Tag Archives: DPRK

#RtoPWeekly: 3-7 April 2017

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

S Sudan Infografic image

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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

Kenya
Libya
Mali
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan:

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

#RtoPWeekly: 27-31 March 2017

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

RtoPW 27-31 March

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


Cote d’Ivoire:

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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

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


Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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

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#RtoP Weekly: 20 – 24 March

Rtop weekly
ICRtoP makes joint statement at 61st session of the
Commission on the Status of Women
 
On 16 March 2017, Ms. Sharon Bhagwan Rolls delivered a joint statement on behalf of the ICRtoP and our partners, the World Federalist Movement (WFM), femLINKpacific, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), at the general discussion of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which was held at the United Nations in New York.
To read the full statement, please click here.

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

Burma/Myanmar:

During a statement to the 34th session of the Human Rights Council on 13 March, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, emphasized the degree to which the continuous state of killings and serious human rights violations taking place in Burma are impacting civilians there. She particularly noted the escalation of conflict in the Kachin and Shan states, where several thousands of people have been forced to flee, and where Ms. Lee herself had been barred from visiting by the government. Additionally, she described others’ personal accounts of human rights abuses on the Rohingya population, allegedly at the hands of government forces. Ms. Lee stressed the necessity for new, “prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial” investigations into the serious human rights violations occurring in the country.


Burundi:

The chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights violations in Burundi, Dr. Fatsah Ouguergouz, says the commission is alarmed about the increasing level of human rights abuses in Burundi that have been brought to their attention. Such abuses include violations of the right to life and physical integrity, forced disappearances, and torture, with thousands of abuses being reported from all areas of the country. Human rights experts in Burundi are worried about the judicial immunity that the perpetrators of these crimes seem to be enjoying. Furthermore, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that at least 27,000 Burundians fled the country between 1 January and 9 March 2017. The total number of refugees who have fled Burundi since April 2015, mainly to neighboring countries, stands at 391,700.


Central African Republic:

The United Nations humanitarian office has stated that only 5% of the nearly $400 million request for humanitarian aid for the Central African Republic has been funded this year, leaving half of the CAR’s population in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Many civilians are only given half of their food rations. Violence has continued in the CAR since 2013, despite the successful democratic elections held in the country last year. Many remote areas remain outside of government control, and thus the sectarian-based conflict continues. The UN has asserted that international political support and increased resources to the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) are essential to the sustainable resolution of the conflict.


DPRK:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) organized two panel discussions on 9 and 10 March in Geneva alongside the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. These discussions focused primarily on promoting accountability for human rights violations within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and included a group of human rights experts, UN officials, and three escapees from North Korea, among others. Human Rights Watch and the experts suggested that the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Seoul, which documents abuses in the neighboring DPRK, should be given greater authority when strategizing on how to prosecute DPRK leaders responsible for serious human rights violations. Part of the increased autonomy would be the inclusion of international criminal justice experts at the Seoul office. John Fisher, the Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, reiterated the importance of bringing to justice to the North Korean leaders responsible for the alleged crimes.

On 13 March, the DPRK rejected a UN review of its human rights record, as hostilities between North and South Korea have increased and further closed off opportunities for dialogue. During the UN Human Rights Council session on abuses in DPRK, human rights experts called for action against perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

According to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 15 March, two UN officials have disappeared in Kasai-Central, one of the most conflict-prone regions of the DRC. The two UN officials were investigating allegations of soldiers murdering dozens of unarmed civilians in the region, including children, when they were kidnapped. Calls to investigate the army came after videos surfaced recently in which it appeared Congolese soldiers were walking down a rural road and shooting passing civilians. Meanwhile, on 18 March, seven Congolese Army officers were arrested and charged with war crimes in association with the highly controversial video.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) expressed grave concern over reports of high numbers of deaths, including of women and children, in Kananga between 14 and 17 March. MONUSCO is concerned by the Kamwina Nsapu militiamen’s attacks against DRC state institutions and symbols, but also the disproportionate use of force by the security and defense forces and the targeting of civilians.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on 21 March, the number of refugees fleeing from the DRC is increasing, with the latest refugee count at 460,923. A report from the UN Secretary-General says violence in previously stable areas, such as Tanganyika and the Kasai and Lomami provinces, has also increased. The UN is calling on the DRC to implement the political agreement signed in December 2016, which has continued to stall.
Amnesty International released a report this week in which they urge the DRC to: promptly investigate human rights violations conducted by security forces during protests; lift all unlawful bans on protests and demonstrations; engage in a reform of the National Intelligence Service and establish an oversight mechanism; step up efforts – in collaboration with UN forces – to protect civilians in the area of armed conflict; and address inter-ethnic conflicts.

On 22 March, former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to a year in jail and fined 300,000 Euros for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial in an unprecedented case before the International Criminal Court.


Gaza/West Bank:

During his report last week at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Michael Lynk, underscored the continuous human rights violations that take place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The human rights abuses, among other violations of international law, include the “excessive use of force, collective punishment, forced displacement, and restrictions on the freedom of movement.” Mr. Lynk also drew attention to Israeli human rights organizations focused on alleviating human rights abuses stemming from the occupation, and that these activists “are enduring an increasingly hostile public atmosphere in Israel and from the settlement movement, stoked by the Israeli political leadership and the media, as well as obstructive legislation enacted or being considered.” The Special Rapporteur made specific recommendations for action to the Government of Israel for the resolution of the human rights violations, including ending the Gaza blockade and allowing the free movement of people in the area.


Iraq:

As the Mosul battle continues, Major-General Maan al-Saadi of Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said Iraqi security forces have succeeded in seizing control of about 17 of 40 western districts of Iraq’s second largest city from the Islamic State (ISIL). However, Iraqi forces faced strong resistance from snipers and mortar rounds as they advanced to conquer Mosul’s Old City and Iron Bridge, a strategic passage through the River Tigris, on Monday. During the operation, the Iraqi federal police stated government forces had killed ISIL’s military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary.

On Saturday, Iraqi forces asserted they had captured the al-Kur and al-Tawafa neighborhoods, which has allowed for the creation of a corridor for civilians to safely leave the city.
As aid agencies are bracing for the possibility that about 320,000 civilians may flee the western part of Mosul in coming weeks, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, said the crisis is pushing “all of us to our limits.” Iraqis fleeing Mosul are already struggling to find shelter in poorly-equipped and overcrowded refugee camps, and have begun to head to the east side of the city where most of their relatives are settled.

Similarly, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, said that the worst is yet to come, as about 400,000 Iraqi civilians are still trapped in the ISIL-held Old City of Western Mosul and are running short on food and other basic provisions as the battle continues. Geddo also reported that the number of civilians streaming out of the city is increasing at an average of 8,000 to 12,000 people per day.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that a mass grave in Khafsa, a village near Mosul, could include the bodies of up to 25,000 civilians executed by ISIL since spring 2014, according to witnesses.


Libya:

Forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to regain control of the country’s eastern oil terminals, which had been seized earlier this month by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), a rival group. Around nine people were killed during the attack, as Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) retreated from the oil ports.

Meanwhile, as tensions continued to escalate across the country, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Libya and the head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL), called on all parties to put Libya’s future ahead of their “own narrow interests”, refraining from violence and extremism. He also urged for democratic bodies and ideals to be respected, condemning serious human rights and humanitarian law violations committed during the fighting.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch accused the Libyan National Army (LNA) of having committed war crimes, including killing civilians and desecrating the bodies of fighters of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC), a group opposing the LNA. Civilians have been fleeing the Ganfouda neighborhood in Benghazi since the attacks began, heading al-Sabri and Souq Elhout neighborhoods in downtown Benghazi.


Mali:

On 19 March, the head of the UN mission in Mali reported that the situation in the country remains precarious, particularly in the north, as UN and other forces on the side of the peace process are continually attacked by non-signatory terror groups. Over 70 security forces members of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have died in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region. The concern over the uncertain security situation in the north was also noted by the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, Suliman Baldo, to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday. Mr. Baldo reported that the continued state of insecurity in the north has contributed to: children’s lack of access to an education; dangers to civilians due to uncontrolled armed actors and military actions that “strayed from international standards”; mass displacement; and further radicalization of youth. Mr. Baldo noted that progress in transitional justice had been made with the opening of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, but that the justice system was still unable to truly tackle the problem of impunity.


Nigeria:

An amnesty and reintegration program for former militants in Nigeria is currently facing major shortfalls in funding, which is affecting the ability of the program to uphold the promises made to ex-combatants.

On 18 March, one of the Chibok schoolgirls appealed to the international community to take action to rescue the 195 remaining captives of Boko Haram since their abduction nearly two years ago.

Thousands fled a Nigerian fishing community on 19 March after police reportedly enforced evictions in violation of a court order issued in January. The surprise action, which culminated in the destruction of the homes of roughly 47,000 people, reportedly included the use of tear gas and live ammunition by the police to disperse the crowds that had gathered to block the path of the bulldozers.

An organization of Nigerians, who were reportedly upset with Amnesty International’s efforts to reach justice for human rights violations conducted by the military and security forces, besieged and occupied Amnesty’s office on 21 March in a protest calling for the rights monitor to cease operations in the country. Local rights groups and attorneys have come to the organization’s defence, with some condemning the protest and others calling for the government to deploy security teams to dislodge the illegal occupiers and protect Amnesty International’s office.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees has expressed concern over Cameroon’s continued forced return of Nigerian asylum seekers, despite the recent tripartite agreement between the UNHCR, Cameroon, and Nigeria that includes a provision mandating voluntary return. The forced return of asylum seekers is refoulement and therefore a major violation of the international refugee law agreements that Cameroon has ratified.

Multiple blasts occurred on 22 March in a migrant camp for internally displaced persons in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, which has been at the center of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgency. The explosions killed between three and four people and wounded up to 20.


South Sudan:

On 16 March, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the National Salvation Front (NAS), a new South Sudanese rebel group, urged for South Sudan’s peace process to be restarted.

The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) urged the international community to unite and put pressure on the rival South Sudanese leaders to exert the political will for the parties to cease hostilities and build peace. According to the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, during an address delivered in Juba, South Sudan, additional Regional Protection Forces (RPF) will be deployed in the next few weeks. The Security Council approved the deployment of 4,000 troops last year after violence again erupted in Juba, including mass occurrences of rape and assaults on civilians, but the force has been delayed due to resistance from domestic political actors. Mr. Ladsous said during his Tuesday speech in Juba that the UN would “spare no effort to speed up the [deployment] process.” Mr. Ladsous also urged all parties to work towards a nonviolent resolution to the conflict, emphasizing that the political option is the only possibility for lasting and stable peace.

On 19 March, the UNHRC named the crisis in South Sudan the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, as 1.6 million people have been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries in the past eight months. The ongoing famine in South Sudan is “man-made” and a result of conflict between armed groups, with more deaths being caused by violence than starvation alone.

Dozens of South Sudan army (SPLA) soldiers abandoned their positions on 20 March and joined the armed opposition Brigadier Gen. Meanwhile, Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, President of Caritas South Sudan and Bishop of Yei, has warned the country is in a state of collapse with millions of people facing mass starvation.


Sudan:

The UN African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) supported the launch of the Community Peace Initiative in West Darfur, which is designed to foster local dispute settlement and build better relations between tribal groups. UNAMID Sector West, Acting Head of Office, Ms. Takako Ugaya, commended the move, saying it showed the government’s commitment towards ensuring lasting peace in West Darfur.


Syria:

On Thursday, alleged U.S. jets struck a mosque full of worshippers near Damascus, killing at least 42 civilians and wounding dozens. The U.S. confirmed it carried out an airstrike but denied killing civilians, claiming the attack was intended to target an al-Qaeda meeting. The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Colonel John Thomas, said that the building they targeted was 15 meters from a mosque that is still standing. Moreover, Eric Pahon, the Pentagon spokesman, underlining that it was the building where al-Qaeda fighters had been educated and indoctrinated, said the Pentagon will investigate any credible allegation it receives in relation to civilian fatalities.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army’s High Command said on Friday that Israeli jets attacked a military target near Palmira, eventually breaching Syrian air space and aiding the Islamic State (ISIL). The attack prompted Syrian forces to retaliate with ground-to-air missiles, in one of the most serious incidents between the two countries since the civil war broke out in March 2011. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the airstrikes were intended for Hezbollah, the Lebanese group which is fighting alongside the Syrian government.

The fighting in Damascus continues, as the rebels launched their second attack in three days. The offensive began on Wednesday at 0300 GMT, and targeted a government-held area in northeastern Damascus. The spokesman of the rebel group Failaq al-Rahman, Wael Alwan, said that rebel forces finally restored all the points they withdrew from on Monday, and have started to storm the Abassiyin garages.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that an alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in the ISIL-held city of Raqqa, killing more than 30 civilians. The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) said at least 50 families found shelter in that building.

Furthermore, as negotiations resume in the Swiss city of Geneva, civil society groups claim their voices are “not being heard” and push for greater representation in the ongoing Syrian peace talks. They have already participated in the Civil Society Support Rooms (CSSR) in Geneva, a mechanism set up by the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and aimed at implementing civil society demands. Whilst civil society activists are constantly sidelined and targeted on the ground in Syria, they tirelessly provide relief aid and medical assistance to civilians, as well as press for justice and democracy in the country.


Yemen:

A civilian boat carrying refugees from Yemen to Sudan was attacked  by an Apache helicopter late last Thursday. Thus far, 42 dead have been confirmed. Rebels have accused a Saudi-led coalition of being responsible, whereas the Saudi coalition has previously suggested the rebels use small boats to smuggle arms. For its part, the Saudi-led coalition has claimed it was not operating in the area at the time.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, formally condemned the attack on Monday and called on all parties to the conflict to conduct inquiries and ensure accountability for the attack.

After the attack, the Saudi-led coalition requested the UN assume supervision of the port city of Hodeidah, which is roughly 48 kilometres from the location of the boat when it was attacked. Hodeidah has been the center of fierce fighting between the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government with Saudi-led coalition backing. The UN responded to the request earlier this week through spokesman Farhan Haq by noting it is the very clear legal obligation of all parties to the conflict that they protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and that this responsibility cannot be shifted onto other entities. Hodeidah is noteworthy for being a major port city that services nearly 70% of Yemen’s population; however, it has been almost entirely shut down due to the insecurity and infrastructure damage caused by the fighting and Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. The port city is a potentially life saving corridor for millions of Yemenis who are almost entirely reliant on imported food and supplies, and thus Mr. Haq stated it was “essential that all parties to the conflict facilitate unhindered access” to the port.

The current food crisis in Yemen leaves over 14 million people facing the threat of starvation and famine according to the UN, making it the largest of the top four humanitarian crises, which also includes Somalia, Sudan, and Nigeria. Last week, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released an infographic marking the second year of the escalation of violence. Among other statistics, the OCHA reported that in the last two years the import of medicine has dropped 70%, food prices have increased 26%, and nearly 11,000 cases of gender-based violence and 1,275 uses of children by parties to the conflict have occurred.

An arms monitor has reportedly uncovered evidence indicating Iran has been providing the Yemeni Houthi rebels with advanced military weaponry. The monitor has supposedly been able to link Iranian manufacturers to the serial numbers of drones used by the Houthi rebels in “kamikaze” attacks on missile defence sites. Iran has consistently denied accusations from Saudi Arabia that it has provided support to the Houthi rebels, despite reports from regional and western sources indicating Iranian involvement with the Houthi faction has increased in the last several months.

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#RtoPWeekly: 6 – 10 March

Untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DPRK
DRC
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Mali
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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


Sudan:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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#RtoP Weekly: 13 February – 17 February

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Burma set to investigate abuses against Rohingya Muslims

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

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

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

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


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

Burundi:

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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


DPRK:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan:

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Burma, Burundi, CARcrisis, DRC, Human Rights, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Peacekeeping, RtoP, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, UN, United States, Weekly Round-Up, Yemen

#R2PWeekly: 25 – 29 July 2016

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Close to 400,000 Civilians in Aleppo Facing Starvation

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 11.07.13

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

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

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


Catch up on developments in…

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

 


Burma/Myanmar:

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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

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

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

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#R2PWeekly: 11 – 15 July 2016

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Renewed clashes in South Sudan results in urgent calls for action to protect civilians 

 “This is the time to massively reinforce UN action. When a Government cannot or will not protect its people, and when warring parties seem more intent on enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of their people, the international community has a responsibility to act.” —UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking to reporters on the situation in South Sudan, 11 July 2016.
The Secretary General’s condemnation of the violence in the South Sudanese capital of Juba as well as his call for increased action by the UN and international community has been echoed in several corridors. While a ceasefire declared on 11 July by President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, has largely held, the international community is debating the proper course of action to ensure not only a return of violence but a transition to a legitimate and fruitful peace.

On 8 July, an argument between soldiers of the SPLA, loyal to President Kiir, and soldiers of the SPLA-IO, loyal to Vice-President Machar, at a checkpoint in Juba started a gunfight, which soon spiraled out of control into six days of fighting and violence. Over 36,000 people have been displaced from their homes, with at least 300 killed, including civilians “reportedly targeted based on their ethnicity.” Additionally, UN personnel and compounds also came under fire in actions that may amount to charges of war crimes.

The Secretary General is urging the Security Council to take action on three fronts: the imposition of an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan; targeted sanctions against individuals attempting to derail the peace process; and for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to be reinforced. African regional organizations have gone even further, with the African Union Peace and Security Council and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) not only calling for an increase in troops from the region but also the creation of a force-intervention brigade.

In lieu of the threat of a return to the devastating civil war between the SPLA and SPLA-IO from 2013-2015, which left over 100,000 dead, the UN is urging both parties to move forward with the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 27 August 2015. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, has urged “the Transitional Government of National Unity of its responsibility to protect its populations, irrespective of their ethnicity or political affiliation…[and] the urgent need to end impunity in South Sudan and bring to justice all those responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”, reminding both parties to the conflict of their agreement to establish a hybrid court to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as well as other serious crimes under international law.

Civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and The Global Centre for R2Pamong others, have  reiterated and strengthened the calls for a decisive response to the violence, with GCR2P stating  that “both parties must uphold their responsibility to protect and adhere to the cessation of hostilities.” Among the points made calling for action in the face of the violence, Amnesty International advocated for the African Union to undertake the measures needed to establish the hybrid court as a means for accountability and “to end the culture of impunity that continues to feed this cycle of violence.”


Catch up on developments in…

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


 Burma/Myanmar:

Myanmar nationalists protested in the streets of Yangon on 10 July, urging the government to refer to the Muslim Rohingya population as “Bengali.” Recently, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi banned officials from referring the the Islamic population of the Rakhine state as either “Rohingya” or “Bengali” to avoid ethnic tensions.

On 14 July, Myanmar’s Minister for Religion warned the ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha, to refrain from hate speech against Muslims. The anti-Muslim nationalist group is losing its influence as Myanmar’s elite religious council denounced themselves from Ma Ba Tha, and several senior members left the extremist group.


Burundi:

On 13 June, an unknown gunmen shot and killed former Member of Parliament and BBC journalist Hafsa Mossi in Bujumbura. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination, reiterating “the need to intensify efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis in Burundi.”

Peace talks were stalled in Burundi when five major political parties boycotted a second round of talks in Arusha, Tanzania on 12 June. Representatives from the parties disapproved of the decision to invite certain Burundians accused of human rights violations during the attempted coup last year.


Central African Republic:

France announced on Wednesday that it will suspend its peacekeeping operation, Operation Sangaris, in the Central African Republic. The three-year-long military campaign will end in October.

At the Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, noted that CAR faces a “security climate that remains fragile and reversible,” despite considerable progress over the recent two years of political transition. The latest Secretary-General’s report recommended updates to MINUSCA’s mandate, particularly regarding the protection of civilians. Ladsous welcomed the CAR government’s efforts in tackling impunity and developing a mutual accountability framework.

UNHCR stated that more than 6,000 people from the Central African Republic have fled into neighboring Chad and Cameroon since mid-June. This year’s fighting has affected an additional 25,000 to 30,000 people in CAR.


Cote d’Ivoire:

The UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts (OHCHR) have released a new joint report, which has found that some progress has been made in the fight against rape in the country, but it is “not enough”. The report calls for the strengthening of prevention measures and greater accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

The government of the DPRK has closed its only direct diplomatic channel with the United States (its mission to the UN in New York) following the sanctions that the US imposed on Kim Jong-un and other leading DPRK officials for human rights violations last week.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

UN Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Jan Eliasson briefed the Security Council late last week and warned that political tensions are rising and the democratic space is shrinking in the DRC as a result of the electoral impasse and delays in the electoral process. DSG Eliasson argued that credible and inclusive political dialogue amongst DRC stakeholders is the only realistic way to defuse the situation.


Gaza/West Bank:

Israel opened a major Gaza Strip crossing on Wednesday for the first time in nine years. The Erez crossing, the second border crossing in Gaza, will allow for the transfer of vehicles carrying goods. An Israeli defense ministry spokesman said “The measure has been taken to facilitate the work of Palestinian importers and thus help the economy of the Gaza Strip.”

This week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, is visiting Amman, Jordan to gather information on the situation of human rights in Palestine for the first time. Israel has failed to respond to Lynk’s request to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Israeli government approved a budget of $13 million for the construction of more Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are considered illegal under international law and have been repeatedly condemned by the UN.


Iraq:

In what has been considered the key first step to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces captured the Qayyarah Airbase West, about 60 kilometers south of the city. Iraqi forces then captured the town of Ajhala, north of the airbase. In doing so, they managed to link up along the Tigris river with troops from the Nineveh Liberation Operation, which had started its offensive on the opposite side of the river in March.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced this week that the US would be sending an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help in the offensive. However, the U.S. also signed a memo with the Peshmerga defence forces of the northern autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq to directly give them financial and military aid, skirting Baghdad as the middleman. The aid is said to include directly paying the salary for many Peshmerga fighters, who have not been payed for several months.

Human Rights Watch released a new report detailing the daily horrors of Iraqi villagers living under ISIL occupation for 21 months. The report describes a system of control predicated on summary executions, torture and collective punishment of villagers.

On 11 July, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced plans for a “massive” protest on Friday to demand the establishment of a technocratic government, replacing the current system where ministries are given out based on party affiliation. The next day, the Iraqi government called for a cessation of anti-government “reform” protests over fears of being unable to provide adequate security.

On 12 July, a car bomb in the northern Baghdad Shia neighborhood of  al-Rashidiya killedeleven people and wounded a further thirty-two. Another ISIL-car bomb killed at least eight people at a police checkpoint in the al-Rashidiya district, north of Baghdad on Wednesday.

Two days later, ISIL confirmed that Omar al-Shishani, the group’s Minister of War, has been killed in Iraq. The group claims he died  “in the town of Sharqat as he took part in repelling the military campaign on the city of Mosul”. The date of his death has not been given but it is considered a blow to the terrorist organization, with Omar “the Chechen” being considered one of their most prized strategists and propaganda pieces for foreign recruitment.


Libya:

The UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said on 13 June that Libya’s new army could be regionalized. The decentralized army is aimed at easing tensions between the UN-backed unity Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West and the rival governmental forces led by General Khalifa Hafta in the east. Formation of separate military councils in Libya’s west, east, and southern regions is being discussed.

A mass grave and secret prison used by ISIL was found by Libyan forces in the town of Sirte.


Mali:

On Tuesday, violent protests in the city of Gao in Northern Mali left four civilians dead and 31 others wounded. Malian authorities had banned the demonstrations and security forces reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters. Some involved claimed to have been demonstrating to call for justice in the implementation of the Malian peace process and to denounce the interim government and measures taken in which former militants are integrated into the regular Malian military. On Wednesday, protesters once more took to the streets, but this time to call for the resignation of the state’s governor and the national security minister in light of Tuesday’s incident. The government vowed to open an inquiry into the events. The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) released a statement condemning the violence and encouraging the government to ensure the population is better familiarized with the peace agreement.

Gunmen killed two soldiers and stole a military vehicle over the weekend at a military checkpoint near the Malian border with Burkina Faso.


Nigeria:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report this week detailing the “famine-like conditions” in Borno State, which were recently discovered by humanitarian convoys bringing aid to the hard-to-reach areas, including some still experiencing conflict. The report found that there are emergency levels of severe acute malnutrition in the region, especially for 275,000 people living in 15 satellite camps across the state. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) have accused the UN of failing to respond to the food crisis in Borno State quickly enough to save lives. Hundreds of people are reportedly already dying each day in the region where Boko Haram attacks have devastated farming, which was feeding Nigeria prior to the insurgency. A majority of the displaced people living among the community in the state capital of Maiduguri are without any access to food or medical aid.

The fight against Boko Haram
At least 25 suspected Boko Haram militants died during an attack on a Nigerian military battalion in northern Borno State on Tuesday. One soldier died in the fighting and 11 others were wounded as the army successfully repelled the attack.

A vigilante group reportedly discovered and captured six suspected Boko Haram terrorists, including a senior leader, in Lagos late last week. This subsequently led to their arrest and a transfer of custody to Nigeria’s Department of State Services on Monday.

Cameroon has decided to reopen its border with Nigeria after reporting that the threat of Boko Haram attacks in the region has subsided enough to return to commercial activities.

Inter-community violence
Gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have killed at least 81 people in attacks on farming villages in Benue State in Nigeria within the past two weeks. The state government is currently working with security agencies to stem the violence between the herders and mostly Christian farmers over grazing lands which has gone on for decades.

Nigerian President Buhari has decided to send a special military task force of around 1,000 troops to the northern state of Zamfara to combat the growing threat of cattle rustlers in the region. The groups of cattle rustlers are allegedly to blame for the deaths of hundreds of people in the region within the past three years.

The Niger Delta
Security sources have reported that the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have blown up ExxonMobil’s Qua Iboe crude oil terminal, the largest crude oil stream in Nigeria. However, Exxon Mobil Corp has denied these claims.


Sri Lanka:

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski visited Colombo this week and commended Sri Lanka’s recent steps towards “democratization and reconciliation”. He cited the bill establishing an office to investigate missing persons, the release of lands previously held by the country’s military, and the ratification of the convention on disappearances, among others.


Sudan/Darfur:

On 9 July, the former chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) Tijani al-Sissiannounced that the presidential decree which would end the mandate of the DRA and establish commissions and mechanisms to complete the remaining items of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) would be made soon. The DRA’s creation came about through the DDPD, signed by the Sudanese government and  former rebel Liberation and Justice Movement, and the Justice and Equality Movement-Dabajo in 2011 and 2013, respectively. It had a four-year mandate to implement the DDPD, being extended by one year, but its remaining commissions will soon be overseen by the presidency.

On 10 July, 2 people died in an air raid in northern Darfur. The village of Tereng saw multiple barrel-bombs – barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel – dropped on it during the assault.

On 12 July, the International Criminal Court (ICC) referred both Djibouti and Uganda to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was on their respective territories. President Bashir currently has a warrant issued by the court and, as members of the court, both Djibouti and Uganda bear responsibility for fulfilling the warrant, which they failed to do. The UNSC has the capability to sanction both countries over the matter. Meanwhile, President al-Bashir will travel on 16 July to the 27th African Union Summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has stated that his government will not arrest President Bashir and that “President al-Bashir is welcomed in Kigali at any time. He will be free in his second home country. We will not respond to the ICC calls to arrest him. We will not take any action of such type against him.” Rwanda, though not a member of the ICC, has obligations to cooperate with the court as a member of the UN.

As a result of the recent violence in neighboring South Sudan, on 12 July, the Sudanese government began to make preparations for what they expect will be a new and large influx of South Sudanese refugees. Sudan already hosts 221,000 South Sudanese refugees, with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calling on all of South Sudan’s neighbors to keep their borders open to all those who may soon be seeking asylum.

On 13 July, Sudan’s Minister of Information Ahmed Bilal Othman stated that Sudan is willing toreschedule the final session of the general assembly of the National Dialogue, currently set for 6 August, for a later date, if those groups that oppose the Dialogue are willing to sign the AU Roadmap for Peace. This move would allow rebel and opposition groups currently excluded from the peace process to now be included.


Syria/Iraq:

Developments in the Fighting

On 8 July, ISIL shot down a Russian helicopter near Palmyra, killing 2 Russian pilots. There have so far only been twelve reported deaths of Russian forces operating in Syria. That same day, a combination of shelling and airstrikes in north-west Syria left over 60 civilians dead. Thirty-four civilians died, as well as a further 200 injured, when rebels began shelling government-held areas of Aleppo in response to having their supply-line into the city cut off. At least twenty-two civilians died in government airstrikes in the town of Darkush, with a further six dying on the Castello Road leading into rebel-held Aleppo.

On 9 July, Syrian government forces captured the town of Maydaa, east of Damascus, after a two-week long campaign. Maydaa had been, up until its capture, the easternmost portion of territory held by the rebels in their pocket in Eastern Ghouta.

The next day, a rebel attempt to retake their supply line into Aleppo, the Castello Road, failed as the government repelled the attack, killing at minimum twenty-nine rebels. The Castello Road leads into the rebel-controlled eastern half of Aleppo, which has effectively been under siege since last Thursday when government forces secured the surrounding hilltops overlooking the road. There are estimated to be 200,000-300,000 people still living in the eastern half of Aleppo. On 12 July, the UN began calling for humanitarian access as well as to be allowed to start evacuating civilians warning of the possibility of a severe humanitarian crisis. Currently, the UN and several other agencies only have enough food stored to feed145,000 people for one month. Having as of yet failed to reopen their supply lines, rebel-groups launched an offensive inside the city of Aleppo at dawn on 11 July, with a barrage of over 300 shells being fired into government-held Aleppo. However, gains have been minimal as they have come up against heavy air support on behalf of the Syrian government.

On 11 July, airstrikes in a diesel market in northwestern Syria killed 8 people.

On 12 July, Syria extended its original 72 hour ceasefire for another three-day period. This is the second such extension of the ceasefire and comes despite continued fighting on the ground in several areas leaving it with little actual effect. Later that same day, eight peopledied in airstrikes on a refugee camp near the Jordanian border. The airstrikes are believed to have mainly killed family members of the Eastern Lions rebel group, which is fighting ISIL. While no claim of responsibility has been made, Western officials have stated it appears Russian aircraft committed the attack, with cluster munitions believed to have been used.

Eleven civilians, including three children, died in airstrikes in the town of Ariha Idlib province on 13 July. The town is under the control of the Army of Conquest, a coalition of islamist rebel groups that includes al-Nusra.

UN Delivering Aid
On 10 July, the UN started an airlift campaign of humanitarian aid to the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, bringing in forty tons of food on the first day. There are 250,000 people living in the city, who have gone without access to food or other materials for 6 months, due to the area being labeled as a “hard-to-reach-area” by the UN. Over the next month the UN expects to make a total of 25 flights delivering aid to the city.

On 14 July, the first aid convoy in over a month reached the besieged al Waer suburb of the city of Homs.

International Developments
On 10 July, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad met with a delegation of members of the European Parliament, laying the blame for terror attacks in Europe at the feet of western governments’ actions in Syria. Speaking to the delegation, headed by the Vice Chairman of the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee Javier Couso, Assad stated “The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people…Especially when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria.”

On 12 July, Physicians for Human Rights and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), in a joint-release, stated that sixty-five people have died from starvation in the Syrian government’s year-long siege of the town of Madaya, with another twenty-one dying from landmines, sniper-fire and easily-treatable chronic diseases. Despite five UN aid convoys having reached the town since January, the report states that twenty-seven people have still died from starvation in that time-period as the Assad regime has made frequent deliveries impossible while regularly raiding the aid convoys before allowing them in the city. The UN has been unable to access the town since April.

That same day, a newly released British parliamentary report stated that “there is historical evidence [that ISIL] received funding from within Arab Gulf states.” While not claiming that any states directly donated to ISIL, the report concludes that early on many of the Gulf States had a lax policy of allowing individuals, including some close to royal families in the region, to donate to the group, with early views casting them as protectors of Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

On 13 July, Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), demanded to know from the government of Syria why it has four undeclared warfare agents, with indications of an additional five, despite previous statements declaring the destruction or removal of the country’s chemical stockpile. In January, the OPCW had announced that all of Syria’s  declared chemical weapons stocks had been destroyed.

President Assad gave a rare interview on 13 July, sitting down with NBC News. The interview covered the war in Syria, ISIL, the United States, and his own legacy, with Assad claiming  “it won’t take more than a few months” for his forces to retake the whole of Syria, further dismissing the role of the US in Syria and claiming the country had no real intention of tackling terrorism. The full interview can be seen here.

On 14 July, US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow where he will be meeting with Russian officials in hopes of brokering a new military pact between the two nations in Syria. If approved, the pact would dramatically change the dynamic of the relationship between the two countries actions in Syria. The two powers would operate out of a joint-command center in Amman, Jordan, where they would share intelligence and targeting information, and coordinate their actions, with Russia only bombing “vetted” targets, and certain areas being established as off-limits. Russia would further be expected to pressure Assad to stop his own bombing campaign against what the US sees as moderate rebels, and into allowing aid unfettered into besieged area. The full text of the proposed agreement can be read here.


Yemen:

On 8 July, Yemeni government forces seized a ship off the coast of Somalia loaded with weapons and ammunition believed to be bound for the Houthi-controlled Al-Mukha District.

Human Rights Watch released a report on 10 July accusing the Saudi-led coalition of deliberately targeting civilian economic infrastructure, including multiple factories, warehouses and power stations. The report details airstrikes on 13 facilities since March 2015 that killed 30 civilians, destroying stockpiles of food and medicine. HRW stated that  “taken together, the attacks on factories and other civilian economic structures raise serious concerns that the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen’s production capacity.”

On 12 July, the Houthi rebel coalition announced that they would be returning to Kuwait for the resumption of peace talks on 15 July. They further announced that they will do so without asking for any preliminary conditions. In contrast, Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi of Yemen’s internationally recognized government reiterated the position made by President Hadi over the previous weekend, stating that they would not return to peace talks in Kuwait without a timetable and guarantees for a political transition already made. President Hadi has threatened to boycott the resumption of peace talks, claiming their current structure legitimizes the Houthi rebels who overthrew his government. United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has requested a personal meeting with President Hadi in hopes of salvaging the peace process.

On 12 July, a landmine killed a Saudi soldier patrolling along the Kingdom’s southern border with Yemen. Roughly one hundred Saudi soldiers and civilians have died along the border since March last year. In response, Saudi forces launched several artillery barrages and air strikes on Houthi positions along the border, while moving more troops to the border and attacking on the ground in several positions.

On 13 July, forty-four people died in fighting across the country over the previous twenty-four hours as  Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed touched down in the capital of Sanaa to meet with the Houthis before the resumption of peace talks in Kuwait. The fighting took place on multiple fronts across the country, with forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized government edging close to Sanaa.


What else is new?

On 28 June, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Brookings Institution held the second annual Madeleine K. Albright Lecture on Global Justice. The lecture featured former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, who reflected on the development of RtoP, interrelated themes, and the state of global affairs. Watch the full video from the lecture here.

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#R2PWeekly: 20 – 24 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

See statement here.

See the UN News announcement here.

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


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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

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

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


Burundi:

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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

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

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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


Democratic Republic of Congo:

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


Iraq:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kenya:

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

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


Libya:

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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

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


Sri Lanka:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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

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

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

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


Syria:

Developments in the fighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering Aid

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

International Developments

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

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

Developments in the fighting

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

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

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

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

Developments in the peace process

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

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


What else is new?

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

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

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

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Filed under Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up

#R2P Weekly: 2 – 6 May 2016

Untitled
Gender and Genocide 

New guest blog post by Akila Radhakrishnan of the Global Justice Center 

Akila Radhakrishnan is the Legal Director at the Global Justice Center. In her role, she works to ensure justice, accountability and equal rights to people in conflict and in post-conflict situations, and to establish global legal precedents protecting human rights and ensuring gender equality. 

“From time immemorial, rape has been regarded as spoils of war. Now it will be considered a war crime. We want to send out a strong message that rape is no longer a trophy of war.” – Judge Navi Pillay commenting on the decision in The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) revolutionary decision in the Akayesu case is often cited for setting the precedent that rape could be a constitutive act of genocide. And while the precedent is incredibly important, it’s what that finding represents that’s even more significant: women’s experiences of war and conflict may be different, but they are no less important or serious.

 yazidi 1This is the same realization that underpins the Security Council’s now over 15-year old agenda on Women, Peace and Security and scaled up efforts in recent years to combat sexual violence in conflict. However, as the recent Global Studyon Security Council Resolution 1325 found, while progress has been made, much remains to be done. Gender remains an ancillary concern in many cases and serious efforts need to be made to proactively incorporate a gender lens into modern efforts to respond to conflict and mass atrocities and counter terrorism and violent extremism.

One area where the consideration of gender has historically been and continues to be mired in complexities is in the context of genocide, where the defining of the crime element pertains not to gender, but rather membership in a protected group (national, ethnical, racial or religious). In fact during the drafting of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (Genocide Convention), unlike other groups that were considered (e.g. linguistic and political groups), there was no consideration that gender would constitute a protected group.

However, while gender in and of itself is not protected, history has clearly shown us that the way that genocide has been perpetrated does have a gender dimension—an understanding of which is essential to fully understand the scope and consequences of genocide.

Read the full blog here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

Thai and Burmese officials met this week for talks about the possible repatriation of more than 100,000 Burmese refugees currently living just across the border. The process would include refugees from nine camps and and would begin within two to three years.


Burundi:

The Burundi talks, which were initially scheduled to begin on 2 May in Arusha, have beenpostponed. The office of former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, the new regional mediator for Burundi, said that the dialogue could now begin in the third week of May. In the meantime, grenade attacks, assassinations, and other violence has continued.


Central African Republic:

CAR’s newly elected members of parliament took office or the first time on Tuesday. The new MPs have a five year mandate.

Ongoing violence, displacement and a lack of teachers in the country is preventing hundreds of thousands of children from attending school in the Central African Republic. UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, has stated that one in four primary schools are currently not functioning there.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

On Tuesday, Signe Poulsen, a representative of the Seoul office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the international community could not ignore the human rights abuses occurring in North Korea and urged the community to take strong action.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a new report ahead of the DPRK’s 7th Party Congress scheduled for 6 May, urging the leadership of the country’s Worker’s Party to address serious human rights abuses committed by the government. HRW also pointed out that the forced labor of thousands has been used in connection with the congress itself.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

The DRC’s justice minister has ordered an investigation into allegations that opposition leader and possible presidential candidate, Moise Katumbi, recruited mercenaries. This comes during a time of increasing political tensions as opposition members believe that President Kabila may be looking to stay in power beyond his term, which ends this year.

The Congolese National Independent Electoral Commission has requested 16 months to organize elections, citing the need for time to register new voters and the fact that in both 2006 and 2011 this much time was also required. However, the UN Security Council stated in Resolution 2277 that the government should organize elections within the constitutional limits.

On Tuesday evening, assailants raided a village in the North Kivu province in the eastern region of the DRC and killed 16 civilians. It is believed that the attack could have been carried out by Ugandan rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces.


 Gaza/West Bank:

The UN Committee Against Torture is set to investigate how Israel treats detainees, including minors, within Israel and in the occupied territories, regardless of Israel’s previous assertions that the Convention Against Torture does not apply in occupied territories.

Israeli aircraft attacked five Hamas targets in Gaza on Wednesday in response to mortar fire, the most serious altercation since the end of the war in 2014 and putting a strain on the ceasefire between the two parties.


Iraq:

Following Saturday’s protests and the sacking of the parliament building, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for unity amongst political rivals in order for the country to be able to fight ISIL.

On Sunday, dual car bombs set off in southern Iraq killed 31 and wounded 50 others. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks in an online statement, specifying that the suicide bombers were targeting police officers. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), terrorism, violence, and armed conflict killed 741 Iraqis and injured 1,374 during April.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that it requires more assistance in helping the 3.4 million people displaced in Iraq, as the ongoing conflict continues to forces more people from their homes.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International released its latest report claiming that the Iraqi government is currently holding over 1,000 individuals, some as young as 15, in abhorrent conditions and without criminal charges.


Kenya:

Raila Odinga, the former Prime Minister of Kenya and leader of the opposition party, statedthat he would not participate in next year’s presidential election if the electoral commission is not reformed. Coming ten years after the violence of the disputed 2007/2008 presidential election, Odinga expressed concern about violence at next year’s polls. Western diplomats from 11 different countries have also issued a joint statement urging Kenyans to consider what future steps are necessary to make sure the upcoming elections are free, fair, and peaceful.

Kenyan security services have stopped a potential biological terror attack on various targets in the country using anthrax. Kenyan and Ugandan authorities have arrested three suspects alleged to be part of an East African terror network with ties to ISIL and they are still looking for two others. This comes amid worsening fears that ISIL may be trying to establish a base in Kenya from which to launch attacks against Westerners like those in Mali in recent months.


Libya:

Over 100 migrants died over the weekend while attempting to reach Italy from Libya. The dangerous route is becoming more popular with migrants since the closing of the safer route via the Balkans.


Mali:

In central Mali, local community leaders have claimed that pro-government fighters killed 13 more members of the ethnic Peuhl community, which has been accused of supporting the extremist Macina Liberation Front. A government security spokesman says that investigators are looking into the reports.

Hervé Ladsous, the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, visited Mali this week and urged the country to quickly implement the 2015 peace agreements between the government and armed groups. Delays in the peace process have led to the strengthening of Islamist militant groups in Mali, who still pose a serious security threat in the region.


Nigeria:

Following continued recent attacks by armed herdsmen, President Buhari stated that the heads of Nigeria’s national securities agencies will take all necessary action to halt the violence by apprehending those involved.

As ‪Boko Haram‬ loses ground in the country, the extremist group has increasingly turned to using women and children as suicide bombers. The latest briefing from the International Crisis Group suggests that to defeat the insurgency and achieve sustainable peace, Nigeria must continue to work together with its regional and international partners and take advantage of the upcoming summit in Abuja to address issues such as the humanitarian situation and ensuring the return of the rule of law.


South Sudan:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lauded South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s appointment of the new ministers of the Transitional Government of National Unity and encouraged the swift establishment of all of the transition institutions. He also called for an immediate end to hostilities on all sides. The African Union (AU) also welcomed the new transitional government, which under the terms of the August 2015 peace agreement, will be made up of members coming from President Kiir’s party, as well as those of Vice President Riek Machar, the opposition, and others.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council also called on the transitional unity government to fully implement the peace deal and to end violence and rights abuses in the country, including through the implementation of a permanent ceasefire. The Council also called for the UN mission, UNMISS, to have the freedom of movement to uphold its mandate, which includes the protection of civilians and investigation of human rights violations.

Although steps are being made towards peace in the country, South Sudanese leaders are still dealing with the need to acquire justice for the victims of the violence committed during the civil war. Human rights organizations have called for perpetrators to be held accountable for their crimes, but supporters of both sides have argued the need to pursue national healing and reconciliation before moving on to accountability. However, the African Center for Transitional Justice (ACT-J) has argued, without real accountability, national reconconciliation is meaningless.

The latest numbers from humanitarian organizations show that around 54,635 refugees fledfrom South Sudan into Sudan between early February and the end of April, with an increase of around 700 people last week. Continuing conflict and food insecurity are the main drivers and more refugees are expected to flee by the end of this month before the South Sudanese rainy season begins. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) have also issued a joint press release expressing their concerns about shortcomings in funding and how this may affect their abilities to provide assistance to South Sudanese refugees in Sudan.


Sudan/Darfur:

On Sunday, the Sudanese Air Force killed 6 children when two fighter jets bombed a residential area in South Kordofan. The children were aged between four and 12 years old.

Aristide Nononsi, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, has urged the Sudanese Government to establish a positive environment conducive to “a free and inclusive national dialogue by respecting the basic fundamental rights of Sudanese people, including the rights to freedoms of expression and association, and of the press.”


Syria/Iraq:

Surge in violence
Violence increased in Syria this week in light of the recent breakdown of the nationwide ceasefire, especially in and around the contested city of Aleppo, where over 300 people havedied in the past two weeks. A rebel coalition under the name, Fatah Halab, launched an assault on the government’s position in Aleppo on Tuesday night, but they were pushed back by Wednesday morning. The attack proved to be the most intense in Aleppo in over a year.

The US and opposition leaders, supported by claims from residents, have asserted that the Syrian government’s airstrikes have been largely focused on areas in Aleppo that were outside of the control of the Nusra Front. Instead, areas controlled by other groups, including those supported by the US and its allies, have been targeted. On Sunday night, the only road out of the rebel-held territory in the city was bombed and, if it were to be cut-off, almost 200,000 residents could be left without access to badly needed food and medical supplies, according to the opposition.

On Wednesday, the humanitarian adviser to the Special Envoy to Syria, Jan Egeland, statedthat the government of Syria is refusing the United Nations access to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians affected by the ongoing war, including those caught in the middle of the surge of violence in Aleppo. He stated that there appear to be new besieged locations emerging, with relief workers unable to move around Aleppo. The Syrian government has denied aid for half of the almost one million people besieged, and has put tremendous conditions on the remaining aid.

The Syrian Army previously issued a temporary truce around Damascus and Latakia, but did not extend the truce to Aleppo until it was agreed upon by the US and Russia late Tuesday evening. By Thursday, the cessation of hostilities in Aleppo had brought a relative calm in the city, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that he is still set on achieving a total victory over the rebels in Aleppo and throughout the country. On the same day, fighting continued elsewhere in the country as ISIL captured the Shaer gas field, the group’s first major gain since losing the city of Palmyra last month.

Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees at the border with Jordan has risen to a new high of 59,000, with around 5,000 Syrians arriving between 3 – 5 May alone. Jordanian authorities say 52,000 people are currently gathered in Rokban, with another 7,200 people in Hadalat. In both places, conditions are dire and aid organizations are urging Jordan to speed up entry procedures.

Response to attacks on medical facilities
Following the deliberate attacks on hospitals and medical workers, including the deadlyairstrike last Wednesday that hit the al Quds hospital in a rebel-held part of Aleppo and killedat least 55 people, civil society organizations called on the UN Security Council to act. Amnesty International called for the UNSC to impose targeted sanctions against those deliberately attacking hospitals and committing other war crimes. The organization, which has interviewed doctors and activists in Aleppo and documented attacks, stated that it has found that Russian and Syrian forces have purposefully and systematically targeted hospitals in opposition-controlled regions. Medecins sans Frontieres also called on the UN Security Council to stop attacks on all healthcare facilities, sparking a social media storm for establishing hospitals as #NotATarget.

In response, the Security Council strongly condemned the attacks on the wounded and ill, hospitals and medical facilities, and humanitarian and medical personnel engaged solely in their humanitarian or medical duties. The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2286 (2016), co-sponsored by over 80 Member States, which demands accountability for those responsible for such attacks and reaffirms that all warring parties comply with their responsibility to protect populations and their obligations under international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law. In the discussion of the resolution some Council members declared such attacks on humanitarian and medical facilities and personnel to be war crimes.

Calls to reconvene peace talks
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called upon all parties, including regional and international actors such as Russia and the United States, to immediately recommit themselves to ceasing hostilities in Syria. He also called on all parties to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians throughout all parts of the country and urged them to redouble efforts to get the warring parties back to the negotiating table. In a step forward, the United States and Russia have reached an agreement to create a new monitoring group in Geneva that will observe compliance with the Syrian ceasefire agreement 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, stated that in order for the next round of negotiations to be credible, they must be supported by real and “tangible” progress made on the ground, which includes increased access for humanitarian aid throughout Syria. Mr. Mistura said he intends to re-convene the peace talks sometime this month in order to come to an agreement on a way forward by August.


Yemen:

On 29 April, thousands of Yemenis marched in the city of Taiz calling for end to the conflict and urging rebel groups to adopt a UN ceasefire resolution. The following day, UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheik Ahmed, announced that peace negotiations in Kuwait ended on a positive note, commending Yemeni parties for expressing their commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015). However, the Yemeni government later abandoned the talks for a short time after receiving reports from the Amran governorate, but have since returned to the negotiating table.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that numerous violations of international law have been committed by all sides in Yemen and they have yet to be investigated or addressed. HRW has also pointed out that it is crucial that participants in the peace talks prioritize justice for atrocities that have been committed.

Al-Qaeda militants are reportedly pulling out of Zinjibar and Jaar, two coastal cities east of Aden after progress made by the Yemeni government in fighting the terrorist group on Thursday.


What else is new?

On 8 May, Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee of Quebec, in partnership with the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Amnistie International Francophone, and the Alliance for Genocide Awareness and Remembrance will be leading a march against genocides and for human rights in downtown Montreal. For more information, visit here.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is holding a conference, Partners in Prevention: A Global Forum on Ending Genocide, on 19 May in Washington, D.C. The event, which is free and open to the public, seeks to strengthen US policy on atrocity prevention and strengthen international partnerships on the issue. To reserve tickets visit here.

On 31 May, the Hague Institute for Global Justice will be holding a book launch for the text entitled, “Prosecuting Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the ICTY.” The launch will include a public panel discussion featuring Daniela Kravetz – SGBV expert practitioner, former ICTY staff member and book contributor; Stephen Rapp – Former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Distinguished Fellow at The Hague Institute for Global Justice; Patricia Viseur Sellers – Special Adviser on International Criminal Law Prosecution Strategies for the ICC, SGBV expert, and former ICTY staff member; with moderation by  Michelle Jarvis – OTP Deputy to the Prosecutor.For more information and to RSVP, visit here.

The Global Centre for R2P released a report from a workshop convened from 18-19 February, entitled, UN Perspectives: The Future of Civilian Protection and the Responsibility to Protect, which brought together UN representatives, civil society actors, and academia to discuss pressing challenges facing the United Nations. Read the report here. The organization will also be holding an event on 11 May entitled, The Future of Civilian Peace Operations Endorsing and Implementing the Kigali Principles. Visit the GCR2P website to learn more about the event, including how to RSVP, as they will be updating with more information.

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#R2P 4 – 8 April 2016

Untitled

Report: Advancing Atrocities Prevention in Southeast Asia 

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

Read the full report here.


Catch up on developments in…

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


Burma/Myanmar:

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

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


Burundi:

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

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

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

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


Central African Republic:

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

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


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

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

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


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

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

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


Gaza/West Bank:

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

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


Iraq:

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


Kenya:

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


Libya:

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

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


Mali:

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

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


Nigeria:

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

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

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


South Sudan:

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

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


Sudan/Darfur:

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

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


Syria:

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

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

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

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


Yemen:

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

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


 What else is new?

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

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

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