Tag Archives: Gaza/West Bank

#RtoP Weekly: 30 July – 3 August 2018

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 Coalition Member Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) Releases Report on Attacks in Southern Syria 

ICRtoP member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), has published a report documenting the attacks occurring in southern Syria allegedly carried out by the Russian-Syrian alliance, as well as Islamic State (ISIL) forces from mid-June to 30 July 2018. The SNHR gathered and compiled photos and videos from internet sources as well as information directly from local activists in order to analyze the extent and gravity of the attacks. The report asserts that the US’ failure to intervene is an abandonment of its bilateral ceasefire agreement with Russia to maintain stability in the region.

The report calls on the international community to act on its Responsibility to Protect as long as the UN Security Council remains divided and unable to act in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to applying pressure on the UNSC, the SNHR hopes that justice and accountability remain at the forefront of the Syrian response, by holding the Syrian government responsible for its actions, urging for the referral of the Syrian Civil War to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for UN agencies to continue documenting human rights violations, crimes against humanity, and open commissions of inquiry and investigations.


Catch up on developments in…
Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

Nigeria
Philippines
South Sudan
Syria
Venezuela
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The IOM, 19,000 refugees, and local workers built 1,150 shelters for Rohingya people, as part of a quick response plan to improve the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees living at risk in Bangladesh during monsoon season.

On 25 July, the Indian Government commissioned a project to compile a list of biometric data of Rohingya refugees who fled to India from Burma to deport them “if necessary.” Rajnath Singh, Minister of the Interior, stated that the report will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so deportation negotiations with Bangladesh and Burma can begin if necessary. India sees many of the Rohingya as immigrating illegally, but the possibility of forced return to unsafe conditions is of concern under the RtoP norm and refugee law.

The Burmese Government announced on 30 July it would establish a four-person commission to investigate human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State as a reaction to the growing international calls for accountability over accusations of ethnic cleansing. The Independent Commission is formed by two local and two international members and it is considered part of Burma’s national roadmap to “address reconciliation, peace, stability and development in Rakhine”


Central African Republic:

The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced 118 incidents against humanitarian workers in CAR in the second quarter of 2018, a sharp increase from the first quarter of this year. Aid organizations are being forced to reduce service delivery for already vulnerable people, and the instability continues to place CAR at the top of the list for most dangerous countries for humanitarians.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) condemned the attacks occurring against civilians and peacekeepers in Pombolo, southeastern CAR, during the month of July. These human rights violations were largely committed by members of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) or local anti-Balaka forces. MINUSCA identified over 250 perpetrators to date, and pledges to continue working to restore security in the area.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

In a UNSC Briefing on 26 July, MONUSCO Head, Leila Zerrougui, told members that the right conditions for a free and fair Presidential election in the DRC did not yet exist. Human rights violations against protesters, opposition, and media continue to curb freedom of speech and assembly rights, in addition to arbitrary detention. In provincial elections, women only comprise 12% of candidates, and the electoral commission has yet to respond to MONUSCO’s offer to provide logistical support for the election.

Jean Pierre Bemba arrived back in the DRC for the first time in 11 years on 1 August in order to submit his candidacy for the December Presidential elections. His candidacy continues to raise questions regarding the security and credibility of the elections.


Gaza / West Bank:

Al Jazeera reported on 29 July that job cuts in the Gaza Strip office of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), partly attributed to US aid cuts to Palestinians, is a “massacre for employees.” 113 employees lost their jobs this week, and reports say that 1,000 contracts will not be renewed from December. Protests against the cuts are ongoing, with staff members noting that there is little sense in letting go of the crucial workers helping “tens of thousands of refugees in the Gaza strip.” Fears over the reduction in aid workers persist; unemployment in the Gaza strip is already at 44%.

The Daily Star reported on 30 July that a Norwegian-affiliated activist boat which attempted to breach the 11-year-long blockade on Gaza but was intercepted by the Israeli navy. The ship carried personnel and medical supplies, like many other activist groups attempts to breach the blockade with humanitarian relief for Palestinians.

Only three days after Tareq Baconi of the European Council on Foreign Relations released an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that the only way to prevent the currently looming war in Gaza is for Israel to “loosen the chokehold” on the Gaza strip and prioritize “core political drivers,” Israel has blocked entry of fuel supplies into Gaza. The move is in retaliation for the continuing use of incendiary kites by Hamas causing at least 19 fires on Wednesday, Israel reported. The Gaza Strip’s two million residents will continue to suffer from a lack of power and essential services.


Iraq:

In further post-election political fall-out, authorities charged five more election officials with corruption on 28 July, Reuters reported. Officials running election offices in both Jordan and Turkey were also fired. The May election result is not yet confirmed as ballot recounts are still underway, and  protests calling for improved government services and access to electricity, water, and jobs continue across the country.

The UN Refugee agency released new figures showing that since 2014 around 2.14 million Iraqis have been displaced in attempts to flee ISIS-related violence. Many homes have been destroyed and internally displaced persons have nowhere to return to from the camps they currently live in, Al Jazeera reported on 29 July.

On 31 July coalition member, Human Rights Watch, expressed its concern that torture allegations made against security forces in Iraq are not adequately investigated. Concern is mounting as numerous alleged ISIS members are detained and tortured into giving confessions because authorities want to “achieve convictions” to reaffirm the strong message of the group’s defeat in the country. While there is the legal infrastructure within the justice system to investigate such claims, judges and lawyers interviewed by HRW noted that it is scarcely used.


Libya:

Spanish charity ProActiva Open Arms claims that an Italian towboat rescued and returned over 108 migrants back to Libya on Monday, 30 July. If confirmed by the UN, such a return would be a violation of international law.

The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded that 1,504 people have died in attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe 2018 to date. This marks the fifth consecutive year where over 1,500 people have died attempting the crossing.


Mali:

NGO Acción contra el Hambre reported on 26 July a new outbreak of violence amongst the Tuareg community in northern Mali. These clashes threaten to exacerbate the food crisis already present in the country and to increase the number of displaced people.

Over 300 people have been killed so far this year in the Mopti region as a result of the increase in ethnic violence. As a result, many members of the Fulani community have been forced to move to Bamako’s outskirts. Jihadists groups are using the conflict and ethnic tensions to recruit members for their cause.

In a telephone interview on 27 July, the head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Sahel region told said that direct humanitarian assistance provided by international forces makes it riskier for aid organizations to carry out their work, as it makes it more difficult to distinguish armed forces from humanitarians. She also explained how Doctors Without Borders is negotiating with international actors to convince them to contribute to the construction of infrastructures or provide assistance in areas where their NGO does not work instead of implementing direct humanitarian assistance activities.

Several violent incidents occurred during Malian elections, despite President Keita deploying 30,000 security personnel throughout the country. Violence disrupted and even halted voting in some villages, with 105 polling stations closed because of security concerns. Approximately 4,000 others were affected in some way by violence. Results are still unknown, but voter turnout is expected to be low.

On 31 July, the French Ministry of Defense reaffirmed the success of its stabilizing operation “Barkhane,” which neutralized over 230 suspected jihadist terrorists in the Sahel last year.


Nigeria:

Eight people were killed and seven injured on 23 July in a suicide attack on a mosque in the Borno region, historically known as the birthplace of the extremist group Boko Haram. However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is the last of a series of attacks to mosques that have been occurring in recent months.

The International Crisis Group reported on 26 July that the conflict between farmers and herders in Nigeria is more lethal than Boko Haram in 2018 thus far. The pastoral conflict has become Nigeria’s severest security challenge with 1,300 deaths, and displaced hundreds of thousands of Nigerians, strengthening ethnic, regional, and religious polarization.

On 29 July, the President Buhari ordered the deployment of aircraft and 1,000 troops to combat banditry in Zamfara State, which has resulted in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds in the region.


Philippines:

On 27 July, UNSG Guterres welcomed Duterte’s new legislation which grants more autonomy to Muslim communities in the Southern Philippines. SG Guterres congratulated negotiators, the Government of the Philippines, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their work, and describes the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a “landmark achievement on the road to lasting peace”. The legislation institutionalized terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which the the government and MILF signed in 2014.

11 people died on 31 July when a car bomb exploded in the city of Lamitan. The Philippine government condemned the terrorist attack, calling it a “war crime.” The Islamic State group has claimed credit for the attack.


South Sudan:

On 2 September, members of Nepal’s peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were accused of allegedly raping two teenage girls. UNSG Guterres’ office responded, announcing they would send in investigators as the SG has pledged to take a harder line in responding to misconduct among UN forces against members of the populations they are supposed to be protecting.


Syria:

A Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US is willing to negotiate with Assad’s government in the hope of working towards a “democratic, decentralized Syria.” Faced with a choice between further fighting or negotiations over the fate of the northeastern region of Syria in which they function, the alliance hopes to build a “decentralized” state working “alongside the Syrian government,” Al Jazeera reported on 28 July.

Arab News reported on 30 July that recent attacks on the Sweida province by Daesh fighters left over 200 dead and 36 women and children kidnapped since last Wednesday. At least two of those kidnapped have since died. Syrian military planes conducted airstrikes on Monday in the Sweida area against the group. Daesh holds small areas of territory in the Syrian desert in both Sweida and Daraa.

According to the Guardian, Syrian government forces took control of Daraa province, previously under ISIS control, on 31 July. Members of the White Helmets that were not evacuated last week are still appealing to be rescued, fearing the progressing government military.


Venezuela:

On 31 July, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, tweeted: “The crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorship in Venezuela will not go unpunished”. Also, he reminded the international community of its commitment to enforce freedom and justice in the country.


Yemen:

On 2 August CNN released rare drone footage taken from the capital city, Sanaa, which exhibits the destruction caused by years of siege and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Human Rights Watch alleges that the coalition has conducted 85 illegal airstrikes in the area.

Save the Children estimates that over 6,000 residents of the port city, Hodeidah, flee “every single day” and are in “extreme danger.” Half of those fleeing are children, with their escape involving encountering “minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting.” The UN continues to hold talks between the warring parties – the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition – over the fate of the city, but Save the Children representatives describe the city as a “ghost town” with extensive destruction already clear to see. 22.2 million out of the country’s total 27.4 million (80%) of civilians require humanitarian assistance, representing a 15% increase on last year’s figures.


Other:

In an initiative lead by Rwanda, the US, and the Netherlands, 32 countries urged UNSG Antonio Guterres to take administrative actions when UN Peacekeepers violate the Kigali Principles of civilian protection. The signing states also pledged to ensure that the troops they provide peacekeeping missions take more proactive measures in mitigating potential threats to civilian safety.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al-Hussein, announced that the OHCHR would investigate the reports of human rights violations and escalating violence against the Anglophone community in Cameroon. Although violence has occurred on both sides, the Anglophone community alleges economic and political discrimination in government policies and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.

Following the 30 July elections, violence once again fell upon Zimbabwe, in what many hoped to be a peaceful event. The government deployed forces against unarmed and peaceful protesters in its capital, Harare, which turned violent. Prior to the official Presidential Election results, ZANU-PF, the party of former President Robert Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, had secured the necessary two-thirds vote to amend the country’s constitution in the parliamentary election. Following the instability and violence, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the army’s role and conduct against protesters.

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#RtoP Weekly: 22 – 27 July 2018

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 ICRtoP and partners release new report from CSW side event on inclusion of rural women and girls 

In March 2018, over 200 representatives of civil society, the UN, and Member States met during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to attend a side event co-convened by UN Women and several CSOs, including the ICRtoP, entitled “Leaving No One Behind for Planet 50-50 by 2030: Every rural woman and girl everywhere.” The event included a dialogue among activists from rural areas, including indigenous women, refugees, and members of the LGBTI community, demanding gender equality, and to discuss how to ensure no woman or girl is left behind in the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals. The session included a call for greater representation, visibility, and participation of women in government, and universal application of policies enshrining the rights of women and girls.

“The fact that this Commission (CSW) is shining a light on the condition of women and girls in rural areas is very fitting, because they face some of the most daunting challenges of our time,” stated Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division at the opening of the event.

Empowering women and girls in the peace and security and development processes is critical in conflict prevention and building resilient societies. The ICRtoP was excited to have the opportunity to support and give voice to the activists, policy-makers, and participants of the event at the CSW62, whose report is now available.

To read the full report, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen
Venezuela
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) published its report update on the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Response for the 13-19 July 2018 period. The report specifies the current situation and the actions carried out by the organization to improve the Rohingya refugees’ conditions in the areas of health, shelter & non-food items, needs & population monitoring, site management & development, protection, resilience & disaster risk reduction, accountability to affected population, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

On 19 July, the Southeast Asian human rights group Fortify Rights released a new report entitled, “Myanmar: International Accountability Needed for Military-Planned Genocide Against Rohingya.” The report highlights “reasonable grounds” that the crimes committed against the Rohingya population amount to genocide and crimes against humanity, and that Burmese authorities conducted extensive and systematic preparations for attacks against this minority. This paper also calls on the UNSC to immediately refer the Burmese situation to the ICC, as it identifies that 22 Burma Army and Police officials should be investigated and brought to justice for the roles they played in committing atrocity crimes.

The International Security Consulting Group (ISCG) released a situation report on the Rohingya refugee crisis on 19 July. The report outlines many improvements such as: (i) Continuous effort on improving the shelters in the refugee camps (90% of the target shelters were upgraded), (ii) Good work of the Health Sector which has provided a total of 2,480,273 outpatient consultations, (iii) 36,037 refugees were moved to newly developed sites, and (iv) Finally all individuals older than 12 have received an ID card and all households have been provided a family certificate.

The UN Human Rights Council reported on 19 July that the flow of Rohingya refugees still moving to Bangladesh shows that human rights violations in Burma persist. Muslim Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh report that Burma is still unsafe, as violence and torture persevere.

Experts at Save the Children evaluated research carried out by UN bodies finding that the Burmese Government violated at least seven key articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report addresses “indiscriminate and extrajudicial killing of Rohingya children, and the torture, ill-treatment, and gender-based violence” committed against them.

On 23 July, UNSC held a meeting regarding the situation in Burma in order to discuss a number of issues about the Rohingya refugee crisis. Both the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar and the High Commissioner for Refugees exposed their briefings about their travels there during the month of June.


Central African Republic:

The Institute for Security Studies, Africa (ISS) released a report on 23 July revealing the widespread sexual violence occurring against men and boys in CAR. The report notes that currently CAR has no judicial precedent for SV against males, and urges the special prosecutor of the new Special Criminal Court to take steps to ensure perpetrators do not act with impunity. The report notes that cultural stigmas, humanitarian workers being under-trained in recognizing male victims of SV, and a need for comprehensive rehabilitation strategies are needed not only to prevent further sexual violence but to curtail widespread human rights abuses and potential atrocity crimes.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

Following Former DRC Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s announcement to run in the 2018 Presidential election, concerns about the election among opposition leaders and the international community has grown. Bemba scheduled a return to the DRC 1 August, on a passport issued by President Kabila. Possible collusion between Bemba and Kabila or a plan by Kabila to force a 3-way opposition split are among the theories spread. President Kabila’s running status is uncertain, causing increased political tension in the country.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 21 July the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged Hamas to end the “launching of rockets and incendiary kites.” He also appealed to the Israeli military to “avoid further inflaming the situation” in the hope that the parties will “step back from the brink” of another violent conflict.

Al Jazeera noted the “uneasy calm” over the Gaza area on 21 July as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces, which was put in place at midnight on 20 July, appeared to be holding up. However, comments from Phillis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies shared her skepticism over the deal leading to total peace in the region.

On 23 July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, reminded all fighting parties in the Gaza strip that “any disproportionate or indiscriminate use of weapons” injuring or killing civilians is prohibited by international law, as many protesters have been targeted in recent months. He noted that parties must focus on addressing the “root causes” of demonstrations and inadequate living conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza. He also expressed concern over the Palestinian children who are detained in Israel without charge, an additional breach of international law.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, praised diplomatic efforts lead by Egypt and the UN for calming tensions between Israel and Hamas, on 24 July. He noted that further conflict would further impact the lives of civilians in the region who are already suffering from an 11-year trade blockade by Israel and Egypt and infrastructure as a result of the violence.

On 25 July Israel allowed a partial reopening of a vital commercial crossing allowing goods such as fuel, food and medicine to enter the region. Concerns this week reached a high point when fuel shortages threatened the closure of many hospitals in the area which could have resulted in death for those on life-support machines and lack of ability to perform operations, as well as the inability to provide basic services.


Iraq:

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Marta Ruedas, stated that as of 24 July, nearly 870,000 people have returned to Mosul following the liberation of numerous villages in the region from Islamic State militants roughly a year ago, following work by the UN Mine Action Service. Nearly 43,700 explosive hazards from “roads, bridges, schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, water treatment plants and municipal buildings” have been cleared, but two million still remain internally displaced.

Coalition member, Human Rights Watch, condemns the “excessive use of lethal forces” used against protesters in Basra between 8 and 17 July, which killed at least three and wounded over 40 people, including children.

Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has promised to penalize government officials who have been reluctant to carry out their jobs, providing crucial services and responding to requests to the people of Iraq, in response to the protests.


Libya:

The NGO Proactiva Open Arms expresses its disappointment over the Libyan Coastguard’s “lack of assistance in international waters” when it slashed an inflatable vessel migrants were using, before abandoning the migrants and boat last week. The NGO found the wreckage of the boat with the bodies of a woman and child who were already dead, and only one survivor. The NGO wishes to file a manslaughter charge against the Libyan coastguard due to the deaths being “no accident.”


Mali:

On 17 July, the OHCHR confirmed 289 civilian deaths in 2018 to date as a result of inter-community violence, particularly in the Mopti region. These numbers show the deterioration of the situation and increased civilian displacements.

In an OCHA report released on 22 July stated Mali is in its most critical humanitarian situation since the conflict began in 2012 as a result of the rise in insecurity and the lack of assistance. 4.3 million Malian people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and “if the necessary assistance is not offered immediately, the situation could continue to deteriorate and would require more resources than now to be addressed.”


South Sudan:

In the latest efforts to establish a peace deal for South Sudan, the government and Machar’s SPLM-IO have reached an agreement. The deal establishes a power-sharing deal with President Kiir remaining in his position, and restoring Dr. Machar to the First Vice Presidency, in addition to four other VPs, one of whom will be a woman. There are provisions for a transitional legislature as well. A coalition of other rebel groups are rejecting the decision, however, saying their concerns were not taken into account.


Sudan:

On 24 July, UN Under Secretary General for Field Support, Atul Khare, visited the Darfur region of Sudan. Talks focused on UNAMID withdrawal, the continuance of development programs, and arms collection to continue improving peace and security.


Syria:

Despite the successful evacuation of 422 White Helmets members and their families in southwest Syria over the weekend of the 21 and 22 July, the BBC is concerned over the remaining 378 facing the advancing government forces. The Syrian regime views White Helmets as supporting “terrorists” and their safety cannot be guaranteed if the government regains control over the rebel-held regions where they are currently based.

The Syrian government condemns the evacuation called for by the US, UK, and other European countries being conducted by the Israeli Defence Forces, claiming it to be a “criminal operation” and a “despicable act” because the group allegedly supports terrorist organizations.


Venezuela:

On 17 July, the Venezuelan Parliament proclaimed that it will create a commission to study children abandoned by their parents who have had to let them in the country alone in order to emigrate. There is no official count of abandoned children in Venezuela but, according to the NGO Fundana, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of babies who are handed over to the association, many come in critical feeding situations.

The Government of Venezuela announced on 18 July that it had opened 3,000 food houses to assist the victims of the “economic war” allegedly influenced by the opposition and foreign governments by offering them free food. These food houses have already helped 626,328 people, including vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people.


Yemen:

On 23 July, Reuters reported around 8.4 million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation. There has been a 25% increase in the level of “severe hunger” for Yemenis. UN agencies have reported famine-like conditions already existing in certain areas of the country, but “not all the criteria” has been met yet. Fears over continuing violence between Houthis and Saudi-led forces still threatens the closure of the Hodeidah port and the entrance of crucial food supplies and humanitarian goods. 


Other:

UNSG Antonio Guterres and Chairperson for the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, signed a Framework Agreement between the UN and AU, respectively, in order to address peace and security issues on the African continent. Senior UN spokesperson, Sahle-Work Zewde, underscored the need for conflict prevention and resolution efforts saying, “[the organizations] also need to recognize the critical role of sub-regional organizations, which are often the first to detect early warning signs of impending conflict, and are important partners in promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

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#RtoP Weekly: 15-20 July 2018

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The Rome Statute at 20 and International Justice Day 

Each year on 17 July, the world celebrates International Justice Day (IJ Day) and the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on this day in 1998. This year, IJ Day takes on particular significance, as the world marks the treaty’s 20th anniversary. In celebration of this historic day, actors from all levels came together this week to commemorate the progress made over the past two decades within the international justice system and the fight for accountability for victims of atrocities across the world.

ICRtoP partner, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), the world’s largest civil society partnership working for the advancement of international justice, has compiled remarks commemorating this important anniversary from some of the leading international justice voices throughout the world, including: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; Mr. William Pace, Convener of the CICC; and Mr. Donald Deya, CEO of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)and Chair of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, among others. Mr. Deya stated:

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, the international community is provided with a timely opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, but also how far we still must go to end impunity and better protect populations from atrocity crimes, particularly in ensuring the transition from commitments to action. Experience has shown that seeking justice for victims is not easy, but it is vital to the prevention of their recurrence. With this in mind, we all must take advantage of this historic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards international justice by working together to strengthen national, regional, and international atrocity prevention tools to reinforce accountability for perpetrators and uphold our obligations under the Responsibility to Protect.”

To view the full list of remarks, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
CAR 
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 

Mali
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria
Yemen


Burma/Myanmar:

On 17 July, Burma’s 2018 Peace Conference in Panglong concluded with 14 more basic principles adopted as the second part of a peace accord. The new principles, which address politics, economy, society, environment, and land, were signed by leaders of the government, military, and armed groups. On that same day, William Lacy Swing, Director of the International Organization on Migration (IOM), urged the global community to remain focused on the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh with roughly one million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar “in danger of becoming the wretched of the earth, homeless, and without a future.”


Central African Republic:

Tensions continue in CAR with a Christian militant group promoting violence between religious and ethnic groups. A brief lapse occurred when Muslim communities disassociated with these acts of violence, but MINUSCA identified nearly 70 cases of abuse and rights violations over the second week of July.


Democratic Republic of Congo:

On Friday, 13 July, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Spokesperson, Charley Yaxley, told reporters that the UN Refugee Agency had obtained access to the Ituri province. Many displaced Congolese report returning only to find their homes, villages, and public building burned to the ground. Returnees also report armed groups killing people indiscriminately. Due to the lack of functioning infrastructure and dire humanitarian aid and protection funding situation, there are many concerns over public health and food security. The document, released later in the week can be viewed here.


Gaza / West Bank:

Two young boys are among those confirmed killed by Israel’s latest round of air raids, which hit a rooftop in Gaza where they were playing on 14 July, according to Al Jazeera. While the targeting of civilians is illegal under international law, international groups are concerned that civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military attacks are in fact not “mistakes,” but are deliberate. The Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, confirmed on 17 July, that the killing of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian medical worker providing treatment to peaceful Palestinian protesters on the Israeli border, was deliberate. This finding correlates with al-Najjar’s previous accounts of being targeted by Israeli security forces at the border before her death.

The ceasefire agreement that began on 15 July between Israel and Palestinian combatants remains in effect.


Iraq:

Demonstrations which began last week, fueled by “dissatisfaction with corruption and services,” and calls for a more balanced spread of oil wealth, continued across the south of Iraq with injuries recorded of both civilian protesters and government forces. According to Al Jazeera, protest violence led to at least seven deaths and dozens wounded.

The partial recount of the May election, plagued by allegations of corruption and fraud, is still ongoing despite beginning on 9 July, over a week ago.


Libya:

Ghassan Salame, the UN Envoy to Libya, notes that the “status quo in Libya cannot be sustained” and efforts to prevent “frequent and intense outbreaks of violence” must be pursued, following the sharp increase of conflict-related civilian deaths in May/June from March/April.


Mali:

On 16 July, Tuareg militia informed that 14 people were killed in an attack the day before, allegedly committed by Islamist militants in eastern Mali. Their intention is to generate terror amongst civilians prior to the upcoming presidential election. In an interview with Jamal Mrrouch, coordinator of Doctors Without Borders in Mali, published the same day, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in recent years was explained. Several factors ranging from the lack of rain and the inability to harvest to the insecurity and instability of the country contribute to the deterioration. “Insecurity pushes the population to a limit situation”, he states Mrrouch.

During the press briefing on Nicaragua, Mali, and Kashmir on 17 July, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) indicated an alarming upward trend in the number of civilians being driven out of their homes “either after being directly targeted themselves, because of the community they belong to, or after deadly attacks on members of their community in neighbouring villages.” As a result, there has been a widespread displacement of vulnerable civilians. The UNHCHR welcomed the Government of Mali’s efforts in intervening in this precarious situation and calls on it to continue on this same path to prevent future grave abuses of human rights.


South Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted on 13 July to renew sanctions against South Sudan in addition to  imposing a new arms embargo through 31 May 2019. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke on behalf of the Council and Resolution stating, “if we’re going to help the people of South Sudan, we need the violence to stop. And to stop the violence, we need to stop the flow of weapons to armed groups, that they are using to fight each other and to terrorize the people.” The Foreign Affairs Minister stated the sanctions will not solve the crisis, nor are officials pleased about the sanctions. Peace talks are scheduled to continue next week amidst reports of violations that may amount to atrocity crimes.


Sudan:

The UN Security Council voted to extend the UNAMID mandate in the Sudan, but reduced it’s personnel numbers by roughly half, keeping the police force stable. This vote follows the previous announcement of scaling back the mission in the Sudan over the course of the next two years, providing there are no significant changes to the on-the-ground security situation.

SLM leader, Minni Minawi, stated on 15 July that the peace process in Darfur is contradictory to what UNAMID and Qatari officials announced. He claims that Sudanese officials fabricated the ceasefire agreement’s success in order to mislead international public opinion and that the violence is ongoing.


Syria:

According to Al Jazeera, a large number of displaced Syrians were refused entry into the Israel-occupied Golan Heights by Israeli military on 17 July. Many people are attempting to flee the violence that has recently intensified in the Deraa and Quneitra provinces in south-western Syria. The Israeli and Jordanian borders remain firmly closed to the Syrian people, who are at continued risk of death from violence or persecution by Assad’s forces if they remain in the country.

On 17 July, airstrikes conducted by Syrian military hit a small town just four kilometres away from the Israel-occupied Golan Heights frontier. The attack killed 10 people as it hit a school that civilians were using as shelter.

Similarly, on 18 July, the Syrian government conducted another “intense overnight bombing campaign” against the densely populated town, Nawa, which is also near the frontier. At least 12 people are reported dead and hundreds wounded. A spokesman from the White Helmets reported that the only hospital in the town faced bombing on Tuesday and is rendered non-operational, according to US News.

Rebel commanders in the Dera’a province say that Russian military forces are in breach of the current ceasefire deal by not permitting some civilians – specifically those who do not support the current regime – a safe right of passage into northern rebel-held areas in Syria.

Amnesty International (AI) alleges that the US-led coalition, which conducted a four-month assault in Raqqa against ISIL fighters last year, is “deeply in denial” regarding the number of civilian deaths it caused throughout the assault, admitting to only 23 deaths. AI claims that the number is in fact in the hundreds.


Yemen:

Gulf News reported on 15 July of the “onslaught against Iran-aligned Al Houthis” in the Haradh district of north-west Yemen. According to Al Jazeera, the Hodeidah offensive conducted by the Saudi-led coalition has re-intensified following unsuccessful, UN-led peace talks between opposing parties. While it is alleged that military analysts note that the “coalition is not making much progress,” the lack of aid reaching civilians in the area and the ongoing air-strikes attacking crucial infrastructure are continuing to diminish the already dire standard of living for civilians in the Hodeidah region.

The Times Live reported that, while the Houthi-rebel chief is willing to cede control of Hodeidah to a UN-supervised committee on the basis that the Saudi-led coalition would stop its offensive and destruction of the port city,  the coalition is opposed as it would allow Houthis to remain in the city.

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#RtoP Weekly 8 – 13 July 2018

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UNGA holds Formal Debate on the RtoP

On 25 June and 2 July 2018, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened its first formal debate on “The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” since 2009 at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The debate followed the release of the tenth annual UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) report on RtoP, and the second by Secretary-General António Guterres’, entitled “Responsibility to Protect: From Early Warning to Early Action.”

Following the opening remarks by the President of the General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General, 79 Member States and two regional organizations (the EU and the Pacific Island Group) delivered statements on behalf of 113 States. Over the course of the debate, many countries expressed their gratitude regarding the inclusion of the RtoP as a stand-alone item on the General Assembly’s agenda to be able to discuss it formally. Member States also reaffirmed their commitments to the RtoP and supported the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention and narrowing the gap between early warning and early action. In fact, 107 Member States acknowledged that the costs to “pick up the pieces after crisis” are far greater than those that go into prevention efforts. Member States additionally supported a variety of initiatives to overcome current barriers of effective implementation of the RtoP norm. For example, support for veto restraint by members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resounded throughout the debate, with 69 Member States presenting arguments for the benefits and necessity of exercising restraint in the use of the veto in situations of atrocity crimes by Security Council Members. This concern also manifested itself through expressed support for the France-Mexico Initiative and/or the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT Group) Code of Conduct.

Throughout the debate, 83 Member States also mentioned the importance of accountability mechanisms as a way to prevent recurrence of mass atrocity crimes, and subsequently acknowledged the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to counter impunity. Emphasizing findings in the report, many Member States gave support to the idea of including civil society in atrocity prevention measures and for denouncing violations and giving specific expertise at local, national, and international levels. Furthermore, 74 Member States expressed support for including the RtoP as a standing agenda item in the General Assembly to continue such discussions on these important topics.

The ICRtoP has produced a number of educational materials about the UNSG report and UNGA dialogue, including a summary and infographic for both the 2018 report and dialogue and an updated page on the UN and RtoP, which includes information on all UNGA dialogues. To view these material and all of the ICRtoP’s UNGA coverage, please click here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
DPRK
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Nigeria 
South Sudan 
Sudan 
Syria
Venezuela 
Yemen 
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

During the week of 2 July, the UNSG visited Bangladesh and called on all countries to step up, help, and give support to the Rohingya refugees with real action. He also described the Rohingya situation as a clear case of ethnic cleansing.

The UNHCR announced on 6 July that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh will start receiving credit card-sized plastic IDs in the refugee camps. This will enable the consolidation of “a unified database for the purposes of protection” and recognition amongst other things. The IDs will play a crucial role in formalizing refugees’ identities and will preserve their right to voluntarily return home when the appropriate safety conditions are in place. However, on 8 July, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee reported that the Government of Burma made no progress in eliminating systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in its domestic law to make the Rakhine safe for their return, preventing such action in the near future.

On 11 July, the third peace conference between the Burmese government, military, and ethnic minorities began. The government allowed members of the Northern Alliance to attend as well. During the opening remarks of the conference, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called for an agreement amongst stakeholders prioritizing peace over political demands.


Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock highlighted the lack of funding available to solve the humanitarian situation in the DPRK on 11 July, and is trying to raise $111 million to meet the needs of approximately 6 million people for health, water, sanitation, and food security.


Gaza / West Bank:

On 9 July, Israel announced the closing of the Karam Abu Salem commercial border, a key passageway for goods entering the Gaza Strip. The existing blockade by Israel already imposes a significant impact on the Gazan economy, and the additional closure will prevent citizens from receiving crucial resources such as clothing and construction materials. Only limited humanitarian necessities such as wheat, flour and cooking gas will be allowed. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressedconcern over this decision citing that it will likely escalate the conflict and cause more suffering of civilians in the area.


Iraq:

Save the Children released a report on 5 July entitled “Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the Lives of Mosul’s Children After Years of Conflict and Violence,” exploring the “constant fear and intense sorrow” that children who have lived through the conflict have to come to terms with. Save the Children Iraq Country Director, Ana Locsin, noted that the successful rebuilding of the country and its future success will depend on “the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”

Iraq began the recount of ballot votes from the 12 May election on 9 July, following accusations that vote-rigging and fraud occurred. UN representatives as well as members of political parties, embassies, and media outlets are allowed to attend the recount, which is taking place at the Baghdad International Fair.

Concerns over the high rates of prosecutions for suspected IS fighters and their suspected affiliates, including ISIS wives, remain in what are deemed to be unfair trials by many international observers. The Sun Herald reported on 9 July that over 3,000 punishments have been given in the last few weeks, with cases going through the courts at an concerningly fast rates. Unease is particularly prominent over the court’s “reliance on informants” who potentially have “personal grudges” against those on trial being considered in sentencing, and secondly the duration of some trials, which last only 10-15 minutes. One third of cases result in the death penalty.


Libya:

While General Haftar announced a couple of weeks ago that his LNA’s forces have fully captured the city of Derna, as of the beginning of July, nine women have reportedly been kidnapped in a further bid by the government military to assert its dominance in the area. Rebels deny that the LNA have control of the area. Aid groups and the UN Support Mission in Libya are concerned over the lack of acknowledgement by government forces regarding their ability to deliver basic supplies and “deliver life-saving assistance” to civilians.


Nigeria:

On 8 July, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the importance of having women in leadership positions and their participation in peace processes in order to prevent conflicts and violent extremism. Mohammed describes women’s roles as “critical” for the future of Nigeria and the pursuit of improvement of the country’s current instability.

On 9 July, the Nigerian Army released 183 children, from the ages of 7 to 18, suspected of belonging to Boko Haram into UNICEF care. The children were arrested in several northeastern states affected by terrorist violence. They will now receive medical attention and psycho-social support from UNICEF specialists before reuniting with their families.


South Sudan:

After several rounds of discussions and cease-fire violations, South Sudanese leaders came to a power-sharing peace agreement on 7 July. The new agreement establishes four Vice Presidents, one being exiled opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar. There are hopes that the agreement brings about an end to the four year conflict. However, days later, rebels announced that they rejected the peace deal on the basis of no formal, written agreement ever being presented to or consented by Dr. Machar. They went further stating that they also believed the agreement maintained the status quo and didn’t do enough to address the reforms they saw as necessary for the country’s success.

On 10 July, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) released a statement accusing South Sudanese government forces of pursuing a “scorched earth” policy, deliberately targeting civilians and vulnerable populations. Attacks were carried out against elderly, people with disabilities, and young children, in addition to widespread sexual violence against women and girls. UN monitors allege that the actions may amount to war crimes.


Sudan:

Fighting between government forces and rebel groups in the Jebel Marra region continue to displace hundreds of families. IDP camps saw over 450 new family arrivals since the end of Ramadan last month, with hundreds more allegedly seeking refuge in caves in the mountainous region.

The Foreign Minister voiced some criticism over actions that would delay the timeline for UNAMID troop withdrawal. The joint AU-UN peacekeeping operational timeline garnered concern from several organizations due to the ongoing instability and security situation, who called on UNAMID not to downsize, after their announcement at the end of last month. The FM sees these concerns as creating tension and doubt about the stability in the Sudan.

Peace talks have no timeline for their resumption, as of 8 July, according to the presidential Envoy. Al Bashir’s envoy said that a timeline would be discussed after consulting with the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), but each side blames the other for the deadlock in the stalled negotiations.


Syria:

The UN estimates that around 320,000 civilians have been displaced in Southern Syria since 19 June due to ongoing fighting and air strikes. The Assad Government continues to try to take hold of the parts of the Dera’a Province that are currently held by rebels, firing deadly barrel bombs and missiles on a daily basis.  Al Jazeera reports that the area has been “completely burnt to the ground” with over 20 civilian casualties recorded.

Since mid-June around 60,000 Syrians moved towards the Jordanian border in a plea for refuge from the violence. Jordanian activists continue their campaign which began on 1 July to have the border reopened, citing that they have not abandoned the Syrian people and wish to help protect them. However, the border still remains closed to Syrians, forcing them to return to conflict-stricken areas deeper within the country.

On 11 July, Al Jazeera reported that rebels in Dera’a have agreed to hold negotiations with Russian military officials regarding a potential evacuation of fighters to northwestern, rebel-held areas in Syria. Fighters and their families are currently surrounded by government troops with few other prospects of safe survival.


Venezuela:

On 5 July, 50 countries asked Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid and assistance, and to cooperate with the Council’s human rights mechanisms to combat the increase in shortages of medicine and malnutrition in the country. Following this request, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN condemned the “foreign interference”, singling out the United States’ role in this “aggression”.


Yemen:

Fighting continues in the port city of Hodeidah between Saudi-led coalition forces and Houthi rebels. The UN Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, continues to work towards a peace deal between the parties, proposing the Houthis turning over control of the region to the UN. He hopes that parties will show commitment to the peace negotiation process, particularly as the situation is untenable and citizens nation-wide face total famine if the port’s infrastructure, which receives the majority (80%) of food and medicinal imports for the Yemeni people, is damaged by the violence.

The UNICEF Chief, Henrietta Fore, described on 3 July that over 2,200 children have been killed and a further 3,400 injured as a result of the ongoing conflict. There is also concern over mines scattered across the city, putting civilians lives at risk.

UN News reported on 10 July that the World Health Organization (WHO) described the health situation in Hodeidah as the “most dire in the country,” which has been made even worse by the “intensification of fighting” in the area. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) continues to urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians, including migrants.


Other:

On 10 July the AU and UN held its Annual Conference on the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. The Conference focused on regional peace and security issues and the need to achieve cohesion with national development frameworks.

Ahead of its annual meeting in August, the SADC  released a framework to mainstream women and gender into national peace and security agendas. The region continues to take steps to better increase women’s presence in decision making processes, and the Secretariat acknowledged that incorporating the WPS Agenda into its policies is beneficial to creating more peaceful and equitable societies.

Reports out of Harare, Zimbabwe seem promising, as the country is witnessing a “pre-election calm” that was not seen during former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure. The coercion, harassment, and violence against ZANU-PF opposition members and supporters, largely fueled by Mugabe himself, remains absent as political opponents agreed to an electoral Code of Conduct last month. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) meeting saw political leaders committing to prevent pre-election practices that were present in prior elections.

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#R2P Weekly 19 – 23 February 2018

UN rails against Syria’s “monstrous campaign of annihilation” in Eastern Ghouta
The United Nations is pleading for a halt to one of the deadliest air assault campaigns of the Syrian conflict, as Syrian government forces have reportedly continued to attack Eastern Ghouta for over five straight days, killing more than 335 civilians, in what the UN has called a “massacre”. On 19 February, Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of the last remaining rebel-held enclave near the capital, allegedly indiscriminately killing more than 100 civilians that day alone, and marking one of the deadliest attacks in three years. Moreover, in just the past few days, Syrian government forces and its allies have reportedly conducted 420 airstrikes and dropped 140 barrel bombs in Eastern Ghouta. While the Syrian government claims that there are few civilians left in Eastern Ghouta, according to the UN, almost 400,000 people remain trapped in the area.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres maintains that the Syrian government’s bombing campaign has turned Eastern Ghouta into “hell on earth” and has called for an immediate halt to the fighting. Similarly, both Panos Moumtzis, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, as well as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, have urged all parties to strictly adhere to their international humanitarian obligations and to take all feasible measures to protect civilians. They have further underscored that “International humanitarian law was developed precisely to stop this type of situation, where civilians are slaughtered in droves in order to fulfill political or military objectives”. The High Commissioner railed at the “monstrous campaign of annihilation”.

Earlier this month, Sweden and Kuwait introduced a draft resolution, requesting that the UN Security Council (UNSC) vote “as soon as possible” on the proposed 30-day ceasefire in Syria, which would allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuation. During intense negotiations and in a concession to Russia, the draft resolution was later amended to specify that the proposed ceasefire would not apply to the Islamic State (ISIL) or Al-Qaeda. The UNSC vote, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was later delayed and set to take place on Friday, 23 February.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
CAR
DRC
Gaza/West Bank
Iraq
Libya 
Mali

 

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan
Syria 
Venezuela
Yemen

 

Burma/Myanmar:

On 23 February, a bomb killed two people and injured 22 others at a bank in the northern city of Lashio. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but violent incidents carried out by armed ethnic groups are not uncommon in the northern part of the country. UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee warned in a statement this month of the need to focus not only on the Rohingya crisis, but to also focus on the general ethnic strife of the country.

The Canadian government has imposed sanctions on Burmese General Maung Maung Soe, citing his alleged complicity in the violations of rights of the Rohingya population. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also stated that the acts committed against the Rohingya constitute ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The European Union (EU) is also preparing sanctions against Burmese generals involved in the systematic abuse of human rights against the Rohingya, Reuters has reported. European diplomats also announced the EU’s desire to strengthen the arms-embargo currently in place on Burma.

Burma has agreed to resettle the 6,000 Rohingya stranded in no man’s land, an unclaimed piece of land near the Tombru border between Burma and Bangladesh. While most of the Rohingya refugees have fled to the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, some are stranded in this area as a result of the Bangladeshi government denying their entrance to the country. The decision comes after Bangladeshi and Burmese authorities visited the impromptu camps to encourage Rohingya refugees to return to Burma.


 

Burundi:

UN Development Programme Representative to Burundi Garry Coville reported that one in three Burundian people will require humanitarian assistance in 2018, a 20 percent increase from last year’s needs. Coville stated that the socio-economic situation in the country, as well as the increase of natural disasters, will exacerbate the need for humanitarian aid.

Opposition groups in Burundi are accusing the government of allegedly intimidating and forcing citizens to register to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum. The government has allegedly set up checkpoints, mostly run by the party’s youth militia wing, the Imbonerakure, to verify registration papers. Other residents stated that local authorities have allegedly threatened to withhold fertilizers and not provide health insurance validation if citizens are not registered. Burundi’s First Vice President acknowledged that some members of the Imbonerakure might have abused their power, but denied any other allegations.


 

Central African Republic:

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called on the international community to increase its support to the humanitarian response in the Central African Republic (CAR) after her visit to the country. While the funding for humanitarian programs has decreased in the last three years, the number of internally displaced persons in the country has doubled to 694,000 in the last year. Mueller emphasized the need to strengthen the protection of civilians during her meetings with national authorities and key stakeholders. Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the CAR Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum also urged for an open dialogue between factions, the need to establish judicial mechanisms, and for an increase in humanitarian assistance in the country, citing the 2.2 million people in need of aid.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) of the DRC has revealed new electronic voting machines for the upcoming referendum later this year. The machines will allow the voter to touch the photo of a candidate, which then prints a marked ballot paper that the voter must place inside a ballot box. Additionally, the machines are only available in French, the official language of the country, but not in the four other recognized national languages. Opposition groups, however, have rejected the machines, citing concerns over easy manipulation of votes. The Catholic Church has called on the government to allow international experts to certify the machines, while the US firmly opposes an electronic vote.

Switzerland has imposed sanctions on 14 individuals allied with the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila. These sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, largely replicate the sanctions already imposed by the European Union.

On 20 February, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned of a looming humanitarian disaster of colossal proportions in the southeastern area of the DRC. The province of Tanganyika has been the stage of conflict and violence between different ethnic groups as well as between government and militia forces, with UNHCR partners reporting 800 protection incidents in just the first two weeks of February. The atrocities include attacks against villages, abductions, and gender-based violence, including rape. Head of Operations for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) Jean-Philippe Chauzy has also raised concerns over the dire humanitarian situation in the DRC, stating that the international community cannot stay dormant to the country’s situation. Chauzy reported that malnutrition levels in the Kasai province have risen by 750 percent as a result of the constant displacement due to violence. In response, the European Commission, alongside the UN and the Dutch government, will co-host a donor conference on 13 April focusing on funding for humanitarian relief in the DRC.

Over the weekend, unidentified armed men killed two aid workers and kidnapped another one in the eastern province of North Kivu in the DRC, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The workers were part of the NGO Hydraulique sans Frontières, which provides technical support in water-related projects in developing countries. OCHA warned of the security situation in the region, citing the 2017 December attack when a rebel group killed 15 UN Peacekeepers and injured 53 others.


 

Gaza / West Bank:

During a briefing to the UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that no Plan B exists for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, affirming the UN’s support to a two-state solution. In the same meeting, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process Nikolay Mladenov called on the international community to continue to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while also urging for the return of control over Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, who was also present at the meeting, proposed an international peace conference later this year to solve the situation. However, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon stated that the only way to solve the problem is through direct negotiations between the two parties.

On 21 February, Egypt re-opened the Rafah crossing point along its border with Gaza for four days only. While thousands of Gaza residents are on the authorized travel list, mainly composed of medical patients and students, it is likely that only a few thousand will make it out in the allotted time.

After a rocket fired from Gaza hit the southern part of Israel over the weekend, Israeli warplanes struck 18 Hamas facilities on Monday, 19 February. No casualties were reported, but the exchange is seen as the most serious escalation since 2014. Hamas officials, however, have stated they do not wish for a further escalation of the situation.


 

Iraq:

The Islamic State (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a deadly attack against Iraq’s Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units on 19 February, killing at least 27 people southwest of Kirkuk.

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that on 19 February, a court in Baghdad convicted 11 women from Turkey and one woman from Azerbaijan for non-violent crimes under Iraq’s counter-terrorism law, sentencing ten to life in prison and one to to death. Six months ago, approximately 1,400 foreign women and children, along with ISIL fighters, surrendered to Iraqi security forces. Charges leveled against these women include: entering Iraq illegally; aiding or abetting ISIL; and membership in ISIL. Despite these defendants having access to lawyers during interrogations, unlike earlier cases, HRW maintains that their trials were unfair. Additionally, HRW claims that in these cases, the women received the harshest possible sentences for what appears to be either marriage to an ISIL member or a coerced border crossing. Accordingly, HRW asserts that Iraqi authorities ought to develop a national prosecutorial strategy and prioritize prosecuting those accused of being most responsible for the most serious crimes. To that end, HRW is of the view that authorities should consider alternatives to criminal prosecution for those suspected only of membership in ISIL, without any evidence of other serious crime.


 

Libya:

Seven years after Libya’s revolution, the humanitarian crisis in the country continues to persist and the forecast for 2018 is bleak. Current events, including the elections tentatively scheduled for late 2018, have the potential to reignite an armed conflict rather than lead to a unified Libya, especially in the absence of a constitution and the fact that no single faction appears strong enough to stabilize the country. Indeed, it seems that election-related violence has already begun. Moreover, this power vacuum and the looming possibility of returning to civil war, creates fertile ground for the Islamic State (ISIL) and Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recover from their 2016 and 2017 setbacks and return time and again. According to reports, ISIL is already rising again, and currently disrupting oil production and expanding its reach southward. Additionally, ISIL is allegedly using Libya as its primary base in Africa, where it receives foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle east, and from where it plans and coordinates attacks against the West. Disarray in the country could also make the humanitarian situation even worse, by preserving a slavery economy, destabilizing neighboring states, and intensifying migration to Europe.


Mali:

Infighting between the government of Mali and ethnic Tuaregs in the north over which side is responsible for the failure to produce security or economic benefits for the northern tribe could lead to civil war. This could in turn create an opening for terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to further entrench their operations in northern Mali.

In central Mali, nearly 400 schools have already closed since Islamist militants expanded their operations and attacks toward the more densely populated Segou and Mopti regions. It also appears that the jihadists are targeting French schools, claiming they “want Koranic schools” instead. Worse still, it seems as though the campaign of violence is gaining support from local communities who feel that they have been marginalized by the government, which they also view as ineffective. Fatou Dieng Thiam, who heads the UN mission’s office in Mopti claims that in addition to militants organizing prayer sessions and telling people to stop paying government taxes, the militants are also “threaten[ing] every symbol of the state: teachers, administrative officers, mayors.” ICRtoP partner Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also documented several cases of rights violations where Malian forces have been involved in their own violations which is creating its own unique cycle of violence.


 

Nigeria:

Four years after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Boko Haram militants attacked a school in Dapchi, Yobe State on 19 February. While it was originally thought that the students and teachers fled before Boko Haram arrived, three days after the attack at least 13 girls are still missing and two were found dead. However, officials have been reluctant to call this a kidnapping, as about 76 of the girls who had fled were later found hiding in surrounding villages, so officials say it may still be possible to find those who are still missing. Still, one parent told the BBC they had seen a truck full of students being taken away. Security services continue to search the area to locate the missing girls.

On 19 February, Nigeria’s justice ministry said that 205 Boko Haram suspects had been convicted on charges related to their involvement with the militant Islamist group. The mass trial marks the end of the second stage of the country’s largest legal challenge against Boko Haram. Jail terms range from three to 60 years. Rights groups have criticized how the Nigerian authorities have handled some of these cases, claiming that some detainees had been held without trial since 2010. Still, the justice ministry also noted that 526 people allegedly affiliated with Boko Haram were released for rehabilitation and said that 73 cases were adjourned.


 

South Sudan:

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that approximately 200,000 refugees from South Sudan will arrive in Sudan during 2018. As the five-year conflict continues, OCHA warns of the need for a long-term strategy, rather than just an emergency response. The organization emphasized plans to provide more durable infrastructure to refugee camps and assistance to host communities.

Two clans in the eastern state of Jonglei in South Sudan have reached a peace agreement, ending a violent conflict over land that has killed 37 people in the past two months. The parties agreed to create a buffer zone, where government security forces will keep the two clans apart.

The South Sudan Peace talks failed to reach an agreement by 16 February as was previously hoped. Hirut Zemene, deputy chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers reported that arranging security and sharing responsibility were the two major items under consideration. While no specific date for continuing the peace talks has been set, Zemene hoped that the break would be short and that talks would resume soon, so as to maintain the momentum and finalize pending issues. However, the government delegation, after its return to Juba, reiterated its rejection to the proposals presented by the opposition forces and blamed them for stalling the talks. The government particularly opposed the plan to dissolve the security sector and transfer power to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to the Regional Protection Force. On the other hand, the opposition forces blamed the government for the failure of the peace talks, citing the government’s strict demands such as refusing to demilitarize Juba and rejecting to reconstruct the army.  On 21 February, more than 200 civil society groups issued a statement urging the IGAD, the African Union, and the international community to increase pressure on all parties to reach an agreement in the next phase of negotiations in March.

A new UN report exposed the “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in South Sudan, citing 60 confirmed incidents where journalists had either been killed, beaten, or arrested. The report also described the restrictions placed upon media outlets, including blocked websites and denying entry to 20 foreign reporters. The head of UNMISS, David Shearer, further reported that the journalists and entities who were targeted were deemed to be critical of the government.


 

Sudan:

The Governor of Central Darfur Ja’afar Abdel-Hakam announced that a security forum would take place in Nertiti next month, bringing together the security committees of North, South and Central Darfur. The purpose of the forum will be to discuss security issues and the impact of the disarmament campaign in the region. Sudan’s Vice President Abdel-Rahman also reported that large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees have returned to Darfur, following an improved security situation in the country. He urged the committee in charge of overseeing the return to provide more assistance to all five states in Darfur. Additionally, during Pramila Patten’s visit to Darfur, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict commended the efforts of the government to end sexual violence in the area. However while meeting with Ms. Patten, Special Prosecutor of Darfur Crimes, Al-Fatih Mohamed Tayfor, accused the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) of allegedly hiding Mission staff involved in sexual offenses.

On 18 February, the Sudanese government released over 80 political opponents and activists who partook in the protests over the rising prices of bread last month. The opposition party, the National Umma Party (NUP), welcomed the release but called on the government to release the remaining detainees, and also called for the repeal of laws that restrict the freedom of expression and assembly. The NUP also accused the government of holding the remaining detainees as hostages, citing the Sudanese government’s press statement announcing that the remaining prisoners would be released as long as the demonstrations and vandalism stopped in the country. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged the government to release the remaining detainees, and noted that Sudanese groups monitoring the release reported that only 50 people were released, not 80 as the government claimed.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North led by al Hilu (SPLM-N al-Hilu) allegedly attacked SPLM-N forces led by Agar (SPLM-N Agar) in the Blue Nile state on Saturday 17 February. The two factions used to be part of a united opposition force against the Sudanese government until they clashed last year over the right to self-determination and other organizational issues.

The Enough Project in Sudan distributed an open letter to UN commissioners citing issues with the Sudanese government’s suppression of peaceful protests, arbitrary arrests, and detentions. The letter asked the UN commissioners to request the Sudanese government to respect their citizens’ right to protest and to refrain from using force against protesters. In addition, the letter also asked that the Sudanese government allow detainees legal counsel and family visitation rights. The Enough Project and the other signatories to the letter have also requested that the government conduct an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of excessive use of force against peaceful protesters and into the ill-treatment and torture of the detainees.


Syria:
Seven years of conflict in Syria has left more than 465,000 dead, over 1,000,000 injured, and at least 12,000,000 displaced.

On 16 February, the US and Turkey agreed to hold talks in order to de-escalate the situation in Syria, particularly to avoid clashes in the northern city of Manbij. Previously, Turkey had said it would attack US-backed Kurdish forces in the city, while the US had threatened of an aggressive response.

On 20 February, Syria’s “Popular Forces” entered Afrin to counter Turkey’s attack against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), raising the possibility of clashes between Syria and Turkey. While Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Bekir Bozdağ has apparently warned Syria of “disastrous consequences” should the Syrian government send forces to support the YPG, Syria’s government has called Turkey’s offensive on Afrin a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty.


 

Venezuela:

On 20 February, Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) called on Member States to impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela, including sanctions “against the regime itself”. Until now, sanctions had focused only on individual members of the Venezuelan government.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable, a coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties, announced on 21 February that they would not participate in the presidential election scheduled for 22 April. The opposition stated that the election lacked the necessary conditions for a free and fair result, and further claimed that the election was premature and that it was intended to provide a mirage of legitimacy to President Nicolás Maduro’s government. President Maduro responded by announcing his intentions to also hold municipal and state legislative council elections the same day. The opposition stated that it would reconsider its decision if certain conditions were met.

According to a closely-watched university study, Venezuelans lost on average 11 kilograms in body weight during 2017 as compared to only 8 kilograms during 2016. The study, which was conducted by three Venezuelan universities, provides one of the few statistical analyses of the economic crisis and food shortage in the country, amid a government information void. The report also stated that over 69 percent of Venezuelans have said they have woken up hungry in the previous three months because of lack of funds to buy food.


 

Yemen:

On 16 February, United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres announced the appointment of Martin Griffiths of the United Kingdom as his Special Envoy for Yemen.

A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is occuring in Yemen. On 20 February, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley asserted that a United Nations report had “identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo”, demanding that the Security Council act. Apparently, Reuters has seen a draft UN resolution, which urges the Security Council to take action against Iran over sanctions violations and which also urges the Security Council to condemn Iran for failing to stop is ballistic missiles from falling into the hands Yemen’s Houthi rebel group. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the accusations against Iran, and Russia appears to have opposed a bid to condemn Iran.

Battlefield losses have pushed Houthis to public conscription, annulling voluntary recruitment. Houthi militia leaders are set to review and possibly simplify conditions for recruitment. According to observers, the “simplification” of terms could include abolishing age limits and allowing children to join.

On 21 February, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) called on the United Kingdom, as the penholder on Yemen at the Security Council, to either demonstrate that it can lead the Council to take meaningful action on Yemen, or hand over the responsibility to another Council member. Suze van Meegen, NRC’s Protection and Advocacy Adviser on Yemen, further asserted that “Another weak presidential statement will have little effect on the ground, if any at all” and went on to say that “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world deserves more than just an ‘expression of concern’.” In that regard, the NRC maintains that the Security Council should break its eight-month silence on Yemen by adopting a binding resolution in which it demands a complete lifting of the blockade and a cessation of hostilities.

 

 

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