Tag Archives: civil society

#R2PWeekly: 25-29 April 2016

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Reducing Risk, Strengthening Resilience:
Toward the Structural Prevention of Atrocity Crimes

New Brief from the Stanley Foundation, ICRtoP Steering Committee member

In a new brief by Alex Bellamy of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (also an ICRtoP Steering Committee member), the Stanley Foundation explores new ideas on how to make structural prevention of atrocity crimes a reality.

Despite the fact that prevention is often cited as the most effective and least costly way to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, structural prevention measures are seldom given enough attention or investment.

The new brief aims to assist actors to reduce the occurrence of risk factors of atrocities and increase societal resilience to such factors. Among other recommendations, Bellamy urges stakeholders to consider 1) adopting and utilizing an atrocity prevention lens to identify sources of risk and resilience; 2) connecting atrocity prevention measures with other mutually-reinforcing agendas; and 3) relating risk assessments to resource allocations, program design, and execution.

Read the full brief here and find other Stanley Foundation policy briefs here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s new state counselor, met with members of the military and representatives of ethnic armed groups. She announced that she would be taking a leadership role in the peace process, though she also named a new government mediator to monitor negotiations between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups.

The Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization, reported that military forces near the Shan-Kachin State border targeted and killed civilians.


Burundi:

Continuing violence in Burundi killed a military officer and three others in two separate events. The military officer was a colonel who was ambushed upon arriving home. Only one day prior, Burundi’s Minister for Human Rights survived an apparent assassination attempt. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’adboth condemned the attacks, while Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gave security forces one week to find the people responsible.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi. Bensouda stated that her office had received a number of reports indicating “acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances,” crimes which fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

UN officials briefed the UN Security Council Wednesday on the Secretary-General’s suggested options for the deployment of a so-called police “contribution” to Burundi. As detailed by Security Council Report, the first option is a large, visible presence of a 3,000-strong police protection and monitoring force, which would also have some ability to protect civilians. Another possibility would be the deployment of 228 police who would be responsible for enhancing monitoring capacity, but would have no power to protect. Under this option, the UN police would work with the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi and potentially AU human rights monitors. Finally, a third option would be a minimal deployment of 20-50 UN staff who would assess the Burundian police’s operational and institutional limitations and identify strategies for future UN police involvement.

The UNHCR has calculated that the number of refugees in Burundi has grown to almost260,000.


Central African Republic:

French President François Hollande has reversed his decision to withdraw French troops from CAR, saying that the Operation Sangaris forces would remain in the country to help train CAR’s military.

21 international and Central African human rights organizations urged the new President, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to take a tough stance against impunity for serious international crimes.

Touadera announced that his government’s first priorities would be disarming ex-combatants and rebuilding the military. In order to do the latter, however, he underscored that the international arms embargo imposed on CAR in 2013 would have to be lifted.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of MINUSCA until 31 July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Médecins Sans Frontières has initiated a project in Mambasa to provide medical and psychological support to victims of sexual violence. Mame Anna Sane, the MSF medical team leader, reported that the number of victims amounted to 123 in March alone.

The head of MONUSCO, Maman Sidikou, expressed concern about the upsurge of political tensions in some parts of the DRC. He stressed the crucial need for “all Congolese political actors to demonstrate maximum restraint during this critical period in the political evolution of their country.”


Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces shot and killed two siblings, aged 16 and 24 years old, in the West Bank as they approached a checkpoint.


Iraq:

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested on the streets of Baghdad after a month-long political crisis. Sadr and his followers were demanding that Prime Minister Abadi abide by his plan to replace ministers with technocrats. Bowing to the pressure, Abadi submitted new names of cabinet candidates to Parliament, who eventually approved six of the nominations. They will vote on the remaining nominations on Thursday.

bomb explosion in Radwaniyah at a Shia mosque killed at least 9 people and injured 25. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion, but it is similar to attacks previously executed  by ISIL.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq reported that 1,119 Iraqis had been killed and 1,561 injured as a result of terrorism and armed conflict in March alone. 575 of the fatalities were reportedly civilians. In this vein, the U.S. stated that its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq have killed 20 civilians since fall 2015. Human rights organizations dismissed the so-called effort at transparency, saying that the real tally stood around 1,100.

Heavy fighting broke out between Kurdish peshmerga forces and Shiite paramilitary forces north of Baghdad.


Libya:

Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, stated that a deployment of British troops in Libya could not be ruled out, but that any such action would require the approval of the House of Commons.

The crisis in Libya is causing hospitals to close, or significantly reduce their schedules, according to President of Médecins Sans Frontières France, Dr. Mego Terzian. Political tensions amongst the governments in Tripoli, Tobruk, and the UN-backed government have worsened the health care system in Libya. Since 2011, health care has become increasingly scarce due to damage and lack of resources.


Mali:

Ansar Dine released the three Red Cross employees it had kidnapped last week. Nevertheless, the kidnapping, together with the damage caused to MINUSMA’s airstrip by violent protests, have impeded humanitarian aid in the region, according to humanitarian agencies.

In central Mali, officials representing the Peuhl ethnic group have claimed that the military and its allies have been torturing and killing civilians accused of collaborating with the Macina Liberation Front, an Islamic militant group in the region. A government spokesman denied any knowledge of the reports.


Nigeria:

President Buhari has ordered a crackdown on Nomadic herders from the Fulani ethnic group accused of killing hundreds in clashes since the beginning of 2016. This comes after a Fulani raid in Benue State left 300 dead and tens of thousands homeless in February. Another attack on Monday on the Ukpabi Nimbo community reportedly killed at least 20 people. These Fulani raids are considered to be the country’s second biggest security threat after Boko Haram.


South Sudan:

After repeated delays, rebel leader Riek Machar finally landed in Juba on Tuesday and was sworn in as Vice President in the new unity government under President Kiir, successfully completing the first of many important steps in the peace process. President Kiir called Mr Manchar his “brother” and claimed to “have no doubt that his return to Juba today marks the end of the war and the return of peace and stability to South Sudan.”

The US has pledged $86 million in additional aid to South Sudan under the condition that the leaders engage properly with the peace process. Failure to do so, the US warned, could result in the levying of sanctions or an arms embargo against the country.


Sudan/Darfur:

The results of the Darfur Administrative Referendum show that Darfuris overwhelmingly voted to keep the region’s current administrative status, leaving Darfur divided into its initial five states. Chairman of the Darfur Administrative Referendum Commission announced that 97% of registered voters chose to keep the current system and stressed that voting was held amid stable security conditions. Representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement, a rebel group, declared that the “results reflect the fraud the Sudanese government continues to employ in all of its elections.” The referendum fulfilled a requirement under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur that was signed in July 2011.


Syria:

Government and rebel forces killed over 30 civilians over the weekend, a further detriment to the fragile Geneva peace talks and the US-Russia backed ceasefire. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that the interim truce established between the Assad regime and the rebel opposition in late February has now effectively collapsed. Fighting has resumed in the areas that were covered by the ceasefire over the past month, government forces specifically killing 12 civilians in Aleppo on Saturday and 13 more near Damascus. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents much of the opposition, has stated that only Moscow can revive the cessation of hostilities by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt his offensives against rebels throughout the country.

U.S President Barack Obama announced that he would send up to 250 additional special forces to Syria in order to support local combatants in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that a deadly airstrike hit one of its hospitals in Aleppo, killing at least 14 patients and three doctors, including one of the city’s last pediatricians. Local reports claim that Syrian or Russian warplanes are responsible, but the Syrian military has denied targeting the hospital.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, closed the latest round of peace talks in Geneva without setting a date for the next round to begin. However, he reported that he hoped to convene indirect negotiations and called on Russia and the US to save the talks and “revitalize” the ceasefire. A major point of contention during the latest round of talks has been the increase in violence and civilian casualties across the country, especially in the city of Aleppo. Meetings between the US and Russia this past week have yet to yield any sign of renewed political will to revive the ceasefire. Russia has defended the recent Syrian attacks around Aleppo, claiming they have been in response to rebel groups who are not signatories of the ceasefire.


Yemen:

In a major shift in Yemen’s civil war, the Saudi-backed coalition mounted its first large-scale offensive against al-Qaeda forces in the south.

The UN Security Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit, within 30 days, a plan on how peace can be achieved in Yemen.

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick,urged all parties to the conflict to desist from any act of violence that would undermine the cessation of hostilities agreement. He further asked the international community to increase its support for Yemen, highlighting the urgent need for “safety, food, water, basic healthcare and education for children.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Campaign Against Arms Trade urgedObama to use his visit to Saudi Arabia to bring up the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, weapons which have allegedly caused numerous civilian deaths and violated international humanitarian law.


What else is new?

During Genocide Awareness Month, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has been sharing reflections on past atrocities. Click here to read their stories.

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#R2P 4 – 8 April 2016

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Report: Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia 

21250c4e-4ffe-4ddc-b51e-1e4e28664d22On 4-6 November, 9-11 November 2015, and 7-9 December 2015, the ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APR2P) held three installments of their workshop series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, respectively. The organizers gathered civil society representatives from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Myanmar in order to a) deepen support of and commitment to the prevention of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing in Southeast Asia; and b) strengthen early warning and response capacities at the domestic and regional levels to prevent and respond to atrocities. The overarching goal of the workshops was to develop civil society action plans for their countries on atrocities prevention.

Read the full report here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

The first bill proposed by the incoming government of Myanmar’s new Parliament, led by the National League for Democracy, created a new position in the government for Aung San Suu Kyi, that of state counsellor. This position, one that has been compared to that of a Prime Minister, would skirt the constitutional ban that prevented her from becoming president and allows her to have influence on the executive and legislative branches of government.

In her first act as State Counsellor, Suu Kyi announced a plan to release all political prisoners in the near future.


Burundi:

The Burundian Attorney General has asked the families of victims who had appealed to the International Criminal Court and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate their cases to come to him with their evidence instead of the international community. He further warned the international community that the evidence submitted could be “manipulated”.

The UNSC, in a unanimous resolution, requested the Secretary-General to present it with options for deploying a police force in Burundi. Such a force would monitor the security situation on the ground, promote human rights, and advance the rule of law.

The Burundian government stated that it accepts the UNSC’s resolution. However, the main opposition coalition, CNARED, expressed its objections to the UNSC’s resolution, stating that “the resolution gives President Nkurunziza the power to continue killing” and that only a peacekeeping force could help end the crisis.

ICRtoP Member International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) released a new briefing paper entitled “Burundi: A country on the edge.” Drawing on a mission to the country in February, in-depth interviews with refugees who have fled to Uganda, and IRRI’s previous experience in the country, the briefing offers insights on some crucial aspects of the current crisis.


Central African Republic:

The first trials against Congolese peacekeepers who allegedly sexually abused women and girls in CAR started in DRC. Meanwhile, in France, a prosecutor opened preliminary investigations into allegations of sexual abuse committed by French troops of MINUSCA. France also began withdrawing its troops from CAR on Wednesday.

The newly sworn-in president of CAR, Faustin Archange Touadera, announced that he had appointed Simplice Sarandji as the new prime minister.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Ambassador Robert King, US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is in South Korea in order to assess how to address the gross human rights violations being carried out by North Korea.

Lee So-yeon, a former soldier in the North Korean army, has spoken out about the mass rape of female soldiers within the North Korean army.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

A UN Response Team, charged with probing into allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the DRC, have found through their investigations allegations that point to sex with minors as well as paternity claims by victims.

Tanzania announced that it has already formed an investigation team that would travel to the DRC to investigate accusations of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel is charging the soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank with manslaughter.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) condemnedthe destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, stated that over 700 people have been displaced since the start of 2016, an alarmingly high number compared to the same period last year.


Iraq:

ISIL militants killed at least 29 people in a series of suicide attacks carried out on Monday. Most deadly was an attack in a Dhi Qar restaurant popular amongst Shiite fighters that killed an approximated 14 people. Meanwhile, a car bomb set off in Basra killed at least five and wounded an additional 10. Another militant reportedly drove his car into a security checkpoint at Sadr al-Qanat; the wreck killed six troops and wounded 13. Finally another car bomber killed four troops and wounded 10 more at a paramilitary headquarters in Mishahda.


Kenya:

Judges at the ICC decided to throw out a case against Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang for crimes against humanity due to a lack of evidence. Mr. Ruto denies his involvement in the charges of murder, deportation, and persecution in the period after Kenya’s 2007 elections and many of the prosecution’s key witnesses have changed their statements. The prosecution claims this is due to bribery and intimidation, but in February ICC judges still denied the prosecution the use of previously recorded witness testimonies that have been recanted. The charges will be vacated and the accused are to be released, but the decision is still subject to appeal and does not preclude new prosecution in the future.


Libya:

The UNSC welcomed the arrival of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, citing its hope that the government would “tackle Libya’s political, security, humanitarian, economic and institutional challenges and to confront the rising threat of terrorism.” The EU also demonstrated its support for the UN-backed government when it  imposed travel bans and asset freezes on three individuals who oppose its establishment.

Ali Al-Za’tari, senior UN humanitarian affairs official in Libya, called for an independent investigation into the deaths of four migrants who had been detained by the authorities, citing the widespread “abuse and exploitation” of migrants in the country and calling for their protection.


Mali:

On Tuesday, UN Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, the top UN peacekeeping official,told the Security Council that, “every day lost during the implementation of the peace agreement is a day won for extremist and terrorist groups who have been gambling on the failure of the Mali peace process.” He also warned that these delays would impact intercommunal conflicts and have unfortunate consequences for civilians. Mr. Ladsous did, however, also report positive developments towards the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, but warned that “progress on defence and security issues is too slow.” Furthermore, he announced that a strategic review of MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, will be completed before the Secretary-General’s next report in May, roughly one month ahead of the date MINUSMA’s current mandate is set to expire.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has declared a 10-day State of Emergency over the entire country due to “terrorist threats” following a meeting of ministers on Monday. The previous State of Emergency ended less than a week before on 31 March.


Nigeria:

Nigerian authorities have arrested Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru, a Boko Haram breakaway group. Ansaru is aligned ideologically with al-Qeada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Like AQIM, Ansaru is infamous for kidnapping foreigners and is accused of killing several Westerners. Since 2012, the US has had a $5 million USD bounty on al-Barnawi and branded him one of Nigeria’s three “specially designated global terrorists.”

According to a Nigerian Defense Ministry spokesman, the country’s military has opened a camp to rehabilitate repentant ex-Boko Haram fighters who have surrendered. The camp provides the ex-fighters with vocational training to help them meaningfully contribute to economic growth in the country. He further claimed that around 800 members of Boko Haram have surrendered within the last three weeks.

The military has also released a statement urging other fighters to surrender, warning that it would not relent in the fight against Boko Haram until the group is “completely neutralized”. Since 26 February, the military claims to have rescued almost 11,600 civilian hostages from Boko Haram camps and villages in northeastern Nigeria. Another army spokesman haspromised troops that the military will address “logistics deficiencies which have hindered the optimal conduct of the Nigerian Army’s counter insurgency operations.”


South Sudan:

The leader of the SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, announced on Thursday that he would return to the state capital of Juba on 18 April, in order to form a transitional government alongside President Salva Kiir.

The conflict has led to a record 5.8 million people in South Sudan facing extreme poverty and starvation. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program (WFP) stated that hunger in the nation has increased significantly since the start of fighting two years ago.


Sudan/Darfur:

Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous has reported the continuation of a series of clashes and serial bombings in rebel occupied Jebel Marra. As a result, 103,000 Sudanese have sought refuge at the four Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps facilitated by the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID. Ladsous also stated that 138,000 people have been displaced since January 2016.  However, restrictions imposed by the Sudanese government on aid organizations and UNAMID has made it difficult to determine the exact number of persons displaced by recent fighting.

Amid the recent increases in conflict occurring in and around Jebel Marra, Darfuris have grown wary about the referendum set to take place next week from 11-13 April. The referendum will give residents the choice to either keep the five existing states of Darfur or to unite the region into a single, semi-autonomous zone. President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court for committing mass atrocities, intends to move forward with the vote despite it being rejected by many. The referendum was part of the 2011 peace agreement between Khartoum and numerous rebel groups.


Syria:

Islamist rebels shot down a government warplane on Tuesday and captured its pilot. The event happened in an area south of Aleppo where al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, along with its allies, launched a new military initiative last week to take back territory from Assad. However, a prominent member of the al-Nusra Front, Abu Firas al-Suri, was killed on Sunday by an airstrike in the rebel-occupied province of Idlib along with 20 other extremists part of the al-Nusra faction. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed Abu Firas’ death andsuspects that either Syrian or Russian forces are responsible.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government reclaimed yet another town from ISIL, one week after capturing the historic city of Palmyra. Syrian forces gained control of Qaryatain,a crucial oil and gas-rich area. The territorial gain will also help Assad block militant supply routes between Damascus and Homs. The town will now act as a foothold for attacking ISIL alongside the Iraqi border.

Leaders of the religious Alawite sect, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, released a lengthy report distancing their community from the Assad regime. In the document, titled “Declaration of Identity Reform,” the group said that they represented a third model of Islam that wishes to support “the values of equality, liberty and citizenship” and called for the secularization of the future government of Syria. Furthermore, the community stressed that the legitimacy of the Assad regime in years to come lies only on the basis of democracy and human rights.

In the lead up to the resumption of the Geneva peace talks next Monday, Assad has stated that he believes the talks could lead to a new Syrian government made up of an opposition, independents and loyalists. Nevertheless, he completely rejected the idea of establishing a transitional authority. For its part, the Syrian opposition, as represented by the High Negotiations Committee, has continuously called for a halt on civilian attacks and for the Geneva talks to result in the formation of a transitional government that excludes Assad altogether. The second round of peace talks is expected to address the issue of a political transition in Syria as well as the future of the Assad regime.


Yemen:

The US and the UK received criticism for continuing to deliver arms to Saudi Arabia, which is reported to be violating international humanitarian law in its fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

A delegation of Houthi rebels is holding talks in Saudi Arabia ahead of peace negotiations scheduled on 18 April, a move welcomed by the Saudi government.


 What else is new?

The Alliance for Peacebuilding, The United Nations Development Program and International Interfaith Peace Corps is holding a Roundtable on Countering Violent Extremism in Washington DC on 18 April.   RSVP here.

Also in DC, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum is holding an event entitled “Preventing Mass Atrocities and Deadly Conflict” on 12 April. RSVP here.

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#R2P Weekly: 28 March – 1 April 2016

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On the Way to Ending Impunity:The Cases of Karadzic, Bemba, and Ongwen

Last week was an important one for the advancement of international criminal justice and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). On 24 March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgment (summary) in the Karadžić case, three days earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba; and on 23 March, the ICC also decided that there was enough evidence in the Ongwen case for it to proceed to trial. Both RtoP and international criminal law, as exemplified here through the ICTY and the ICC, aim at bettering the world’s prevention of and reaction to atrocity crimes. Accountability for the perpetrators of such crimes serves as a vital element of upholding RtoP, as ending impunity for these crimes functions both as a deterrent for future perpetrators and as a means to rebuild communities in the wake of atrocities. As such, any improvements in accountability for atrocities can also be considered an improvement in the implementation of RtoP.

(…)

To read the full blog, click here.
To read the statement by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the conviction of Radovan Karadzic, click here.

 


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

The outgoing government of Myanmar lifted a curfew in Rakhine State this week, imposed in June 2012 after clashes that displaced over 140,000, mostly Rohingya.

U Htin Kyaw of the National League for Democracy was sworn in on Wednesday as the new president of Myanmar. In his speech, Mr. Htin Kyaw urged “patience in the pursuit of democracy”, while noting that his government would strive for national reconciliation and a resolution of military clashes with ethnic groups.

 


Burundi:

Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, warned the UN Human Rights Council that the human rights violations occurring in Burundi posed a threat to the country and the wider Great Lakes region. He urged the Burundian government to release political prisoners and to ensure the respect of its citizens’ human rights, be they civil and political or economic and social.

The EU has threatened to stop funding Burundi’s 5,400 strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia with the aim of forcing the Burundian government to the negotiations table.

FOREBU, a rebel group in Burundi, has claimed responsibility for the killing of an army colonel in Bujumbura.

Burundi’s ruling party accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of attempting to “export genocide”. Burundi’s government and the UN have both accused Rwanda of recruiting refugees to help remove President Nkurunziza from power.

 


Central African Republic:

New reports of sexual abuses by Moroccan and Burundian peacekeepers in CAR have emerged, prompting a UN investigation. Additionally, AIDS-Free World released a report that peacekeepers had abused 98 girls from 2013-present.

The French minister of defence confirmed that the French intervention in CAR, Operation Sangaris, will end in the course of the year, stating that French troops had achieved their mission of restoring security there. The withdrawal shall happen parallel to the build-up of the MINUSCA and the EU Training Mission.

Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Central African Republic’s new president, took office on Wednesday, vowing to restore peace and security to the country.
 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Three days of clashes between the DRC’s army and the FDLR and Mai Mai militia have killedsixteen in Mpati.

The UN Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of MONUSCO, refusing to cut down on the 20,000-strong force, despite recommendations from Ban Ki-moon and request from the DRC government.

Several opposition parties endorsed the former governor of Lubumbashi, Moise Katumbi, for president. Katumbi was a member of President Kabila’s party, but quit while accusing Kabila of plotting to stay in power last September.

The DRC began the trials of twenty soldiers accused of rape and other crimes while serving as UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic.
 


Gaza/West Bank:

The HRC passed a resolution creating a blacklist of companies involved in settlement activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The resolution wasdenounced by Israel and the US.

The OHCHR has stated that it is extremely concerned by the extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank, fearing that it might not have been a lone incident. The Office has called for a “prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigation”.

 


Iraq:

An ISIL attack near a gathering of workers in Tayaran Square in Baghdad killed 7 and wounded 27.

 


Libya:

Martin Kobler, Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya,condemned executions by armed groups in Warshafana against civilians in the north of the country, citing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The UAE Red Crescent is airlifting 300 tons of aid resources to Libya.

The Libyan ambassador to the UN has asked the UNSC to exempt its blacklisted sovereign wealth fund from sanctions imposed by the Council in 2011, claiming that mismanagement of funds is causing the loss of billions of dollars at the Libyan Investment Authority. However, the resolution adopted by the UNSC only reaffirms the Council’s intention to make frozen assets available to Libyans at a later date.

The heads of Libya’s UN-backed unity government, known as the Government of National Accord, have made their way to Tripoli, the capital, in order to broker a ceasefire between the rival factions and better confront ISIL.
 


Mali:

According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has agreed to plead guilty to destroying religious and cultural sites in Timbuktu. He faces war crimes charges for his involvement in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque during the city’s occupation in 2012.

Special forces have arrested Souleymane Keita, the top jihadist leader in southern Mali, and one of his allies near the border with Mauritania. Originally part of the jihadist forces which took control of large swathes of territory in northern Mali in 2012 and ousted by the French in 2013, when French troops ousted the jihadists in 2013, Keita went south to start his own jihadist group called the “Ansar Dine of the South”. He has been accused of running a jihadist training camp outside of Bamako and for carrying out attacks in the capital and in cities near the border with Côte d’Ivoire.

Authorities in Mali also arrested two citizens accused of “actively participating” in a deadly attack on a beach resort in Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March that killed 19 people. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, the third such strike in West Africa in recent months after the attacks on a hotel in the capital city of Mali and another on a hotel in Burkina Faso, demonstrating the mobility and access of the growing jihadist threat these countries face.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns about the number of challenges facing UN peacekeepers in Mali and the spreading insecurity throughout the country. In his latest report, Ban noted “The northern and central parts of Mali remain under the threat of criminal, violent extremist and terrorist groups, which take advantage of the limited presence of Malian law enforcement institutions.” Although a peace agreement was reached last year between the government and the rebels, jihadist violence still presents a real threat and the national government has not been able to maintain the country’s security with its domestic forces alone.
 


Nigeria:

In their latest report on Nigeria, ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the Nigerian government’s response to the Damasak attacks last year “woefully inadequate”. The attacks resulted in the abduction of 400 women and children, including 300 schoolchildren, by Boko Haram.

In the days after the HRW report, a local Damasak resident, government administrator, elder, and chief reported that Boko Haram had abducted an additional 500 girls, boys, and women from Damask on 24 November 2014. The government of former president Goodluck Jonathan denied reports of the abduction last year, while other officials expressed doubts over the claims. One of the people that came forward, whose child had been among those abducted, claimed that the people of the city had “kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government.”

Although Damasak is the largest documented school abduction by Boko Haram, it has drawn less international attention than the group’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, of which 57 are confirmed to have escaped, although 219 girls remain captive. Two girlsarrested by authorities during an attempt to carry out a suicide bombing on a village in Cameroon could be part of this group, and two parents of the Chibok abductees have been sent to Cameroon to meet with the girls.

Although US cooperation with Nigeria had effectively stalled during Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency due to his refusal to investigate accusations of corruption and human rights abuses committed by the Nigerian military, on Wednesday, the United States and the current Nigerian government agreed to set up working groups to strengthen security cooperation and the economy and tackle corruption.
 


South Sudan:

The United Nations has reported that over 48,000 South Sudanese have escaped to Sudan since the end of January, due to food shortages and ongoing conflict. Since the conflict started in December 2013, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over 2 million displaced. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is concerned about the amount of South Sudanese seeking asylum in Sudan, with an average of 500 refugees, equivalent to 100 households, arriving daily in East Darfur. The 2016 South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), which covers all refugee programmes in the area, is only funded at 3 per cent, which leaves many emergent and necessary efforts, such as providing clean water, sanitation, medical assistance, food and shelter, incredibly underfunded.

In response to a report published by Radio Tamazuj, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has stated its commitment to protecting populations in the country. The report by the popular local media outlet accused UNMISS of declining to protect displaced persons in a camp called Sector 5 in Malakal. UNMISS had said in a previous statement that Sector 5 is not a priority for them, as they are still focusing on Sectors 1-4, which have been recently damaged by fires. However, UNMISS also stated that its peacekeepers are protecting 200,000 people seeking refuge within their bases all over the country and are working to protect people outside of their bases. The UN body hopes that the upcoming peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar will result in displaced persons returning home.
 


Sudan/Darfur:

The Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused rebel groups of abducting children and forcing them to participate in military activities. Tayfor stated that the recruitment of child soldiers by armed movements violate all international conventions and international humanitarian law, as well as the 2010 Child Act. The leaders of Sudan’s primary rebel groups, such as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) have agreed to take increased measures to protect children in conflict areas.

Continuous attacks and air raids on East Jebel Marra in Darfur have resulted in most of the population of the area fleeing to camps for the internally displaced. Others have sought shelter in caves and valleys in the Jebel Marra area. Moreover, there is reportedly not a single healthcare facility throughout southern Darfur. As of 20 March, conflict had displaced approximately 129,200 people in Jebel Marra conflict since 15 January.
 


Syria:

The Syrian government recaptured the historic city of Palmyra on Sunday, marking an important milestone in the fight against Islamic State fighters, who had conducted a 10-month reign of terror in the area. The city is locally known as the “Bride of the Desert” and is popular for its 2000-year-old ruins that used to draw in visitors from all over the world, before ISIL destroyed many of the monuments. The recapture was supported by Russian military forces. The loss of Palmyra is seen as one of the biggest setbacks for the Islamic State since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across much of Syria and Iraq. This victory by the Syrian government has also opened up a vast, strategic space of desert leading to IS occupied territory in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in the east.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 363 civilians were killed during the first month of the ceasefire.This is the lowest number of monthly civilian deaths since November 2011. The 363 civilians that died last month is in stark contrast to the 1,100 who were killed the previous month, including 234 children. Nevertheless, while the ceasefire has brought some calm to Syria, fighting has continued between rival groups and jihadist factions.

The United Nations is considering appointing a specialist to facilitate negotiations with the goal of a possible prisoner exchange between the Syrian government and the rebel opposition. This effort has been identified as a priority for the Geneva peace talks, as the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) has demanded that the government release prisoners countless times. The responsibility of the new specialist will also be to ensure that named-detainees are not harmed after their release.

President Bashar al-Assad told an interviewer on Wednesday that he rejects the idea of a “transitional body with full executive powers” proposed by the opposition, which requires him to step down. Assad continued to state that Syria needs a national unity government consisting of various political parties that will secure the transition to a new constitution. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last December that called for a road map to be created in order to establish “credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months, as well as a schedule for the drafting of a new constitution which should be followed by an election.

In the meantime, three days after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration to pull military forces out of Syria, Russia’s naval ship nicknamed “the Syrian Express” left the Russian Black Sea port for Tartous, Russia’s naval base in Syria. The exact contents of the ship are unknown, but according to an analysis by Reuters, the movements of the ship suggest that Russia is attempting to maintain its military presence in Syria as well as supply the Syrian army. However, over half of Russia’s fixed-wing strike force flew out of Syria following the declaration for the partial withdrawal.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community on Wednesday to aid in the resettlement of about a half a million Syrian refugees over the next three years. The United Nations Refugee Agency has aimed to resettle 480,000 by the end of 2018 but has admitted that it may be a struggle due to widespread fear, as well as a lack of political will. Ban urged states to pledge towards creating new legal pathways for humanitarian admission through family reunions, as well as labor and study opportunities.
 


Yemen:

A previously agreed upon prisoner swap was carried out between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels ahead of the planned cessation of hostilities and peace negotiations, freeing 109 Yemenis in exchange for 9 Saudis.

UNICEF has warned of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, especially in relation to children, reporting that more than 6 children are killed every day in the conflict. The United Nations Population Fund, meanwhile,reported that the Yemeni conflict has left 3.4 million women between the ages of 15-49 needing humanitarian assistance. Reproductive health and other services are severely lacking, putting the lives of thousands women and (unborn) children at risk

In attacks claimed by ISIL, three suicide bombers killed 26 people near security checkpoints in Aden. The attacks, which took place last Friday, coincided with the first anniversary of the start of the civil war.

An airstrike by unidentified planes has left at least four suspected al Qaeda members dead.
 


What else is new?

The ICRtoP is pleased to welcome two new members to its coalition:

Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights (Kurdistan, Iraq)

Founded in 2005, the Jiyan Foundation originally began in Kirkuk, Iraq as a rehabilitation center for victims of violence and torture in the region. Since then, the Jiyan Foundation has opened offices throughout several cities in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as an office in Berlin, Germany. Their main purpose is to promote and protect human rights through their assistance to victims and survivors of torture, terrorism, and atrocity crimes, with the organization working with over 2,000 victims over the years. The Foundation provides free medical treatment and psychotherapeutic support as well as social and legal counseling to assist in physical and mental and reintegration into society. Additionally, the Jiyan Foundation conducts programmatic initiatives focusing on human rights education, political advocacy, and the promotion of public awareness for atrocity crime prevention.

Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights
Founded in 2011 following the rise of the “Arab Spring”, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor documents violations of human rights committed throughout the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of informing public opinion and advocacy for action in the region. There are a range of issues in focus for the organization including, but not limited to, women’s and children’s rights, detention of prisoners of conscience, commission of torture, and refugee and migrant rights. Through a series of press releases, publications, infographics, and videos, as well as direct advocacy, the organization strives to galvanize political will to hold perpetrators to account and stimulate action for prevention and protection.

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#R2P Weekly: 29 February – 4 March 2016

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ICRtoP Summary of
Thematic Panel Discussion on RtoP within UN General Assembly

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.55.29

On Friday, 25 February 2016, the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a high-level thematic panel discussion entitled From commitment to implementation: Ten years of the Responsibility to Protect to mark the 10th anniversary of adoption of the norm.

Find the ICRtoP’s summary of the dialogue here. To read any of the statements made, click here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


 Burma/Myanmar:

A Burmese human right organization, Network For Human Rights Documentation- Burma (ND-Burma), released a report identifying 84 human rights violations between January and December 2015. The violations occurred both in areas of active armed conflict and those covered by ceasefires.

John Ging, director of operations at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), called for an end to discrimination against displaced Muslims, particularly the Rohingya.


 

Burundi:

The African Union plans to deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military observers toBurundi. Members of the opposition have complained that 200 observers is insufficient to cover Burundi’s territory.

The East African Community named former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the new mediator for talks on ending Burundi’s crisis, a move welcomed by the opposition group National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Accord (CNARED).

A UN team of experts began investigating human rights violations in Burundi. The experts will remain for one week and present their findings in late March. Meanwhile, authorities in Bujumbura unveiled a mass grave, which they claim contains the remains of government supporters.


 

Central African Republic:

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped over 200 people in eastern CAR this year, already nearly twice the amount that had been abducted last year.

In a press release, the ICRC noted that hundreds of thousands of displaced people in CAR are waiting to return home from displaced camps. Armed men number among the camp’s residents, while accidental fires have wreaked havoc in three separate sites.

CAR’s constitutional court confirmed Faustin-Archange Touadera’s election as president.


 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The DPRK’s foreign minister denied any claims of human rights violations by his State, warning that his country would no longer work with the Human Rights Council. He also pointed towards gun violence in the United States of America and the handling of the refugee crisis by European States as “proof of partiality and double standards.” During this session of the Council, Japan and the EU will likely present a resolution condemning the violations in North Korea.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

On 29 February, attacks killed at least 12 in Mamabio, in eastern DRC. The Center of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, which monitors violence in the region, stated that attacks have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist group from Uganda.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

Israeli forces arrested 38 Palestinians on Monday for various reasons, including violent acts, ties to Hamas, border infiltration, and alleged arms smuggling through the Gaza sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the Attorney General’s approval to deport relatives of West Bank terrorists to Gaza. In his letter to AG Avichai Mandelblit, Netanyahu stated, “I am convinced that such a measure will lead to a significant decrease in the number of terror attacks against the State of Israel, its citizens and its residents.” A few days prior, Mandelblit rejected a similar query from the political party Likud, arguing that such an explosion is a violation of both Israeli and international law.


 

Iraq:

At least 27 people were killed on Monday at the funeral of a Shi’ite military commander’s relative in Diyala, when a suicide bomber detonated his vest. 55 more people were wounded. This follows twin-set of market place bombings which took place in Baghdad on Sunday, killing 53 and injuring 117. These events are the deadliest of the year thus far in Iraq.

The U.S. military is planning for the next phase of the battle against ISIL, which is re-taking Mosul. The U.S. claims to have isolated the city and says that the capture of Shaddadi, Syria last week had cut the last significant lines of communication between Mosul and ISIL’s Syrian capital of Raqqa.


 

Libya:

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, the head of UNSMIL, noted that Libya risks division and collapse if it does not move ahead now. After a minority of parliamentarians opposed a vote on a new list of candidates for a cabinet on 22 February, Kobler vowed to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue. He further noted that the “overwhelming majority” of the Libyan people are in favor of the Libyan Political Agreement.

A new UNSMIL report stated that shelling, gun shots, explosive remnants of war, and aerial bombardments had killed 28 and injured 38 others since January.

The U.S. announced that it was prepared to expand military operations against ISIL in Libya, but only after Libyans agree on a national unity government.


 

Mali:

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, a former member of Ansar-Dine, stands accused of causing irreparable damage to Africa’s cultural heritage by destroying ancient shrines in Timbuktu during the conflict in 2012 in Mali. According to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the former trainee teacher and Islamic militant had “led and personally taken part in the attacks on nine mausoleums and mosques in the city with pick-axes and crowbars.” Although trying cultural destruction as a crime is established in past jurisprudence in international law, this case is the first to be tried addressing it as a heinous crime, but the prosecutor, Ms. Bensouda, does not think this will be the last.


 

Nigeria:

On 2 March, 76 emaciated-looking people associated with the Boko Haram group, including women and children, surrendered in Gwoza, a town near Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. The food shortages are likely a result of the successful choking of Boko Haram supply chains by the Nigerian military in their fight to suppress the insurgency under President Muhammadu Buhari.


South Sudan:

A UN source anonymously claimed that approximately 50,000 may have been killed since the start of the civil war. The source further estimated that around 2.2 million had been displaced.

South Sudan missed another deadline in implementing the August peace deal, as rebel troops under former vice-president Machar signaled that they would not arrive in Juba on Tuesday as planned. The rebels announced that the government had not designated cantonment areas or food and medical care facilities for their troops. The government, meanwhile, claims that the delay is due to the rebels’ failure to submit their names to the troika, who are responsible for their transportation to Juba.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

Over 10,000 people living in the Kalma camp for the displaced protested on Tuesday, demanding an end to the six-month-long pause in food aid delivery to the camp. The displaced persons arriving at Kalma from 2013 to 2014 were not registered by the camp and therefore never added to the permanent food subsidy lists of the humanitarian organizations operating in the area. The Secretary General of the camp appealed to relief organizations, asking them “to act immediately to save people.”

In the meantime, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN concerning the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes since 15 January, when the conflict in Jebel Marra escalated. UN OCHA has stated that 90,000 have been displaced since 21 February due to the continued conflict between the Sudanese army and the rebel opposition, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA). The Ministry described that figure as inaccurate and claimed that government authorities have provided aid to the displaced, who have since returned to their villages.

The Sudanese military has meanwhile claimed control over all areas north of Jebel Marra.


Syria:

Hours prior to the start of the ceasefire in Syria last Saturday, reports surfaced claiming that over 100 airstrikes had been conducted in Northern Aleppo. Amnesty International, for its part,accused the Russian and Syrian government of deliberately and systematically targeting health facilities in Aleppo over the past 12 weeks. The human rights organization claimed to have evidence that these attacks were an attempt by government forces to gain ground before the cessation of hostilities took effect.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that there has been 31 violations of the ceasefire in 3 days. Zakharova said the exact number was provided by the U.S. and did not specify which parties have contributed to the offences. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that all alleged violations of the ceasefire would be investigated and added that both the U.S. and Russia are working on a mechanism to ensure airstrikes only target UN-designated terrorist organizations.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his government would “do its part” to ensure the success of the ceasefire. He has also offered amnesty to the opposition if they agree to disarm. Meanwhile, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), a group representing the opposition, cautioned that ceasefire violations would further threaten the possibility of finding a peaceful, political solution to the five-year war.

UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura stated that the U.S.-Russia cessation of hostilities plan is reportedly holding up despite the many setbacks. Mistura noted that the ceasefire has greatly reduced violence in Syria and created hope for the resumption of the peace talks in Geneva next week. The truce is further expected to assist in making progress with the delivery of aid to remote and besieged areas.

In the meantime, Israel accused the Syrian government on Tuesday of using chemical weapons against civilians during the ceasefire.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike on 27 February on Khaleq market killed 32 civilians and injured at least 41, making the death toll the highest from a single bombing since September 2015.

President Hadi declared that Yemen’s army and popular resistance forces have liberated more than 85% of Yemeni territories from control of the Houthis. The president was confident that his forces would soon regain control of Sanaa as well.

Amnesty International urged all states to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Yemen.


 

What else is new?

The ICRtoP co-signed a statement along with around 60 other domestic and international groups asking ‪US lawmakers to pass the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act in support of mass atrocity prevention. The passing of the legislation would authorize “critical tools that are needed to prevent violent conflict and save lives” such as the Atrocity Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund, require training for Foreign Service Officers in prevention, and more. Read the full statement with signatories here.

ICRtoP Member Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is launching the 2015 Annual Report of the Technical Secretariat of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention on 8 March. RSVP to diana.mantilla@auschwitzinstitute.org by March 4.


 

Above photo: General Assembly Holds Panel Discussion on Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias.)

 

 

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#R2P Weekly: 15-19 February 2016

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

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

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

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

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

The ICRtoP will be collecting relevant statements from the meeting hereTo learn more about initiatives to limit the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes, click here.


 

Catch up on developments in…

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


 

Burma/Myanmar:

The U.N. announced that 3,000 civilians were forced to leave their homes due to current tension between two ethnic rebel groups, theRestoration Council for Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Burma’s northern state of Shan.


 

Burundi:

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

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


 

Central African Republic:

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

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

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


 

DPRK:

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

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


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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


 

Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


 

Iraq:

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

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


 

Kenya:

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


 

Libya:

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


 

Mali:

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

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


 

Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


 

South Sudan:

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

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

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


 

Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


 

Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Yemen:

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

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

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


 

What else is new?

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

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


 

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

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#R2P Weekly: 8-12 February 2016


Untitled
A Group of U.S. Legislators Plan to Introduce a
Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), supported by a group of other legislators, plans to introduce legislation in Congress permanently authorizing the U.S. Atrocity Prevention Board (APB) and concentrating U.S. government efforts on early prevention of violent conflict and atrocities as an essential part of the United States’ national security strategy.

Along with permanently authorizing the APB, the proposed Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act would continue the APB’s engagement of high level government officials through its inter-agency nature and maintain the APB’s role in preventing violence through the continuation of programs in places like the Central African Republic and Burundi. The Act would also go further and finally authorize funding for atrocities prevention through the Complex Crises Fund, which has been appropriated since 2010, but has never been authorized. Additionally, it would provide training in conflict and atrocities prevention to Foreign Service Officers, which would help them to not only mitigate violence, but also to recognize early warning signs, which could save both lives and funding. Furthermore, the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act would strengthen the APB’s connection to Congress and its leadership and oversight, as well as require a report to Congress by the Director of National Intelligence, including a review of at-risk countries annually to ensure that APB’s atrocities prevention measures are informed by the realities faced on the ground.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobby organization working towards the promotion of the public interest, has been monitoring the APB situation closely. To find more information and to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act click on the link on the FCNL page here.

Find more information on how civil society can engage with the U.S. Atrocity Prevention Board and other existing national RtoP initiatives throughout the world with ICRtoP’s brief here.

In 2012, U.S. President Obama created the Atrocities Prevention Board in order to ensure that the prevention of mass atrocities would be considered a “core national security interest and core moral responsibility of the U.S.” The APB is currently an inter-agency committee, which is lead by the White House, but includes representatives from several different government Departments, USAID, the CIA, the US Mission to the UN, and others. The APB is mandated to assess the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity capabilities and to recommend reforms. However, although the APB has put forward meaningful contributions to the U.S. government’s anti-atrocity measures, concerns over its impermanent status and lack of a strong connection with Congress are troubling.


 

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Sri Lanka
Syria
Yemen
Other 


 

Burma/Myanmar:

The National League for Democracy, the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently negotiating the future composition of the government with the military, talks which could possibly include a deal that would allow her to become president. However, the military has indicated that a suspension of the Constitutional clause barring Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming the presidency is unlikely. Burma’s Parliament announced that it would hold elections to select the president on 17 March.


 

Burundi:

On Saturday, 6 February, a grenade attack in Bujumbura killed four and wounded ten.

Rwanda’s government is denying allegations that it has been training refugees from Burundi with the aim of removing President Nkurunziza. Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, accused the UN of attempting to “scapegoat” Rwanda in order to dismiss the fact that Burundi’s crisis is one of its “own making.”

The ICGLR’s executive secretary, Ntumba Luaba, expressed concerns about the current situation in Burundi, stating that “all must be done to avoid a civil war in Burundi.” The Burundian crisis will be discussed at the summit of heads of State and Government of the ICGLR on Friday in the capital of Angola, Luanda.


 

Central African Republic:

A new report by Amnesty International, titled Mandated to Protect, Equipped to Succeed? Strengthening Peacekeeping, examines failures of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the CAR. The report addresses variables such as training, equipment, coordination, and the number of civilian and uniformed personnel in the mission. Amnesty notes that “MINUSCA’s presence in CAR has saved many lives and prevented much bloodshed, but the extreme violence that erupted in Bangui in September 2015 exposed the mission’s weaknesses. However, today, it still lacks the resources it needs to adequately protect civilians.”

Following the allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation carried out by international peacekeeping troops in the CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Jane Holl Lute to coordinate efforts to address the “systemic issues, fragmentation, and other weaknesses” which were identified by the report on 17 December 2015 by the High-Level External Independent Review Panel on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by International Peacekeeping Forces in the Central African Republic. The Republic of Congo has also launched an investigation into the earlier allegations of sexual abuse involving children against the country’s troops serving as UN peacekeepers in the CAR.

MINUSCA decided on Tuesday that it would maintain the 12,800 person ceiling of its military/law enforcement wing and increase the number of corrections officers in the CAR. The Security Council also requested that the Secretary General continuously review MINUSCA’s military, police, and corrections resources. Set to expire in April, MINUSCA has prioritized taming the increase in violence witnessed in since last fall.

The second round of presidential elections will take place in CAR this weekend. Ahead of these elections, the UN’s latest report, which will be released later this month, details horrible human rights violations in Bangui during the violence that erupted at the end of 2015. The report recommends ending impunity and prosecuting the perpetrators of past and present crimes, ending armed groups’ attacks on civilians, reforming the CAR armed forces, and the implementation of disarmament, violence reduction, and protection of civilians and victims programs, as well as many others.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

As Congolese election approaches, political tension between President Joseph Kabila and opposition parties continues to escalate. The opposition parties want to secure that the Congolese government does not make any changes in the Constitution that would extend presidential term of Mr. Kabila.


 

Gaza/West Bank:

On Saturday, there was an arson attack on a synagogue near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The synagogue hosted a memorial dedicated to the three Jewish teenagers kidnapped and killed during the summer of 2014, one of many events inciting the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict.

A 15-year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed after throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles in the West Bank on Wednesday. Since October, 27 Israelis and an American citizen have been killed by Palestinians. 157 Palestinians have been killed in the same time by Israeli forces, including 101 militants. Other Palestinians have reportedly been killed in their own demonstrations against the state of Israel.

Turkish and Israeli representatives met on Wednesday in Geneva in hopes of rapprochement. Significant topics are likely to include Turkey’s desire for Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, and Israel’s request for Turkey to shut down Hamas offices within its borders.


 

Iraq:

ISIL executed 300 supposed “Iraqi police personnel, army troopers and civilian activists” by firing squad in Mosul, an act apparently intended to prevent a potential uprising of people in the militant-held city. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is currently working to deploy 4,500 troops in preparation for an offensive to retake Mosul.


 

Libya:

Airstrikes executed Sunday by a party yet to be revealed targeted a hospital in east Libya. Four casualties have been reported, including a nurse, her 10-year-old child, and two fighters of the anti-government Shura Council.

The UK’s Royal Air Force has already been flying missions over Libya to prepare for a potential future invitation by a Libyan national unity government, once it has been formed, to help Libyan state troops to stabilize the country and combat ISIL in Libya. However, the foreign minister, Tobias Ellwood, did stress that British troops would not enter Libya to hold or take any ground and that “it would be illegal to send any support until a government is in place and an invitation is given to us to provide assistance in the training of their armed forces.” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry agreed, claiming that Libya must form a unified government before Western allies intervene against ISIL fighters in Libya and that it “has to be a Libyan-led” process.

Additionally, the Pentagon is lobbying for $200 million in the 2017 U.S. budget for counter-terrorism operations in Libya.

Efforts to form the national unity government in Libya continue to be troubled by differences over the defense portfolio. The internationally-recognized government has recently set a new deadline giving the UN-supported Presidential Council an extra week to come to an agreement on the lineup for the new, smaller cabinet.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, called upon the UN Member States for  “unity and action” at a meeting of the UN Security Council on 9 February in order to combat the threat of ISIL, which he called “one of the major challenges of our time to international peace and security.” Mr. Feltman also noted that in order to do so, it was necessary to a) address the group’s political and socio-economic standings, and b) counter ISIL’s financing and recruitment of violent, extremist foreign fighters through preventative and criminalization efforts.


 

Mali:

On 5 February, militants attacked a UN police base in the city of Timbuktu. After detonating a vehicle in one of the entrances to the base, a fight ensued, with Malian and UN peacekeeping forces eventually retaking the police base. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which a Malian commander and four militants were killed.

The Azawad Movements and Platform armed groups have signed a peace deal. The deal focused mainly on the management of Kidal, which will be shared jointly between the two groups. Although the Malian government does not recognize full autonomy for Azawad, it did say that it would devolve more authority in the region.

Three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine in the Mopti region in Mali, while two more were wounded and sent to the hospital. Although no group has claimed responsibility, Al-Qaeda-linked militants have been fighting Malian army in the region, which is very close to the border with Burkina Faso. Another attack by suspected Islamist militants in the Mopti region killed two civilians and a customs officer and burned a car at a customs post on 11 February.


 

Nigeria:

Nigeria’s Department of Secret Service (DSS) announced that it had arrested an alleged ISIL recruiter in Nigeria. The DSS claims that two Nigerians are already training in Libya. Furthermore, the DSS captured seven suspected members of a breakaway group of Boko Haram, the leader of which has previously pledged allegiance to the head of ISIL.

Two female suicide bombers killed 58 people and injured at least 78 others at a camp of about 50,000 people displaced by Boko Haram violence in north-eastern Nigeria. The majority of those injured or killed were mostly women and children. A third woman equipped with bombs had also entered the camp with the others, but surrendered herself to authorities and refused to detonate her explosives after she had seen her parents and siblings in the camp.


 

South Sudan:

40,000 people are being starved to death in South Sudan war zones. The UN released a report on Monday accounting the worst conditions yet in the continuing 2-year civil war, including possible war crimes, such as the blockading of food supplies.  25% of the population, or 2.8 million people, is in need of immediate aid. Meanwhile, President Kiir and opposition leader Machar missed a second deadline to form a transitional government. International mediators criticized both Kiir and Machar for a lack of willingness to compromise, expressing fear that South Sudan would become a failed state. Some analysts have warned that the economy could collapse within a matter of weeks if a unity government is not formed.


 

Sri Lanka:

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, was in Sri Lanka this week for four days to begin investigations and meet victims of the human rights violations committed during the civil war in the country, as well as government officials, civil activists, and religious leaders.

Zeid has called for the government to quickly locate the thousands of civilians which were reported missing during the civil war, but the government claims that most of those missing are likely dead. Tamil politicians provided the UN with a list of around 4,000 names which had been reported missing during the conflict, but many Tamil civilians have been missing since being abducted by pro-government militias or taken from their homes by police or military personnel. After almost 30 years of conflict and the loss of tens of thousands of lives, progress has been made in Sri Lanka, but the country still has its challenges is still “in the early stages of renewal” according to Mr. Zeid. Amid the issues plaguing the country and the President’s claims that the accountability mechanisms for past crimes would be handled domestically even after the country had co-sponsored the adoption of a UN Human RIghts Council resolution including foreign judges, investigators, in such a judicial mechanism, Mr. Zeid said the implementation of that resolution were high on his agenda.

Additionally, the Sri Lankan government appointed to parliament a former army chief, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, whose forces are accused in war crimes after a seat was vacated by the death of the incumbent. Human Rights Watch points out that this appointment contradicts the government’s pledge to accountability and suggests that “the government may protect senior military leaders suspected of widespread abuses.” President Sirisena gave Fonseka a full pardon for his criminal conviction in March 2015 and promoted him, and the Sirisena government has also previously protected and promoted other implicated military commanders such as the promotion to chief of army staff of Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias in May 2015.


 

Sudan/Darfur:

The UN announced that the tens of thousands of civilians affected by the armed conflict between the government and opposition forces in Jebel Marra are now in dire circumstances and in need of immediate aid. 34,000 have been displaced recently as a result of fighting between the President Bashir regime and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW). In one case, eleven displaced children died of malnutrition while attempting to take shelter on one of Jebel Marra’s mountains. 161 children are currently at risk of the same fate.


 

Syria:

Increased sieges by the Syrian government on Aleppo, as well as heavy airstrikes provided by Russia, forced tens of thousands of people to flee towards the Turkish border last weekend. Turkish aid trucks and ambulances rushed to the Syrian side of the border on Sunday to assist the thousands of civilians affected. Turkey has been providing refuge to Syrians since the crisis began and has now given asylum to an estimated 2.5 million Syrians. However, Turkey has thus far closed its borders to the 35,000 previous residents of Aleppo, despite pleas from the EU to accept them.

Previously, control of the area around Aleppo had been split between the government and rebels groups. As the government encroaches into rebel-held territory, however, UN officials have expressed worry that the last line of transportation to the Turkish border, as well as food supplies to 300,000 insurgents and civilians, could be cut off. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described the situation in Aleppo and other parts of Syria as ‘grotesque’ while calling for those responsible for the possible war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.

At a meeting of world powers in Munich on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for an immediate ceasefire and aid to be sent to civilians in an attempt to make progress in the peace process. However, Russia’s involvement in the war has effectively ended the stalemate and given Assad more sway than perhaps at any point since the uprisings began in 2011, casting the resumption of the peace talks later in February increasingly in doubt. Russia has suggested beginning a ceasefire on 1 March, an idea dismissed by the U.S., who countered that such a date would give Assad enough time to decimate Syria’s moderate rebel forces.

A United Nations report published on Monday describes the plight of thousands of detainees held by the Syrian government and rebel groups in official and makeshift detention centres throughout the five-year-war. The report details detainees being unlawfully imprisoned, tortured, beaten to death, subjected to tactics of “extermination” and other inhuman acts. The investigation conducted by the international organization found that government officials intentionally maintained poor conditions in order to systematically create life-threatening situations. Furthermore, killings and deaths occurred at a high frequency and with the aid of state resources. Consequently, the UN report  states that “the government has committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts … based on the same conduct, war crimes have also been committed.”

However, a watchdog group has challenged the statistics compiled by the UN, claiming that the IO has severely underestimated the amount of besieged Syrians, a topic at the centre of the peace talks that were abruptly halted last week and postponed until 25 February. The Siege Watch report says that there are currently 1.09 million people trapped in 46 besieged areas as opposed to the 18 claimed by the UN.

Additionally, a suicide car bomb exploded in Damascus near a busy vegetable market, hitting a police officer’s club. The attack, claimed by ISIL, has killed nine police officers and wounded 20 according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. IS was responsible for multiple bombings last month that left 71 dead.


 

Yemen:

An airstrike executed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition hit a cement factory north of Sana Wednesday evening, killing more than 15 people, including civilians. Just days prior, Saudi government officials had agreed to investigate aerial bombings in Yemen and promised to improve its military strategy in order to prevent further civilian casualties.

Also in Aden, a clash between Yemeni forces and Al-Qaeda militants in Aden killed six people on Tuesday. Al-Qaeda has reportedly gained more ground in Yemen’s south this week.

After being refused access for months to Taix, the UN’s World Health Organization finally managed to deliver medicine and supplies to address urgent needs in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, said it might be possible to “to try to engage in some productive conversations about how to bring that [Yemen] conflict to a close” over the next few weeks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon added his voice to those pressuring the United Kingdom to stop its arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to its alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen. Ban noted that “We need states that are party to [the] arms trade treaty to set an example in fulfilling one of the treaty’s main purposes – controlling arms flows to actors that may use them in ways that breach international humanitarian law.”


 

What else is new?

The Global Observatory has released a recent report by Alex J. Bellamy entitled, “Time to Rethink Protection as Syrian Mistakes Echo Sri Lanka

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#R2P Weekly: 23 November – 4 December

Untitled

ICRtoP launches call for blog submissions: Lend your voice to the global debate

Featuring leading experts on RtoP and practitioners directly working to prevent atrocities, ICRtoP’s blog on the Responsibility to Protect provides a forum for reflection on a range of issues related to the norm. Whether focusing on country situations, thematic issues, or normative and institutional developments at all levels, the ICRtoPblog.org is a leading online resource on the Responsibility to Protect.

Are you dedicated to preventing atrocity crimes through your academic leadership, policy influence, or direct work to protect populations? Do you want to be a part of and inform the debate on the Responsibility to Protect? Would you like to have an impact on the development of RtoP and action to prevent atrocity crimes? If so, then the ICRtoP invites you to submit an abstract for consideration to be a guest writer for our blog. Submissions should be no longer than 1500 words, and can focus on a diverse range of issues not yet explored on our site. If selected, the ICRtoP will welcome your final post of to be published on the blog, featured in our newsletter, and shared on our social media channels.

Submissions will be welcomed on a rolling basis and can be sent to info@responsibilitytoprotect.org. Please use “ICRtoP blog abstract” in the subject line.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Since the ceasefire last April, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) have documented eight cases of sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army, with the most recent on 5 November. Only two of the eight cases have led to arrests of the perpetrators. The SHRF have also accused the military of bombing schools and temples and firing on civilians, which has displaced more than 10,000 people.
In their first meeting since the National League of Democracy’s (NLD) win in the November elections, Aung San Suu Kyi met with current Myanmar president, Thein Sein. According to a statement, the two agreed to “to cooperate on stability and peace, the rule of the law, unity and reconciliation and development of the country as regards to the wishes of the people.”


Burundi:

The African Union Peace and Security Council has temporarily paused the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi and has voted to increase the number of specialized observers, including military experts, police, and human rights observers. The AU has also indicated that should the situation deteriorate, it is ready to quickly deploy the Eastern African Standby Force.
Armed vigilante units have materialized in several areas. The units patrol at night, most notably where anti-government protests erupted earlier in the year. An anonymous leader interviewed by Reuters noted that “since the government has been killing people, we decided to come up with this initiative to protect ourselves.”

Various civil society groups, including the ICGLR National Civil Society Committee, Uganda Chapter, and women’s rights groups, have called for action against the increasingly volatile spiral of violence in Burundi specifically appealing to the African Union, East African Community, African Union Peace and Security Council, and the larger international community to put in place a humanitarian corridor or buffer zone to facilitate relief operations in addition to deploying peacekeepers.

The government “suspended” 10 civil society groups, including the Association for the Protection of Human RIghts and Detained Persons (APRODH), accusing the groups of fueling widespread violence. The groups have seen their bank accounts frozen by Prosecutor General Valentine Bagorikunda.UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned the Burundian government’s decision, noting that civil society organizations should be able to carry out their legitimate activities without restriction.

United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon outlined three options per the United Nations Security Council’s request for options: a U.N. peacekeeping mission, a special political mission or a support team for the special advisor on Burundi, with emphasis on the latter as a recommendation.

At least seven people including a police officer and civilians were killed overnight in separate instances in the Burundian capital and surrounding area in the latest wave of violence, which civil society groups say has already killed more than 240 people.


Central African Republic:

The ODI – Humanitarian Policy Group has released a report detailing how people in the Central African Republic are affected by conflict in the context of protection threats, how they are mitigated, and expectations from those wishing to provide protection.
UNICEF announced that more than a million children in the Central African Republic are in need of immediate humanitarian aid with almost half of those under the age of five reportedly being malnourished.

David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at leading African think-tank Institute for Security Studies, stated this week that Central African Republic authorities were neither prepared to provide adequate security nor able to guarantee all eligible voters would be represented on the voters’ roll in the upcoming December elections.

 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Fighting between the U.N.-backed Congolese army and Islamist Ugandan rebels killled 30 at a hospital, seven of whom were hacked to death.. Intelligence gaps, poor coordination, and lack of resources have left the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping force ineffective in the face of the armed ADF group, estimated at only a few hundred fighters.


Gaza/West Bank:

Human Rights Watch published their letter to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor on the Court’s preliminary investigation in Palestine. The letter calls for violations associated with Israeli settlement policies committed during the 2014 fighting in the Gaza Strip to be thoroughly scrutinized by the Prosecutor’s office.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern at the slow progress on the case concerning the arson attack against the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma in the West Bank four months ago, calling on the Israeli authorities to “move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of the this terrible crime to justice.”


Iraq:

Officials found a booby-trapped mass grave close to Sinjar, northern Iraq, containing the remains of at least 110 people from the minority Yazidi group. The mayor of Sinjar appealed to international organisations for help in collecting evidence for the International Criminal Court of ISIL’s alleged genocide of the Yazidis.

A suicide bomber killed six people and wounded sixteen on Saturday in Tuz Khurmatu, northern Iraq.

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that a “vicious circle of violence”, including acts of terrorism and armed conflict, had killed 489 civilians and injured 869 civilians in November 2015. Baghdad was the most affected city, with 1,110 civilian victims (325 killed, 785 injured).

In his second report on children and armed conflict in Iraq,UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned in the “strongest possible terms” the continuous grave violations committed against children in the armed conflict in Iraq. He especially deplored the abhorrent violations against the rights of children committed by ISIL, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The Turkish army reported a new wave of airstrikes by its warplanes on northern Iraq in the latest assault on targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The operation involved 22 fighter jets and 23 targets were hit.


Kenya:

Amnesty International said that the Kenyan government’s interference in the independence of the International Criminal Court during the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) was “a shocking indictment” of the country’s campaign to deny justice to victims during 2008’s post-election violence. Amnesty alleged that the government of Kenya effectively attempted to blackmail the ASP to comply to its demands, which would undermine the trial of the country’s Deputy President, William Samoei Ruto, by threatening to withdraw from the ICC. Although the proposal was defeated, Amnesty say it is a stark warning of the ASP’s vulnerability to state demands.


Libya:

Martin Kobler, the new UN envoy to Libya, expressed his hope that the peace accord establishing a unity government between Libya’s rival bodies would soon be signed. In a jointstatement, the Governments of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States encouraged both rival governments to sign the UN brokered peace deal. The Tebu and Tuareg, two rival tribes from southern Libya who have been in a battle for control of the oil fields since 2011, signed their own peace agreement in Qatar. The parties agreed to a ceasefire and the removal of armed elements from Ubari.

ISIL’s presence in Sirte has now expanded into a 5000-strong body that includes administrators and financiers, according to Libyan officials in the area. A UN report corroborated such an assessment, saying that ISIS’s leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, “exerts more control over its Libyan affiliate than any other chapter of the group outside Syria and Iraq and views Libya as the best opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate.” ISIL’s social media accounts are also calling on volunteers to join in Libya instead of Syria or Iraq.


Mali:

The German Defense Minister announced that the government of Germany would send up to 650 soldiers to support MINUSMA. A statement released by the Malian Army has said that two Malians were arrested in Bamako in regards to the attack last week on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital city.

A rocket was fired by unknown attackers at a UN peacekeeping base in northern Mali, killing three, including two peacekeepers, and wounding 20. The UN Security Council condemned the rocket attack, noting that it could constitute a war crime. It further urged the Malian government to investigate the attack and to hold those responsible accountable.


Nigeria:

A government spokesperson warned that the Nigerian president’s deadline to crush Boko Haram by December would not be met. As if to underscore his point, a march by Shia Muslims was interrupted by a Boko Haram suicide attack, killing 21. Residents of Gulak reported that Boko Haram had destroyed a Nigerian military base, and that civilian fighters had assisted in preventing the terrorists from overtaking the enitre town until the military sent reinforcements.


South Sudan:

The Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) called for the international community and rights activists to heed its call for unrestricted humanitarian access to war-affected areas. The call came after the government’s negotiating team declined a proposal submitted by mediators, which requested a ceasefire and humanitarian access to rebel-controlled areas.

Warning of a further spiral in the cycle of revenge killings on a mass scale, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended an extra 1,100 peacekeepers be deployed to South Sudan.

At least 25 civilians have been massacred in eastern South Sudan by rebel groups, marking a targeted attack in one of the last remaining Anyuak ethnic communities in the region. Barnabas Okony, a member of parliament from the Anuak community, said that the rebels had ordered all men and boys to be killed, and leaving the girls and some mothers for sexual abuse or exploitation.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that its workers had resumed operations this week and were able to reach thousands in southern Unity State. Civilians in the area had been cut-off from assistance after fighting resumed in October.  Joint assessment teams have found that without food, livelihood assistance, nutrition and health services, the situation is on track for degenerate even further in the beginning of 2016.


Sri Lanka:

Chandrika Kumaratunga, head of the reconciliation unit of President Sirisena’s government,announced that a Special Court to examine alleged war crimes during the civil war would begin its work by early January.


Sudan/Darfur:

While food insecurity and lack of shelter or health services plague many displaced Darfuris, for the first time since 2011 an inter-agency mission has been finally able to visit Jebel Marra, where the majority of displaced people were in need of emergency services as well as water, education, and protection services.

According to UNICEF, roughly two million Sudanese children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition annually, with nearly 550,000 of them suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in the east and conflict-hit Darfur regions. UNICEF also noted that up to 16,000 children have been forced into fighting since the beginning of 2015.


Syria:

Russia launched intensified attacks on “terrorist” targets in Syria, firing long-range cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea. Russian military said it fired 18 cruise missiles on Friday, destroying seven “Islamist” targets in Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 1,331 people since their campaign began on September 30: 381 ISIL fighters, 547 militants from Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and other rebel forces and 403 civilians, including 97 children. In an additional attack, SOHR reported that Russian warplanes killed at least 18 people in the town of Ariha that is held by opposition forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). U.S. officials stated that reports of heavy civilian casualties from Russian airstrikes in Syria are a main reason why the two powers are unlikely to cooperate in bombing ISIL. President Obama did nevertheless affirm that Russia could join the “broad-based coalition” led by the U.S. if it shifts its focus from defending President Bashar al-Assad.

British warplanes began bombing ISIL targets in Syria for the first time late on Wednesday, hours after Britain’s House of Commons voted to extend its airstrikes against the extremist group. Prior to the vote, the UK had limited its operations against ISIL to Iraq, but Prime Minister David Cameron won the vote by 397-223 to bomb the group in its Syrian “heartland”.

In other news from SOHR, the civil society organization reported a total death toll of 4182 people in November 2015. Among the fatalities were 1053 civilians, including 198 children and 116 women, killed by airstrikes by regime and Russian air forces, ISIL attacks, US-led coalition airstrikes, inside regime jails, shells launched by Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), Jabhat al-Nusra, the rebels and Islamist factions, shelling by the regime forces, firing by the Turkish border guards, explosions, snipers, in unknown circumstances and due to poor health conditions and lack of medicine. SOHR reiterated its call to members of the UN Security Council to issue a binding resolution that prohibits targeting civilians in Syria.

Human Rights Watch reported that Turkey has effectively closed its borders with Syria and is returning Syrian asylum seekers without assessing their asylum claims. Reports emerged of Turkish border guards intercepting Syrian asylum seekers at or near the Turkish border and in some cases beating and detaining them before expelling back to Syria.

UNICEF Representative in Syria Hanaa Singer reported that a Syria-regime air strike on a water treatment plant in Aleppo last Thursday cut water supplies to some 3.5 million people, and while pumping has been partly restored, 1.4 million still have interruptions in their supply.


Yemen:

UN OCHA, in its 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overviewreported that around 21.2 million people in Yemen (82% of the population) are in need of some kind of assistance to meet their basic needs. The overview shows that six months of war have taken a “severe toll” on civilians’ lives and basic rights. The UN World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, reported that more than 15.2 million Yemenis now lack access to health care services, more than half the country’s total population, while there is a 55% gap in requested international funding to address the crisis. The WHO needs $83 million to address the health care crisis but has so far only received $37 million.

UN Humanitarian Aid chief Stephen O’Brien accused Yemen’s Houthi rebels of blocking and diverting aid deliveries to the city of Taez, where 200,000 people are living under siege and which continues to be held by government and loyalist forces.

Human Rights Watch released a report with allegations of unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi rebels, which have resulted in civilian deaths and casualties. Human Rights Watch alleges Saudi Arabia, its coalition partners, and also the United States, have failed to investigate the unlawful airstrikes.

Al-Qaeda fighters drove pro-government forces out of Jaar in southern Yemen on Wednesday in a new show of strength by the group, whose presence in the war ravaged country is reportedly expanding. The fighting in Jaar killed 15 people. Al-Qaeda also consolidated their control over territory in southern Yemen after fighters captured the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar from pro-government forces.

The British ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, said on Wednesday that long-delayed peace talks on the Yemeni conflict could finally begin in Geneva in mid-December. Mr Rycroft said the threat posed by extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda highlighted the need to find an urgent resolution. UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has tried for weeks to launch peace talks, but no date has been announced.


What else is new?

The ICRtoP and the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect will be holding the third workshop in the series “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia” in Kuala Lumpur from 7-9 December. The workshop will convene civil society from Myanmar and Malaysia for a training on the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes and sessions on formulating national action plans for civil society on atrocities prevention.

Liberal International will be hosting a conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE Group) on 10 December entitled: “The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Ten Years On: What Next?” Angela Patnode, ICRtoP’s Communications and Advocacy Officer, will be presenting on the panel “Is RtoP Dead? Syria, Ukraine, and Beyond”. ICRtoP members and partners based in the area are welcome to attend, please contact info@responsibilitytoprotect.org for more information.

A special issue of Global Society entitled “Contesting and Shaping the Norms of Protection: The Evolution of a Responsibility to Protect” is now available. The issue includes a collection of papers by researchers from around the world that analyze the debates about RtoP at key moments over the past ten years.

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is offering a graduate-level Genocide Prevention Certificate (GPC), in collaboration with Stockton University. Click on the link for more information.


 

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#R2P Weekly: 16 – 20 November 2015

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14th Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

 

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

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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


Iraq:

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

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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


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

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#R2P Weekly: 9 – 13 November 2015

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ICRtoP holds training in Bangkok, Thailand,
launching workshop series in Southeast Asia

weeklyimagenov13

                   From 4-6 November, over 30 civil society representatives participated in a workshop convened by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) in partnership with the Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P (APR2P) entitled “Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia.”  This three day interactive workshop, held in Bangkok, Thailand, marked the first in a series of civil society workshops led by the ICRtoP and APR2P in Southeast Asia, with the goals of enhancing capacity for early warning; strengthening understanding of the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and regionally relevant issues such as genocide education and land rights and access; and developing national plans of action to protect populations from atrocities.  The meeting brought together participants from Thailand and Cambodia and featured expert speakers from the region as well as from the United Nations Office for the Prevention of Genocide and RtoP.

Importance of “localizing” RtoP
Central throughout the workshop was the critical need to contextualize RtoP to ensure that steps taken to implement the norm were informed by the realities on the ground. While participants expressed a clear understanding of RtoP as a friend of sovereignty that can serve to enhance state capacity, they agreed that homegrown methods for prevention and response are essential for protecting populations from atrocities. Discussions thus focused on assessing the state of RtoP’s advancement in Thailand and Cambodia, with experts in the national advancement of atrocities prevention, such as Dr. Pranee Thiparat of Chulalongkorn University and Amb. Pou Sothirak of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP) reflecting on their experience in “domesticating” RtoP.  It was agreed that at the most basic level this requires translating materials into local languages so as to engage with all relevant actors involved in atrocities prevention.  Of equal importance is the need for education on atrocities prevention so as to increase awareness of RtoP and the norm’s relevance to the countries in focus. Participants also noted that it would be necessary for civil society to engage with policy makers to support the development of national architectures that prioritize civilian protection.

Understanding risk factors for atrocities & RtoP’s relevance to other sectors
In order to “localize” RtoP, it is essential that civil society actors be well equipped to assess the risks for the commission of atrocities and the opportunities for prevention. The workshop thus featured a series of interactive sessions led by Ms. Claudia Diaz of the UN Office for Genocide Prevention and RtoP that explored the utility of the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes as a key tool for civil society.  While the presence of risk factors or indicators does not mean that atrocities are imminent, the training made it clear that no country is immune to such crimes.  Through using the Framework, civil society can analyze their national context so as to inform their advocacy as well as the development of national mechanisms for atrocities prevention.

In addition to the importance of understanding the risk factors that can make a country more vulnerable to atrocity crimes, understanding the relationship between RtoP and other areas of work is critical to ensuring a holistic approach to prevention.  Experts, including Dy Khamboly of the Sleuk Rith Institute and Pou Souvachana of CICP reflected on how education can build state resilience as well as on how the denial of land rights can serve as an indicator of atrocity crimes. While it was acknowledged that working on such issues does not always need to be “labeled” as RtoP, participants expressed an understanding of how the diverse work that their organizations engage in contributes towards the protection of populations.

Civil society as key actors in the advancement of RtoP
While pushing RtoP forward requires concerted effort and coordination by a range of actors, a key theme that emerged from the discussions was the centrality of civil society as partners in atrocities prevention. It became apparent to participants that upholding RtoP is a difficult task that faces hurdles at every turn. While atrocities prevention is a process that requires short through long-term goals and measures, participants acknowledged the importance of NGOs in taking impactful action to influence implementation at every stage. An output from the workshop included the drafting by participants of national action plans for RtoP’s advancement. Such plans, which were developed following an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in their countries, will serve as key tools for civil society to take forward as they continue to lead in building state resilience to atrocity crimes.

A full report from this workshop will be released soon.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Early reports indicate that the National League for Democracy (NLD) and party of Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to have won the recent elections in Burma/Myanmar, the first in the country in 25 years. Thus far, 47% of the results have been announced, with the NLD winning a majority of declared seats. Suu Kyi accused the Union Election Commission, run by the current government, of intentionally delaying the results of what appears to be a landslide victory for her party for the new Burmese presidency. The current Information Minister Ye Htut, on behalf of President Thein Sein, however, promised a peaceful transition of power in “accordance with the legislated timeline.” Furthermore, the military chief of Burma/Myanmar, Min Aung Hlaing, stated that the military, which holds a quarter of Parliamentary seats, will work with the NLD. Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president, but has said she would rule in a position “above the president.”

In a statement released prior to the elections, the Global Centre on the Responsibility to Protect brought attention to the continued commission of atrocities against the Rohingya, declaring that “democracy and lasting peace…cannot be built while the persecution of the Rohingya and other minorities continues.”

The Asia Pacific Centre for Responsibility to Protect will hold a public seminar led by Dr. Noel Morada, who will discuss the recent elections in Burma/Myanmar. The seminar will be held on Monday, 23 November from 4pm to 5:30pm at the APR2P Conference Room.


Burundi:

An unnamed human rights lawyer has informed All Africa of gruesome details of Burundi’s spiral into further ethnic violence that he says cannot be accurately represented on social media; meanwhile, while some commentators are of the view that talk of genocide is too premature, others in international media warn that the ethnically charged language recently used by the government echoes disturbing sentiments also heard before, during, and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

ICRtoP member, the Global Centre for R2P (GCR2P), released a statement on the deteriorating security situation and the imminent threat of mass atrocities. GCR2P recommended that the African Union, Unitedn Nations and individual states immediately impose sanctions on any individuals deemed responsible for inciting violence, participating in targeted killings, and/or undermining the Arusha Peace Agreement.

Human Rights Watch, also a member of the ICRtoP, released a report urging Burundian security forces to exercise restraint in operations enforcing the deadline to lay down arms in and around the capital. Meanwhile, president Pierre Nkurunziza has authorized security forces to use all means at their disposal. The report details the recently elevated level of threatening and inflammatory language in public speeches and statements, coupled with increasing violence that has left over 100 people dead since August.

As Burundi spirals into further ethnically charged and regional conflict, the United Nations has warned that it is less well positioned to respond to the disturbing warning signs in the country than it was before and during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Additionally, the United Nations, African Union, and European Union collectively warned on Thursday that political tensions in Burundi are on an increasingly dangerous precipice and called on both sides for mediated talks. At least 240 people have been killed and thousands fled since April.


Central African Republic:

Three people have been killed and five wounded early this week in intensified violence in and around the town of Bambari, says a U.N. official on condition of anonymity. Anti-balaka forces allegedly infiltrated Bambari on foot and opened fire on Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) fighters in the streets as UN peacekeepers attempted to mitigate the damage.
Several United Nations’ peacekeepers in Central African Republic are facing new accusations of sex abuses per a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation. MINUSCA has said that it will dispatch a multifunctional team to Bambari for fact-gathering and take immediate preventative and disciplinary and corrective action against misconduct.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The United Nations Security Council called this week for the elimination of local and foreign armed groups in eastern Congo and for the immediate resumation of joint operations between UN peacekeeping force’s Intervention Brigade and the national army. Groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), composed of mainly Rwandan Hutu rebels, and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) remain at large. The Council also deplored the consistently high frequency and level of violence and human rights abuses in the region, including targeted civilian attacks, far reaching and systematic sexual and gender-based violence, and the use of child soldiers by armed groups.


Gaza/West Bank:

Unrest in Palestinian territories continues as Israeli security forces shot and killed an elderly Palestinian women in the West Bank city of Hebron this weekend after she allegedly attempted to ram her vehicle into soldiers. In separate incidents, a Palestinian protester was shot dead during a protest east of Khan Yunis city in Gaza and four Israelis were injured in attacks near Hebron.

Palestinians were outraged Thursday after footage detailing undercover Israeli forces disguised in traditional Arab garb infiltrated a West Bank hospital overnight and killed a Palestinian man in a raid in Hebron. The raid follows almost two months of Israeli-Palestinian violence with no signs of deceleration.


Iraq:

Special Representative the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, faces “immense challenges” to reconcile diverging groups in the nation and bring the Sunni community into the political process.
Meanwhile, around 7,500 Kurdish fighters launched a major military mission on Thursday aimed at retaking the strategically important town of Sinjar, which was captured in 2014 by ISIL. US warplanes and military advisers are backing the Kurdish peshmerga forces in this operation. It was reported that the Kurdish forces were making progress in their offensive, including by seizing a main road that connects Mosul and Raqqa.


Libya:

Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Martin Kobler as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Kobler follows Bernadino Leon who previously held the post.
In a statement issued on 7 November, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) urged all Libyan stakeholders to endorse and sign the recent UN-facilitated political deal in order to form a Government of National Accord. The Council also expressed concern over the continued political, institutional, and security crises that plague the country. Meanwhile, it was reported on 12 November that leaked emails indicate that the United Arab Emirates was sending weapons to parties in Libya over the summer in violation of an international arms embargo. Additionally, the government allegedly offered a high paid position to one of the UN personnel involved in the negotiations.

Reports this week also indicated that at least 16 people were killed in Benghazi amidst heavy fighting and airstrikes between Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces and militants allied with Islamic State.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian government’s Media Coordinator, Operation Lafiya Dole, Tukur Gusau stated that the Nigerian military rescued 14 children and six women after clearing four suspected Boko Haram terrorist camps in Borno. Two suspects were captured alive and are currently being interrogated.

President Buhari took additional steps in the establishment of his government with the swearing in of 36 cabinet ministers five months after his election.

Pro-Biafra protests erupted in multiple cities across Nigeria against “the continued detention of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and demanded urgent recognition of the Sovereign State of Biafra.” In Port Harcourt, federal police fired shots and teargas to scare away hundreds of protesters. The police also said that security was increased across the country to ensure security and peace of the nation.


South Sudan:

As reports of atrocities committed on all sides mount, negotiations have established a fragile framework that could allow for a transitional government in South Sudan where such a scale and nature of violations witnessed have not been previously seen by inquiry commissions and witnesses. Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders have been forced to suspend operations in Leer after the looting of their facilities and staff members being threatened. Additionally, South Sudan’s increasing violence has “intensified with grave consequences for civilians,” including increased food insecurity and vulnerability to diseases, says a recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report.

South Sudan’s armed opposition faction, SPLM-IO, has been commended by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, for making formal commitments to prevent and mitigate conflict-related sexual violence in the region. Such commitments include a focus on accountability ; timely and rigorous investigations ; and the protection of victims and witnesses, judicial actors, humanitarians and service providers.


Sudan/Darfur:

The African Union (AU) has officially declared that talks on security arrangements between the Sudanese government and rebel groups will commence on 18 and 19 November concerning the Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Darfur regions.


Syria:

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that mustard gas was used in an attack by on the northern Syrian town Marea on August 21. While the OPCW does not apportion blame for the attack, sources on the ground claim ISIL was the most likely culprit. That same day the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 42 people, including 27 civilians and 15 ISIL fighters, were killed by Russian airstrikes on the ISIL held city of Raqqa. In Latakia, a stronghold for the Syrian regime, at least 22 civilians were killed and 65 injured after a mortar attack on residential neighborhoods. While no group claimed responsibility, rebels and jihadists, particularly Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, have long targeted the city.

The Syrian army and pro-government militia have since ended a year-long siege by ISIL on Kweyris military airport in northern Aleppo province. Syrian state television reported that a “large number of IS terrorists” were killed in the operation.
It has been reported that many soldiers of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are leaving in part due to issues like low pay, poor conditions, and fragmentation. The increased desertions are having a marked effect on the FSA’s strength, according to Al Jazeera.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that the UN will support any decision made at the next round of Syrian peace talks held this weekend in Vienna. Mr de Mistura stated his hope that the discussions will yield concrete results, specifically steps that will bring about an end to the violence.


Yemen:

UNHCR has reported that over 120,000 refugees and migrants have fled Yemen since April 2015 when the civil war began to intensify. More than 15,000 people have sought safety in Djibouti, the small east African state across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.

Fighting between the Saudi led coalition and Houthi and other rebels has led to a number of military and civilian deaths over the course of the last week. At least 19 people – eight pro-government fighters and 11 rebels – were killed in clashes and airstrikes on Friday in the south of Yemen, according to military sources. Clashes killed over 50 people on Saturday and Sunday. In Taiz, medical sources reported that clashes had killed 29, including 8 civilians. Residents reported that about 30 people had died as a result of fighting in Damt district in Dhalea governorate in the south.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Saudi led coalition “deliberately” targets hospitals and medical facilities. In an official statement, ICRC announced that some 100 medical facilities have been attacked since airstrikes began in March 2015.


What else is new?

On September 9th, 2015 the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Stanley Foundation, hosted a panel event entitled “The Responsibility to Protect at Ten: Perspectives and Opportunities.” The panel of experts reflected on the norm’s implementation, with particular focus on how atrocities prevention is related to and affected by various sectors of work such as disarmament and refugee protections, among others. Read the full report from the event for more information on the discussion and recommendations for RtoP’s advancement.

The Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities is holding an event entitled, “Ten Years of RtoP: The Way Ahead. Implementation of a normative principle.” This discussion will be convened on 16 November at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

On 17 November the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law will hold a book launch for the edited work, Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, from 6:00-7:30pm at 55 5th Avenue, New York, NY.
The Global Centre for R2P, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, and the government of Denmark are currently convening their second annual RtoP training course in Ghana. The training seeks to engage with actors from the region to enhance knowledge and capacity for the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect within their work.


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#R2P Weekly: 2 – 6 November 2015

Untitled
Myanmar Elections – Free and fair?

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            On 8 November the people of Myanmar will vote in what is being called the country’s first “free and fair elections” following five decades of military rule and an imposed civilian government that was established in 2010. Over 6,000 candidates from 91 registered political parties will be running; but the two perceived front runners – the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi – are drawing most interest. Should Suu Kyi’s party win, however, she would be unable to legally become the country’s leader as a constitutional provision bars any individual with foreign children from holding office. Suu Kyi, the mother of two British-born children, has however stated that if her party wins the election, she will be the leader of the government, even if she is not the president. She declared that the constitution “will have to change to allow civilian authorities to have the necessary democratic authority over the armed forces.”
While the presence of 150 EU election observers and hundreds of international journalists should increase the transparency and credibility of the elections, there are many issues raising alarm for the electoral process and its outcome. With regards to the political parties themselves, a 3 November report released by the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights found that the majority of the 91 parties have failed to prioritize or commit to human rights issues within their platforms.  Arguably the most undemocratic aspect of the elections is the disenfranchisement of a half million Muslim Rohingya civilians and the “purge” of Rohingya electoral candidates. In addition, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, has raised concerns about restrictions in place on freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
The ongoing conflict in various regions of Myanmar between rebel groups and government forces further jeopardizes the fairness of the upcoming elections.  Civilians in these regions will not be able to access polling stations, and thus will not be able to participate in the elections.  On a similar note, civilians in Karen state expressed concernabout a potential win by the USDP out of fear of a return to violence in the region at the hands of government forces.  Of further alarm is the release of two academic reports by theLowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, which allege evidence of a campaign of genocide against the Rohingya community by the government of Myanmar.
Many United Nations officials have expressed concern about the upcoming elections, and have called on the government of Myanmar to take all measures possible to ensure an environment of peace. The Secretary-General raised his concern with regards to the use of hate speech, and the “provocation of communal hostilities and the abuse of religion for political purposes.”  His Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, in a statement released on 4 November, noted similar concerns, including with regards to the politicization of ethnicity and religion which has led to increased “advocacy of religions hatred against Muslim minority” by religious leaders.  The Advisers also noted their concern that the electoral process has increased marginalization, particularly of the Rohingya population. It is hoped that such concern and calls for the government of Myanmar to take all possible action to ensure peaceful elections will result in efforts to provide the opportunity for civilians to freely participate in the democratic process. As Special Rapporteur Lee stated, “the credibility of the elections will be judged by the environment in which they are conducted and the extent to which all sectors of Myanmar society have been allowed to freely participate in the political process.”


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Cote D’Ivoire
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Guinea
Iraq
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Three men with machetes attacked U Naing Ngan Lin, the opposition candidate for the NLD for Dakhinathiri Township in Naypyitaw, and his convoy – he was in serious but stable condition.

The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed on October 15th but the deal has been criticized for being “broken before it began” with various ethnic groups reporting continued fighting leading to displacement.


Burundi:

Burundi’s President Nkurunziza gave the armed opposition, which is against his third consecutive term as president, an ultimatum this week to lay down weapons by the end of the week and surrender with amnesty or face anti-terrorism legislation. Sections of Bujumbura have been temporarily barricaded following the deaths of four people in violence between police and “insurgents.” Residents are reportedly fleeing these sealed off areas in fear of what will happen after Nkurunziza’s deadline to lay down arms passes.


Central African Republic:

Over the weekend, retaliatory attacks between armed groups in Bangui resulted in the death of three people, 22 people injured and more than 100 houses burnt down as thousands fled their homes. Parliamentary and presidential polls originally postponed to 13 December, currently seem unlikely as violence continues to escalate.


Cote D’Ivoire:

Despite criticisms last week, the UN Secretary General congratulated President Ouattara’s reelection and stated that “the successful conduct of these polls confirms that Côte d’Ivoire is returning towards lasting peace and stability.”


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

ICRtoP member, Human Rights Watch, and eight other NGOs urged the Security Council to hold another formal session on the DPRK to reiterate that the country’s human rights record remains a priority for the international community.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Fourteen of sixteen NGO aid workers abducted by unknown rebels in eastern DRC over the weekend are still being held for ransom, increasing fears that the North Kivu province may again be ripe with rebels, smugglers, and cross-border raids indicative of the larger political crisis of the nation.


Gaza/West Bank:

Amnesty International urged  the Israeli military to immediately take steps to protect Palestinian civilians from attacks by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and ensure effective investigation of all attacks, including the killing of a Palestinian teenager in Hebron by an Israeli civilian which took place on October 17th.

Israeli forces  shot and killed a Palestinian near the West Bank settlement Gush Etzion on Thursday. Reportedly, the Palestinian man had ignored calls to stop and then attempted to attack an Israeli soldier at a crowded bus stop.


Guinea:

Women aligned with the opposition, Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), led a demonstration in Conakry against “human rights violations” targeting UDFG militants.

The UN Special Regional Envoy to West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, urged newly re-elected President, Alpha Conde, to form a “wide  consensus government in the interests of peace” after the opposition party did not recognize the outcome of the vote. Guinea’s Constitutional Court on Saturday formally confirmed Conde’s win, dismissing the claims of election fraud.


Iraq:

ISIL militants and a suicide bomber killed four civilians and wounded 15 others in a rare attack in Iraq’s northern Kurdish province.


Libya:

Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) threatened to flood Europe with migrants if the European Union would not recognize the GNC as the official government.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UNSC on Thursday that Libya’s incessant conflict and political division may soon come to an end because significant progress is being made towards achieving peace and stability in the country. The UNSMIL mission is making important steps to encourage promotion of the rule of law, protection of civilians and end impunity for atrocity crimes.


Nigeria:

The National Human Rights Commission in Nigeria set a goal to “ensure that 80 per cent of Nigerians are aware of their fundamental human rights by the end of December 2015.”


South Sudan:

A new rebel group calling itself Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF) announced in a statement that its forces would lay down weapons and accept negotiations if the government nullified its unconstitutional order to expand the current number of states from 10 to 28 in the face of a recently signed peace deal.  Later in the week, despite the increasing internal and international pressure, the South Sudanese government rejected the proposal to reverse the order expanding the number of recognized states to 28.

Medecins Sans Frontieres described the conditions in the Unity State as an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, detailing that the civilian population is subjected to repeated and targeted violence and lack access to basic needs.


Sudan/Darfur:

After researching 77-firsthand accounts of rape victims in Darfur, the UK-based human rights organization, Waging Peace, reported that sexual violence in the conflict area is rampant and expansive. Victims, if they survive, receive no physical or psychological supports, while less than a quarter of total cases documented are reported officially and even less are acted upon by police.

The US government extended sanctions for another year against the government of Sudan. The Sudanese government dismissed the reasons for the sanctions and claimed that it is in fact making constructive efforts to achieve security in the region.


Syria:

Last Friday, US President Barack Obama announced that “several dozen” Special Operations troops will be sent to Syria in what will be the first “open-ended mission” by US ground forces in the Syrian conflict.

Also on Friday, Syrian government airstrikes killed at least 61 people and injured over 100 when they struck a marketplace in the Damascus suburb of Douma. An additional series of Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes killed at least 80 people in about 25 different areas of Aleppo province on Friday.

World leaders including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Rusian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Vienna over the weekend to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria but failed to reach an agreement on the future of President Bashar al-Assad. However, it was decided that further talks will be held in two weeks.

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir declared that Russia and Iran must agree on a date and method by which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will step down and foreign forces will withdraw from Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also stated that disagreements on Assad’s future should not delay a humanitarian ceasefire or a deal to end the Syrian war.

ISIL gained territory in central Syria, taking the town of Maheen from the regime forces late on Saturday through the use of two suicide car bombs, killing or wounding an estimated 50 government soldiers.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that six civilians including two children and a woman died in regime warplanes missiles fired on Bustan Al Qaser neighborhood in Aleppo on Tuesday.

A new report by Amnesty International condemned the Syrian State and allied militia for the abduction and detention of tens of thousands of people since civil unrest against the regime began in 2011.The report highlights that state officials profit from the disappearances.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch denounced the practice of Syrian rebel groups who are detaining both regime supporters and soldiers, putting them in metal cages and placing them around the Eastern Ghouta region as a means of deterring indiscriminate government attacks.


Yemen:

On Friday the UN World Food Programme (WFP) appealed for safe access to the besieged city of Taiz where fighting has blocked food supplies and left thousands at risk of famine. The last food aid to reach Yemen was five weeks ago when food was delivered to nearly 240,000 people. The WFP urged that access is needed in order to “prevent a humanitarian tragedy” that threatens the lives of thousands. Late this week a Russian plane reportedly carrying 23 tons of humanitarian aid arrived at Houthi-controlled Sanaa airport.

Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Sunday killed dozens of Houthi rebels as clashes between the rebels and pro-government forces spread across several southern provinces, leaving 19 Houthi and 14 Popular Resistance fighters dead.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said he expects peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties to begin by November 15th at the latest. The opposing forces have already agreed to implement Security Council Resolution 2216 calling on Houthis and their allies to withdraw from main cities and surrender arms captured from Yemeni government forces, but they will not do this until after UN talks. On the other hand, Yemeni and Saudi-coalition forces want the Houthis to withdraw before talks begin.


What else is new?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer issued an “unprecedented joint warning” on Saturday for states to prevent conflicts, abide by international law and help refugees. Mr Maurer said the world is in a new era where combatants ignore the most fundamental rules of war in conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

A multidisciplinary panel discussion open to the public on “Global Security, Justice and Governance” with the World Federalist Movement’s President Lloyd Axworthy and other notable participants, including William Pace of WFM-Institute on Global Policy and Fernando Iglesias of the Creation of Latin American and the Caribbean Criminal Court against Transnational Organized Crime, will take place on Friday November 6th, from 4:30pm-6:00pm in the United Nations Church Center, 10th Floor, 777 UN Plaza, NY, NY 10017.

The Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights will be hosting a lunchtime lecture titled “The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: From Static to Dynamic Action” with Bill O’Niel, a lawyer specializing in humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law. The event will take place on Monday, November 9th, from 12:00pm-1:00pm in Room 420 of the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, 55 Fifth Ave, Manhattan, NY. RSVP to cardozo.clihhr@yu.edu

The “10th anniversary of Responsibility to Protect: A Focus on Prevention” panel will be held on Thursday, November 19th from 11:00am-1:00pm in the Palais Des Nations including panelists such as Dr. Jennifer Welsh, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Mr. Volker Turk of UNHCR, Mr. Davide Rodongo of the Graduate Institute, Ms. Elisabeth Decrey Warner of Geneva Call, among others. The event is organized during Geneva Peace Week by the Permanent Missions of Australia, Ghana, Hungary, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uruguay, with the support of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Graduate Institute.To RSVP, click here.

Gareth Evans released his latest op-ed entitled “Indonesia’s Forgotten Genocide,” in which he describes how October marked the 50th year anniversary of the Indonesian military launching one of the worst and least talked about mass murders. 500,000 members of sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) were systematically killed across Central and East Java, Bali, and northern Sumatra. A new bout of censorship by the Indonesian government threatens the prospect of bringing the massacre into public discourse.


 

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