Tag Archives: Central African Republic

#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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#R2PWeekly: 03 – 07 October 2016

UntitledUN Human Rights Council adopts resolution condemning human rights violations and setting up Commission of Inquiry in Burundi 

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The UN Independent Investigation in Burundi (UNIIB), established by a December 2015 Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution, released its final report on the situation in the country on 20 September. The UNIIB report detailed “abundant evidence of gross human rights violations” committed by the Burundian government and individuals associated with it, including seemingly deliberate actions which could amount to crimes against humanity and which are within the government’s power to halt. Due to this evidence and Burundi’s history of inter-ethnic violence and impunity for human rights violations, the report warned that “the danger of the crime of genocide also looms large.” The UNIIB experts urged the government, the United Nations, the African Union, as well as other international actors to take a series of steps to preserve the peace in the country achieved through the 2005 Constitution and Arusha Accord. Such steps include setting up an international Commission of Inquiry (CoI); the involvement of independent, international judicial mechanisms; reconsidering Burundi’s HRC membership; and, in the event that human rights violations continue to be committed and the Burundian government remains steadfast in its refusal of the deployment of a UN police force authorized by a July 2016 UN Security Council resolution, the possible invocation of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

Burundi’s Minister for External Affairs rejected the UNIIB report and its findings in a statement to the UN General Assembly last week, referring to the report and its findings as “purposefully and politically exaggerated reports on alleged human rights violations.” He also noted, that “it is imperative that any human rights assessment of the country be executed with caution,” as, he claimed, falsified information had been used to show Burundi “in a bad light.” He added that Burundi will produce a forthcoming survey on human rights issues in the country in response to the UNIIB report.

Similarly, Burundi, which is a member of the HRC and spoke as the concerned country during the Council’s interactive dialogue last week, also rejected the report as “based on contained falsehoods, lies, and manipulations,” and called all Members of the Council to vote against a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the country. However, on 30 September, the UN Human Rights Council carried out a vote, which led to the adoption of a resolution, condemning the human rights violations in the country and setting up a one year Commission of Inquiry. The CoI is tasked with investigating the violations in Burundi since April 2015 and identifying the alleged perpetrators of such abuses in order to ensure accountability for those responsible. After the adoption, Burundi argued that the resolution did not provide any assistance to Burundi or its people, claiming that it “contained many lies and unchecked claims.”

On the other hand, international human rights organizations, such as FIDH, lauded the Human Rights Council’s resolution as “responsible action to try and prevent the worst as the country is sliding further towards violence and the risk of genocide is real.” Anschaire Nikoyagize, President of Ligue ITEKA, called the Council’s resolution, “the strongest it could formulate within its mandate” and a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa division hailed the establishment of the CoI as “an important step toward ending impunity for the grave crimes committed in the country.” Echoing such remarks, lawyers from the officially mandated group acting on behalf of 60 families of victims of alleged extrajudicial executionspraised the resolution and the establishment of the CoI as an important step for justice.

Source for above photo of UN Human Rights Council: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

On Monday over 10,000 civilians protested the intensified violence between the Kachin Independence Army and the national military, with demonstrators calling for an end to the crisis and condemning acts such as the rape of women during conflict.

Over 2,000 people were displaced in central Shan State following clashes between the Burmese Army and the Shan-State Army South, one of the eight ethnic armed groups that signed a ceasefire with the government a year ago. It was reported that a drug rehabilitation center was attacked by the Burmese Army, as was a hill where SSA-S troops were deployed, resulting in fighting between the sides.

On Tuesday the President signed legislation overturning a decades old law, the Emergency Provisions Act, that had been previously used to suppress political dissidents. This has been viewed as an additional step taken by the government to support the transition to democracy.


Burundi:

On Thursday last week, police arrested one of the few opposition party leaders left in Burundi and accused him of collaborating with armed gangs. A spokesman for the opposition coalition said on Tuesday that police released the leader after only a few days incarcerated.

On Monday, the UN promised the East African Community that they would help and assist the organization in its work to pursue peace within Burundi as the political unrest continues.


Central African Republic: 

On Friday, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR expressed concern and reported that the humanitarian situation is worsening in Kaga Bandoro as a result of a deterioration in security. Attacks are resulting in humanitarian actors fleeing the country, leaving thousands of civilians in need of aid.

According to the government, an armed gang murdered the nation’s top army commander on Tuesday as he was going to drop off his son at school. The rebels also shot the 14-year-old son who is being treated at a hospital.The UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, condemned the attack and promised to assist with investigations. On Thursday, it was reported that armed groups killed eleven civilians, and injured 14, in clashes following the murder of the official.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On Monday, a new draft version of the Constitution showed a change to an article of the document which has been a long-standing issue and one that was central to past crises in the country, including the 2010 post-election violence. The Constitution currently states that both parents of the president must be “Ivoirian by origin,” a measure that was taken to exclude the candidacy of current president Alasane Ouattara from past elections. In the new constitution draft this article now states that only one parent must be Ivoirian by origin, among other changes, and there will be a public referendum on the document on 30 October.


Democratic Republic of Congo: 

Political and security developments

The United States has imposed sanctions on two security force officers associated with deadly clashes with civilian protesters throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gabriel Amisi, army commander of the western region of the country, and John Numbi, former national police inspector have been identified as individuals who have participated in the disruption and suppression of democratic processes in the DRC. Amisi and Numbi have been added to US Department of Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) which blocks their assets and prohibits US persons from dealing with them.

The head of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s electoral commission has stated that the presidential election is likely to be delayed by two years until December 2018. The statement noted that the required voter registry would not be complete until July 31, 2017 and that the government would require an additional 504 days to organize the vote. The statement follows deadly clashes last month between DRC security forces and civilians who fear that President Joseph Kabila is delaying the election in a bid to consolidate power for an unconstitutional third term presidency. It is believed that over 50 protesters were killed in the clashes in September. Kabila has denied that he is clinging to power and states that the delays are to ensure that about 10 million more people are able to vote in the election.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo issued a demand to MONUSCO on Tuesday for the removal of 750 South Sudanese soldiers who have taken refuge in UN camps within east DRC near the city of Goma. Citizens of Goma fear a repeat of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in which refugees taken in by the DRC later became extremist rebels who committed mass murder against them. While the South Sudanese soldiers have been disarmed and there have been no reported incidents, DRC civilians fear that the government of South Sudan will exercise a “right of pursuit” of their soldiers, thus exposing DRC to a new wave of conflict.


Gaza/West Bank: 

Political developments

The Palestinian High Court has ruled in favor of the exclusion of Hamas-run Gaza from participating in upcoming municipal elections. The decision has effectively ruled out the first political showdown between Hamas and Fatah, the governing party of the West Bank, since 2007.

Palestine’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyad Mansour, called on Tuesday at a meeting of the Palestine Rights Committee for the UN Security Council to continue its consideration of a draft resolution to end the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the cessation of the comprehensive blockade on the Gaza Strip. Mansour pointed to an upcoming Arria Formula meeting as well as open debate with Member States as steps in the right direction toward the revival of a two-state solution but stopped short of referring to these actions as sufficient.

The United States has openly criticized Israel’s planned construction of a new wave of settlements in the West Bank. The announcement to establish new settlements in the Palestinian territories elicited harsh rhetoric from an Obama administration that has in recent weeks shown tremendous support for Israel via a $38 billion USD weapons deal and a strong US presence at the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres. The US fears that continued construction of settlements will further erode the path to a peaceful two-state solution with Palestine.

Security developments

An Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas targets located in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following a rocket attack sent from the Palestinian enclave into the Israeli border town of Sderot. The airstrike targeted Hamas and a security complex and resulted in non-life threatening injuries to one passerby. The shelling continues Israel’s policy of military response to any attack perpetrated by Hamas in Gaza.

 Another rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday, leading Israel to continue its course of heavy-handed response by firing tank shells into southern areas of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.


Iraq: 

Political developments

The Kurdish High Representative in the United Kingdom has formally requested the assistance of the UK Defense Secretary against a potential large chemical attack by ISIL. The request specifically calls for equipment such as gas masks to protect peshmerga forces from mortars containing chlorine and mustard agents, which they say ISIL has used on about 20 different occasions. The peshmerga forces currently have 400 gas masks to protect the approximately 30,000 soldiers participating in the upcoming offensive to retake Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq has issued a warning to Turkey to remove over 2,000 troops from Iraqi soil or risk the waging of a regional war between the two nations. Turkey sent troops into regions of northern Iraq last year to combat ISIL and Kurdish forces without the consent of the Iraqi government. The Turkish parliament has since voted to extend their military presence in Iraq, while the Iraqi government has since passed a resolution which recognizes the Turkish troops as “occupation forces”.

The humanitarian situation

A flash update released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Saturday regarding the ongoing crisis in Mosul has revealed that over 15,000 IDPs have left the Debaga refugee camp since the beginning of September. Many have returned to their villages in Haji Ali and Al-Qayarrah, while others have relocated to Laylan refugee camp to be closer to their villages in Hawiga in anticipation of improving living conditions. However, the report also notes that construction of shelter for 36,000 IDPs in Ninewah and Salah al-Din governorates is currently underway ahead of an anticipated new wave of displacement resulting from the imminent offensive by Iraqi military forces to retake Mosul from ISIL.

Security developments

At least 14 civilians were killed and several were injured in three separate suicide bombings perpetrated by ISIL on Monday. The bombings took place near markets and religious processions in various neighborhoods of Baghdad.

An airstrike mistakenly killed at least 20 pro-government Sunni tribal fighters in Qayarrah on Wednesday. It is not clear at this time if the strike was carried out by Iraqi or US-led coalition aircraft.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch appealed for the Iraqi government to bar any armed forces who have perpetrated war crimes from participating in the upcoming offensive to retake the strategic city of Mosul from ISIL. The statement specifically highlighted incidents in 2014 in which the Popular Mobilization Forces, an allied militant group working with the Iraqi government forces, executed prisoners of war, mutilated corpses, and forcibly displaced civilians during the operation to retake Fallujah.


Kenya:

Following months of protests, all members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)resigned on Wednesday. Protests by opposition accused the IEBC of being unable to be unbiased in its electoral preparations.

Al-Shabab launched an attack targeting Christians in the north-east of the country, leaving six people dead. The attack was conducted to force Christians out of the predominantly Muslim region.


Libya:  

Amnesty International reported on Friday about enhanced fighting and increased airstrikes in Benghazi during the last week. The organization gathered testimony from 130 families and hundreds of foreign nationals trapped in the district of Ganfouda. These civilians are struggling to survive as roads are blocked by fighting, leaving families at risk of starvation and resulting in decreased access to medicines, which are soon to expire. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, several bombs launched from ISIL-held areas into Benghazi’s city center killed three civilians and wounded more than a dozen, according to Libyan officials. Martin Kobler, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission, UNSMIL, said in a news release on Thursday that the protection of civilians is the priority and called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow access for aid deliveries and safe passage for those civilians who wish to leave the area.

According to a military official, the UN-backed Unity government recovered territory in Sirte, previously a ISIL stronghold, after fighting on Monday. The operation to take back the city was launched in May this year.


Mali:

On Saturday, thousands of civilians took to the street to protest an electoral law passed by Parliament in September. The law more than doubles the amount of money that candidates are required to pay to to run for president. Some protesters held up banners showing support for exiled former President Toure, who has been living in Senegal after his removal from power by a military coup.

An attack in the northeast of the country on Monday killed two peacekeepers and wounded eight others. No one has claimed responsibility yet for the attack. The UN Secretary-General denounced the violence, and called for action to hold perpetrators to account once possible.Two days later, three soldiers were killed in Timbuktu after hitting a landmine.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian Army reiterated its claim that it has defeated Boko Haram in the country and that violence that continues are “minor skirmishes” by the group.


South Sudan:

UNHCR reported on Friday that ongoing military operations have trapped about 100,000 civilians in Yei, a previously peaceful town in South Sudan. During September people fled from surrounding villages to the area, avoiding raids, deadly attacks and looting, but now have no means to leave as acts of violence are increasing around them and humanitarian needs are overlooked. The South Sudanese government denied reports on fighting around the area but a commander for the SPLA-IO said on Tuesday that clashes with the government forces took place around several towns, for example Yei. He also urged people to get out of the area as the rebels wish to avoid hurting civilians.

Over the weekend officials said that unknown assailants killed 12 civilians of the Dinka Bor tribe and wounded eight more. Survivors and police said the attack took place outside of Juba, less than 200 meters from the closest army. No suspects have been arrested, but witnesses said the attackers spoke in the Nuer dialect.

According to South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, people are dying in refugee camps as increased cases of acute diarrhea and malaria are reported. Children are dying from poor health services and bad conditions.

After weeks of negotiations, authorities in South Sudan on Sunday accepted the resolution of the UN Security Council on the deployment of additional 4,000 peacekeepers in the country.

The White House national security adviser met with South Sudan’s Vice President on Tuesday where the US stressed the urgency of internationally supported investigations into the July attack on aid workers in the country. It was also made clear that the perpetrators of the attack must be identified and held accountable. The US also accused the South Sudanese government of obstructing the work of the UN mission. South Sudanese officials described the meeting as a success.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Center for Civilians in Conflict released a new report on the failures of the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, raising concerns that peacekeepers have been unable to learn from past mistakes. The report shows how UN peacekeepers abandoned their posts and used tear gas on civilians during the July fighting. The information is based on several interviews with both South Sudanese civilians and UN mission officials.


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

The Sudanese government denied on Thursday allegations of their use of chemical weapons against civilians, including women and children, in the remote region of Jebel Marra in Darfur. Sudanese army spokesman Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami has stated that the claims outlined in an Amnesty International investigative report are false. Several opposition groups, including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have called for the international community to prosecute criminals utilizing illegal chemical weapons.

Informal negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) concluded without accord on Sunday. The two warring factions previously drafted a cessation of hostilities agreement to end fighting in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan  but continue to disagree on humanitarian access routes. The Sudanese government has rejected the SPLM-N demand for 20% of humanitarian aid to be delivered through the Ethiopian border town of Assossa.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, appealed to the Sudanese government on Tuesday to cooperate with future investigations regarding the possession of chemical weapons. Ladsous noted both that the UN has found no evidence that Sudan has utilized chemical weapons against opposition in Jebel Marra region of Darfur and that UNAMID is unable to investigate the situation due to lack of access to areas where hostilities are occurring.

Security developments

Two people have been killed by four unidentified gunmen in South Darfur. The shooting took place outside of the administrative headquarters of the al-Malam locality.

The humanitarian situation

A United States delegation visited Darfur on Monday and Tuesday to assess the humanitarian situation in the region. The delegation met with various parties including UN members, IDPs, and civil society leaders to assess how American aid benefits those in the throes of the crisis. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Darfur in the world.


Syria: 

Political and security developments

The United States has suspended talks with Russia regarding the crisis in Syria. The US has cited Russian collaboration with Syrian government forces in brutal aerial assaults that have killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in recent days as the reason for ending communication with the Kremlin. Russia has responded by withdrawing from a disarmament agreement which required both the US and Russia to dispose of approximately 34 tons of plutonium, a material used to create nuclear weapons.

France and Spain have drafted a UN Security Council agreement for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Aleppo. The resolution specifically calls for suspension of all flights around the city and an end to all fighting on the ground. The initiative for UN-sponsored truce monitoring proposed in the resolution was met with ridicule from Russian representatives as they implied it was unlikely to create peace in the area as the current mechanism in Geneva has failed to achieve the same goal.

The humanitarian situation

At least seven civilians were killed in airstrikes on the M10 hospital in rebel-held territory of eastern Aleppo on Monday. The hospital has been targeted three times in the past six days and is now completely out of service. Several bunker buster bombs have also forced an underground hospital in the city of Homs to suspend medical services to civilians.

At least 34 people, including 11 children, were killed in a suicide bombing perpetrated by the Islamic State in the city of Hasakah on Monday. The attack took place at a wedding where ISIL was targeting members of a Kurdish political party.

Oxfam has issued a press release stating that an estimated 1.5 million civilians have been without running water in Aleppo since last Friday. Continuous waves of offensive Russian-Syrian military action have ravaged key water and electricity infrastructure. Civilians are now forced to rely on bottled water from undependable aid convoys and local wells which may be contaminated. A representative from Oxfam stated that targeting water supply in any capacity amounts to a war crime.

The UN Special Envoy in Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called upon Russian and Syrian government forces on Thursday to avoid the complete and total destruction of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Mistura issued a public warning that the city could be completely devastated by year’s end should the current wave of violence persist. At least 376 people have been killed and 1,266 wounded in the last two weeks in Aleppo.


Yemen:

Since the collapse of peace talks last month, civilian casualties are increasing, with the UN reporting that more than 4,000 civilians have been killed since March 2015. Both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels are blamed for the rapid increase in civilian deaths, but blame also falls on the US government. Human rights groups are increasing the pressure on US to stop their military support for Saudi Arabia.

The civil war in Yemen continues with daily airstrikes and a sea blockade aimed at hurting the Houthi rebels. On Friday, a shell fired from Yemen killed a Saudi Arabian border guard and wounded three civilians, according to the authorities. On Monday, two bombs fired by rebels killed six civilians, three of them children, and injured eight as they hit a market in Taiz, according to military and medical sources.

The UN warned that the blockade is stopping shipments of aid into Yemen, causing starvation in the country. On Tuesday, it was reported that the government decision from last month to reorganize the central bank may lead to food shortages getting even worse as traders said it makes it harder to bring in supplies. The UN hascalled for humanitarian workers to be given free access as more than half of the 28 million Yemeni population do not have enough food and the population is on the brink of famine.

Airstrikes from Houthi rebels hit an Emirati aid ship on Saturday that contained medical aid and other supplies for civilians in Yemen. A spokesman for the rebels called the aid ship a “legitimate target” since they view anything belonging to the Saudis and Emiratis as belonging to the enemy. A statement from the foreign ministry of the United Arab Emirates called the incident an “act of terrorism”.

On Sunday, the Shiite rebel alliance, who are controlling Yemen’s capital, appointed the former governor of Aden as their new Prime Minister as the first step to form a “national salvation” government. On Tuesday, the rebels also voiced new demands for the continuation of peace talks with the government, including the resignation of the president and that an agreement on the presidency must be reached between the two parties. The UN rejected the rebels effort to set up a rival government and assured continued support of the internationally recognized administration of President Hadi.


What else is new?

On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously nominated Mr. Antonio Guterres of Portugal to serve as the international organization’s next Secretary-General. The General Assembly will likely meet next week to approve of his appointment to the position. Mr. Guterres was formerly the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the Prime Minister of Portugal. The UNSC’s decision follows unprecedented efforts to make the selection process more transparent, and increased advocacy to diversify leadership through the appointment of a qualified female candidate as the UN has yet to be led by a woman.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hosted a meeting in Geneva that brought together African delegations and representatives from the African Union to discuss and agree upon final steps to address the Rwandan refugee situation that was the result of civilians fleeing ethnically charged violence in the country from 1959 to 1998. The meeting follows seven years of negotiations on the issue.

The African Task Force on the prevention of mass atrocities, an initiative of ICRtoP member the Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities will present their report “African Regional Communities and the Preventions of Mass Atrocities” in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, October 11.

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#R2PWeekly: 26 – 30 September 2016

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


 Burundi:

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

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


 Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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

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

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

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

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


Mali:

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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

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


 What else is new?

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 19 – 23 September 2016

Untitled

UN Resumes Aid Delivery in Syria After Attack 

af0e1c83-b600-4b99-9ec4-07fe9e2039daThe United Nations decided to suspend all aid convoys in Syria this week following an alleged airstrike on Monday, which destroyed 18 aid trucks and killed around 20 civilians, including a humanitarian aid worker from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.  All parties involved in the conflict, including Russia and the United States, were informed about the presence of the envoy carrying relief supplies for 78,000 civilians to rebel-held territories in the northern Aleppo. The intensification of hostilities led to the suspension of envoys planned for four other surrounding cities.

Shortly after the attack on the aid convoy, United States officials claimed that Russian aircraft had dropped the bombs which hit the convoy, however, both Russia and Syria have denied these claims and any involvement in the incident. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack in his address to the UN General Assembly, calling it “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate.” UN officials have also said that it is potentially a war crime.

The fragile ceasefire that was initiated, in part, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid, has been widely tested as, first, on Saturday, a US-led coalition airstrike on a Syrian military base killed at least 60 Syrian troops in what the US military is calling an errant targeting of an Islamic State (ISIL) position. Then, on Monday, a Syrian army spokesperson stated that the week-long ceasefire had officially ended. The Syrian army has laid the blame for continual violations on the rebels and the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement stating that there is no reason for the Syrian government to continue to commit to the truce. Aleppo-based rebel groups have also declared the ceasefire a failure, citing a lack of commitment from the Syrian government as aid intended for Aleppo was forced to sit across the Turkish border for days as the Syrian government refused to give it entry, before the attack on the aid convoy.  US Secretary of State John Kerry responded to such statements, saying that the authority to declare the ceasefire over rests with the US & Russia, with officials from both countries working to extend it on the ground. Secretary Kerry also called for all war planes in Syria to be grounded in attempts to salvage the ceasefire, but the largest wave of airstrikes in weeks ravaged rebel-held areas of Aleppo late Wednesday and into early Thursday morning,killing at least seven people, including three children. The attacks are believed to have been perpetrated by either Russia or the Syrian government.

However, on Thursday, the UN resumed deliveries of humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, despite the continuing surge of hostilities and apparent dissolution of the ceasefire agreement.

Source for above photo: BBC News

 


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Late last week, a judge sentenced five Burmese soldiers to five years of hard labor for the murders of five civilians in June from one of Burma’s minority ethnic groups.

On Sunday, the Framework for Political Dialogue (FPD) came under review at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon. The meeting examined which ethnic and regional perspectives are to be discussed at the start of the national-level political dialogue, which is expected to now begin in January.

On Monday, eight people died in clashes in southeastern Burma that have left thousands displaced over the past month.The fighting took place between the Burmese army and a rebel-splinter group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) in Karen state, where the dominant rebel group, the KNU, has signed a ceasefire with the government. Despite the continued fighting, Burmese army officers have pressured Karen internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes. Over 3,800 people have been displaced due to the fighting between the Burmese army and the DKBA since 9 September.

The latest reports from the Refugee Processing Center, run by the US State Department,show that from 1 October 2015 to 15 September 2016, 11,902 Burmese nationals, including many Rohingya, have resettled in the United States, outpacing even Syrian refugee arrivals in the US.

On Wednesday, Burma’s State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, addressed the United Nations General Assembly as the first civilian leader to represent the country at the world body’s annual debate in over 50 years. She noted that the “dreams and aspirations” of the people of Burma in shaping their future with the overwhelming majority won by her National League for Democracy party in last year’s elections, “echo those that had led to the founding of the United Nations.” In discussing the interethnic issues in the country, particularly of the Rohingya population in Rakhine state, she said, “We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state. Our Government is taking a holistic approach that makes development central to both short and long term programmes aimed at promoting understanding and trust.”


Burundi:

Independent UN investigators said on Tuesday that they have a list of suspects believed to have been involved with atrocities in Burundi. The investigators do not know the full extent of these crimes, but they have evidence of rapes, murders, disappearances, mass arrests, and torture of government opponents. Reportedly, there are likely thousands of victims. The investigators have called on international organizations to try and stop these atrocities before mass violence brings conflict to the entire region. Officials in Burundi have denied the allegations and described the report as biased.


Central African Republic:

Violence pitting the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels against rival Christian anti-Balaka militia members ignited on Friday. A spokesman for the presidency originally said on Saturday that the fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition killed 26 villagers. However, on Monday the spokesman cut that figure to six, matching the UN’s toll. The killings took place in the village of Ndomete, not far from Kaga-Bandoro.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released an infographic detailing humanitarian access in CAR as of August 2016. It further details how humanitarian access in parts of CAR is frequently hampered by looting, fighting and, most often, attacks against aid workers and the population.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

At least 17 people have been killed in the capital city of Kinshasa following violent clashes between political protesters and police, after months of civil unrest related to the potential extension of President Joseph Kabila’s tenure as President beyond the constitutional limit. A government-led “national dialogue”, which has failed to include many of the country’s main opposition parties, is set to present its final agreement on the issue in the coming days.

The headquarters of three opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo were alsotorched in the capital city. At least two casualties have been confirmed at the office of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPDS). Protests are expected to continue as the government stated Monday that it will be unable to hold elections in November.

On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the government of the DRC for their use of excessive force following the protests. The High Commissioner also expressed shock that men in uniform had participated in some of the attacks on the headquarters of opposition political parties and that President Kabila’s government deployed the Republican Guard, a notoriously heavily armed military unit, against the protesters.

The World Food Programme has released an Emergency Dashboard infographic detailing the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo as of September 2016. The dashboard states that there are approximately 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), over 400,000 refugees, and 5.9 million individuals facing food insecurity throughout the DRC.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers killed a 16 year old Palestinian boy who tried to stab a soldier outside of Bani Na’im, a village in the occupied West Bank near the city of Hebron. This is the seventh death in the area since last Friday, resulting from an uptick of hostilities ahead of next month’s Jewish new year holiday.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian high court in Ramallah ordered the suspension of local elections in both Gaza and the West Bank previously scheduled for 8 October. This is the second time the court has frozen the elections. The first suspension, which took place earlier this month, was the result of a formal petition signed by several Palestinian lawyers and the West Bank prosecution in response to the invalidation of a Fatah list of candidates in the Gaza Strip by Hamas courts.

President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the UN this week for protection against Israeli occupation of its territories in Gaza and the West Bank, stating that direct peace talks can only take place in an international conference such as the one proposed by France for later this year.


Iraq:

On Sunday, two Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers died in a suicide-bombing east of Mosul, as Kurdish forces continue to prepare for an assault on the city.

On Tuesday, Iraqi forces initiated an offensive to liberate the northern town of Sherqat from Islamic State (ISIL). Two days later, on Thursday, Iraqi Brigadier-General Yahya Rasoolannounced that the Iraqi military, backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, gained complete control of the northern town of Shirqat. The city had been under siege since 2014 when ISIL seized about a third of Iraqi territory. The retaking of Shirqat is considered a key prerequisite for the push to retake the main city of Mosul later this year.

ISIL militants reportedly fired a shell containing a mustard agent on Tuesday at an air base in Qayyara, where US and Iraqi troops are operating. No US troops were hurt as a result of the shelling. US troops tested the artillery shell after it landed and received a positive reading for the chemical agent. A second test turned up negative. Further lab testing has commenced.

The Global Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster has released an infographic detailing settlement status of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout Iraq. The infographic shows that there are an estimated total of 3.35 million IDPs currently residing in Iraq.


Kenya:

On Monday, an International Criminal Court (ICC) trial chamber found the government of Kenya to be in noncompliance with its requirement to cooperate with the ICC, with regards to the case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The ICC has referred Kenya’s non-cooperation to the Assembly of States Parties, the court’s membership, for further action. Following thereferral to the ASP, Kenyan Attorney General, Githy Muigai, indicated that Kenya would not accept the court’s verdict.


Libya:

On Sunday, militia members loyal to military leader Khalifa Haftar and Libya’s eastern parliament launched a successful counter-attack on two of Libya’s most crucial oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, after briefly losing them to the Petroleum Facilities Guard, loyal to the UN-backed Tripoli based government the evening before. On Monday, General Haftar went on to call on the UN to cease injecting itself into Libyan affairs, claiming that Tripoli has been overrun by armed gangs.

Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, renewed their offensive on Islamic State (ISIL) in Sirte on Sunday, with the support of US airstrikes and special forces. The forces are attempting to push into the last section of the city still under the extremist group’s control.

On Tuesday, an airstrike near the town Houn in central Libya killed at least nine civilians and wounded 20 others. The identity of the planes that carried out the strike could not be confirmed, but armed groups loyal to factions based in eastern and western Libya are known to operate in the area.


Mali:

Over the weekend, at least 10 people died in clashes between the pro-government Gatia militia and the Tuareg separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) rebel coalition. The fighting took place north of the pro-Tuareg city of Kidal, which has been jointly controlled by the two groups since February. The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has released a statement expressing concern over the country’s fragile peace deal following the fighting over the weekend, saying such clashes, “as well as constituting repeated violations of ceasefire accords, threaten the progress achieved up until now in the implementation of the peace agreement.” MINUSMA also called on all parties to “take immediate measures to guarantee the protection of civilians and refrain from all action that could unleash a return to hostilities”.


Nigeria:

The government of Nigeria has announced that it has been negotiating with Boko Haram since July 2015 to free the over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok kidnapped by the group, with three separate rounds of negotiations having failed.

Over the weekend, American National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Maj-General Babagana Monguno, met in Washington to discuss how to better engage in dialogue with militants in the Niger River Delta and bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On Sunday, Nigerian police liberated 14 oil workers kidnapped earlier this month in the country’s southern Niger Delta region.

The same day, eight people died in an attack by Boko Haram in Kwamjilari village in northeastern Borno state.The attack took place as villages emptied out of church from Sunday mass, with the militants also lighting maize fields and houses on fire.

On Monday, Boko Haram militants staged two attacks in the country’s northeast that left eight people dead. The separate attacks included the beheading of a village chief and his son and the killing of six civilians in a commercial convoy escorted by the Nigerian military.

The Nigerian army has claimed victory in a battle fought against Islamic extremist militants in Malam Fatori, a town near the country’s border with Niger. Earlier in the day, Islamic State’s West Africa Province, a faction of Boko Haram, released a statement claiming to have killed over 40 soldiers and wounding many more from “a convoy of the African Coalition Crusader forces” in Malam Fatori. Neither side’s claim has been independently verified. However, the battle, which took place on Tuesday, was the first Islamic State-claimed attack in Nigeria since August.

Amnesty International published a report this week which details a Nigerian police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) which systematically tortures its detainees as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes. This report is an extension of the larger humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, with a reported 20,000 deaths and the displacement of 2.6 million people throughout the seven years of Boko Haram insurgency.


South Sudan:

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced late last week that the number of civilians seeking refuge from the war in South Sudan has surpassed one million, with an additional 1.6 million internally displaced.

On Saturday, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, created in March by the Human Rights Council, expressed deep concern over the slow pace of the implementation of the peace plan in South Sudan and the continuation of gross human rights violations. The report comes after the Commission’s visit to South Sudan earlier in the month.

Officials in Northern Liech state have announced that they have entered into talks with senior military officials of the SPLM-IO forces allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar in hopes of their joining the current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai’s faction of the SPLM-IO.

The United Nations has received reports saying people fleeing South Sudan into Uganda are forced to pay bribes at checkpoints run by South Sudan’s government and armed groups to reach safety. There are also reports of physical and sexual assaults and forced family separations.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published an infographic on Wednesday on the humanitarian situation and response in South Sudan. The infographic shows how the operating environment is increasingly dangerous and difficult. It also shows that the response is severely underfunded, as just 54% of the US$1.3 billion required under the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has been received. Despite the challenges, the infographic also shows that humanitarian partners were able to deliver lifesaving assistance and protection to over 3.2 million people in South Sudan in the first half of 2016.

Members of the United States Congress are pushing the Obama administration to support an arms embargo on South Sudan. In August, the UN Security Council said that if South Sudan did not accept a 4,000 strong regional peacekeeping force, it would place an arms embargo on the country. The US has been opposed to such action in the past, but has changed its view with recent developments in the country.

Sudan’s State Minister of Interior, Babiker Digna claimed on Wednesday that his country is hosting more than 400,000 South Sudanese refugees, but it is difficult to determine the exact number as the refugee influx still continues.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Saturday, Sudan’s Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid announced that a week of negotiations over a ceasefire and humanitarian access with rebel groups has not led to a comprehensive peace deal. The African Union, which is mediating the dialogue, has temporarily suspended the negotiations between the two parties. The following day, Hamid reiterated that Sudan will reject humanitarian aid from abroad, specifically referencing a planned package from Ethiopia. The comments come amidst mounting international pressure for peace negotiations as hostilities persist between forces loyal to the Republic of Sudan and the active insurgent groups loyal to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

On Tuesday, the US State Department commended the recent efforts by the Sudanese government to cooperate with the US on counterterrorism operations, while also noting that that economic sanctions against Sudan will remain in place. Grave concerns regarding human rights and the management of internal conflicts, specifically in the Darfur region, which has been labelled by the US as genocide, continue to complicate the normalization of relations between Sudan and Western countries.

On Thursday, Amnesty International and ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch called for the UN Human Rights Council, currently holding a session on Sudan, to press the Sudanese government to prosecute and hold accountable those responsible for the deaths of protesters and civilians during the September 2013 civil unrest in Khartoum. The protests, which stemmed from an announcement from President Omar al-Bashir regarding cuts to fuel subsidies, left 185 people dead. According to the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, the majority of protesters were found to have been killed by gunshot wounds to the head and chest. As of today, none of the three state commissions of inquiry have been made public and only one policeman has been prosecuted.


Syria:

US Defense officials have confirmed that US Special Forces are now present alongside Turkish troops and rebels in northern Syria to take part in the Turkish-led “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Turkish forces have announced that they plan to extend the offensive to take the ISIL-held town of al-Bab, which sits on a critical juncture, with a Turkish “safe zone” possibly extending to up to 5,000 square km (1,930 square miles) of Syrian territory.

On Monday, the Homs governor postponed the planned evacuation of the last rebel-held district of the city due to “logistical obstacles”. Around 250-300 rebels are expected to be allowed to leave the city for rebel-controlled territory. However, rebels in other parts of Syria have stated that if the evacuation goes through, they would consider the ceasefire in the country to be over.

Russia announced on Wednesday that it will be sending its only aircraft carrier to waters off of Syria’s coastal region, which is likely a contingency plan for the dissolution of the present ceasefire.


Yemen:

 On Saturday, Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Yemeni government clashed on two separate fronts. Fighting broke out in the regions east of the city of Taez, which government forces are attempting to break a siege of, and east of the capital of Sanaa.

Recently released images and videos have led to claims that Saudi Arabia is using U.S.-supplied white phosphorous munitions in its military campaign in Yemen, with fears being raised over the threat that these munitions pose to civilians. US regulations dictate that white phosphorus, when sold to other countries, may only be used for signaling other troops and creating smoke screens. As of yet, it is undetermined how Saudi Arabia is using the munition in Yemen.

Recent reports have confirmed that a US-made bomb was used in an airstrike on a hospital on 15 August that killed 11 people. On Monday, Amnesty International urged that states immediately stop supplying weapons that could be used in the Yemen conflict.

On Tuesday, intensive airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, causing damage to neighboring homes, which left at least one civilian dead and three others wounded. The coalition also bombed the defense ministry and a checkpoint in the suburbs, killing two rebels and wounding four.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 20 civilians in the rebel-held Yemeni city of Hodeida late on Wednesday. The raid reportedly targeted a presidential palace used by the Houthi rebel movement, but missiles also hit neighboring houses.

The United Kingdom is set to increase the humanitarian aid it gives to Yemen, while the country is also facing criticism for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which could be used in Yemen.

 

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#R2PWeekly: 22 – 26 August 2016

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UNGA to hold interactive dialogue on RtoP

On 6 September, the United Nations General Assembly will meet for its 8th annual UNGA Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect. The informal, interactive dialogue was first convened in 2009, following the Secretary-General’s first report on RtoP. Member States have met each year since that date to discuss the latest annual report and reflect on the advancement of the norm. This year, Member States, regional organizations, and civil society groups will meet to discuss and reflect on the Secretary-General’s latest report, focusing on a vision for collective action in the future implementation of the norm.

General Assembly Discusses Responsibility to ProtectThis year’s report, entitled “Mobilizing collective action: The next decade of the responsibility to protect,” is Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s eighth and final report on RtoP. In it, Mr. Ban highlights the accomplishments made in the advancement of the norm and takes note of the international community’s failures in preventing and responding to atrocity crimes. He also points out that the world is facing an increasingly challenging context, where both State and non-State actors pose threats to populations. However, the Secretary-General also suggests a range of recommendations for actors at all levels with which these obstacles might be overcome, so that the international community can work together to better protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanityinto the next decade of RtoP.

Read the Secretary-General’s full report here.

Read ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.

View ICRtoP’s page on key developments on RtoP at the UN here.


Source for above photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi

CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq

Libya
Mali
Nigeria

South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria

Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On Thursday, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing women’s participation in peace efforts in Burma and the harmful impact war has had and continues to have on women. HRW encourages the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to ensure that women actively participate in efforts to end the country’s recurrent armed conflicts.


Burundi:

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission chairman has announced that the views they collected from across Burundi have shown public favor for removing the two-term limit attached to the country’s presidency. The Commission is made up of 15 members, including religious and political leaders and civil society representatives, and they are set to submit their findings in a report to Parliament for approval. However, President Nkurunziza will make the final decision.


Central African Republic:

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)imposed sanctions against Salim and Ali Kony, the sons of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. These sanctions seek to restrain the notoriously violent rebel groupaccused of abducting 498 civilians in the Central African Republic between January and June 2016.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The trials of 215 alleged members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) accused of massacring civilians began in the DRC over the weekend. 80 alleged ADF members were present in court on Saturday and the rest of the suspects are to be brought in at a later date. Six of the accused allegedly participated in the machete attack which killed scores of civilians near Beni last week.

Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday in order to protest fears that President Kabila will delay elections and remain in power past the constitutionally allowed date at the end of this year. The resulting strike crippled the capital city of Kinshasa where shops were mostly empty. Police also used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who gathered in Kinshasa to protest.


Gaza/West Bank:

On Sunday, Israeli forces bombarded the northern Gaza strip in the worst assault in the area since 2014. The attack was in retaliation to a rocket fired from the enclave into southern Israel. The Arab League and Turkey have both condemned the attacks, which have widely been labelled as disproportionate.

On Wednesday, Israel absolved its army of any wrongdoing for an airstrike during the 2014 Gaza War that struck a UN school. The incident resulted in 10 civilian deaths outside the school, causing international outrage.


Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting
Over the weekend, the Iraqi military and local militia successfully liberated the last ISIL-held portion of the island of Khalidya in western Iraq.

On Monday, six Iraqi civilians died fleeing the town of Hawijah when they hit a roadside bomb planted by ISIL. The past several weeks have seen several thousand people fleeing the area for government lines 140 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq announced the complete capture from ISIL of the city of Qayyarah on Thursday after Iraqi troops stormed into the city center on Tuesday and secured the outskirts of the city the following day. Located to the south of Mosul, the city and its airbase will serve as the staging ground for the inevitable assault to retake Mosul from ISIL.

The Humanitarian and Political Solution
On 21 August, Iraq executed 36 men for their alleged roles in the deaths of over 1,700 Shia Iraqi air force recruits during the massacre at the Speicher military base near Tikrit in June 2014. Several of the accused had claimed that they had been forced to confess under torture or had not even been in Tikrit at the time of the massacre, with these claims echoed by Amnesty International. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has publicly expressed his disappointment with the executions, highlighting concerns over due process and fair trials.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR warned that it expects hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced by the oncoming Iraqi and Kurdish assault to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL. The total number of people expected to be displaced could reach as high as 1.2 million.

A new Special Report from Reuters, has determined that Shia militias in Iraq, operating under the Iraqi government-sanctioned and supported banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), detained, tortured and killed significantly more Sunni civilians in the assault on Fallujah in June than US authorities have publicly admitted. In total, with over 700 Sunni men and boys still missing, the report uncovered that over 1,500 faced abuse at the hands of the PMU, while at least 66 Sunni males died by torture or execution.


Libya:

On 22 August, the eastern-based parliament of Libya voted to reject the Government of National Accord (GNA), the UN-backed attempt at a unity government for Libya, dealing the GNA a major setback in its attempt to reunify Libya. One of the main points of concern is that of military appointments, with many in the east backing renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar, currently engulfed in his own campaign against Islamists and his other opponents, and fearing that the GNA leans too heavily on the support of extremist-oriented militias. The GNA has stated it will continue to seek approval of the eastern-based parliament  and will be changing cabinet proposals for the unity government in order to gain their support.

On Sunday, Libyan fighters continued their push to complete the capture of the center of ISIL’s operations in Libya, Sirte, capturing the city’s main mosque as well as a jail run by the terrorist organization. ISIL’s area of control has now been restricted to a small residential area in the center of the city.

Over the weekend, the US military, for the first time, acknowledged the use of AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters, flown by US marines, in the fight against ISIL in Sirte.


Mali:

The trial of Ahmad al-Fadi al-Mahdi began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week. He is charged with the destruction of cultural heritage sites – a first for the ICC – for his alleged participation in the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu. On Monday, al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to ordering the destruction of the sites – another first for the ICC. Many have lauded the landmark case, while others have criticized the ICC for not also holding al-Mahdi accountable for his alleged involvement in the rape, murder, and torture of civilians in Timbuktu during the same time period.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have reported that airstrikes carried out by the country’s military are believed to have killed senior Boko Haram fighters and fatally wounded Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the violent extremist group.

Later in the week, Boko Haram militants attacked Nigerian troops near the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, but the soldiers repelled the attack and killed two senior Boko Haram commanders and several other militants.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a speech in the Nigerian city of Sokoto, stating that the overall success of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram depends on if the country can overcome the reasons people join Islamist militant groups and if the government and military are able to build the public’s trust.

As Nigeria’s military has advanced its campaign against Boko Haram in the northeastern region of the country, it has exposed the “catastrophic” suffering of the people who have previously been out of reach from humanitarian aid organizations for months or even years. Estimates suggestthat at least 65,000 people are facing “famine-like” conditions in the recently liberated and yet inaccessible regions of Yobe and Borno states. Furthermore, at 4.5 million, the number of those facing a need for food aid in the northeastern regions of the country has almost doubled since March of this year. There have also been reports of human rights violations, including forced disappearances and recruitment, murders, sexual violence, and others, in the region. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 49,000 children will die in Borno State this year if they do not receive aid.


South Sudan:

Developments in the Fighting
This past weekend saw intense fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, leaving over 250 dead. Later, on 20 August, fighting between the SPLA and the SPLM-IO in the northern Unity State left seven SPLA soldiers and three members of the SPLM-IO dead. As the fighting continued sporadically through the week, thousands have become displaced.

On 21 August, several regional commanders of the SPLM-IO defected to the SPLA in Unity State. They are believed to have taken with them 11,000 soldiers stationed in the Guit area of Unity State to the SPLA and South Sudanese government. However, officials with the SPLM-IO claim only 80 soldiers joined the commanders in defecting.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
On 21 August, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir gave the governor of Wau State permissionto establish peace deals with any members of the armed opposition in the area who are willing.

The newly appointed South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum earlier this week and met with Sudanese President Omer al- Bashir. They discussed both the continuing security disputes between the two nations as well as Sudan providing immediate humanitarian assistance in South Sudan. Mr. Gai publicly called on the SPLM-N, who are currently fighting the Sudanese government, “to obey the call for peace”.

Speaking on Monday during an official trip to Kenya, US Sec. of State John Kerry warned both the South Sudanese government (SPLA) and the opposition (SPLM-IO) to fully implement the peace deal agreed to last year or be prepared to suffer sanctions and an arms embargo.

On Tuesday, the Sudanese government confirmed that former South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar is currently in the country, days after Mr. Machar had emerged from several weeks of hiding in the neighboring DRC.  The Sudanese government further announced that Mr. Machar is in the country for urgent medical attention, but is currently in stable condition. The South Sudanese government has issued a warning to Mr. Machar, urging him to denounce violence and agree to censor himself from politics.

On 23 August, the UN announced that retired Dutch military officer Major General Patrick Cammeart will take the lead in an independent investigation to determine whether or not UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians during the fighting in Juba in early July.

A peace conference has been announced between the rival communities of the Dinka Bor and Murle in Jonglei state in an attempt to put an end to rampant child abduction and cattle raiding between the two peoples in hopes of stabilizing the region. The peace conference is currently planned to start on 30 August.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government has announced that peace talks with the armed groups who recently signed the African Union-brokered Roadmap Agreement for Peace for Sudan will resume in September. The talks originally collapsed soon after they began due to distrust and discord over the particulars of humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association has announced that it will not join the umbrella opposition organization, the Sudan Appeals forces, and thus, will not join the two-track peace negotiations taking place.


Syria:

Developments in the Fighting
On Tuesday, after several days of increasingly intense clashes and after having seized most of the city, Kurdish forces agreed to a truce with the Syrian government in the north-western city of Hasakah. Government control in the city has now shrunk to a small cluster of buildings in the city center. The truce outlines a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and the withdrawal of all armed forces from the city.

On Wednesday, following the several days of shelling and the gathering of rebels on the Turkish side of the border, Turkish armed forces and forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) jointly entered Syria to launch an assault on ISIL-held Jarabulus. Titled Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that its aim is both at ISIL and the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. The combined-offensive marks the largest military effort by Turkey in the Syrian civil war and Turkey’s first offensive ground incursion into Syrian territory. Syria has condemned the incursion but offered no resistance.

Later that same day, ISIL launched an unsuccessful attempt to storm a US-backed FSA camp near the Jordanian border. The attack on the Forces of Martyrs Ahmad al-Abdo rebel group base is believed to have left at least 33 dead, including a majority of ISIL fighters.

Political and Humanitarian Developments
In a softening of its position on Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stated over the weekend that while still holding firm to the belief that Assad cannot be a part of Syria’s future, Turkey would be willing to see him stay on in a transition period if it helped to facilitate an overall end to the conflict. The Prime Minister went on to urge all powers involved in the conflict to “turn a new page on Syria”  and unite to stop the violence and form a country that maintained its territorial boundaries and represented all Syrians, highlighting Turkish concerns over growing Kurdish aims in Syria.

On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one way or another” US-Russian discussions over cooperation in Syia are coming to an end. Mr. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet on Friday in Geneva where their meeting will heavily focus on Syria.

On 24 August, a joint investigation by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that the Syrian government is responsible for two of the gas attacks it investigated under its mandate, while ISIL is responsible for another one. A further three attacks hinted at the Syrian government being responsible but could not be definitively proven. The joint investigation was established by the UN Security Council to look into chemical weapons use in Syria.

On Wednesday, on a visit to Turkey, US Vice President clarified the US’s position on the YPG and the current Turkish offensive into Syria, stating that Turkey had the US’s full support and that the YPG must retreat to positions east of the Euphrates to keep receiving US support.

On Thursday, Russia agreed to the UN’s plan for weekly 48-hour ceasefires in Aleppo to allow humanitarian access to the city. UN officials, however, are waiting for guarantees of security and agreement from the all belligerents present on the ground before they begin humanitarian operations.


Yemen:

On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes in Sana’a near where an earlier pro-Houthi demonstration of thousands had taken place in the capital’s central square.

The Control Arms Coalition has condemned the United States, United Kingdom, and France for their arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The sales were deemed “illicit” due to the high number of civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes.

On Monday, a joint report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) detailed the displacement of over 3 million refugees as a result of the conflict in Yemen.

The UN’s human rights office has requested an inquiry into the civilian deaths in Yemen, stating that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 percent of the killings.

On Thursday, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a new initiative to reignite peace talks between Yemen’s government and the Houthi rebels. Additionally, Kerry pledged $189 million in U.S. aid towards the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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#R2PWeekly: 25 – 29 July 2016

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Close to 400,000 Civilians in Aleppo Facing Starvation

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Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, continues to be a site of intense fighting between government forces, rebels, and jihadists. Back-and-forth fighting between rebel groups and the Syrian government, backed by Russia, has been ongoing since July 2012, with heightened clashes the past three weeks.  Furthermore, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Syrian-Russian joint military operation is complicit in the use of cluster munition bombs in recent attacks against opposition-controlled territories. Last week, Syrian army forces cut off the Castello Highway, the last supply route for rebels in and out of the city, tightening the blockade of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Armed opposition groups retaliated with increased shelling of government-held areas of the city and on Wednesday, the Syrian Army officially cut off all rebel supply lines into Aleppo.

The next day, the governments of Syria and Russia announced that they would open uphumanitarian corridors into besieged Aleppo. Three routes will be opened for civilians, with a fourth for unarmed rebels. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also offered amnesty for rebels that lay down their arms and surrender within the next three months. Government forces have encircled Aleppo for days, in hopes of starving out rebel fighters and forcing them to surrender.

As the siege on Aleppo tightens, as many as 300,000 civilians currently living in the city face a dire humanitarian crisis. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien said on Monday that “food supplies are expected to run out in mid-August and many medical facilities continue to be attacked.” Aleppo is therefore close to becoming the largest besieged area in Syria. O’Brien called on the actors in the conflict to establish weekly 48-hour ceasefires to allow humanitarian services to reach civilians in besieged territories. In addition to Aleppo, as many as 60,000 people in the Manbij area have been cut off from aid, as well as thousands of civilians in Idleb and Daraya. With supplies quickly running out, almost 400,000 Syrians face starvation as fighting continues.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen

 


Burma/Myanmar:

Leaders representing 17 armed groups met this week in northern Kachin State in preparation for the upcoming Union Peace Conference in August. Participants discussed plans for a constitution based on a federal democratic union.


Burundi:

report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that members of Burundi’s ruling youth league party, the Imbonerakure, have repeatedly gang-raped women related to representatives of the opposing party since 2015. Security forces, including police, have also attacked women, usingrape as a weapon to discourage citizens from fleeing Burundi. HRW interviewed over 70 women and young girls who have fled the crisis and still face sexual assault in the Nduta refugee camp across the border in Tanzania. The government of Burundi rejected the allegations and accused HRW of falsely demonizing the Imbonerakure.

The UN Committee Against Torture is set to conduct a special review of Burundi on 28 and 29 July. The reviewers will discuss issues in the Committee’s written request for a report from the government last year, in light of the recent deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi. The findings will be announced on 12 August.


Central African Republic:

The Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until 15 November 2017. The renewed mandate stressed a more comprehensive strategy prioritizing the protection of civilians; the implementation of a disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration program; and effective security sector reform. The resolution also called on CAR authorities to strengthen the rule of law and justice institutions in fighting impunity. The mandate maintainsthe authorized troop ceiling of 10,750 military personnel and 2,080 police.

Last Saturday, ex-Seleka armed fighters attacked the southern CAR town of Ngakobo, killing at least three people and injuring several.

On 22 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Fabrizio Hochschild of Chile as the new Deputy Special Representative for MINUSCA.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The Republic of Korea has announced that it will set up a human rights foundation in September to study and assess the situation in North Korea in order to develop policies relating to human rights issues there. The 50-member organization will be founded under the North Korean Human Rights Act, with a planned budget of $22 million USD annually.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following a four day visit to the DRC, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein made a statement commending the country’s recent attempts to improve human rights. However, he also reminded that some of these efforts may be threatened by “violations of fundamental civil and political rights by State actors” and the restriction of the political space ahead of the upcoming elections.

After the presidential pardon and release of six youth activists on Tuesday, Amnesty International released a statement warning that, “unless all prisoners of conscience and others detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights are freed,” the latest release of the activists “will be seen as little more than an exercise in window dressing.” Those released served five out six months of their sentence for “attempting to incite disobedience” and they had to be forcibly removed from the prison as they rejected the presidential pardons in order to show solidarity with the other detainees.


Iraq:

On Saturday, Iraqi forces began construction on a seven-mile long trench on the northern outskirts of the recently recaptured city of Fallujah in Anbar province. Iraqi commanders have stated the purpose of the trench is two-fold: to keep several hundred ISIL fighters still being pursued in Anbar province from launching attacks on the city, and to keep out Shi’ite militias barred from entering the city.

On 25 July, the UNSC extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for another year, with the mandate now extending to 31 July 2017.

That same day a string of bombings in and around Baghdad killed twenty-five people. The deadliest attack took place in the Shi’ite town of Khalis, fifty miles north of Baghdad. where a suicide- bomber drove his car into a police checkpoint.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi met with officials from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh province, announcing that Mosul and the surrounding region would be governed by a decentralized system after its liberation from ISIL. Complementing the Prime Minister’s words, the Iraqi parliament endorsed a bill that day that would increase the power of provincial capitals, allowing them a legal route to create semi-autonomous regions with greater administrative and political powers.

The US-led coalition against ISIL has estimated roughly 10,000 ISIL fighters defending Mosul remain, as the Iraqi government prepares for its offensive to retake the city.


Libya:

Forces loyal to rebel general Khalifa Haftar suffered losses during clashes with forces loyal to the Shura Council of the Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR).

Several of Libya’s most influential political and military figures, including Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and Awila Saleh, the head of the Libyan parliament, are in Egypt for talks aimed at ending the political deadlock. General Hifter, who is supported by Saleh and his parliament, is meeting with deputies of both Saleh and Serraj.


Mali:

Fighting in northern Mali between the mostly Tuareg group, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), and Gatia militiamen killed an estimated 20 people and wounded at least 40 more, threatening the already shaky peace deal in the country late last week. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, havereleased a statement condemning the attacks and calling on the leaders of the rival groups to restore calm, while also reminding them of their obligations to protect civilians under international law.

Malian security forces arrested Mahmoud Barry, also known as “Abou Yehiya”, one of the most senior members of Ansar Dine. Barry is alleged to have had involvement in several attacks, including the recent attack on a Malian military base which killed 17 soldiers and left many more wounded last week.


Nigeria:

Late last week, humanitarian aid, including 31 metric tons of food and other non-food stuffs, finally reached around 15,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Borno State.The food delivered is not expected to last more than a week.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has released another warning this week that Borno State in Nigeria is facing a “large-scale humanitarian disaster” with over 500,000 people living in deplorable conditions.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Security Council on the Boko Haram situation in the Lake Chad Basin region on Wednesday. Although military action against the terrorist group is essential, Feltman noted that in order to end the threat completely, countries must take steps to address the root causes contributing to Boko Haram’s emergence. This includes the social, political, and economic tensions amongst communities, he said.


South Sudan:

On 23 July, the mayor of Raja, in South Sudan’s Lol state, confirmed that he had defected to the armed opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

On 25 July, the UNHCR updated its figures on those fleeing the recent violence in South Sudan, stating that an average of 4,000 people are fleeing per day to Uganda from South Sudan, more than doubling from the 1,500 per day estimate released ten days ago. The past three weeks have seen more South Sudanese leave for Uganda than in the previous six months combined.

On Monday, South Sudanese Pres. Salva Kiir officially replaced Riek Machar with Taban Deng Gai as first vice president.  Mr. Machar has not been seen in public since fleeing the outbreak of violence in the capital of Juba in early July. The UN has released a warning, stating “any political appointments need to be consistent with the provisions outlined in the peace agreement.” Both the SPLM-IO armed forces sector commander and governor dismissedGai’s claims that he has their support.

On 27 July, reports surfaced that South Sudanese soldiers raped dozens of ethnic Nuer women and girls last week within sight of a UN camp dedicated to the protection of civilians from the recent uptick in violence.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 24 July, the umbrella opposition group Sudan Call announced it would meet with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki to discuss eventually signing the proposed African Roadmap for Peace in Sudan.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting
Forty-two people died in Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the town of al- Atareb in Aleppo province on Monday. That same day, airstrikes in East Aleppo struck four hospitals and a blood bank. Two days later, after having made gains into the territory, the Syrian government announced that they had officially cut off all rebel supply lines into East Aleppo. As the Syrian Army tightens its siege, it has sent text messages to the residents of the eastern part of the city claiming to have made several safe corridors, three of which will be for civilians and a fourth for rebels to surrender. Assad further offered amnesty to any rebels in East Aleppo who surrender in the next three months.

On Monday, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien addressed the UNSC on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Stressing the degradation of the situation in Aleppo, Mr. O’Brien called for the implementation of a weekly 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo to allow for humanitarian access.

On 25 July, the SDF and its allied forces announced that they are now in control of the majority of the besieged ISIL-held city of Manbij, claiming eighty-percent of the city was now in their control. The SDF reiterated calls for ISIL to allow civilians to leave the city, while opening up a new humanitarian corridor of their own.

A mortar attack on the Bab Touma district of Damascus killed six people and wounded scores more.  Meanwhile, a twin-bombing by ISIL in the predominantly Kurdish town of Qamishli, in Syria’s northeast, killed 44 people.

Political developments
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated further progress had been made on the proposed US-Russian military cooperation in Syria. Mr. Kerry went on to state he expects to have an agreed upon plan ready for the public in early August.

On Sunday, the Syrian government announced its desire to resume the peace talks in Geneva. After talks faltered and collapsed earlier in the year, the UN is hoping to begin a new round sometime in late August.


Yemen:

On Monday, operations by the Saudi-led coalition reportedly resumed and killed 20 Houthi rebels during airstrikes in Roudha, Taiz, Jawf, and Abyan.

The UN called for a ceasefire in the Taiz region this week, where conflict has recently escalated between the government forces and Houthi militia, especially in Al-Sarari, a town in the southeast of the region.

Five Saudi border guards were killed by Yemeni militants at the border with Yemen. According to Saudi authorities, the guards perished after an 8-hour long battle with the armed militia, who were said to be attempting to enter Saudi Arabia

On Thursday, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met separately with delegations from the Shia Houthi group and the Yemeni government in Kuwait. Negotiations had previously been suspended due to the Arab League summit in Nouakchott this week.

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#R2PWeekly: 4 July – 8 July 2016

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UN Warns of Increased Likelihood of  “Full-Throttle Sectarian Violence” in Iraq

In the backdrop of the devastating ISIL bombing on Sunday that killed 250 people, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warned of the possibility of a new chapter of sectarian violence in Iraq. Speaking on 5 July, Mr. Zeid stated, “ISIL needs to be defeated, and defeated soon.” However, Zeid continued, “The way we react, in Iraq and elsewhere, will in many ways decide whether ISIL benefits from its indiscriminate acts of mass murder, or is ultimately destroyed by them.”

Mr. Zeid’s concerns for a return of sectarian violence do not solely lie in the rubble of the Karada market but in the graves of the dozens of Sunni Iraqis believed to have been killed recently by Shia militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). On 1 June, over 8,000 villagers escaping the village of Saqlawiyah reached government lines held by the Kataaib Hezbollah militia of the PMF. Among those who fled, 900 have gone missing and 49 are believed to have been immediately executed or died under torture by Kataaib Hezbollah. 

 
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Reports of abuse by the elements of the PMF have been rampant. Their tactics allegedly include kidnappings, torture, executions, massacres, and forced evictions. In January, Human Rights Watch accused the PMF of committing war crimes in the fight against ISIL and noted that “again civilians  are paying the price for Iraq’s failure to rein in the out-of-control militias”.

As the Iraqi government formally incorporated the PMF into the state security apparatus on 7 April 2015, it shares responsibility for its behavior. The Prime Minister of Iraq has set up a special human rights committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the PMF, although Mr. Zeid has urged for more serious measures to end impunity and hold those who are responsible for the abuses accountable. Such a step — as well as others intended to curb sectarian violence, such as building the capacity of the Popular Mobilization Commission tasked with overseeing the PMF — could help Iraq to fulfill its primary responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing.

For more information on the reported abuses of Shia militias, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other 


Burma/Myanmar:

A mob burned down a Mosque in Rangoon on Sunday. This is the second such attack in under a week in predominantly Buddhist Burma. Authorities have reportedly made no arrests.

Nineteen NGOs demanded increased action to combat hate speech and religiously motivated violence in Burma.


Burundi:

On Tuesday, the government of Burundi rejected a claim made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein as “negative” and “false”. Zeid had reported that the violence in Burundi was ethnically motivated and could escalate into a conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi populations.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Burundi’s intelligence services have tortured dissidents, including beating prisoners with hammers. HRW urged the Security Council to deploy international police to the country and set up an international commission of inquiry.


Central African Republic:

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’as Al Hussein warned that the situation in CAR was worsening, notably due to recent unrest in Bangui and other parts of the country.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Wednesday, the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions on leading North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-un, for human rights violations. The designations follow a report from the US State Department naming individuals most responsible for the abuses, which include forced labor, extrajudicial killings, and torture. The US Treasury Department blacklisted the officials, freezing their assets and blocking them from any transactions with American citizens.

The UN has named Argentine lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana to succeed Marzuki Darusman as its new Special Rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC has selected the digital security firm, Gemalto, to supply the country’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) with 22,000 mobile biometric voter enrollment kits in order to support an update of the national registry of voters.


Iraq:

On Sunday, 250 people died in an ISIL suicide-bombing in the Karada market district of Baghdad. The attack is the single deadliest in Iraq since 2003, with hundreds more injured. In the wake of the attack, the outburst of public anger has brought Iraq’s security measures into question, causing Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban to resign and new security measures to be ordered. Also on Sunday, ISIL reportedly killed 8 of its own fighters as well as 7 residents of the city of Hawijah in southwestern Kirkuk. Later, an attack on the al-Salam camp for internally displaced persons, located south of Baghdad, killed 3 and left fifteen wounded.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced the capture of several villages from ISIL in its push to the airbase at Qayara, 40 miles south of Mosul. However, in the wake of seizing Fallujah from ISIL, the Iraqi government’s capture and occupation of the city has reportedly begun to take on sectarian undertones. Despite orders and pledges to the contrary, Shia militia members who aided in the siege of Fallujah, have been seen freely moving in the city center, while Shiite banners, graffiti, and posters have been plastered on the main highway overpass in Fallujah. Some Iraqi commanders in Fallujah have come forward with accusations that the militia members burned houses to the ground in the city, bringing to fruition the fears of the Iraqi government.

On 4 July, Minority Rights Group (MRG) warned in a new report that Iraq may be facing the disappearance of its minorities. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled after thirteen years of civil war and sectarian conflict. The report pays particular attention to the Iraqi Christian population, which has declined from 1.4 million in 2003 to 250,000 today, while also highlighting the plight of the Yezidi, Kaka’i, Shia Turkmen, and Shabak peoples.


Kenya:

In Nairobi on Monday, around 300 people protested the killings of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men. On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters gathered once more in Nairobi and set a police station on fire, where Kimani and the others were originally held after their abduction and where they were later killed. Four police officers based at the police station are currently in custody and the site is being treated as a crime scene.


Libya:

In a new report this week, Amnesty International detailed the horrors experienced by migrants and refugees at the hands of Libyan traffickers. Victims were predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, and their testimonies include stories of death, sexual violence, religious persecution, torture and starvation.

On Friday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) released its monthly report for June 2016, stating that 49 civilian casualties occurred last month, including 18 deaths and 31 injuries.


Mali:

According to Malian authorities, two gunmen killed two gendarmes and wounded a soldier late Friday night in Menaka, a town in northeastern Mali.

850 peacekeepers from Burkina Faso, including 21 women, are set to join the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), according to the country’s defense ministry.

An accident during a MINUSMA training exercise killed two Dutch soldiers and wounded another on Wednesday in Mali. This brings the total deaths of peacekeepers in Mali to at least 103 since the deployment of the mission in April 2013.


Nigeria:

Late last week, the UN warned that tens of thousands of children would die of malnutrition this year in northeastern Nigeria if they do not receive aid soon.

On Monday, suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers oil militant group blew up two pipelines in southern Nigeria belonging to the US-based Chevron and the Nigerian state oil company. President Buhari pleaded with the oil militants and others in a statement on Wednesday to “give Nigeria a chance”, promising to keep the country together regardless of the divisions across the country.

The Nigerian military shot and killed two female suicide bombers on Tuesday in the town of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria as they attempted to detonate their explosives in the vicinity of people displaced from the fighting in the country. Although the soldiers killed the women, some of the women’s explosives did detonate, injuring two civilians. A third bomber in another area was successful in exploding her bomb, but the blast resulted in no other casualties. The military also killed four suspected Boko Haram fighters in an unrelated ambush the same day around Kukawa, also in the northeast of the country.


South Sudan:

On 5 July, South Sudan’s armed opposition (the SPLA-IO) warned that recent killings of its members could derail the peace agreement signed in August 2015. The SPLA-IO listed and detailed five cases in which its officers allegedly died at the hands of government agents.

The government’s official narrative on the source of recent fighting in Wau state is being challenged, with reports now surfacing, which place the blame on the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA). Eyewitnesses to the violence have begun reporting that members of the SPLA and youth from an ethnically Dinka neighborhood began attacking neighborhoods belonging to the Fartit ethnic group. The official narrative states that the violence was due to a new rebel group attempting to seize the town. The UN estimates that 70,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that left at least 43 dead, including 39 civilians and 4 police officers.

On 2 July, the newly appointed Governor of Wau state, Andrea Mayar Achor, made public his plans for how to restore stability to the area, which saw massive levels of fighting on 25 June that forced tens of thousands to flee. The plan calls for three stages: 1) stabilizing the security situation in order for the displaced to return, which includes free movement for humanitarian organizations; 2) the holding of public dialogues on what happened during the civil war and how the community can move forward; and 3) the start of a reconciliation process.


Sri Lanka:

Following the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ comments last week expressing his concerns about Sri Lanka’s slow progress in the investigation of war crimes and human rights abuses during the country’s civil war, the Sri Lankan government announced on Wednesday that it would set up a special court to hear allegations of wartime abuses by next year.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 5 July, the EU released a draft proposal of how it will divert 100 million Euros of development aid into military border control measures in migrant transit countries such as Sudan. The money would likely go to the Sudanese government militia, the Rapid Support Force (RSF), who currently serve as border guards. Part of the Sudanese national and intelligence security services, the RSF largely consists of former members of the Janjaweed, a Sudanese Arab militia responsible for taking part in the genocide in Darfur.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has announced it has serious concerns over the four month ceasefire in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. The SPLM-N views the ceasefire, announced on 17 June,  as the result of US pressure and as only “a declaration of intent”, as a true ceasefire would require monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.

On 4 July, a subset of the Sudan Liberation Movement proposed a new ceasefire in Darfur to be monitored by the UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The rebels have put forward the ceasefire proposal in hopes of having humanitarian aid delivered to the region of Jebel Marra, which has experienced several months of intense fighting.

Also this week, in a reversal from earlier statements, the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, stated that the opposition groups comprising the umbrella group Sudan Call forces will likely sign the African Union High Implementation Panel’s Roadmap Agreement for Peace in Sudan in several days

On 4 July, fighting broke out between the Sudanese military and Rizeigat Savannah militiamen in east Darfur. The fighting left several casualties.


Syria:

On 5 July, the Syrian Kurds and their Arab allies declared the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli to be the capital of the new federal system they are establishing in northern Syria. Elections are currently planned for three months after the approval of the social contract, which is already leading to increased tensions with the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad put forward the composition of the new Syrian government, to be headed by former Electricity Minister Imad Khamis. Despite changes in personnel in over half of the positions, there has been no trace of inclusion of any opposition figures or groups in the composition of the new government.

Amnesty International released a brief accusing five rebel groups in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo of committing war crimes and multiple other violations of international humanitarian law.

On 2 July, a two year old local truce between rebels and the Syrian government collapsed in the town of Jayrud with airstrikes that killed 43 people. The truce had led to the area becoming a safe haven, with thousands of internally displaced Syrians living there. Meanwhile, on 6 July, the Syrian government announced a 72 hour ceasefire would go into effect at 1:00 AM on Wednesday to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Nevertheless, the government cut off the sole rebel supply road into Aleppo the next day.

The SDF has opened up a trade corridor in northern Aleppo province between those territories it controls and those under the rule of ISIL. Territories held by the parties are separated by a 2 km long neutral area. The SDF claims that the decision, reached on 25 May, is one that will allow civilians under ISIL-rule to move freely out of their territories and ensure that they receive enough food and supplies.

On 2 July, al-Nusra took the leader of a Western-backed rebel group, the Jaish al-Tahrir brigade, hostage along with 40 of his troops in northern Syria. The brigade had formed in February as a coalition of Free Syrian Army groups in order to stop the push of ISIL near the Turkish border. al-Nusra has targeted the leaders of Western-backed groups in the past, in the hopes that the groups would then dissolve.

On 4 July, the estimate of civilians who have fled the ISIL-held northern Syrian city of Manjib reached 13,000. Moreover, on Monday ISIL repelled an attack by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij and managed to retake previously lost territory in the counter-attack.


Yemen:

On Monday, the Saudi government intercepted a ballistic missile, believed to be fired by the Houthi rebels at the southern Saudi city of Abha. This marks the fourth attempt to fire a ballistic missile into Saudi territory since the ceasefire agreement in April.

A suspected drone strike in the south Yemen province of Shabwa killed three al-Qaeda fighters on Saturday. Meanwhile, rocket fire, believed to be from Houthi rebels, allegedly killed seven children in the central Yemeni city of Marib on Monday. The city is currently held by the internationally recognized Yemeni government, while the Houthi rebels continue to control the hinterland to the west and north of the city.

At least 26 people died in an al-Qaeda attack on a Yemeni military base attached to the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday. Six Yemeni soldiers and 20 militants died.


What else is new?

21 African civil society groups and international organizations with a presence in Africa released a short but compelling activist video today entitled “AU: Activists Challenge Attacks on ICC.” Some African leaders have repeatedly charged the ICC with targeting Africa and, in the past year, the African Union has been discussing possibly calling for African ICC States Parties to withdraw from the Court. As Ibrahim Tommy, a Sierra Leone activist, says in the video: “The big clash [these days] is over African leaders, the powerful few, who really want impunity for themselves, versus the vast majority, in fact all of the victims of Africa’s continent who want justice every day.”

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#R2PWeekly: 27 June – 1 July 2016

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EU’s New Global Strategy Highlights RtoP and Support for Limiting Use of the Veto in Situations of Atrocity Crimes

This week, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, presented the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. She outlines five main priorities for the Union, namely 1) security; 2) state and societal resilience to the EU’s East and South; 3) an integrated approach to conflicts and crises; 4) cooperative regional orders; and 5) global governance for the 21st century.Description: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/8758bcde31bc78a5c32ceee50/images/79b62621-5c88-4ede-86d4-c8b56ebf00c8.png

Of particular interest are two declarations included under priority 5, in which the EU promises to “promote the responsibility to protect, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international criminal law” and to encourage wide acceptance of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the strategy asserts that it will continue to call upon members of the UN Security Council to not vote against “credible draft resolutions on timely and decisive action to prevent or end mass atrocities.”

The EU has recently taken a number of steps in support of the RtoP norm and initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, of which the Global Strategy is the latest. Last year, the EU appointed a Focal Point on RtoP, while all 28 current members of the EU support the “Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes”, with 25 also supporting the French/Mexican political declaration on the use of the veto.
To see which countries support these initiatives, check out our map here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

As part of her visit to Myanmar, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, met with Muslim community leaders in Sittwe, the capital of the Arakan state, on 23 June. Yanghee Lee inquired about the community leaders’ views on the government’s ban of the term “Rohingya,” as well as the government’s recent citizenship verification drive.

Over 200 villagers in central Myanmar destroyed a local mosque following an argument between Muslim and Buddhist neighbors on the construction of a new Muslim school on 23 June. The attack forced 70 people to take refuge in a small local police station.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on 29 June on the criminalization of peaceful expression in Burma titled “They Can Arrest You at Any Time.”


Burundi:

On Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Hussein, issued areport on the “tragic and comprehensive deterioration of human rights of the people in Burundi.” Since President Nkurunziza’s re-election in April 2015, 348 people have died in extrajudicial killings, according to the report. Perpetrators of the killings and arrests includedsecurity and intelligence forces as well as members of the armed group Imbonerakure.


Central African Republic:

On 24 June, a UN peacekeeper from Senegal was shot dead in Bangui in an attackcondemned by the UN Secretary-General. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported that 18 peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were killed by a Central African Republic police unit between April 2015 and March 2016. The head of the police unit has been removed, but human rights groups are calling for his prosecution related to 13 of the 18 cases.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

DRC authorities have arrested 74 militiamen and their alleged leader, Frederic Batumike, a provincial deputy, on charges of murder and the repeated rapes of around 30 young girls in the South Kivu province.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, the police chief in Kinshasa, accusing him and the police force under his command of creating a “climate of fear” ahead of the country’s upcoming presidential elections in December. The US has accused the police force under Kanyama’s control of having used violence to quell protests against current Congolese President Kabila, which resulted in the deaths of at least 40 people. Furthermore, at least 50 men and boys died and 30 others disappeared after the police raided the homes of suspected opposition members in Kinshasa without a warrant.

The UN Security Council has urged President Kabila to stay in line with constitutional requirements to hold elections by the end of this year as the Council expressed concerns over the arrests of members of the opposition weeks earlier. The government has said that it is unlikely that the DRC will be able to hold these elections within the allotted timeframe due to logistical reasons, but the opposition has claimed that this is a way for President Kabila to try to remain in office past his constitutional limit. The European Union Parliament also votedon a resolution which calls for an end to the violence and human rights violations in the DRC, which has escalated in the run-up to the elections.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed a female Palestinian after she ran her car into another car outside an Israeli settlement, injuring two people.

Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian fisherman on 27 June off the coast of Gaza. The shots fired prevented fishermen from fishing farther than the designated range of five nautical miles. No injuries were reported, but the fishing boats were damaged, forcing the fishermen to retreat.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza following a one-day trip to Palestine and Israel on 27 June. He called the “suffocating” blockade “collective punishment for which there must be accountability.” Ban Ki-Moon stressed a two-state solution “remains the only viable option to prevent perpetual conflict and to achieve the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

A Palestinian teenager stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli girl in her sleep in a West Bank settlement on Thursday. Israeli forces later shot and killed the Palestinian.


Iraq:

The Head of High Committee of Recognizing Shingal Genocide warned of the need to undertake measures to protect the mass graves of the Yezidi massacred by ISIL. So far, thirty mass graves have been identified, with an estimate that it might take three years to properly identify everyone in the graves.

On Sunday, Iraqi forces successfully captured the last district of Fallujah still held by ISIL, after having declared victory in the offensive to retake the city on 17 June. The following day, Iraqi forces launched a new offensive to clear the farmland to the west of Fallujah of ISIL fighters who have been hiding there since they fled the city.

Iraqi forces continued to successfully press an offensive against ISIL, started two weeks ago, to the south of Mosul, capturing the village of Telol al-Baj. Iraqi troops are now 45 km from the strategic airbase at Qayara, currently held by ISIL, which is expected to be the base of operations for the government offensive on Mosul. The Iraqi Defense Minister, Halit el-Ubeydi, put the estimate at the number of ISIL fighters killed in a recent Iraqi government offensive to the south of Mosul at 1,300.

A suicide bombing in a mosque in Abu Ghraib killed 12 people and wounded at least 32 on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a bomb attack in western Baghdad killed one and injured several others. On the eastern side of Baghdad, unidentified gunmen stormed into a house killing three women and a 6 year old girl.

On Thursday, the British government announced it will send a further 250 troops to Iraq in order to help the Iraqi government fight ISIL. They are expected to be teaching basic infantry skills, first aid, and how to dismantle homemade bombs as well as helping the Iraqis to build military infrastructure.


Kenya:

According to at least 10 local and international human rights organizations, evidence hasshown that Kenyan police are responsible for the disappearances of a human rights lawyer, Willy Kimani, and two other men, Kimani’s client, Josphat Mwenda, and a taxi driver. The evidence suggests that they were abducted last week as they were leaving a court where Mwenda was facing drug-related charges.


Libya:

A car bomb outside a Benghazi area hospital killed four and injured 14 on 24 June. The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the attacks, which had damaged already crippling infrastructure, estimating that “nearly 60% of public hospitals in conflict areas in Libya have shut down or are inaccessible.”


Mali:

Infighting over land between residents of the Mopti region killed at least 14 people on Saturday, according to Malian police.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which will increase the number of peacekeeping troops in the UN’s mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the aim of countering the recent increase in Islamic extremist attacks on both peacekeeping forces and civilians. The increase in troops and a decrease in extremist attacks will also provide a more stable and conducive environment for the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and other signatory groups. The resolution also extends the mandate of MINUSMA for another year, lasting until 30 June 2017.


 Nigeria:

The Niger Delta Avengers have called for a referendum on dividing up the Nigerian federation. The group also included a map via social media, with a suggestion on how the country could be divided into five separate countries. Experts had already predicted that the oil militant group could be encouraged by the surprising results of the recent British referendum to leave the European Union.

The Nigerian military has rescued over 5,000 people held hostage by Boko Haram after the army completed an operation to clear four remote villages in Borno state. The operation reportedly killed one civilian and at least six Boko Haram militants.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $13 million to provide life-saving assistance to 250,000 people in northeastern Nigeria who have recently become accessible.

Two suicide bombers in Abuja reportedly exploded their devices prematurely, killing themselves and not harming anyone else. City residents suspect that Boko Haram is behind the blasts, which occurred around midnight on Sunday, as people gathered for special Ramadan prayers. However, this has not yet been verified.


South Sudan:

On 25 June, clashes between the South Sudanese government and rebels in Wau uprooted thousands and left 50 dead. The South Sudanese government has stated that the gunmen are part of the militia of Ali Tamin Fatan, a militia leader trying to seize control of territory on the South Sudanese border with the Central African Republic. This new rebel group is said tohave a radical Islamist position.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir refused to sign resolutions to establish designated cantonment areas for the forces of his first deputy, Riek Machar. The decision comes in spite of a consensus being reached on the matter three weeks ago and is being heavily criticized for fear of destabilizing the peace process. The President also refused to agree to terms to establish a committee to review how many states South Sudan should be comprised of, a further point of contention between the President and the opposition.


Sri Lanka:

Journalist and human rights defender Nirmanusan Balasundaram released an opinion piece this week detailing the ways in which the Sri Lankan government has been backsliding in the post-war reconciliation, accountability, and human rights commitments it made in the October 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the United States.

On Wednesday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about the current reconciliation process in Sri Lanka, statingthat the government must speed up the judicial process assessing war crimes allegations from the country’s civil war, accelerate the processing of those detained during and after the conflict, and help those still displaced to return to their homes. The Commissioner also acknowledged that the government has made some progress, but stressed that Sri Lanka must come through on its promise to involve foreign judges and other international experts in the judicial process.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese government announced that it had withdrawn all of its armed forces from its shared border with South Sudan for the first time since South Sudan’s independence in 2011. On 4 June, the two nations had agreed to pull their troops from the area in order to begin construction on a road which would eventually lead to the creation of a firmly established and permanent demilitarized area between the two nations in hopes of ending mutual accusations of supporting rebels in either country.

On 24 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to postpone ascheduled prisoner transfer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) to the Sudanese government. Despite having been invited by the Sudanese government to act as the intermediary, the ICRC was denied permission to fly the prisoners out at the last moment.

The Governor of South Kordofan State, one of the two regions where fighting between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N has persisted, announced that the Sudanese army was on the outskirts of Kauda, despite a recent ceasefire. The Governor went on to claim that 90 percent of the State’s territory is now in the hands of the government.

On 27 June, gunmen attacked several villages in Northern Darfur, leading to one woman being killed and another raped.

The Sudanese government informed the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan that it would reject any proposal to amend the AU’s Roadmap for Peace in Sudan. The opposition has proposed a supplemental agreement to the Roadmap, which they have yet to sign out of fears that it will legitimize the Sudanese government.


Syria:

On Wednesday, the besieged towns of Zamalka and Erbin received their first aid shipments since 2012. The two towns, home to 20,000 people, had been the only besieged areas, out of the UN’s list of 18 to not yet receive aid shipments.

Syrian and Russian airstrikes allegedly killed at least 25 people and injured dozens more in the town of al-Quria in Deir al-Zor province on Saturday. The majority of the province is under the control of ISIL, with the strikes having been said to have hit both a crowded marketplace as well as a mosque. On 27 June, 5 people died and a further 15 were wounded in a series of suicide-bomber attacks in the predominantly Christian Lebanese village of Qaa. ISIL fighters forced the New Syria Army, a rebel group directly funded and created by the US to fight ISIL, alongside with several other rebel factions, from several positions they had captured in their assault on the city of Al-Bukamal the day before.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Ambassador to Syria, Alexander Kinshchak, told reporters that he does not see assaults on either Aleppo or Raqqa by the Syrian government happening in the near future. Last week, Syrian government forces were expelled from Raqqa province by an ISIL counter-assault, losing in three days what had taken them over three weeks to capture. However, Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy in the fight against Islamic State, stated to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate, would be the next target of the international coalition after the Syria Democratic Forces seize Manjib from ISIL in northern Syria.

On 27 June, the Syrian opposition negotiating at Geneva, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), stated that the European Union should enact a sanctions regime against thoseRussian companies which are supporting the Assad regime’s war effort in Syria.

24 NGOs asked by the UN to help facilitate and support the Syrian peace talks in Geneva threatened to quit the peace process all together. The NGOS wrote that the threat is due to the inability to halt the fighting on the ground and the continued attacks on civilians and NGOs operating within Syria. The letter calls for an actual ceasefire to be implemented, one that has the ability to be enforced and includes specific measures to protect civilians, airdrops of aid for besieged areas, and the creation of a war crimes tribunal for Syria.

On 27 June, the US sent Russia a proposal for the establishment of a new military partnership for the two countries in Syria. The new partnership would see the two nations cooperating at an as of yet unseen level, with the US pledging to cooperate in the planning and targeting of al-Nusra with Russia while the Russians would in turn pressure the Assad regime into halting attacks on certain US-backed rebels in Syria. Recent sources within the Russian government have reported that Russia would agree to Assad stepping down as President of Syria, but only in the event of a suitable replacement being found that would not cause the Syrian government, as well as its alliance with Russia, to collapse.


Yemen:

The UN Secretary General lambasted both sides in the Yemeni civil war, citing a number of gross violations of the ceasefire in place by both the government and the Houthi rebel alliance. The Secretary General has personally intervened into the peace negotiations this past week in hopes of stemming the continuing violence. Despite Ban Ki-moon’s efforts, negotiators in Kuwait from both the Yemeni government and the Houthi alliance released that they are preparing to release a joint statement announcing the suspension of peace talks until mid-July. The suspension of peace talks has been called a move from both sides to save face in light of having reached an impasse.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has announced that this break would herald a new phase of the negotiations after the submission of his Roadmap for Peace, which includes steps for the formation of a unity government as well as ideas on how to  break past the disagreements once the suspension of talks is over.

Highlighting the continued tension, former President Saleh, who has allied himself and troops loyal to him with the Houthis, announced he would refuse to accept the currently internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Hadi and would attempt to move forward with his own peace plan.

On 26 June, 41 people died in fighting between the Houthi rebel alliance and the Yemeni government across the country. The fighting comes in the wake of the deaths of a further 31 people on 24 June in what has become a steady intensifying of the conflict. ISIL killed 43 people in a series of attacks across the southern city of Mukalla. Additional clashes between the Houthis and Yemeni government killed 80, including 37 civilians.

On 30 June, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International demanded that Saudi Arabia be removed from the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) in response to both their domestic human rights record as well as their military campaign in Yemen.


What else is new?

On 27 June, the Fund for Peace released  its annual Fragile States Index for 2016. 178 countries are ranked annually in the Index, based off of their perceived stability and the current and future dangers that they face.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect held their sixth annual Global Meeting of R2P Focal Points.

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Filed under Weekly Round-Up

#R2PWeekly: 20 – 24 June 2016

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Secretary General Appoints New
UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect

On 23 June 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Ivan Šimonović has been appointed as the new UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect. Mr. Šimonović will be the third individual to assume the post, following Dr. Edward Luck and Dr. Jennifer Welsh. He will take up the post on 1 October 2016.

Mr. Šimonović is currently the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, a post through which he has shown his dedication to preventing gross and systematic abuses of human rights. In his six-year tenure at the United Nations, Mr. Šimonović has underscored that RtoP is a “human rights friendly” concept, including as a panelist at the 2012 General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP, at which he stated that RtoP is “the idea that people are entitled to be protected from the worst forms of human rights violations, from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.”

As UN Special Adviser on RtoP, Mr. Šimonović will be responsible for the conceptual, political, and institutional development of RtoP, as well as for building consensus to assist the General Assembly to continue considering the norm. Such a mandate entails, among other duties, engaging with UN actors, Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations, and civil society to implement and mainstream the norm; as well as conceptualizing the UN Secretary-General’s annual reports on RtoP.

The ICRtoP looks forward to working with Mr. Šimonović, as well as the entire Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, to continue consolidating support for RtoP and advocating for early action to prevent and respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. In this regard, the ICRtoP will continue efforts with the Office to enhance the relationship between civil society and the UN system to strengthen collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing on atrocities prevention and response.

See statement here.

See the UN News announcement here.

Read more about the mandate of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect and the work of the Joint Office.  For more information, see the ICRtoP’s page on the Joint Office.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DPRK
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will make an official visit to the country from 20 June until 1 July. Ms. Lee will monitor the situation of human rights and assess the work of the new government during its first 100-days in office. A report on the visit will be presented to the UN General Assembly in October. On 20 June, following the Special Rapporteur’s meeting with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the government of Myanmar decided to no longer use the term “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to describe the Muslim community of the Rakhine state. The ethnic term has been a point of contention in the conflict between nationalist Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. The terms were also avoided in the Special Rapporteur’s meeting on 22 June with the Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued a report urging the Burmese government to take concrete action against the systematic violations of human rights of the minority groups in Myanmar. The report, released on 20 June, documented widespread human rights abuses, including denial of healthcare and education, forced labor, restrictions on freedom of movement, and more, that could possibly amount to crimes against humanity. The Rohingya Muslim community was noted to receive the worst treatment. High Commissioner Hussein acknowledged the work of the new democratic government in signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year as well as establishing a Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability, and Development of Rakhine State. However, the Commissioner’s report urged for more concrete steps to be taken by the government to facilitate the transition to peace. The government has criticized the report, stating it is biased.

report by the UN Refugee Agency stated Burmese citizens made up the eighth-largest population of refugees in 2015. More than 451,000 people fled Myanmar last year as a result of ethnic violence between multiple armed groups.

Nearly 1,000 people in the Kachin State protested against the killing of a teen by a Burmese Army soldier on 21 June. The unarmed 19-year-old student was “mistakenly shot” by the soldier during a fight between two soldiers and a group of Kachin University students on the night of 20 June. The events leading up to the shooting are unclear, but they are said involve the soldiers escorting female university students claiming to be harassed by their male peers.


Burundi:

Following their second visit to Burundi last week, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) called for concrete action to be taken to end the violence in the country. While the number of executions has decreased since last year, the UNIIB noted that mass arrests are still occurring, including the recent detainment of 11 children for defacing pictures of the President. “For Burundi to move away from violence and conflict, it needs a truly inclusive political dialogue that will address the roots of the political crises,” said one expert from the UNIIB.

Burundi is reconsidering its membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming the ICC did not take into account the principle of complementarity, which provides that the court can only investigate crimes if national courts cannot do so, when conducting preliminary investigations into post-electoral killings in Burundi.


Central African Republic:

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, has urged the Central African Republic’s government to take robust measures to stop violence and ensure the protection for civilians. Ms. Keita Bocoum met with several government representatives and civil society members on her seventh visit to the country and she stressed the need for enhanced security and justice reform, particularly with the establishment of the Special Criminal Court. She also expressed concern over the allegations of sexual abuse within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and will address the Human Rights Council about the issue on 28 June. Her final report on the Central African Republic will be submitted in September.

A new wave of violence in the northwest has left 10 people dead and forced thousands to flee. Armed attackers entered the city of Ngaoundaye on 16 June, shooting at residents and torching homes. The attack, carried out by Fulani herdsmen and ex-Seleka militiamen, is the worst bout of violence in the country since the political election in February. MINUSCA has strengthened security measures in response to the attacks and reaffirmed its mission to promote peace and security in the CAR.

A driver for Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) was shot and killed while driving to transport medicine and fuel from Bangui to Bangassou on 17 June. The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Dr. Michel Yao, strongly condemned the attack and reminded all parties that “ violence against humanitarian workers and humanitarian assets is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and must stop.” Dr. Yao also called for the attack to be investigated and for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

On 19 June, ex-Seleka rebels abducted six policeman in the capital city of Bangui. Security Minister Jean Serge Bokassa stated, “We demand the liberation of the officers who were taken hostage. The government will do everything possible to free them.”


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The field-based office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, located in Seoul, has begun stepping up its investigation into the country’s human rights violations ahead of the one year anniversary of the office’s establishment on 23 June. The UN opened the office in line with recommendations from the UN Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights record and has been conducting interviews with defectors.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Clashes between former rebels in a camp for demobilized militia groups and government soldiers preventing them from leaving the camp resulted in nine deaths, including six of the former rebels and three soldiers. A government official admitted the clashes took place, but denied that soldiers had killed anyone. A former rebel claimed that soldiers had killed 10 of his fellow ex-fighters and claimed that their protests demanding to be returned home were peaceful. The former rebels held in the camp are ex-M23 fighters belonging to the minority Tutsi group in Rwanda.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli troops shot two Palestinians on 21 June, leaving a 15-year-old Palestinian boy dead when the car he was in came under gunfire by the Israeli army after several Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli cars on a highway in the West Bank.

The West Bank is in “full crisis mode” due to Israel’s water cuts reducing the water supply to Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Residents have been receiving 30 to 40 percent of their normal water allowance. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians in the West Bank have access to just 73 litres of water a day, compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum of 100 litres. The water crisis has left some Palestinians without water for almost a week.


Iraq:

On 17 June, Iraqi forces surged into the ISIL-held city of Fallujah. Several hours later, Prime Minister Al-Abadi declared victory over ISIL in Fallujah. This comes after several months of tightening the knot on the city, which has led to tens of thousands of civilians being trapped in an ever growing humanitarian crisis. However, declarations of complete victory have been premature, as a week later Iraqi forces still have only gained control of roughly 80% of the city. When Iraqi forces began their assault, ISIL forces retreated to the edges of the city, forming “a defensive belt” which the Iraqi armed forces continued to pick apart throughout the week.

ISIL fighters have killed fifteen members of the local security forces in an assault on several villages east of the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The town is 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and, while technically falling under the purview of the central government, has recently been under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who claim it as part of Kurdistan. The following day, a car bomb, planted by ISIL, killed four people in Tuz Khurmatu.

On 20 June, attacks across Iraq left nine people dead. Three soldiers died in a suicide bombing in Ramadi, while six civilians died in several separate attacks in Baghdad.The next day, a suicide-bombing killed five Shia militia members and wounded over 35 in the northern town of Al-Dor.

An Iraqi tribal leader has accused a Shia militia of recently executing fifty Sunni prisoners in northern Iraq. The massacre allegedly took place at the Amerlin prison in Saladin province as revenge for the killing of a senior police officer in the fighting with ISIL near Amerli the previous week.

In order to provide aid to the thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Fallujah, the UN had to withdraw $15 million from its emergency fund this week. In one month, more than 85,000 people have been driven out of the city by fighting. The UN has warned that its supplies are nearly empty, as the emergency fund to provide aid to vulnerable Iraqis has not received two-thirds of its needed funding and projects have been shuttered. In light of this, the US State Department has released $20 million in aid to the Iraqi government. The UNHCR released a statement detailing the needs of the UN in aiding those Iraqis displaced from Fallujah.

Senior Pentagon officials are preparing to give approval to submit a request for a larger US military presence in Iraq to President Obama. Currently, the US has 4,100 troops in Iraq, including 217 that were recently deployed in April. At that time, it was stated that the military would request more if the current number of troops failed to aid the Iraqis in retaking Mosul.


Kenya:

Early this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a brief reporting that police gunfire killed at least five people and wounded 60 others as Kenyan police used live ammunition and excessive force to attempt to break up two recent protests on 23 May and 6 June. The brief includes allegations that police used unnecessary lethal force and even shot or seriously injured uninvolved bystanders and passersby, including students. According to HRW, one witness also claimed to have seen police shoot a man leaving a bank and then take his money. HRW has called for Kenyan authorities to investigate these actions, which appear to violate both Kenyan law and international protocols for law enforcement officers’ use of force.

One person died on Monday after an ambulance hit a landmine while en route to pick up a patient in northeastern Kenya. The incident, which also seriously injured two others, took place in Garissa county, which has recently been the target of attacks by suspected al-Shabaab militants. The same day in nearby Mandera county, suspected al-Shabaab militants attacked a convoy, killing five Kenyan police officers escorting a passenger bus.


Libya:

blast at an ammunition depot in the Libyan city of Garabulli left 30 people dead and 30 more wounded on 21 June. It is not clear what triggered the explosion, but a dispute between locals and protestors from an armed group occurred beforehand. Meanwhile, east of Garabulli in the former ISIL-stronghold of Sirte, fighting between ISIL and government-backed Libyan fighters also left 30 people dead, resulting in a total of 60 people killed in just one day. The fighting also wounded around 140 militants.


Mali:

At a UN Security Council meeting discussing the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Malian Prime Minister Modibo Keita, called on the Council to strengthen the peacekeeping mission in the country and to impose sanctions against those impeding the peace deal. The head of MINUSMA and UN envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, presenting the UN Secretary-General’s report on the developments in the country since March, also called for better training and better equipment for peacekeepers and said “losses could have been avoided” if these had been provided earlier. He also added that, despite the slow process and the skepticism surrounding the Agreement, the situation has improved since 2012 and noted that the successful establishment of eight cantonment sites allowed for the disarmament process to begin.

On the one year anniversary of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement commending Malian President Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta and the government for their commitment to peace. Mr. Ban also welcomed the signing of the new Protocole d’Entente on the interim authorities and other arrangements by the government and other signatory parties. He called this and the government’s appointment of Mr. Mahamadou Diagouraga as the High Representative tasked with following up on the Agreement “important steps forward”.


Nigeria:

Late last week Boko Haram fighters shot and killed at least 18 women and may have captured others who were attending a funeral in the village of Kuda in Nigeria’s restive northeast. According to witnesses, the militants rampaged through the village shooting randomly at will and setting houses on fire. Witnesses counted 18 women’s bodies after the attack, but some women are currently still missing.

The Nigeria Air Force (NAF) recently launched “Operation Gama-Aiki”, under which the NAF completed its first major air campaign, killing 15 Boko Haram militants in Borno state.

On 21 June, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) visited the town of Bama in Borno state for the first time since its liberation from Boko Haram’s control by the army in March 2015. MSF found 24,000 people living in a camp on a hospital compound in the town, including 15,000 children (of which 4,500 are under five years old). According to MSF, over 1,200 people have starved to death or died of illness at the camp and of the 800 children examined, around one in five were acutely malnourished. The group also reported that they had found around 1,233 graves dug in the last year near the camp and at least 188 people have died in the camp since 23 May – amounting to almost six people each day.

In the southeastern Niger Delta Region, Nigerian officials reported late last week that the government has reached a 30-day truce with militants, including the Niger Delta Avengers, who have carried out devastating attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region in recent months. Another official added that although a truce had been reached, talks working towards a final resolution are still on-going. However, the Niger Delta Avengers issued a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that they had never agreed to a ceasefire with the government. A security expert based in Nigeria has said that he believes that the government may have been holding talks with the wrong people.


South Sudan:

On Tuesday, the UN completed an investigation into violence that occurred at a UN compound housing 50,000 civilians in Malakal. Over the course of 16-18 February, fighting between ethnic groups killed 30 civilians and 130 others. On 18 February, armed men, including members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), burst into the camp and began shooting civilians and burning down housing complexes. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers, mandated to use force to protect civilians, stood by, taking over 16 hours to react to the incursion into the compound. The report, obtained by several news agencies, but unlikely to be made public, details how the UN responsewas one beset by confusion, with peacekeepers fleeing their posts. Some, like Human Rights Watch, have pressured the UN to release the findings to the public, follow the investigation’s recommendations, and hold those responsible to account. In response, the UN has announced that it will be sending home peacekeepers that were found to have not appropriately responded during the situation. Meanwhile, a report by Doctors without Borders noted that, in addition to the UN failing in its duty to protect civilians, UN security rules interfered with efforts by humanitarian actors to respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis.

UNICEF has released a report highlighting the continuing use of child soldiers in South Sudan. The report, aided by the work of the UN mission in South Sudan, states that there are still over 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan. This figure is in spite of the government’s 2008 South Sudan Child Act, which sets a minimum age of 18 for any conscription or voluntary recruitment into armed forces or groups. Furthermore, the release of all child soldiers is a stipulation of the peace agreement in South Sudan.

On 20 June, fighting erupted once again in the South Sudanese town of Raja, which saw clashes last week when armed men stormed and temporarily seized the town. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the fighting,with the International Committee of the Red Cross sending in two planes to evacuate the wounded.


Sri Lanka:

Newly uncovered evidence seems to confirm reports that the Sri Lankan armed forces may have used cluster munitions against civilians in the end stages of the country’s 26-year civil war. Testimonies from de-mining groups working in Sri Lanka have also claimed that they have discovered munitions in government-declared “no fire zones”, where authorities had told around 300,000 people during the war to gather for safety until the war’s resolution.

According to a former asylum seeker now living permanently in Australia, the group of 44 stranded Tamil asylum seekers in Indonesia, who arrived by boat on the island of Aceh on their way to Australia, were previously tortured in Sri Lanka and would certainly be persecuted once again if they return. Their compatriot in Australia identified several of the asylum seekers in Indonesia from photos as those who were allegedly tortured alongside him during his time in prison in Sri Lanka.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 17 June, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a 4-month ceasefire in the Blue Nile and South Kordufan areas, which went into effect over the weekend. Rebel fighters with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and government forces have been engaged in fighting that has left both sides in a perpetual stalemate since 2011. The SPLM-N is the northern counterpart of the movement that brought South Sudan forward into independence and they have been fighting against their region’s continued inclusion in Sudan. Fighting has recently intensified in the area as a truce, negotiated at the end of 2015, has broken down. The SPLM-N has conditionally agreed to the ceasefire and is calling for negotiations to immediately start in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. This is the third ceasefire declaration by the Sudanese government in the past year.

After a three-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Sudan Call (the umbrella representation of the Sudanese opposition) stated on Sunday that they will propose a supplemental document to the Roadmap Agreement for peace in Sudan. As of yet, only the Sudanese government has signed the Roadmap crafted by the African Union High level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The opposition has declined, stating the document only deals with a ceasefire and humanitarian access. The supplemental document, they allege, would ensure the Roadmap leads to fruitful political dialogue. The opposition currently recognizes the government-controlled dialogue process as a basis for the national constitutional dialogue and claims it lacks trust-building measures.

On 19 June, Sudan requested a meeting with Martin Uhomoibh, the head of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), after the UN recommended a one-year extension of the mission’s mandate in the region. The joint AU-UN mission currently has 20,000 troops and policemen in the region. The report, presented to the UNSC last week, stated their presence is still needed due to an overall lack of progress in the peace process and continued violence, which the Sudanese government has publicly contended and disagreed with.

On 20-21 June, attacks in central Darfur killed and injured 18 people. Eyewitness reports allege that the attacks were carried out by members of the government-sponsored Janjaweed militia, which has already made several attacks looting the area’s major market and torching a multitude of shops and homes.

The following day, six student activists were released by the Sudanese security forces after being detained for a month without charges. The arrest and detention of the students, who were arrested for leading protests against government policy, sparked a wave of demonstrations and clashes with security forces.


Syria:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, Turkish border guards allegedly killed 11 Syrian refugees as they fled across the border into Turkey. The incident is alleged to have taken place near the village of Khirbet al-Joz in Idlib province. This is not the first time accusations of Turkish soldiers shooting fleeing Syrians have appeared, with HRW releasing a scathing report earlier this year.

On 20 June, an ISIL suicide-bomber killed three people in Qamishli. The bomber was attempting to sneak into a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide.

Despite earlier gains against ISIL this week, the extremist group has managed to force Syrian government troops into retreat from Raqqa, ISIL’s de-facto capital. The Syrian government had advanced as close as six miles to the town of al-Tabqa, which lies to the west of Raqqa, but has now been pushed back over 40 kilometers from Tabqa.

On 21 June, the SDF entered the ISIL-held city of Manjib in northern Aleppo after having successfully repelled an attempt by ISIL to break the siege earlier in the week. This has allowed the first humanitarian corridor into the city to be opened, allowing hundreds to flee.

Later the same day, a car-bomb killed six Jordanian soldiers near a Syrian refugee camp on the northeastern Syrian-Jordanian border. The attack is the first of its kind since the start of the Syrian civil war. More than 50,000 Syrians are living in the refugee camp there in deplorable conditions, with Jordan citing security concerns for not allowing them out the camps. Jordan has responded by announcing that there will be no new refugee camps built in the country.

On 22 June, 25 civilians are reported to have been killed in air raids in Raqqa. The strikes also injured dozens more, with the death toll expected to rise. As of yet, no party has claimed responsibility.

Delivering Aid

The UN was able to deliver deliver aid into the besieged areas of Ein Tarma, Hamouria, Hazeh, Beit Sawa and Eftreis in rural Damascus on Monday for the first time since April. This brings the total number of besieged areas reached up to 16 out of the 18 the UN has requested. However, the UN is still facing difficulties as the Syrian government continues to deny unfettered access and, in many cases, the amount of aid delivered has been restricted.

International Developments

On 16 June, the New York Times received a draft version of an internal dissent memo from the US State Department, signed by fifty-one individuals, that called for US airstrikes against the Assad regime. The memo is exceptionally critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Syria, particularly detailing the continued use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime in a campaign that is both in violation of the ceasefire and mainly targeting civilians. According to the memo, continued military pressure by the United States is the only way to stop the gross injustices being committed in Syria and force Assad to the negotiating table.

Late last week, Russia’s state-run RT network accidentally ran a segment on the Russian campaign in Syria that showed Russian planes in Syria armed with cluster bombs. While Russia has not signed the international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, they have consistently denied using such indiscriminate bombs in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied accusations that it bombed the US-backed New Syrian Army rebel group in southern Syria. US and Russian officials held a video-conference over the weekend to discuss the airstrikes, which are believed to include cluster munitions and which killed several rebels near Jordanian border.

On 21 June, several countries debated the issue of prosecuting alleged perpetrators of serious crimes in Syria as a UN panel, called First Cracks in the Syria Impunity Wall. The panel discussed whether or not third party countries should prosecute persons accused of committing atrocities in Syria. The push for prosecution is being made by several European countries, particularly Germany, France, Sweden and Finland. The panel follows the vetoing, by Russia and China, of a UNSC resolution that would have referred Syria to the ICC.

Norway’s parliament gave approval for the deployment of Norwegian troops to Syria on Wednesday, including the nation’s special forces. The troops will join the forces from the US and other members of the anti-ISIL coalition on the ground in training the Syrian Democratic Forces.


Yemen:

Developments in the fighting

On 18 June, reversing reports of the United Arab Emirates pulling out of the war in Yemen, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, stated that remarks to that end have been taken out of context and that the UAE will continue to take part in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

The U.S. military has announced that it is planning on continuing its ongoing mission in Yemen against al-Qaeda.  The U.S. now plans on keeping a small, twelve-man, Special-Operations team in Yemen to assist Gulf State forces on the ground. The team was originally sent in April for a limited operation. The U.S. had previously established such a team in Yemen but withdrew it in 2014 in light of the deteriorating situation.

On 21 June, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen claimed to have intercepted a ballistic missile fired at the city of Marib, which is controlled by the coalition. Seperately, a coalition airstrike in the mountainous area of Lahj province is said to have killed eight civilians. The airstrike is alleged to have taken place during a three-day battle for the mountain range that overlooks Yemen’s largest airbase, which has apparently left 45 dead and the Houthi rebels in control and overlooking the base.

On 22 June, 13 people died in renewed clashes, in the central city of Taiz, between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces. Both civilians and fighters have been counted amongst the dead in the fighting, which has continued despite an agreed upon by ceasefire by both sides. The next day Houthi rebels allegedly killed seven civilians while in pursuit of a pro-government militia leader. The Houthi’s have claimed that the raid, which took place in central Yemen, was in pursuit of a “terrorist cell” and that they had killed eight members of al- Qaeda. While reports have been increasing of al- Qaeda militants fighting alongside the Yemeni government in central Yemen, the Houthis commonly characterize all the militias that oppose them as al-Qaeda. On the same day, local residents in the south of the country reportedthe return of  al-Qaeda to their towns after an absence of a month. Al-Qaeda had previously retreated from many major population centers in the area following tribal negotiations.

Developments in the peace process

On 18-19 June, the largest prisoner swap yet in the conflict in Yemen took place, with 224 prisoners being exchanged by the Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government in the city of Taez.

Highlighting
 the contention at the peace talks in Kuwait, the Houthi delegation announced on 22 June that they would refuse to sign onto any peace agreement which did not include an agreement on a consensus President to lead Yemen through its transition period. Concurrently, the Yemeni delegation has demanded that the Houthis withdraw from all  territory captured since 2014 and give over control of political institutions to the Yemeni government before negotiations. The demands are in light of the submission of a Roadmap for Peace for Yemen by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.


What else is new?

Responding to worrying developments such as the revocation of citizenship for over 250 individuals since July 2014, including most recently Sheikh Issa Qassem, among other human rights violations, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, released a statement on 22 June expressing concern for the situation and calling in the government to recommit to national dialogue. See full statement here.

Monday, 20 June marked World Refugee Day, with a report released by the UN Refugee Agency entitled Global Trends showing that a record high of 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes due to conflict and violence in 2015. The Global Trends report shared staggering findings, including that 1 in every 113 people in the world is an asylum-seeker, internally displaced person, or refugee, with 24 people displaced per minute in 2015. To put the vast numbers of displaced persons in perspective, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect has produced a new infographic showing what displacement in countries experiencing atrocity crimes means in other terms.View the infographic here.

On Sunday 19 June, the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the time of impunity for the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war is over. He cited several landmark court rulings convicting and sentencing former political and military leaders for their involvement in conflict-related sexual violence, including in the convictions of two former Guatemalan military officers in a national court in Guatemala, the International Criminal Court’s first sexual and gender-based crimes conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the conviction of former Chadian President Hissène Habré in the Senegalese judicial system for rape and sexual slavery earlier this year. The latter is the first time in history that a former Head of State has been convicted and held personally accountable for the commission of rape as an international crime. The ICC also sentenced Bemba on 21 June to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape. A summary of the ICC’s decision in the Bemba case can be read here.

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#R2PWeekly: 6 – 10 June 2016

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Crimes against Humanity Occurring in Eritrea

On 8 June, The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea released a report stating that widespread crimes against humanity have been committed in the country over the past 25 years since its independence in 1991. The report’s findings are based on testimonies from 833 Eritreans. 45,000 written submissions were received during the second investigation this past year, revealing common themes of an orchestrated government campaign to refute the Inquiry’s claims. The crimes found to have been committed include enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, persecution, rape, murder, and other acts aimed at maintaining an authoritarian rule in Eritrea. The Commission found the Eritrean government, military commanders, and members of the National Security Office to be directly responsible for the crimes and the enslavement of almost 400,000 Eritreans. Notably, since the Commission of Inquiry’s last report published in June 2015, the authors underscored that “no improvement was found in the human rights situation in Eritrea.”

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400,000 people, nearly five percent of the population, have fled Eritrea due to the country’s indefinite military and national service programs. Under Eritrean law, each citizen must serve 18 months in national service, yet many serve for an indefinite period, with the report noting the use of conscription as a means of forced labor.  5,000 Eritreans per month attempt to flee the country, despite the danger of facing border guards with orders to shoot to kill people leaving the country. There were 47,025 Eritreans  seeking asylum in Europe in 2015, making the group the second-largest group of asylum seekers. As one expert journalist noted, ““Denied a chance to express themselves at home, Eritreans continue to vote with their feet, which is as strong a confirmation of the commission’s findings as any.”

All governments, including the Eritrean government, have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. When a state is unable or, as the CoI determined in its report, is itself the perpetrator of such crimes, the international community has a key role to play and must take timely and decisive action to ensure that populations are protected from mass atrocity crimes. The CoI report articulates a range of recommendations for the government, various UN bodies, Member States, and the African Union to implement to halt the commission of crimes against humanity, ensure justice for victims, and establish the policies and mechanisms needed to prevent future atrocities. As Eritrea is an authoritarian state with no democratic institutions, the resulting power vacuum creates “a climate of impunity for crimes against humanity to be perpetrated,” says Mike Smith, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry. As such, the Commission of Inquiry recommended that the African Union establish a mechanism for accountability, as well as for the Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. It further suggests the Council impose travel bans and asset freezes; for the Human Rights Council to support a structure within OHCHR with a protection and promotion mandate; and for member states to assist Eritrea to strengthen its judiciary and reform its security sector.
Read the Commission’s report and full recommendations here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The Arakan state government has said it will begin taking count of the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in camps within three of the state’s townships. The government had not previously accounted for Muslims in the state during the 2014 census due to their refusal to identify as Bengali. However, some Muslim villagers are still refusing to participate in the census because neither their nationality nor religion will be displayed on the identification card.

The Buddhist extremist group Ma Ba Tha held their annual summit on 4 June in Yangon. Known as The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, the anti-Muslim group consistently urges the government to protect Buddhism and strictly implement the citizenship law of 1982 denying Rohingya Muslims citizenship.


Burundi:

Burundi police opened fire on a protest by schoolchildren on 3 June, who were rallying against the detainment of 11 high schoolers arrested for defacing a photo of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Though authorities released six students on Tuesday, five remain to face prosecution. UNICEF has expressed its concern over the arbitrary arrests and called on Burundi to ensure the right of children’s education.

A Burundian journalist was arrested while visiting friends on 5 June. Egide Ndayisenga worked at Bonesha FM, a radio station shut down in May 2015 for conspiring with generals who opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza.


Central African Republic:

The remains of 18 people killed by peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo in the Central African Republic were found in a mass grave near a peacekeeping camp in Boali. Found in February 2016, the bodies have been identified as anti-Balaka members arrested by peacekeepers in March 2014. Human Rights Watch is calling on the Congolese government to take action against the guilty soldiers serving in the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA.

In a note from the Secretary-General on 8 June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the investigations launched by the UN in response to the allegations against peacekeepers. The Secretary-General’s note assures the peacekeepers serving in MINUSCA were investigated promptly and 20 implicated Congolese peacekeepers were disciplined and banned from future service in UN peacekeeping operations. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expects full disciplinary and judicial action to be taken by the Republic of Congo to hold the perpetrators accountable.

France suspended five of its peacekeepers due to violence against civilians during their mission in the Central African Republic. The violence, which occurred in early 2014, was not linked to the widespread allegations of sexual abuse. Four other peacekeepers not complicit but aware of the attacks were given disciplinary action as well.

UN officials announced on 3 June that Burundi police units stationed in the Central African Republic will not be replaced. The decision to terminate the police mission was made “given the current allegations of serious and ongoing human rights violations in Burundi,” said peacekeeping advisor Stefan Feller. 840 military troops will continue serving in the Central African Republic mission.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Thousands flocked to Kinshasa on Saturday to celebrate President Joseph Kabila’s birthday and show their support for him. At the rally, another high party official made a suggestion to hold a referendum on the extension of the president’s rule, a pronouncement which is likely to fuel suspicions that Kabila may be attempting to stay in power beyond the constitutional two-term limit.

The UN, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) have reaffirmed their support, in a joint statement, for the political dialogue in the DRC and have urged all stakeholders to work together for its sustained success. They also encouraged the government to uphold its commitment to protecting the human rights and freedoms enshrined in the DRC’s Constitution, including the release of political prisoners.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel is holding discussions with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the investigation into possible war crimes during the 2014 50-day war with Gaza. While no details have been given, the dialogue indicates a shift from Israel’s former refusal to cooperate with the ICC on the basis that Palestine can not be considered a sovereign state under an international court.

Israeli minister Uri Ariel has plans to fully annex Area C of the West Bank, currently under total Israeli military control. Numbers on the Arab population of Area C remain a mystery, with the UN estimating as many as 297,500 and Israel estimating as low as 50,000.

Israel has approved the construction of 82 new settlement homes in a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the new permits raise tensions following the Arab-Israeli peace talks held in Paris last week.

Palestine will hold talks with French Special Envoy Pierre Vimont to discuss the suggestions made during last week’s peace talks in Paris.

Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire in a popular food and retail center in Tel Aviv across from Israel’s Defense Ministry on 8 June, killing 4 and wounding a dozen others. Hamas has welcomed the attack, but no Palestinian group has yet taken responsibility for the killings. In response to the attack, Israel strongly increased its military presence in the West Bank and revoked the travel permits of 83,000 West Bank Palestinians, cancelling the recent policy to ease travel for Palestinians in the month of Ramadan.


Iraq:

On 5 June, Iraqi forces and allied militia took control of several suburbs of Fallujah to the south, with the only side of Fallujah that remained to be secured being the western bank of the Euphrates. On Wednesday, Iraqi forces officially entered into Fallujah for the first time in two years. While met with initial success, the offensive to retake Fallujah temporarily had been halted over humanitarian concerns and is expected to be slowed as the Iraqi army meets more resistance from ISIL and deals with the 50,000 civilians being used as human shields.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has released information corroborating witness reports that ISIL fighters are shooting civilians attempting to flee the ISIL-held city of Fallujah prior to the start of a government offensive to retake the city. As of the start of the week, 6 June, 18,000 people have managed to flee from Fallujah and the surrounding area, while another 50,000 remain trapped in the city.

Allegations have arisen that hundreds of civilians may have recently been tortured by Shia militias on their push to retake Fallujah. Local officials have confirmed that militias took roughly 600 people as prisoners in fighting over the previous weekend. The Iraqi government has recently attempted to assure the public against abuses by these militias, announcing the formation of a human rights committee to investigate all allegations.

Iraqi forces uncovered a mass grave containing 400 bodies found to the northwest of Fallujah. The bodies are believed to be those of Iraqi troops captured by ISIL.

On 6 June, bomb blasts across Baghdad killed 23 people. Three separate attacks took place in the north, south, and west of Baghdad, and come in the wake of a separate bombing on Sunday that killed 9 people. On 7 June, 10  people died from a car bomb in the Iraqi city of Karbala. The attack injured a further 25 people in the city, which is one of the holiest to Shi’ite Muslims due to its famed Imam Hussein Shrine. ISIL has claimed responsibility. On Thursday, two suicide-bombings in Baghdad claimedthe lives of 30 people.


Kenya:

On Monday, protests against Kenya’s election body left at least one person dead and others wounded in the city of Kisumu, while others also demonstrated in Nairobi. The next day, Kenya’s government banned all protests against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), calling them “unlawful demonstrations.”

On Wednesday, President Kenyatta proposed establishing a bipartisan committee within parliament to consider the issue. At first, opposition leaders rejected the idea, but after talking to church leaders, who have been acting as mediators, the opposition softened its position saying, “We are now saying at least he has recognized the need to discuss IEBC but that alone is not enough.” They also added that if they feel their concerns are not being considered, then protests would recommence.


Libya:

On 9 June, Libyan forces captured the ISIL stronghold city of Sirte. ISIL fighters reportedly shaved off their beards to avoid persecution before retreating from the city. Libyan forces faced little resistance as they pushed into the city of about 5,000 ISIL soldiers. Soldiers celebrated as army tanks pulled into the town’s central Zafarana square, used by ISIL as a podium for public beheadings and killings. Sirte’s capture caps the end of a month-long battle between Libyan military and Islamic State fighters.

In a six point plan, the Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, underlined the need for a unified government in Libya against a common enemy of terrorist groups, such as ISIL.

The EU urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing EU naval forces to intercept ships smuggling arms into Libya. EU ships have seized migrant-smuggling ships in the Mediterranean successfully in the past.

In a new interview, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj welcomed help from the international community in Libya’s fight against terrorism but rejected foreign military intervention. Sarraj stated that foreign intervention would “offend national pride and run contrary to Libya’s principles.”


Nigeria:

The court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) fined Nigeria $3.25 million on Wednesday for the “barbaric, illegal, and unconstitutional” extrajudicial killings of eight civilians and wounding of 11 other individuals, who were shot by government forces in the capital in 2013. The fine is to be paid to the victims and families in compensation for their losses.

Nigerian authorities have suspended military attacks in the Niger Delta region to allow for talks with oil militants, the Niger Avengers. Thousands have fled the conflict between the military and oil militants in the region. On Wednesday, the Niger Delta Avengers announced via Twitter that it would not negotiate with any committee from the government. The group has also claimed to have blown up a Chevron pipeline near the Dibbi flow station in the Niger Delta, which a local community leader confirmed.


 South Sudan:

On 7 June, the leaders of the two previously warring parties in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and the newly re-appointed Vice President Riek Machar, released an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the creation of a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission. They further stated that “In contrast to reconciliation, disciplinary justice — even if delivered under international law — would destabilize efforts to unite our nation by keeping alive anger and hatred among the people of South Sudan.” In this regard, they called on the international community to reconsider the establishment of an international tribunal, a key component of the August peace deal. The proposal was rejected by many, with Human Rights Watch calling it a “self-serving attempt to evade justice”.

On 3 June, South Sudanese military intelligence personnel working with the national security service abducted two students at Juba University. The University has served as a hub for those who are critical of the current South Sudanese leadership, with this only being the latest in a series of abductions by security services. Those who are taken tend to be held for at least a month with no access to their families or legal representation. As of yet, the location or charges against the two students are unknown.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 3 June, UNHCR highlighted the plight of people still fleeing from fighting and indiscriminate government attacks in the South Kordofan State of Sudan. This past weekend marked five years since the fighting started in that region. Since that time, over 250,000 refugees have fled to South Sudan from the epicenter of the fighting, the Nuba mountains. 2016 has seen 7,500 new refugees so far.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N)  acknowledged that the Sudanese government had captured several strategic points in the Jebel Kigu region of the Blue Nile State. However, the SPLM-N also claims to have successfully repelledseveral more recent government assaults last Friday, leading to the death of 25 government soldiers.

Continuing discussions which began last week in Doha, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) rebel groups held a series of indirect discussion in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, on how they can join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), finally coming to terms of peace with the Sudanese government.

On 5 June, an attack by militiamen on the Sudanese military, in Kutum in North Darfur, killed three Sudanese soldiers.


Syria:

On 4 June, in what is being dubbed the “race for Raqqa”, Syrian government forces crossed into Raqqa province thanks to heavy gains made in an offensive backed by Russian air support. Earlier last week, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expanded their offensive in the north of Raqqa province to also strike west towards another strategic airbase while simultaneously launching a new offensive on the ISIL-controlled Manbij pocket in northern Aleppo, which if taken would cut off the terrorist group’s main artery for the ebb and flow of foreign fighters. As of Thursday, the SDF had reached the militants last main route in and out of the area. ISIL forces also began retreating from their frontline positions north of Aleppo as rebel groups staged a counter-offensive against the terrorist group.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) asked the Turkish government to open their borders to the steadily growing number of Syrians displaced by the increased fighting in northern Aleppo, on 2 June. Roughly 100,000 Syrians have already been taking shelter from the conflict on the Syrian side of the border in the area and are now trapped due to the uptick in fighting between rebel-forces and ISIL. In the wake of this request, the UN fears that an additional 200,000 Syrians could be displaced by the SDF offensive against the ISIL-held city of Manbij.

On 3 June, in the wake of the US and others beginning to plan airdrops on besieged areas of Syria, the Syrian government has announced they will allow the UN and the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid overland into at least 11 of 19 previously-designated besieged areas in the month of June. Eight other areas received separate approval for medical and school supplies as well as milk for young children. However, the UN is still calling the current Syrian government’s approved access, to 23 of the 34 areas on the UN’s deliveries list, inadequate.

In a televised speech on Tuesday made before the new Syrian parliament, President Assad promised that the Syrian government would “liberate” every part of Syria and publicly hardened the bargaining stance of his government at the Geneva peace talks, stressing that Syria would be under the leadership of a “unity government” and not a “transitional governing body”.

Sihanouk Dibo, the presidential advisor to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), on 5 June, made public that they had been invited by UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura to Geneva and will subsequently take part in the next round of peace talks. The talks, colloquially referred to as Geneva III, have so far excluded the PYD due to Turkish security concerns, despite the large amounts of territory the group controls in northern Syria as well as their success against ISIL.

On 5 June, barrel bombs- oil drums or cylinders packed with explosives and shrapnel- killed 53 people in the city of Aleppo. An additional eight people died from rebel shelling of government held areas of the city. These airstrikes come in the wake of others that killed 29 people, some with barrel bombs, at the end of last week as well as an overall tripling of Russian air strikes in Syria that took place over the past several days. Meanwhile, on Monday airstrikes carried out in the ISIL-held town of Al-Asharah, in Deir Ezzor province killed 17 people as they were shopping in a public market on the opening day of Ramadan. Still more airstrikes on Wednesday struck three hospitals in Aleppo, killing 20 people as the government offensive on the city intensifies. This brings the total number of medical facilities targeted in the last two months up to 17, with only 7 hospitals still operating in Aleppo.


Yemen:

Saudi Arabia has refused to accept the findings of a report issued by the UN last week that heavily criticized the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. On 2 June, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put the Saudi-led coalition on the annual blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children’s rights during conflicts, stating that coalition airstrikes were behind 60% (510 in total) of children’s deaths in 2015. The report also blacklisted the Houthi group and forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Nevertheless, after complaints from Saudi officials, the UN took Saudi Arabia off the child blacklist, announcing it would conduct a joint review with the Saudi-led coalition to examine all instances that originally led to Saudi Arabia being placed on the list. Civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch, denounced the removal, with HRW’s children’s rights advocacy director, Jo Becker, stating that “the secretary-general’s decision flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that violations by the Saudi-led coalition have killed and maimed hundreds of children in Yemen.”

On 6 June, the UN envoy to the Yemen peace talks in Kuwait, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced that the Houthi-rebels and Saudi-backed government have both agreed to release all child prisoners. While it is not known how many child prisoner either side is holding, recent reports by Human Rights Watch and UNICEF have condemned both sides for using child soldiers and for the 900 children killed and 1,500 wounded in 2015 alone.

On 4 June, the UN condemned the recent attacks in Taiz which killed 11 people, with the UN Secretary-General Bai Ki-moon reminding all parties to the conflict that that targeting civilian areas is a violation of international humanitarian law.

In accordance with the agreement reached earlier this week, Saudi Arabia has transferred 54 child prisoners, captured in offensives against the Houthi rebels, over to the Yemeni government. The government went on to announce that the children would be quickly freed.


What else is new?

On 3 June, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his annual report on children and armed conflict for the year of 2015. The report noted in detail what the Secretary-General called the shocking scale of violations in conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The report noted that an ever-increasing number of children are finding themselves in situations of conflict and are suffering abuses and violations of their rights. The report further calls upon Member States to make, “as a matter of priority, changes in policies, military procedures and legislation, where necessary, to prevent violations and protect children.” The full report can be found here.

On 24 June, Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds will co-host the final workshop in their three year Economic and Social Research Council funded series on the Responsibility to Protect & Prosecute. This workshop will focus on United Nations Reform and RtoP. To find out more about the event and how to attend, please click here.

On 9 June, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) released their annual Peoples Under Threat and Index Map for 2016. The map’s stated purpose it to help identify those populations which are at the greatest risk of genocide, mass political killings or systematic violent repression. The report highlights in particular the relationship between the current refugee crisis and persecution, demonstrating the connection between the two and how it is likely to increase. The Index can be viewed here.


Above photo: Human Rights Watch.”EU: Migrants Seeking Opportunity or Refugees Seeking Protection?”

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