Tag Archives: CARcrisis

#RtoPWeekly: 3-7 April 2017

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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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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, genocide, Human Rights, ICRtoP Members, Kenya, Libya, Myanmar, Peacekeeping, Post-Conflict, Prevention, Rebuilding, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#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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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, Human Rights, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rebuilding, RtoP, Security Council, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, UN, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 March

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New Evidence Suggests Saudi-led Coalition Endangering Civilians with Use of Banned Cluster Munitions in Yemen

New evidence this week collected and corroborated by Amnesty International indicates that the Saudi-led coalition has continued the use of banned cluster munitions in Yemen. In the most recent strike using the inherently indiscriminate weapons systems, the Saudi-led coalition is believed to have fired multiple bomblet-laden rockets into residential areas in the city of Sa’da, injuring two civilians and causing material damage. The attack was the third such attack using Brazilian made ASTROS II surface-to-surface cluster munitions documented by Amnesty International in the country.

Cluster munitions are weapons that scatter multiple smaller explosive sub-munitions over an expansive area with indiscriminate effects. Cluster munitions are additionally problematic as sub-munitions frequently fail to detonate upon landing, but remain live, effectively creating de facto minefields. The inherently indiscriminate nature of cluster munitions makes them a dangerous threat to civilians and most of all children. Civilians accounted for 92% of cluster munitions casualties between 2010 and 2014, half of whom were children. Due to their nature as weapons inherently harmful to civilian populations, cluster munitions were banned by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which has been ratified by 100 states.

Neither Brazil, Saudi Arabia, nor Yemen are party to the CCM treaty however that does not free any of the parties from their lawful obligations to protect civilians from harm and refrain from the use of indiscriminate weapons or attacks under customary international humanitarian laws of war. As such, the Saudi-led coalition’s use of cluster munitions in crowded cities and populated areas could conceivably constitute war crimes.

Cluster munitions from other countries of origin have also been used by the Saudi-led coalition in attacks that have caused civilian casualties. Last year it was uncovered that some of the bombs being utilized by the Saudi-led coalition were British-produced BL-755 cluster munitions sold and exported prior to the UK’s self-imposed unilateral ban on the weapons and before its ratification of the CCM. The United States, which remains opposed to the CCM and has refused to sign the treaty, has also provided Saudi Arabia with cluster munitions and other arms in multi-billion-dollar arms trade deals. US manufactured bombs were used in several strikes causing civilian casualties last year, including a strike on a mosque that reportedly killed a 15-year old boy and a reported strike on a fishing village.

In 2016, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented at least 16 attacks on populated areas using ground or air launched cluster munitions in Yemen, killing and wounding dozens.  The attacks were part of the broader campaign of the Saudi-led coalition that has killed nearly 800 civilians in 58 unlawful airstrikes, according to HRW. In January the UN announced that the total civilian death toll from the conflict in Yemen broke 10,000.

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly 13 – 17 March due to the opening of the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at UN Headquarters in New York. However, we will resume publication with an update on these events and the crisis situations around the world the following week, 20 – 24 March. 


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On Thursday, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to create an international Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate serious human rights violations in the country. The 47 members of the Council, which is currently holding its main annual session in Geneva, could adopt a resolution establishing the CoI before the session ends earlier this month.

Amnesty International and twelve other international human rights organizations submitted a joined letter to the Council last Friday in support of the recommendation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and Ms. Lee, to set up a CoI to investigate the alleged violations in Rakhine state during the security forces’ “clearance operations”, which, according to the 3 February 2017 OHCHR report, may “very likely” amount to crimes against humanity. The letter adds that previously established commissions on the issue have failed to investigate the alleged human rights violations.


Burundi:

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, to protest against UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the facilitator in the inter-Burundian crisis, William Mkapa. The government of Burundi wrote a letter to the UN Security Council (UNSC) claiming that the Secretary-General’s recent report on human rights violations in the country contains some unconfirmed facts.
Victims of the 2015 crisis in Burundi decided they are ready to collaborate with the International Criminal Court’s Commission of Inquiry and give their testimonies on what happened.
Later in the week, international and Burundian NGOs urged the UNSC to impose targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes against individuals responsible for ongoing serious human rights violations in Burundi. Human Rights Watch has claimed that the Burundian government is obstructing the UN Security Council and others, such as the African Union, which should “compel the Security Council to take strong action”.


Central African Republic:

The UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR has openly warned a rebel movement from impeding humanitarian access, claiming that any threat to civilians and peacekeepers is considered a war crime. According to Human Rights Watch reports, new armed groups have recently been emerging in the already volatile CAR.

According to aid agencies in the CAR, clashes between armed groups in the town of Bambari could soon escalate to into a “full-blown” conflict, resulting in thousands of civilians being forced to flee from their homes and triggering a humanitarian disaster. A new court in the CAR will work in tandem with the International Criminal Court to seek accountability for grave human rights violations committed in the country.


DPRK:

The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have expressed their support for the latest reports of a group of independent experts on accountability for human rights violations in North Korea and have called for the immediate application of the recommendations of the experts. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, added “The North Korean government and its leaders should face justice for their crimes against humanity, which continue to this day.”


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The Congolese government transitions continue to be delayed with the government again claiming that elections are too expensive and the country cannot financially afford them. The European Union (EU) warned the DRC that it will impose more sanctions if political and military leaders keep stalling or if they block a deal with the opposition. These sanctions would include freezing assets of officials and imposing travel bans on those involved in human rights abuses, inciting violence, and/or obstructing peace in the transfer of power. In December, the EU and the United States issued sanctions when a clash left 50 people dead.

Sexual violence has been on the rise in the DRC, with over 3,000 complaints received in 2016, versus 2,414 in 2015. However, this increase can be perceived as a positive step for the reporting of such acts, as it is said to be justified by the increase of the involvement of the military in addressing cases of rape. Rape victims are now feeling more comfortable filing complaints.

Later in the week, it was reported that the DRC has rejected the call from the UN to further investigate civilian killings in the central Kasai and Lomani provinces, stating that they are already conducting investigations which have included the findings of three mass graves claimed by militiamen from Kamwina Nsapu.


Iraq:

Iraq’s Interior Ministry has reported that 14,000 people fled western Mosul on Thursday, 3 March, amounting to the largest wave of internally displaced people (IDPs) since the US-backed operation in the city was launched on 19 February.

Also on 3 March, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported that about 15,000 children have fled the city of Mosul, where government forces continue to fight the Islamic State (ISIL). The UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor, Bastien Vigneau, said that the agency is providing immediate aid to children arriving from Mosul at the Hamam al Alil camp, 20km away from the city. Moreover, he underlined that, since the military operations against ISIL began on 17 October 2016, at least 874 unaccompanied or separated children have been identified.

On Sunday, heavy clashes between Iraqi forces and ISIL in western Mosul brought the number of people fleeing the fighting up to 45,000. Amid this spike in displacement figures, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is setting up new camps and expanding existing ones to shelter new arrivals. The newly opened Chamakor camp is ready to receive 6,600 people, according to a spokesperson of the UN agency. Currently, the UN has reported that there are 211,572 Iraqis displaced by the fighting in Mosul, excluding the 50,000 people already displaced since the military operations were launched.

Moreover, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, visited the Girls and Women Support and Treatment Centre in Dohuk Governorate, in northern Iraq, where she met with survivors of rape and other abuses committed by ISIL. In calling for a multipronged approach from the global to the local levels to aid the survivors and their families, Ms. Bangura has discussed the need for such support with political and religious Kurd and Iraqi authorities.

On the ground, the military situation has evolved rapidly, with Iraqi forces moving deeper into western Mosul and edging closer to the Grand Nouri mosque, where the ISIL’s “caliphate” was proclaimed in July 2014. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has flown to the city to congratulate the troops, whose progress “has eclipsed the expectations of battle planners”. The Head of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said on Thursday that the 100,000-strong array of Iraqi forces aims to push back ISIL militants from Mosul within a month.
As the US-led Iraqi military offensive to retake the western part of the city continues, the humanitarian coordinator for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Lise Grande, said that up to 450,000 people are expected to arrive to the camps in the following days. She warned that there may not be enough space to accommodate all those fleeing their homes.


Kenya:

The Kenyan government signaled this week that it may withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), after arguing that the ICC is biased against Africans.


Libya:

On Tuesday, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that fighting between rival people-smuggling gangs on Libya’s coast has killed 22 sub-Saharan Africans and wounded more than 100 people. These deaths come in addition to the 140 bodies found on Libyan beaches earlier this year, while there have been 477 deaths at sea on the route from Libya to the European Union.


Mali:

The peace process in Mali has been impeded as tensions continue to escalate between rival armed groups within the former rebel alliance, which is party to the 2015 peace agreement. Factions of the group have criticized the administration selected as the interim authority in Timbuktu and have prevented the installation of the interim authorities. Forces reportedly surrounded the city on Monday, preventing entry or exit. Witnesses also reported sporadic gunfire throughout the day. Timbuktu, along with other northern cities Kidal and Gao, is set to have an interim authority to pave the way for an election once the peace has been restored and the security situation has been stabilized.

Despite these setbacks, the UN, the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the European Union (EU) congratulated the parties to the peace process for recent progress and urged them to continue with diligent efforts to resolve the obstacles in the region around Timbuktu. Additionally, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) is reportedly hopeful and has claimed that internal displacement in Mali could be resolved by the end of 2017 so long as there is not a resurgence in violence.

An attack on a military base killed eleven Malian soldiers in the most recent attack in the escalating campaign of violence by terror groups in the country seeking to interfere with the peace process.The process and the multi-actor peacekeeping forces may soon be under increased threat from the extremist groups in the country who have reportedly merged into a single organization and pledged allegiance to the leadership of Al Qaeda. The new group, comprised of formerly separate organizations, such as Ansar Dine, al-Mourabitoun, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has reportedly taken the name Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, which translates to Support of Islam and Muslims. It is yet unknown how this group plans to respond to the progress in the peace process made last week with the beginning of joint patrols. The announcement of the merger has caused some of Mali’s neighbours to take increased concern with the security situation in the country and Niger has reportedly declared a state of emergency in regions near its border with Mali out of fear of potential spillover.

The frequent recruitment and use of children as armed combatants and suicide bombers is becoming an increasing concern for peacekeeping operations and tempering the interest of prospective contributors of peacekeeping forces. The government of Canada, who has previously expressed interest in meaningful engagement with UN missions in Africa and who has been pushed by France to replace the contribution of Denmark that ended in December with 600 soldiers and 150 police, is reportedly re-accessing the idea of deploying forces to take part in the Mali mission due to concerns over the situation posed by child soldiers.


Nigeria:

Just days before the visit of the UN Security Council (UNSC) led by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN and President of the UNSC for March, three suicide bombings believed to have been orchestrated by the Boko Haram insurgency targeted a gas station in Maiduguri, destroying several fuel tankers. While the only casualties were the bombers themselves, one elderly woman, one teenage girl and a teenage boy, their deaths mark more lives taken by Boko Haram’s strategy of coerced suicide bombings that often target women and girls for forced recruitment. According to the Group Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), 123 women and girls have been used as suicide bombers, many against their will, by Boko Haram since the beginning of the group’s female bomber-based terror strategy in 2014. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Boko Haram has kidnapped around 2,000 women and girls since 2009, subjecting them to rape, slave labour, and forced marriages.

Documents reportedly obtained by British media outlets reveal that the Nigerian government under former President Goodluck Jonathan rejected an offer by the UK to rescue the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls in 2014. In a mission named Operation Turus by the Royal Air Force, British planes conducted aerial reconnaissance over Nigeria for several months charting the movement of Boko Haram. The RAF reportedly had located the girls within the first few weeks and had gathered enough actionable intelligence to mount a rescue mission but the offer to rescue the girls was reportedly rejected by the Nigerian government under then-President Goodluck Jonathan. As of today 195 of the 276 girls remain missing. Former President Jonathan formally denied the allegations through a statement issued by his media aide on Sunday.

The Nigerian military also found itself denying reports this week when spokespeople issued a statement disputing the findings in Amnesty International’s yearly report for 2016. Amnesty has accused Nigerian military and police for the use of excessive force and unlawful killings against pro-Biafra activists.

Ambassador Rycroft’s delegation stated after their visit to the countries in the Lake Chad Basin, which included a stop in Maiduguri, that the only viable long term solution for peace and stability in Nigeria was through development. The UNSC ambassadors met with women sheltering in a camp of roughly 7,000 displaced persons who recounted the killings of their husbands and the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Boko Haram insurgents. Inadequate security for women and girls means they are still frequently victimized if they leave the camps.


South Sudan:

A South Sudanese opposition (SPLA-IO) official has said that SPLA-IO troops clashed with pro-government forces in Eastern Equatoria state after the latter allegedly attempted to attack their base. Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, a former army general who quit his position last month, announced he has formed a new anti-government rebel group, emphasizing resistance to the rule of incumbent President Salva Kiir.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, claimed that thousands of South Sudanese people will starve unless relief workers gain access to vulnerable populations and funds are increased. According to the UN, South Sudan’s government is blocking food aid and restricting UN peacekeepers. South Sudan has also increased the cost of aid work permits to $10,000, despite the fact that it is the first time the world has experienced such large scale famine in six years. On Monday, emergency food aid rations were dropped in famine-stricken areas of the country by the World Food Programme. About 1.5 million refugees have fled the fighting and famine in South Sudan to its neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday.

According to a recent report released by the UN Commission of Human Rights on Monday, South Sudan is experiencing ethnic cleansing and is on the verge of genocide. The UN Commission on Human Rights has stated that there has been a massive increase in human rights violations in the recent months and has called for further investigation. Villagers have accused government soldiers of going on a rampage in Oming area this week. However, Imatong State’s’ governor denied any of these allegations.


Sri Lanka:

The United Nations has criticized Sri Lanka’s “worryingly slow” progress on accountability for war crimes committed during the country’s civil war, which ended in 2009, during which thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by the country’s military. As serious abuses appear to remain widespread, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has called for accountability and justice in order to achieve a lasting peace.


Sudan:

Amnesty International has maintained its call for investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Sudanese military in Darfur. Amnesty has called on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to launch a formal investigation into the alleged use of the illegal weapons on the civilian populations within Sudan.

On Thursday, President Omar al-Bashir pardoned 259 imprisoned rebel fighters in a move the president’s office claimed was intended to foster an environment for a lasting peace agreement. Three days prior, a spokesman for the army confirmed reports that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), the rebel group that has been engaged in open conflict with the government forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions since 2011, had released 127 prisoners. The military spokesman called the move positive progress in the process towards peace.


Syria:

The Geneva peace talks have achieved some concrete results during last week. After the government delegation claimed that the High Negotiation Committee (HNC) opposition group was holding the talks “hostage”, as they disagreed over adding terrorism amongst the other items on the agenda. On Friday, the UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced the conclusion of the intra-Syrian talks, having secured a finalized agenda for another round to be held later this month. The opposition delegation has accepted the addition to the already existing three items on the agenda – the creation of an accountable government, the draft of a new constitution, and UN-supervised free and fair elections – an additional one related to strategies of counter-terrorism, security governance, and medium-term confidence building measures.

Meanwhile, the Russian-backed Syrian army said on 3 March it has recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State (ISIL), after the terrorist group seized the city for the second time in a year during a surprise advance in December 2016. ISIL had already been driven out from Palmyra eight months before.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Sunday that more than 66,000 people have been forced to flee fighting in northern Aleppo, ravaged in recent weeks by dual offensives on ISIL. An Al-Jazeera’s reporter, Natasha Ghoneim, said that in Gaziantep, on the Turkey-Syria border, there was a “growing humanitarian crisis”.
On Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed mainly Kurdish group, have cut the last main road out of Rappa, the de-facto capital of ISIL, “completing the encirclement of Daesh by land”, a Kurdish military source said.

On Thursday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said the US-led coalition launched airstrikes that killed 23 civilians, including eight children, in the countryside around the northern city of Raqqa. The warplanes struck the village of al-Matab, the Observatory underlined, adding that many air raids has also targeted areas east of the city. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WTO) has warned about the impact of these attacks on medical facilities and staff, adding that the country’s healthcare system is collapsing due to ongoing fighting.

Also on Thursday, a senior Trump administration official said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to host a 68-nation meeting in Washington on 22-23 March, in order to discuss strategies to fight the Islamic State.


Yemen:

The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) was able to, for the first time since the beginning of the conflict,  deliver eight tons of medical supplies to the beleaguered medical facilities in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz. The WHO estimates that 350,000 people are in current urgent medical aid in Taiz. The city has been besieged by rebel Houthi forces for nearly two years, causing shortages of food, water, and medicine and forcing the closure of 37 of the city’s 40 hospitals. The import and transportation of much needed supplies into Yemen, which is 90% reliant on imports for food and fuel, has been hampered by commercial ship fears of attack and the destruction of many of the port city’s key infrastructures.

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#RtoP Weekly: 13 February – 17 February

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Burma set to investigate abuses against Rohingya Muslims

Following the report published last week by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights signaling the incessant perpetration of gross human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, the Burmese government has announced that it will set up an investigation into allegations of police abuses committed during the military crackdown in the state since October 2016.

The plight of the Rohingya minority in the country, whose very existence has been denied by the Burmese government, have increasingly raised alarms in the international community. In late January 2017, the government of Bangladesh revived a plan, which was first suggested in 2015, regarding the possibility to transfer Rohingya refugees to an uninhabited, undeveloped coastal island, called Thengar Char. Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said that the proposal to relocate people to an island “that is deluged at high tide and submerged during the monsoon season” is both “cruel and unworkable”. According to what the plan envisages, it is unclear as to whether all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh would be transferred, or only the new arrivals.

On Wednesday, the Burmese military finally put an end to the clearance operations in Rakhine State, which the United Nations (UN) affirm “may amount to crimes against humanity”. The newly appointed security adviser, Thaung Tun, said that “the situation in northern Rakhine has now stabilized […] the curfew has been eased and there remains only a police presence to maintain the peace”. However, the violence perpetrated during the last four months has renewed international criticism of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been accused of having inadequately addressed the matter. In particular, she has either remained silent on the worsening situation or participated in official denials issued from the military.

Source for above photo: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters via The Guardian


Catch up on developments in…
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq 
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

Burundi:

Burundi’s Home Affairs minister, Pascal Barandagiye, said at a hearing with a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) representative in Burundi that figures released by the UNHCR about Burundians fleeing the country are false, and that “those who are said to flee the country are people suffering from hunger, who leave the country to search for food and then return back.”

Burundi is starting to call back its citizens after officials have announced that the country is safe after having months of civil unrest. It is calling upon those citizens who fled during the unrest to neighboring countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This call for refugees happened on the eve of peace talks, scheduled for 16 February to 18 February. According to the Burundian president’s office earlier this week, the government would conduct the next round of talks in Arusha, Tanzania in the context of the inter-Burundian dialogue. However, later in the week the Burundi government refused to send representatives to these talks. The government spokesperson stated that Burundi will not negotiate with those who disturb their justice and noted that some of the members of the delegation are wanted in Burundi for offenses against the state.

While Burundi states that it is making peaceful progress, critics of the government who remain in the country have said that their work is becoming increasingly difficult to do due to further restrictions on civil society. These journalists and human rights activists are worried for their own safety as well as those whose human rights are being violated and state that these people are terrified to speak out.


Central African Republic:

On Saturday the UN mission in CAR (MINUSCA) shot at fighters from the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic (FPRC) advancing towards the town of Bambari, reportedly killing a top militant and three other fighters. Later in the week a MINUSCA spokesman stated that a death toll had not been confirmed, but it is confirmed that the FPRC’s top commander, Joseph Zonduko, was killed.
A senior UN humanitarian official denounced forceful entry by armed individuals into a hospital in the Central African Republic’s restive PK5 neighbouhood with the intention to kill some of the patients, emphasizing that this is the second incident at the health facility, situated in the capital, Bangui, in the last five days.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch condemned the execution of 32 civilians, possibly more, due to clashes in the country. With all this conflict, the appointment of a chief prosecutor for the Special Criminal Court on 15 February marks an important step towards accountability and peace. The court will be staffed by national and international judges and prosecutors to prosecute human rights violations that have taken place since 2013.


DPRK:

On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council released a report of a group of independent experts designated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to hold North Korea accountable for the human rights violations perpetrated in the country, which, the experts argue, amount to crimes against humanity.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC voiced its concern about the constant conflict in the Kasai provinces where violent atrocities are being committed by the Kamuina Nsapu militia, including recruiting and using child soldiers. UN and humanitarian partners in the DRC have appealed for nearly $750 million to aid 6.7 million people this year. On Tuesday, the UN human rights office announced that more than 100 people had been killed between 9 and 13 February in Dibaya.

On Thursday, the DRC government announced that it will not have the funds to afford a new presidential election, which was agreed to happen this year. Budget Minister Pierre Kangudia said the cost, $1.8 billion, was too expensive. Current President Joseph Kabila’s term ended in late 2016, but opponents have accused him of delaying polls to remain in power. The DRC has not had a smooth transfer of power for more than 55 years. The 2017 election plan initially reduced tensions in the country, but with this latest news tensions have reignited. The African Union, United Nations, European Union, and International Organization of La Francophonie have issued a joint statement of increasing concern for the implementation of the election plan agreement, which outlined a peaceful transition of power.


Iraq:

On Saturday, Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at thousands of  supporters of an influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, who were demonstrating in the area of Baghdad’s Green Zone, pressing for electoral reform. Four protesters and one policeman were killed, and many were injured.

On Thursday, Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for having blown up a car packed with explosives in the south of Baghdad, killing 48 people and wounding dozens more. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated a truck in the suburb of Sadr City, killing 15 people and wounding around 50, while only a day earlier, another car bomb explosion in southern Baghdad killed four people.


Libya:

On Friday, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya, met in Geneva to address the ongoing flows of refugees and migrants in Libya, calling for a comprehensive approach at the international level. They highlighted that “untold numbers of people” face “grave human rights violations and abuses”, such as extortion, torture and sexual violence.


Mali:

Government officials reported late Monday and early Tuesday that communal violence in the Ke-Macina area killed at least 13 over the weekend. However, residents of the area claimed the number of deaths was at least 30. Local sources also said that members of the Bambara community attacked the Fulani community, who they accuse of collaboration with extremist groups that have destabilized the country. By Wednesday, the official government numbers had risen to 20 with 16 injured and 600 displaced by the fighting.

Elsewhere, state security forces pushed into Dialoubé locality in the central Mopti region over the weekend, ousting the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) aligned extremist group that had controlled the area. Military officials claim to have arrested around 20 suspected members of the group and to have killed one area resident who refused to stop at a checkpoint.

Despite setbacks, actors remain committed to implementation of the peace plan outlined in the agreement signed in May-June 2015. The working group overseeing the implementation of the Malian peace plan stated that implementation will continue and that joint patrols will begin by the end of February. The statement came only weeks after a devastating attack by terror groups on a military base in Gao as the first tripartite patrol was preparing to depart.


Nigeria:

Communal violence between largely Christian farmers and largely Muslim nomadic herders has displaced 27,000 in Kaduna state since September. The Nigerian government’s disaster response organization has officially stated that 200 have been killed while local church officials claim the number may be as high as 800.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported a drastic reduction in cases of malnutrition in children under five in areas they provide food relief. At an ICRC clinic in southern Borno state an average of 10 cases were reported a month since December compared to 110-120 cases a month last summer. Despite this ICRC and other humanitarian organizations are concerned about possible famine like condition in areas still inaccessible to them. The UN has also forecasted the potential for catastrophic famine conditions in Nigeria, particularly affecting children, and the UN Food and Agricultural Program is warning of food shortages for 11 million in June through August, 120,000 of whom may face famine like conditions.

The US administration has reportedly made promises to the Nigerian government about increasing cooperation and aid in the Nigerian fight against Boko Haram and other terror groups, including the increased sale of arms to the Nigerian military. Previous US administrations have been resistant to arms sales to Nigeria due to deep concerns regarding human rights abuses by the government and armed forces.


South Sudan:

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned continued fighting across South Sudan, particularly incidents in the Equatoria and Upper Nile regions, and warned that attacks on civilians could renew calls for sanctions. The Council called on all parties to cease hostilities immediately. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing as violence in the Equatoria region has intensified. The aid workers on the ground have stated that thousands of refugees are entering Uganda every day due to the fighting between different factions and the South Sudanese military. Refugees have reported that government soldiers are torturing, kidnapping, raping, and executing women and girls around Kajo-Keji County. Officials in South Sudan also say army troops raped at least six women and girls, some at gunpoint. There has been an increase in rape by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), sparking outrage and raised tension between the government and other countries aiding in humanitarian efforts. However, South Sudanese internally displaced persons have opposed the re-deployment of the Kenyan peacekeepers, claiming their involvement fueled clashes in Juba.

President Salva Kiir dismissed charges that he and the SPLA Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong Awan, have turned the national army into a tribal institution. Later in the week, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the rebel groups fighting Sudanese government forces in Darfur, called on the African Union High Level Implementation panel to consult with opposition groups before convening any meeting on the peace process. It was also reported that a South Sudanese general has resigned from the army, accusing the country’s president of “ethnic cleansing.”


Sudan:

A presidential spokesperson has reaffirmed the Sudanese government’s commitment to signing a comprehensive ceasefire and humanitarian access deal following the proposal by the US envoy. However, the spokesperson also stated the government remains equally committed to retaliatory action against perceived aggression.
This week, the UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF)  launched an appeal for  $110 million to aid two million acutely malnourished children throughout Sudan.


Syria:

Syrian rebels and Turkish troops, as well as Syrian government forces, have entered Islamic State (ISIL) held Al-Bab, the group’s last stronghold in Syria, engaging in heavy clashes with the terrorist group. On Saturday, the Turkish military released a statement reporting that at least 43 ISIL fighters were “neutralized” and that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), supported by Turkish Land Forces, eventually hit 245 ISIL targets, including headquarters and defense positions. On Tuesday, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim said that Turkey-backed rebels have largely taken control of the town of Syria’s Al-Bab from ISIL combatants. However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Islamic State remained in control of the northern Syrian town.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch has claimed that Syrian Government forces allegedly used chemical weapons targeting opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo during the battle to retake the city in late 2016. From 7 November to 13 December, government helicopters purportedly dropped chlorine bombs in residential areas of Aleppo, killing nine civilians, including children, and injuring about 200.

As more than 60,000 civilians are trapped in the four Syrian towns of Al-Zabadani, Al-Fu’ah, Kefraya and Madaya, on Monday, a senior United Nations relief official called on all parties to come to a viable agreement, allowing for immediate humanitarian access. People in the four towns suffer from daily violence and deprivation, as well as malnutrition and lack of proper medical care. In a news release, Ali Al-Za’tari, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, stressed that the situation is likely to spark a humanitarian catastrophe.

On Wednesday, the spokesman of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which includes rebel groups and political opponents of President Assad, said that it wants to negotiate with the Syrian government about a political transition at peace talks scheduled to begin next week in Geneva. While underlining that the HNC still sticks to its position that President Assad can have no role in the transition, it welcomes the creation of a governing body tasked with overseeing the process.

The United Nations in Geneva will host a new body charged with preparing prosecutions of war crimes committed in Syria. At a minimum, the body will be tasked with preparing files for prosecutions that could be used by states or the International Criminal Court in bringing forward such prosecutions. Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law at Geneva’s Graduate Institute said that “the focus is on collecting evidence and building criminal cases before the trail goes cold.” He further pointed out that many national courts could also bring perpetrators to account using the resulting dossiers.


Yemen:

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike targeting the home of a local tribal leader reportedly killed nine women and one child, in addition to wounding dozens, as they attended a funeral. Initial reports from Houthi officials also claimed that the attack included a second follow-up strike that hit first responders. A previous airstrike reported to have occurred last Friday, also killed a school administrator as well as two students when a makeshift gas station less than 200 metres from a school was targeted by coalition warplanes, according to Human Rights Watch. The rights group also stated that the attack on the gas station, which local witnesses said has previously fueled Houthi fighting vehicles, occurred during the beginning of the school day when students were walking to school and at a time when no combatant vehicles were present. The Saudi-led coalition issued a statement on Monday reiterating their commitment to protecting civilians and touting the steps it has taken to minimize civilian casualties.

Elsewhere, a suicide car bomb in a Houthi-controlled town reportedly killed three, including a child, and wounded eight others.

The fighting has had a significant impact on civilian property and infrastructure worsening the humanitarian impact of the conflict. Medecins Sans Frontières has reported that civilians are facing significant supply shortages and that the ongoing violence has caused major damage to hospitals in the Taiz area. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that as fighting in Al-Mokha City in Taiz continued last weekend, 8,000 people fled the violence to the neighbouring Al-Hudaydah governorate where WHO is providing emerging trauma care to those displaced across several districts.

UN Secretary-General Guterres called for a resurrection of the peace negotiations in Yemen for the sake of the suffering civilians, many of whom are now considered by the UN to be at severe risk of famine. Seven previous ceasefires brokered by the UN have failed, as have previous rounds of peace talks. Mr. Guterres also reaffirmed his support for the current UN peace envoy to Yemen days after the Houthi rebels asked the UN chief not to renew the current envoy’s mandate. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reportedly called for a truce in Yemen on Wednesday, potentially indicating a willingness to deescalate the tensions with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia that have been fueling the conflict in Yemen.

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#R2PWeekly: 05-09 December 2016

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Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visits Myanmar amidst emerging allegations of torture, ethnic cleansing of Rohingya minority

557a4f1a-31c0-4bfd-96d5-7bbc995f4650Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while traveling in Myanmar this week, expressed his concerns over the emerging reports of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country. Mr. Annan, with the support of Myanmar’s government, heads the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State which “aims to propose concrete measures for improving the welfare of all people” in the region. Mr. Annan emphasized that the protection of all civilians must be ensured at all times and that security operations in Rakhine State must allow for humanitarian access to civilians.

State Counsellor Daw Aung Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the de facto leader of Myanmar’s government since April of this year, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for her perceived silence on the issue of the Rohingya, who have allegedly been subject to torture and extrajudicial executions at the hands of Myanmar’s military following an armed uprising in October which is estimated to have killed over a dozen police and military personnel. Counsellor Suu Kyi denies allegations that Myanmar’s recent actions constitute ethnic cleansing despite the fact that Myanmar has refused to include the Rohingya in its most recent census and will not acknowledge the Rohingya Muslims as an official ethnic group amongst the country’s 135 official minorities.

Independent journalists have been banned from investigating allegations of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority communities in Rakhine State. The Burmese military has denied these allegations, despite footage obtained by news syndicates, which include images of burned villages and charred bodies. An estimated 30,000 Rohingya people have been displace, including many that have fled to neighboring Bangladesh and Thailand.

Source for above photo: Reuters via BBC News

*** Please note that due to the upcoming holidays, this will be the final edition of RtoP Weekly this month. However, we will resume publication with the latest RtoP news and updates on crisis situations around the world in January 2017. Thank you.


Catch up on developments in…

CAR
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Central African Republic:

On Monday, the UN announced the completion of an internal investigation into alleged sexual abuse crimes committed by Burundian and Gabonese peacekeepers during their deployment in CAR. The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) interviewed more than a hundred individuals, including minors, who identified a total of 41 alleged perpetrators. The UN shared the report with the governments of both countries and urged them to ensure accountability for those responsible.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The United Nations Security Council has appealed for the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to expedite the process of updating its voter registry in order to conduct free and fair elections as it navigates the current uncertain political situation in the country. The statement also called on officials to exercise restraint and to respect the rights of citizens to peacefully protest. The remarks aimed to prevent further violence in the politically destabilized country following the clashes between protesters and government officials on 19-20 September during which several protesters were killed.


Iraq:

The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has stalled dramatically as government and US-led coalition forces face ISIL fighters who will not surrender. The Sunni terror group has used a myriad of tactics, including deadly car bombs and suicide attacks, to deter advances by Iraqi forces, who now say that the battle will last until as late as next summer.

As fighting in Mosul continues to move west of the city, Shia paramilitary organizations barred from entering Mosul city limits, such as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), are likely to take on a greater operational role. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have expressed concern over the involvement of the PMU, now an authorized corps of the Iraqi military, due to previous abuses committed in Fallujah earlier this year, which saw at least 1,300 men and boys of a Sunni tribe go missing. Reports have emerged of torture and executions as over 600 people remain missing.

The US-led coalition assisting Iraqi government forces stated on Wednesday that it had targeted a hospital complex in Mosul. The coalition, known as code name Operation Inherent Resolve, released a statement describing the strike on the medical complex, which is believed to have been an operational base for ISIL fighters within the city. It is unclear if there were patients in the hospital or if any civilian casualties were sustained as a result of the strike.

Nearly 70,000 civilians have fled Mosul since the operation to retake the city began on 17 October. UN humanitarian staff have continued to provide aid to refugees, including hygiene kits, kerosene heaters, and sheets.


Libya:

A spokesman for pro-government forces announced on Monday that ISIL has officially been ousted from the coastal city of Sirte. The following day, the Libyan forces declared victory and celebrated an end to the fighting that has been raging in the area for the past six months. The Sunni terror group had previously controlled a 150-mile coastal stretch of the area since 2014 that was used as a logistics hub to supply fighters with weapons and to travel to nearby countries such as Tunisia.


Nigeria:

The UN warned on Wednesday that Nigeria’s enduring counterinsurgency efforts against the Islamic extremist terror group, Boko Haram, could be the “largest crisis in Africa.” Efforts by the Nigerian military freed more than 5,200 people in the month of November. However, that number signifies Boko Haram’s capability to capture and control large swathes of highly populated areas. Perhaps the most major consequence of the conflict is widespread hunger, which the UN estimates will result in nearly 75,000 children at risk of death within only “a few months.”


South Sudan:

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the SPLM-IO said that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the main international organization involved in mediation efforts in South Sudan, has supported the continuation of the civil war in the country by accepting the replacement of Riek Machar with Taban Deng Gai as the country’s First Vice President. The spokesperson stressed that peace will not come as long as the parties fail to address the root causes of the conflict, including the dismissal of Machar.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Friday that the food crisis in South Sudan is expected to worsen significantly next year. At least 3.5 million people are currently facing severe food shortages and, in the latest WFP report, this number is expected to rise to 4.6 million in spring 2017 unless humanitarian aid is heightened.

Late last week, a UN team of human rights investigators said rape is being used as a tool for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. The investigators also added that sexual violence has increased in the country and that a survey has found that 70 percent of women in the capital, Juba, have experienced sexual assault at some point since the start of the civil war. The team called for an inquiry into the claims to collect evidence to hold the perpetrators accountable.


Sudan/Darfur:

Three employees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were abducted by unidentified gunmen on Sunday in the unstable Darfur region of Sudan. The UNHCR employees, one Sudanese and two Nepalese, were taken from the West Darfur state capital of Geneina by automobile to an undisclosed location. This is not the first case of UN employee abductions in the region, which has been unstable since ethnically charged uprisings began in 2003. Sudan has requested that UN peacekeepers, who have been deployed in Darfur since 2007, leave the country.


Syria:

Russia and China exercised their veto power on Monday to block a UN Security Council resolution proposed by Egypt that would initiate a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo between Syrian President Assad’s pro-government forces and rebel-opposition groups. Russia has openly criticized the vote on the resolution for not following the standard protocol of allowing Council members at least 24 hours to review the resolution as well as the fact that the resolution failed to account for ongoing talks with the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The aforementioned veto comes amidst significant advances by Syrian government forces into rebel-held  areas of the besieged city. Tuesday saw Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, retake the Old City neighborhood of Aleppo, considered a major loss to rebel opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime. Government forces are said to now control at least three-quarters of formerly rebel-held areas. The US and Russia are reportedly in negotiations for a deal that would allow remaining rebels to safely evacuate the city.


Yemen:

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed his deep concern regarding the reports of Saudi Arabia’s use of UK-made weapons, including cluster bombs, against Yemen. However, Johnson added that he did not believe the UK’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia constitutes war crimes and will not suspend the arms sales. The UN released a report earlier this year stating that incidents in Yemen are in violation of international humanitarian law.

The Joint Group to Assess Incidents, an investigative body set up by the Saudi-led coalition, said on Tuesday that the attack on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Yemen was a mistake. The Joint Group has called on the coalition to apologize for the strike and stated that the families of the victims need to be given proper assistance. Other incidents that the coalition have been blamed for, according to the investigative body, are considered legitimate operations where the coalition targeted fighters. The investigation was initially set up as several rights groups said the attacks on civilians and civilian buildings may amount to war crimes.


What else is new?

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will be holding an event entitled “Burma at the Brink: Religious Freedom Violations Threaten Its Future.” The event will be held on Tuesday, 13 December from 3:00pm-4:30pm at the National Press Club (529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC). The event will feature opening remarks from USCIRF commissioners and feature the following speakers: Rachel Fleming, independent human rights research and activist, and author of Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma, Susan Hayward, Director – Religion and Inclusive Societies at the United States Institute of Peace, and Tina Mufford, Senior Policy Analyst – U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

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#R2PWeekly: 28 November – 2 December

UntitledICRtoP to hold upcoming Event: Preventing Mass Atrocities:
The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect

4a681ab8-429e-4bb9-8132-eb4a0e3a753fThe International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) is pleased to mark this year’s International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime with a public event exploring the relationship between the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) agendas in order to foster discussion, increase awareness, and produce recommendations for action. Genocide and other atrocity crimes disproportionately affect women and girls at an alarming rate as they often are directly targeted and also bear the brunt of the economic and social consequences of such crimes. However, women are not just victims of atrocities, as they have a vital role to play in the implementation and advancement of the RtoP and an inherent right to participate in the norm’s advancement.

ICRtoP would like to invite you to join us for the event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities: The Role of Women in the Advancement of the Responsibility to Protect,” on 12 December from 6:30pm – 8:30pm at The Church Centre for the United Nations (777 First Avenue at 44th Street, NY, NY). The event will feature civil society experts working throughout the world to advance the WPS and RtoP agendas. By convening civil society, UN, and Member State participants, the event will also serve as an opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints, and link actors working on these issues in order to raise and consider recommendations to enhance women’s participation and leadership in atrocity prevention.

Moderated by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy-Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, an ICRtoP Steering Committee member, the event will feature a panel of civil society experts, including Louise Allen, Executive Coordinator at NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer – Director of femLINKpacific; and Lina Zedriga, Secretary of Uganda’s National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All forms of Discrimination.

As space will be limited, please RSVP by 5:00pm on Monday, 5 December if you plan to attend. To RSVP, please contact  wfmint5@wfm-igp.org


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 28 November, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Indonesia due to protests over government actions against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. The cancellation comes in the wake of a senior UN official accusing Myanmar of engaging in a policy of ethnic cleansing in order to force the Rohingya out of the country. In response to the escalating violence, the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently convened an expert panel on how to solve the issue. The panel’s responses can be read here.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement on Tuesday expressing alarm over the security and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, following reports of human rights violations. Dieng urged the government and military to allow an independent investigation to look into the reported incidents and also called for accountability for those responsible for the alleged violations.


Burundi:

Last week, the UN announced that it will set up a probe into the violence in Burundi. Following the announcement, the government responded that it will not cooperate with the investigation as they claim it to be part of a political plot. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in support of the president. However, it is not known whether the protests are voluntary or forced upon the civil servants through threats.

On Tuesday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressedconcern regarding several incidents, including the circulation of a questionnaire asking public servants to state their ethnicity, and reports of killings, abuse and torture. The Committeeaccused the Burundian government of being unwilling or unable to protect the population and called on the country to act swiftly to protect civilians. The Committee also called on the government to allow the deployment of a UN police contingent, mandated to monitor the situation in the country.


Central African Republic:

On 27 November, the government of CAR stated that a week of fighting between the rebel groups, the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central African Republic and Union for Peace in Central Africa, has left 85 people dead. Mr. Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, has released a statement condemning the violence amid reports that members of the Fulani ethnic group have been specifically targeted, with rebels going house to house looting, abducting people, and committing executions. His full statement can be readhere.

On Monday, a UN official said nearly half of the population, about 2 million people, in the Central African Republic are in need of humanitarian aid. According to aid groups, attacks in the country are restricting the access for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to those most in need.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 25 November, Ugandan rebels from the ADFNALU group released several villagers they had taken captive in order to convey a warning to the armed forces of the DRC as well as MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC. The message called for a halt to assaults on their positions, warning that for each rebel killed they will kill ten civilians.

On 27 November, the Mai-Mai Mazembe, a Nande “self-defense” militia, attacked both a DRC army outpost and a camp for displaced persons in the Hutu village of Luhanga, killing at minimum 34 civilians. In the weeks prior, the group had threatened to “purify” the village if the Hutus did not leave..


Iraq:

Iraqi Special Forces have killed approximately 1,000 ISIL fighters since the offensive to retake Mosul from the Sunni terrorist group began six weeks ago. Government forces were initially able to make advances quicker than anticipated in villages and towns vacated by civilians. However, fighting has slowed in recent weeks as operations begin in neighborhoods still populated with local Iraqi residents. More than a million civilians have remained in Mosul throughout the battle.

A major pipeline was hit during the continued battle for Mosul on Tuesday, leaving nearly 650,000 civilians, including women and children, without access to water. The UN has also warned that high levels of food insecurity have emerged and there is extreme need for humanitarian assistance.


Nigeria:

On 25 November, Boko Haram raided three villages in the northeast of the country, killing five people and setting fire to multiple homes.

Late last week, at the EU Human Rights Dialogue in Abuja, the EU urged the Nigerian government to ensure that the country follows global human rights practices and added that peace will be possible only if it is set upon human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.


South Sudan:

Late last week, after intense international pressure, the South Sudanese government agreedto allow the deployment of additional peacekeepers in the country, which was initially refused by the president as he regarded it as a threat to national sovereignty.

On Wednesday, the United States reported to the UN Human Rights Council that South Sudanese government troops are preparing to launch an attack on rebel areas or border states and that the US has credible information to support this report. The US also accused the troops of deliberately targeting civilians. A proposal from the US, at the meeting, regarding an arms embargo and targeted sanction was blocked by Russia.

A UN humanitarian official in South Sudan has expressed serious concern regarding the continuing blockage of aid convoys in the country and has urged all parties to allow humanitarian access to safely reach people in need. During November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded about 91 incidents where humanitarian workers were blocked and several of these involved violence against personnel or assets. The major challenges for humanitarian workers have continued to increase as the situation for the South Sudanese population has also continued to deteriorate.

A UN commission on human rights has reported that a process of ethnic cleansing is under way in South Sudan, following a visit to the country, where members of the commission witnessed serious violations of human rights, such as massacres, rape, and the destruction of villages, based along ethnic divides, The UN commission has called upon the international community to fulfill its obligation to prevent genocide as such fears rise.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has made public that talks have been taking place in Addis Ababa to determine the locations of Darfur rebel combatants in order to create a comprehensive framework for a cessation of hostilities agreement to be signed with the armed groups. Talks between the government and two armed groups in Darfur, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), over a humanitarian cessation of hostilities have been deadlocked since last August.


Syria:

Syrian government forces have reportedly retaken over a third of rebel-held territory in the besieged city of Aleppo. The latest offensive has included a sustained aerial bombardment from both Syrian and Russian warplanes over the area. The Russian defense ministry has stated that Syrian government troops have regained control of 12 districts, or approximately 40% of the territory, from rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the enduring and protracted conflict in Syria on Wednesday. The UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien, referring to the current situation as a “descent into hell”, pleaded with Council members to do everything in their power to influence decision makers to bring an end to the six year conflict. Nearly 600 people have been killed since Saturday after government forces initiated a large-scale offensive to retake rebel-held areas of Aleppo. At least 200,000 civilians, including women and children, remain in the besieged rebel-held areas of Aleppo.


Yemen:

On 23 November, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed 12 civilians in the Hiran district of Hajja province. Another set of airstrikes killed at least 13 civilians on 28 November as it hit two homes in the northeast of Hodeida.

On Monday, the Houthi rebels formed a new government, which was sworn in on Tuesday, according to a Houthi-run news agency. The formation of a new Houthi government is a set-back to ongoing UN efforts to form a unity government in Yemen. However, the UN Envoy for Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, traveled to Aden on Sunday with the aim of holding discussions and with the hope of reaching an agreement between the warring parties. President Hadi firstrefused to meet with the UN Envoy as the Yemeni government is opposed to the peace plan, but later agreed to a meeting after sending a letter detailing the parts of the plan that his government will not accept.

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#R2PWeekly: 14 – 18 November

Rtop weekly

UN Special Adviser warns of risk for ethnic war and genocide in South Sudan

40e21209-d065-4454-beaf-4cf3e1c78475On 11 November, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, briefed the media with a statement on the situation in South Sudan following a five-day visit to the country last week. Mr. Dieng’s visit was largely in response to the growing amount of reports of ethnic-based violence that have emerged in the wake of the deterioration of the peace process between the government and opposition groups in July. During the visit, through meetings with government representatives, UN mission officials, civil society groups, and community members, Dieng tried to better understand the situation and the threats posed by the recent developments in the capital city, Juba, and throughout South Sudan.

Since the fighting resurfaced in July between President Salva Kiir’s predominantly Dinka soldiers and former First Vice President Riek Machar’s predominantly Nuer army, the extreme polarization of the groups along ethnic lines has increased. Over the last month there has also been an excessive escalation in ethnic hate speech, threatening letters, targeted killings, rape of members of certain ethnic groups, and attacks on individuals due to their perceived political affiliation. The media has also been used as a tool to help spread the hatred and encourage the segregation between the ethnic groups.

In his statement, Mr. Dieng argued that what he saw and heard during his visit confirmed his fears of the potential for genocide in South Sudan,  of which the escalating violence along ethnic lines is a strong indicator. While assessing the risk of atrocity crimes in the country, the Special Adviser concluded that all the criteria for an outright ethnic war and genocide are already in place and called on the South Sudanese leaders to take immediate measures to end the violence. He urged them to remember that the State has the primary responsibility to protect its population regardless of their ethnic, national, or political affiliations. Mr. Dieng finished the media briefing by, once again, stressing the importance of finding a solution for peace in South Sudan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a report to the Security Council released on Wednesday, has called for an arms embargo to be imposed on South Sudan as he warned of the risk of mass atrocities. He also noted that the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) lacks the means to stop such acts should they occur. Both the Secretary-General and Special Adviser Dieng agree that South Sudanese leaders must work hard for peace in the country, before things escalate further.

At the time of publishing the RtoPWeekly, Mr. Dieng was briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in South Sudan.

Source for above photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

*** Please note that there will be no RtoPWeekly next week, 21 – 25 November due to the holiday, but we will resume publication with the latest RtoP news and updates on crisis situations around the world the following week, 28 November – 2 December. Thank you.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Iraq
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Saturday, the Burmese army killed 25 Rohingya villagers as the army started “clearance operations” that they allege are targeting armed militants in Rakhine state. The army reported that all of those killed had been carrying machetes or other weapons. However, photos and videos have proven contradictory to this claim. Hundreds of villagers fled from their villages over the weekend to escape the violence. The operation comes in the wake of Human Rights Watch (HRW) releasing new satellite images showing the extent of Rohingya buildings and villages burned down over the past month by the Burmese army.

Refugees International released a report this week containing recommendations for ways in which governments and institutions can protect Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing the latest unrest in Myanmar. The report specifically calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States to implement strategies such as appointing officers as first points of contact for asylum seekers, assessing screening policies in annual reports, and convening previously announced joint task forces on refugee registration.


Burundi:

Following an order from the Senate for the government to carry out a census of every civil servant based on their ethnicity and region of origin, people in Burundi have voiced their concerns for a possible genocide as the round-up reminds them of the conditions leading up to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. There are more than 100,000 people working for the state, making it the largest employer in the country.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Burundian Human Rights League (ITEKA) released a report on Tuesday warning of crimes against humanity being committed in Burundi. The Human rights groups urged the international community to send a civilian protection force to the country as they believe there is a possibility of ethnic civil war and genocide. They also pointed out that all criteria for a possible genocide are already in place, including ideology, intent, and identification of possible populations to be eliminated. On Wednesday, amid the warnings of the threat of genocide and the continuing mass exodus of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, international humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) stated Burundi is becoming one of the biggest refugee crises in Africa.

On Monday, a letter from Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon surfaced, asking for the appointment of a new UN Envoy to the country. Jamal Benomar, the current envoy returned empty-handed from talks with the government on the situation in Burundi. UN spokesman, Farha Haq, responded by saying that there is no search for a new envoy at the moment.

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda published a report on Monday, stating that the preliminary inquiry into the situation in Burundi will continue in spite of the country’s withdrawal from the court. Bensouda said that Burundi is still obliged to cooperate with the court when it comes to proceedings initiated prior to the withdrawal becomes official in October 2017, one year after notification to the UN Secretary-General.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on Wednesday that more than 850,000 people, of which around 50 percent are children, are either internally displaced in CAR or are refugees in neighboring countries. The organization called for donors to put the children first as the efforts to reach them in CAR are restricted due to a significant lack of funds.

A UN human rights expert said on Wednesday that the justice system in CAR must be strengthened immediately for peace to be achieved and stressed that a Special Criminal Court should be established in 2017. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch and other NGOs urgeddonor countries to support the Special Criminal Court and its mandate to end impunity for crimes under international law.

During a meeting on Thursday, the UN Security Council welcomed the signing of the National Strategy on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation, the National Security Policy, the Internal Security Forces Development Plan and the National Reconciliation Strategy by the Central African Republic. In a statement, the Council expressed its concern about the continued instability in the country and condemned the recent uptick in violence, especially against civilians, humanitarian personnel, and UN peacekeepers. The Security Council also recalled “the State’s primary responsibility to protect all populations in the CAR in particular from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” and emphasized the importance of a political solution to the conflict.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have accused former Congolese rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda of witness tampering in his trial for allegedly keeping sex slaves, using child soldiers, and murders in the DRC in 2002 and 2003. Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty last month of bribing witnesses in his trial.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo resigned from his position on Monday, fulfilling a requirement of the recent political deal that will keep Joseph Kabila as President beyond the constitutional mandate. Mr. Kabila, whose second term comes to an end next month, has cited the government’s present inability to conduct fair elections as the main reason for the extension of his presidency through 2018. The move by Mr. Ponyo now frees up the position of Prime Minister for a member of the opposition that has agreed to the deal to let Mr. Kabila remain in office. However, the main opposition group, Rassemblement, still rejects any such agreement while warning of the possibility of civil war. The UN Security Council, during their recent visit to the DRC, called for a peaceful transition of power and stressed the need for a permanent dialogue.


Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) continues to perpetrate systematic killings of civilians, including women and children, in and around Mosul. The Sunni terror group has reportedly used child soldiers, aged anywhere from 10 to 14 years old, to carry out executions of detained members of the Iraqi Security Forces. At least 48,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes as a result of the enduring offensive by government forces, backed by US-led coalition forces and Kurdish militias to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

An ISIL suicide bomber killed at least 6 people and injured several others on Monday in the Iraqi town of Ain Al-Tamur on Monday. Iraqi Security Forces were able to apprehend an additional five suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. However, a sixth bomber was able to evade custody and detonate his vest in a nearby house. An additional nine people were killed and up to 25 were wounded in two suicide bombings in Fallujah.

Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday detailing several incidents in which forces representing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) demolished Arab houses, leaving Kurdish houses untouched and intact in towns and villages throughout the country retaken from ISIL. The report, which documented incidents between late 2014 and mid-2016, was compiled through on-the-ground visits to both Nineveh and Kirkuk governorates, as well as through examining satellite imagery.

At least 700 civilians living in areas retaken by Iraqi Security forces from ISIL have taken to the streets in search of food and water. Soldiers have been handing out the few remaining rations they have to civilians while they wait for a resupply of resources from the government to arrive.

A new Human Rights Watch reports states that the mass grave found on the outskirts of Mosul earlier this month is believed to contain the remains of at least 300 former local Iraqi police officers. The policemen were allegedly held captive and then executed by ISIL late last month as government forces began advancing on the city.


Nigeria:

Late last week, Nigerian soldiers shot and killed three female suicide bombers as they attempted to infiltrate into the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram.

On Saturday, officials from Chad and the UN reported that several hundred Boko Haram fighters have surrendered in the country over the past month. Most of the fighters are originally from Chad and are currently being held in detention centers along with their families.

On Tuesday, the United Nations warned that about 75,000 children risk dying from starvation within months as the situation in the country is worsening. UN humanitarian coordinator Peter Lundberg said they have assessed that about 14 million people in Nigeria will be in need of humanitarian assistance by 2017, including about 400,000 children. Lundberg also added that they do not have enough money to handle the situation and are now in dire need of funding.


South Sudan:

The South Sudanese government has accused the opposition of kidnapping about 20 humanitarian workers over the weekend and has strongly condemned the incident while promising to safely bring back the abductees. However, the armed opposition has denied the allegations.


Sudan/Darfur:

President Omar al-Bashir has said that any peace deal with the opposition rebel group, Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N), will not include the reintegration of the group’s soldiers into regular Sudanese military forces. Previous discussions of peace deals included reintegration, however Bashir has since stated that “no single outlaw will be absorbed” as he views the rebels as surrogate members of South Sudan’s military. Bashir has noted that Sudan is prepared for both war and peace with South Sudan.


Syria:

Russia and the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group fighting against Syrian government forces, continue to trade allegations over the use of chemical weapons in the besieged city of Aleppo. Russia has accused the opposition group of using shells containing chlorine and white phosphorus, while the SNC claims the weapons are similar to those used by regime forces and their allies in earlier attacks. The UN Security Council recently extended a mandate to further investigate the alleged use of chemical agents by the Syrian government on several occasions throughout the civil war.

Civilians still living in Aleppo were instructed via mass text message on Monday to flee the city before the onset of a “strategically planned assault using high precision weapons” began within 24 hours. The message likely came from the Syrian government as they are the only actor to have the capacity for a mass text transmission to the public.

Following the mass message, heavy airstrikes over Aleppo resumed on Tuesday after a nearly three week cessation of aerial assaults on rebel-held areas of the city. At least one civilian was killed and an additional five people were injured in a helicopter barrel bomb attack. Successive barrel bomb strikes by the Syrian government killed at least 27 civilians on Wednesday in Aleppo. Among the targets were a children’s hospital, the Central Blood Bank, and neighborhoods with nearby schools. Russian and Syrian officials have claimed that humanitarian corridors have been established to allow civilians to flee the city. However, many residents do not feel they are safe to use or have refused to flee out of principle.

Meanwhile, aerial assaults across Syria targeted eight hospitals in the past week amidst the regime’s renewed offensive to retake rebel-held territory.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition said on Friday that the Houthi rebels have blocked a total of 34 boats carrying humanitarian aid to Yemen in the last six months.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led military coalition had agreed to renew the cessation of hostilities set to start on Thursday. Kerry claimed that the parties also agreed to work towards establishing a unity government in order for peace to be realized by the end of the year. However, following the statement from Kerry, the Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al Mekhlafi said the government is not interested in a ceasefire or any peace talks with the Houthi rebels.


What else is new?

Interested in interning with the ICRtoP in New York City? We are now seeking applications for Spring 2017. The ICRtoP Secretariat is looking for full-time (preferred) or part-time interns for a period of 3-4 months beginning in early 2017. Applications can be emailed to internship@responsibilitytoprotect.org. The deadline for Spring 2017 applications is 1 December, 5:00pm EST. For more information, please click here.

The Stanley Foundation released a policy memo this week, which provides insight on ways the private sector can work to prevent atrocities and promote the Responsibility to Protect. The memo captures the major discussion points and policy recommendations from a roundtable held last month amongst experts and policymakers from academia, governments, international organizations, and civil society. The roundtable focused on four key global issue areas: climate change, genocide prevention, nuclear security, and global governance.

The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (55 5th Ave., Room 1008, New York, NY, 10003) will be holding an event on Thursday, 1 December from 5:30-7:30pm to celebrate the recent publishing of Dr. James Waller’s new book, entitled Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide. Attendees will be encouraged to engage with Dr. Waller in an interactive discussion on the new book, his work, and the field of mass atrocity prevention more broadly. Refreshments will be served and signed copies of the book will be made available. Please RSVP by 28 November to Cardozo.CLIHHR@yu.edu.

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#R2PWeekly: 24 – 28 October 2016

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Informal UNGA meeting calls for emergency session on Syria, urges international community to uphold responsibility to protect civilians

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), at the request of over 70 Member States, gathered for an informal meeting on 20 October to discuss the ongoing conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened his remarks at the meeting by noting his grave concern over the UN Security Council’s failure to take timely action to promote peace and security in Syria, allowing regional rivalries to take priority over the needs of the Syrian people. The Secretary-General also noted that several parties involved in the conflict have committed violations of human rights and international law that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

During the meeting, at least six Member States, including Canada, Botswana, and Switzerland, directly echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for Syria and the international community to uphold their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and several Member States noted that while the recent humanitarian pause in Russian and Syrian military action in Aleppo is a step in the right direction, it falls short of the actions necessary to allow for both the creation of evacuation corridors and unimpeded access to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to civilians.

Many Member States argued that only a political solution can end the nearly six-year-long conflict and an emergency session of the UNGA should be called in order to implement a peaceful cessation of hostilities and initiate a political transition in Syria. The General Assembly has only convened 10 emergency sessions in the history of the United Nations, the last of which took place in 2009 regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The conflict has killed nearly 500 civilians, more than a quarter of which were children, and injured an additional 2,000, since the Syrian government, in conjunction with Russia and Iran, began renewed efforts to retake territory from opposition forces last month. On Wednesday alone, a purported Russian or Syrian airstrike killed at least 14 children and seven teachers and injured at least 75 others when it struck a school complex near the city of Idlib. Despite international efforts, including calls for a renewed cessation of hostilities in Aleppo and the issuance of facilitation papers to allow access to UN aid trucks, Russia has announced it is not planning any more humanitarian pauses in the country.

Source for above photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the informal meeting of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly on the situation in Syria: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On 22 October, Burmese armed forces demanded that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) withdraw its forces from any areas under the administration of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) in and around the town of Mongla in eastern Shan State. Residents have already begun to flee the area in light of the Army’s 24 October ultimatum date having passed.

On 24 October, the repatriation of refugees from Thailand to Burma began with the voluntary return of 68 people from camps along the Thai-Burma border. For the past 30 years, Thailand has hosted over 100,000 refugees from Burma who fled their homes to escape the civil war in the country, with many of the refugees belonging to the Karen, Mon and Shan minority ethnic groups. The UNHCR has hailed the start of repatriation as a milestone in one of the world’s most protracted displacement situations.

The following day, the UN called for an investigation as allegations continue to be brought forward that state security forces, operating in Rakhine State, are continuing in a campaign of violence and repression against the stateless Rohingya minority. Up to 15,000 people have been displaced by the actions of security forces in the wake of the 9 October attack on border outposts in the region. Burmese officials have stated that they have killed 30 “attackers”, while rights groups claim that the majority of the dead have been civilians, who are also subjected to the burning of villages and arbitrary arrests. Human Rights Watch has called upon the Burmese government to allow aid to reach the region and those displaced, claiming that the government is currently blocking all aid to the area.


Burundi:

On Wednesday, Burundi officially informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the country’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Some African politicians welcomed the Burundian withdrawal from the ICC, including the president of Sudan who encouraged other African countries to do the same. Just days later, South Africaannounced its decision to follow the example set by Burundi. The ICC has asked Burundi and South Africa to reconsider their withdrawals from the institution and has urged them to work together with the Court to end impunity and protect human rights. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Botswana released a statement  reaffirming its support for the ICC and expressing “regret” over South Africa’s decision to withdraw. However, Gambia also announced its intended withdrawal from the Court on Wednesday.

On Monday, it was discovered that the Interior Ministry of Burundi issued an order to withdraw permits and ban activities of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country after accusing the organizations of taking sides and working to evoke hostility towards the government. The general secretary of FOCODE, one of the recently banned NGOs, said that the ban is a “threat to civil freedom and a threat to freedom of association”.

Several NGOs, including ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, published an open letter on Wednesday to the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of Member States of the United Nations in Geneva and New York regarding the situation in Burundi. The letter encourages a suspension of Burundi from the UN Human Rights Council if it fails to cooperate with the UN Commission of Inquiry in the country, as allegations of severe violations of human rights need to be investigated and the government has refused to cooperate with the UN system.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered to protest against MINUSCA, the UN mission in the country, accusing the mission of not doing enough to protect civilians. The protesters alsoclaimed that MINUSCA is supporting the rebels. People threw stones and shouted at the troops who, according to a witness, responded with warning shots. Eventually armed groups and peacekeepers exchanged fire, resulting in at least three dead protesters and several injured, including four peacekeepers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence the following day and welcomed action taken by the government to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.


Cote d’Ivoire:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respect the rights of those opposed to the newly drafted constitution, stating that civilians have the right to express dissenting opinions on the document. This follows actions by security forces to disperse protests and gatherings against the constitution, including the detainment of dissenters and opposition leaders; however, some protests occurred without incident.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard for October 2016, indicating that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 429,613 refugees currently within the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Gaza/West Bank:

The European Commission has released a Fact Sheet for October 2016, which indicates that there are approximately 1.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and parts of Area C; of those in need, approximately 60,000 people were displaced from the 2014 Gaza Strip conflict.


Iraq:

Islamic State (ISIL) allegedly executed 284 men and boys on Thursday and Friday of last week in the city of Mosul. The deceased were allegedly from the approximately 550 families that ISIL forcibly moved from villages into Mosul to be used as human shields. The extremist group then used a bulldozer to bury the bodies in a mass grave near Mosul’s defunct College of Agriculture.

Nearly 1,000 civilians living near the city of Mosul have sought medical treatment citing breathing problems linked to toxic gases from a sulphur plant that ISIL allegedly set on fire. No deaths have been reported so far as a result of the incident. The fire is thought to be aimed at deterring advancing Iraqi and US-led coalition forces.

New evidence has emerged that ISIL killed 50 former police officers on Sunday who were being held captive in a building in Mosul. Bodies of an additional 70 civilians were found in their homes in a village just outside the city, while another 15 civilians were killed and thrown into a river. The perpetration of these latest atrocities is reportedly an attempt to continue the spread of terror as Iraqi and US-led coalition forces begin to converge on the city.

Hundreds of ISIL fighters, deemed “suicide squads”, have arrived in Mosul from their Syrian stronghold in Raqqa to defend the city against the Iraqi army and US-led coalition. The foreign fighters have been seen wearing explosive belts, arming bridges with bombs, and are said to have prepared several vehicles with suicide bombs.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided over 1,000 reproductive health consultations to women fleeing Mosul since the Iraqi and US-led coalition offensive began earlier this month. UNFPA has postured 25 reproductive health teams and 20 maternal health facilities as part of its humanitarian response in Mosul.

More than 1,000 civilians living in the Tob Zawa village near the city of Mosul have been safelymoved by Iraqi special forces to nearby refugee camps this week. At least 9,000 people have been displaced since the operation began on 17 October.


Kenya:

On 24 October, members of the extremist group, al Shabaab, attacked a hotel located in the town of Mandera in northeast Kenya, killing 12 people.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for a probe into police killings in Kenya as about 1,200 deaths have been blamed on security forces in the last five years. The organization also reported that around 34 people have been forcibly disappeared by security forces in counter-terrorism operations in the last two years, noting that, so far, only one police officer has been held accountable.


Libya:

Late last week, Italian Coast Guard forces reported seeing a speedboat labelled “Libyan Coast Guard” attack a boat overcrowded with refugees off the coast of Libya, using sticks as weapons. At least four refugees fell into the water and drowned and up to 25 people are missing. The European Union has previously initiated a plan to train Libyan forces to manage their own sea rescue operations. Following the report on this incident, a German aid group has urged the EU to rethink the decision in order to protect refugees.


Mali:

Germany has agreed to assist the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with military helicopters if no other country decides to help, as the Netherlands and Indonesia are withdrawing their military transportation support. The German Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the reason for their pledge is their conviction on the importance of stabilizing Mali.


Nigeria:

On 23 October, the Nigerian military confirmed that at least 83 Nigerian soldiers are missing following an attack by Boko Haram in the northeastern part of the country. Superior firepower by the extremist group forced many of the soldiers to flee on foot into the Niger River where many are feared to have drowned.

This week, the Nigerian government announced that on 31 October it will meet with community leaders from the Niger Delta region as well as representatives of several of the armed groups fighting in the area in the hopes of ending the fighting in the region. However, on 25 October, the same day as the aforementioned announcement, the Niger Delta Avengers, one of such armed groups in the Niger River Delta, announced that they had attacked an oil pipeline in the region.


South Sudan:

The head of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has announced that she will step down at the end of November after serving as the UN Special Representative to South Sudan for two years. On Monday, she said that the road ahead for South Sudan would be difficult, but she is hopeful that peace will come to the war-torn country.

Amnesty International released a report on Monday, examining the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law carried out by government forces during the breakout of violence in Juba in July. The report is based on over 90 interviews conducted over three months following the re-ignition of the conflict in the country. The witnesses describe ethnic-based killings, rapes, and abuse.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 67 aid workers have been killed since the conflict in South Sudan broke out in 2013. OCHA also reported that more than 640 incidents where humanitarian aid access was blocked were reported in the first nine months of this year. The humanitarian agency condemned the violence and called for a quick response to hold the guilty accountable for their actions.

Over the last several weeks, there has been an increase of ethnic hate speech and threats of violence, mutilation, and murder in South Sudan. On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a warning that if these incitements of violence are allowed to continue there’s a high risk of mass atrocities erupting in the country. He urged the community and top political leaders in the country to take decisive action to ensure no horrendous crimes will be committed.

On Wednesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced in a statement the release of about 145 child soldiers who had been recruited by the Cobra Faction and the SPLA-IO, two armed rebel groups fighting the South Sudanese government. In the statement, UNICEF also noted that approximately 16,000 children are still being held as soldiers in armed groups and called on the parties to cease the recruiting of children to their armies.


Sudan/Darfur:

Sudan Call, the opposition to Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), has threatenedto initiate a large-scale protest in the coming year with the goal of overthrowing the existing government. The threat follows the opposition’s boycott of a National Dialogue agreement amongst the ruling party and its allies that set the groundwork for a future constitution of Sudan. The two parties have been unable to reach an agreement leading to a humanitarian truce and the implementation of requisite confidence building measures.


Syria:

Security developments
A three-day “humanitarian” ceasefire between regime and rebel forces has broken down as clashes in Aleppo continued over the weekend. The unilateral agreement was announced by the Syrian government and Russia to allow for both residents and rebels to leave the city. However, the agreement did not last long enough for aid agencies to obtain the requisite security agreements necessary to evacuate injured civilians and rebels refused to give up their positions.

The United Kingdom’s Minister of Defense announced on Tuesday that an additional 20 security personnel will be deployed to Syria in an effort to reboot a program to train moderate opposition forces for an upcoming offensive to retake territory from the Islamic State (ISIL). It is suspected that an operation to retake the city of Raqqa will become the focus pending the outcome of the operation to retake Mosul in Iraq.

US-led coalition strikes in Syria have killed at least 300 civilians since 2014 according to a new report released by Amnesty International on Tuesday. The organization publicly investigated available information such as news reports, satellite imagery, and photo and video evidence related to 11 aerial attacks that have been carried out since September 2014. The US State Department has not yet responded to Amnesty’s inquiry regarding the report.

An airstrike on a school complex in Aleppo killed at least 35 civilians, including 22 children and 6 teachers, on Wednesday. The attack was a part of a series of strikes conducted by either Russian or Syrian war planes in the city of Idlib. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed outrage over the attack, noting that, if deliberate, the attack should be treated as a war crime.

The humanitarian situation
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinatorstated this week that at least 400 civilians, including many children, have been killed in Aleppo in the last month. The statement, delivered to the UN Security Council at a briefing on the crisis in Syria, noted that the UN was unable to deliver humanitarian assistance and coordinate civilian evacuations due to objections from two armed opposition groups.

Political developments
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN joint investigative mechanism, also called the Jim, released a report on Friday confirming that the Syrian government is responsible for an attack in Idlib province in March 2015, which involved the use of chemical weapons. The attack allegedly used a device dropped from a high altitude which released a deadly agent into the air, likely chlorine. Russia has thus far thwarted attempts in the Security Council by the US, France, and the UK to impose sanctions on Syria for the use of chemical weapons in the ongoing crisis.


Yemen:

The Saudi-led coalition released a statement last week, which said that the Houthi rebels repeatedly violated the 72-hour ceasefire launched at midnight the day before. The truce was supposed to last for three days, but, according to the statement, it had already been breached more than 40 times by the rebels, leading the Saudi-led coalition to respond by launching missiles on Yemen. Attacks from both sides killed at least 11 people on the first day of the truce, including at least three civilians. A government source said he was grateful for the efforts of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN envoy, as he tried to broker peace between the rebels and the government, but he also confirmed that the attempt was unsuccessful as the rebels violated the truce several times. On Saturday, the UN envoy urged all parties to extend the truce, but the call was not heeded; the ceasefire ended after 72 hours without renewal.

On Tuesday, the UN special envoy to Yemen handed an outline for a peace plan to the Houthi rebels, who currently hold control in the capital on the country. According to a politician affiliated with the rebels, the plan included relieving the president of his duties and instead implementing a transitional period of one or two years before introducing presidential elections. According to a copy of the proposal seen by media, the information given by the politician is accurate as the main idea of the proposal seems to be the establishing of a new government containing less divisive people. The day after the delivery of the peace plan the Yemeni army attacked areas held by the rebels.

The UN food relief agency (WFP) has expressed concerns regarding the deteriorating situation in Yemen as food security is running low and child malnutrition is rising. The regional director of the WFP said that hunger is increasing and “people have exhausted all their survival strategies”. Women and children are the most vulnerable, especially as some areas of the country are difficult to reach for food distribution.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a Humanitarian Snapshot this week, showing the impact of the conflict in Yemen. The Snapshot reveals a devastating toll on the population as food insecurity is worsening, health facilities are reaching their limits, and those engaged in the conflict continually breach the rules of international law when it comes to the protection of civilians.


What else is new?

The Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) has published the latest issue of its premier journal on RtoP, Global Responsibility to Protect. This issue, Volume 8, Issue 4, features articles discussing challenges and recommendations for the next UN Secretary-General, the connections between RtoP, refugees, and IDPs, and other important topics on the norm. To read the latest issue please click here.

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#R2PWeekly: 17 – 21 October 2016

Rtop weekly

Iraq: Coordinated offensive to retake Mosul from ISIL puts over 1.5 million civilians at risk
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The Iraqi military, in conjunction with a US-led coalition, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni tribal fighters, and Shia paramilitary militias, initiated a long-awaited offensive on Sunday to retake the country’s second largest city of Mosul. The city was forcefully taken by the Islamic State (ISIL) in the summer of 2014 and has since acted as a symbol of their ability to control large swaths of territory in the country and has served as the capital of their proclaimed caliphate in Iraq.

The offensive is expected to take approximately two weeks to reach the city center and an additional two months to eliminate the threat of the approximately 4,000-8,000 ISIL fighters defending Mosul. The Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has appealed for all sides of the conflict to prioritize the protection of an estimated 1.5 million civilians living in the city. OCHA has noted that shelter for approximately 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) is currently available while the construction of additional sites with the capacity for 250,000 more IDPs is in progress.

Since the offensive began, there have been few reports of residents fleeing the city, which has stirred fears that civilians are being forcefully kept within city limits to be used by ISIL as human shields as Iraqi-led forces close in. Additionally, Amnesty International released a report on Tuesday detailing accounts of torture, forced disappearance, and revenge attacks against ethnic and religious minorities committed by ISIL, pro-government militias, and Iraqi government forces during similar operations this year such as the liberation of Fallujah. The report recommends that appropriate safety measures be implemented so as to avoid the same attacks throughout the ongoing Mosul offensive. However, reports have emerged of yet unverified videos of Iraqi soldiers and allied militias committing human rights violations against civilians fleeing the northern city of Mosul. The videos allegedly show Iraqi soldiers interrogating a child to find out if his family are members of ISIL, including allegedly beating, kicking, and  threatening the child when his answers are supposedly deemed unsatisfactory by the soldiers.

OCHA has reported that approximately 1,900 displaced persons, mostly women and children, arrived at camps in the area south of Mosul this week, with an additional 900 refugees crossing the western border into Syria. While food rations for 220,000 families are ready for distribution and 143,000 sets of emergency household items are stocked, funding from donor countries has been insufficient to prepare for successive waves of refugees that are expected as conflict closes in on Mosul.

Source for above photo of civilians fleeing Mosul: AP via BBC News


Catch up on developments in…

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

Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The number of villagers forced to flee their homes in Rakhine State, in western Burma, has now reached over 1,000 as Burmese security forces continue to search for those responsible for attacking border posts on 9 October. Burmese authorities claim that a radical islamist militant organization is behind the attack and for the past week have dispatched security forces to sweep the area, while also increasing their numbers. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has had its movements restricted since the start of the operation, while sources have reported that at least 50 members of the persecuted Rohingya minority have been killed, with over 200 buildings burnt and destroyed.  A UN official reported on Tuesday that the violence and military restrictions imposed after the raids has stopped aid agencies from delivering food and medical aid to the region, where international human rights organizations have warned that civilians have been caught up in the violence and following military crackdown. Rohingya activists have accused the country’s security forces of carrying out a counterinsurgency campaign aimed at civilians, including the burning of Rohingya homes, but the accounts have yet to be independently verified. However, Fortify Rights, an international advocacy group, has reported that witnesses interviewed by the group have described apparent extrajudicial killings being carried out by the military. It was reported on Wednesday that up to 3,000 people have been displaced, with 1,000 seeking refuge in the state’s capital of Sittwe.

On Wednesday, members of Myanmar’s Rakhine advisory commission, established by the government in August and led by Kofi Annan, met with government officials to discuss and assess the situation in the state. While Kofi Annan was not in attendance, the commission was able to meet with members of the ministries of defense and home affairs.


Burundi:

Late last week, the Security Council decided to dispatch a UN special envoy to Burundi for political talks. The envoy, Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention, will consult with the Burundian government on the political crisis in the country and try to move forward towards a peaceful solution. In a unanimous statement from the Security Council the members said that the UN envoy has their “full support” and that they hope the disagreement will be resolved swiftly.

The President of the Human Rights Council met with the Permanent Representative of Burundi to the UN in Geneva late last week to discuss the country’s response to the UN report. He also expressed his concerns about the government’s decisions to ban UN experts and suspend cooperation with the UN Office for Human Rights, underlining the importance for cooperation between the country and the UN.

On Tuesday, the president of Burundi signed legislation to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). He decided to approve the legislation as it won overwhelming support in the country’s parliament. According to the government, the withdrawal is solely “for national sovereignty”. Opposition parties and members of civil society, however, claim that the decision is proof of guilt for the crimes against humanity committed by Burundi and they have urgedthat sanctions be imposed following the decision. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch hasargued that behind the rhetoric of such threats to withdraw from the ICC is “a crude attempt to protect members of the police, military, and intelligence services who have committed the worst crimes.”


Central African Republic:

On Saturday, 11 people died as gunmen opened fire on a camp for internally displaced persons in Ngakboo. This comes in the wake of the deaths of 30 people in an attack last week when a primarily Muslim militia group targeted both civilians and UN peacekeepers. MINUSCA has strongly condemned both attacks, stating that those responsible may face charges of war crimes.

Armed groups attacked a number of convoys from the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) throughout the week. On Tuesday, MINUSCA condemned the continuous targeting of peacekeepers in the country and called them “cowardly and irresponsible actions”. Rebel groups have also continued to attack aid groups, resulting in the diminished access for the delivery of humanitarian aid.


Cote d’Ivoire:

Small protests were held in Abidjan following last week’s approval by Parliament of a new draft constitution. The protesters, which reportedly amounted to around 50 people, were met by police in riot gear who fired tear gas and arrested some, including opposition political leaders. Protesters convened ahead of the referendum on the constitution, which will be held on 30 October, to denounce what they feel has been a secretive drafting process. While the draft constitution seeks to make changes to the nationality issues facing prospective presidential candidates, an issue which has been at the heart of political crises in the country, some are concerned about other elements within the draft that are feared to increase the power of the president. This includes decreasing the number of votes needed to support amendments by the President, as well as removing the age limit, currently at 75 years, which would enable current the president to run again in the next election.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Sunday, the government officially announced the delay of the presidential election until April 2018, against constitutional restrictions on presidential term limits. The election was originally scheduled to take place next month, but has been postponed by the government, which has cited an inadequate voter registry and lack of funds as the main reasons for the delay. The main opposition parties refused to participate in the talks leading to Sunday’s decision, which they view as a thinly-veiled attempt by President Joseph Kabila to retain power beyond his second and constitutionally-mandated final term as leader of the DRC.

A signed agreement emerged from the DRC’s “national dialogue” on Tuesday that will keep President Joseph Kabila in office beyond the constitutional limit. However, due to a lack of participation of many of the key opposition parties, opposition leaders have appealed for an interim president who would helm the country as it prepares for the delayed elections.

The opposition responded to the government’s announcements by calling for general strikes for Wednesday, which took place in the capital city of Kinshasa. The streets in the city of 10 million people were virtually empty as most shops closed their doors in a gesture of protest to Tuesday’s national dialogue agreement.

A team of prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrived in the DRC on Sunday for a five-day visit to monitor the ongoing political unrest in the country. The ICC has said that last month’s clashes between political protesters and government security forces, which led to several deaths, could be constituted as war crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The team of prosecutors met with government officials, political parties, civil society members, and the media.

Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was convicted by the International Criminal Court on Wednesday of crimes involving witness tampering and bribing. The crimes occurred during a previous trial for which Bemba was accused and convicted of war crimes for leading a four month campaign of rape and murder in the Central African Republic over a decade ago. Bemba is currently serving an 18 year sentence for the aforementioned war crimes conviction.


Gaza/West Bank:

The European Union (EU) and the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development (MoSD)introduced a program to strengthen “social protection systems” in Palestine. The program aims to support the MoSD in its mission to eradicate poverty and strengthen the government’s ability to provide services for its people in order to support “a future Palestinian State.”

Several NGOs operating in and around Gaza have expressed concerns over a recent spike in travel restrictions by the Israeli government. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) saw an increase from 3% to 65% of travel permit denials from January to August of this year.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, has estimated in a briefing to the UN Security Council that approximately 2.3 million Palestinians, out of a total population of 4.8 million, are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.


Iraq:

Airstrikes by the US-led coalition increased in the besieged northern city of Mosul in advance of the Iraqi offensive to retake the city from ISIL. More than 50 airstrikes specifically targeting ISIL in Mosul have been conducted in the last two weeks. Iraqi ground troops, including special forces units, are reportedly taking up positions in areas south and east of the main city.

The Islamic State (ISIL) executed 58 members of its own organization who allegedly were part of a plot to aid the Iraqi military in retaking the northern city of Mosul. The victims are said to have been drowned and buried in a mass grave outside of the city.


Libya:

On Monday, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) released a statement saying that US air forces launched 36 airstrikes against ISIL in the city of Sirte over the weekend, bringing the total number of conducted airstrikes to retake the city to 324.

The Presidential Guard of Libya released a statement on Sunday saying that they would no longer support the UN-backed Presidency Council as they had failed to uphold their promises. Instead, they confirmed their backing of the General National Congress. The High Council of State vowed that those from the Guard who cease support for the government will be arrested.

The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, has condemned the attempted coup in the country where a rival administration to the UN-backed government seized control over several key government buildings. The rebels behind the attack proclaimed a former administration as the legitimate regime. Martin Kobler called for cessation of hostilities for the sake of the people.


Nigeria:

Over the weekend, Nigeria’s restive ‘middle-belt’ once again became a flashpoint for communal violence as a mob of farmers attacked a group of Fulani herdsmen, killing 14 people. The violence broke out between the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and primarily Christian farmers over disagreements on the use of land for either farming or pastoral purposes.

The same faction of Boko Haram which released 21 of the roughly 200 girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok in 2014 last week has announced they are willing to negotiate over the release of an additional 83 of the girls. Rifts in the movement have recently come to the forefront as the group has apparently divided over adherence to orders from ISIL. Over the past week, the group has come under renewed pressure from a Nigerian government offensive on one of its last strongholds in the Sambisa forest.


South Sudan:

Rebels loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar attacked government troops during the weekend, resulting in the deaths of at least 60 fighters, according to a spokesman for the SPLA. The clash took place near the city of Malakal, which is the town closest to the oil field in the region and brings in a lot of revenue for the government. After the attacks, the government decided to deploy extra troops by the oil field. A spokesperson for the rebel group denied the accusations, saying they only target government troops.

Riek Machar said he is prepared to go back to full-scale war if the peace deal with the government from August can not be revived. In an interview, Machar said his movement is reorganizing itself to launch an armed resistance against President Salva Kiir and his government. On Tuesday, speaking from South Africa, Machar stated his intention to return to South Sudan sometime in the near future, maybe as early as next month, iterating his belief that rebels in the SPLM-IO loyal to him could still come to terms with the South Sudanese government. President Kiir has stated he is open to Mr. Machar’s return to South Sudan under the condition that Machar make a pledge to renounce violence and fully support the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. The spokesman for the president added that Mr. Machar should not return to South Sudan before the 2018 elections.

Officials from the South Sudanese government earlier accused the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) of harbouring rebels in sites designated for the protection of civilians. On Tuesday, the mission released a statement expressing their concerns over how such suspicions discredit the neutrality of their operations. The statement stressed that the mission only follows its given mandate and that strict security measures are in place to make sure people who enter such sites are not carrying weapons of any kind.

Hervé Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, told the UN Security Council (UNSC) this week that the deployment of 4,000 additional peacekeepers to UNMISS is being delayed as much as possible by the South Sudanese government. He called for an arms embargo to be implemented as both sides in the conflict are violating human rights. The Russian representative, whose country holds veto power in the UNSC, replied that Russia will not support an arms embargo on South Sudan.


Sri Lanka:

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Ms. Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, has called on the government of Sri Lanka to put in place “some urgent, important and concrete measures to clearly demonstrate its political will and commitment to better protect the dignity, identity, equality” of minority populations in the country. Ms. Izsak-Ndiaye’s ten-day visit to Sri Lanka follows complaints by Tamil and Muslim minorities of rights violations, and claims that little has changed in the former war zones in the north and east of the country.


Sudan/Darfur:

Amnesty International has launched a new initiative, the Decode Darfur Interactive Platform, which will enable volunteers to review and analyze satellite imagery in areas of Sudan which are suspected to have been subject to chemical weapons attacks. Anyone with an internet connection is now able to conduct comparative analysis of vast areas of the Jebel Marra region. Concrete evidence of the attacks is extremely difficult to come by as the Sudanese government staunchly restricts media and humanitarian access to these areas.

A failed peace attempt last week between the Ma’alia and Rizeigat pastoralist tribes hasstirred fears that violence is imminent in East Darfur. Livestock theft is a major contributing cause to the conflict and has led to several deadly clashes that have occurred in recent years.


Syria:

Political developments
Multilateral peace talks, which included the US, UK, Russia, Turkey, Qatar and Iran, ended in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday without reaching any resolution to the conflict in Syria. Key points of contention, such as the continued bombardment of Aleppo by Russia and the Syrian regime, as well as the lack of civilian access to humanitarian aid, have prevented talks from moving forward. The US and UK have threatened to impose new sanctions on Russia and Syria should indiscriminate attacks on Aleppo continue.

The humanitarian situation
Russia announced plans on Monday for a “humanitarian pause” in its bombing campaign of rebel-held areas of eastern Aleppo for eight hours in order to allow for civilians and rebel opposition to vacate the city, which went into effect on Thursday morning as Syria and Russia announced the opening of two exit corridors in northern Aleppo. The announcement of the pause was welcomed by the United Nations, however no deal has yet been reached to deliver food and water to areas ravaged by fighting. Opposition rebels say they are preparing for an offensive to break the current siege on the city.

The US and UK have rejected Russia’s offer for a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to ravaged areas as well as allow for the safe departure of civilians and rebels from the city. The US State Department described the proposal as “too little, too late”, while the United Nations noted that a longer cessation of hostilities would be necessary to adequately deliver humanitarian aid throughout the city.

Security developments
An attack on a primary health care facility in Hama killed five people, including two children and two women, on Saturday. The facility, which was providing an estimated 900 monthly consultations, is now out of service as a result. More than 90 attacks on health facilities have occurred in Syria this year.

Airstrikes carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes once again targeted the M10 hospital in eastern Aleppo late last week. There were no deaths reported in the “bunker buster” airstrike, however, two doctors and a pharmacist were injured in the attack. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad referred to the aerial campaign over Aleppo as a “cleaning” of the city to use it as a springboard to retake other regions of the country in a recent interview with Russian media.

Fourteen members of one family, including eight children and two women, were killed by Russian air strikes over Aleppo on Monday. The aerial attacks occurred in the al-Marja district of the city.

Twenty members of the Islamic State (ISIL) were killed in Syria by US-led coalition airstrikes between Monday and Tuesday. The targeted attacks destroyed two ISIL-held defensive positions and three vehicles.

Turkish airstrikes killed at least 200 Kurdish militia members in two areas north of Aleppo on Wednesday. The strikes targeted shelters, ammunition dumps, and the headquarters of Syrian Kurdish forces, which were all destroyed in the attack.


Yemen:

Representatives from the UK and the US met on Sunday to discuss the situation in Yemen and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The decision came following the bombing on a funeral ceremony for a rebel commander last weekend where more than 140 people died. Saudi Arabia first denied involvement in the bomb, but admitted that misinformation and abuse of procedure had been the reason for the incident. The British minister for the Middle East stated that the bomb was due to a “deliberate error made by an individual” and he added that disciplinary actions would take place. As the crisis deepens it is “causing increasing international concern” and the international community has called for the two sides to lay down their weapons and join at the negotiation table. Saudi Arabia agreed to a ceasefire as long as the Houthi rebels will accept freedom for the country.

On Monday, the UN announced that a 72-hour ceasefire would go into effect in Yemen starting at 23:59 local time on Wednesday and would be open for possible renewal. The announcement of the ceasefire came in the wake of strong international pressure from the US and the UK. It is hoped that the truce will make it possible for humanitarian actors to deliver aid and for peace talks to be resumed. An official from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that the organization will focus mainly on reaching previously unreachable parts of the town of Taiz to deliver relief to the many people in need.

Heavy fighting erupted hours before the ceasefire began as the Saudi-led coalition launched several airstrikes on heavily populated regions. The bombs killed and wounded a large number of civilians, according to the official media wing of the Yemeni Republican Guard. As of Thursday afternoon, the ceasefire was said to have been holding, although all eyes will be on the parties to see whether they will keep to the truce, since previous attempts have been deemed unsuccessful.


What else is new?

On 8 September, the ICRtoP, the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the Stanley Foundation hosted a panel discussion, entitled “Overcoming Barriers: Civil Society Perspectives on Implementing R2P”. The event was a follow-up to the eighth annual UN General Assembly informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect and focused on how RtoP is implemented on the ground and how actions taken by local stakeholders can actively strengthen and reinforce national and international efforts to uphold RtoP. The conversation also sought to identify and reflect on recommendations for the international community to implement to improve preventive measures and enhance civilian protection. To read the full summary of the event, please click here.

On 14 October, the UN Development Programme released its annual report on its Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Work in the Asia Pacific for the year of 2016. The report highlights and summarizes how the consolidation of Governance and Conflict Prevention initiatives has led to a multitude of diverse regional initiatives.The full report can be read here.

The UN’s Organisation for Migration (IOM) has released a new report detailing the ordeal of migrants arriving in Europe by boat from North Africa. The IOM’s survey found that nearly 70% of all migrants who travel the overland north African route to reach Europe have become victims of human trafficking, organ trafficking, or exploitation. The full report can be read here.

On 15 October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Francois Lounceny Fall as his acting special representative for Central Africa and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). UNOCA has the responsibility of assisting Member States in the region in consolidating peace and preventing future conflicts.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has released a new special human rights report, which has found that the suicide bombing attack on a peaceful demonstration in Kabul deliberately targeted civilians and could amount to a war crime. The attack, which killed 85 people and injured over 400 others, is the single deadliest civilian casualty incident in Afghanistan since 2009, when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties in the country. Furthermore, the report found that the attacks seem to have been targeting “persons belonging to a specific ethnic and religious community.” To read the full UNAMA report, please click here.

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#R2PWeekly: 10 – 14 October 2016

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Yemen
: Over 140 Killed in Airstrikes on Funeral Ceremony

picture1On 8 October, airstrikes hit a funeral ceremony for a Houthi rebel commander in Sana’a, the Houthi-controlled capital city of Yemen. According to UN officials, the strikes killed over 140 people and injured over 525 others. The rebels have blamed the attack on the Saudi-led coalition, which initially denied its involvement in any operations in the area at the time, but has since announced an investigation into the “regrettable and painful” attack.

Following the incident, thousands of demonstrators protested the strikes in Sana’a on Sunday. The UN and other international organizations condemned the attack and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a”prompt and impartial investigation‚ of this incident” to ensure the perpetrators are held accountable. A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “We deplore this outrageous loss of civilian life.” Human Rights Watch called the attack “an apparent warcrime.” The European Union and the United States have also denounced the attack, with the US adding that its security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a “blank check.”

According to the latest data from the UN, between the beginning of the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in support of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government in March 2015 through 30 September 2016, the conflict has killed over 6,600 people, including 4,014 civilians, and has displaced over three million people. A further 7,000 civilians have been injured.

Source for above photo of the destroyed community hall where the funeral was heldKhaled Abdullah/Reuters via Human Rights Watch


Catch up on developments in

Burma/Myanmar

Burundi

CAR

DRC

Gaza/West Bank

Iraq

Kenya

Libya

Mali

Nigeria

South Sudan

Sudan/Darfur

Syria

Yemen

Other


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday, an estimated 24 people died in attacks on outposts near the Burmese border with Bangladesh. Security forces have poured into the villages surrounding the area where the attacks took place, imposing a curfew and conducting raids, while firing on those fleeing. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that such actions could lead to further destabilization of the area. The UN envoy for Myanmar has also expressed deep concern for the attacks and urged both security forces and civilians to show restraint and exercise caution to avoid continued violence.


Burundi:

Late last week, a Burundian official said that the country will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The announcement of the withdrawal came a few months after the ICC decided to investigate the violence in the country sparked by the re-election of the president. A spokesman from the ICC said the court has not yet received any official information on Burundi’s withdrawal. However, on Wednesday, lawmakers in Burundi largely voted to support the withdrawal. Out of 110 lawmakers, 94 voted in favor of the plan. If the country moves forward with the plan, Burundi would be the first country to ever withdraw from the court.

On Monday, the Burundian government banned three UN investigators linked to last month’s report on human rights violations in the country. A UN spokesperson stressed the importance of countries cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanism. France condemned the decision and said it harmed the credibility of Burundi’s promise to respect human rights. The government also held a meeting to review the activities of UN staff in Burundi, resulting in the suspension of local activities of the UN human rights office there.

Unidentified gunmen killed three people in a bar on Monday, according to an official. One of the victims was a ruling party official and another was a school principal.

On Wednesday, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) released a factsheet on the crisis in Burundi. Amongst other things, the document shows that over 295,000 Burundian refugees are currently residing in neighboring countries.


Central African Republic:

Aid agencies have reported that fighting between armed groups has blocked aid deliveries to about 120,000 people in CAR who are in need of food. The UN humanitarian coordinator, Fabrizio Hochschild, said that the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, has managed to halt the fighting, but attacks on aid workers still occur. More than 16 attacks on humanitarian actors were reported in September.

On Monday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic and introduced the Secretary-General’s report on developments in the country. He pledged the full support of the Mission to the government and its endeavors for reform and improvement in the country. He also stressed the need for backing from the international community as the situation in the country is still fragile.

On Wednesday, militia fighters from the Seleka rebel group attacked a village hosting refugees displaced from previous violence. The fighters killed 13 civilians and injured several more before UN peacekeepers were able to repel them.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between government forces and rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 10 people, including 8 civilians, on Monday in the town of Beni. The rebel group has long sought to take control of swaths of territory and natural resources in North Kivu province and other regions of the northeast.

UN Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, indicated on Tuesday that large scale violence in the DRC is imminent amidst increasing political tensions and civil unrest. Sidikou’s concerns stem largely from an electoral process that has been delayed until December 2018 as government officials point to the need for increased voter registration in order to hold an inclusive election.


Gaza/West Bank:

A drive-by shooting at a Jerusalem train station killed at least three people were and injured six others on Sunday. The gunmen indiscriminately fired at a group of civilians before being killed by police in a shootout.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday sealed Palestinian access to Israel from both Gaza and the West Bank for a period of 48 hours ahead of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. An additional 3,000 police officers have been deployed in Jerusalem.


Iraq:

Political developments

A dispute between Iraq and Turkey developed this week over the presence of approximately 1,500 Turkish soldiers in northern Mosul ahead of a pending offensive to retake the strategic city from ISIL later this year.  Tensions arose as Turkish officials stated their intention to keep their troops in Iraqi territory until after a successful Mosul offensive occurs.

Security developments

Three different bombings across the capital city of Baghdad killed at least 10 people on Sunday. ISIL claimed responsibility for the largest bombing, which killed five and wounded 22 Shia pilgrims celebrating the holy month of Muharram. Two separate attacks in southern Baghdad killed five people and wounded 15 others.

Reports have emerged showing that a drone booby-trapped by ISIL exploded in northern Mosul, killing two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and badly wounding two members of the French special forces earlier this month in northern Mosul. A spokesman for the Kurdish defense forces noted that ISIL has attempted to conduct drone attacks on at least two prior occasions.


Kenya:

On Monday, Kenyan opposition officials continued to reiterate claims that the Interior ministry, the National Registration Bureau, and Huduma Centres have been secretly registering voters in areas dominated by the Jubilee coalition government in order to give the ruling coalition an advantage in the coming general election. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has denied these claims.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Thursday calling on Kenya not to close the Dadaab refugee camp, which is the world’s largest refugee camp, housing over 350,000 people. MSF stressed that Somalia, where the majority of the refugees in the camp are from, is not yet safe to return to. The Kenyan government has remained decisive and claims the country will close the camp as it is believed to pose a security threat to the people of Kenya.


Libya:

On Tuesday, a military official reported that Libyan forces are advancing into the last area in Sirte that is still controlled by ISIL. The fighting for the town has been ongoing for months between the UN-backed government and ISIL, but is now reaching the final stages. The military campaign is backed by US airstrikes, which intensified in Sirte this week in an effort to push back ISIL.


Mali:

On Saturday, a senior member of the Tuareg militant group Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) died after his car exploded in the northern city of Kidal. The CMA entered into a power-sharing agreement with the pro-government Gatia militia in February, however, regardless of the agreement, sporadic violence between the groups has continued.

On Monday, an attempted suicide-attack took place in the city of Timbuktu. The assailant attempted to ambush a patrol of Swedish peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), but only managed to kill himself. The attacker was the only casualty.

Niger has announced that it will host a base for 650 German troops. The German soldiers will be part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in neighboring Mali, where they will help in securing northern Mali from further militant attacks.


Nigeria:

A car bomb killed eight and wounded 15 others in Maiduguri this week when the car collided with a taxi in a convoy on its way to Gamboru. Travellers within the state of Borno often travel between cities in military-organized convoys for increased protection from Boko Haram ambushes.

Police opened fire on a Shia Muslim Ashura procession in the town of Funtua, killing at least nine people after clashes broke out when police tried to block the procession.

On Thursday, Boko Haram released  21 of the missing Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped two years ago. The militants handed the girls over to Nigerian authorities after successful negotiations led by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. The terms of the deal are still unknown.


South Sudan:

Rumors of President Salva Kiir’s death started floating around social media on Tuesday. Tensions arose as the reports of Kiir’s death spread and the UN warned of increasing violence. Hours after the rumors surfaced, a presidential spokesperson dismissed the news as “wishful thinking” and assured the president is alive and in good health. The statement did not quell the unrest in the country and therefore the president took to the streets in show of strength.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for rebel leader Riek Machar reported that the former Vice President would travel to South Africa after having fled South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the pledge made by President Kiir last month to allow another 4,000 peacekeepers to join the previous 12,000 in the country has not yet been put into action.

The South Sudanese government has been criticized for restricting accessibility for aid deliveries. On Monday, the World Food Program said that the latest obstacle facing humanitarian actors is the recent suspension of airdrops of food aid as the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to worsen.

Over the weekend, armed groups killed 127 civilians on a road as they were fleeing violence in the town of Yei. The government has claimed that the raid was “ethnically based” as all of those targeted belonged to the Dinka community. The attacked convoy carried more than 200 people who were trying to find refuge from the fighting.

On Monday, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a statement calling for the fighting to end immediately as reports of violent crimes committed against civilians in the country, including women and children, are “deeply disturbing”. UNMISS released yet another statement on Wednesday, where they again expressed their extreme concern for the increased reports of armed conflicts and clashes in certain regions of the country. The mission condemned the violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. UNMISS is currently still restricted from accessing certain areas where fighting has erupted and is working to get those restrictions lifted.

Amnesty International and FIDH said in a joint briefing on Wednesday that South Sudan must allow justice to the victims of crimes in the midst of the fighting. The organizations are calling for the proposed Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) to be established to ensure accountability for human rights violations and other crimes committed during the conflict in the country. The court would be a combination of both domestic and international law and would include both South Sudanese and international personnel.


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has announced the extension of a ceasefire in the Darfur conflict through the end of 2016, as well as his intent to create a national constitution. Opposing factions such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the various organs of the Sudanese Liberation Movement have denounced the ceasefire and constitution as unilateral, exclusionary political rhetoric serving only parties that are members of or aligned with President Al-Bashir.

The Director of the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has appealed to the Sudanese government to allow UN peacekeepers more access to remote regions of the country, where its populations are affected by armed conflict. Currently, UN patrols must notify the government ahead of any movements are made so that “necessary security measures” can be put in place.

Humanitarian developments

A report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre indicated that between 5,500 and 12,500 people fleeing violence in the Western Jebel Marra region of Sudan, predominantly women and children, have arrived in refugee camps in Nertiti between 1 September and 10 October. Intermittent clashes between government forces and the Sudanese Liberation Movement-Abdul Wahid (SLM-AW) are cited as the root cause of the migration.


Syria:

Political developments

The Russian parliament voted last Friday to ratify a treaty with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to authorize the indefinite presence of Russian troops within Syria. Russia has a strong military presence in the Middle East nation with bases in Latakia and Tartus supporting both air and naval operations.

French President Francoise Hollande has stated that Russia could face war crimes for its continuous aerial assault of Aleppo and other Syrian cities. The statement comes after Russia vetoed a resolution co-authored by France and Spain calling for an immediate cessation of airstrikes in Aleppo. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since cancelled his planned visit to Paris.

The Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, echoing sentiments from his European counterparts, stated on Wednesday that Russia should be investigated for war crimes in Syria. Johnson went on to call for anti-war demonstrations outside Russia’s embassy in London.

A fresh round of multilateral peace talks regarding the crisis in Syria are set to begin on Saturday. The discussions will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland and will be attended by representatives from the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely Qatar. The presence of the latter three countries indicates that the talks may focus on the need for non-extremist opposition militants to cease collaboration with terrorist groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formally known as the al-Nusra Front.

The humanitarian situation

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released a report on Tuesday indicating that only 11 ambulances are in operational condition in Aleppo for a population of 250,000. The report also notes that bombing has destroyed five ambulances, while an additional 8 emergency rescue vehicles are out of order due to maintenance and parts that cannot be obtained as a result of the ongoing crisis.

Security developments

A new wave of Russian airstrikes killed 25 civilians, including 4 children, and caused significant damage to residential areas in Aleppo on Tuesday. Rebel fire on a primary school in the southern city of Daraa also killed six civilians on Tuesday, five of which were school children.

Airstrikes conducted by Russian and Syrian warplanes continued in eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Over 20 air strikes killed at least 13 civilians in the region, bringing the death toll for the week thus far to approximately 145. Rebel gunfire on regime-held positions killed at least 8 civilians this week while a rocket accidentally hit a school and subsequently killed several children.


Yemen:

On Friday, the UN envoy to Yemen said he expected a 72-hour truce to be announced in the coming days. The government announced their consent to implement the truce, with the condition that Houthi militias provide access for humanitarian aid to the city of Taiz. No truce has yet been implemented.

Cross-border shelling by Houthi rebels killed one person and wounded a mother and her child on Friday according to the Saudi Arabian officials.

A Pentagon spokesperson said two missiles, fired from Houthi-controlled areas, targeted a US warship off the coast of Yemen on Sunday and again on Wednesday. In both instances, the missiles missed their target and hit the surrounding water. On Thursday, the US carried out its first direct military action on the Houthi rebels, launching strikes aimed at radar that had been used in the Houthi attacks on the US ship.


What else is new?

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security published an open letter to Permanent Representatives to the UN on Thursday regarding the upcoming Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The letter, which is signed by 254 organizations, including the ICRtoP, from across 55 different countries, urges representatives to provide details on the progress that their countries have made in regards to previous commitments to WPS and it also provides recommendations for future steps countries might take in certain areas, such as “women’s participation in preventing and resolving conflict and post conflict rebuilding” and “addressing humanitarian crises through a gender lens”.

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