Tag Archives: Cote d’Ivoire

#RtoPWeekly 15-19 May

UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect holds panel series to inform preparations for upcoming report on RtoP

On Thursday, 18 May, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) co-organized a panel discussion in Geneva on “Mainstreaming an atrocity prevention lens in international human rights mechanisms.” This is the second of three such events to be held with Member States in preparation of the upcoming 2017 UN Secretary-General’s report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).

Next week, on 24 May, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Ivan Simonovic will chair the final panel in the series, which will be held at UN headquarters in New York. The final panel will focus on “Accountability for the prevention of atrocity crimes and UN mandated peace missions.”

The UN Secretary-General has released a report on RtoP annually since 2009. Each year the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) provides summaries and other educational tools on the annual report. For more information on the UN and RtoP, as well as to view the previous reports and tools, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

CAR
Cote d’Ivoire
Iraq
Libya
Mali

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Central African Republic:
On 14 May, the UN mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported another attack had occurred on its base in the city of Bangassou. According to MINUSCA, the violence was mostly targeted against the Muslim civilians in the region and resulted in the death and injuries of several civilians and soldiers. The UN mission added that the attacks were conducted by a wide coalition, including the anti-Balaka armed group. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for investigations into the incident “in order to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.” Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that it had treated 21 wounded at the hospital in Bangassou within a few hours of the attack.

According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued on 15 May, Ugandan peacekeeping forces deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) have allegedly been responsible for the sexual abuse and exploitation of at least 13 women in CAR since 2015. Last year, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights reported 14 cases of rape by the Ugandan peacekeeping forces in CAR. Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, declared that “Ugandan and African Union authorities should conduct proper investigations, punish those responsible, and make sure that the women and girls who were sexually abused or exploited get the services they need.” HRW called on MINUSCA to withhold from recruiting Ugandan peacekeepers until the facts have been established and accountability has been provided.


Cote d’Ivoire:

In a statement issued on 16 May, the UN Secretary-General welcomed “the return to calm in Côte d’Ivoire following the unacceptable acts of violence committed by soldiers of the Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire (FACI) over the past few days” and complimented “the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for its efforts to address the unrest and restore security.”


Iraq:

According to ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 18 May, the Iraqi army and other security forces in the region have recently forced over three hundred families in the Hammam al-Alil and Hajj Ali camps for displaced people to return to areas in western Mosul that are still under threat of Islamic State (ISIL) violence, while also being deprived of water, food, and electricity. The decision was taken in order to arrange for the arrival of new families into the camps, yet humanitarian workers and the UN have evaluated that the camps still have the capacity to receive new families without the forced removal. Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, asserted that these families “should not be forcibly returned to unsafe areas and areas that lack adequate water, food, electricity, or health facilities.”


Libya:

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has encouraged EU member states to strengthen Libya’s border management, where the EU has been conducting patrols for several months in an effort to prevent migrants and contraband from reaching European coasts. Mogherini stated that a militarized border is an effective barrier to smuggling boats launched into the Mediterranean Sea, and would act as a control mechanism against the movement of migrants. Her statement was a response to a letter issued by Germany and Italy last week, which had requested the presence of an EU mission on the border between Libya and Niger, despite the existing training provided by the EU for rescuing people around its territory. Meanwhile, the condition of Libyan migrants fleeing the country, specifically for people smuggled and trafficked, has continued to raise concerns in the international community. Migrants have been subjected to poor detention conditions, insufficient food, beatings, forced labor, and sexual violence, among others.


Mali:

Last year, the United Nations asked Canada to provide urgently needed equipment and personnel to the UN mission in Mali, but as of yet the country has delayed giving a response, resulting in some UN Member States expressing their impatience. On 12 May, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Justin Trudeau, explained that the Canadian government will take the “appropriate” time required to decide as to whether Canada will send peacekeepers to Mali. Trudeau emphasized the importance of ensuring sure that his country would contribute to the mission with the proper approach, training, and equipment before engaging Canadian citizens in a peacekeeping operation.

On 14 May, four Red Cross employees were kidnapped by unidentified armed individuals in Mali while conducting a survey of the humanitarian situation. The negotiations took place immediately, and therefore the abductors released a Malian humanitarian aid worker the next day. The country has been plagued by rebel and Islamist groups, which have conducted attacks in recent months against the Malian government and its allies. Targeted attacks on humanitarian workers are becoming more frequent, resulting in the threatening, injuring, and kidnapping of humanitarian personnel. Last month, the Red Cross had to suspend operations in northern Kidal following a burglary in its office, while three other Red Cross employees were abducted by the militant Islamist Group, Ansar Dine. In that respect, the UN has stated that it may deploy an intervention force of Senegalese troops to deal with the insecurity in Mali.


On 16 May, the Nigerian Army claimed responsibility for the arrest of Abubaka Haram, a top Boko Haram commander known as ‘Pepper’, who was suspected to be involved in several terrorist activities in Yobe State and the neighboring region. European countries have resolved the crisis in Nigeria, but the humanitarian and migration situation is increasingly unstable.
Given the ongoing military operations, the governor of the state of Borno has decided not to close the camps in the area by the end of May, as was initially expected. He considered it not yet safe to allow people to return to their homes while Boko Haram continues to carry out attacks and bombings in the region.


South Sudan:

According to a UN aid plan that was presented in Geneva on 15 May, humanitarian agencies are seeking $1.4 billion USD in humanitarian assistance for refugees from South Sudan that have fled to neighboring countries. As of now, only 14 percent of the plan has been funded. The humanitarian situation in the country continues to worsen, with “a combination of conflict, drought and famine leading to further displacement.”


On 14 May, a representative of the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) briefed the Sudanese government regarding a 3 May meeting between two Sudanese armed groups that had been seeking a path to stable peace in Darfur. The representative reported that the groups expressed their support for a peace settlement with the government. In light of this information, a delegation of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) held a meeting on 15 May in order to discuss the recent developments with Sudanese government officials, as the 30 June withdrawal date of the mission draws ever closer. During the meeting, the Sudanese representatives updated the AUPSC on the latest security, political, and humanitarian developments, and the delegation reiterated its support for government efforts in achieving peace and stability.

On 17 May, the Sudanese President, Mr. Omar al-Bashir, was invited by Saudi Arabia to the upcoming Arab-Islamic-American Summit, which will discuss issues such as terrorism and trade, among others. The Summit will be attended by the United States President, Mr. Donald Trump, as well as the leaders of several countries named under Mr. Trump’s proposed travel ban. The international community will be monitoring the summit regarding the hopeful arrest of the Sudanese President, since Bashir is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Prosecutor, has urged the United Nations Security Council to take action and for all ICC states present at the summit to arrest Bashir.


Syria:

On Monday, 15 May, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a second US-led airstrike on the city of Albu Kamal, currently controlled by the Islamic State (ISIL), had resulted in the deaths of 23 civilians. The SOHR reported a similar attack the day before that had also been conducted by the US-led coalition on the ISIL held provinces of Raqqa. In a statement issued on 17 May, the US-led coalition against ISIL denied it had been responsible for the strikes in Albu Kamal.

Also on 15 May, the US State Department claimed that the Syrian government had built a crematorium close to the Saydnaya Military Prison in Syria in an effort to cover up the alleged mass atrocities that have been taking place there. Stuart Jones, acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, asserted that the Syrian regime could be killing up to 50 detainees a day. He stated that the US would “bring evidence forward to the international community” regarding these claims.

On 17 May, the sixth round of the UN-supported negotiations for the crisis in Syria occurred in Geneva, as a part of the efforts for a political solution to the conflict. Among the parties that participated in the talks were the United Nations Special Envoy for the Syria crisis, Staffan de Mistura; the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy; as well as the Syrian government delegation and US representatives. The alleged use of a crematorium by the Syrian regime and the satellite images that supported this charge were among the topics brought by the US to the discussion.


Yemen:

On 17 May, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that about two hundred people have recently died due to the cholera outbreak in Yemen. Mohammed Al-Assadi, UNICEF’s representative in the country, declared that three thousand new potential cholera cases are being documented every day.

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#RtoPWeekly 1-5 May

Human rights issues to be reviewed at UN Human Rights Council

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report this week calling on all UN Member States to denounce the Philippines’ deadly “war on drugs”, which has resulted in the killing of over 7,000 people in less than a year. Since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in June 2016, numerous nongovernmental organizations, including HRW, as well as various UN and media sources have reported cases of extrajudicial killings, which, as HRW has argued, may amount to crimes against humanity. In light of these reports, as well as those of cases of torture, enforced disappearances, and violations of children’s and reproductive health rights, among other issues, HRW has called on all UN Member States to “urge the Philippines to support an international investigation into the killings, given the Philippine government’s own failure to impartially investigate or prosecute those responsible.”

Estimates have shown that the number of deaths related to the “war on drugs” may have reached 8,000. However, Philippine police have disputed those totals, as well as the alleged extrajudicial killings. In addition, Ramon Apolinario, the Philippine’s Police Deputy Director General, has declared that the killings are also a result of infighting between drug dealing groups. However, Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, has argued that “[T]he recent discovery of a secret detention cell, where drug suspects were being detained without charge, in conditions which may amount to cruel and inhuman treatment, suggests that further violations by police may be occurring, which have not yet been uncovered.”

Next week, on Monday, 8 May, the Philippines will be one of 14 countries to be examined under the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Among the issues that will be discussed during the review is the large number of alleged extrajudicial killings in the country. Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, has stated that, “The UN review of the Philippines is critical because of the sheer magnitude of the human rights calamity since President Duterte took office last year,” adding that “Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ has been nothing less than a murderous war on the poor.” UPRs are conducted on all 193 UN Member States and the Philippines’ last UPRs were carried out in 2008 and 2012. However, this will be the country’s first UPR since Duterte has taken office.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ignored calls for a government investigation into the extrajudicial killings and has declared that he shall not be “intimidated” by a possible referral to the International Criminal Court. In April, Jude Sabio, a lawyer from the Philippines, filed a 77-page complaint to the International Criminal Court against President Duterte and other government officials accusing them of repeated extrajudicial killings that may amount to crimes against humanity.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:
During a press conference in Brussels on 2 May with the European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi rejected the Commission of Inquiry dispatched by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the state’s alleged crimes against the Rohingya people, which may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Aung San Suu Kyi argued that the suggested resolution is “not keeping with what is happening on the ground,” further adding that “those recommendations which will divide further the two communities in Rakhine we will not accept, because it will not help to resolve the problems that are arising all the time.”

Burundi:

According to the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), a convoy of food aid that had been blocked from entering Burundi on 3 May has been returned to Rwanda. Burundi authorities had prevented the shipment from entering due to “security issues.” The aid would have supplied enough food for about 112,000 people.


Central African Republic:

This week, ICRtoP member Human Right Watch reported that armed groups fighting for control of a central Ouaka province in the Central African Republic (CAR) have targeted civilians in several attacks over the past three months. These attacks, which are apparently retaliation-driven, have left at least 45 people dead and at least 11,000 displaced. The clashes are between the ethnic Fulani Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance in the CAR (FPRC), both of which are seeking to become the dominant power in the region.

Recent resurging violence in the CAR has left full villages emptied and destroyed, with Medecins Sans Frontieres emphasizing that civilians are being attacked in the country at “levels not seen in years.” Despite the increasing needs, humanitarian funding for the year for the country is at only 10 percent. UN officials say the “disastrous” lack of support hurts the possibility of peace.

The US and its African allies have officially terminated their search for Joseph Kony, the infamous leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army and director of over 100,000 murders and atrocities in central Africa over the past few decades, as many analysts claim that Kony’s influence has now been drastically reduced. Kony was one of the first people the International Criminal Court had indicted for crimes against humanity but he still has yet to be caught, and therefore many experts worry that the removal of troops will leave many people in the CAR at risk.


Cote d’Ivoire:

On 1 May, the UN announced its intention to complete its peacekeeping engagement with Côte d’Ivoire, concluding a 13-year effort. According to the UN, the efforts of the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) have culminated in the restoration of peace and stability in the country, which had been particularly fragile after the post-2010 election crisis. UNOCI is in the process of ensuring the sustainability of the peacekeeping successes achieved thus far and will close the doors of its mission permanently on 30 June.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, became the first UN official for Human Rights to have visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday, May 3. Special Rapporteur Aguilar met with the Foreign Ministry Ambassador for Human Rights Ri Hung Sik in Pyongyang and is arranged to have more meetings with government officials in an effort to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the country.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On 1 May, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) indefinitely postponed voter registration in two provinces of the central Kasai region after the brutal killing of Philippe Iyidimbe, an Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) official, on 3 April. The state has accused the Kamwina Nsapu rebel militia of carrying out the murder. The UN has previously accused the Nsapu militia of using child soldiers and committing several other atrocities in the country.


Kenya:

Kenya’s government has continuously shown harsh hostility to human rights activists in the country, according to a report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The government allegedly has blamed rights groups in the country for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s former International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment for crimes against humanity, which have since been dropped. The same report alleged that violence, kidnapping, murder, and torture are amongst the methods used by the state in retribution against the activists it has deemed responsible.


Libya:

During a joint press conference on 1 May with his Libyan counterpart, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurs stated that Libya can only resolve its problem of “illegal immigration” into Europe in a climate of political and economic stability, adding that refugees saved from perilous situations during their travels should not be guaranteed entry to European countries. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to Kurs on 3 May, declaring his statements as feeding the “misinformed and xenophobic narratives in Europe” and that they will only result in worse conditions for Libyan refugees.

In a “diplomatic breakthrough” on 2 May, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez al Sarraj, met with General Khalifa Haftar, the head of the rival faction supported by the country’s Parliament, in an effort to outline an agreement and resolve tensions. This most recent meeting marks the second its kind since Sarraj was named the designated Prime Minister in late 2015. No official statement was made after the meeting, but it is expected that new elections will be held in the upcoming several months.


Mali:

According to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, at least one person was killed and nine wounded in an attack on its camp near the city of Timbuktu on 4 May. There was no direct claim of responsibility, but al Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups have conducted attacks in the past against the Malian government and its allies, so these groups are being looked at as possible culprits.


Nigeria:

Amnesty International denounced on 3 May the increasing arrests and intimidation of bloggers and demonstrators across Nigeria. While underscoring the authorities’ determination to suppress the right of freedom of expression, it urged the government to respect international human rights law in protecting this right.


South Sudan:

An advance party of peacekeepers, specially mandated to use force to protect civilians, arrived in Juba on 1 May. The 13-member group will provide support for engineering operations and help to prepare camp sites for the rest of the peacekeepers. The group’s enhanced mandate was given by the UN Security Council after last year’s violent clashes in Juba escalated the country’s civil war and resulted in hundreds of deaths. The group will be reinforced in the upcoming months.

On 30 April, the African Union (AU) voiced its “deep concerns” over the increased violence in South Sudan and called on the warring parties to abstain from escalating tensions. The AU representative declared that these groups, including the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, are endangering civilians despite declaring they seek to defend them. Further, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) called on the South Sudanese army to immediately cease attacks in the Upper Nile region, saying the state army is responsible for the violence that displaced 25,000 civilians.

On 29 April, the UN urged the government of South Sudan, as well as the other warring parties in the war-torn nation, to cease hostilities and uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians in the face of the recent government offensives in various parts of the country.


Syria:

According to a report released on Monday by ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch, the sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun is a part of a series of “widespread and systematic” chemical attacks since December 2016 by the Syrian forces. According to investigations, the Syrian forces continue to attack civilian targets, such as hospitals and medical workers. These alleged crimes may amount to war crimes. During April alone, there have been 10 such alleged government attacks on hospitals and similar facilities.


Yemen:

On Tuesday, 2 May, a group of United States congressmen urged US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the government administration to reconsider their support for a Saudi-led coalition attack on Hodeidah, the Houthi-controlled port in Yemen, due to the devastating humanitarian consequences such an attack would create. A similar letter was issued by 55 members of the US Congress on 10 April by 55, which urged President Trump’s administration to obtain the US Congress’s authorization for any military action in Yemen.

On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of the repercussions that such an attack would have on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region, including a severe increase in the loss of civilian lives.

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#RtoPWeekly: 27-31 March 2017

Untitled

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

RtoPW 27-31 March

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

#RtoPWeekly: 23-27 January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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


Mali:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Sudan:

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

 

 

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#R2PWeekly: 24 – 28 October 2016

Rtop weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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#R2PWeekly: 17 – 21 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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

Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 03 – 07 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic: 

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

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo: 

Political and security developments

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank: 

Political developments

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

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

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

Security developments

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

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


Iraq: 

Political developments

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

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

The humanitarian situation

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

Security developments

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:  

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

Political developments

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

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

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

Security developments

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

The humanitarian situation

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


Syria: 

Political and security developments

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

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

The humanitarian situation

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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#R2P Weekly: 9 – 13 May 2016

Untitled
The Challenges of Engaging National Governments with RtoP and Atrocity Prevention: Confessions of a British RtoP Advocate

 

By Alexandra Buskie, Policy and Advocacy Manager, United Nations Association – UK. UNA-UK is a Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP.

Over the past 4 years, the United Nations Association – UKalt(UNA-UK) has been working on a dedicated policy and advocacy programme “to strengthen understanding, support and leadership for the Responsibility to Protect principle in the UK’s policy, parliamentary and public arenas”. This has been no small ambition. Engaging the UK Government on RtoP and atrocity prevention has represented huge challenges and success has been difficult to measure. What follows is a reflection on these challenges, how we have sought to respond to them and what we have counted as incremental steps towards a stronger national engagement with the principle in practice. (…)

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya
Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has exhorted President Htin Kyaw to urgently revamp the nation’s “repressive and rights-abusing laws,” particularly those pertaining to race and religion protection.

Aung San Suu Kyi announced that her government is determined to help Thailand solve its long-standing refugee problems. The Thai Foreign Minister, Don Pramudwinai, has estimated that there are 1.6 million Burmese migrant workers residing in Thailand.

Two human rights organizations, Fortify Rights and United to End Genocide, have released areport entitled “Supporting Human Rights in Myanmar: Why the US Should Maintain Existing Sanctions Authority,” urging President Obama to renew the sanctions authority on Burma for at least another year. According to the report, more than 140,000 Rohingya, Kaman and other Muslims remain confined to over 40 squalid internment camps.


Burundi:

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) called on the African Union to step up its efforts to resolvethe Burundi crisis. The PAP Rapporteur, Victor Hlatshwayo, stressed the need to put the lives of the Burundi people at the forefront.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, stated that concrete steps must be taken in order to improve the situation of IDPs in Burundi, highlighting the importance of establishing a legal framework for their assistance and protection. According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), the number of IDPs in March 2016 has reached over 25,000 in the three provinces of Rutana, Makamba and Kirundo. In addition, some 78,000 persons remain internally displaced from the 1993 crisis.

On 9 May, Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced 21 army officers to life in prison, including Burundi’s former Defence Minister, General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, in connection with a coup plot in May 2015.

On 9 May, unidentified gunmen wearing police uniforms killed three people and injured one in a bar in Maramvya.

Jean Minani, the newly elected leader of opposition group Cnared, urged rebels to “lay down their weapons” should President Nkurunziza agree to participate in peace talks later this month.
 


Central African Republic:

OCHA has reported that the government service delivery capacity for healthcare in the Central African Republic is extremely poor everywhere except in Bangui. This has left the population vulnerable to diseases and with very little access to health services. Over 1 million are currently being served by non-governmental organizations and UN agencies through mobile services in areas not covered by the government’s basic health facilities.

Doctors Without Borders stated that 4,000 South Sudanese refugees living in CAR are doing so in deplorable conditions after having fled conflict and violence. The organisation underlined the “lack of food, water and medicines”.


Côte d’Ivoire

The trial of former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, opened in Côte d’Ivoire on 9 May. She is charged with crimes against humanity during the post-election violence that took place in the country in 2010-2011, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people after her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down and relinquish power after losing the election. Mrs. Gbagbo has also been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity during the same period. Côte d’Ivoire has not applied to the ICC to challenge the admissibility of the case and Amnesty International has called for Côte d’Ivoire to comply with their obligation pursuant to her arrest warrant and surrender Mrs. Gbagbo to the ICC. Côte d’Ivoire contends that Mrs. Gbagbo’s trial is fair and transparent, but her defense has claimed that the jury is biased.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Suspected Islamist militants reportedly killed approximately 20 to 40 villagers in the eastern region of the DRC. Meanwhile, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), another active rebel militia in the area, killed at least nine civilians in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

Authorities in the DRC have arrested Brigadier-General Leopold Mujyambere, the chief of staff for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel militia group linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A DRC government spokesman said that authorities have taken Mujyambere to the capital to await a decision from the military system on whether he will be tried in Congo or extradited to Rwanda.

On Wednesday, the DRC’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Joseph Kabila may remain in office beyond his constitutional mandate should the election be delayed, as a clause in the constitution mandates that the sitting president must remain in his post until a new president is elected and installed. Opposition parties, who have accused Kanila of attempting to hold onto power by delaying the elections later this year, have denounced the decision.

Since late April, authorities have arrested at least 27 associates of Moise Katumbi, an opposition presidential candidate, as well as other opposition party members. The Justice Ministry opened an investigation into Katumbi on 4 May, the same day he announced his candidacy for president.


Iraq:

Iraq’s government failed again to vote on a cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Hadi, prolonging the month-long political crisis.

Amnesty International urged the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to carry out an “impartial and independent” investigation into abuses committed by their respective militias and security forces.

According to the Pentagon, on 6 May, an airstrike killed Abu Wahib, a top ISIL commander, and three others outside of Rutba in Iraq. Wahib was reportedly a former al-Qaida member in Iraq and made appearances in several ISIL execution videos.

On Tuesday, a suicide bombing in Baqouba, a city northeast of Baghdad, killed at least 13 people and wounded 60 others in a commercial area of a Shiite neighborhood. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack and reported that a Shiite mosque was the intended target.

On 11 May, a car bomb killed 62 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 86 others in a crowded market in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, specifying that they were targeting Shiite fighters.


Kenya:

Kenya has announced that the government has closed the country’s Department of Refugee Affairs and is currently working towards closing Kenya’s refugee camps. Amnesty International expressed concern over the closure of Kenya’s two large refugee camps, including the Dadaab camp, the largest in the world. Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, stated, “This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk.” The closure could displace over 600,000 people.

The United Nations and human rights organizations have also called on the Kenyan government to revoke its decision on closing the refugee camps. In a joint statement, several non-governmental organizations, which are already providing assistance to refugees in the country, have pledged to provide full support to the Kenyan government in handling refugee problems.


Libya

Next week, regional foreign ministers will meet for talks in Vienna on providing support for Libya’s new unity government and bringing stability to the country, according to Italy’s foreign minister.

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has announced the establishment of a “Presidential Guard”, a new military force in charge of protecting government buildings, border posts, and other important public facilities and notable visitors. It is the new unity government’s first move to reorganize military forces in Libya.

Western Libyan forces have announced that they are preparing an advance to retake the the city of Sirte, which has been ISIL’s Libyan stronghold. The forces have called for international logistical support in retaking the city but stated that they would not wait for the international assistance to lunch the operation.


Mali:

Malian security services have arrested Yacouba Toure, an alleged weapons trafficker and senior member of the Islamist militant group, Ansar Dine. Toure is suspected of trafficking weapons across the border from Mali that were used in a deadly attack near Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso in October.

Oumar Aldjana, representative for Mali’s Union of Fulani, has reported that 33 Fulani civilians have been killed in a conflict between the Fulani and Bambara communities in Mali’s central Mopti region.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian military spokesman announced that the army had launched a new military offensive to rescue unarmed civilians kidnapped by Boko Haram. The U.S. is also considering selling light attack aircraft to Nigeria to help it counter Boko Haram, a deal previously put on hold due to U.S. concerns over human rights abuses perpetrated by the military.

French President Francois Hollande will attend this week’s summit in Abuja to search for a regional response to the militant threat in Nigeria. Leaders from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger will also attend. During the summit, France and Nigeria are set to sign a defense cooperation agreement, according to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Gunmen killed two policemen and three soldiers in raids on Monday in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil-producing region. A rise in recent violence in the region has raised concerns that a previously quelled insurgency could resume. The military has vowed to use “all available means and measures” to stop militants from attacking oil facilities in the region, but a labor union has called for oil companies to evacuate all staff in the region.

In a recent report, Amnesty International said that at least 149 detainees, including seven young children and four babies, have died at the Giwa barracks detention center in Maiduguri. The report called this center “a place of death” and called for its immediate close and the release of all 1,200 believed detainees or their transfer to civilian authorities. Amnesty International also said that over 8,000 young men and boys have been shot, tortured, suffocated, or starved to death since 2011 while in Nigerian military custody, with no one held responsible.

On Thursday, a suicide bombing in Maiduguri killed at least five people and wounded 19 others at a government compound. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the act.


South Sudan:

The World Food Programme warned that up to 5.3 million people in South Sudan may face severe food shortages during this year’s lean season.

An independent report by the International Organization for Migration revealed that the “protection of civilians” camps at UNMISS bases around the country, to which over 200,000 individuals have fled, will likely be necessary for years to come, despite the August peace agreement.

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict urged the South Sudanese government to actively address sexual violence crimes in the country, stating that sexual violence crimes have continued to be systematically committed during the conflict.


Sudan/Darfur:

Dr. Amin Hassan Omar, the head of the Darfur Peace Implementation Office, has announcedthat the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) have expressed interest in signing the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Gunman from local tribes killed six people, including two children, near a Darfuri camp for displaced civilians. The incident occurred after a rise in tensions between the tribesman and the displaced caused by recent cattle raiding.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has stated that Sudan would open its borders to South Sudanese people when the South Sudanese government stops providing support to Sudanese rebel groups.

Many called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir during his visit to Uganda, a signatory to the Rome Statute. The sitting president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for having allegedly committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Syria:

Assad’s forces have failed to regain control of a prison in Hama, where opposition leaders have been warning of possible mass executions of the 800 prisoners by the government. Most of the prisoners are political detainees.

In retaliation for ISIL attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis. Turkish shelling killed 55 ISIL militants. Kilis now hosts nearly 110,000 Syrian refugees. On Thursday, Turkish artillery and US-led coalition airstrikes killed another 28 militants in ISIL-held territory near Kilis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the Turkish military is currently preparing to “clear” ISIL from the Syrian side of the border.

Recent reports show that around 700 Iranian soldiers and militiamen have died fighting in the Syrian civil war, although Iran maintains officially that only “military advisers” have been deployed there. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), around 2,000 troops from the special forces wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are currently in Syria as well as at least 13 Shia militias.

On Monday, the US and Russia announced that they would work together towards reaffirming the ceasefire agreement from February. US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Russia’s major role in achieving the initial ceasefire, but also called Russia’s political solution to the conflict “not necessarily a workable equation.” The 17-nation International Syria Support Group will meet next week in Vienna.

On Tuesday, airstrikes on Binnish, a town in Syria’s Idlib province, killed at least 10 people and injured others. Clashes also erupted in and around Aleppo, regardless of the ceasefire in effect. However, on Thursday, the truce in Aleppo expired with no extension announced.

After the two deadliest weeks since the ceasefire began in the country, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, issued a statement condemning the “ongoing indiscriminate and seemingly calculated attacks against civilians and civilian objects in Syria.” He also reminded States of their responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes and urged the international community to end impunity for perpetrators of the worst crimes in Syria. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, a UN-mandated human rights inquiry, also condemned the attacks and called on all parties to immediately stop the unlawful attacks on civilians, medical facilities, and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

ISIL has tried to mount a comeback outside of Palmyra, with militants cutting a crucial supply route connecting Homs, which is controlled by the government, and Palmyra.

On Wednesday, France, the UK, the US, and Ukraine blocked a Russian proposal in the UN Security Council to blacklist Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham for their alleged links to ISIL and al-Qaida militants. Jaish al-Islam is part of the High Negotiating Committee, which has been representing the opposition at the UN-brokered peace talks with the government. The US said that blacklisting them would undermine the negotiation attempts to attain a full cessation of hostilities in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham, meanwhile, is an ultraconservative Sunni militant group, which has fought as part of a military alliance with the Nusra Front, a group that is not part of the previously-brokered ceasefire. Russia has long maintained that Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham should have no involvement in the peace talks.


Yemen:

UN reports indicated that the cessation of hostilities agreement has substantially facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was able to restore water facilities in Kitaf district, serving an estimated 10,000 people. At the same time, the UN has announced that over half of Yemen’s population, 14.4 million people, are in dire need of food, which the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is struggling to provide. The FAO has reported that Yemen is suffering the worst food shortage, “the volume of food required in Yemen is far greater than humanitarian actors can provide.”

On 10 May, Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels reached an agreement on prisoner swap, releasing half of the prisoners and detainees held by both sides. The agreement was seen as the first major result of peace talks that began in Kuwait on 21 April.

Despite this cautious progress, on 6 May, a bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 15 others in Marib. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition killed at least 10 rebels in Yemen on Monday. On 11 May, a suicide bomber rammeda car packed with explosives into a government military convoy killing at least eight people and wounding 17 others in eastern Yemen. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Yet another suicide bomber attacked the convoy of General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli, killing four of his guards. General Abdulrahman al-Haleeli escaped unharmed from the attack. On 12 May, ISIL claimed a suicide attack that killed ten soldiers and wounded 15 others in the provincial capital Mukalla. The attack was carried out hours before Prime Minister, Ahmed Obeid bin Dagh’s, visit to the city.

The Pentagon has reported that a small number of US military personnel are on the ground in Yemen in order to aid Emirati forces and Saudi-led coalition efforts to root out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, on 11 May, the Yemeni people took to the streets of Mastaba, a city in Hajja province, demanding the withdrawal of the US soldiers from Lahij province. Meanwhile, the Council for the Unity of Yemeni Tribes, expressed condemnation over the US military presence, calling it as “a provocative move and violation of all international laws and charters.”

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has released a report entitled, “2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement,” indicating that Syria, Yemen, and Iraq have the highest number of IDPs, amounting to more than half the global total of displaced people.


What else is new?

Next Thursday, May 19, The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be livestreaming “Partners in Prevention: A Global Forum on Ending Genocide” hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at the Simons Center in Washington DC. Register here.

The Global Centre for R2P released a report “Ten Years of the Responsibility to Protect: Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Prevent Mass Atrocities.

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RtoP and Rebuilding: Preventing atrocities through post-conflict reconstruction

In the lead up to the World Summit, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, noted that “roughly half of the countries that emerge from war lapse back into violence within five years.” RtoP was first put forward in the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, with advocates embracing it as a full spectrum of responsibilities from prevention, to reaction and rebuilding. When governments unanimously endorsed RtoP in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the “responsibility to rebuild” was not included (presumably because rebuilding was to be the focus of the newly created Peacebuilding Commission), but rebuilding obviously plays a large part in preventing a return to conflict and the commission of atrocity crimes. This leaves us asking – What is the responsibility of actors in post-atrocity situations? With a number of states – Libya, te d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, and Kenya – emerging from bloodshed in recent years, it is important to understand how actors can effectively contribute to the rebuilding process.

What does post-crisis reconstruction after mass atrocities entail? 

Mass atrocities – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – are the most extreme forms of violence and often literally destroy a country by leaving it with collapsing infrastructure and destabilized political, judicial and legal systems. These institutions often need to be rebuilt from scratch and on top of this, the social fabric – how members of a society interact with each other – breaks down, and mistrust and suspicion predominate between the fractured communities.  As can be expected then, rebuilding is a complicated and multi-faceted process, and includes a range of measures that can be taken by actors at all levels to assist in reconstruction. Such measures may include fostering political inclusiveness and promoting national unity, reforming legislation, ratifying relevant treaties, promoting human rights, monitoring elections, improving judicial processes, reintegrating ex-combatants and others into productive society, curtailing the availability of small arms, providing psychological support and reparations to victims, and establishing truth and reconciliation commissions. It is critical that these efforts not only serve to bring security to a country or region, but also address the causes of the conflict and mistrust between communities.  Without this complete approach, it is likely that continued suspicion could fester, risking a return to the deadly cycle of violence. What this demonstrates is that no single measure in the rebuilding process stands alone, but rather that all action must be linked to ensure a holistic approach that achieves long-term stability.

Responsibility to Rebuild in Practice

But what does rebuilding look like in practice?  As the cases of Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Sri Lanka show, post-conflict countries are fragile and the tasks before them complex, as each state faces unique challenges based on its past, the causes of the conflict, and the level of destruction experienced.

Libya: Weapons continue to destabilize a nation and the region

The international community upheld its responsibility to protect populations in Libya by taking swift and coordinated efforts to halt the bloodshed and imminent threat to the people of Benghazi at the hands of the Gaddafi government, which had resorted to force against what began as a peaceful popular uprising. However, rebuilding remains an ongoing challenge as the countless weapons, which flooded the nation during the crisis following the arming of the opposition by outside states, continues to destabilize security in Libya and surrounding countries. While measures were taken to secure anti-aircraft missiles, nearly every adult male carries a weapon, and countless more arms that went missing have turned up in the hands of rebel forces in Mali. This is not to say the government and international community have done nothing since the crisis – both have remained engaged in the justice process by attempting to eliminate impunity through the national judiciary and the International Criminal Court, and have provided economic support, with the European Union giving an economic package to combat post-crisis challenges and the United States unfreezing assets worth US $32 billion. Yet as Ramesh Thakur argues, the challenges we see today demonstrate that more needs to be done to prevent revenge killings, reprisal attacks and the return to mass violence by establishing security and law and order and disarming the country.

Côte d’Ivoire: The struggle for justice and reconciliation 

Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire continues to struggle to rebuild by holding perpetrators accountable following the disputed 2010 presidential election between former President Laurent Gbagbo and recognized election winner Alassane Ouattara that left hundreds dead, thousands displaced and descended the country into war. Since the crisis, claims of one-sided justice have emerged – further perpetuating divisions between communities and causing an increase in attacks. Pro-Ouattara forces were quick to seek justice by arresting Gbagbo on 11 April 2011. They re-established key institutions such as courthouses and prisons, and assured that all responsible for atrocities would be held accountable. Yet, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, tensions remain as the special unit established to investigate crimes has charged more than 150 people, but all only from Gbagbo’s supporters. If continued, this would ignore the risks associated with giving one side of the conflict a free pass for committing atrocities, which could have devastating outcomes for the people and the country. As HRW states, “the impunity of today leads to the crimes tomorrow”.

Sri Lanka: “Exclusive development” renews tensions

Following the 30-year civil war that arose out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority and ultimately destroyed the country’s infrastructure, halted development, and resulted in the commission of RtoP crimes – including 40,000 killed in the last months of the conflict – the Sri Lankan government began to rebuild. The government has driven development by addressing housing needs and providing safe drinking water and electricity. With the building of highways and airports, the government has begun to extend transportation and develop the tourism industry. These efforts, however, have not been without their challenges.  Firstly is the fact that some areas of the country remain devastated and uncultivated, leading, as International Crisis Group (ICG) points out, to renewed tensions between communities as some Tamils believe the development process has been selective and the government has undertaken efforts to impose Sinhala culture on Tamil communities across the country.  Then there’s the issue of accountability, with HRW noting that the government has resisted taking meaningful steps to investigate and prosecute government forces for alleged war crimes and failed to implement most of the accountability-related recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. ICG recommends that the international community increase pressure on the government to make it more accountable and to expand the democratic political role for the Tamil minority. The failure to address these social aspects of rebuilding may risk reviving Sri Lanka’s violent past.

Preventing atrocities in the long-term

Just as every crisis is unique, so is every path for reconstruction.  While the process of rebuilding a society following atrocity crimes remains an imprecise science, what these cases demonstrate is that there needs to be a holistic approach where security, justice and reconciliation and sustainable development are able to be achieved. The responsibility of all actors is not just to act to prevent or respond to imminent threats but assist in rebuilding efforts to ensure that populations are not threatened by the reoccurrence of atrocities.  As the UN Secretary-General reminds in his 2009 report on RtoP, “The surest predictor of genocide is past genocide,” so we need to be sure that the world’s attention goes well beyond stopping the most immediate threats, and includes long-term commitments to preventing atrocities.

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The RtoP and the ICC: Complementary in Prevention, Assistance and Response

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has delivered its first ever verdict with a finding of guilty in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March 2012.

In light of this, and with the ICC playing differing but integral roles in responding to mass atrocities in recent situations like Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, we’d like to expand on the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the ICC. In this effort, we asked several ICRtoP member organizations, including the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, Citizens for Justice and Accountability, the International Refugee Rights Initiative, and the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy to provide their reflections on the relationship.

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are two interconnected initiatives that seek to ensure that the world responds to mass atrocities and hold perpetrators of these egregious crimes accountable. At their core, however, the RtoP and the ICC are complementary in seeking to prevent these crimes from occurring altogether.

Both the RtoP and ICC articulate the primary responsibilities of states. The Rome Statute of the ICC provides that it is the primary responsibility of national authorities to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenya Section – International Commission of Jurists, explains this further: “The ICC is a ‘court of last resort’ – that is, its mandate is to prosecute only when domestic avenues have been exhausted, and where a State is unable or unwilling to prosecute those individuals responsible for the gravest of crimes.”

Similarly, RtoP bestows the primary responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing – the four ‘RtoP crimes’ – to the state. As William Pace, the Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP), a founding Steering Committee Member of the ICRtoP and the Coalition for the ICC, notes, this synergy dates back to the march towards the creation of the ICC, as “RtoP emerged massively from the Rome Statute process – the same crimes, complementarity, national and international responsibility.”

However, as has been witnessed in countless situations, some states fail to uphold their obligations. In instances where states are willing but unable to protect populations, the second pillar of RtoP – international assistance and capacity-building – asserts that the United Nations (UN), its Member States, regional organizations, and civil society have a role to play in ensuring that those states receive the assistance necessary to assume their RtoP.

Similarly, the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC adopted a resolution at the May-June 2010 Kampala Review Conference which premised that the Court and its members, the States Parties to the Rome Statute, should provide the tools needed to assist states who were willing but unable to fulfill their Statute responsibilities. One such example of this was provided by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of the Freetown, Sierra Leone-based Citizens for Justice and Accountability  (COJA), who said that the ICC should “expand its outreach activities in countries that have early warning signs for potential conflict.” In this sense, RtoP and the ICC are both complementary in calling for the provision for international assistance to ensure states uphold their primary responsibilities.

RtoP and the ICC are also complementary in instances where states are found both unable and unwilling to meet their responsibilities. The Rome Statute provides that when a state does not meet its primary obligations to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of Statute crimes, it will ensure situations are investigated, warrants are issued, and those in its custody are prosecuted.

Similarly, when a state is found unable and unwilling to uphold its responsibility to protect civilians, the norm provides that the responsibility to protect those civilians yields to the UN and its Member States in cooperation with regional organizations.

Libya and Côte d’Ivoire: The ICC in the RtoP Toolkit

As the recent cases of Libya and Côte d’Ivoire have demonstrated, the Court is firmly engrained under RtoP’s third pillar – timely and decisive response – as a tool used to respond to situations where mass atrocities are threatened or have occurred, as well as to prevent further atrocities from being committed through deterrence.

In response to the situation in Libya, where the regime of the now-deceased Colonel Muammar Gaddafi committed widespread atrocities against civilian protesters beginning from 17 February onwards, the RtoP framework guided early and unprecedented action to avert further crimes against civilians. An ICC referral was one of the broad range of measures taken to halt the threat of crimes in this context.

On 26 February, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 1970, in which it referred the Libyan case to the ICC and imposed other non-coercive measures to respond to the crackdown. Pace calls the Resolution 1970, “one of the finest ever of the UNSC, and the process leading to the 15-0 decision [result of the vote] among the best examples of how the international community should maintain international peace and security.”

The investigation that ensued resulted in the indictments of Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Saif Gaddafi, and former intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, which were announced by the Court while the conflict raged on. But, as Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), suggests, the indictments being made while Libya was in the midst of a conflict were problematic. “The arrest warrants before the fall of Gaddafi regime played into the discourse being propagated by the African Union,” states Nkunda, “that the ICC was more interested in trying African leaders,” than finding peace in the country.

Furthermore, Nkunda said the process raised serious concerns on the African continent about the independence of the ICC from the influence of the UNSC, particularly as, “the Libyan case was seen to be biased against one side of the conflict.” Disquiet over the impartiality of the Court has thus led to concerns over the selective application of the RtoP, Nkunda said, which may prove problematic for both the norm and the institution moving forward.

Despite these concerns, the Court remains actively involved in Libya. After Saif’s arrest in November 2011, the ICC has been engaged with Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on the issue of his trial. It had been reported that the Court would allow Libya to try Gaddafi’s son, but as of 25 January 2012, no decision had yet to be made by the ICC.

As of November 2011, the Court remained involved in Libya as it continues to build its case against Saif Gaddafi and Senussi and investigates allegations that all parties to the conflict, including anti-Gaddafi forces, committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. The 2 March 2012 report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry into Libya, and its handing over of a list to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Navil Pillay, of suspected perpetrators, could mean continued involvement for the Court moving forward as well.

The Court also played an important role in the response to the post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 28 November 2010 and 11 April 2011, during which widespread human rights violations and crimes against humanity were alleged to have been committed.

As the situation in the country intensified in March and April 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC warned on 6 April that an investigation could be triggered as a result of reports of widespread and systematic killings. On 4 October 2011, in the aftermath of hostilities, the ICC exercised its jurisdiction in the country and authorized an investigation into allegations of such violations committed by all parties to the conflict.

Months after his arrest on 11 April 2011, on 30 November 2011 former President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to the Court – the first head of state to be in the custody of the ICC – and will stand trial for his in alleged involvement in crimes against humanity over the course of the civil conflict. It was also announced on 22 February 2012 that the Court would expand the scope of its investigation into the country to the 2002-2010 period.

According to Kegoro, while the initial involvement of the Court in Côte d’Ivoire (and Libya as well) was both appropriate and justifiable – in that it had an immediate effect of publicly championing an end to impunity and the promotion of the rule of law – the true impact of the ICC is at a, “fledgling state”.

Assessing how the ICC intervention has affected the prevention of further atrocities and regional stability and the peace will require on-going monitoring and evaluation, both during ICC trial processes and after the decisions,” Kegoro said. While he noted that prosecution of perpetrators of the most serious crimes can have a deterrent impact, “the societal implications of ICC interventions and decisions is something that will only be shaped and understood over time.”

Kegoro concluded by adding that, “The long-term impact of the ICC, especially on African nations, is something that needs to be carefully assessed,” particularly in the wake of the Court’s involvement and the implementation of RtoP in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.

Peace vs. Justice?

As the ICC was involved in Libya during the conflict, but formally announced its investigation into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire only after hostilities had ceased, debate has arisen over the timeliness of the employment of the ICC as a tool to respond to mass atrocities under the RtoP framework. The debate also touches on a more general discussion of whether justice for victims of atrocity crimes can be pursued while attempting to secure a peaceful resolution to a conflict or vice versa. This is more commonly known as the peace vs. justice debate.

Both Jabati and Pace were unequivocal in stating that there can be no peace in any situation without justice for crimes committed. This idea spurred Jabati’s COJA, along with a number of other civil society organization’s present at the Kampala Review Conference, to push for the ability of the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor to prioritize conflict prevention in Africa through extensive outreach programs, highlighting the importance placed on justice in the pursuit of peace in cost-conflict settings, and in the prevention of violence altogether.

Pace argues against the premise that pursuing peace and accountability for international crimes at the same time doesn’t work, and says that there has been, “no peace strategy that has worked worse” than giving major combatant leaders amnesty and transferring them to a third country with personal and financial security. Instead, the WFM-IGP Executive Director stated that while each individual situation must be evaluated independently, the recent-year examples of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, the DRC, and Colombia, “make the case that in many conflict situations introducing international criminal justice actually helps achieve and fortify peace.”

But, drawing on the specific example of Kenya, where the ICC opened an investigation on 31 March 2010 and is currently in the process of trying four individuals it has found responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence, Kegoro says that the country’s experience points to the fact that the “most practicable time for ICC intervention is in post-conflict situations.

However, according to Kegoro, this was a result of the fact that Kenya had only exhibited its unwillingness to prosecute perpetrators of violence well after it had subsided; thus the ICC had little role to play during the crisis. Therefore, he states that, “there may be a set of circumstances in the future where direct ICC intervention during an armed conflict is appropriate, or even required.”

Also drawing on recent examples, Nkunda sees both positives and negatives of the Court’s involvement during armed hostilities. With the Lubanga case, Nkunda notes that the Court’s engagement during the conflict in the DRC did have a positive impact on limiting crimes, specifically in raising awareness that the practice of conscripting child soldiers was contrary to international law and that such behaviour to could lead to the docket in the Hague.

In terms of negative implications, the IRRI Co-Director points to Sudan as a glaring example, where, “the unintended but expected consequences of the Court’s decision was the expulsion of humanitarian organizations [16 aid agencies operating in Darfur were expelled in early March 2009], which heavily impacted the lives of the very people – the victims – whom the Court was trying to protect.” Furthermore, in singling out individuals as direct perpetrators of the violence, as the ICC did with the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and others in the context of the crisis in Darfur, Nkunda notes that the actions of the Court may have served to insulate one group to become, “more deadly, since they have nothing to lose.”

Our members’ insight, drawn from their experience working in the fields of international law and conflict prevention in unique national and regional contexts, shows that much depends on the complexities of the situation at hand, but that justice should certainly not come at the expense of peace.

Deterrence and the Need for Prevention

Jabati, Kegoro, Nkunda and Pace all touted the deterrent effect of the ICC on would-be violators of Rome Statute provisions, both in conflict and post-conflict settings. At times, however, the ICC itself may not be enough to halt ongoing mass atrocities in specific cases. In both Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, a wider array of measures became necessary to protect populations, including the use of force.

The present Syrian crisis, which has claimed as many as 8,000 lives since March 2011, continues unabated as the civilians remain victim to gross human rights violations at the hands of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Regional and international actors must uphold their Responsibility to Protect the population of Syria by employing additional measures to effectively end the continued “collective punishment”.

In addition to a range of measures to respond to the crisis, the ICC has emerged as a potential tool to respond to the crisis through the RtoP framework. Calls have been made on a number of occasions by UNHCHR Pillay, as well as by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, and civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, for the Security Council to refer Syria to the ICC. To date, however, there have been no such moves to ensure justice for the victims of the crackdown through the ICC, and the killing has largely continued unabated.

Only when tangible steps are taken to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing from occurring altogether will this cycle of atrocity and reaction be broken.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forth two such preventive measures in his January 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, by urging Member States to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to implement national legislation against atrocity crimes.

As the report reads, “The Rome Statute seeks to develop mechanisms and processes for identifying, investigating and prosecuting those most directly responsible for crimes and violations relating to the responsibility to protectI would encourage additional States to become parties to the Statute and thus to strengthen one of the key instruments relating to the responsibility to protect.”

But the Secretary-General noted that becoming a Party to the Rome Statute, along with other relevant instruments of international law, is just the first step in the full of the responsibility to protect. Consistent with the emphasis on the primary responsibilities of states by both the RtoP and the ICC, the Secretary-General’s report states that, “these core international standards need to be faithfully embodied in international legislation,” so that impunity for any of the four RtoP crimes is not accepted nationally or globally.

Taking these steps may ensure that states meet their primary responsibilities of protecting civilians by criminalizing the four RtoP crimes under both their domestic laws and their international obligations, and may work to realize their prevention altogether.

Please see the links below for the full statements by our members:

Statement by Sulaiman Jabati, Executive Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Accountability (Freetown, Sierra Leone)

Statement made by George Kegoro, Executive Director of the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (Nairobi, Kenya)

Response by William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (New York, USA)

Statement by Dismas Nkunda, Co-Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (Kampala, Uganda and New York, USA)

Special thanks to George Kegoro, Sulaiman Jabati, Dismas Nkunda, and William Pace. A shorter version of this post was expanded upon for this blog, and will be appearing in the upcoming print edition of World Federalist Movement News.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in these individual responses prepared by our civil society member organizations do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.

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