describing the process as having “no breakthrough, no breakdown.” He added that the Syrian government is still unwilling to discuss political transition, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s representatives continuing their focus on the “fight against terrorism.” Syria’s main opposition group, which believes that the end of “terrorism” would not be possible without stability in Syria, has failed to put the peace talks’ spotlight on political transition in Syria.

At the same time, France has asked major powers involved in the Syrian crisis to join a contact group that would make proposals to warring parties in order to break a deadlock in political negotiations, the French foreign minister said. France’s policy on Syria has changed recently, as President Emmanuel Macron no longer sees Bashar al-Assad’s step down as a precondition for talks, despite other French officials insisting he cannot be involved in the Syrian government long-term. “Mr. Macron knows well that Bashar al-Assad is the enemy of the Syrian people, but he at the same time is also the enemy of humanity. We cannot ignore a criminal like Assad who used chemical weapons on civilians,” said Nasser al-Hariri, the lead opposition negotiator.

Furthermore, in a move suspected to appease the Russian government, President Trump has ended the CIA’s covert program assisting and arming anti-Assad rebels, a program installed under the Obama Administration. The decision was made with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security advisor HR McMaster under an administration whose decision has been interpreted as a concession to the Russian government to some US officials. While the Obama Administration had considered this option, it chose to remain in the region out of strategic positioning. Now that it has been pulled by the Trump administration, experts believe radical groups may be encouraged by this news. Some have argued that this decision also risks other countries meddling in Syria to provide arms to dangerous groups.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting between US-backed forces and the Islamic State (ISIL) has continued in Raqqa this past week, as ISIL has continued defending its stronghold in the city. According to the Syrian Observatory Observatory for Human Rights, an estimated 35 percent of Raqqa is now under the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) control. Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman stated that a steady stream of civilians have been fleeing ISIL-held districts, adding that “whenever there is a lull in the fighting, they leave towards areas held by the SDF.” For its part, the SDF said on its social media accounts that its forces “managed to free about 500 civilians who were trapped inside the Al-Daraiya and Al-Tayar neighborhoods, as well as 150 others from the Old City.” The UN estimates that up to 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside the city, down from around 100,000 people estimated at the end of June.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Syria
Yemen


 

Burma/Myanmar:

According to a report from The World Food Program (WFP) released on Monday, 17 July, 80,500 Rohingya children living in Rakhine are “wasting” — a condition of rapid weight loss that can become fatal — and will need treatment for acute malnutrition. Rakhine state has been under a military lockdown since October 2016, while the security forces have allegedly been conducting mass killing, raping, and torture against Rohingya Muslims.

Around 75,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh since the beginning of the military’s operation, according to UN estimates. The United Nations Human Rights Council has planned to send a fact-finding mission to Burma, but the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to issue visas to the UN team. The refusal amounts to “a slap in the face to victims who suffered grave human rights violations by Myanmar’s state security forces,” said John Fisher, an ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch representative in Geneva. Fisher further implied that “it would be a travesty” for Burma to block independent international investigators.


Burundi:

The UN Special Envoy to Burundi, Michael Kafando, has completed his consultations between the government and civil society and is expected to present the results to the Secretary-General on 26 July. The Burundi government has stated that it welcomes these efforts, and hopes that it will represent the “real situation” in Burundi.

Local human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the human rights violations that have rattled the region since President Nkurunziza’s announcement to seek the presidential office for a third term. The Burundi government, however, withdrew from the ICC after it believed the ICC to be threatening to its sovereignty. In addition, Burundi has also suspended its collaborative efforts with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after a report released accused the Burundi government of human rights violations.


Central African Republic:

The Security Council has stated its concern that ongoing clashes between warring factions in CAR, as well as continuing violence against UN peacekeepers there, may violate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Members of the Council have agreed that the violence “continues to destabilize the country [and] cause many civilian casualties and large displacements of the population.” The violence is rooted between the Muslim Seleka and anti-Balaka factions, whose fighting has affected the country since 2012. According to Eric Batanon, County Director for the Norwegian Council, “The number of families displaced from their homes has increased to a level we have not witnessed since the peak of the conflict in 2014.”


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 15 July, Cote D’Ivoire held bilateral meetings with Liberia in order to enhance the effectiveness of their collaboration in sustaining peace and security. Both countries also discussed the continued maintenance of roads, which are imperative for transporting goods between the two countries. The countries agreed to work constructively to assist one another in sustaining growth in both regions.


Iraq:

On Monday, 17 July, the UN envoy for Iraq Jan Kubis expressed concerns about the rise of revenge attacks in Mosul against civilians who are believed to be linked to Islamic State (ISIL) militants. After the liberation of the city, civilians who are seen as having ties to ISIL are increasingly being subjected to “evictions, confiscations of homes, and other retribution and revenge measures,” said Kubis, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should take “urgent steps” to stop the attacks, as actions taken against civilians without sufficient evidence violate Iraq’s constitution and international law. Kubis also warned the Security Council that the future in Mosul is “extremely challenging” and stressed that securing the rule of law and promoting development will be crucial in turning victory into stabilization of the just liberated City. ISIL still controls some territory outside Mosul and some bigger areas in neighboring Syria.


Kenya:

Ahead of the August elections, Kenya has stated that it has begun taking measures aimed at ensuring safe and fair elections. Security officials have imported equipment meant to maintain crowd control, such as guns and teargas, in anticipation of violence. While Kenya is not expected to shut down the internet, social media may be closed off to the public “if necessary” due to concerns of users who may mislead the public about election results. To ensure the security and safety of the election, neighboring countries Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia are expected to shut down internet access. Furthermore, Kenya has installed cyber security systems in case of election fraud, which leading opposition candidate Raila Odinga expressed concern for.


Libya:

The UN called on Tuesday for the Libyan National Army (LNA) to investigate alleged torture and summary executions of prisoners by the Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA. The LNA effectively controls the eastern part of the country and is expanding into central and southern Libya while fighting with forces linked to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. Last March, the LNA announced that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes but has not shared any information since then, according to UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell. “We urge the LNA to ensure there is a full, impartial investigation into these allegations,” Throssell said. Furthermore, Throssell called on the group to suspend Special Forces field commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli, as videos have circulated on social media that allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting bound prisoners and overseeing torture and summary executions. In response, the LNA has declined comment on the videos.


Nigeria:

Eight people are dead and 15 others injured after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb outside of a mosque in northeastern Nigeria on 17 July. This comes after an increased number of attacks committed by women sent by Boko Haram. The Nigerian government declared it had defeated Boko Haram several months ago, but coordinated attacks have persisted. The World Food Programme has estimated that as a result of Boko Haram’s attacks, 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food aid.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed visited Nigeria to urge the government to further invest in advancing women’s rights in addition to promoting peace. Ms. Mohammed met with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and has expressed confidence that the development of women will contribute to peace-sustaining efforts in the region.


South Sudan:

On 16 July, South Sudan’s government acknowledged that its forces had used offensive campaigns to reclaim Pagak, a stronghold of the rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), which aligns with former Vice President Riek Machar. According to the presidential adviser of military affairs, the act was provoked by the rebels’ failure to observe the ceasefire, though some disagree and state that the ceasefire does not include the Pagak region. 5,000 civilians have already been forced out of their homes in the region and have fled to neighboring Ethiopia, exacerbating the refugee crisis.


Sri Lanka:

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, criticized Sri Lanka for its slow progress in bringing perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights abuses to justice. The Sri Lankan military allegedly killed thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, during the last weeks of the civil war with Tamil separatists, which ended in 2009. Sri Lanka has previously promised an impartial investigation into human rights violations in the country, but President Maithripala Sirisena then indicated that he would not allow foreign judges to take part in the investigation. Emmerson said if Sri Lanka failed to meet its previous commitment, it could face a range of measures, such as a referral to the UN Security Council. The Sri Lankan government has responded that it needs more time to tackle the abuse charges cited by Emmerson. Sri Lankan Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa defended the slow process by explaining that, as a democracy, Sri Lanka’s government could not “make laws immediately.”


Syria:

The European Union has continued to support transitional justice initiatives and international justice mechanisms in Syria. Recently, the EU funded €1.5 million to the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in Syria.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Lebanese government to conduct an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into the deaths of Syrians in military custody and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. On June 30, the Lebanese army raided two unofficial refugee camps in Arsal and encountered suicide bombers, a bomb, and a grenade, resulting in the injury of seven soldiers. The army detained 356 people following the raids and referred 56 for prosecution. On July 4, the Lebanese military said four Syrians who “suffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climate condition” died in its custody, however, the pictures of the bodies showed signs of physical torture, according to HRW. Moreover, former detainees told HRW that army personnel beat and ill-treated them. A military officer told HRW that the army is investigating the deaths and would publish its findings.

Obstacles have mounted for international aid groups to deliver aid to stranded Syrian refugees near the border with Jordan. In 2016, UN agencies agreed to a controversial aid system that critics say gave much of the control over aid distribution to Jordan’s military and armed forces on the Syrian side. The system has failed repeatedly and only sporadic aid shipments have reached the refugee camps, while rival groups accused each other of diverting aid. Critics say the struggle to provide aid reflects the international community’s wider failure in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. Around 5 million Syrians have fled their home since the civil war, but countless others are still trapped in the country after neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey largely closed their borders. “Syria is locked in, and I think this is an issue which is not at all in the public debate or being raised by the aid agencies,” said Kilian Kleinschmidt, a former Jordan-based UN refugee agency official. Countering criticism, Jordan defended itself and indicated that it has absorbed far more refugees than wealthier Western countries, and Islamic militants on the border pose a security threat.


Yemen:

A Saudi-led coalition air attack allegedly killed at least 20 civilians in southwest Yemen on 18 July, according to the United Nations and witnesses. Those killed are believed to have been in their homes when the attack took place and the majority of the victims are likely to be from the same family. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked and saddened” at reports of casualties in the aerial attack and added that the civilians had fled fighting in the nearby Mokha district. “This latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict,” a representative for UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday. Yemen’s human rights minister, Mohammed Askar, described the attack as an “unfortunate incident” and called for a government investigation, while Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam condemned the attack as a “monstrous crime.” The coalition has allegedly bombed civilian gatherings, markets, hospitals, and residential areas across Yemen. The allegations assert that the coalition is responsible for over 8,160 civilian deaths since the beginning of its campaign against Houthi rebels in 2015. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition has reiterated it does not target civilian neighborhoods, despite the accusations by human rights groups.

Moreover, the Saudi-led coalition prevented a UN flight carrying staff from an international aid agency from flying to Houthi-controlled areas, according to UN officials. Aviation sources said the flight was blocked because there were 3 BBC journalists on board, and the coalition has advised the journalists to travel on commercial planes since they could not guarantee their safety in rebel held areas, according to Ahmed Ben Lassoued, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen. “It’s unfortunate and partially explains why Yemen, which is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, is not getting enough attention in international media,” Lassoued added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 26 June – 30 June 2017

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US-led Coalition Airstrikes Contribute to Civilian Deaths in Syria

SDF forces in Syria
On Monday, 26 June, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly captured al-Qadisia, a western district of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. US-led coalition airstrikes have been assisting SDF throughout the Raqqa campaign against ISIL, but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that coalition airstrikes in and around Raqqa have also purportedly killed nearly 700 civilians this year.

Furthermore, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that US-led coalition airstrikes killed 57 people in a single attack targeting a prison operated by ISIL on Monday. Civilian prisoners are believed to make up the majority of the casualties from the strike. The prison is located in al-Mayadeen, an eastern Syrian town where US intelligence officials believe ISIL has likely moved most of its leaders. Colonel Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs, said that the airstrike mission was “meticulously planned and executed to reduce the risk of collateral damage and potential harm to noncombatants,” adding that the allegations will be assessed by the group’s civilian casualty team.

Meanwhile, US intelligence officials reported they had observed activities that seemed to indicate preparations for a chemical attack were underway in Syria’s Shayrat airfield, the same airfield that Syrian government forces are reported to have used in April to allegedly launch a chemical attack that caused more than 80 deaths in Khan Sheikhoun. White House press Secretary Sean Spicer said late Monday that Syrian forces would “pay a heavy price” if they launched another chemical attack. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported on Wednesday that the Syrian government appears to have heeded the warning for now.

Despite the controversy on how its airstrikes are affecting civilians, the US-led coalition is moving forward with plans to make Raqqa safe once ISIL is effectively removed. On Wednesday, US-led coalition special envoy Brett McGurk met with the Raqqa Civil Council, which is designed to rule Raqqa after the coalition liberates the city. McGurk and other coalition officials said they would “support first removing mines, lifting rubble, maintenance of schools, then electricity stations and water,” according to Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council.

Source of above photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters


Catch up on developments in…

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

 

 


Burma/ Myanmar:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has noted the particular absence of Burma from the United States-affiliated list of governments that use child soldiers. Burma reached an agreement with the UN in 2012 to steadily end its use of child soldiers, but HRW has documented new recruitments of children into the military as of this year. According to Jo Becker, the child’s rights advocacy director at HRW, Burma’s removal from the list reduces the pressure necessary to produce change in the country, and reduces the credibility of the list in pointing out what countries are violating international law.


 Burundi:

Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Michel Kafando is expected to brief Burundi officials on how to bolster cooperation between the UN and Burundi during his first visit to the country. Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Aimé Nyamitwe expressed confidence ahead of the Special Advisor’s visit, stating that the Burundi government believes Kafando understands the challenges facing Africa and how to combat them. His visit comes after the Burundi government accused the previous advisor, Jamal Benomar, of bias against the country’s interests.


Central African Republic:

On 26 June, Red Cross worker Joachim Ali was shot and killed by an armed militia group in the town of Bangassou, part of a region that has seen intense violence for several weeks. He is the second Red Cross worker to have fallen victim to the ongoing conflict, and his death occurred after the failure of the peace accord recently struck between the various armed militias in CAR and the government.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The Bana Mura militia has emerged as a considerable threat in the DRC. Originally arising as a rival to the Kamuina Nsapu anti-government rebel group, Bana Mura is reportedly armed and supported by the DRC government. According to the UN, Bana Mura is largely responsible for the increased level of attacks in the Kasai region over the past few months, renewing both tensions and civilian casualties. Witnesses have told UN officials that DRC soldiers had accompanied Bana Mura fighters in the attacks and had even directed some of the group’s actions.

Rights groups in the DRC have sought to aid rape victims in the country to speak out about their experiences. Most of the 50,000 rape and sexual violence cases reported over the past couple decades are suspected to have been carried out systematically by both DRC soldiers and rebel fighters as part of the conflict plaguing the DRC. The UN has specifically noted the DRC’s alarming levels of sexual violence in the past.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, 27 June, the Israeli army bombed three locations in Gaza, according to Palestinian security sources and witnesses. The bombing caused damage but no casualties were reported. A spokesperson for the Israeli army acknowledged that the bombings were performed as retribution for a “projectile fire” allegedly launched from the Hamas-governed region. However, Hamas has denied performing any such airstrikes. The current tension comes after both Hamas and Israeli officials expressed last month that they had no interest in escalating conflict in the region.


 Iraq:

On Thursday, 29 June, Iraqi forces declared they had successfully defeated the Islamic State’s (ISIL) self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq. The declaration came after Iraqi forces recaptured the ruined Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, a symbolic move as al-Nuri was the place ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had asserted his group’s caliphate in 2014. During the recapturing of the mosque, civilians living nearby were evacuated through corridors by Iraqi and US-led troops. However, despite the Iraqi forces’ success in Mosul, ISIL still controls territory to the west and south of the city, a region that encompasses hundreds of thousands of people. Additionally, the cost of the ongoing battle in Mosul has been enormous, with the violence being responsbile for thousands of civilian deaths. About 900,000 people have fled from the violence, equaling nearly half the city’s population before conflict broke out, according to aid groups. Those trapped in the city, estimated at around 50,000 people by the Iraqi military last week, are used as human shields by ISIL and are in desperate situation with scarce food, water, and medicine.


Mali:

A branch of al Qaeda in Mali has released Swedish hostage Johan Gustafsson after 6 years of captivity. Gustafsson was first kidnapped in a restaurant in Timbuktu along with two others. Sweden maintained its policy of not paying ransoms for hostages but would not release the details of the negotiations that led to Gustafsson’s release.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently spoke to Algerian leader Abelaziz Bouteflika in regards to their agreement in 2015 to assist the peace process in Mali. Part of the accord required Algeria to help identify and “draw a line” for the separatist movement that has riveted Mali. However, Mali has yet to contain the separatists. The peace process is expected to take years, despite the peacekeeping mission’s presence.


Nigeria:

Nine were killed in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in what is suspected to be multiple suicide attacks orchestrated by Boko Haram. A suicide attack near the University of Maiduguri killed one security officer and injured two others. Another attack near the Jere region killed eight others and injured 11.

The United States 2017 Trafficking Report has listed Nigeria as one of several countries that actively employed child soldiers in violent military actions from April 2016 to March 2017. Particularly, in Nigeria, violations include the continued use of children to help support militias and “widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram.”


South Sudan:

The government of South Sudan has begun denying aid workers passage into rebel-held regions, asserting that the move is an effort to protect the workers. However, the restriction is also meant to protect the government’s interests, as a government spokesperson claimed on 29 June that if the workers were attacked while traveling in the conflict regions, the government would be blamed. Since May, aid groups have been prohibited from traveling to the most conflicted areas in South Sudan on at least four occasions, but the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted on Wednesday that aid workers have been allowed to travel to government-held areas during that time. Experts believe the government may be purposely restricting aid delivery to civilians in rebel-held areas.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 29 June, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to drastically reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in the Darfur region of Sudan. The move, which was an effort to reduce the extreme cost of maintaining peacekeeping in the region, will remove about 44 percent of the UN forces in Darfur. Sudan’s government has also been pushing for the removal of the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) by insisting that violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced recently. The same UNSC resolution expressed “serious concern” about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, including increased instances of “extrajudicial killings, the excessive use of force, abduction of civilians, acts of sexual and gender-based violence, violations and abuses against children, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.”


Yemen:

On 24 June, UN-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government claimed that it had begun an investigation into reports that United Arab Emirates (UAE)-backed forces have been holding detainees in secret prisons in southern Yemen, in which prisoners have been tortured and abused. Such claims correspond to previous reports from ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week, that 49 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared in liberated areas of southern Yemen within the last year, with at least 38 detainees having been arrested by UAE-backed security forces. Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr has said that a six-member committee will investigate “human rights allegations in liberated areas… and sends its report to the prime minister within 15 days.”

 

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#R2PWeekly: 12 June – 16 June 2017

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Civilian Deaths in Raqqa Mount as US-led Coalition Forces
Push to Reclaim City from ISIL

b71f049d-7645-4915-85fa-28393b073bf5Since beginning a large-scale offensive campaign on 6 June, the US-led coalition has continued to advance in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a network of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by the US-led coalition, has said they have opened up a second front inside the city. The recent offensive comes after a months-long effort by the SDF to cut off Raqqa, and ISIL within it, from outside support.

However, despite the seeming success at loosening ISIL’s grasp on Raqqa, the number of civilian casualties has continued to increase as the US-led coalition’s attacks have intensified there. Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry, told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that US-led coalition airstrikes are responsible for a “staggering loss of civilian life” in Raqqa, having caused at least 300 civilian casualties and the displacement of 160,000 since March. If the coalition’s offensive on Raqqa succeeds, it could liberate the city’s civilians, including Yazidi women and girls, that “the group has kept sexually enslaved for almost three years as part of an ongoing and unaddressed genocide” according to Pinheiro. However, he added that the fight on terrorism must not be “undertaken at the expense of civilians.” Additionally, Pinheiro reported on efforts coordinated between the Syrian government and armed groups to evacuate civilians from conflict areas, which he asserts can “in some cases amount to war crimes” as forces have forcibly removed civilians. Civilians also continue to face a direct risk from ISIL, as those who have successfully fled from Raqqa have reported that ISIL fighters have begun killing any who try to escape, and fighters have been using civilians as human shields.

The conflict situation has indirect consequences for civilians, as well. On Tuesday, 13 June, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called for better access to Raqqa, claiming that close to half a million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic cited several barriers that have made aid operations “costly and complex,” such as a serious lack of resources and funding, as well as the blockage of land routes by other parties which has forced the aid agency to rely solely on airlifts.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch has urged the US to investigate airstrikes that have allegedly targeted civilians in Syria and Iraq, expressing particular concerns about the alleged use of white phosphorus by coalition forces in airstrikes, saying it “poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm” for civilians in densely populated cities like Raqqa. HRW added that “White phosphorus fragments can exacerbate wounds even after treatment and can enter the bloodstream and cause multiple organ failure”. In this vein, HRW has urged the US-led coalition to make protection of civilians a priority.

Source of above photo: The Washington Post


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Libya
Iraq
South Sudan


Burma/ Myanmar:

Burma has rejected the UN fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of mass killings, gang rapes, and torture by security forces against the Rohingya Muslim population. Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that the probe “would have created greater hostility between the different communities,” adding that the Burmese government did not “feel it was in keeping with the needs of the region in which we are trying to establish harmony and understanding, and to remove the fears that have kept the two communities apart for so long.” Aung San Suu Kyi said she would only accept recommendations from an advisory commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan.


Burundi:
A grenade explosion in the primarily opposition-supportive area of Bujumbura left one dead and nine others wounded on 14 June. Bujumbura saw major protests two years ago due to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s seeking of a third term. Anti-government protests have persisted even after Nkurunziza’s success, with the UN having estimated that the unrest has caused between 500 and 2,000 deaths and over 400,000 forced displacements in total.


Central African Republic:

The UN Special Representative for the Secretary General in CAR, Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, has expressed deep concern over increased attacks on civilians and peacekeeping officers throughout the country, while emphasizing “the intensity of the attacks, their premeditated nature and the targeting of ethnic minorities” as particularly alarming. During his meeting with the UN Security Council on 12 June, Onanga-Anyanga discussed how clashes between the Muslim majority Seleka rebels and majority Christian anti-Balaka militia has pivoted the country back into conflict, and further stressed the need to “re-energize” the political process in CAR to stabilize the conflict-torn region. Additionally, he applauded the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) for successfully reducing violence in the northwest regions of CAR, despite MINUSCA’s recent criticism by warring factions in the country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has cited daily conflicts in Bria between Christian anti-Balaka and the Muslim Seleka factions. The violence has reportedly prevented the town from sustaining a livelihood, as tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee. Since the Muslim coalition forcibly removed President Francois Bozize from power in 2013, thousands have been killed in the country and up to a million have been displaced.


Cote d’Ivoire:
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to reinforce the partnership between Cote d’Ivoire and France in an effort to mitigate the security threat that extremist terrorist groups pose in the Sahel region. The cooperation on military and intelligence issues was prompted by the March 2016 attack in Cote d’Ivoire by extremist groups, which resulted in 19 deaths, including several civilians.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other entities have requested $65 million in aid to assist the rising number of refugees currently flowing into Angola from the DRC. Clashes between militia forces in the country have displaced 1.3 million people and account for the 30,000 refugees who have now fled to Angola, though the UN estimates the number can easily rise to 50,000. UNHCR has stated that it needs $35 million to fund its planned aid operations for the rest of 2017, though currently only $10 million in aid has been received.


Gaza/West Bank:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday to shut down the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which aids millions of Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu said UNRWA has perpetuated, rather than solved, the Palestinian refugee problem and that it incited anti-Israeli sentiment, asserting that the UNRWA should be “dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Chris Gunness, UNRWA’s chief spokesman, responded this week by saying that only the General Assembly, by a majority vote, could change the agency’s mandate.

According to a report released on Monday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, both Israel and the Palestinians have failed to bring perpetrators of war crimes to justice. The report urges both Israel and Palestine to conduct prompt, impartial, and independent investigations of all alleged violations of international human rights law. The report also mentioned a “general absence of higher-level responsibility” in Israel for violations in Gaza, and said Israeli and Palestinian authorities must ensure that victims of violations during the long-standing conflict have access to justice and reparations.


Iraq:
Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the US-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, the Islamic State’s (ISIL) last stronghold in Iraq. Iraqi forces stated they had captured a district called Zanjili, which sits just north of the city’s historic center. With the loss of Zanjili, ISIL controls only two districts in the city. The battle of Mosul has been longer than expected because ISIL has been using civilians as human shields, making it difficult for Iraqi forces to advance.


Libya:

According to the UN’s Libya Sanctions Committee report released on 9 June, the UAE has allegedly supplied military aircraft to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which violates UN-backed international sanctions against the regime. The LNA has refused to recognize the UN-backed government in Tripoli, and has taken control over a large part of the country during the past year. The report also showed that direct foreign support to Libyan armed groups has been increasing, despite the continuing arms embargo against them. Mohammed al-Dharat, a member of the Libyan Parliament, indicated that the UAE could not have brought equipment into Libya without help from other countries. Sulaiman al-Faqih, a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Committee, said the UAE has violated international law and has called on the country’s Presidential Council to submit an official complaint at the UN Security Council.


South Sudan:
South Sudanese rebels have captured the Kuek region after an intense battle between the government and rebel forces. The rebel movement loyal to the former First Vice President of South Sudan Riek Machar, SPLM-IO, has officially assumed full control of the region.

Leaders of Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti attended the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in Addis Ababa to discuss the South Sudanese conflict. The current First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai, was also in attendance, though leaders pointed out South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s “noticeable” absence. The IGAD summit agreed that President Kiir should “strictly implement” a previously agreed upon ceasefire and that rebel groups must respect the terms of the ceasefire. The conflict has already led to the displacement of 3.7 million people and forced 5.5 million people to face food shortages.

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#R2PWeekly: 5 June – 9 June 2017

Rtop weekly

Number of Civilian Deaths in Mosul on the Rise

As the number of civilian deaths continues to rise in Mosul, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that the latest information suggests that US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have not taken the necessary precautions to prevent civilian casualties during the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIL) in the city. Evidence has shown that Iraqi forces employed large explosive munitions during attacks, which are known to pose an “excessive risk to civilians” when used in densely-populated neighborhoods. Additionally, several attacks caused disproportionate civilian harm in comparison to the military advantage gained, potentially violating international law. One specific example listed was an attack on 17 March, when US airstrikes killed 200 civilians while targeting only two ISIL fighters. Another two documented US-led coalition or Iraqi attacks occurred with no clear presence of ISIL militants in the area, but resulted in the deaths of at least 13 civilians. HRW has asserted that during efforts to secure Mosul, anti-ISIL forces should take “all feasible precautions” to minimize civilian casualties and injuries, including in “choice of weaponry in heavily populated areas.”

Furthermore, Iraqi government forces have allegedly carried out dozens of extrajudicial executions over concerns that the victims were affiliated with ISIL. Experts have suspected that Iraqi forces perpetrated the killings, as at least 26 blindfolded and handcuffed bodies were found in firmly government-controlled areas in Mosul, according to 4 June reports. Reuters has reported previously this year on bodies being seen floating down the Tigris River over several months, having reportedly originated from government-controlled towns in Iraq. This has raised the possibility that extrajudicial killings have been ongoing. Extrajudicial killings in conflict constitute war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity if conducted systematically.

ISIL has also been directly responsible for civilian casualties, with UN Human Rights Chief Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein noting ISIL’s particular brutality during an assault last week when the group left the bodies of 163 civilians lying in the streets. According to the UN on 6 June, the civilians had been directly targeted to prevent them from fleeing Mosul, and many hid among the piles of bodies in an effort to survive. Additionally, as US-led coalition and Iraqi forces move into the final phase of securing the city, ISIL has reportedly resorted to using civilians as human shields. Priyanka Motaparthy, Senior Emergencies Researcher at HRW, stated on 6 June that any future Iraqi or US-led coalition strikes should take the possibility of human shields into account.

other than direct action by armed groups, other aspects of the conflict have created an at-risk scenario for civilians. For example, Iraqi and US officials have stated that the maze-like narrow alleys in the old parts of the city make it extremely difficult to evacuate civilians. Furthermore, the UN estimated on 3 June that nearly 200,000 people face a severe food and water crisis in the city. Iraqi Major General Najim Abdullah al-Jubouri said on 3 June it will take at least another month before the liberation of Mosul is achieved, but his forces have halted attacks temporarily in order to create a safe passage out of the city for civilians fleeing from ISIL and the violence.

Source of above photo: VOA News

 


Catch up on developments in…

Burundi
CAR
DRC
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Syria
Yemen

 


Burundi:
On 5 June, the Burundi government accused the EU of seeking to destabilize security in Burundi, citing documents apparently implicating the EU delegation in a failed coup in May 2015 by actively financing entities that sought to destabilize the Burundi Government. The EU has publicly denounced these allegations, stating they are “based on a deliberately wrong interpretation of a program to support human rights defenders.”


 

Central African Republic:

The latest UN Mapping Report released this week documented the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in CAR, discussing evidence of the grave human rights violations in the country occurring from 2003 to 2015. The Report will serve as a key tool in holding perpetrators accountable in country’s Special Criminal Court, as well as in specific cases reserved for the International Criminal Court.

On 7 June, the UN peacekeeping force in CAR, responsible for containing ethnic and resource driven violence, urged the dismissal of the over 100 peacekeeping troops accused of sexual abuse if the situation does not improve. A memo detailing the “deteriorating” situation in CAR was sent to a military official at the UN headquarters, but details of the memo were not disclosed to the public.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
On 7 June, the UN increased pressure on the DRC government to investigate the abduction and murder of UN investigator Zaida Catalan, who had been investigating crimes against international humanitarian law and human rights in the country. Human rights groups have suspected Congolese troops to be responsible, suspicions that have been exacerbated as the DRC has sought to close the investigation.


 

Libya:
On 2 June, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Maria Ribeiro, called for increased protection and humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country. Ribeiro expressed specific alarm regarding allegations of abuse of IDPs and of humanitarian aid in the Tawargha IDP camp in Tripoli.


 

Nigeria:

The “Northern Youth Groups,” a coalition of activist groups in northern Nigeria, signed a statement on 6 June calling for the forced expulsion of all Igbo Nigerians from the region. The Igbo represent one of the three main ethnic groups in the country. Nigerian leaders have publicly criticized the statement and some have called for the arrest of the signatories.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it will reduce its delivery of emergency aid to 400,000 people in northeast Nigeria due to funding shortfalls, according Peter Lundberg, the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria on Wednesday. The region has struggled with a lack of adequate food due to attacks by Boko Haram.

On 7 June, Boko Haram launched an attack on the city of Maiduguri that resulted in 13 deaths, making it the group’s deadliest attack in Nigeria in several months. This comes after Nigerian authorities claimed last year that Boko Haram had been effectively removed from the country.


 

South Sudan:
ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the UN to more fully address the situation in South Sudan, where civil war has forced one million people into displacement. HRW also says more should be done to help those with disabilities, citing the 250,000 with disabilities living in displacement camps. The latest HRW report indicates that both sides to the conflict have allegedly “committed abuses that may qualify as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” including “beatings and torture, enforced disappearances, rape and gang rape, extrajudicial executions and killings.”

The UN has blamed warring factions for exacerbating the country’s hunger crisis. According the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director Jose Graziano da Silva, donors have found little reason to continue supplying resources to South Sudan due to the inability of the parties to the conflict to secure peace.


 

Syria:

On Tuesday, 6 June, the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) started a major offensive to retake Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State (ISIL) in Syria. SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters that US-led coalition forces are working side by side with the SDF. According to the US-led coalition, around 3 to 4 thousand ISIL fighters are likely hiding in Raqqa and have built defenses for the upcoming battle.
Humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimated that 200,000 civilians are still trapped inside the city, and ISIL snipers and mines are killing any who try to flee. IRC warned that civilians could be used by the militants as human shields if they remain.

On 26 May, the United States’ Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Act is meant to ensure “accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria against innocent civilians,” regardless of what side of the conflict allegedly committed the crimes.


 

Yemen:
On 2 June, the formally recognized Yemeni government, along with its supporting Saudi-led coalition, announced tight restrictions on the number of journalists and human rights workers that would be allowed into Yemen. The move has been criticized as reducing the ability to deliver desperately needed aid to ailing Yemeni civilians.

According to a Houthi spokesman on 6 June, the group has publicly rejected the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, as a peace negotiator between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition on accusations of bias. Mr. Ahmed has been denied access to Houth-controlled areas as well. The group’s rejection of Mr. Ahmed comes after the UN Special Envoy called for a Houthi withdrawal from the city of Hodeidah, as well as for the Houthis to send revenue from the city’s port to a neutral party in exchange for calling off a Saudi-led coalition military operation on Hodeidah.

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#RtoPWeekly: 29 May – 2 June 2017

Untitled

Increasing violence in the DRC leaves 922,000 displaced

and prompts action by NGOs and EU

24cefa68-ec23-4909-80b8-16b3e42ff5feOn 1 June, 262 Congolese and nine international non-governmental organizations co-signed a statement calling upon the UN Human Rights Council to create a specialized Commission of Inquiry into the ongoing violence in the Central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), an ICRtoP member and signatory of the statement, Congolese forces have allegedly used excessive force against members of the Kamuina Nsapu movement since August 2016, including the alleged killing of apparently unarmed women and children. Additionally, UN investigators have found at least 42 mass graves in the area since conflict broke out in the region. ICRtoP members the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and International Refugees Rights Initiative (IRRI) were also among the organizations adding their name to the statement.

Similarly, the European Union noted that the ongoing violence and alleged human rights abuses in the Central Kasai and Kasai regions prompted the regional organization to impose sanctions on nine prominent DRC officials this past week. According to the EU’s statement announcing the sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, these particular officials are believed to have “contributed to acts constituting serious human rights violations in the DRC, by planning, directing or committing them.”

The renewed ethnic and politically-motivated conflict in the DRC has continued to increase in intensity, forcing over 922,000 DRC civilians to flee their homes in 2016, according to the annual Global Report on Internal Displacement released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) this past week. IDMC revealed that the DRC had the highest recorded number of displaced civilians of any country last year, a number that seems only likely to grow if President Joseph Kabila neglects to hold the elections mandated by the peace agreement reached last year.

However, experts on the situation hope the EU sanctions will force the DRC government to take action and stabilize the conflict, as the continuation of EU monetary support for the elections is contingent on President Kabila holding to the agreement. Meanwhile, the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council begins on 6 June in Geneva, but it remains to be seen if the body will discuss creating a Commission of Inquiry during that time.

Source of above photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/ Myanmar
CAR
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/ Myanmar:

A video newly released this past weekend showed suspected Burmese soldiers beating, interrogating, and threatening to kill captives. Based on the alleged soldiers’ accents, uniforms, and dialogue in the video, experts believe that the incident likely took place in Shan State, where conflict between rebels and government forces has been ongoing. Human rights advocacy groups have urged Burma’s government to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable. However, representatives for both the military and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refused to give any information regarding the video when questioned on 30 May.

The UN has designated a three-member team to investigate alleged mass rapes and killings against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. According to a UN statement, the team is also meant to investigate allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, forced displacement, and unlawful destruction of property by security forces. However, the government has strongly expressed its reluctance to facilitate fact-finding missions in the past.


Central African Republic:

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on 30 May, at least 68,000 persons have been displaced this month alone due to the upsurge in militia violence, adding that the total numbers of displaced throughout the country have reached levels not seen since August 2014. During his visit to several conflict-prone towns in CAR on 31 May, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour warned that armed groups are committing “atrocious attacks” against peacekeepers, women, and children at ever more frequent levels, and forces deployed to combat the armed groups lack sufficient resources.


Iraq:

On Tuesday, 30 May, two car bomb attacks killed at least 27 and wounded more than 100 people in Baghdad. The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the first attack, which was planned for late at night in order to target families celebrating Ramadan and have a “maximum impact.” The explosion killed at least 16 people, including children. Iraqi analyst Ali Hadi Al-Musawi told Al Jazeera that defeats in open conflict have made ISIL desperate to remain relevant, thus resorting to more targeted attacks against civilians.

As the liberation of Mosul from ISIL forces entered its final phase on Tuesday, the UN urged nearly 200,000 civilians to flee the ISIL-controlled part of the city, where they remain in great danger. The UN’s top humanitarian official in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the evacuation notice was not compulsory and the Iraqi government would seek to protect civilians who remained. Furthermore, the UN has been planning for the liberation of Hawija, the next town that Iraqi government forces may try to liberate from ISIL. The UN has built eight emergency camps near the area and is constructing more.


Nigeria:

On 26 May, six children were abducted from their school in Lagos by Boko Haram militants. The abduction of young children in Nigeria by the group has become a common occurrence since 2009, with the victims often becoming forced laborers, sex slaves, or suicide bombers. The latest incident follows the group’s recent release of 82 Nigerian girls, who have reportedly been transferred to a rehabilitation center in Abuja to receive psychological and medical treatment.


South Sudan:

13 South Sudanese soldiers appeared before a military court on 30 May for charges brought against them regarding a July 2016 attack in Juba, the South Sudanese capital. The soldiers were allegedly responsible for the rape of five foreign aid workers and the death of a civilian in a rebel-controlled area of the city. The trial will likely be watched closely as it will be a test of the South Sudanese government’s ability to try war crimes.


Sudan:

In the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) latest report, The World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises, the NRC has stated that almost four million Sudanese civilians have been forcibly displaced during the past 14 years of violence between the Sudanese government and opposition forces, leading to a humanitarian crisis that is left largely untreated. Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the NRC, said many of the displaced have been forced to flee their homes several times due to intense violence, and that their vulnerability to being targeted becomes greater with each displacement.


Syria:

Airstrikes and rocket attacks, allegedly at the direction of the US-led coalition and an armed Kurdish group, respectively, have been blamed for the deaths of 13 civilians in Raqqa on 28 May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It is likely the attacks were directed at Islamic State (ISIL) forces, as Raqqa has become the de facto stronghold for the organization in Syria and both groups are involved in conflict with ISIL there. The Observatory further reported that  US-led coalition air strikes killed at least 225 civilians between 23 April and 23 May, including numerous children, equaling the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition’s operations in Syria to date.


Yemen:

UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien said on Tuesday that Yemen is now in the throes of the world’s largest food insecurity crisis, with 17 million people in the country struggling to secure food and around 7 million being “one step away from famine.” O’Brien added that the food crisis in Yemen is not a coincidence or a result of natural disaster, but “a result of inaction– whether due to inability or indifference – by the international community.”

The famine has been further exacerbated by the continuing conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. According to a Yemeni government official, the government and the Houthis have been seeking to negotiate a deal that had originally been presented by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The plan notably includes turning the port of Hodeidah over to a neutral party. The Yemeni government has threatened to attack Hodeidah, where a majority of humanitarian supplies and food enter the country, if the Houthis refuse to turn the port over to a neutral observer. Should such an attack occur, it would likely worsen the crisis further.

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#RtoPWeekly: 3-7 April 2017

Untitled

ICRtoP marks Genocide Awareness Month, continuing infographic series with updates on crisis situations from around the world

S Sudan Infografic image

Many of these country-specific situations, including those previously mentioned, are monitored by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) due to their nature as potential atrocity crime scenarios and consequently their relevance to the responsibility to protect. As part of its monitoring effort, ICRtoP has produced updated crises summaries for each of the 15 country-specific situations in infographic format. In observance of Genocide Awareness Month, ICRtoP will be releasing several of these new summaries, beginning with South Sudan on 7 April, alongside ICRtoP’s regular weekly news update, the R2PWeekly. By drawing attention to and spreading knowledge of these crises before they devolve into occurrences of atrocity crimes, and by enabling civil society to effectively advocate for RtoP normalization and adherence, ICRtoP hopes to ensure that political actors will never again fail to protect populations from genocide or other atrocity crimes due to a lack of political will.

The above is an excerpt from a recent ICRtoP blog post. To read the full post, please click here.

To view ICRtoP’s latest infographic on the situation in South Sudan, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Kenya
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

The Muslim insurgency group operating under the name Harakah al-Yaqin (Arabic for “faith movement”), founded by Rohingyas residing in Saudi Arabia, has been held responsible for attacks against alleged government informers. The insurgents were originally supported by much of the Rohingya population in Burma, but such support was eventually lost as the violence resulting from recent attacks has dramatically increased. The group has been linked with “terrorist organisations from the Middle East,” according to a government spokesperson.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s head of government, denied in a recent interview with BBC that ethnic cleansing is taking place against the Rohingya Muslim population in the country, stating the phrase “ethnic cleansing” was “too strong an expression to use” for the human rights situation occurring in the country.

On 3 April, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burma. According to the report, “4,000 people remain internally displaced in northern Rakhine,” while humanitarian access “remains severely restricted.”


Burundi:

Amizero y’Abarundi (Hope of Burundians), a political alliance within Burundi, has reported that 60 people were arbitrarily arrested in the country from 20 to 26 March. The group accused the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and state police officers of carrying out these human rights violations and others, such as state mandated torturing of Amizero y’Abarundi’s own members.


Central African Republic:

The UN Security Council voiced its support for Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera’s efforts to restore State authority, as well as for the African Union-led mediation initiative to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict  in the country. The Interim Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR, Michel Yao, expressed his great concern about the protection of civilians and the systematic targeting of vulnerable communities at the hands all parties to the conflict: “This dangerous trend blurs the nature of the conflict and is highly reprehensible under international law.”


DPRK:

A UNICEF report published in March 2017 regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea revealed that the country is in the “midst of a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation”, where “around 18 million people, or 70 percent of the population, including 1.3 million under-five children depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for rations of cereal and potatoes.” The report discusses the lack of “access to basic health services”, and other “crucial unmet food, nutrition, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene needs” the people have. These basic human needs are not being provided for by the DPRK government.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN Security Council renewed and extended the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2018, which included reducing the operation’s troop ceiling by about 3,600 military personnel.

It was reported that 13 mass graves have been found since early March, all within the central Kasai province, increasing the number of mass graves found since August to 23. The UN is not allowed to investigate these graves by declaration of the DRC government. However, Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor of the ICC, holds that the recent brutal killing of a UN expert team and other violence in the DRC could be war crimes under her court’s jurisdiction.

Residents in key DRC cities joined a general strike called by the group of opposition parties known as Rassemblement (Rally). The strike was organized in an effort to force President Joseph Kabila to finally adopt a three-month old power sharing deal and permit elections in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, the capital. President Kabila announced that an election will occur and the opposition leader will be announced quickly. He further warned against foreign aid involvement by asserting, “This process is the work of the Congolese, financed by the Congolese people themselves, without any foreign interference.”


Gaza/West Bank:

On 30 March, the Israeli government authorized a new settlement to be built in the West Bank, which will consist of approximately 220 acres of land in the center of the region. This authorization is the first of its kind to occur in the region in more than two decades, and has laid the groundwork for further expansion in the future. Many consider such settlements in the area to be in violation of international law.

On 6 April, Hamas convicted and executed three Palestinians, accusing them for collaboration with Israel. Human Rights Watch condemned the hangings and called for “respect for international norms and the rule of law”.

On 2 April, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report arguing that the Israeli military’s recent blocking of access to and from the Gaza Strip of human rights workers calls into question the efficacy and validity behind the investigation into the alleged human rights abuses going on in the territory. HRW has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take note of such restrictions within its preliminary examination of the situation, when determining the integrity of the Israeli investigations.


Iraq:

In Mosul, an increasing number of children have been left with life-changing injuries during the battle to retake the city from the Islamic State (ISIL). Hospitals in northern Iraq are struggling to cope with the number and scale of these casualties.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to better coordinate their efforts to help those in Mosul who have “suffered enormously and go on suffering.” According to UN estimates, 11 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, with more than 285,000 of those individuals displaced purely due to the military operations in Mosul. For this reason, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called for $76.3 million in its IOM-Iraq 2017 Funding Appeal, of which about $28.8 million will be allocated to the Mosul Crisis Response for 2017.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, condemned the multiple suicide attacks carried out by ISIL on Tuesday in the Sunni heartland of Tikrit. At least 31 civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in the bombings.


Kenya:

In eastern Kenya, authorities arrested seven Somali men that have been suspected of operating a human trafficking ring. The men were caught smuggling refugees from Dadaab to Nairobi. Police were given permission to hold the men for ten days to complete investigations. The Dadaab refugee camp has been criticized for becoming training grounds for al-Shabab militants of Somalia.

Kenyan activists welcomed a High Court ruling that gives parliament 60 days to ensure a third of its members are women, following a lengthy struggle to increase women’s political representation in the largely patriarchal society.


Libya:

Arjan Hehenkamp, the General Director of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and head of the group’s Libya mission, said on Monday that the agreement between Italy and Libya to fight the smuggling of people in the north African country will enable migrants to be returned to camps where they are held against their will, extorted, and presumably abused. He further stressed that seven of the camps around Tripoli can be described as detention centers, which are controlled by militias and ruled by violence and abuse.


Mali:

In what is believed to be their second operation since their merger into a single group, the Jihadist forces now comprising the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM) attacked a gendarmerie post, killing three security personnel and seizing weapons and munitions. An attack that killed 11 soldiers in the same area in the beginning of March is also believed to have been committed by GSIM.

Opposition parties have made tentative progress towards ending their boycott of the peace process discussions. At the national peace summit that ended earlier this week, representatives agreed to a resolution calling for negotiations with leaders of the Islamist groups in the country. The Jihadist groups originating in the country’s north were the only factions not to sign the 2015 peace deal, and while negotiating with the groups may provoke international criticism, many hope it will also prove a valuable step forward in bringing all actors on board with the beleaguered peace process.


South Sudan:

Norway, the UK, and the US have issued a statement supporting the combined efforts of the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the UN to end the conflict in South Sudan and for President Kiir to declare a unilateral ceasefire. President Kiir called on all ethnic groups to join his administration and work for peace without discrimination, underlining that the dialogue process is open for the armed groups if they renounce violence.

More than 3,000 South Sudanese fled into neighboring Uganda after government soldiers attacked the border town of Pajok, killing men, women, and children indiscriminately, refugees said. The UN refugee agency says that the Ugandan Bidi Bidi refugee camp currently hosts more than 270,000 refugees purely from South Sudan.


Sudan:

Two independent journalists, Phil Cox and Daoud Hari, have recounted their harrowing story of the six weeks they spent as captives of Darfuri militia groups and the Sudanese government. Their capture was prompted by their attempts to investigate the situation in the Jebel Marra and the allegations of the government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Amnesty International first reported on evidence showing the use of chemical weapons in Jebel Marra and has argued that the abusive treatment of the two journalists is further proof of government misconduct in the region.

EU ambassadors have praised officials in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum for their opening of a new humanitarian corridor into South Sudan through Sudanese territory. The first ground convoy of UN relief transports reportedly used the new corridor to deliver aid on 30 March. Khartoum has also reportedly said it has not ruled out opening additional aid corridors to deliver much needed relief in the upcoming months of the rainy season.

President Omar al-Bashir, the subject of two outstanding arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, heavily criticized the court as a tool of western influence and advocated for the establishment of a regional African court of justice. Bashir has eluded arrest and trial on several occasions when ICC member states have failed to arrest him while he was inside their borders. The most recent failure of Jordan to arrest Bashir last week evoked sharp criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who emphasized the failure to act as both a violation of Jordan’s commitments and a “weakening [of] the global struggle against impunity, and for justice.”


Syria:

On Tuesday, 4 April, what is now known to be the worst chemical gas attack in the Syrian civil war was carried out in the rebel-held town of Idlib in north-western Syria. The attack resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians, including at least 11 children. A Syrian military source insisted the government did not use any such weapons, and the Russian defense ministry denied it carried out any air strikes in the vicinity. However, it remains unlikely that any other party had access to chemical weapons or would have any reason to conduct the attack.

On 5 April, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States presented a draft resolution aimed at holding the perpetrators accountable, and calling for an investigation. However, fellow UN Security Council member Russia has already denied that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame for these attacks, and consequently objected to the Resolution. That same day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, calling on the international community to increase support for the victims of the conflict. Donors eventually pledged a combined $6 billion for critical humanitarian programs in 2017 and another $3.7 billion for 2018 in support of Syrian people. Financial support remains critical for the survival of those in Syria, UN agencies have insisted.

On 7 April, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated the chemical attacks in Syria made it clear that Assad was unfit to govern the country any longer, and as such, the Pentagon is currently discussing possible military action against the Syrian forces. Explicit action by the US has not been taken as of writing.


Yemen:

Fighting remains tense throughout Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition increased the number of airstrikes on rebel positions and supply depots over the weekend. The potential impact of these strikes on non-combatants is unknown at this time. Additionally, the government forces and its allies are believed to be preparing for a major ground offensive on the currently Houthi-held city of Hodeidah. Two government brigades have reportedly been positioned to the north and the south of the city, raising concerns of an impending assault. Meanwhile, the UN has continued its calls on all parties to the conflict to safeguard Hodeidah, as it is a critical port city that has historically been the entry point for roughly 80% of food imports into Yemen. Hodeidah is also a densely populated urban area with several thousands of civilians residing in the area, meaning any military action within its vicinity has a high likelihood of causing significant civilian harm.

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#RtoPWeekly: 27-31 March 2017

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Civilian death toll rises as fighting to retake Mosul from ISIL intensifies

RtoPW 27-31 March

Fighting between Islamic State (ISIL) forces and the Iraqi military has intensified in recent weeks as the latter has pushed towards the Old City area of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have remained trapped in the densely populated area. The reported number of civilian deaths in the city has dramatically increased in the past two weeks. Mayor Hussein Ali Khajem stated that more than 150 people have been killed in violent clashes and airstrikes in Mosul since 20 March, including numerous women and children. Other sources put the civilian death toll even higher, reaching over 200, at least 130 of which are believed to have been killed by airstrikes on residential buildings in the New Mosul neighborhood. The Iraqi Civil Defence has reportedly pulled 136 bodies from the rubble from the same area of the city. It is unknown how many of the bodies, if any, may have been ISIL combatants.

The threat posited by airstrikes has increasingly become the most dangerous feature of the conflict for civilians in the city. Iraqi officers have reportedly told media sources that as the fighting against ISIL has increased in intensity, the US-led coalition has quickened decisions on whether to strike targets within the city. US military officials have insisted that there has been no change to the rules of engagement regarding distinction and proportionality, but have also said that US military advisers with the Iraqi forces have been given a greater unilateral ability to call in airstrikes since the beginning of the push for Mosul in December.

As more information has become available about the collapse of homes believed to have been caused by US-led coalition airstrikes on 17 March, the number of civilian casualties caused by the airstrikes has steadily risen, with some sources estimating it to be from 200 to 250. Residents have alleged that there was ample reason for both the Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition to believe there was a significant civilian presence in the area, claiming that leaflets asking civilians to stay in their homes rather than risk fleeing during the intense street-to-street fighting had been distributed. If the estimated number of civilian casualties proves to be accurate, this strike will be one of the deadliest US military strikes for civilians in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

On Tuesday, the top US commander in Iraq stated that his initial assessment of the evidence from the incident indicated that the alleged US airstrike probably had a role in the building collapse and the resulting civilian deaths, but also said his personal impression was that ISIL had at least some role in the casualties. He also insisted that further investigation is needed. Several conflicting reports of the incident blamed ISIL for the casualties, with some alleging the blast that leveled the building was a result of an ISIL truck-bomb or from IED booby-traps. Others have suggested it was the result of compounding actions by the conflict forces. ISIL has also been accused of forcing civilians into the building and intentionally provoking the airstrike.

The Islamic State’s use of civilians in Mosul as human shields has been well documented, and has prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, to condemn the group as “cowardly and disgraceful.” Civilians have also been killed and wounded by ISIL booby-traps, IEDs, shelling, and snipers. The High Commissioner noted that due to the known use of civilians as human shields by ISIL, the use of airstrikes on ISIL positions carries the potential for a disproportionately lethal impact on civilians. As a result, the High Commissioner called on the Iraqi military and its US-led coalition allies to reconsider their tactics in order to ensure the risk to civilians is reduced to the absolute minimum in accordance with international law, particularly as the fighting draws closer to the most densely populated areas of the city.

Source for above photo of civilians awaiting the distribution of aid in Mosul: Ivor Prickett/The New York Times


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on 24 March regarding the ongoing human rights crisis in Burma. The resolution, among other things, dispatched “an independent, international fact-finding mission” to investigate the serious human rights violations that allegedly have taken place in Burma at the hands of the military and security forces, particularly those in Rakhine State. The resolution stressed the need for sexual and gender-based violence experts to be included in the mission. Moreover, it extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma for one more year. The Burmese government is opposed to the resolution’s operative paragraph dispatching the fact-finding mission within the country, as well as the resolution in general.


Burundi:

Several non-governmental organizations within Burundi have called for an immediate end to the alleged human rights violations occurring within the country. The group of NGOs, including the Human Rights Defenders of Burundi (DDH) through its SOS-Torture campaign, has claimed that law enforcement officers have conducted several extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture, and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of citizens. In addition, human rights activists have insisted that there has been a recent upsurge in political and ethnic violence in Burundi. The Collective of Lawyers of civil parties and victims’ families of human violations in Burundi reportedly submitted 124 new individual complaints to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the government of Burundi regarding specific allegations of human rights abuses on Monday. The organization also submitted a collective mandate regarding general “crimes committed by the Government,” which was signed by over 400 families accusing the government of committing human rights abuses against their relatives.

A civil society organization collective named “Halte au Troisième Mandat” (“Halt to the Third Term”) is continuing its campaign against President Nkurunziza’s third term, which surpasses the constitutionally mandated two-term limit for presidents. On 26 March, the collective released a statement to the press in which they insisted “terror and resignation are progressively taking hold in Burundi” as a direct result of the government’s “bloody repression” of their protests.


Central African Republic:

Armed groups attacked at least three villages in the central Bambari region of CAR this week, where a contingent of the UN peacekeeping force is based. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 50 people and have left several more injured. The Unity of African People, a faction of the mainly Muslim Seleka movement, has been accused of perpetrating the attack, although the UAF denies involvement. Such raids are remnants of the civil war in CAR and are indicative of the CAR government’s inability to effectively transition to peace.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 24 March, the UN peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, said he expects peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire to end by March of 2018. That same week, it was reported that former Ivorian First Lady, Simone Gbagbo, was acquitted of committing crimes against humanity by Cote d’Ivoire’s high court. Human Rights Watch asserted that the decision highlights the flaws of the country’s judicial process and further emphasizes the importance of the International Criminal Court’s continuing case against her regarding similar crimes during the 2011 post-election crisis.


DPRK:

On 24 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution addressing the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This echoes the statement of Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson during the Council meeting in which the resolution was adopted, where Mr. Eliasson explicitly stated that both the DPRK and the international community as a whole have the “responsibility to protect [DPRK’s] population from the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights.” Furthermore, the resolution strengthened the capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul, which continues to monitor human rights abuses within DPRK. The improvements to the Seoul office include the addition of international criminal justice experts, whose specific function will be developing plans for the future prosecution of DPRK leaders and officials responsible for human rights crimes. Finally, the resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the situation of human rights in the DPRK for an additional year.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Violence has continued to escalate this past weekend in Kasai, a notably poor and remote region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as 42 police officers were decapitated by the regional militia group Kamuina Nsapu. Instances of both armed violence and political tensions within the country have been increasing at an alarming rate.

On 28 March, Congolese police used tear gas and opened fire into the air in order to scatter hundreds of opposition supporters in Kinshasa. The demonstrators had formed public protests after talks between President Joseph Kabila’s government and the opposition party collapsed. Many critics insist President Kabila has intentionally delayed the country’s elections in order to remain in power. The event has escalated tensions within the country, raising the possibility of renewed violence.

On 29 March, the UN announced that bodies discovered recently in Kasai are in fact the two missing UN staff recently kidnapped in the DRC, along with the body of their Congolese interpreter. The staff members were investigating large-scale human rights violations in the region. Ida Sawyer, Central African director at Human Rights Watch, said the disappearances reflect the violence currently going on in the Kasai region of DRC. The UN will launch an investigation into the killings and urges the Congolese government to do so as well.


Mali:

The main faction of Tuareg-led rebels in Mali and other opposition groups declared their intention to boycott talks with the government on 1 April concerning the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. On Tuesday, some of the groups agreed to take part after receiving additional assurances from the government. It is unknown if the rest of the opposition intends to do the same.

Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) has released a new report that is highly critical of the politicization of humanitarian aid by several domestic and international actors in Mali. The incorporation of humanitarian aid into the country’s political and security efforts is seen by many groups as promoting the government’s political agenda, and therefore, MSF has warned that there may be risks to doing so. Particularly, aid could be rejected by these opposition groups and, as a result, humanitarian organizations could be attacked if they are seen as partisan forces. MSF has argued that the common practice of using of armed escorts by humanitarian workers and the use of civilian vehicles by the military aggravate the risk of these attacks occurring, further hindering the delivery of the much needed aid in the country.


Nigeria:

In a move believed to be aimed at winning grassroots trust and support, a Boko Haram faction in northeast Nigeria has reportedly vowed not to harm civilians so long as they do not cooperate with state security forces. However, numerous witnesses have reported that Boko Haram has continued to kill civilians. The group remains a threat to civilians, contrary to the government’s claims that the group was “technically defeated” in Nigeria. Furthermore, unstable and lethal explosive devices from previous clashes between the military and Boko Haram continue to plague the Nigerian countryside.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Nigerian authorities to take more action in rescuing the hundreds of children that have been abducted and continue to be held captive by Boko Haram. In particular, HRW has called on the government to publicly acknowledge the 501 missing children abducted from Damasak two years ago when the Nigerian military and their Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) pushed Boko Haram out of the town. As the abductions have never been publicly acknowledged by the government, it is not believed that any concerted action has been taken to rescue them.


South Sudan:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and the Ugandan government jointly urged the international community for large-scale and immediate support for the thousands of South Sudanese refugees who continue to arrive in Uganda every day. In addition, after UN Secretary-General Guterres urged South Sudan to prioritize the needs of its people, the country’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Joseph Moum Majak Ngor Malok, reassured the Security Council that his government would cooperate with the UN to resolve the issues affecting his country. However, mass displacement in the country has continued as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) initially estimated 60,000 South Sudanese refugees would flee the country in 2017, but this estimate has been exceeded in the first three months of 2017 alone. The UNHCR anticipates even more refugees this year.

The Sudanese government is due to open a new humanitarian corridor to deliver food assistance to the people of South Sudan. At this time, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been dropping tons of food to aid thousands of displaced citizens and their communities. The South Sudanese Red Cross is on the ground helping to distribute the supplies. Unfortunately, an aid worker expressed his concern that even if citizens had money to buy food, they would not be able to use this money in the current situation. As a result, airdrops have been the only option in some regions, such as Maar in the Jonglei Province.

The UN called for an open investigation for the six aid workers that were ambushed and killed in South Sudan on Saturday. The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) stated it is in shock following the killing of the aid workers. The workers were from UNICEF’s partner organization, the Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organization (GREDO), which works “to support children released from armed groups.” Aid agencies say that humanitarian aid in South Sudan could be delayed due to the attack of these six aid workers.

According to the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, sexual violence in the country has reached “epic proportions.” Regional leaders issued a joint statement expressing concern over the humanitarian crisis and urging the parties to stop hostilities.

South Sudanese rebels loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar have claimed they have captured the Kajo-Keji county headquarters in Yei River state after clashing with government troops and killing 14 soldiers. The Eastern Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has condemned the proliferation of armed groups in South Sudan and called upon these groups to renounce violence as a means to solve the issues in the country. The South Sudanese government has rejected the participation of troops from countries outside the region in the regional protection forces. However, President Salva Kiir has accepted the call for a unilateral ceasefire.


Sudan:

Clashes between militia and state security personnel have continued in Sudan, as well as violent crimes like murder, robbery, kidnapping, and rampant sexual assault and gender-based violence. Clashes in North Darfur resulted in the death of a police officer and the injuring of six others last saturday. Additionally, on 27 March, militiamen attacked and robbed a group of mourners while traveling between the North Darfur capital of El Fasher and the town of Tawila.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Jordan this week to either deny entry or arrest President Omar al-Bashir prior to his entry to the country for the Arab League meeting on Wednesday. Despite the warnings from HRW and other organizations that failure to arrest Bashir would be a violation of their obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Jordan became the most recent ICC member state to fail to arrest Omar al-Bashir when he entered their sovereign territory. Bashir has two outstanding warrants issued by the ICC for a total of eight counts of atrocity crimes, including three counts of genocide. Representatives for South Africa are expected to appear before the Court next Friday to account for their government’s failure to arrest Bashir when he entered South Africa in June 2015 to attend a summit of the African Union. The lawyers for the South African government are expected to submit arguments against a finding of non-compliance.

The UN Secretary-General’s recent report on children in armed conflict in Sudan, which was released last Friday, has found that the numbers of children recruited into the conflict by the warring parties decreased in the most recent reporting period. However, the report also noted that children are still killed, injured, and victimized by sexual violence and exploitation as result of the conflict. During the reporting period from March 2011 to December 2016, roughly 1,300 children were killed or maimed as result of the conflict, mostly in Darfur. Darfur was also an area of high occurrence of sexual violence and exploitation against children, with at least 372 victims during the same period.

Burkina Faso has announced it will be withdrawing its 850 troops currently serving with the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The Sudanese government will reportedly be paying for the costs of the withdrawal, according to a statement delivered by the Foreign Minister of Sudan.


Syria:

On Sunday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had captured the Tabqa airbase west of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIL), resulting in the first major victory for the Kurdish group.

As the fifth round of peace talks resumed in Geneva, opposition forces launched the biggest offensive in the last 18 months against the Syrian army in Damascus and north of Hama. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that several clashes were ongoing in the countryside north of the city, where government forces were trying to retake territory. In Geneva, the Syrian opposition’s chief negotiator in the talks, Nasr al-Hariri, accused the government of not being committed to peace because several civilian buildings have been targeted by the State air force since the beginning of the last round of talks. Consequently, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, admitted that he is not expecting breakthroughs, but all parties have at least agreed upon the agenda, which is a mark of progress in itself. On 29 March, the Syrian opposition and a senior Russian diplomat agreed upon the need to stabilize the fragile ceasefire implemented on 30 December 2016. Cessation of hostilities is seen as crucial to any hope of progress in the Geneva peace talks. However, as bloodshed in the country continues, Western diplomats are skeptical about any practical outcome the talks could reach.

Meanwhile, as fighting intensifies, the UN said around 300,000 people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Damascus. “Starvation is just around the corner,” affirmed UN humanitarian adviser on Syria Jan Egeland, adding that civilians have not received any supplies at the hands of the UN since October in Douma, and not since June of last year in the Kafr Batna area.

The UN has estimated that nearly 40,000 civilians, mostly women and children, have been displaced over the past week by fighting to the northwest of the Syrian city of Hama. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that people have begun to flee Hama and the districts of Homs, Latakia, and Tartous. On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of Syrian refugees now exceeds 5 million, while he also estimated that 6.3 million people are internally displaced. Turkey hosts the highest number of Syrian refugees, numbering nearly 3 million people.


Yemen:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Sunday arguing that a recent attack on a refugee boat off the coast of Yemen, which resulted in the deaths of around 40 people, likely constitutes a war crime. HRW also noted that the Saudi-led coalition is the only party to the conflict with access to the military aircraft allegedly used in the attack. The report was also critical of the system for investigations established by the Saudi-led coalition and expressed doubt that the inquiry requested by Somalia, an ally of the coalition, will have meaningful results. HRW has reportedly documented 62 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that are believed to have killed nearly 900 civilians in total. It is unknown what impact this event will have on the decision the US government is expected to soon make on a proposal to increase its intelligence and logistical support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Residents in Taiz reported on Sunday that a girl was killed by a Houthi sniper in the eastern portion of the city where clashes between government and rebel forces have already killed dozens. President Hadi has reportedly declared that 80% of Yemen is now under his government’s control and that the offensive against the Houthis will continue until they are forced to the negotiating table. The contested port city of Hodeidah remains the Houthis’ last stronghold position and the primary target of the government and Saudi-led coalition’s offensive.

On Thursday, the UN Special envoy for Yemen urged the UN Security Council to apply pressure on all parties in the conflict in Yemen to engage in diplomatic and political negotiations to end the ongoing bloodshed. The past week marked the second anniversary of the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in the Yemeni conflict. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien released a statement marking the anniversary in which he said that the thousands of civilians killed in the conflict, including over 1,400 children, shows “the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in Yemen.” Mr. O’Brien went on to discuss the looming man-made famine in the country and the need of two-thirds of the Yemeni population for humanitarian aid. Mr. O’Brien called on all parties to the conflict to start a political dialogue to prevent the imminent humanitarian catastrophe.

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) also released a report marking the second year of the escalated conflict in which it noted that there has been a markable increase in the number of girls forced into child marriages in Yemen since the conflict escalated. UNICEF estimates that now more than two-thirds of girls are married off before the age of 18 in Yemen and that more that 44% of girls and women are married under the age of 15 in some parts of the country.

The UN has begun to look for alternative ports to deliver vital food and medicine to Yemen should Hodeidah come under attack. The UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has said that despite the urgency for the 17 million Yemenis facing imminent famine conditions, humanitarian access has been hampered by a massive funding gap of over $2 billion USD, as well as by the intense fighting along the western coast. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that the international community has, at most, three to four months to save two-thirds of Yemen’s population from starvation. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 17 million Yemenis live in a state of severe food insecurity as result of “ruthless war tactics against civilians by both parties to the conflict.” This figure is equal to about two-thirds of the entire country’s population.

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